Be it & what happens when I notice I already am this field of experience

When I wake up these days, there is a lot of discomfort in my system. I suspect it has to do with having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I have had this experience in the morning to varying degrees for decades now. I don’t feel at all refreshed when waking up, the body feels full of toxins, the brain fog is strong, and so on. That’s all quite typical for CFS.

A helpful reminder for myself is to be it.

ALREADY HERE

It’s simple, and in some ways, it’s obvious and inevitable. I already am my whole field of experience. It cannot be any other way. The consciousness I am forms itself into all of it.

HELPS SOMETHING SHIFT

At the same time, the reminder is useful. When the noticing is a little more intentional and has a little more energy, something shifts. It shifts how I relate to what’s here, and that makes all the difference.

My old separation conditioning is to try to avoid an unpleasant experience that’s already here. I try to separate myself from it, in whatever way seems to work the best, which is usually some variation of distraction, compulsion, and so on. This is still in my system, so it helps to notice I already am all of it since it goes against this conditioning. It’s an antidote. It creates another pattern, another conditioning that’s a little more aligned with reality.

It does not necessarily shift the content of what’s here, and it doesn’t have to.

As usual, there is a lot more to say about this.

CAN STILL EXPLORE WHAT’S BEHIND THE DISCOMFORT

It can also be useful to explore the content of experience.

The discomfort may come from going against my inner guidance or knowing, or from not taking care of myself and my life in a situation where the kind and wise thing would be to do so. In that case, it’s good to notice and see if I can find a way to follow and act on my guidance. At the very least, I would be more in integrity which gives a kind of peace in itself.

If there is anxiety, depression, compulsion, or something similar here, it’s worth exploring these experiences and what may be behind them. For instance, what stressful beliefs do I have? What’s more true for me?

In the case of CFS and waking up with this discomfort, I know that some supplements and herbs can help, for instance, magnesium, so I can take that and see what happens.

AMPLIFYING IT

As mentioned, we – or parts of us – can seek separation from discomfort. We can notice we already are it and rest in and as that noticing. And there is a third way.

We can intentionally amplify the discomfort. Make it stronger for 2-3 seconds, then release and relax. Repeat after a few seconds. Notice what happens.

When I do this, I notice that how I relate to the experience shifts. There is less struggle.

This too goes against the old pattern of seeking separation and creates a new pattern of less struggle.

IN MY CASE

Although there was a oneness shift in my teens and I have explored it since, there are still many parts of me that are not quite on board with it. They still live in and operate from separation consciousness.

That’s why noticing I already AM it is helpful. It’s a reminder of what’s already here, and noticing and living from it goes against old patterns.

In addition to this, I have done a lot of inquiry on many aspects of this, from exploring stressful beliefs (which are also identities) to exploring how the discomfort and the reaction to it show up in the sense fields, to dialog with these parts of me, to how it all is here to protect me and was created early in life for that purpose.

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Is the self an illusion?

I saw this question yesterday and thought I would see what comes up for me.

As usual, it depends and it has different layers.

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY A SELF?

First, what do we mean by a self?

It can mean this human self1 or any other kind of self. A doer or observer can be seen as a self.

More to the point, any thought that’s held as true creates a sense of self. There is identification with and as the viewpoint of the story and the identification that comes with it. To us, that becomes a self with anything else as Other.

SELF AND NO SELF

In a conventional sense, there is a human self here with a passport, biography, identities, and so on.

That’s not wrong. It works reasonably well and it helps this human self function in the world.

The illusion is that it’s what we fundamentally are.

When I look, I find I am more fundamentally something else. I am the field of experience as a whole. I am what any and all experience happens within and as.

I am what a thought may call consciousness, and this consciousness that I am forms itself into any and all experiences, including of a self.

Even more essentially, I find I am capacity for all of it. I am capacity for consciousness and what it forms itself into.

HOW IS THE EXPERIENCE OF A SELF CREATED?

How is the experience of a self created?

In a sense, it’s a useful fiction.

It happens within and as what I am like any other experience. It’s the consciousness I am temporarily forming itself into that experience.

More specifically, it’s created through a combination of what happens in different sense fields. In the mental field, there are images and stories of a self, and the mind associates these with what happens in other sense fields (sight, sound, smell, taste, physical sensations).

There are also physical sensations that lend a sense of solidity and reality to the mental representations, and the mental representations give a sense of meaning to the same sensations.

HOW IS THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING A SELF CREATED?

How is the experience of being a self created?

This experience is created any time a thought is held as true. When that happens, there is identification with the viewpoint of the thought and anything else becomes other.

We perceive ourselves as the viewpoint of the story. It becomes what we, to ourselves, are. It becomes an identity to prop up, remember, reinforce, and defend. Anything else becomes other.

Another way to talk about this is to say that there is a shift into identification with something within the field of experience.

DOES IT MATTER?

Does it matter? That too depends.

It obviously doesn’t matter hugely. Most consciousnesses function fine even if they are caught up in the illusion of fundamentally being a self. There is some inherent stress, but most can function OK anyway.

In some cases, it matters. It matters if it matters to the consciousness. If there is curiosity, a draw to explore it, a glimpse, or something similar.

It also matters in that it can have real-life consequences. If the consciousness we are recognizes itself, stays with that noticing, and allows it’s human self to reorganize within that noticing, there is a kind of unwinding and reorganization that happens.

SO IS THE SELF AN ILLUSION?

Is the self an illusion?

As so often, the answer for me is yes and no and it depends.

It makes sense to assume there is a human self here functioning in the world. (The other options tend to create weirdness in a practical sense.)

This human self is not what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience. Here, I find I am more fundamentally what the whole field of experience happens within and as. Even more fundamentally, I am capacity for all of it. The illusion here is about identity, it happens if I take myself as fundamentally this human self – or a doer, or observer, or similar. I can explore this through the Big Mind process or the Headless experiments, and also basic meditation2 and a range of other approaches.

It also makes sense to acknowledge that my experience of this human self and the wider world is created by the mind. The consciousness I am forms itself into all of it. It’s a kind of virtual world. This human self and the wider world are not inherently as I experience it. With different sensory inputs (a different body and sense organs) and different stories, it would all appear very different. I can explore this by examining my sense fields and how they come together to create an experience, for instance by using traditional Buddhist sense-field exploration or modern versions like the Kiloby inquiries. I can also notice that night dreams and waking life both happen within and as the consciousness I am.

MY STORY WITH THIS

I was a very curious kid, but this wasn’t really on my radar until two shifts happened in my teens.

First, there was a shift into being an observer. I found myself as observer and anything else – this human self, thoughts, emotions, the wider world – as distant and far away. To this psyche, it felt like something had gone terribly wrong. This happened when I was fifteen and it lasted for about a year.

Then, there was another shift. This time into oneness, into the consciousness all experience happens within and as. My psyche interpreted this as: All without exception is God. All is God exploring itself as all of it, including locally and temporarily taking itself to be a human self.

That fundamental shift stayed with an overlay of a psyche3 with its conditioning and hangups, and deepenings and additional shifts of many different kinds.

Consciousness showed itself itself, and that it’s not fundamentally this human self or a doer or observer or anything else. So this psyche naturally got interested in it. It was curious and wanted to explore and learn more about how to navigate and live from and as this.

NOTES

(1) A physical self can be seen as a kind of eddy of matter and energy (in a physical sense) in the world of matter. It’s a subsystem within a larger social and ecological seamless whole. It’s a holon in a holarchy.

(2) Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here, and notice it’s already noticed and allowed, and rest in and as that noticing and what’s here.

(3) I thought I would add a brief note on the words I use here. Consciousness refers to what we are to ourselves, what forms itself into the content of experience, and it’s all we have ever known whether we notice or not. Some call it “awareness” although I prefer to use that word for being consciously aware of something. The psyche is more our human operating system and it consists of evolutionary predispositions, conditioning, biases, hangups, and so on. To us, the consciousness we are forms itself into the psyche and everything else.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Is Buddhism true?

Is Buddhism scientific? Is Buddhism “true?” Does Buddhist meditation reveal “the way things really are”? Is the self an illusion? 

– from a Cheeta House announcement about a reading/discussion group

What comes up for me with these questions?

Is Buddhism scientific? It depends. It depends on what aspect of Buddhism you are talking about and what you mean by science. Buddhism is diverse, and there are many valid ways of doing science. Within Buddhism, some approach it in a sincere, sober, and grounded way, which makes it more aligned with science. Some go more into beliefs, which makes it less scientific.

Is Buddhism true? Again, it obviously depends. In my experience, the essence of it has much that seems valid. The way they point to and talk about our true nature fits my experience. The essence of how they describe the dynamics of the mind often seems accurate. Other things in Buddhism are more cultural and peripheral.

Does Buddhist meditation reveal “the way things really are”? As far as I can tell, with the right guidance and sincere exploration, it can. It can reveal our nature to ourselves. We can find ourselves as that which our field of experience happens within and as. We can find ourselves as capacity for all of it. That’s what it can reveal, and it can reveal some of the dynamics of the mind that distracts attention away from this. That’s about it. It cannot reveal the nature of all of existence or anything else, really. See articles tagged small and big interpretations of awakening for more on this.

Is the self an illusion? Again, it depends. I would talk about it in two ways. (a) There is a self here in a conventional sense. This is a self with a passport, a biography, and so on. The illusion is more that this is what we fundamentally are. We are what this self and everything happens within and as. Our more fundamental nature is what it all happens within and as. Even more essentially, we are capacity for all of it. So I would say that the self is not an illusion, but that it’s our fundamental nature is an illusion. (b) The other side is that the experience of this self is created by and within consciousness. The consciousness we are forms itself into the experience of this self and anything else. More specifically, it’s created by the mind associating different stories and appearances in the sense fields. It’s a kind of virtual creation that the consciousness we are creates for itself to function in the world. It’s a useful creation in a practical sense.1 See articles tagged who and what we are for more on this.

Even what’s phrased as statements are questions. They point to something to explore here and now.

(1) The self can take many different forms, from this human self to a doer, observer, or something else. In reality, any time the mind identifies with the perspective of a story or identity, a self with an Other is created. It perceives itself to be that view and anything else becomes Other.

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Why do we crave mystery? We crave the mystery we already are

I saw a brief comment from someone who has dedicated his life to the unexplained – UFOs, cryptids, and so on.

That’s understandable and it’s good that some explore those things.

WHAT IS NOT UNEXPLAINED?

At the same time, I am sitting here wondering: What is not unexplained?

To me, it seems that all without exception is unexplained. It’s inherently a mystery.

WHY IS THERE SOMETHING RATHER THAN NOTHING?

That anything is at all is a profound mystery.

How come there is something rather than nothing?

That’s something thoughts cannot even begin to answer or get a grasp on.

A MYSTERY TO MYSELF

I am a mystery to myself.

When I notice my nature, I find myself in and as that mystery.

I rest in and as that mystery.

MYSTERY IN A CONVENTIONAL SENSE

Everything is a profound mystery, even that which is the most familiar to us and that which our thoughts have lots of stories about.

Reality is always more than and different from our ideas about it.

Thoughts are questions about the world. Thoughts are different in nature from what they point to. (Unless they happen to point to thoughts.)

In a conventional sense, we only scratch the surface in terms of understanding anything. There is always an infinite amount more to learn and explore.

There are always different contexts and worldviews to understand it within, which make as much or more sense than the ones we are familiar with now, and which would turn it all upside down and inside out.

At best, something is only partially explained in a limited and conventional sense.

MYSTERY AS A PROJECTION

When we seek mystery in a conventional sense – UFOs, cryptids, unsolved cases – I suspect it’s partly a projection.

We are already living the mystery. It’s everywhere and unavoidable.

If we don’t notice it, then we seek it “out there” in a conventional sense.

When we notice, and to the extent it’s a living reality to us, it’s here and we don’t need to seek it out in those ways. It can be fun, now and then, and as a spice, but it’s not necessary for satisfying our craving for mystery.

Why do we crave mystery? Because we are it. We crave the mystery we are. We crave noticing the mystery we already are. We crave consciously living from and as it.1

And those too are questions. This too is a mystery.

MY STORY WITH THIS

As far back as I remember, I have lived with an experience of awe and mystery of life, punctuated by times when it came much more in the foreground.

Before school age, I had memories of the time before this incarnation, between lives. I remember standing in the yard looking at the stars when I was ten and profoundly experiencing what Carl Sagan pointed to: We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. I remember sleeping under a starry sky in the Norwegian mountains and having that experience even more deeply. As a kid, I was fascinated by ESP, ghosts, UFOs, and anything mysterious.

In the initial oneness shift when I was sixteen, it was clear that all is a mystery and all is a mystery to itself. Thoughts cannot even begin to touch it. That’s still here.

I don’t mind exploring some of the conventional mysteries of life, although they are happening within the larger mystery of all of existence. The real mystery is that anything is at all. It’s the mystery I am and live. It’s the mystery of all that thoughts cannot touch. It’s the mystery of all we still have to learn about everything in a conventional sense.

(1) The other side of this, and a more superficial craving, is to fill in the blank spaces, to put a story on whatever and tell ourselves that’s how it is. While our nature is mystery and craves knowing itself as mystery, we also have parts of us that wishes to feel safe and tries to feel safe by telling itself it knows.

Image created by me and Midjourney

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When I am the most important one for another

Merlina, our beloved cat, helped me get something more viscerally.

For her, I was one of the two or three most important beings in the world. When I was with her, I was the most important being in her world. It was very clear2.

How can that not wake up a sense of awe, reverence, and responsibility in me? How can that not change my behavior to be more attentive and wanting to make her life the best possible?

I AM THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON TO THE ONE I AM WITH

That’s how it is in my life in general. I am the most important person for my spouse. When I talk with someone, I am (very likely) the most important person in the world for that person at that moment. They are giving me their precious time and attention. They chose to give their attention to me over all other beings in the world. I become an important presence in their world.

If I am getting this viscerally, how does it change how I am with that person? Am I more present? More attentive? More interested in them and their world? Less distracted by my plans, agendas, and hangups?

I am far from “perfect” in this, but realizing it and getting it more viscerally is doing something with me, and I wish for it to change me and how I am with others.

THE OTHER IS CONSCIOUSNESS TO THEMSELVES

The other wing on this bird is realizing and getting viscerally that the other is fundamentally consciousness like myself. To myself, I am consciousness operating through and as this body1. The world as I perceive it happens within and as the consciousness I am. That’s very likely the case for all beings.

We are all fundamentally consciousness to ourselves. We operate through whatever body is here – human, cat, insect, or whatever it is. To us, the world happens within and as the consciousness we are. We are a world.

That too opens up a sense of awe, reverence, and curiosity about myself and the other. It does something to me. To the extent I stay with this noticing and deepen into it, it transforms me and how I am with others and in the world.

ONGOING EXPLORATION

As usual, this is an ongoing exploration.

There is a lot of room for deepening and maturing into it, in my case.

And that’s part of the exploration and the adventure.

DIRECT NOTICING AND IMAGINATION

This is an example of a combination of direct noticing and imagination, as so much is.

I notice my nature. I am fundamentally consciousness and the world to me happens within and as this consciousness. That’s the direct noticing.

I imagine that others are that way too, whether they notice or not, and stay with that imagination and let it work on me. That’s the imagination part of it. It’s making use of projections.

It’s similar to being the most important person to the other. It comes from noticing that it’s that way for me. When I am with someone, that person is the most important being in the world to me whether I want to or not. That’s the noticing. And I imagine it’s the same for others. That’s making use of imagination and projections.

(1) This body happens to be human with a particular identity but it could be any other body of any species. That realization itself is transformative. The consciousness I am could, if things were a little different, function through and as any of the bodies out there. In some ways, it does since consciousness – pure consciousness – is very likely the same everywhere.

(2) Maybe it was more clear because she was not an imagination-fascinated human. She was more here and now. She didn’t get lost in her imagination about the past or future. She was here with me. I was her world.

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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Viscerally getting others as consciousness

In a very general way, how we perceive ourselves is how we see others.

If I perceive myself as primarily consciousness, I tend to perceive others as primarily consciousness. I tend to see others as consciousness and the world, to them, as happening within and as that consciousness. We are all primarily subjects and a world to ourselves. (We subjectify.)

If I perceive myself as fundamentally this human self, or anything else within the content of experience, I tend to perceive others as fundamentally the same. We are all objects within the world. (We objectify.)

TRANSFORMING OURSELVES

As usual, it’s that simple, and also not.

One question is: How can I deepen into noticing my nature? How can I deepen into living from and as it? How can I invite more of me – this bodymind and psyche – to be more onboard with it? How do I relate to this whole process?

The other question is: How can I deepen into imagining others as consciousness? How can I allow that to work on me and transform this bodymind and life?

Both of these are ongoing explorations. There is no finishing line. (As far as I can tell.)

And there is a difference between these two. The first recognition is an immediate noticing. The second requires some intention and imagination.

HOW THIS IS FOR ME

I have written more about this below, in another version of this article.

This is an ongoing exploration for me, and it makes a huge difference in how I perceive and relate to other beings.

Here at Finca Milagros, I see any living being as consciousness and a world to themselves. To themselves, they are consciousness just like me. The only difference is the particular body and nervous system they operate through and as.

That gives me a natural reverence for all life. If I kill one of them – inadvertently or intentionally – I snuff out a whole universe. I snuff out their particular universe.

That’s not something I take lightly.

That’s one side of it. The other side is that this bodymind was formed within separation consciousness as is the case for most of us. It has a lot of hangups, wounds, and traumas, as many of us do. And all of that also color how I perceive and live in the world. I eat some meat. I sometimes get scared, angry, and reactive. I sometimes feel exhausted and care less. And so on. That’s part of the process too.

Images by me and Midjourney.

This is a simplified version of a longer article. See below for the first version of this article which gives more details.

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Are we living within a simulation? Some answers

A popular topic today1 is whether we live in a Matrix-like simulation or not2.

As usual, there are several answers.

AN EXISTENTIAL QUESTION?

If we take ourselves as primarily this human self or something else within the content of experience, then it becomes a vital and existential question. It becomes a matter of what we most fundamentally are.

Whether we’ll ever be able to find an answer is another question. I somehow doubt it.

OUR NATURE IS THE SAME IN EACH CASE

If we take ourselves as primarily what our experience happens within and as, it may still be an interesting question but it’s not existential in the same way.

Our nature is the same anyway, whether it’s a simulation or not.

To myself, I am what the field of experience happens within and as. To myself, I am consciousness, and this consciousness forms itself into any content of experience.

THE SIMULATION IS ALREADY HAPPENING

As many point out: we already live within a simulation.

The consciousness I am forms itself into any and all content of experience. It creates a simulation of the world, and that simulation is all I ever know.

Said in a more limited and biological way, the brain takes sensory input and creates its world. We never experience the world directly. We experience a kind of synthesis created by our brain based on very limited sensory information.

A POINTER TO OUR NATURE

Do we live within a Matrix-like simulation?

To me, what’s most interesting and useful about that question is that it can serve as a pointer to our nature.

Everything we know may be a Matrix-like simulation. We may not fundamentally be humans at all. That is a very real possibility.

In either case, we know that the world we experience – including this human self – is created as a kind of simulation by the consciousness we are. (Or the brain if we like more biological language.)

What does that say about what we more fundamentally are? This helps us open the door for the possibility that we are not fundamentally this human self or anything within the content of experience, including a doer or observer.

So what are we, more fundamentally?

At a thought level, we may realize that what we are is consciousness – independent of any particular content of experience.

That may lead us to explore it in direct noticing, and explore how it is to live from and as it, and also getting and living from it more viscerally.

MAKING USE OF THE QUESTION

Questions like these can remain an intellectual curiosity. Something we cannot find any conclusive answers to, and they may seem removed from and irrelevant to our daily lives.

I prefer to make practical use of these questions. I know I cannot know the answer to whether I live in a Matrix-like simulation, and it doesn’t matter so much. Other sides of that question are more important to me. For instance, it’s a pointer to and reminder of my more fundamental nature.

DIFFERENT VARIATIONS

I should mention that there are different variations of this question.

For instance, when Chuang Tzu asked his question about butterflies and dreams, he pointed to our nature as consciousness. Night dreams and waking life both happen within and as the consciousness we are to ourselves.

When some today use the Matrix analogy and computer simulations, that’s a more updated version specific to our times and culture. It likely says more about us today than the nature of our world. And it too can be used to point to our more fundamental nature. (I suspect the Wachowski siblings were quite aware of that when they made the movie.)

(1) Among the few of us privileged enough to have the life and relative comfort to consider these things. Most people around the world have more immediate and important things to take care of.

(2) I regularly see articles on this topic even in mainstream media. The most recent one is from NRK in Norway: Flere anerkjente fysikere: Mener det er sannsynlig at vi lever i et dataspill (Several physicists say it’s likely we live in a computer game).

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Awakening and trauma and the apparent gap between the two

There is an apparent gap between my nature – as consciousness – and the trauma that’s in my very human system.

ONENESS AND TRAUMA

As what I am, as consciousness, I am oneness. And that oneness takes the form of a kind of love that’s independent of states and feelings.

As who I am, I am this very flawed human being. I have hangups, issues, and traumas. I have unloved parts of me. Unexamined beliefs. And so on. Here, I sometimes act from reactivity and it looks like (unloved) fear and reactivity and not love or oneness.

There seems to be a big gap there. And that’s true and not true in different ways.

THE GAP IS REAL

It’s true in that these parts of me – the wounded and traumatized parts – were formed within separation consciousness and they perceive and operate from separation consciousness. They are not aware of the oneness they exist within and are part of. They behave as if separation is most fundamental, and for them it is.

These parts of me color my perception and life even if they are not obviously triggered.

When they are more obviously triggered, a couple of things can happen.

The consciousness I am can get caught up in this part of me and join in with its outlook and the scary stories it operates from. I – as a whole – become this part of me for a while, until the storm passes. (Sometimes, it means getting caught up in a part reacting to a reacting part!)

The consciousness I am can notice what’s happening without getting caught up in it. I notice what’s happening. I notice reactivity. I notice the pattern. I notice it’s happening within and as what I am. My human self can relate to it more intentionally and deal with it without getting caught up in it or reacting to it.

Or there is a mix of the two, which also happens.

THE GAP IS APPARENT

At the same time, the gap is only apparent.

My human self and all its hangups happen within and as the consciousness and oneness I am.

Even getting caught up in it or not happens within and as the consciousness and oneness I am.

Noticing that is helpful. It’s helpful in the moment something is triggered. It helps me find what’s not caught up in it. And it’s helpful when I take time to rest with and explore these wounded parts of me. It gives a different context to the exploration. It helps me see that these parts of me have my nature. What I am forms itself into it and takes that form.

EXPLORING THE GAP

How can I explore the gap? How can I invite more of me to align with oneness? (With the oneness I am noticing itself?)

A big part of it may be regular trauma work and different forms of trauma-informed therapies.

Another is to train myself to notice when “I” as a whole gets caught up in it and help myself to shift out of it again. Seeing that it’s natural and, in many ways, innocent, helps here. The more peace with it, the easier to notice and shift back into what I am.

WHAT MAKES IT EASIER

In general, it seems easier

The more I can embrace all of it and the messiness of it and find some peace with it.

The more I understand what’s happening. These are scared and sometimes terrified parts of me. They were formed within separation consciousness and still live that way. They are here to try to protect me. They come fundamentally from love. They have the same nature as I do as a whole.

The more I am with others who understand and have some love and humor about it all.

The more experience I have in seeing the patterns and dealing with them. That includes the times I – as a whole – get caught up in it and act as if I am that scared part of me. And the times when I notice what’s happening and can relate to it more consciously and intentionally.

The more I can admit to it to myself and others (when it feels appropriate). Admitting it is very human and creates more understanding and connections.

The more I can find the humor in it. It is all more than a little absurd.

The more I know that there is no finishing line. It’s all about the process. I cannot know what will happen and it doesn’t matter. It’s easier and more comfortable to rest in (and as) not knowing.

The more I see that this is all the play of… the consciousness I am, life, existence, the divine, Spirit. It’s existence expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in this way here and now. It has a beauty.

The more I see that this is universal. We are all fundamentally consciousness to ourselves. And we all have this self in the world with all sorts of hangups, wounds, and traumas. We are all in it together. We are all in the same boat. (And it’s all also unique. It all takes unique forms for each of us and in each moment.)

The more I see it’s not easy. It’s often *&%$# hard. It’s painful. Confusing. Sometimes overwhelming. It brings up fear, frustration, and anger. It sometimes brings up shame and regret. That too is universal, natural, and ultimately innocent. It’s OK.

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No awakening without dealing with trauma

There is no awakening without dealing with trauma.

At some point, the awakening process requires us to deal with our trauma and anything unresolved in us.

It seems inevitable given enough time, and it may not in all cases happen in this lifetime.

AWAKENING BEFORE DEALING WITH THE TRAUMA

Of course, our nature can recognize itself without dealing with trauma or anything else unresolved in us. It can keep noticing itself and even live from and as it through this human self in many situations. We can be in a temporary transcendent state. Our old psychological mechanisms may still be intact enough to push our traumas aside or keep them under the surface as much as that is possible.

In this situation, what’s unresolved in us will inevitably color our perception and life, and it will get triggered more actively in some situations and areas of life. It will always be with us and shape our life. 

It’s not a situation that can last forever. At some point, anything unresolved in our body-mind has to come to the surface to be seen, felt, loved, and recognized as happening within and as what we are. We have to learn to relate to it more consciously and for what it is (scared and wounded parts of us) and invite in healing for it. 

TRAUMA AND WOUNDS LIVE IN SEPARATION CONSCIOUSNESS

What’s the problem with traumas in this context, and generally what’s unresolved in us?

It’s not actually a problem. They are part of the process. It’s natural and even innocent. It provides material for exploration, grounding, humbling, maturing, and so on.

At the same time, these parts of us are out of alignment with the awakening. These parts of us were formed from separation consciousness and life within and from separation consciousness. And, as mentioned above, they will inevitably color our perception and life. As long as they are here, we will live partly from and as these parts of us.

WHAT MAKES IT EASIER AND MORE DIFFICULT

Some things make this process easier: We may have a relatively small trauma load, or just a little comes up at once. We may already have good habits in how to relate to it. We may already be relatively healthy, grounded, and mature. We may find ourselves among people who understand and support the process. In short, we have the resources to deal with it and what’s coming up may not be big enough to overwhelm us. 

And the reverse seems to make this process more difficult: We have a larger and more difficult trauma load. A lot is coming up at once. We may feel overwhelmed and not know how to deal with it. We may not be so healthy, grounded, and mature. We may not find ourselves in an understanding and supportive environment. We may not have the inner and outer resources to effectively deal with it, and what comes up overwhelms us. 

THE EMBODIMENT ASPECT OF THE PROCESS

This is really about embodiment, which is part of the awakening process.

It’s about bringing it into life in a more consistent, grounded, mature, and healthy way.

For that to happen, we need to deal with our trauma and anything unresolved in us, and it’s an ongoing process.

I doubt there is ever a finishing line, at least in this lifetime or as long as we are incarnated.

AWAKENING AS A PROCESS

The essential part of awakening is not technically a process. It’s our nature recognizing itself and that happens here and now.

And everything else is a process. What leads up to it, and how it unfolds within and as that noticing.

IS IT WORTH IT?

Is it worth it?

It is, in a way, a nonsensical question. It’s not up to us as an individual. What’s happening here locally is part of the process of all of existence. Everything has infinite causes stretching out to the widest extent of existence and the beginning of time.

Also, it depends on how we look at it. It can be tremendously difficult and painful, as I know from my own experience. It can seriously impact and complicate our lives.

Not dealing with trauma is not necessarily any easier. That comes with its own pain and challenges and it lasts a lot longer.

HOW IT HAS BEEN FOR ME

I am writing from my own experience here so someone else will talk about it differently.

For me, the initial oneness shift happened when I was sixteen and didn’t go away. My human self lived in a kind of honeymoon state for about ten years where the unprocessed human stuff was set aside or buried. Not intentionally, since I was deeply fascinated by psychology (especially Jung and depth psychology) and did regular therapy. But my system had mechanisms in place to keep it manageable.

Then, a dark night started. First, through a profound sense of being off track in life (I made a life decision that went against my clear inner guidance and knowing). And then, about ten years later, through the “lid” being taken off what was unprocessed in my system. That seemed to have happened through a combination of (a) six months in a clear no-self state, (b) my body-mind being severely weakened by a chronic illness CFS), and (c) a “dangerous prayer” where I sincerely and deeply asked the divine to “show me what’s left” (a deep and overwhelming survival fear came up one or two weeks after). An aspect of this is that a lot has been falling apart in my life, over and over, sometimes because of the way I have dealt with the trauma.

I am still in that darker phase of the dark night, although the form of it keeps changing.

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Living from the oneness I am is respectively impossible & inevitable (and that’s not a paradox)

It’s impossible for me to fully live from the oneness I am, and it’s also inevitable.

That’s not a paradox since they point to two different things.

IMPOSSIBLE TO FULLY LIVE FROM THE ONENESS I AM

I find myself as consciousness AKA oneness, and it’s possible for me to imagine how it would look to consistently live from and as that recognition of oneness.

At the same time, it’s impossible for me to fully do it in real life. My human self has too many biases, hangups, issues, identifications, and traumas. My perception and life will always be colored by these.

That’s OK. It’s understandable and natural. It’s a process. There is always further to go.

More parts of my psyche can heal and align more closely with oneness consciously recognizing itself. More painful beliefs can be identified and examined. There is always more maturing, learning, and exploration happening.

IMPOSSIBLE TO NOT LIVE FROM AND AS THE ONENESS I AM

It’s also impossible to not live from and as the consciousness and oneness I am. It happens whether I notice or not and is independent of how my human self is.

To me, my human self happens within and as the consciousness and oneness I am. The consciousness I am forms itself into it all, including the hangups and trauma, and my human self living from these hangups and trauma.

THE RICHNESS IN IT

There is a beauty here. It’s rich. It’s endlessly fascinating.

Life set the stage for this richness. In this case, life (consciousness AKA divinity) sets the stage for an endless exploration of itself through and as the richness of who and what we are – our human self in the world and the consciousness we more fundamentally are.

TWO DIFFERENT THINGS

What I write about above are two different things.

One is consciously living from and as oneness recognizing itself. This is filtered through a human self that has biases, hangups, and so on, so it will be imperfect according to how we may imagine it.

The other is what inevitably and always happens. The consciousness and oneness we are always live through and as this human self whether we notice or not (and for as long as this human self is around!).

WHEN PARADOXES ARE NOT PARADOXES

As hinted at above, this may appear as a paradox but they are really two different things.

It appears as a paradox because of language. We can present it in a way that uses language to present it as if it’s a paradox. This happens if we stay at the level of mental abstractions.

If we come from immediate noticing, we see it’s really two different things and we can talk about and present it as two distinct things. Here, there is no paradox.

In my experience, that’s how most apparent paradoxes are. It may look like a paradox if we are in language and abstractions, and when we look a little more closely, it’s separated out into two or more distinct things and the apparent paradox falls away.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Health crisis & shifting the center of gravity into my nature as a safety valve

Close to summer solstice 2022, I found myself with sepsis and in acute septic shock and rushed to the hospital.

WHAT HAPPENED

I was in Ski, having just returned from the Andes mountains. A tooth broke followed by a strong infection in my jaw and face. I received antibiotics from the emergency dentist. (This happened on a weekend.) It didn’t seem to do anything. That Monday, I went back to the dentist for more work on the tooth, and on my way back to the house, I blacked out.

Somehow I was able to walk the ten minutes back to the house, but I cannot remember anything about it.

I came back to consciousness naked on the couch in the basement of my parents house, sweating profusely, ice cold, and shaking so strongly it was close to impossible to use my phone to contact anyone. With a lot of struggle, I was able to leave a message for my wife (who was sick with covid in the guesthouse) and my brother.

My brother eventually came, didn’t seem to take it very seriously (he disappeared into the bathroom for what seemed an eternity and didn’t tell me where he was), and eventually took me to the emergency room.

They relatively quickly suspected septic shock, called an ambulance, and I was rushed to A-Hus in Oslo. They put ten or fifteen tubes and cables in me, informed me that my kidneys had collapsed, and put me under observation for 24 hours. After that, I stayed in a corridor in the infection section of the hospital for a week. (With people screaming and dying in the rooms I was outside of.) It was quite an experience.

I wrote about this episode in a couple of other articles: It’s all a bonus and My recent health crisis.

FEAR

Between regaining consciousness in my parents’ basement and receiving the diagnosis, fear came up. I realized something serious was happening. I had no idea what it was. I had fear of something seriously happening to me that would affect me for the rest of my life. And I also noticed that a fear of dying did not come up, that seemed OK.

GRATITUDE

I also had a profound gratitude to the nurses and doctors and the healthcare system in Norway. I could not have had a better experience. (Apart from the infection wing of the hospital being full due to a surge in covid, which has more to do with the priorities of politicians and voters than anything else.)

MY NATURE

It seems that the safety valve for my system is to shift the center of gravity more strongly into my nature.

During this whole process, I found myself strongly in and as consciousness. Consciousness was strongly in the foreground and whatever happened within and as consciousness – the symptoms, the events, the people, this human self, sensations, thoughts, and emotions – was all much more in the background. It was happening, but what it happened within and as was much more clear and strong.

That also happened when I had a heat stroke in Oregon several years ago. (Likely because my doctor told me to eat less salt, I was already eating very little salt, and it was a very hot summer.)

I also suspect it’s how the initial oneness shift happened when I was sixteen. My human self was under a lot of stress at the time (to an extreme and overwhelming level), and I suspect my system dealt with it by shifting the center of gravity into consciousness itself.

Initially, when I was fifteen, there was a shift into an observer-observed duality where I found myself as consciousness (without having those words for it) and the whole world – this human self, others, thoughts, feelings, and so on – seemed very far away.

A year later, there was a shift into all – without exception – as God. This human self, thoughts, feelings, ideas of being this human self, ideas of separation, and so on, was all recognized as the play of God, as God taking all those forms. That was the language and interpretation of this human self at the time. These days, I would say it in a slightly different way. There was a shift of the center of gravity into consciousness, into the consciousness I am, and all content of consciousness was recognized as that, as happening within and as the consciousness I am.

SHIFTS IN CENTER OF GRAVITY AND ATTENTION

That initial oneness shift stayed. The shifts have more been in how much in the foreground or background my nature is. I have gone through phases where it has been very much in the foreground – the first ten years or so, during a period when the no-self aspect was in the foreground, and I would also say now. And in daily life, it also depends on where attention goes – to my nature or specific content of experience.

SAFETY VALVE

In my case, the shift into my nature recognizing itself did definitely not happen because I was especially noble or into spiritual practice or had prayed for it or anything of that kind. It happened because my human self was so messed up and needed a safety valve, and – for whatever reason – shifting the center of gravity into my nature turned out to be that safety valve.

My human self had absolutely no interest in spirituality at the time, and even now, I prefer to avoid language related to spirituality as much as possible.

Image by me and Midjourney

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The princes in the tower: Buying into Tudor views on Richard III and what it says about us

I have been following Philippa Langley’s work for about a decade now, after initially hearing about her fascinating story of how she found Richard III in a car park in Leicester. Yesterday, I listened to a Gone Medieval podcast episode where she talks about her research into what happened with the princes in the tower.

For centuries, historians and the public at large have largely bought into Tudor propaganda about Richard III, including that he had the princes in the tower killed because they were rivals to his throne. While all the time, there was an absence of contemporary documents suggesting they died at that time, and other documents strongly suggesting that the princes lived for years later.

WHY IS THIS INTERESTING?

Why am I interested in this?

It’s not because I am particularly interested in Richard III, although I am generally interested in history.

It’s because it says something about us – individually and collectively.

BUYING INTO PROPAGANDA RATHER THAN LOOKING AT REALITY

In this case, we have the Tudor family that violently took over the throne of England. They were concerned about their perceived legitimacy, so they wanted to bolster their image by depicting Richard III – the king they disposed of – as a shady character. They received support in this project from many who saw the benefit of being on their good side, including Shakespeare.

Historians apparently largely bought into this propaganda, including the story of Richard III having the princess in the tower killed. They were happy to base it on works of fiction and the popular view without closely examining the data supporting or contradicting that story.

WE ALL DO IT

We all do this. We all buy into certain stories because it’s a popular view or because it gives us something. We often do it without closely examining the stories and what supports or contradicts them.

We do it collectively, and we do it in our own life.

Fortunately, we all also have a Philippa Langley in us. We have a part of us willing and able to investigate to find what’s genuinely more true for us.

WHAT ARE SOME COLLECTIVE EXAMPLES TODAY?

I’ll give a couple of examples of how we collectively seem to be doing this today. These are my typical bee-in-the-bonnet examples (!).

WHAT WE MORE FUNDAMENTALLY ARE

One popular view is that we most fundamentally are this human self. We are fundamentally this person, a doer, an observer, and so on. Even most philosophers and psychologists seem to buy into this view without apparently examining it very closely through phenomenology or logic. It may or may not be accurate in a third-person view, but is it what we most fundamentally are in a first-person view?

What I find is that to myself, I am more fundamentally consciousness and the world to me happens within and as that consciousness. And I am capacity for all of that – I am capacity for the consciousness I am and all that it forms itself into.

We can find the same through logic. If we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we must BE consciousness. And if the world to us happens within and as consciousness, it happens within and as the consciousness we are. The consciousness we are forms itself into our whole field of experience. It’s all we have ever known. This consciousness has no outer edge. To us, we are oneness and the world happens within and as oneness. We are even more fundamentally capacity for all of this. And so on.

GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL OVERSHOOT

Another is a set of collective assumptions about our ecological crisis. For instance, that it’s mostly about climate change, we still have time to deal with it, someone else will do it, and we can solve it through technology or peripheral tweaks to how we collectively organize ourselves.

This is obviously a naive view. We have been in a global ecological overshoot for decades. We would need more than two Earths to support our current collective consumption. That means that we are spending from our ecological “savings account”. This looks more or less OK for a while until we hit the bottom, and then our lifestyle collapses. In this case, it’s the planet’s ecosystems that collapse and our civilization with it. It’s inevitable when we are in ecological overshoot. There is no other way it can end.

WHY DO WE BUY INTO THESE STORIES?

Why do we collectively buy into these stories even if the data is available to show us something else?

I assume it’s similar to why historians have bought into the Tudor propaganda about Richard III.

It’s the popular view so it’s more convenient and comfortable to buy into it. We may be socialized into these views and don’t find a reason to question them.

Going against it is often inconvenient and uncomfortable. We’ll find ourselves in the minority. We’ll meet resistance. Our views may be dismissed and ridiculed.

We may not feel we have the time or energy to investigate closely. Something else seems more important, interesting, comfortable, and so on.

We have other priorities. We may prioritize agreeing with the popular views and being included. We may prioritize living our life without adding extra revolutions and changes. We may prioritize something else over what we would find is more true for us. We may prioritize comfort.

HARNESSING OUR INTERNAL PHILIPPA LANGLEY

How can we find and harness the Philippa Langley in us?

One is to examine our priorities. What’s most important to me? To hold onto my views or to find what’s more true for me? To stay with what’s familiar or to open myself up to something new and different and something my mind may not be able to predict in advance?

Another is to examine my fears around it. What do I fear would happen if I prioritize what’s more true for me? What do I fear would happen if that happens? And so on. How likely is it to happen? Am I willing to have it happen? Would I be able to deal with it?

In general, I find that inquiry is very helpful here combined with sincerity and a willingness to prioritize reality over my personal preferences and wishes and fears. Of course, that’s not something I can always do in all areas of life. But I can investigate one area and one line of assumptions at a time, and do it with as much sincerity I can find in me. And I can use my experience of friction – discomfort and stress – as a pointer to when and where I am holding onto assumptions that are out of alignment with reality. In find that the Work of Byron Katie is very helpful here, as are the Kiloby Inquiries.

Why would we do this? Isn’t it more comfortable to just go along with our current ideas of how things are?

It may seem more comfortable. What I find, through examination, is that it’s actually more comfortable to find what’s more true and honest for me. Living is a fantasy is inherently uncomfortable. It’s something my mind needs to create and defend. It’s out of alignment with reality so there is inevitably friction between my views and reality. Finding what’s more true for me is more peaceful since there is less to defend and there is less inherent friction. (There will always be some friction since there is always more layers and and more to examine.)

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Wanting to be saved, waiting to be saved

Hindus have been waiting for Kalki for 3,700 years.
Buddhists have been waiting for Maitreya for 2,600 years.
The Jews have been waiting for the Messiah for 2,500 years.
Christians have been waiting for Jesus for 2,000 years.
The Sunnah has been waiting for Prophet Issa for 1,400 years.
Muslims have been waiting for a Messiah from the line of Muhammad for 1,300 years.
The Shiites have been waiting for the Mahdi for 1,080 years.
Druze have been waiting for Hamza Ibn Ali for 1,000 years.

Most embrace the idea of a “savior” and claim that the world will remain full of wickedness until this savior comes and fills it with goodness and justice.

Maybe our problem on this planet is that people are waiting for someone else to come and solve their problems, rather than doing it themselves.

– Imtiaz Mahmood

Why do we feel a need to be saved? It must be because what’s here is uncomfortable, sometimes even apparently unbearable. If we envision something as big as divinity saving us, it must be because our discomfort appears equally big. (I am obviously talking very generally here.)

SAVED BY SOMETHING OUT THERE

It’s also interesting how our human mind often wants to be saved by something “out there” – somewhere else and/or in the future. It’s understandable, of course. It would be nice. And most of us did experience something similar in infancy so it is perhaps deeply ingrained in us.

There is some truth to it too. We may find something or someone that makes us feel better for a while. We may find some comfort, love, safety, and so on. That’s wonderful.

And yet, it comes with some inherent drawbacks. It won’t last. It’s dependent on circumstances. It doesn’t go quite as deep as we really wish for. And it may not happen in the first place.

SAVING MYSELF HERE AND NOW

So what’s the solution?

I can only speak for myself and as it looks to me now, and as so often, the answer may appear a bit boring and sobering.

The answer is that I am my own savior. I am the one I have been looking for. My mind is projecting this part of myself out there in space or time, while it’s here all along.

Why can it seem like a disappointing answer? It may not seem true to us. We may think there is some truth to it, but we don’t know how to do it. We try and it doesn’t seem to do much. Or perhaps our mind has invested so much energy into images of saviors out there that anything else seems pale in comparison.

Yet, it is true in my limited experience. (Our experience is always limited, no matter how much we have explored something.) And it’s also what others report.

HOW DO I SAVE MYSELF?

How do I save myself?

It depends on the situation, to some extent.

In some situations, action is required to make a change. In this case, I can (partially) save myself by taking action or asking someone to take action on my behalf. Sometimes, I save myself by asking for help.

And parallel with that, it’s in how I meet my own experience.

When I experience distress, I often ask myself: How would a good – wise, kind – parent comfort a child in this situation? What would she or he say? How would he or she meet the child? And then relate to the suffering parts of myself in that way.

These parts of us are here to try to protect me. So I say: Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me. You are allowed to be here. Stay as long as you want.

I sometimes dialog with these parts of me. How do they see me? What function do they have? How would they like me to treat them? What do they need from me? The Big Mind process is very good for this.

I have done a lot of heart-centered practices, including towards myself and these painful parts of me. Two of my favorites are ho’o and tonglen.

What I am trying to be saved from is typically stressful thoughts and associated unpleasant sensations, so I can identify and investigate these thoughts (The Work of Byron Katie) and notice and allow the sensations. I can also investigate more thoroughly how thoughts and sensations combine, and how the mind creates identifications out of it, for instance through the Kiloby Inquiries.

I invite in healing for these parts of me – the wounded, scared, traumatized parts – in whatever ways work for me.

I notice my nature and rest in and as it. I can notice that these parts of me, the scary thoughts and uncomfortable sensations, have the same nature as me. It’s consciousness, the consciousness I am, forming itself into all of it. What happens if I rest in and as that noticing?

There is usually an immediate shift from these explorations. And my experience is that it also takes time. My system mirrors a culture and family that trained me to look outside myself for solutions and did not always show me how to meet myself and my experience with kindness. So it takes time to turn the ship. It’s ongoing. But it does get fuller, deeper, and richer over time.

SAVING MYSELF IN A VARIETY OF WAYS

None of these are mutually exclusive. I can save myself in a variety of ways.

If I find some of what I am looking for in someone or something, I can enjoy that. (Knowing it depends on circumstances and may not last.)

And I can also give myself more directly what I need and be my own savior in that way. I can take action, and I can be a better friend and parent to myself and my own experience.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Being capacity for the world

I find I am fundamentally capacity for the world as it appears to me.

CAPACITY

I am fundamentally what allows any and all content in this field of experience.

This capacity is everywhere in my experience. It’s as if it’s inherent in all experience. It’s as if it forms itself into any experience.

It’s as if it makes itself into consciousness itself, which in turn makes itself into any experience.

NOTICING IT

There isn’t much to say about it. It’s just something to notice, and not even notice but kind of touching on noticing since this is not directly content of experience.

It’s always here. Sometimes, it comes to the foreground of attention. Sometimes, it’s more in the background while attention is on something else. (And even then, it’s kind of noticed.)

Sometimes, it’s even more in the foreground and everything else goes into the background. In my case, it happens during some shifts in meditation. And it also happens when there is consciousness through dreamless sleep.

TALKING ABOUT IT

Words come short in describing it, as words come short in describing anything. (Not because it’s so unusual or mysterious or unfamiliar, but because of the nature of thoughts. Thoughts can only point to something, they cannot capture it.)

When I look for words here and now, I can say it’s absolute stillness, a kind of absolute stillness that’s in and takes the form of everything.

NOT SPECIAL

It’s not special. I assume any “conscious being”, to themselves, are consciousness, and also are capacity in this way. It’s likely universal. It’s difficult to see that it can be any other way.

Here, it’s been consciously noticed for about 37 years so this human self is used to it. It’s familiar to this human self. That too makes it not so much to talk about.

IS IT IMPORTANT?

Is it important? It’s important since there would be no experience without it. It’s what allows any experience. It’s what takes the form of any experience. It’s even what seems to allow and take the form of consciousness itself. It’s kind of a scent that permeates everything.

Is it important to notice it? Or for it to kind of notice itself? Apparently not since it doesn’t seem to be something most consciousnesses focus much on. If it was important to life and existence, it would be noticed a lot more. It seems that it’s perfectly fine for it to be in the background and not consciously noticed or recognized so much.

For this consciousness, it’s fun and interesting to notice, and here too, it’s very rarely talked about. Very occasionally, there may be some words written to reflect it, and I don’t think I have talked to anyone about it unless briefly when it’s clear we both recognize it, as a kind of nod.

A FEW MORE WORDS

Finding myself as most fundamentally capacity also means I am not most fundamentally human. That’s fine. My human layer is one of many layers, and I am most fundamentally capacity for all of it. I am what forms itself into all of it.

Is this what Buddhists call emptiness? It may be. I see how the label could fit, but I prefer the word capacity which I think Douglas Harding used. It fits a bit more.

I used “as if” and “kind of” phrases above. I am sure I could find clearer ways of saying it, but it also works. It shows that the words here are just pointers and approximations. They are trying to reflect something that’s here in immediacy but is also a bit elusive.

The image was created by me and Midjourney.

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Understanding awakening independent of spirituality and most worldviews

How do we understand awakening?

Do we tie it to spirituality or a particular approach to spirituality?

Do we tie it to a particular worldview that’s incompatible with other common worldviews?

Or do we find the lowest common denominator in understanding awakening? Do we choose an understanding that’s compatible with a wide range of worldviews?

Personally, I prefer an understanding that’s honest, simple, has the fewest assumptions within it, and is compatible with the widest range of worldviews. (Including those free of spirituality.)

A SIMPLE UNDERSTANDING OF AWAKENING

So what is this simple understanding of awakening?

We can approach it in two ways.

NOTICING: TO OURSELVES, WE ARE CONSCIOUSNESS

We can approach it through direct noticing.

It’s not wrong that I am this human self in the world. But when I look, I find I am more fundamentally something else.

I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am capacity for all of it.

We can quite easily get at least a glimpse of this through different forms of inquiry, including the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

LOGIC: TO OURSELVES, WE ARE CONSCIOUSNESS

We can also approach this through logic.

In our culture, people often say that we “have” consciousness. That makes it sound as if consciousness is a kind of appendix, and that we are a kind of object somehow receiving info from this consciousness. That’s one take on a third-person view, which is fine, but here I am more interested in our first-person experience.

So what’s a first-person view?

If I “have” consciousness, then to myself, I have to BE consciousness.

Said another way: Any experience has to happen within consciousness. It’s consciousness forming itself into that experience. And what’s experiencing has to similarly be consciousness. None of it would be experienced if it all didn’t happen within and as consciousness.

What’s experiencing and what’s experienced are aspects of the same. All of it is consciousness.

Here, we may also find that…

If we ARE consciousness, then to us, the world – the whole field of experience – happens within and as the consciousness we are.

Consciousness is seamless. It doesn’t have borders or divisions or even an outer boundary. To us, the world happens within and as the oneness we are. (“The world” here means any content of experience, including anything associated with this human self – sensations, emotions, thoughts, ideas of identities, ideas of being a doer, an observer, and so on.)

Understanding this logically can be interesting in itself, and it can be an invitation to explore it through direct noticing.

THE WORLD APPEARS AS CONSCIOUSNESS

If the world, to me, happens within and as the consciousness I am, then – to me – the world appears AS consciousness.

If the world appears as consciousness, then it appears alive and conscious, and it’s very easy to call that the divine, Spirit, God, Allah, Brahman, and so on.

SHARED WITH MYSTICS ACROSS TIME AND TRADITIONS

Through logic and direct noticing, we arrive at what mystics through time and across traditions have described.

The essence is: I am consciousness. The world, to me, happens within and as the consciousness I am. The world, to me, happens within and as the oneness I am. The world, to me, appears as consciousness (AKA the divine, Spirit, God, etc.) since it happens within and as the consciousness I am.

Of course, the mystics use language that reflects their tradition, culture, and time, and they often interpret their direct noticing using a certain understanding and worldview. But the essence is the same.

FREE OF SPIRITUALITY AND INDEPENDENT OF MOST WORLDVIEWS

I like this approach.

It’s logical. It’s something we can find for ourselves through direct noticing.

It’s free of spirituality and spiritual traditions.

It’s compatible with a wide range of worldviews.

It’s a kind of lowest common denominator in understanding awakening.

That means it can be used by people from a wide range of backgrounds and with a wide range of worldviews. It can be used as a simple form of communication across traditions. It can be used by academics and researchers.

We are personally free to add whatever we want to it. We can add a wide range of worldviews and traditions if we want. And it can help us hold all of that more lightly. We see that they are add-ons and essentially questions about the world.

A FEW NOTES

SMALL AND BIG UNDERSTANDINGS OF AWAKENING

When I have written about this in the past, I have often talked about a small and big understanding of awakening.

What I outlined above is the small approach. It’s simple, stays close to our experience, doesn’t philosophize too much, and is compatible with a range of worldviews. We explore our own nature, and don’t assume that’s also the nature of all of existence. The downside of this one is that it can seem a bit boring. (Although it’s anything but.) The upside is that it’s a kind of lowest common denominator. It can be used as a universal language.

The big understanding of awakening is the more traditional one. Here, we assume that our nature is the nature of all of existence. All of existence is consciousness AKA Spirit, God, Allah, Brahman, and so on. The downside here is that we may go into assumptions and fantasies beyond what we can check for ourselves. The upside is that it can be more familiar to many and it can seem more inspiring.

The small understanding is more accurate in the sense that’s it’s more sober, grounded, and honest. And I suspect the big understanding is more accurate in the big picture.

WHO IS USING THIS APPROACH?

If we mean a first-person exploration without too much philosophizing, it’s similar to the Headless Way, Zen, and Adveita.

If we mean using both a small (psychological) and big (spiritual) understanding of awakening, depending on what makes most sense in the situation, then I am not sure. I haven’t seen it myself, although I have also been out of the loop for 10-15 years due to my illness.

WHY ISN’T THIS APPROACH USED MORE COMMONLY?

As with so many things, I wonder why more people don’t use this approach. It seems simple, fits our modern views, and has many benefits.

We may be wedded to a spiritual tradition, and we may be used to a more spiritual language. We may prefer it, for whatever reason, even if it’s more exclusive and some of it goes beyond what we can check out for ourselves.

We may also want the comfort that certain ideas from spirituality give us. When I explore this, I find it doesn’t really give me comfort since I know – somewhere – what’s happening. I am indulging in a fantasy. One that’s possibly reasonably accurate, and one I cannot easily check out for myself or know for certain. Even if I have certain experiences, I know they can be interpreted and understood in many ways and they can fit into many different worldviews in different ways.

MY NATURE VS NATURE OF ALL OF EXISTENCE

Behind this approach – the small understanding of awakening – is a basic assumption: I can find and explore my own nature, and that doesn’t mean that the nature of all existence is the same as my nature. I cannot know for certain what the nature of all of existence is. I can assume it’s all the divine, Spirit, God, and so on, and there may be hints suggesting it’s like that, but I cannot know for certain. If I am honest with myself, I know I cannot know for certain.

For me, it’s more peaceful than trying to create, hold onto, and defend a certain worldview saying all of existence is a certain way.

ABOUT THE LOGIC

I wanted to add a few more words about the logical approach to understanding our first-person nature. I know that some will disagree with this logic, and I made almost no effort to make this particular presentation solid and tight. I just informally hit on some of the highlights.

I also know very well that this logic, in my case, comes from and reflects direct noticing. The noticing came first, and then the logic. It may be more difficult to go the other way, especially if we are already invested in another way of looking at it.

Also, I imagine some will say: Yes, it may be logical. To ourselves, we must be consciousness. But that’s not my experience, and I don’t think it’s possible to experience it. My brain won’t allow it.

That’s fair. And I would invite that person to check it out for themselves. The most effective way to explore it is likely to be facilitated by someone experienced in the Big Mind process. It may take just five minutes to get a real taste of it.

WHY AM I DRAWN TO THIS APPROACH?

I am not sure. Differentiating between a small and big understanding seems more honest. Using a small understanding is more inclusive. I like the fluidity in choosing a small or big interpretation depending on what makes more sense in the situation.

In general, I don’t like being wedded to just one way of looking at something since there is always validity in a range of views and they together give a slightly fuller and richer picture.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Two sides of an unexpected oneness shift: Profoundly at home, profoundly alone – my story

When I was fifteen, there was a shift where the whole world – thoughts, feelings, sensations, others, the wider world – seemed very distant and far away. One year later, there was a shift into oneness where all – without exception – was revealed as God.

THE SITUATION

This human self was an atheist at the time, although with some curiosity about what’s outside of our conventional worldview – ESP, quantum physics, and similar things. I lived in a small town in Norway, and it was the ’80s before the web, so I knew nothing about anything related to this. I knew nobody who was interested in it. There was no web to go on to find info. I couldn’t even find any books since the local library didn’t have anything about it, and I didn’t even know what search terms to use.

RETURNING HOME

So on the one hand, it was a profound sense of coming home. It was a homecoming to something completely unexpected (to this human self) and profoundly familiar (to my nature). It was clear, it was obvious. Everything is God, without exception. And that includes this human self and any sense of being this human self. It was all what God has formed itself into. In this, there is no room for problems.

TURMOIL

At the same time, at my human level, there were a lot of problems. I had a mysterious disease. (Later identified as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.) I had a lot of anxiety and hangups due to family and school dynamics. Huge amounts of energy was running through my system 24/7 for years, it felt like high voltage being sent through ordinary housing wires. I had nobody to talk about these things with at all.

FINDING OTHERS

It wasn’t until that I found a book by Meister Eckhart in the main library in Oslo, where I saw glimmers of someone who had recognized the same, filtered by another time and culture and said by someone who obviously wanted to be careful about how he expressed it. (1) I also met a couple of people (BH & HB) who immediately recognized it in me and where I recognized it in them. That happened when I was nineteen and twenty and was a big relief for this human self. And I found Taoism and read just about everything I could find there. Again, the writings typically reflected something similar but didn’t explicitly talk about the shift that had happened here.

In general, my human life changed significantly for the better after I left high school, moved to Oslo, and started art school there. I found new friends. I found new communities. I was able to explore everything with more breathing space. Things started falling into place.

THE TWO SIDES

So there were two sides to this. As what I am – what a thought may call consciousness, oneness – there was just a returning home that what’s always here. As who I am – as this confused and wounded human being – it was a wild mix of surprise, excitement, confusion, bewilderment, aloneness, and much more.

And that’s all, of course, happening within and as what I am. It’s all happening within and as what a thought may call consciousness, oneness, or any number of things.

NOTES

(1) In my teens, I also read a lot about systems views, mainly by Fritjof Capra and the people he referenced, that hinted at it but didn’t seem to come from a direct noticing. And I also read a lot of books by C.G. Jung which also hinted at it, but again were not written from a direct noticing. They hinted at oneness, the oneness revealed in the shift, and I loved it. I also loved systems views for how important they are for our world today. (Although most still don’t use them, for whatever reason.) And I loved Jung for his understanding of how to find more wholeness at a human level.

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Conscious through deep sleep

In the mid-2000s, a couple of decades into this exploration, I set the intention to see if consciousness (the consciousness I am) could be conscious through deep sleep and throughout the night.

CONSCIOUS THROUGH SLEEP

After a few nights, it worked.

Consciousness – the consciousness I am – observed this human self fall asleep. There was consciousness through the night, including through deep sleep. It was not aware of anything in particular – apart from perhaps a very faint (subtle) content of experience. There was an absence of a sense of time. (Or perhaps a very faint sense of time as if it was away in the distance? I don’t remember if there was.) Nothing much happening. Then some dreams, and then the waking world.

Is this important? I am not sure. Of course, it’s one of many things that points to and highlights my more fundamental nature. Beyond that, I didn’t find it obviously useful or interesting. Also, this human self prefers awareness to be “gone” during deep sleep, so I didn’t pursue it further.

RELATED TO…

This reminds me of a few other things.

LUCID DREAMING

When I was little, maybe five or six years old, and set the intention to be aware that I am dreaming while dreaming. That too worked. I dreamt I was in a big barn (US style for some reason), and a large group of people with pitchforks were chasing me. I ran out towards a steep drop. I also knew I was dreaming, so it didn’t matter so much that I had no escape. Knowing it was a dream was escape enough.

AWARE OF THE DREAMING PROCESS WHILE AWAKE

I sometimes am consciously aware of the dreaming process while awake, which I wrote about some days ago.

MEMORY FROM BETWEEN LIVES

And it’s similar to my apparent memory from between lives. Here too, there wasn’t too much content of experience. (Apart from the oneness and golden light and some occasional communication with other disembodied entities.) There was very little awareness of time – it seemed very far away. (This memory came as occasional flashbacks when I was very little, before school age.)

DON’T TALK ABOUT IT MUCH

I’ll happily talk about this with others who have similar experiences. It’s fun to explore and compare notes. But I hardly ever mention it otherwise. It seems a distraction from what’s more direct, easy, and essential (noticing our nature here and now) and most people just find it weird.

Image by me and Midjourney

Update: It’s a few days after I wrote this, and something similar happened, likely because this topic and curiosity was in my system from writing the article. I was channeling (Vortex Healing) and lying down on the bed, and consciousness watched as this body was falling asleep. The channeling continued to some extent, although not quite as strongly. And then this body woke up again, likely because a part wanted to stay awake to continue channeling. Watching this body fall asleep is not quite the same as consciousness continuing through deep sleep, but a taste of the same.

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Life is like a dream

The world is dreamlike in a few different ways.

THE FLEETING NATURE OF OUR EXPERIENCE

In my experience, life is like a dream. Every moment, it’s new. What was here is gone, just like a dream. At best, I have a vague memory for a while, and then that’s gone too.

HAPPENS WITHIN AND AS CONSCIOUSNESS

To myself, I am most fundamentally consciousness, and the world – to me – happens within and as that consciousness. That too is like a night dream. Night dreams and waking life happens within and as the consciousness I am.

EXISTENCE IS LIKE A DREAM (?)

That’s all how it appears to me.

Can I say anything about existence itself? Not really, but I can make a couple of guesses.

It seems that in existence itself – in the world and the universe – everything is new every moment. What’s here is gone, just like a dream. In this way, it’s as if existence itself is like a dream.

It’s even possible that the nature of existence is the same as my nature, and that it’s all actually happening within and as consciousness. In this case, existence is like the dream of God, the divine, Spirit, Brahman.

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Helpful contexts for my life

I find I have a few contexts for my life that seem helpful

I can also call them pointers or reminders.

Here are some of them, as they look to me now.

DON’T KNOW & QUESTIONS

I don’t know anything for certain, and mental representations are questions about the world.

The nature of thoughts is that they help me navigate and orient in the world. They cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. That’s not their function. They are questions about the world.

The map is not the terrain. Stories are different in kind from what they point to, unless they happen to point to other thoughts. The world is always more than and different from any stories about it, and also less than any story.

To explore: The Work of Byron Katie. Philosophy of science.

MY MORE FUNDAMENTAL NATURE

In one sense, I am this human self in the world, just like my passport and how most people see me.

And I find I am more fundamentally something else. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am what the field of experience – this human self, others, the wider world – happens within and as.

I am what a thought may call consciousness, and the world to me happens within and as this consciousness. The consciousness I am forms itself into all these experiences.

To explore: Big Mind process. Headless experiments. Basic meditation (over time!).

WHAT WE MOST FUNDAMENTALLY WANT

I can’t speak for all other beings, but I have found some things I – and the different parts of me – more fundamentally want. It’s variations of love, acceptance, connection, safety, belonging, coming home, and so on. If I take a surface desire for anything at all and trace it back to something more essential, I tend to arrive at one of these.

These seem essential and I suspect they are quite universal, based on what I see in the world and what others say.

There is something even more fundamental, and that’s a wish to find our nature, to consciously come home to what we already are. That gives us, in one sense, all the things we look for.

And that doesn’t mean that our human self doesn’t have wants and wishes that we can find the essence of and find ways to fulfill – mainly by giving it to ourselves here and now, and also in life.

To explore: Inquiry, tracing our wishes back to their essentials. What do I hope to get out of it? What do I hope to get out of that? And so on.

THE WORLD IS MY MIRROR

The world is my mirror. Whatever characteristics and dynamics I see out there in others and the world is also here. I can take any statement about anyone or anything, turn it to myself, and find more than one genuine example of how it’s true. (Including true at the moment I have the thought about someone or something else.)

This is wonderful in several ways. It means I can use my thoughts about others and the world to discover more about myself. It means I can find more of my own richness in myself and in how I live my life. I can explore outside of what I thought were my limits and boundaries, created by identities and ideas about myself. I can more easily recognize myself in others. And so on.

To explore: Projection and shadow work. The Work of Byron Katie.

OVERSHOOT

Our civilization is in overshoot. We are using far more resources than the planet can generate, and we are putting way more waste and toxins into the planet’s circulation than it evolved to deal with.

We would need two planets to provide for the resource use of humanity as a whole, and five or more to provide for the resource use of the Westernized and industrialized world.

This cannot continue.

That’s serious enough in itself, but there is something more serious. This is like spending money from our savings without replenishing it sufficiently. It looks fine for a while, until it’s empty and our lifestyle comes crashing down.

In our case, it’s not only our lifestyle that comes crashing down. It’s likely our whole civilization.

Will we be able to transition into a new and more ecologically sound civilization? How will the crash impact us? How many will die? How many species and ecosystems will die in the process?

We don’t know but it will likely be very challenging for us and any other species.

To explore: Articles and books on overshoot and the ecological footprint.

DEATH GIVES LIFE

What comes together falls apart.

That goes for this universe, this living planet, our current civilization, humanity, each of us, and everything we know.

Our mammalian psyche may have a problem with that, but it’s actually wonderful.

It’s how anything is here in the first place. It’s how we are here.

We are here because all the states the universe has gone through have come and gone. Stars died and provided most of the matter making up this amazing planet and us. Species died and made space for us. Individuals died and made space for us.

Death opens up space for something new. Death is how we are here. Death is how anything is here.

Impermanence is even how we can experience anything at all. Each moment is gone and opens space for a new one.

Our civilization will be gone, perhaps opening space for a new one. Humanity will be gone, opening space for other species to perhaps eventually create their own civilization. This universe will likely be gone, opening space for a new one.

It’s all a kind of a dream. What’s here is gone, opening the space for something else.

To explore: The Universe story, the Great Story, Epic of Evolution, Big History.

HAPPINESS, CONTENTMENT, MEANING & GRATITUDE

Happiness comes and goes. Often, what creates happiness are small things in daily life. Holding someone’s hand. A hug. A kind word. Ice cream. A good meal. A beautiful sunrise. And so on. We can set up our life to create moments that spark happiness.

Contentment can come in different ways. We may live a life in integrity and be in relative peace with ourselves. We may relate to ourselves – and especially our distressed parts – with kindness. We may find our nature, our more fundamental home, and find contentment there. We may have been lucky with our parents and upbringing, naturally relate to ourselves and live our life with kindness and wisdom, and find contentment that way.

Meaning is again something else. We can find meaningful activities in our life, and those are often about creativity and expression, being of service to others and the larger whole, or a combination of the two.

Finding gratitude can contribute to each of these. I can find gratitude for the things my personality naturally is inclined to find gratitude for. (I have shelter, water, food, family, friends, a beautiful day, the song of birds, a kind word, and so on.) I can also do a more radical gratitude practice where I find gratitude for everything in my life, whether my personality tends to like it or not. This can bring about even more profound shifts.

To explore: Psychology that addresses these topics. See also this book.

KINDNESS TO OURSELVES

Some of the essentials I seek are love, understanding, safety, and so on.

I can give those to myself. I notice a distressed part of me, and I can meet it as a kind and wise parent would a child.

If our parents didn’t consistently do this for us, we likely didn’t learn to consistently do it for ourselves, so this can take intention, attention, and practice. It can be a lifelong process and more than worth it.

To explore: Resources on reparenting ourselves. Heart-centered practices like Ho’oponopono and tonglen directed toward ourselves. Self-compassion. The Befriend and Wake up process I have written about in other articles.

EVOLUTIONARY CONTEXT

I like to see behavior in an evolutionary contest. It helps me find useful and kind stories to understand myself, others, and other species.

We just traveled with our cat to a new place, and she was hesitant to drink the water. That too makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. In a new place, it’s important to be careful with the water. Don’t drink if it’s not moving or if you don’t see others drink from it. I filled a glass with water, slurped some with delight while she was looking, and she happily drank (a lot!) from the same glass. (This is likely also why cats often like to drink water from the same glass as their humans. They trust it’s safe to drink if they see others drink it.)

I don’t have to beat myself up for having sugar cravings now and then. I understand why. It’s because my ancestors evolved to crave sugar because it helped them and their offspring survive. Sugar was found in rare and nutrient-rich foods like fruits, and the cravings helped them prioritize seeking out and eating these foods. In our modern world, this impulse has been hijacked by the food industry to sell products. I don’t have to be too hard on myself for having these cravings or even following them now and then, these cravings helped my ancestors survive. (And I can find practical strategies for dealing with them. For instance, only buying what’s on my shopping list, and having someone to be accountable to.)

When I am sick, I know that most (nearly all?) of my symptoms evolved to help me heal. The general fatigue and illness feeling motivates me to rest, which helps my body heal itself. Fever – increased temperature – helps my body kill pathogens. Diarrhea flushes out pathogens or undesirable food. And so on. This shifts how I relate to what’s happening when I am sick. I find more appreciation and even gratitude for my symptoms. (It also highlights one of the strange things some do in our culture, which is to try to counter or stop the natural self-healing processes of the body like fever, diarrhea, and so on.)

I have a fear of heights. That too is very understandable from an evolutionary perspective. My ancestors likely survived partly because they had some fear of heights, and the ones who did not were more likely to die young and not pass on their genetics. I can still work on this fear so it doesn’t stop me from doing the things I want.

To explore: Evolutionary psychology.

MY CONNECTION WITH THE LARGER WHOLE

How am I connected with the larger whole? Am I a separate being or is something else more true?

When I find my more fundamental nature, I find that the world – as it appears to me – happens within and as what I am. Already there, the ideas of separation break down, at least in how it all appears to me.

Through science, we also find stories of oneness and connection, and these inform our perception, choices, and life in the world.

As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness.

The universe is one seamless system. It has evolved and temporarily formed itself into you and me and our experiences and everything we know. It will continue to evolve and change itself into something new. (And that may not always conform to our ideas of “progress”!)

Our planet is one living system. Our health and well-being is dependent on the health and well-being of this larger living system.

This helps me feel more connected as a human being, see myself as an expression of the larger whole, and behave in ways that (are more likely to) take care of this larger living system I am a part of.

To explore: Systems views, Universe Story, Great Story, Epic of Evolution, Big History, Deep Ecology.

Image by me and Midjourney.

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Thoughts and feelings belong to the world

I was on a Headless Way Zoom meeting for the first time this Sunday, and Richard Lang mentioned what someone else had said: Thoughts and feelings belong to the world.

That’s one of the things I love about finding my nature as well.

Thoughts, feelings, sensations, moods, and anything connected with this human self, belong to the world. It’s out there in the world. It’s part of what comes and goes.

It’s part of the field of experience.

What I more fundamentally am is not touched by any of it. I am what allows it all to come and go. I am what momentarily forms itself into all of it. It’s all happening within and as what I am.

MY HISTORY WITH THIS

I noticed this first when I was fifteen and the world suddenly (around noon on January 1st) seemed to become very distant. Thoughts, feelings, sensations, and the wider world all seemed very far away.

My mind responded by thinking something was very wrong. Later, I saw it more as a basic observer-observed split. There was identification with the mental representation of an observer and a release of identification with any content of experience.

In any case, it made it very clear that thoughts, sensations, and so on belong to the world. It belongs to the content of experience. It comes and goes and lives its own life just like any other content of experience and anything else in the world.

This shifted into oneness about a year later, and it never went away. (Although it goes more in the background or foreground of attention depending on where my attention goes…!)

I have since explored this more thoroughly through different forms of inquiry – the Big Mind process, Headless experiments, traditional sense field inquiry, and modern versions of sense field explorations like the Kiloby Inquiries.

Does this mean I don’t have hangups, traumas, wounds, and so on? Does it mean my center of gravity never goes into these traumas and wounds?

Not at all. I have a lot of traumas and wounds, these parts of me operate from separation consciousness, they color my perception and life, and they sometimes come to the surface and take over for a while.

That’s OK. It’s very human. It’s part of the process.

Image is created by me and Midjourney

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Free will?

I have seen articles about a neurobiologist (Robert Sapolsky from Stanford University) who spent decades arriving at the conclusion that we have no free will.

With these types of things, the process of exploration is often more interesting and rewarding than what we arrive at.

And yet, to arrive at that conclusion doesn’t need to take decades.

INFINITE CAUSES

Everything that happens has infinite causes. We can always find one more, and one more, going back to the apparent beginning of time and stretching out to the widest extent of existence.

So where is there room for free will?

OUR NATURE RECOGNIZING ITSELF

Also, the experience of free will only seem to happen when there is identification with and as the mental representations of an I, doer, free will, and so on. When this identification is softened or released, and our nature recognizes itself more clearly, our human self happens within the content of experience as anything else. Our human self lives its own life. It’s happening on its own. There is no experience of free will. Similarly to above, there is no room for free will. The idea of free will or not seems irrelevant.

THE EXPERIENCE OF FREE WILL

We may have the experience of free will. Our mind uses mental representations to create a sense of I and free will and a me that operates according to that free will. That requires a lot of mental gymnastics, but it can appear convincing. This human self does something, and there is a thought saying: “I did that”. There is the experience of free will, but that doesn’t mean there is free will.

The experience of free will can only seem valid to the extent there is identification with these mental representations. It happens as long as our nature doesn’t recognize itself very clearly and doesn’t recognize the nature of thoughts. And it’s reinforced by a worldview telling us we are separate from the larger whole.

ASSUMING WE HAVE FREE WILL

On the other hand, it seems good for us to think and experience that we have free will. I imagine that helps many of us to be slightly better stewards of our lives.

And, of course, whether we experience that we have free will or not is not really up to us. It happens or it doesn’t. Each one has innumerable causes.

IN MY CASE

I don’t want to leave this too abstract so I’ll include a few words about my own experience.

When I was fifteen, it was as if the world became very distant. This human self, thoughts, emotions, sensations, and the wider world all became infinitely distant. It seemed to happen far away. This human self obviously got scared by this and went to a number of doctors and specialists who couldn’t find anything.

In hindsight, I realized what happened. There was a release of identification with the content of experience. There was no “I” within (most of) the field of experience. The only sense of “I” that was left was as an observer. There was a simple observer-observed duality.

Of course, at the time, there was no conscious reflection of it like that. It just seemed like something had gone very wrong.

Just about a year later, there was another shift, equally sudden as the first one. From one moment to the next, there was a shift into oneness. There was no “I” anymore, only (what this mental field interpreted as) God. This was simultaneously immensely familiar and obvious, and also a great shock to this human self who was a die-hard atheist at the time with absolutely no interest in spirituality. Any idea of I, me, observer, observed, and anything else was recognized as created by the mental field and not inherent in reality.

Although this mind didn’t recognize it at the time, the first shift showed me that this human self happens on its own. He lives his own life. And the second shift showed that while putting it in a larger context. All is God (Spirit, the divine, Brahman). The question of free will was revealed as the creation of the mental field, just like the experience of free will is.

Note: We can also take a more limited psychological approach to arriving at the conclusion that we have little or no free will. Our perceptions, thoughts, emotions, choices, and behavior are influenced by a huge amount of things outside of our conscious awareness. We are not aware of how our brain takes sensory stimuli and creates an experience. Many are not so aware of how the different sense fields combine to create an experience. Many are not very aware of how our biology, evolution, culture, and personal experiences color our perception and behavior. And so on. Most of what influences us happens outside of our conscious awareness, so how can there be much free will?

Image created by me and midjourney.

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What we are never dies? Timeless is not the same as eternal

I saw an ad for a non-dual course that said: Find the part of you that never dies.

I understand it’s a hook, and I see it slightly differently.

The simple answer is: I don’t know for certain. I don’t know if what I am will never die or not.

And there is a longer answer that also points to something essential.

FINDING WHAT WE ARE

We find what we are – that which our field of experience happens within and as.

We find that time, change, and death happen within and as what we are.

We find ourselves as what a thought may call consciousness, and the world to us happens within and as the consciousness we are.

We can also imperfectly label this timeless since it’s inherently free of the passage of time. Change, time, birth and death, and so on happen within and as what I am.

This is our more fundamental nature, and it’s all we have ever known whether we notice it or not.

Our nature has all the characteristics that mystics through time and across traditions talk about.

That’s all fine. It’s something we can find for ourselves and check out for ourselves. It’s not even that difficult to have a taste of it with the right guidance. (To stabilize in it can take a little more effort and, ironically, time.)

STICKING TO WHAT I CAN SAY SOMETHING ABOUT

I like to stick to what I can say something about, which is my own nature as it appears to me.

I can say that, to me, the world happens within and as the consciousness I am. So everything inevitably appears as consciousness to me.

My nature is consciousness. And I cannot say anything about the nature of anything else. It appears as consciousness to me, but I don’t know if that’s its actual nature.

This view is grounded and honest to me. And it has the upside that it’s compatible with a range of different worldviews, including materialism, atheism, non-theism, theism, and more.

I love this approach for those reasons.

I cannot say anything for certain about what happens after the death of this human self. It’s possible that the consciousness I am goes with it. And it’s possible that the consciousness I am will continue free of this human self. Either option is compatible with my nature as I notice it.

In other words, timeless is not necessarily the same as eternal.

And as the Zen master said: I don’t know what happens after I die. I am not dead yet.

TAKING IT ONE STEP FURTHER

Some like to take this a step further.

We can assume that existence itself has the same nature as us.

To us, the world will inevitably appear as consciousness since that’s what we are. From here, we can assume that’s how the world actually is. The world and all of existence is consciousness AKA Spirit, the divine. God, Brahman, and so on.

This view fits with another assumption. And that is that what we are – the consciousness we are – will continue after the death of this human self.

There are two leaps of faith here. One is assuming that the nature of all of existence is the same as our own as we experience it. The other is assuming that it means that what we are continues after the death of this human self.

BEING HONEST ABOUT IT

Taking those leaps is fine. It may be comforting. It may fit what traditions say. It may fit some reports from some people. (Including me since I had memories of my time before incarnation as a little kid.) And it’s good to be honest about it.

It’s good to be honest about it being an assumption and not something we can easily check out for ourselves before this human self dies.

For me, it’s much more comfortable to be honest about all this.

Yes, I know my own nature to some extent. I have been swimming in that water for more than three decades now. I know what traditions say. I have my own memories of the time before this life. (Similar to what people describe from near-death experiences.) I have often checked in with people after they have died and what I sense has matched what others have sensed. (What I pick up about them is surprisingly varied, ranging from immense confusion and turmoil to peace, relief, and joy.) I know what the few studying this scientifically say.

And yet I cannot know. I cannot know for certain what will happen after this life. Anything is possible. I’ll see when that time comes.

THE UPSIDES OF A MORE GROUNDED VIEW

Taking a more honest and grounded view on this has many upsides.

I don’t need to create, uphold, and rehearse stories.

I don’t need to defend stories against anything that may seem threatening to them.

And it gives me more zest for this life. I have no idea what comes next. I have no idea how long this human self is here for. So why not make the most out of it? Why not enjoy what’s here now?

Why not even see if I can find enjoyment in it even if it’s something my personality may not like?

WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE DIFFERENTIATE?

Why don’t more people differentiate in this way?

Why do some mystics and non-dual folks assume they know what will happen after death? Why do they assume that the nature of all of reality is the same as their own? Why do they assume that timeless means eternal?

I am not sure. Maybe they just latch onto what others have told them. Maybe they haven’t noticed the difference between finding their own nature, and assuming that’s also the nature of all of existence? Maybe they don’t notice the two leaps of faith they have to make? Maybe they find comfort in it? Maybe it’s a kind of wishful thinking? Maybe this differentiation is a more modern (?) way of looking at it, and many still stick with traditions?

SCIENCE

To me, what happens after death is a question for science.

It’s something we can, to our best ability, study. And some do.

And even then, we cannot know for certain. There is always more than one way to understand the data.

DON’T KNOW

Which brings us back to don’t know. We cannot know for certain.

I cannot know anything for certain.

And I find it most comfortable to admit that and rest in and as that. It’s closest to reality.

Image created by me and Midjourney

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I am not this body?

Some folks like to say: I am not this body.

I imagine why they say it. They may want to make a point, and it can be meant as a pointer. But it can also be misleading.

To me, it’s more accurate to say that I am not most fundamentally anything within the content of experience, including this body. I am more fundamentally what it all happens within and as. I am what it all comes and goes within and as.

And it is also accurate to say I am this body in a couple of different ways.

In a conventional and pragmatic sense, I am this body. That’s what my passport says. It’s what most people see me as. And that’s completely fine.

I am also this whole field of experience, including this body. What I am forms itself into its own content of experience, including this body and the wider world. I am all of it while it’s here.

There is some validity to each of these views and many more.

Image by me and Midjourney.

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Shapeshifting and what it says about our more fundamental nature

I am reading The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images and love the content and format, and just about every paragraph is a pointer for several types of explorations.

For instance, there is a chapter on shapeshifting. (One expression of this is shamans experiencing themselves as a jaguar, condor, bat, or whatever it may be during their shamanic journeys.)

A REMINDER OF OUR MORE FUNDAMENTAL NATURE

For me, that’s a reminder of our more fundamental nature.

Yes, in one sense I am this human self. And more fundamentally, I am consciousness. I am the consciousness that this whole field of experience – the wider world, this human self, and anything else – happens within and as.

I can take on any perspective.

I can create an identity out of any perspective and mental representation. I can imagine myself as it, and perceive and feel as if it’s true.

Most of the time, the consciousness we are is identified with and as our human self. Why? Because that’s what others do, and when we grow up we do as others do. If we were connected with the body of a different species, and we grew up in a society where people had that type of body, then that would be our typical identification.

This identification works pretty well in daily life, so most of us don’t have any strong incentives to question it. (It does come with inherent friction and stress since it’s somewhat out of alignment with reality, but most of us don’t realize the root cause of that discomfort.)

The ones who tend to move outside of this typical identification are the outsiders in society, the insane, mystics, and shamans.

HOW WE CAN EXPLORE IT

How can we explore this for ourselves?

The Big Mind process is perhaps the most direct and effective way to explore this. We can explore taking on a wide range of perspectives. If we can imagine something, we can imagine into that perspective. We can explore what happens when we identify with and as a particular perspective. We can even find our more fundamental nature and explore how it all looks from there.

We can also get a taste of our more fundamental nature through the Headless experiments, and explore identities and how we are not – more fundamentally – any of it.

We can dismantle of identifications through The Work of Byron Katie.

We can explore how our mind creates perspectives and identifications through the sense fields and how they combine, for instance, guided by the Kiloby Inquiries.

And there are many other approaches. Just find the one(s) that resonate with you.

MY EXPERIENCE

My path into this was perhaps a bit unusual and had some shamanic elements.

At age, fifteen, something shifted so it felt like the world – any content of experience including this human self, feelings, thoughts, states, and so on – felt very distanced. It all felt very far away. At the time, I had absolutely no interest in spirituality (I was a self-identified atheist), what happened was scary and didn’t make any sense, and the doctors and specialists couldn’t figure out what was going on either.

Already here, life showed me my nature. It showed me that I wasn’t fundamentally anything within the sense fields, within the field of experience. Because of my background, I didn’t get it which is normal and fine.

Almost exactly one year later, there was another shift. This time into oneness. Here, all was revealed as God, Spirit, the divine. The whole field of experience and the consciousness it happened within and as was revealed – as consciousness, Spirit, the divine, or whatever we want to call it.

This didn’t go away and led to an intense process over several years for my human self.

I have continued to explore this – through Buddhist practice, Taoist practice, Christian practice, parts work, several forms of inquiry, energy work, and so on. I even dipped into shamanism a few times, but not seriously. (Although I love it and am very happy people go into it deeply.)


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Others are likely like me: we are all fundamentally consciousness to ourselves

It’s not wrong that I am this human self in the world with all sorts of characteristics, identities, and so on. And yet, when I look, I find I am more fundamentally something else. I am more fundamentally what this field of experience happens within and as. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am capacity for it all.

A thought may call this consciousness. To myself, I am consciousness and the world to me happens within and as the consciousness I am.

And that’s likely the same for others as well.

If a creature “has” consciousness, then to themselves they ARE consciousness. And the world, as it appears to them, happens within and as the consciousness they are.

The only difference is the particular body-mind this consciousness operates through and as. It may be another human being. It may be a bird. It may be an insect.

To me, this is very beautiful. Even if they may not consciously recognize their nature, I can recognize it. I can imagine it based on what I find here.

Why the halo or nimbus in these images? Why the circle around the head or body?

I can find three reasons.

One is tradition. In European and Asian art, it’s traditionally used to indicate sacredness.

It’s also something we can see. I have seen energies around people and any living and even non-living thing since my mid-teens. (I first saw it around the leaves of a birch tree.)

And it’s also metaphorical. Here, I used it to suggest consciousness and that we all fundamentally are consciousness to ourselves, whether we notice or not.

I made these images with Midjourney, and they are really created by our collective humanity and the existence as a whole just like anything expressed through each of us.

Divine awareness is in all things?

Divine awareness is in all things

– NW in a Vortex Healing forum

These kinds of simple statements can be fertile ground for exploration.

MENTAL & PERCEPTION

When people say these things, it can come from two places.

It can come from a mental representation, often formed by exposure to what others say and write.

And it can come from a direct noticing.

In this case, I know the person who wrote it so I assume it comes from a combination. He directly perceives it and is also guided by what he has heard others say.

WE ARE CONSCIOUSNESS

Where does that perception come from?

Rationally, we see that we are consciousness. If we “have” consciousness, then – to ourselves – we ARE consciousness. And that also means that the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are.

We can also find this in direct perception. Yes, in some ways, I am this human self in the world as others see it and my passport suggests. When I take a closer look, I find something else. I find I more fundamentally am what this whole field of experience happens within and as. I am what – to me – the world and this human self and any content of experience happens within and as. And that can be called consciousness.

When the world, to me, happens within and as what I am AKA consciousness, then the world, to me, appears to be made up of consciousness. The consciousness I am forms itself into the whole field of experience, including of the wider world. The world, to me, appears as consciousness. It appears as a night dream since both night dreams and waking life happen within and as consciousness.

And from there, it’s easy to also call it the divine or Spirit. The world, to me, inevitably appears to have the characteristics of the divine. It’s one. It’s consciousness. It’s “alive” in that sense.

SMALL AND BIG INTERPRETATIONS

So what’s really going on here?

If the world, to me, inevitably APPEARS as consciousness, does that mean the world, in itself, IS consciousness? That it is what we can call Spirit or the divine?

Most mystics will say so, and many spiritual traditions say so as well. But that’s just what someone says.

There are also many hints suggesting all is Spirit. For instance, sensing at a distance, distance healing, seeing energies, amazing synchronicities, reports of near-death experiences, memories from before this life, and so on. All of this fits into seeing all as Spirit, but it can also be understood in other ways. It’s not conclusive.

So for me, it makes sense to use two different understandings of what’s going on.

One is the small interpretation. It’s based on what’s described in the previous section: to ourselves, we inevitably are consciousness, and the world, to us, inevitably appears as consciousness. That’s all we can say for certain. Anything else is speculation and assumptions, although some views may be more compatible with the data than other views.

It’s possible that the materialistic view is correct. In an outside and third-person view, we and the rest of existence may fundamentally be matter and it just appears to us as if all things are consciousness.

It’s also possible that all is Spirit, and our nature and the nature of all things is the same. We cannot know for certain. We hold the possibilities open.

The upside of this view is that it’s honest. It allows for a range of possibilities when it comes to the nature of all things. It leaves the door open for anyone to explore their own nature independent of their existing worldview. (A Marxist or materialist can do it as well as a Christian or Hindu.) The downside is that it can seem a little dry. (Although not to me, I find it fascinating.)

The other is the big interpretation. The nature of reality itself is the same as my own nature. Not only does all things appear as consciousness, it also IS consciousness. It’s all Spirit, the divine, Brahman, Allah, and so on. The upside of this view is that it’s inspiring, and it’s familiar and fits what mystics and many spiritual traditions say. The downside is that it can put some people off, and it taken as is, it may not be entirely honest.

USING BOTH VIEWS

To me, what makes the most sense is to use both of these views. They complement each other. Each one has upsides and downsides. And it just feels more comfortable and honest.

The small view is more inviting for a wider range of people, and it also fits better in an academic context. It makes it easier to study awakening and the experience of mystics in an academic setting.

The big view is more familiar to many, fits many traditions, fits more data, and is often more inspiring.

As I see it, the small view is more honest to our own experience. And the big view may be more accurate in the bigger picture.

WHY IS THIS MORE INCLUSIVE VIEW NOT MORE COMMON?

Why don’t more people differentiate between these two views? (I actually don’t know of anyone who does, although I am sure there must be many out there. This is just something that makes sense to me.)

This view seems so obvious to me and makes so much sense, so I am honestly a little baffled why others don’t seem to talk about it.

The obvious answer is that many do, I just don’t know about it. I have been out of touch with these kinds of explorations in the wider world for several years due to my health.

Also, some may talk about it outside of the public view. They may see it as a refinement not necessary for most explorers, and something that may confuse people starting out on their own exploration. (I see it as something that could clarify and guide.)

Some may use these views for themselves without speaking about it very much. (I usually don’t mention it apart from in these writings.)

Some may find comfort in using the traditional language and ways of talking about it.

And some may not have explored this very much. They may not find it interesting or useful. (I obviously find it both useful and interesting. Also, exploring the sense fields and projections has been a central part of my path since my teens so this may come more naturally to me. I am biased in this direction.)

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Headless experiments only give a temporary glimpse?

I recently mentioned the Headless experiments to someone, and he said that they are fun but they only give a temporary glimpse of our nature.

BRINGING THE NOTICING INTO THE FOREGROUND

That’s not my experience. For me, the experiments bring my more fundamental nature more into the foreground of attention.

My nature recognizing itself is always there. Sometimes it’s in the background of attention, when attention is on more daily life tasks. And sometimes in the foreground of attention, sometimes helped by the Headless experiments.

BRINGING ABOUT SHIFTS

Also, I have experienced Headless experiments shifting my system more fundamentally. About fifteen years ago, it brought the no-self aspect of my nature strongly and clearly into the foreground for about six months, and that has made it much easier to find since then. It’s more available to notice.

GLIMPSES BECOME A NEW HABIT

And I also suspect that a habit of glimpsing our nature – through Headless experiments or anything else – brings about a shift over time. It becomes easier and easier to notice our more fundamental nature. Our nature more easily recognizes itself through daily life situations. And our metaphorical center of gravity shifts more and more into our nature recognizing itself.

WHAT WORKS IS DIFFERENT FOR EACH OF US AND DIFFERENT AT DIFFERENT TIMES

I understand why he said what he did. It’s likely his experience, and he may not be drawn to exploring the Headless experiments regularly or over time. It may not be for him. And that’s more than fine.

And it’s different for others. For others, it shifts our nature recognizing itself into the foreground. Or repeated explorations and glimpses shift into a more stable recognition and living from and as that recognition.

When a non-dual teacher appears one-sided

I have seen Rupert Spira talk about “non-existent self” in a few quotes, and don’t know enough about him to know if he, in other situations, also talks about the other side(s) of it and the bigger picture.

In any case, it’s a reminder that some non-dual teachers speak in a slightly one-sided way and that some folks like and are attracted to it.

WHY DO SOME STUDENTS LIKE IT?

Why do some prefer or like that?

Likely because it’s easier to grasp mentally. It allows our mental aspect to function in a familiar (simplistic) way.

And they may, at some level, assume that grasping it intellectually is what it is about, even if many point out the contrary.

Also…

It may be just the medicine they need there and then. It may help them release out of taking themselves as most fundamentally a self, an object within the field of experience. It may be a helpful stepping stone.

Through grace – they may engage in practices and explorations that – through grace – give them a direct conscious taste of what they are in spite of the one-sided pointers.

WHY DO SOME TEACHERS APPEAR ONESIDED?

So why do some non-dual teachers talk in a one-sided way?

It may appear they do it because we have limited information. We have just a small window into how they interact with others. They may be far more fluid and explore from many more views.

They may want to make it simple for the students, although that seems misguided. (It’s far better to be honest and not make it simple where it isn’t simple. What it points to is simple. Talking about it is not.)

They may fall into a lazy habit of using familiar phrases and ways of talking about it.

They may be focused on a simple mental representation of our nature rather than trying to put words on an immediate noticing.

UPSIDES & DOWNSIDES

I have already mentioned some upsides.

It can be a useful stepping stone. And it may not get in the way of their nature recognizing itself.

I have also hinted at some downsides.

It can give the impression that this, and anything, is something that can be grasped mentally.

And that tends to reinforce a habit of holding mental representations as true.

When we hold mental representations as true, there is an identification with the viewpoint of that or those mental representations. That’s an identification with something within the field of experience, and it creates a sense of “I” and “other”.

There is nothing wrong with that. It’s natural and innocent.

And yet, if we want to explore what we more fundamentally are, it’s a side track (or a stepping stone). It’s a distraction from our nature recognizing itself, and learning to allow this human self to function in the world and live from and as that recognition.

WHEN A TEACHER IS MORE FLUID AND SINCERE

If we are more fluid and flexible in how we talk about things, we are coming at the same issue in several different ways. We look at it from many different sides and in different contexts. We adapt how we talk about something to the person, situation, and context. We use words and pointers as medicine for specific conditions, and those conditions are different depending on the person and situation. *

We are typically more focused on our immediate noticing, and finding words that – in that moment – reflect what we are noticing, rather than using habitual phrases.

We don’t use pat answers. What we talk about cannot easily be pinned down.

And that may be less attractive to students who want simple answers (they can mentally understand and memorize) rather than what the pointers point to.

NOTE

* Said another way… We know that mental representations can never capture what they point to. Life and reality is far too rich for that. There can be, and often is, validity in a mental representation, and it’s not any full, final, or absolute truth. We know it in our gut through direct noticing and lived experience.

Mental representations are about pragmatics, pointers, and navigating in the world. Their nature is not to capture any full or final truth. And that goes for anything that mental representations point to, whether it is our more fundamental nature, a human being, gravity, a rock, or an ice cream dessert.

Non-existent self?

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

– Rupert Spira

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

THE SMALL SELF

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

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

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

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

WHAT I MORE FUNDAMENTALLY AM

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

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

WHAT I AM FORMS ITSELF INTO ITS OWN CONTENT OF EXPERIENCE

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

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

MEDICINE FOR A CONDITION

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

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

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

STUCK?

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

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

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

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

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

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AI & consciousness

With the recent public AI boom, there has been a renewed discussion on whether AI is conscious or can become conscious.

To me, that’s missing the point a bit.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an opportunity to differentiate between (a) consciousness and (b) the content of consciousness.

CONTENT OF CONSCIOUSNESS

AI is about the content of consciousness, which can – to some extent – be mimicked by machines. AI can produce text, images, music, videos, etc. that look like they could have been made by humans.

CONSCIOUSNESS

Consciousness itself is very different.

Consciousness is what we are. It’s what, to us, any content of experience happens within and as. It’s what forms itself into any and all content of experience 

STATISTICS, NOT INTELLIGENCE

In general, I think the name “artificial intelligence” is slightly misleading. It’s overselling it a bit. It’s more accurate to call it predictive text, or predictive music and image generation.

It’s statistics, not intelligence. It’s the product of intelligence, not intelligence itself.

A FEW MORE WORDS

What do I mean by the content of consciousness? Whatever is produced by AI is similar to what’s produced by consciousness, at least consciousness operating through a human self. It’s images, words, sounds, and so on. It’s all content of consciousness. It’s all an experience that comes and goes.

What do I mean by consciousness? To ourselves, we are consciousness. If we “have” consciousness, it means that to ourselves, we ARE conscousness. To us, the world and any experience happen within and as the consciousness we are. (Night dreams and waking life are the same in that way.) Consciousness itself is distinctly different from any particular content of consciousness. Even as, to us, any content of consciousness is consciousness.

What about the AI name? There is nothing wrong with it, and it is sexy and catchy so I understand why people use it. I just think it’s important to include a more accurate and boring description as well, like “predictive text” and “predictive image generation”. It brings it down to earth a bit. It sobers it up.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

There is a bigger picture here.

AI is the product of the inherent intelligence of existence. It’s a product of 13.8 billion years of evolution of the seamless system we call the universe, locally expressed as this living planet and human biology, technology, and civilization. The intelligence of existence is expressed in all we see and know, including AI.

And if the universe itself IS consciousness, then AI is perhaps more similar to us than most of us imagine. Then AI too is a typical content of consciousness (words, images, etc.) happening within and as consciousness.

Image: A sacred bronze sculpture imagined by me and Midjourney earlier this year.

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Form is emptiness, emptiness is form

This is a well-known phrase from the Heart Sutra.

At one level, it doesn’t really make sense to analyze it or even put words on it. It’s just how it is in direct perception. Words move away from the simplicity of direct noticing.

And if I were to try to put it into words, I could say…

What I am allows this content of experience that’s here, and it forms itself into the content of experience that’s here. It forms itself into the visuals of this computer, the table, the room and so on, the sounds, the smell and taste, and whatever happens within the sense fields.

The consciousness I am allows any and all experience, which our mental field can call “empty”. It’s inherently empty of any form, so it can take any form.

And it forms itself into the content of experience that’s here, whatever it is.

Night dreams and waking life both happen within and as the consciousness I am.

Form is empty. It’s made up of the consciousness I am which is inherently empty of any particular form.

Emptiness is form. The consciousness I am forms itself into the content of experience that’s here.

The direct noticing is very simple. It’s beyond simple. And whenever it’s reflected in our mental field and made into words, it seems far more complicated and exotic than it really is.

There are also other ways to talk about it. For instance, any sense of “I” or “me” is not what I more fundamentally am. Yes, it’s here. The mental representation of an I or me helps this human self orient and function in the world. And it’s not what’s more fundamentally here. The consciousness I am is metaphorically empty of a fundamental I or me. It’s what allows the experience of it, and the experience of anything at all. It’s what allows the sense of I or me – in whatever forms it takes – to come and go. It’s what temporarily forms itself into innumerable versions of images of an I or me.

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What is cosmic consciousness?

What is cosmic consciousness?

If it’s “just” a direct experience of all of cosmos being one and consciousness, then that’s inevitable when we notice our nature.

To ourselves, we are consciousness. And to us, all of existence happens within and as the consciousenss we are.

That’s how it always and already is. And when we notice, then it may appear to us as all of cosmos is the consciousness we are. It’s all one and consciousness. And we may call that Spirit, the divine, God, Brahman, Big Mind, and so on.

Does it mean that all of existence IS consciousness? That it has the same nature as me? Maybe, but if I am honest with myself, I know I cannot know for certain.

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Many and one onenesses

I like to differentiate between a small (psychological) and a big (spiritual) understanding of awakening. Each view adds and highlights something important.

For instance, are we one or many?

BIG UNDERSTANDING OF ONE AND MANY

From a big or spiritual understanding of awakening, we can say that the divine is one and yet takes innumerable forms, including as any and all beings.

There is nothing wrong with that view. That’s how I see it too.

SMALL UNDERSTANDING OF ONE AND MANY

And a small or psychological understanding of awakening adds something important.

Here, we focus more on our own experience and don’t assume that existence as a whole is as it appears to us.

To myself, I am consciousness, and the world to me happens within and as the consciousness I am. This consciousness and experience of the world is one. I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

I assume it’s the same for others. They too are fundamentally consciousness, operating through whatever body and psyche is there. They too are oneness to themselves.

From this view, we are all one. The world inevitably appears as one to us. We are many onenesses.

We can also say that existence, most likely, in itself is one. We can add the view from science, which tells us existence is one in that it’s a seamless system. And we can add the view from the big understanding of awakening, telling us it’s all one in that it’s all Spirit, the divine, Brahman, and so on.

MANY AND ONE ONENESSES

In a sense, we are many and one onenesses.

In my immediate experience, I am one, and the world to me happens within and as that oneness.

From a small understanding of awakening, I assume others too are fundamentally consciousness to themselves. They too are a oneness and the world, to them, happens within and as that oneness.

From science, it makes sense to see the universe and all of existence as one system and a seamless whole.

And from a big understanding of awakening, I see all as Spirit. It’s all the play of Spirit or the divine, including when it takes the local form of this being and all beings.

MY STORY

How has this played out for me?

The initial oneness shift happened when I was sixteen. In my direct perception, all was one. And to make sense of it through my mental representations, I definitely fell into the big understanding. I saw it all as God and Spirit taking any and all forms, including anything about this human self.

I was already into systems views (I loved Fritjof Capra’s writings which I discovered when I was fourteen or fifteen). So intellectually, I saw the universe as one seamless system. A holarchy made up of innumerable holons.

The small or psychological understanding of awakening was there, somewhere in the background, but I didn’t emphasize it so much and I didn’t differentiate the two as clearly as I do now. That came more over time, especially as I saw how useful it can be to make that differentiation.

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We see others as we see ourselves

We see others as we see ourselves.

OBJECT WITHIN EXPERIENCE

If we take ourselves to primarily be an object within consciousness, then we tend to see others that way.

We see ourselves as this body and psyche, and see others as primarily that body and psyche.

We see ourselves as a doer and observer and see others as doers and observers.

We quite literally objectify others and ourselves.

That’s understandable since we do as others do, and that’s what most people do these days.

CONSCIOUSNESS

If we find ourselves fundamentally as consciousness, then we tend to see others as that.

We see ourselves as fundamentally consciousness operating through this body and psyche, and others as consciousness operating through that particular body and psyche.

To us, the world happens within and as the consciousness we are, and we assume that’s how it is for others as well. (Based on their reports and what makes logical sense.)

We find ourselves as what the world, to us, happens within and as, and assume that’s how it is for others.

We find ourselves as oneness and assume others are onenesses as well, whether they notice or not.

IMPLICATIONS

What effect does it have to viscerally find ourselves as one or the other, and see others as the same?

If we see ourselves and others as fundamentally objects, then we literally objectify ourselves and others. We assume that the limited and distorted stories we have about ourselves and others are accurate and perhaps even all there is. We see ourselves as objects in the world at the mercy of other objects and living within time and space. We experience that we move through the world. We experience distance and time as real and inherent in the world. We experience the world as fundamentally matter.

If we find ourselves as fundamentally consciousness, then a lot changes. We realize that any story is a story and question about ourselves, others, and the world. They cannot hold any full, final, or absolute truth. We find ourselves as what time and space, to us, happens within and as. In a car or when walking, we experience that the world moves through us. We experience the world as fundamentally consciousness since, to us, it happens within and as the consciousness we are.

IN MY CASE

I can dip and imagine into the first way of experiencing myself, others, and the world. And parts of my psyche still operate from it. But in general, it’s so long since the initial oneness shift that I have problems connecting with it in a strong and solid way.

In general, I viscerally find myself as consciousness. The world happens within and as the consciousness I am. This body happens within and as consciousness, just like anything else. It all happens like a night dream, within and as consciousness.

I imagine others as that too, and that gets stronger and more clear when I bring attention to it. To me, they too are consciousness. They are consciousness operating through that particular body and psyche. (That’s exciting, the differences and “otherness” of it is exciting.) And that opens for compassion and empathy. They are like me (they are consciousness to themselves) and (like me) operate through a unique body and psyche.

And there is always further to go and more to explore within this.

A FEW NOTES

I’ll add a couple of short notes.

This is all about projections. I find myself as something and assume others are like that too. It’s an assumption – whether I assume they are fundamentally objects or fundamentally consciousness.

This is also about where our “center of gravity” is. It’s about what we viscerally find ourselves to be. Knowing about it or glimpses of it are good first steps, and – through grace and often intention and explorations – it becomes something that’s immediate and visceral.

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A simple exploration for finding trust in the wisdom of our human self

Byron Katie has a simple exercise: When you wake up in the morning, don’t get up. Wait and see what happens, and find some curiosity about it. (Paraphrased.)

When I do this, I find that my human self gets out of bed on its own, and at the right time. It has an innate wisdom that makes it get up when the time is ripe. It happens without any conscious planning or effort or use of will. And it’s often surprising. One moment I was in bed, the next standing on the floor, and there was no planning or effort or will involved.

This helps me see that my human self lives its own life and that it has innate wisdom and kindness.

And I can do this in other areas of life as well. I can wait, notice with curiosity, and see what my human self does on its own.

When I get out of my own way, my human self is more free to live from wisdom and heart.

There is, as usual, a lot more to say about this.

For instance, our human self is always living its own life. It’s just that our mind adds a layer of identification so we think and feel that “I” did it. When we find what we more fundamentally are, it’s more obvious that our human self is living its own life. Words happen. Actions happen. And there is no involvement of an “I”.

The only difference is that the strange loop that creates a sense of “I” or “doer” goes away, or at least is not invested with a sense of reality. The charge goes out of it.

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If we lived for eons, would awakening be inevitable?

Through having lived as many lives I have, I notice that all sorts of experiences and states come and go. I have experienced millennia of mostly “ordinary” states with times of profound despair, mind-shattering pain, and amazing bliss. I have noticed that what I am is that which all this happens within and as. Experiences come and go and what I am doesn’t come and go. Of course, I am whatever state is here but it doesn’t last. Only being capacity for all of it runs through it all.

If you want to call that awakening, be my guest. But it’s really very simple. It doesn’t require fancy words, or rituals, or mythology, or even labels.

– from Dialog with someone who has lived innumerable lives in many places in the cosmos

To me, it seems that awakening is inevitable (?) if we just lived long enough, perhaps for centuries or millennia. And it wouldn’t seem like anything special. It would just be a natural part of maturing and having lived for a while.

Over time, we get to see that any and all content of experience comes and goes, including anything we think we are, and any identifications we may have. We dream, and are someone different. We have an identity for ourselves and in the world, and something happens and it goes away. We think we are something in particular, and those thoughts go away for a while and we are still here.

So if we are not fundamentally anything within all this that comes and goes, what are we?

What are we more fundamentally? When I look, I find I more fundamentally am capacity for the experience of all of this. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

This is what we may discover through basic meditation, and also what we may – inevitably? – discover if we would be around for a few millennia.

Basic meditation is, in many ways, a condensed micro-version of this. We compress what would happen naturally, over many many years, into minutes, hours, days, and months.

And we can support that process through other explorations, including inquiry.

Here are two dialogs on this topic: Dialog with someone who has lived innumerable lives in many places in the cosmos | Dialog with one who has lived eons and has a mystic streak

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Secular and spiritual understandings of awakening

I find differentiating a secular and spiritual understanding of awakening intuitive and helpful.

OUR HUMAN SELF AND WHAT WE MORE FUNDAMENTALLY ARE

First, some background.

In one sense, we are this human self in the world. That’s how (most) others see us, what our passport tells us, and what our own thoughts may tell us. It’s not wrong, and it’s an assumption that works relatively well in daily life.

Is that what we more fundamentally are? What do I find when I explore in my own first-person experience? What I find is that I am more fundamentally something else. I am capacity for any and all experience. And I am what any content of experience happens within and as. (AKA consciousness.)

WHAT IS AWAKENING?

To ourselves, we are consciousness. And to us, the world happens within and as this consciousness.

The consciousness we are may take itself to most fundamentally be this human self. It takes itself to be a particular content within itself, and mainly a set of identities created by our mental field.

This likely happens because we do as others do. Most onenesses connected to humans do this today, so that’s what we see and we do the same.

When the oneness we are recognizes itself, that’s what some call awakening. And that’s just the start of a new exploration – of keeping recognizing it, exploring how to live from and as it, and allowing our human self and psyche to transform within this new context.

A SECULAR UNDERSTANDING OF AWAKENING

We can understand it in a secular way.

To ourselves, we are consciousness, and the world to us happens within and as this consciousness.

If we “have” consciousness, then we ARE consciousness in our own experience, and the world to us happens within and as that consciousness. And the consciousness we are has the characteristics mystics of all times and traditions describe. It’s one. It’s love. (A love that comes from recognizing oneness and is independent of changing states, moods, and feelings.) There is a quiet bliss there. And so on.

This is phenomenology. It describes our experience and how it is for us. (And inevitably any consciousness connected with any type of being.)

It doesn’t say anything about the nature of existence itself. It may well be that in a third-person view, we are most fundamentally a physical human self. And yet, to ourselves, we are inevitably consciousness.

It’s an understanding that fits with a range of different worldviews, including atheism and materialism.

And we can still explore and learn a lot from the many spiritual traditions in the world and their pointers and practices. The essence of all of it is valuable.

A SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING OF AWAKENING

We can also understand this in a spiritual way.

To ourselves, we are consciousness. That means that the world, to us, inevitably appears as consciousness.

That’s where the secular or psychological understanding of awakening ends.

And in a spiritual understanding of awakening, we take this a step further.

Here, we assume that the nature of all of existence is the same as our nature. All of it is as it appears. All is consciousness AKA Spirit, the divine, God, Brahman, and so on.

WHAT ARE THE UPSIDES AND LIMITATIONS OF EACH?

Each of these understandings has upsides and limitations.

The secular understanding helps us find the lowest common denominator and the simple essence of what awakening is about. It can be a common language for people from different traditions. It can help people from different traditions to recognize the essence more clearly. It can make (the idea of) awakening interesting to a wider range of people, including atheists and materialists. In a sense, it’s also more honest since it keeps it simple and stays with our immediate experience.

It also strips away a lot of cultural baggage from different spiritual traditions, which is both an upside (simplifies and brings focus to what’s essential) and a limitation (may lose out on a lot with cultural and practical value). And some may find it slightly mundane and uninspiring. (Which, to me, is an upside since I prefer a sober approach.)

The spiritual understanding of awakening may be more familiar to many. It may be more inspiring. There is a lot of cultural, social, and practical value in the different existing traditions. And a spiritual understanding may, ultimately, even be more accurate. (There are hints in that direction, including synchronicities, sensing and healing at a distance, precognition, and so on, although this can also be understood in other ways.)

The downside to a spiritual understanding is that it may put some people off any interest in exploring it for themselves. The essence often gets mixed in with cultural and traditional baggage and it can be difficult to tell what’s what. And some traditions may fuel fantasies and misconceptions about awakening.

A NOTE ABOUT LANGUAGE

When I have written about this before, I have often called it “psychological” and “spiritual” understandings of awakening.

To me, “psychological” here just means that it’s within the domain of psychology. It’s phenomenology.

When I on rare occasions have mentioned “psychological understanding” to others, they have responded with: “It depends on what framework of psychology”. To me, that’s missing the point and it confuses the topic. So I may just call it “secular understanding” from now on.

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The only thing I can know for certain and what it says about my nature 

What can I know for certain?

CONTENT OF EXPERIENCE

When I explore this, I find I cannot say anything for certain about anything within the content of my experience. I cannot say for certain anything about the world, others, God, or even myself. I cannot even know for certain I am this human self in the world that others, my passport, and my thoughts say I am. (That person could, for instance, be a dream or fantasy or simulation.)

I can say something about how something appears to me, but not anything for certain about what or how it is in itself.

And that’s OK. I can still navigate the world and be as good a steward as possible of this life and what’s in my life.

THERE IS CONSCIOUSNESS

So is there anything I can know for certain?

Yes, there is. I can know for certain that there is consciousness. There is consciousness that is conscious of all this content of experience.

If I said “I am conscious”, it would go beyond what I can know something about for certain. This “I” would be an assumption and something within the content of experience – a human self, an observer, a doer, or something similar. I can just say that there is consciousness and something happening within that consciousness, some kind of content of experience.

HOLDING IT ALL LIGHTLY

Intellectually, we can take this as a curiosity or something interesting or fascinating.

And it also has some practical real-life implications.

For instance, it means that it’s wise of me to hold any ideas I have about anything and anyone more lightly. I cannot know for certain that any of it is accurate.

This especially applies when I notice a tendency in me to hold a certain story as true, when it has a charge for me. The charge doesn’t mean it’s true. It just means there is a charge. It just means a part of me holds it as true, and that there is some identification and an emotional issue there.

And, as mentioned above, I can still navigate and function in the world. I can use my experience, discernment, and best guesses and make the best choices I can. It’s just about holding it all a bit more lightly.

EXPLORING MY NATURE

There is also an invitation here to explore what I more fundamentally am in my own experience.

If I cannot say anything for certain about this human self, or even that it is who or what I am, what does that mean? Can this human self be what I most fundamentally am? Perhaps I more fundamentally am something else?

When I look, I find that to myself, I am more fundamentally something else. I am what any content of experience happens within and as. I am what this metaphorical field of experience happens within and as. I am capacity for the experiences that are here.

Said with other words… To myself, I am consciousness and the world, to me, happens within and as this consciousness. All I know is consciousness, and it takes all the forms of the content of my experience. In this sense, night dreams and waking life are not so different. They both happen within and as the consciousness I am.

This consciousness is capacity for any experience here. It forms itself into any experience. It’s inherently one. It can take apparently infinite forms. It can even pretend it’s something within itself – for instance this human self or a more abstract doer or observer – with an “I” and “other”.

The word “consciousness” is just a pointer. My nature is something that can just be pointed to and not captured by words or mental representations. (And in that, it’s the same as anything else.)

EXPLORING IT FOR OURSELVES

We can explore this in different ways.

We can investigate it intellectually, which helps align our conscious view a little more with reality.

And we can explore it in our own direct noticing.

We can investigate any thought we hold as true and find what’s more true for us, for instance using The Work of Byron Katie.

We can explore our sense fields and what’s in each one, and how the mental field functions as a kind of overlay to make sense of the world. We can use traditional Buddhist inquiry or modern variations like the Kiloby Inquiries.

And we can explore our nature more directly using pointers from, for instance, the Big Mind process and Headless experiments.

Our nature can notice itself and metaphorically wake itself up from the dream of being most fundamentally something within its content of experience, whether this happens to be this human self, a doer, an observer, or something else. It can make this noticing into a habit. It can explore how to live from and as this noticing. It can allow and support this human self to reorganize within this conscious noticing of its nature. And so on.

This is an ongoing exploration, and it can be profoundly transforming for our perception, human self, and life in the world.

IN MY CASE

This was revealed in the initial awakening shift in my teens.

All was revealed as consciousness, without exception. And any sense of fundamentally being anything in particular within the content of experience – the world of form – was revealed as the temporary play of consciousness.

At the same time, many parts of this psyche were formed within separation consciousness and still operate from separation consciousness. And that’s why it’s been helpful with these types of explorations and inquiries. It helps get more of me on board and aligned with it.

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This experience too is most fundamentally content of experience

I had store-bought pizza last night, which is unusual for me, but I was somehow drawn to it. The result was predictable: a restless night and waking up feeling not very good. (Highly processed foods usually have a big impact on my system, including my emotional state.)

And that’s OK. I can still do some or all of the things I had planned for today.

More importantly, it’s an opportunity to explore.

It’s all content of experience. The weird feelings in my body, and the emotions and corresponding thoughts, are all content of experience. To me, it’s made up of what any experience is made up of.

It’s OK. It’s like any other experience. It’s most fundamentally like any other experience.

As someone said: It’s a flavor of the divine. It’s a flavor of consciousness.

So this uncomfortable experience is, in many ways, a blessing.

It’s an invitation to notice this and let my system soak in that noticing.

And I’ll still limit how often and how much I eat highly processed foods (!). I don’t need to actively seek it out to explore in this way since the content of experience is always in flux anyway.

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My experience of the world, this body, etc.

What’s my experience of the world, this body, and so on?

It’s multifaceted and depends on where the focus of attention is.

CONSCIOUSNESS

When I look, I notice it’s all consciousness. It’s all happening within and as a field of consciousness, and within and as what I am. This experience is always here, and I am reminded of it when I bring attention to it. As soon as attention is brought to it, it’s unavoidable to notice.

For instance, where my imagination says my body is, I notice sight (what my thoughts may label pants, arms, a blurry nose). I notice sounds (that my thoughts may label fingers on the keyboard, slight sound of pant legs). I notice sensations. And it’s all consciousness with those things happening within it, and temporarily and locally taking those forms.

LABELS

The word “consciousness” is obviously a label and a pointer. It’s something used for communication – sometimes with myself and sometimes with others.

What it refers to is just what’s here. It’s what I am and all I have ever known. Labeling it makes it sound far more like a “thing” than it is, and for more like something that can be easily defined than it is.

That’s the same with anything we label. It’s all much less of a “thing” and much less easily defined than labels can give an impression of.

WHAT “I” REFER TO

And “I” here refers to… nothing in particular. It’s more of a conventional way of talking about it.

It can refer to the field of consciousness as a whole, operating through and as this particular human self.

Or can refer to this human self.

It doesn’t really matter since it doesn’t really apply.

HABITUAL PATTERNS

Sometimes, I notice my psyche reacting to experiences from habits, hangups, wounds, and so on. That may play itself out to some extent and there is some engagement with and fueling of it.

Or there is more space for something else to come in. For instance, it may be noticed and then there is no more fueling of it.

Or a medicine is applied, like noticing it’s happening within and as what I am, it all has the same nature. Or the validity in the reversal of the stressful thought behind the reactivity. Or ho’oponopno, tonglen. Or something similar.

A SENSE OF “I”

Sometimes, there is a habitual sense of an “I” here observing, doing, and so on.

When attention is brought to it, it’s clear that there is no “I” here. It’s all just happening on its own.

The sense of an “I” is also an old pattern happening on its own.

There is no real reality or validity in it.

ENERGIES

I also see energies in and around anything – people, non-human beings, plants, and non-animate objects.

Here too, it depends on where attention is.

Normally, I don’t notice it very much. It’s in the background just like ordinary textures, colors, and so on.

And sometimes, attention goes to it and it comes more into the foreground. It comes to the foreground of attention, as anything does when you bring attention to it.

In my case, I mostly use it to notice the degree of awakening. It’s relatively easy to see how awake a system is by looking at the energies around the body.

I can also sense at a distance, which I use when I do distance healing and Vortex Healing. In this case, since the context typically is healing, I tend to pick up things related to body-mind health.

MUCH MORE FLUID

When I write about this, it seems a bit binary. Words differentiate and can make things seem more separate or different than they are.

In reality, all of this is much more fluid. For instance, there is often not such a separation or difference between not noticing and noticing. There is not necessarily much distance between the two and not even that much difference.

And it’s all happening within and as the same.

CHANGES OVER TIME

It’s been generally like this since the awakening shift in my teens.

And there have also been general changes over time creating phases that may last weeks, months, years, or even decades.

For example, for some years following the initial shift, oneness was very strongly in the foreground. There was no need to bring attention there to notice. All was oneness, consciousness, the divine, and it was right there in the foreground all the time. I assume this helped “bring the message home” for my system.

Then, my life situation changed and I was more focused on sustainability and community work for a few years, and oneness went a bit in the background. Perhaps my system needed a break?

After this, and for about six months, the no-self aspect came very strongly in the foreground. It was inescapable no matter what happened with attention or within content of experience. This happened after a period of more systematic and dedicated meditation and inquiry practice, and I suspect it is so my system can soak in the no-self aspect of its nature and absorb it more deeply.

Shortly after this, a great deal of unprocessed material came strongly to the surface – primal survival fear, wounds, and traumas formed early in life. When this happened, and it felt overwhelming and brought me to my knees (and beyond), it took a more conscious effort to notice that the trauma, and the reaction to the trauma, has the same nature as me. The old habitual patterns were more often more in the foreground. This is one form of dark night, and what I think of as a dark night of trauma. Wounded parts of us come up to unwind within the context of oneness recognizing itself as that too. The dial is turned down on the intensity of this these days, but my system is still in this phase to some extent. (And that’s OK.)

I have written more about all of this in other articles.

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