Understanding awakening in an atheist and materialistic context

No matter what worldview we prefer, it can be helpful to also understand awakening in an atheist and materialistic context.

WHAT IS AWAKENING?

I’ll give the short version I often use in these articles.

In one sense, we are a human being in the world. It’s not wrong and it’s an assumptions that helps us orient and function in the world.

And when we look a little closer in our own first-person experience, we may find something else. Especially if we are guided by effective inquiries and guides familiar with the terrain.

I find I am more fundamentally capacity for any and all of my experiences. I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am capacity for this human self and anything connected with it.

I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

KEEPING NOTICING AND EXPLORING HOW TO LIVE FROM IT

This can be a glimpse, and this noticing can also become a habit. Throughout the day, we may notice this whenever we remember.

When it becomes more of a habit, we can explore how to live from this noticing. How is it to live from oneness? How is it to live from oneness in this situation? This is a lifelong exploration and new things will always be revealed.

And when the noticing is more of a habit, and we explore how to live from, something else tends to happen. And that’s a transformation of our human self. It’s a transformation of our perception, life in the world, and our human self and psyche. Whatever was formed within and still operates from separation consciousness (which is often a lot) comes to the surface with an invitation for it to align with oneness noticing itself.

THE LOGIC OF WHAT WE FIND

We may also discover that there is a logic to what we find.

If we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we must BE consciousness. Consciousness is not some appendix we somehow have like we have arms, legs, and organs. It’s what we are in our own experience.

To us, the world and any experience happen within and as consciousness. The world and any experience, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are.

Consciousness is inherently one and cannot be divided. (Although what happens within its content can obviously be divided.) And that means that the world, to us, happens within and as the oneness we are.

This also means that, to us, the world appears similar to a dream. It happens within and as consciousness, just like a dream (and any experience).

OUR NATURE VERSUS THE NATURE OF REALITY

What does this discovery allow us to say something about?

We can say something about what we are in our own immediate experience, and not so much else.

For instance, we cannot say if the nature of reality – of all of existence – is the same as our own nature.

It will inevitably appear that way since the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are. It appears to us as if the world is consciousness. We may even call it Spirit or the divine or God. But we cannot know that for certain.

SMALL AND BIG INTERPRETATIONS OF AWAKENING

This leads us to the psychological (small) and spiritual (big) interpretations of awakening.

In the psychological interpretation, we talk about it as I do above. We keep it to our own experience, and we don’t generalize to the nature of existence itself.

In the spiritual interpretation, we take it one step further. We assume that our nature is the nature of all of existence. We assume all of existence is consciousness and what we can call Spirit, the divine, Brahman, God, and so on.

The spiritual interpretation is most common, perhaps because awakening has traditionally been talked about in the context of religions and spiritual traditions, and these use the spiritual or big interpretation of awakening.

THE VALUE IN THE SMALL INTERPRETATION

There is a value in the psychological or small interpretation of awakening as well.

It fits a range of different worldviews, perhaps nearly all of them. (I am sure it’s possible to come up with some that don’t fit but I cannot think of any of the common ones that don’t fit.)

It even fits an atheist and materialistic worldview. In our own experience, we are consciousness. That’s the reality in our own first-person view. And from a third-person view, it may well be that the most fundamental nature of reality is matter.

Taking this into account has value for those of us already exploring awakening. It helps us see that many worldviews may fit our experience. It helps us hold any preferred worldview a little more lightly. It gives us a common language to use when we speak with people from other backgrounds. And each worldview we explore may give us useful insights and pointers for our views and general and even how we live our life.

And it also has value in a more general sense. It makes awakening more available to more people. If it’s presented in a non-religious and non-spiritual context, then new groups of people may get curious about it. Some may even wish to explore it for themselves since they realize it may be compatible with their existing and familiar worldview. It’s more of an add-on or a nuance than a replacement.

WHICH IS MORE CORRECT?

So which one is more correct? The psychological or spiritual interpretation?

The psychological interpretation is safer. It stays with our own experience and doesn’t make assumptions beyond that. It allows us to consider different worldviews, hold them all more lightly, and find the value in each. It is, in many ways, more intellectually honest. It makes awakening available to more people. It goes to the essence of what mystics across times and cultures describe and can provide a common language for people from different traditions.

The spiritual interpretation may be more familiar to many. It may be more inspiring. And I personally suspect it may be more accurate. There are hints suggesting just that. (Sensing and healing at a distance, ESP, premonitions, synchronicities, and so on.)

On an awakening path, many of us experience things that best fit the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening.

And on a collective level, the more prudent approach is to hold that one lightly as well.

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The relationship between who and what we are (our human self & consciousness)

What are some of the relationships between who and what we are? Between our human self and consciousness (AKA Buddha mind, Big Mind, Spirit).

It’s obviously a big topic so I’ll mention just a few things here, based on my own experience.

PARTS OF THE SAME

The first answer is that they are part of the same.

It’s thoughts that differentiate the two. I can’t find any diving line outside of my mental representations.

I can also say that to me, my human self happens within and as what I am.

Who I am happens within and as what I am. They are not two.

A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

To me, everything happens within and as my field of experience.

That includes any human self, they all happen within my field of experience. To me, they all happen within and as the oneness I am, as does anything else.

And there is also a special relationship with this particular human self.

It’s around a lot more than any other humans and most or all other content of experience.

And this consciousness perceives through and as this human self. What I am experiences the sense fields of this human self – sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, thoughts, movement, acceleration, and so on.

OUR HUMAN SELF WHEN OUR NATURE DOES NOT RECOGNIZE ITSELF

When our nature does not recognize itself, our human psyche tends to operate from separation consciousness. It tends to assume that what we most fundamentally are is an object within the field of consciousness. It perceives, lives, and acts as if this is how it is.

That’s how it was for me too. In my childhood, my psyche was formed within separation consciousness and many parts of me learned to function from separation consciousness.

That’s also how hangups, identifications, emotional issues, traumas, and so on are formed. They are expressions of and operate from separation consciousness. If they didn’t, they would align with reality and find healing.

OUR HUMAN SELF WHEN OUR NATURE NOTICES ITSELF

When our nature notices itself, there is an invitation to keep noticing, explore how it is to live from this noticing, and for our human self to transform within this new context.

All of this is ongoing. The noticing, exploration of how to live from it, and the transformation is ongoing.

It’s all happening within and as the oneness we are, just like anything else.

COLORING OUR PERCEPTION AND LIFE

Even when the oneness we are notices itself, many parts of our human self and psyche still operate from separation consciousness. These parts of us will inevitably color our perception, choices, and life in the world. And they will get triggered more strongly in some situations.

THE TRANSFORMATION PROCESS

The transformation process can also be difficult and messy at times, especially as deep issues surface to be seen, felt, befriended, loved, and recognized as love and part of the oneness we are.

When this happens, our habitual responses to our deep and painful issues tend to come up as well, with an invitation for us to see, feel, and befriend these too.

In periods, what’s unprocessed in us may be mostly under the surface, although they will color our life and some issues tend to come up. This can happen during a kind of honeymoon period after an initial noticing or oneness shift.

In periods, they may come up in mostly smaller portions and now and then. This allows us to explore and befriend painful parts of us without feeling too overwhelmed.

And in periods, the metaphorical lid may be taken off and a huge amount of them come up at once. When this happens, it can feel overwhelming, confusing, scary, painful, and even unbearable. This happened for me some years ago, and I am still in this phase although it has quieted down a bit.

In general, the more trauma we have, the more this process can feel difficult, overwhelming, and messy. And the less trauma we have, the more manageable it may feel although still with its challenges.

WHY IS THE TRANSFORMATION PROCESS HAPPENING?

There are a couple of answers:

When our general system recognizes itself as oneness, what’s out of alignment surfaces so it can heal, transform, and align with oneness noticing itself.

When our general system recognizes itself as oneness, anything in our human self still operating from separation consciousness distorts the expression of oneness. They are out of alignment. They need to transform and realign so the oneness we are can express itself more clearly in more situations and more areas of life.

To me, this seems a natural and perhaps even inevitable process.

And it’s certainly not always comfortable. For me, it’s been the most difficult, messy, and humbling phase in my life by far, and I have not always dealt with it gracefully.

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Why do most scientists and psychologists ignore our nature?

To me, there is something that seems clear, both from direct noticing and logic.

And that is what we are to ourselves, and what the world is to us. It’s our own nature, and the nature of the world as it appears to us.

WHAT I AM IN MY OWN NOTICING

In one sense, I am a human being in the world. That’s not wrong, and it’s an assumption that helps this human self orient and function in the world.

And yet, in my own direct noticing, it is what I most fundamentally am?

When I look, I find I am something else.

I find I am more fundamentally capacity for any and all experience. I am what allows and takes the form of any and all of my experiences. I am what allows and takes the form of what happens in all of my sense fields, in sight, sound, sensation, smell, taste, and the mental field. (And any other sense fields we can differentiate out through our mental overlays.)

I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

I am the oneness the world, to me happens within and as.

We can call this different things. For instance, consciousness.

And that brings us to the logic side of this.

WHAT I AM LOGICALLY

In our culture, most say that “we have consciousness” as if it’s a kind of appendix we happen to have. There is an assumption here that we are primarily a physical object and this physical object somehow has consciousness as it happens to have arms, legs, and physical organs.

This is a third-person view, and it doesn’t really matter in this context how accurate it is.

The more interesting question for me is: What are we to ourselves, in our own immediate experience?

Logically, if we “have” consciousness, we have to BE consciousness. There is nothing outside of consciousness somehow experiencing consciousness. What experiences and has the idea of consciousness is consciousness itself. Not anything outside of it.

Any experience happens within and as consciousness. It’s consciousness taking the form of that experience.

So to us, the world happens within and as consciousness.

The world, and any experience, happens within and as what we are.

We ARE consciousness and the world and any content of experience happens within and as consciousness, within and as what we are.

THE CHARACTERISTICS OF WHAT WE ARE

Both direct noticing and (this particular) logic arrives at the same answer for what we are to ourselves, and it also arrives at the same answer for the characteristics of what we are.

What are some of the characteristics of what we are to ourselves?

What are some of the characteristics of consciousness?

To me, what I am has no beginning or end in space. It also has no beginning or end in time. Any experience of space and time happens within and as what I am.

To me, I am one. I am the oneness the world happens within and as. I am what my field of experience, which my mental field differentiates in many different ways, happens within and as.

To me, I am the world and the world is me. The world happens within and as what I am.

To me, the world happens within and as consciousness. It’s like a dream in that way.

To me, any and all content of experience comes and goes. And this includes any ideas of what I may be within the content of experience (this human self) and what these ideas refer to. In some cases, I may not take myself to be this particular human self, for instance in a dream, and what I more fundamentally am is still here. What any and all experiences happens within and as is still here. (Including shifting ideas of what I am as an object in the world.)

When what I am notices itself, I find that my nature is what can be called love. It’s a love that’s not dependent on shifting states or emotions. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. And this love is often obscured by separation consciousness, by dynamics and patterns created from when I took myself most fundamentally as a separate object in the world.

IS THIS WHAT I “REALLY” AM?

So is this what I really am?

Yes, it is. It’s what I am in my own direct noticing.

Outside of that, I don’t know. I don’t know what my nature more fundamentally happens to be from some kind of outside third-person view. And that’s also less important, at least in my daily life.

WHY DON’T WE ALWAYS NOTICE?

If this is so obvious both in terms of noticing and logic, why don’t we always notice or take this into account?

Most likely, because we live in a culture and world where most don’t. When we grow up, we do as others do. We learn to take on and operate from separation consciousness. And that can be very convincing, at least until we start examining our assumptions – about what we are and what the world is to us – a little more closely.

IS IT IMPORTANT?

Yes and no. We humans obviously get by without noticing or examining our nature.

And yet, when the oneness we are notices itself, keeps noticing itself, and explores how to live from this noticing, it can be profoundly transforming.

It can be profoundly transforming for our perception, sense of fundamental identity, life in the world, and our human psychology.

WHY DO MANY OVERLOOK OR DENY THIS?

If this is so obvious, both in terms of noticing and logic, why do so many ignore or deny this?

Most people are not so interested in the question of what they more fundamentally are in their own immediate experience. That’s fine. They get by anyway. They have more immediate concerns to focus on and take care of.

And yet, for some people, this is their job. For scientists and especially psychologists, this is essential to their job and (I assume) interests.

So why don’t more of them explore this? Why don’t more of them take it seriously?

I am not sure.

The essential answer may be the same as above: We live in a world where we are trained in separation consciousness from we are born. It becomes the norm, so we don’t even consider questioning it. And if we do, we feel we are somehow transgressing and entering dangerous waters so we don’t take it very far or speak about it.

To elaborate a bit:

Exploring these things is a kind of taboo in our culture, especially in academic circles. It goes against our shared worldview. It goes against standard norms. (Although all of that is changing.)

Our western culture, and especially our scientific culture, value the more “objective” third-person view over first-person explorations. Again, this has been different in the past and will very likely be different in the future.

If you work as a scientist in academia or as a psychologist, you typically cannot stray too far from the mainstream. As a scientist, you risk losing (or not getting) funding. You even risk losing your job if you get too weird. And as a psychologist, you risk losing your license. (In Norway, psychologists have lost their license for exploring the possibility of past lives in therapy sessions, even if these explorations obviously deal with projections and don’t say whether or not the past lives were real or not.)

In short, cultures are systems and systems want to stay mostly stable. There are many mechanisms operating to preserve some kind of stability. There are many incentives to not explore this, and not so many opportunities or invitations to do so. (Which, again, is fortunately changing.)

At a more personal level, many people may not have the curiosity or passion for exploring this. They are happy exploring other things, and that’s fine. Not everyone needs to explore these things.

WILL THIS CHANGE?

Will this change?

It is already changing. More and more people, including in science and psychology, are interested in a more transpersonal approach and understanding.

I envision a future where the third-person and first-person approaches exist side-by-side and even hand-in-hand, including in science and psychology.

It will be a far more rich exploration of our human experience, and one that reflects a little more of the bigger picture.

ACKNOWLEDGING THE VALIDITY OF WHAT MYSTICS DESCRIBE

If or when this shift happens, something else will happen as well.

And that is an acknowledgment – in science and our culture – of the validity in what mystics across times and cultures have described.

If we look at the essence of what mystics describe, it’s exactly this.

We are consciousness, and the world to us is consciousness.

We are the oneness the world, to us, happens within and as.

Image: Created by me and Midjourney (AI image)

Why do I love animals? Why do I love nature?

I recently watched the last season of His Dark Materials, and find I have as much and often more empathy with the dæmons as I do with their human counterpart. (The dæmons are animals representing an aspect of the people, their inner self, anima/animus, or something similar.)

Why do I love animals? Why do I love nature? Why is it sometimes easier to find love for a non-human being than for some fellow humans?

There are many answers and they all (literally) come out of one.

Here are some that come to mind:

MISTREATED

Non-human beings are often mistreated by humans. I tend to side with the underdogs, and in this relationship, non-human beings are almost always the underdogs. I have a natural empathy with non-human beings for that reason. (I know this particular dynamic is rooted in my own history and experiences.)

INNOCENCE & DIFFERENT HISTORY

The natural world has everything from cooperation and care to fights and mercilessness.

At the same time, we see an innocence there. For all their savvy and specific skills, knowledge, and experience, many of them generally function cognitively at the level of human children or babies.

Most non-human species must have mental representations and use them as we do, to orient and function in the world. And yet, it seems they are much less likely to elaborate on and believe these imaginations. They use them in a more simple and direct way.

For many of us, it’s easier to find love for animals. They are simpler. In some ways, they are innocent like children. For that reason, we don’t experience the same friction with them as we do with humans. We don’t experience the clashes of hangups and worldviews we experience with humans. And most of us have been more hurt by humans than non-human beings, we have a different history with them.

For all of these reasons, it’s often easier to find love for non-human beings. And especially the ones we know personally and live with.

MIRROR

Animals mirror me in several different ways. I see myself in them.

They mirror my animal nature. They mirror how I am with a simpler mental field. They mirror how I am minus my more complicated – and complicating – human mental field with elaborate ideas, beliefs, identifications, etc.

And the different animals mirror different parts of me as well. Whatever story I have about any type of animal, I can turn it to myself and find specific and genuine examples of how, where, and when it’s true.

And since I wish to have – and have – some love and care for these parts of me, I have the same towards the beings mirroring these sides of me.

WE ARE CLOSELY RELATED

All Earth life is closely related. We are all, literally, part of the same family. We share ancestors. We are cousins. We are far more similar than we are different. We share far more than what’s unique and different.

We are “we” far more than we are “us” and “them”. And we all know this in our cells and bones and our mind when we subtract our complicated human mental field. Any ideas of separation come from our ideas, not from reality.

PART OF THE SAME SYSTEM

We are all part of the same living and evolving system we call Earth or Gaia.

We are subsystems in larger living systems.

We are subsystems in the larger systems we call the Earth and the universe and all of existence.

We are all expressions of the same larger living wholes.

We are part of the same metaphorical body we call life, Earth, the universe, and existence.

And that’s not just metaphorical or poetry or wishful thinking. It’s what current science tells us.

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

We are all the Earth, the universe, and existence expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself temporarily and locally as us.

EXPRESSIONS OF THE DIVINE

We can call existence and reality God, Spirit, or the divine.

Here, we can say that we are all expressions of God, Spirit, or the divine.

We are all the divine expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself temporarily and locally as us.

We are all the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the divine.

We are the divine bringing itself into consciousness through and as us.

PART OF THE ONENESS I AM

There is also another oneness here, and one that’s far more immediate.

In one sense, I am this human being in the world.

Ehen I look in my own first-person experience, I find I am more fundamentally something else. I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I find that the world, to me, happens within and as what I am.

I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

To me, everything – including any being – is part of the oneness I am.

And to the extent I allow this to sink and infuse and transform my human self, this gives birth to a natural love that’s not dependent on feelings or states. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

WORDS AND LANGUAGE

I use the word “animal” here since that’s the terminology most people use these days.

In reality, we are all animals. We are all living beings.

There is no reason to create a hard and imagined boundary between us and the rest of Earth life.

We are all closely related. We are all in the same boat. We are all embedded in the same larger living systems. We are all expressions of the evolution of the universe. We are all expressions of existence. We are all the Earth, the universe, and existence expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself through and as us.

When I hear the word “animal” I am reminded of the old Greeks who used a similar mind-created division. They called any non-Greeks barbarians. I assume future generations may see our current human-animal distinction as equally quaint and old-fashioned.

Today, there is a growing awareness of all the many ways racism and sexism is expressed in society and our language. In the future, I assume there will be a similar awareness of how our anthropocentrism is expressed in our language and society, and a movement to change it.

CULTURE & OUR ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

How we see humans versus the rest of life is obviously dependent on our culture.

In some traditional cultures, all life is seen as related and part of the same whole.

The irony is that in our culture, that’s the view of science. Science tells us all life is closely related and part of the same living evolving systems. And yet, most people operate on an outdated and misguided idea of the basic separation of humans from all other life. We operate on misconceptions while we know better.

Why? I assume it’s not just because of tradition and habit. It’s also convenient. It allows us to keep using and abusing non-human beings and nature in general.

And that brings us to saw over the branch we are sitting on. It’s out of alignment with reality, and operating on ideas out of alignment with reality has consequences. In this case, the consequence is the destruction of the living systems we are fully embedded in and dependent on.

NOISE

I’ll add one topic that’s been on my mind since my early teens.

I have personally never liked noise or loud music. I love silence and natural sounds, and less human-created sounds (apart from some music).

And, as far as I can tell from research and personal observations, it seems I share that with most non-human beings.

So why do some humans apparently love noise and loud sounds and music?

I don’t know but I assume it has to do with our noisy and complex mental field and what happens when we take certain (painful) ideas as reality. (Taking any idea as reality is painful in itself, no matter what the idea tells us.) Perhaps the outer noise masks the inner noise, at least for a while? Perhaps it’s a strategy to distract ourselves from our own discomfort and pain?

Perhaps it’s a sign we haven’t found peace with our own experience, as it is? A sign of war with our experience?

In our culture, we act as if we are at war with nature, and we act as if we are at war with our own experience. The two are closely related. They depend on each other. And they may break down together.

FINDING PEACE WITH OURSELVES & PEACE WITH NATURE

In most cases, if we find peace with our experience, we tend to find a deeper love for nature. And finding a deeper love for nature tends to be reflected in finding more peace with our experience.

Of course, both take work. And even if we find this peace, and wish to live in a more peaceful relationship with life in general, we are still living within a social and economic system that is inherently destructive. It was created at a time when we didn’t need to take the limits of nature into account. And now – with increasing human numbers and more efficient technology – it’s obviously destructive to life.

We can personally experience peace with life, but our life is not peaceful to life as long our collective human system is as it is.

It takes personal intention, skill, and work to find peace with our experience.

It will take a similar collective intention, skill, and work to find real peace in our relationship with nature – and transform our collective life so it takes ecological realities into account.

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The logic of what we are (awakening)

There is a logical inevitability to what we are.

There is a logic to what we are in our own first-person experience.

There is a logic to what we find when we are guided, and when we set aside thoughts telling us what we are.

THE CONVENTIONAL VIEW & WHAT I FIND

The conventional view is that we are this human self in the world. I am a human being in the world that has consciousness. That’s not entirely wrong. It’s an assumption that works relatively well in daily life.

But is this what I find when we take a closer look in my own immediate experience? Here, I find I more fundamentally am something else.

I find I more fundamentally am capacity for any and all experience. I find am what any experience happens within and as. And I find there is a logical inevitability to this.

THE LOGIC OF OUR WHAT WE ARE: THE SIMPLE VERSION

Why is there a logical inevitability to what we are?

The simple version is that if we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we have to BE consciousness.

The world, as it appears to us, then has to happen within the consciousness we are.

And we and the world, as it appears to us, have to have the characteristics of consciousness.

THE LOGIC OF WHAT WE ARE IN MORE DETAIL

I’ll go into this in a little more detail.

(1) If we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we have to BE consciousness.

Consciousness is not some appendix we happen to have. (The only way it can look that way is if we: (a) Assume we most fundamentally are an object in the world with consciousness somehow attached to it. And (b) don’t examine it very closely.)

If we “have” consciousness, it means that we perceive “through” that consciousness. It means that all our experiences happen within and as that consciousness. It means that what receives any and all experiences is that consciousness. And that means that, to ourselves, we have to BE that consciousness. There is no other option.

(2) The world, as it appears to us, then has to happen within the consciousness we are.

The world, to us, happens within and as consciousness. We are that consciousness.

That means that the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are.

And by “the world” I mean any and all content of experience including the wider, this human self, thoughts, feelings, states, and so on.

Anything that appears in any sense field – sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought – happens within and as the consciousness we are.

(3) And we and the world, as it appears to us, have to have the characteristics of consciousness.

Here are some of these characteristics:

Oneness. The consciousness we are is one. And the world as it appears to us happens within and as the oneness we are. Our experience of anything and everything inevitably happens within the oneness we are. (If our system is invested in a perception of separation, we may not notice that oneness, but that’s another matter.)

Timeless. To ourselves, our nature is timeless. It just is. And since the world happens within and as what we are, that too is timeless to us. Time happens within and as what we are. It’s not fundamental to what we are.

Spaceless. Similarly, to ourselves, our nature is spaceless and the world appears spaceless. Any sense of space happens within and as what we are, it’s not fundamental to our nature.

Love. We can also say that our nature is love. Love is a natural expression of the oneness we are recognizing itself. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. It’s a love that’s not dependent on feelings or states. (It’s always here but it’s dependent on not being too obscured by our separation-consciousness hangups to be expressed.)

Not a thing. As consciousness, we are not a thing. And since the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are, that too – to us – is not a thing. It’s all happening more like a dream, within and as consciousness, than anything else. (Again, being caught up in separation consciousness can make the world appear very much as a thing, and there is some truth to that too.)

Ephemeral. Any and all experience is ephemeral. It’s gone before we consciously realize we have noticed it. In this way too, everything is dreamlike. (Any sense of permanence is created by the overlay of our mental field.)

Capacity. As consciousness, our more fundamental nature is capacity. We are capacity for any and all experiences. We are what allows it all. We are what all happens within and as.

Always here. Our nature is, inevitably, always here. It may not recognize itself, but it’s here. It’s what we already are.

NO IDEOLOGY OR SPIRITUALITY REQUIRED

No ideology or spirituality is required to explore this. It’s just what we find (or not) when we look.

What we find is what mystics throughout history and from any tradition have described. And yet, it’s not dependent on any religion, spirituality, or ideology.

If anything, it reveals that any religion, spirituality, and ideology is human-created, it’s created by our mental field. At most, and in this context, it reflects a direct noticing and can offer some pointers for how to explore it for ourselves.

HOW CAN WE EXAMINE IT FOR OURSELVES?

So how can we examine it for ourselves?

I’ll mention a few approaches I have found especially helpful.

Headless experiments and the Big Mind process are two of the most simple, direct, and effective approaches I have found so far.

Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here and notice it’s already noticed and allowed. Over time, we realize that any and all content of experience comes and goes, including what we may take ourselves to be. So what are we more fundamentally? Are we what it all comes and goes within and as? How is it to notice that? How is it to explore living from that noticing?

And there are also many approaches that support this noticing or support living from it, including other forms of inquiry (sense field explorations, Kiloby inquiries), heart-centered practices (prayer, tonglen, ho’oponpono, metta), training more stable attention (including body-centered practices), and ethical guidelines (reduces distractions, highlights what in us operates from separation consciousness).

WHY IS IT COVERED UP?

If this is our nature, why don’t we notice? Why is it covered up?

The simple answer is that as we grow up, we do as others do. We see others operate from separation consciousness, assuming they most fundamentally are an object in the world, so we do the same. And we don’t find a good reason to question or examine it. Or we don’t have access to good tools and guidance to examine it.

HOW IS IT COVERED UP?

How is it covered up? What are some of the mechanisms?

In short, it’s covered up when our mind holds onto mental representations – mental images and words – as accurately reflecting reality.

As soon as consciousness holds a story as true, it identifies with the viewpoint of that story. It becomes an “I” with an “other”. To itself, it becomes something within the content of experience. (1)

It temporarily takes itself to be one part within itself, and everything else as “other”.

That’s how separation consciousness is created, and it can seem very real.

If we grow up with separation consciousness, as most of us do, then many parts of our psyche are formed and operate from separation consciousness. That’s how emotional issues, traumas, hangups, ideologies, and so on are created.

Even when the oneness we are recognizes itself, it can still have many parts operating from separation consciousness, and it can take time to get all of these onboard with a more conscious noticing of oneness.

WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THIS?

Why don’t more people talk about this?

Well, some do. Many Asian spiritual traditions talk about this. Mystics from all traditions and times talk about it. Many spiritual coaches and teachers talk about it. Some psychologists and philosophers talk about it.

And yet, most psychologists and philosophers don’t talk about it, and few in academia explore it in any serious way.

Why do they ignore it even if it has logic to it? Why do they ignore it even if this has profound practical implications? Even if it can be profoundly transforming for anyone engaging in these kinds of explorations?

I am not sure.

Perhaps some lack curiosity or interest? (Which is fine. Our fascination is our calling, and there is no lack of things to be fascinated by.) Perhaps they haven’t investigated the conventional “have consciousness as an appendix” idea? Perhaps they are concerned to get lumped in with mystics, spiritual people, and weirdos?

I assume it’s not because this is not an important topic, because it is. It’s not for lack of information or guidance, because that can be found. It’s not because they cannot explore it for themselves, because they can. And it’s not because there is no logic to it, because there is.

IS OUR NATURE THE SAME AS THE NATURE OF EXISTENCE?

Is our nature the same as the nature of all of existence?

If we find our own more fundamental nature, it’s natural to assume that the nature of existence is the same. After all, the world to us happens within and as what we are, so it will appear that way.

And yet, do we know? Not really.

I cannot know for certain. I can find what appears as my more fundamental nature, I can explore how to live from that noticing, and so on. And yet, I cannot honestly say I know for certain that’s the nature of everything.

THE SMALL AND BIG INTERPRETATIONS OF AWAKENING

This is where I differentiate between the small and big interpretations of awakening.

This article is written from the small interpretation of awakening. It doesn’t rely on spirituality or religion. It’s about what we can find for ourselves through direct noticing.

It’s about our own nature, in our own first-person experience, not the nature of reality or existence.

From here, we can go one step further and say that our nature IS the nature of existence and reality. Reality IS consciousness. It is what we traditionally think of as the divine, as Spirit, as God.

Each of these interpretations has its place and value.

The small interpretation is more accessible to more people, it points more directly to what we can find for ourselves, and it goes to the heart of what mystics from different times and traditions describe. As I see it, it’s also more intellectually honest. And it may appear a bit dry and boring.

The big interpretation fits more what the main religions and spiritual traditions describe, it can be more inspiring, and it can open us up more. In some cases, it’s also a bit intellectually dishonest (presenting fantasy or speculation as reality), fanciful, and misleading. And there are several hints that the essence of it is more accurate in the bigger picture.

LILA – THE PLAY OF REALITY

All of this can be seen as play.

We can see it as the play of consciousness, reality, or even of the divine.

In the big interpretation of awakening…

It’s the divine exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

It’s the one experiencing itself as many. It’s oneness experiencing itself as separate. It’s love experiencing itself as what looks like anything but love. It’s consciousnes experiencing itself as an object in the world. And so on.

It’s the dance of reality or Spirit.

In the small interpretation of awakening…

It’s much the same. It’s the oneness we are experiencing itself as separate. It’s the love we are experiencing itself as anything but love. It’s consciousness taking itself to be an object in the world.

And here, we can see it as play or something that’s just happening.

In either case, we can see it as the dance of consciousness, reality, or the divine.

And any ideas of purpose or meaning are ideas and not inherent in reality itself.

(1) Said another way, the consciousness we are creates a lot of identities for itself and identifies with these. It takes itself as a human, a gender, an age, someone with certain characteristics, and so on. None of this is necessarily wrong, but it is limiting and it’s not accurate in a more real sense.

If we look more closely we may find another mechanism. The consciousness we are associates certain thoughts with certain sensations. The sensations lend a sense of solidity, substance, and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations. And the consciousness we are may create chronic tension in the physical body in order to have ready access to sensations lending substance to certain thoughts.

If we have chronic beliefs, about anything, it’s a good bet that these are connected with chronic tension somewhere in the physical body.

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How old am I?

I had a birthday yesterday, and it brings up the topic of age.

How old am I?

It’s a simple question, and if I take it seriously, it can reveal a lot about my nature.

THE AGE ON MY PASSPORT

In a conventional sense, I am the age my passport tells me. It’s the age in my official documents, and the answer most people expect if they ask the question. It’s not wrong, but it’s a small part of a much bigger picture.

MY BODY’S AGE

In another sense, my body has a certain biological age. Depending on genetics and lifestyle, it can be older or younger than my conventional age. This age has some importance in terms of my health. (And depending on how it’s measured and what criteria are used, it will likely change somewhat.)

THE AGE OF THE UNIVERSE

In yet another sense, I am the age of this universe. According to current science, I am roughly 13.7 billion years old. This can sound like an answer that’s meant to be cute or clever, but it’s far more real than that.

Everything I am as a human being is the product of 13.7 billion years of evolution of this universe.

Every molecule is the product of this evolution, most having been forged in ancient stars blowing up and reforming into this planet which formed itself into all of us and this living evolving world.

Every dynamic in me is the product of the evolution of this seamless system we call the universe.

As Carl Sagan said, and I often quote: We are the ears, eyes, thoughts and feeling of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness.

Everything I am as a human being is the product of the evolution of this larger seamless system I am a local and temporary expression of.

In a very real sense, I am the age of this universe. Everything I am as a human is the age of this universe.

This age is important since it’s a reminder of the reality of the oneness of the universe. It’s a reminder of what current science tells us about our more fundamental identity and nature.

TIMELESS

All of that has some validity to it. And yet, am I most fundamentally this human self? Or even a local and temporary expression of this seamless and evolving larger whole?

If I look in my own first-person experience, what am I more fundamentally?

I find I am more fundamentally capacity for any and all experiences. I am capacity for the world as it appears to me, including this human self and anything connected with it. I am capacity even for any thought or sense that I am fundamentally this human self.

I find that any experience – of the wider world or this human self – happens within and as my sense fields. (Sight, sound, sensations, taste, smell, mental images and words.)

To me, the world as it appears to me, happens within and as what I am.

This is my more fundamental nature, in my own immediate experience.

Here, I find I am what any ideas or experience of time happens within and as. My nature is timeless, allowing and forming itself into ideas and experiences of time and change.

LAYERED

My age is layered.

As a human being, I am the age in my passport and my body’s biological age.

As a local and temporary expression of this larger seamless evolving system, I have the age of this universe. (And that will change somewhat depending on what science says.)

And in my own first-person experience, I find my nature is timeless. I am the timelessness any ideas and experience of age happen within and as.

I love the richness of my age. I love that there are many answers and that some change over time.

I love that each one makes sense in its own way.

WHY DON’T WE USE OUR UNIVERSE AGE MORE OFTEN?

If science tells us we all are 13.7 billion years old, why don’t we use that age more often?

It may seem a silly question, but it’s actually a very important one. Science tells us our more fundamental age is 13.7 billion years, so why don’t we collectively take it more seriously?

It may be because this story is still relatively new so it hasn’t had time to sink in yet.

Also, we are used to using our age in our passport so most people stick with that. Much in society is dependent on separating us by age. (School, tickets, pension, and so on.) And many seem to like to follow that orientation.

For me, it’s beautiful and important that this is an age we all share. Everything that exists has the same age. That’s amazing and wonderful to me. It’s a reminder of what ties us together and that we are all local and temporary expressions of the same seamless evolving whole.

That’s far more fundamental and important than the age we happen to have as local and temporary expressions of this whole.

WHY DON’T WE ACKNOWLEDGE OUR TIMELESS NATURE MORE OFTEN?

Similarly, why don’t we acknowledge our timeless nature more often?

It’s not because it’s not here to be noticed. Based on my own noticing and what I hear from others, it seems we all have this nature. (It’s the nature of the consciousness we all inevitably are to ourselves.) (1)

It’s not even because it’s difficult to find. I assume most can find it with guidance and within minutes.

So why don’t more people acknowledge this?

I assume there are many answers here too. The obvious one is that we live in a society that tells us – directly and indirectly – that we most fundamentally are this human self, an object within the field of our experience. As we grow up, we see that this is what others do so we do the same. In our innocence, which is very beautiful, we train ourselves to do as others do.

There are also many misconceptions about this. Many traditions suggest that finding our nature is difficult or takes a long time, or that it’s for special people, or that it’s about something distant, or that it gives us special powers.

In reality, it’s right here. It’s not only what we are most familiar with, it’s the only thing we are familiar with. It’s what all our experience consists of.

Since it’s about noticing what we already are, it’s for all of us.

It doesn’t give us any special powers, it’s just a noticing of our nature. (And that can be profoundly transforming for our perception and life in the world.)

And with good guidance, most of us can find it within a relatively short time.

How can we find it? The best approaches I am familiar with (so far) are the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

Of course, finding it is just the first step. It’s just a glimpse. If we want to continue exploring it, we need to refind it here and now. We need to explore how to live from this noticing. We need to investigate anything in us out of alignment with it, anything created and operating from separation consciousness.

And that takes dedication, passion, and a lifetime. (Or more if there are more.)

(1) Why don’t we acknowledge our timeless nature more often? It’s not even because it’s illogical. Based on logic, we find that in our own experience, we have to be consciousness. If we “have” consciousness, we inevitably and most fundamentally have to BE consciousness in our own experience. And the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are.

We have all of the characteristics of consciousness, and since the world to us happens within and as the consciousness we are, that too – to us – have those characteristics.

We are what’s inherently free of time and space and that our experience of time and space happens within and as. We are the oneness any sense of distinction and separation happens within and as. And so on.

This just says something about our own nature in our own first-person experience, it doesn’t say anything about the nature of existence or the universe. And that’s more than enough. If we are led – by existence – to take it seriously, that’s profoundly transforming.

Image: A look at the distant relatives we call the “Cosmic Cliffs” in the Carina Nebula. (NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI.)

Reduced capacity to set emotional issues aside in an awakening process and from exhaustion

When we have a reduced capacity to set aside emotional issues, they tend to naturally surface.

And that can happen in several different situations.

FATIGUE AND DYSREGULATION

I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME), and this is far from regular tiredness. It’s a profound fatigue and dysregulation of the whole system.

When my system is extra fatigued, it’s no longer able to regulate very well. It has trouble regulating temperature (too hot, too cold), thoughts (difficult to think clearly and make decisions), emotions (more sensitive, reactive), and much more.

This includes difficulty regulating emotional issues. When my system has more resources, it can more easily set old emotional issues aside. (Although they will always color perception and actions.) And when it’s more fatigued, these old issues surface more easily.

That’s one reason I prefer to just go to bed when this happens and set aside any tasks or conversations for when my system functions a little better. (And often, I don’t have much choice. My system desperately needs that rest and anything else is automatically set aside.)

OUR NATURE RECOGNIZING ITSELF

When our nature recognizes itself, something similar can happen.

For a while, it takes itself to most fundamentally be this human self, a separate being in the world. Or, at least, it pretends to do this since others do it.

And then, the oneness we are recognizes itself. It shifts out of its temporary self-created trance.

And, as Adyashanity says, this can take the lid off a lot of things, including anything very human and unprocessed in us. What’s unprocessed comes to the surface to be seen, felt, loved, recognized as love, and recognized as having the same nature as we do.

I am not sure of the exact mechanism, but here is my best guess: It takes active regulation for the oneness we are to pretend – to itself and others – that it’s a separate being, something specific within its content of experience. When it recognizes its nature, it is no longer actively regulating, and that (sometimes) means it’s also not actively regulating old emotional issues. It’s no longer setting them aside, so they surface.

This doesn’t always happen. It can happen a while after oneness first recognized itself. (In my case, it happened several years into the process.) And when it happens, the oneness we are can react with confusion, feeling overwhelmed, fear, and much more.

It’s humbling, it can be very messy. And – as Evelyn Underhill said – it’s a very human process. And it’s not necessarily easy. In my case, it’s been the most challenging phase of my life by far.

And it’s also necessary. For the oneness we are to live from consciously recognizing itself, our human self needs to be a good vehicle. And that vehicle needs tune-up and cleaning. Any remaining emotional issues (beliefs, identifications, emotional issues, traumas) operate from separation consciousness, and they inevitably color our perception and life even if they don’t seem activated.

So they surface to be seen, felt, loved, and recognized as part of the oneness we are. They surface to join in with the awakening.

OTHER SITUATIONS WHERE OUR REGULATION FALTERS

There are other situations where our system has trouble setting aside emotional issues.

The most obvious is when strong emotional issues are triggered, and our mind identifies with what comes up. Here, we take on the perspective and identity of the issue and actively perceive and act as if we are that part of us. We may not even try to relate to it in a more intentional or mature way.

I suspect it also happens in some kinds of mental illness, and under influence of some kinds of drugs. (Sometimes this happens when drinking alcohol.)

CHALLENGES & GIFTS

There are challenges and gifts in our system being unable to set aside old emotional issues.

I imagine the challenges are familiar to most of us. It’s uncomfortable. It can feel overwhelming. We may get caught up in the struggle with what’s surfacing. And we may get caught up in what’s surfacing and view the world and act as if we are that hurt and confused part of us.

There are also gifts here. When these issues surface, we get to see them. It’s an invitation to see, feel, and find genuine love for what’s here. It’s an invitation to examine these confusing and hurting parts of us. It’s an invitation to get to know them. It’s an invitation to recognize that and how they operate from (painful) separation consciousness and unexamined and painful beliefs.

It’s an invitation to find healing for our relationship with them and to find healing for the issues themselves.

All of this is can seem obvious if we are familiar with it, but navigating it is often anything but easy. It takes skill, dedication, experience, and time.

It’s not something that’s done and dusted. It’s an ongoing process.

It’s part of being a human being.

It’s part of being oneness taking on the role of this human being in the world and living that life.

And it’s also where awakening and healing become one process. Where the two are revealed as aspects of the same seamless process.

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The world in me

There are – at least – two ways the world is in me.

And I can find both here and now in my own direct experience.

FINDING A PART OF ME THAT MIRRORS WHAT I SEE IN THE WORLD

If someone asks me if I feel or experience something, I almost always can find it and say “yes”. (And in the past, before I learned to not assume that everyone understands this, that has gotten me in trouble.)

Why is that?

It’s because I find that my psychology has innumerable parts. Whatever I see in the world, I can find in myself here and now.

There is always one part of me that has the characteristics I see out there. There is always one part that right now is experiencing what I see out there. It may not be very strong but it’s there, and it’s there at the very least as a potential.

I discovered this first in my teens, and since then daily and over and over.

And it also makes sense. If I imagine a characteristic or experience in someone else, it’s because I can connect with it in myself here and now. I am already connecting with it as soon as I imagine it in others.

Sometimes, what I see out in the world may be somewhat unfamiliar to me. I am not used to finding it in myself, and then the exploration may have to be a bit more thorough and detailed. Sometimes supported by a form of structured inquiry like The Work of Byron Katie or the Kiloby Inquiries.

So the world mirrors me. I can find what I can see in the world in me here and now.

THE WORLD IN ME

There is also another way I can find the world in me. And that is to see that the world is literally in me.

In one sense, I am a human being in the world. That’s not wrong. And when I look more closely, I find I more fundamentally – in my own first-person experience – am something else. I find I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

I can also find this by examining my sense fields. I notice what’s in each sense field. (E.g. sound, smell, taste, sensation, thought.) I notice that any experience happens within one or more sense fields. (And that the sense fields are all one, the distinction between them happens only in my mental field.) I find that the world, to me, happens within and as the sense fields. I find that the world, to me, happens within and as what I am.

Said another way, and a little more from the logic side, to myself I am consciousness. If I think “I have consciousness” it means that to myself, I am consciousness. And that also means that the world, to me, happens within and as consciousness. It happens within and as what I am. It happens within and as the oneness I am.

When someone says “I am not in the world, the world is in me” or talks about “oneness”, then that’s something I don’t need to take anyone’s word for. I can find it here and now in my own direct noticing.

THE EFFECTS OF NOTICING THIS

This is about noticing what’s already here. Nothing needs to be fabricated. We don’t need to tell ourselves any stories about it, or rely on or trust those stories. We can find it here and now.

Our imagination may tell us we are separate. We may have images of ourselves as separate, and those images are inherited from our parents, teachers, and ultimately the culture we live within. We are told we are separate, and that we most fundamentally are this human self, so in our innocence and from our kind heart, we take it on. We do as others do. We learn to pretend that’s how it is.

And that has consequences. We naturally feel somewhat isolated, alone, separate from others, perhaps separate from our body and nature, we learn to be defensive, and so on.

Noticing that the world is in me, in the two ways mentioned above, and noticing it here and now, also has consequences.

Using the world as a mirror helps me get in touch with more of the natural richness I am. It opens up for recognizing in myself what I see in others in more situations, and that opens for a natural empathy.

Finding the world in me helps me see I am not most fundamentally this human self. It helps me relate to any content of experience a little more consciously. It helps me live a little more from this noticing and from the oneness I am.

Mostly, this noticing is a kind of seed and who knows what comes out of it. There are no formulas here. It’s an adventure. It’s something parts of us already and naturally are curious about and even fascinated by.

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Awakening and self-esteem

In a social media group, someone asked if awakening helps with low self-esteem.

My answer – as usual – would be yes, no, and it depends.

NO – ISSUES DON’T NECESSARILY GO AWAY

Low self-esteem comes from emotional issues. They come from beliefs creating an identity and emotional issues. Those may not go away even if our nature notices itself.

It’s perfectly possible, and very normal, for our nature to notice itself and for us to generally live from and as that noticing, and still have many emotional issues. These will inevitably color our perception and life in the world, even if there is a general kind of awakening here.

YES – IT CAN HELP US RELATE TO IT DIFFERENTLY

Yes, awakening may help.

Awakeness helps us relate to what comes up – including those issues – differently. It’s easier to recognize them as issues and not get so caught up in them.

It’s also easier to recognize their nature, and that they have and are our nature, which also helps us shift how we relate to them. This gives us that interesting experience of oneness (it’s what I am and everything is to me) and distinction (it happens within and as what I am, it’s an emotional issue).

And, as mentioned above, these issues will still inevitably color our perception and life, and we may still get caught up in them.

HEALING AND AWAKENING GO HAND IN HAND

This is why healing and awakening go hand in hand.

Healing makes it easier for the oneness we are to keep noticing itself without getting distracted by issues. The fewer issues, the fewer of these distractions. (And these apparently distractions are really life bringing our attention to something that needs healing.)

Healing helps us operate from fewer issues coloring our perception and life. Any dormant issue will color our perception and life. (As is obvious when you look at the life of many who generally live from awakening.)

And awakening makes it easier for us to relate to our issues more consciously, to recognize them as expressions of the oneness we are, and invite them to reorganize within a conscious noticing of this oneness. This requires intention and skill and doesn’t come on its own.

IT DEPENDS

And that’s where “it depends” comes in.

Whether awakening helps us with our emotional issues, including low self-esteem, depends on how we make use of the awakening. It depends on intention, experience, training, and skill.

It doesn’t come on its own. It doesn’t come for free. It requires work.

And it’s ongoing. It’s not something that’s fixed once and for all.

There is no place where we arrive and where this is not a theme anymore. (At least not in this life.)

Why I rarely talk about unconditional love

I rarely talk about unconditional love.

Why? Isn’t it beautiful? Something to aspire to? Something we all want?

Maybe.

IT’S OUR NATURE

Yes, it is our nature. It’s what we most fundamentally are.

To myself, I am capacity for the world, and I am what the world to me happens within and as.

I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

And another word for oneness is love.

It’s the love of oneness for itself in all the different forms it takes.

It’s a love that’s unsentimental and not dependent on fleeting feelings or states.

It’s the love of one hand removing a splinter from the other.

OFTEN CLOUDED OVER

Even if it’s our nature, it’s also often covered over by our very human and messy hangups, issues, traumas, and the ways we try to cope with life.

It’s there. It shines through.

And it’s filtered by our very human messiness. And that means it often takes a form that looks like anything but love.

ASPIRING TO UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

There is nothing inherently wrong in aspiring to unconditional love, although it often comes with some pitfalls.

We may think it’s something we need to create and not find and uncover.

We may make it into an ideology and use it to get a sense of safety.

We may use it to cover up our very human messiness.

If we aspire to live from unconditional love and talk about it a lot, it’s sometimes a sign of compensating for a sense of lack. We know we often behave like a jerk, and want to be more accepted and loved, so we use “unconditional love” as a strategy to get this. We use it as an identity to mask our humanness. We make it into an ideology. We make the idea of it into a shield.

WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?

So what’s the alternative?

Here are just a few I am drawn to…

Acknowledging that my human self is messy, confused, scared, and has a lot of issues, hangups, and traumas.

Befriending the different parts of myself and experience. Exploring how it is to meet it with more receptivity, curiosity, and kindness.

Find some authenticity and be more honest with me and others. Be vulnerable. Speak what’s true for me as a confession. (It’s often a confession about something in me my personality doesn’t particularly like.)

Notice and rest in the noticing of my nature, and allow this to work on me and transform me in whatever way it does.

Heart-centered practices help me shift my relationship with myself, others, and life.

Examine and inquire into stressful thoughts and identities.

And see what happens. How does it all unfold?

Where am I still hung up? Can I be honest about it? Can I meet it with some kindness?

The seed for this article: Seeing someone saying “It’s all about unconditional love” in an apparently defensive way and using it as an ideology.

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Aspects of awakening

I keep revisiting the topic of awakening, and especially the basics since that helps keep it grounded.

So what are some of the basic aspects of awakening?

NOTICING MY NATURE

It is to notice our nature.

In one sense, I am this human self in the world. It’s what people, my passport, and my own thoughts often tell me. And it’s not wrong. It’s an assumption that works relatively well in daily life, although it does come with some inherent stress and discomfort.

Another question is: What am I in my own first-person experience? What am I more fundamentally?

Here, I find I am more fundamentally capacity for the world as it appears to me, for any content of experience, for anything that happens in any of my sense fields. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

In the first, I am in the world, and in the second, the world is in me. Both are valid and useful, and the second is more fundamental to what I am in my own experience.

KEEP NOTICING

Noticing our nature is obviously an essential aspect of awakening.

Another is to keep noticing.

If we noticed in the past, it becomes a memory – a mental image and words – and a kind of reference point, which is useful. It can be a reminder to notice it here and now.

And the real juice is in noticing here and now. With time, as we keep noticing, it becomes a new habit. We deepen the groove.

ASPECTS OF WHAT WE ARE

As we keep noticing our nature and live more in that landscape, we tend to discover more aspects of our nature.

I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me, for any content of experience.

I find I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

I find I am what a thought may call consciousness, and the world to me happens within and as this consciousness.

Another aspect of oneness is love. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. It’s a love independent of any states or feelings. It’s an unsentimental and practical love. (And it’s easily covered up when I get caught in my very human hangups, issues, and traumas.)

I also find there is a quiet joy in this, a joy also independent of changing states, feelings, and experiences.

And there is more here. Any content of experience is an aspect of what I am. It happens within and as what I am. The world, as it appears to me here and now, is an aspect of what I am. You are an aspect of what I am. Any thought, feeling, sensation, smell, or sight that’s here is an aspect of what I am.

This human self is also an aspect of what I am. It too happens within and as what I am. And I find I have a special connection to this human self since it’s here, in my experience, most of the time, and it serves as a sensory organ for me in the world and I have inside information about this human self.

EXPLORE LIVING FROM IT

As we get more used to noticing our nature, we naturally explore living from it.

How is to live from noticing my nature? How is it to live from noticing oneness?

How is it to live from this noticing in this situation?

How is it to live from this noticing in more and more situations? Including the ones that are difficult for my human self?

How is it to live from this noticing in more and more areas of life?

SEE, LOVE, VISCERAL

When I notice my nature, I metaphorically see it.

I can find love for all as the divine and/or happening within and as what I am.

And I can viscerally get that all is the divine, including that which my personality doesn’t like.

In my experience, all of this is an ongoing and deepening process.

HEALING AND REALIGNMENT OF MY HUMAN SELF

And that process of living from noticing my nature, and seeing, loving, and viscerally getting all as the divine, requires and leads to a transformation of my human self.

Many and most aspects of my psyche were formed within separation consciousness. They operate on the assumption of separation, and that’s also the essence of emotional issues, hangups, traumas, and painful beliefs (all beliefs are ultimately painful since they are out of alignment with reality).

At a human level, I am programmed to largely operate as if separation is my most fundamental nature. So living from a conscious noticing of my nature requires healing and transformation of my human self and how I am in the world.

And that’s not an easy process. It takes time, it’s ongoing, and life will show me where I am still stuck.

It requires facing unprocessed materials (including the Jungian shadow), and that can at times be overwhelming, confusing, and scary.

It’s a very human and messy process, and at the same time beautiful.

NOT COMPLETE

This is obviously a very limited and cursory list of the aspects of awakening.

It’s just what comes to mind to me now, and the aspects I happen to be most drawn to based on my own conditioning and experiences.

Another important aspect is community. If we are lucky, this is a process we share with others. We are our own ultimate authority, and at the same time, it’s something we can explore with others in whatever form that takes.

There are also the side-effects of awakening which can include bliss, a sense of cosmic consciousness (a flavor of the oneness we are), extra-sensory perception, the ability to do distance healing, some level of precognition, and so on. For me, these are fun and interesting but not central – or essential – to awakening.

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Noticing our nature while holding onto images for safety

At some point in the awakening process, we may find ourselves in a kind of in-between state.

We notice our nature directly, at least when we pay attention to it.

And we also still hold onto some ideas about what we are and identify as these.

THE BACKGROUND

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

We are oneness and the world, to us, happens within and as that oneness.

This oneness learns that it is this human self happening within itself. It’s this human self that it can only see in the mirror or in photos and videos, can only see partially directly, that others and our passport say we are, and that it senses and lives in the world through. This is how most onenesses operate.

At some point, this oneness may become curious about its nature. It may intuit itself as oneness and consciousness. It may have glimpses of itself as that. It may learn how to notice its nature, and to do so more often through daily life.

NOTICING AND HOLDING ONTO IMAGES OF ITS NATURE

At this point, it will often both notice directly its nature, at least when bringing attention there. And it will create and hold onto some mental representations of its nature.

These may be mental representations of oneness, void, capacity, love, consciousness, and so on. And perhaps even Big Mind, Brahman, Spirit, and more.

IT’S NATURAL

This is a natural part of the process. It’s innocent. There is nothing inherently wrong with it.

The oneness we are is used to holding onto mental representations of who or what it is. It’s what it has learned from others. It’s how it finds a sense of safety, although it also brings friction with reality.

Also, when it discovers its nature, it can feel like a treasure and vitally important, so it tries to remember and hold onto it by creating and holding onto mental representations of it and even identifying as these mental representations.

This too comes with inherent discomfort. It’s something we feel we need to remember, rehearse, and even defend. And that’s a motivation to explore further and find a bit more clarity.

SOME WAYS TO EXPLORE THIS

What are some ways to explore this?

We may need some structured guidance, and here are a few I find useful:

Headless experiments help me notice my nature as capacity and what the world, to me, happens within and as. Here, it’s easier to notice the contrast between a direct noticing and my mental representations of what’s noticed.

Kiloby Inquiries helps me explore any identifications still in my system, including of capacity, oneness, love, and all the other identifications we may create for ourselves.

And the same goes for The Work of Byron Katie. This too helps me identify and explore any ideas I have of what I am.

A SPECIAL CASE OF AN UNIVERSAL DYNAMIC

As suggested above, this is a special case of something much more universal.

The oneness we are notices its nature. It recognizes itself as all it knows. To the oneness we are, the world happens within and as itself.

And it will still, very likely, hold onto a variety of mental representations of who and what it is. It will, at least to some extent, identify as these.

As mentioned, this happens out of old habits and because it feels safe. It’s a natural part of the process. And it comes with discomfort which is an invitation to explore what’s going on and find a bit more clarity around it.

What are some of these mental representations? They typically include a wide range of relatively universal ones. For instance: Gender. Nationality. Political orientations. A sense of lack and not being good enough. A sense of separation. All sorts of shoulds about ourselves, others, and life. And so on.

These are not necessarily wiped out by our nature recognizing itself. Usually, they remain in our system.

And that’s part of the process and adventure.

They are inherently uncomfortable, so we are invited to explore what’s going on, find a bit more clarity around it, and shift how we relate to it.

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Our human identity is not wrong, it’s just incomplete

For me, it’s convenient to talk about who I am as distinct from what I am.

WHO AND WHAT I AM

As who I am, I am this human self in the world. I am the one others see me as and what my passport tells me I am. It’s the role I need to learn to play in order to function in the world.

As what I am, I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. This is what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience.

DOES IT MEAN ONE IS WRONG AND THE OTHER IS CORRECT?

Not really. Each one has validity, it’s just a different kind of validity in each case.

In the world and to most others, I am this human self. That’s an assumption that works reasonably well, although if I take myself as exclusively this, it leaves a lot out and that comes with some inherent discomfort.

To me, in my own immediate noticing, I am capacity for the world and what the world happens within and as. This is my own private experience, and it’s very likely shared by all conscious beings – all consciousnesses functioning through and as a being – whether they notice or not.

We are very likely all capacity for our world, and what the world to us happens within and as. We are the oneness the world, as it appears to us, happens within and as. And it’s that way whether we notice or not.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WHO AND WHAT I AM

What’s the relationship between the two?

Obviously, the distinction is mind-made. It’s created by our mental representations. It’s not there in reality, or at least not as a clear dividing line with one thing on one side and the other on the other side.

To me, it’s all happening within and as what I am. My human self and any ideas I have about my human self happens within and as what I am.

That doesn’t make it wrong. It just means that if I exclusively take myself as my human self, a lot is left out. It’s just a part of a bigger picture.

It’s fine if that’s what I do, although it comes with the discomfort mentioned above. It’s somewhat out of alignment with reality as I am already living it. Whether I notice or not, I am already living my nature as oneness, so pretending I am not inevitably creates discomfort.

HOW CAN WE EXPLORE THIS FOR OURSELVES?

If the oneness I am is pretending to be exclusively this human self, and it has a curiosity to discover what’s more real, how can I go about it?

The essence is to discern our mental representations – of ourselves and what we are and life in general – from our immediate noticing. What’s here in my mental representations? How is it to notice that it is a mental representation and not reality? What’s here in my immediate noticing? What am I more fundamentally in my immediate noticing?

And to do that, some structured guidance can be very helpful, including any number of inquiry approaches like the Headless experiments, The Big Mind process, The Work of Byron Katie, The Kiloby/Living Inquiries, traditional Buddhist sense field inquiries, and so on.

Basic meditation – to notice and allow what’s here, and notice it’s all already allowed and noticed – is also helpful. It helps me see that any and all content of experience comes and goes, including anything within the content of experience I take myself to be. And something does not come and go, and that’s something that’s not a thing, it’s what it all happens within and as. It’s the awakeness it’s all already happening within and as.

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Odysseus & Calypso

I read many of the classics from around the world in my teens and twenties, and have not been able to read much the last ten or fifteen years because of brain fog (CFS). It’s been a blessing, in many ways, to not be able to read much. I used to read between one and three books a week – mostly within psychology and mysticism – and it was a big part of my identity. Now, I have to find who I am without that identity, which is another adventure. And it’s also an invitation to stand more on my own two feet without too much input from books and talks.

That said, I am reading a few graphic novels these days since it’s easier for me. Right now, it’s The Odyssey illustrated by Gareth Hinds.

Any story is a reflection of dynamics in ourselves and our lives, and so also the story of Odysseus and Calypso. She is an immortal nymph who fell in love with Odysseus. She kept him captive while promising him immortality and freedom from the suffering of sickness, old age, and death. Zeus ordered her to allow him his freedom. And given the choice, he chose to go back to his wife. He chose to abandon immortality, knowing that he would have to experience no end to struggles and sorrows, including old age and death.

What does this reflect in me?

A MIRROR FOR ASPECTS OF THE AWAKENING PROCESS

In terms of the awakening process, we can understand this in (at least) two ways.

He found his nature. He discovered himself as what the world, to him, happens within and as. We can call this immortality in the sense that it’s what time and change happens within and as. It’s the timeless we always are, whether we notice or not, and no matter what happens with this human self over time.

The first way to understand the Odysseus & Calypso story is that he abandons the commitment to noticing and living from a conscious noticing of his nature. He goes back to the exclusive identification as a human self in the world, and noticing his nature becomes a memory.

That often happens, and it’s not wrong or bad. Our nature remains the same, whether we notice it or not. And it sometimes happens for a while and we are moved to keep exploring our nature again.

I find the other way to see it more interesting.

Here, Odysseus chooses to embrace his humanness more fully without abandoning a conscious noticing of his nature. The oneness we are notices itself and lives from and as that noticing. And yet, there is also a more full embrace of our rich, messy, and flawed human life.

This is often a sign of maturity. It appears we have a choice to remain mostly identified with and as our nature, with and as Big Mind. And we chose to abandon that identification and instead embrace all of what’s here including the flawed richness of this human and his or her life in the world.

And it’s not really a choice.

The oneness we are may identify exclusively as this human self. Then, it discovers its nature and identifies with and as a partial image of its nature. (Out of habit and out of a habitual impulse to protect itself against discomfort.) And then that identification has to go, and we have to find ourselves more nakedly and raw as what we are and what’s here, and that very much includes anything and anything that’s part of our human self and life in the world and in time.

It also and especially includes what’s part of this human self and our life that our personality doesn’t like. That too is part of the wild richness of what we are. That too happens within and as the oneness we are. That too happens within and as the timelessness we are.

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Simone Weil: There are two atheisms of which one is the purification of the notion of God 

There are two atheisms of which one is the purification of the notion of God 

– Simone Weil

One atheism is a rejection of there being any God or Spirit or anything divine. Typically, it’s actually a rejection of a certain image of God or the divine, or of a certain culture that goes with one or more religions, although it’s often presented as something more general.

The other is more discerning. It’s a differentiation between our mental representations of God from what these mental representations refer to. We can reject our images and mental representations without rejecting God or the divine. This is a purification of the notion of God.

The first is a belief. It’s a belief that there is no God or divine. We are attaching to ideas as if they are the reality. The second is a sincere exploration of the difference between our ideas and reality itself.

A CONVENTIONAL EXPLORATION OF THE SECOND ATHEISM

A conventional exploration of the second atheism is what I mentioned above.

We notice our images of God and the divine and reality as a whole. We get to know them. We recognize them as mental representations.

And we set them aside. We know that God and reality is always different from and more than our ideas and maps. We find humility here. We find receptivity. We find curiosity.

We ask God to reveal itself to us – in ways beyond and free from the limits created by our ideas and notions about God and reality and anything.

(Note: I should mention it’s been a long time since I actually read Simone Weil so I don’t know if this is how she would talk about it. This is me, not her.)

ANOTHER MORE IMMEDIATE EXPLORATION

For me, this is how the second one looks:

In one sense, I am this human self in the world. It’s what others, my passport, and my thoughts sometimes tell me. It’s an assumption that’s not wrong and it works reasonably well. It’s also an assumption I need to learn and a role I need to learn to play in order to function in the world.

And yet, what am I more fundamentally in my own first-person experience? What do I find if I set aside my ideas about what I am and instead look in my immediate experience?

I find I more fundamentally am capacity for any and all experiences. I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am capacity for whatever appears in my sense fields – in sight, sound, taste, smell, sensations, and mental representations.

I find I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am what the world – this human self, others, the wider world, any experience at all – happens within and as.

I find myself as what thoughts may imperfectly label consciousness. I find myself as the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as. I find myself as no-thing which allows the experience and appearance of any and all things. I find myself as having no boundaries and no inherent characteristics, which allows the experience and appearance of boundaries and any characteristic.

I find that another word for the oneness I am is love. It’s a love that’s independent of any states or feelings. It’s a love inherent in what I am. It’s a love often obscured by my very human hangups, issues, and traumas.

To me, the world happens within and as what I am, within and as consciousness, within and as oneness, within and as love. To me, the world appears as what a thought may call the divine or God.

The small interpretation of this is that this is all psychology. As a conscious being, to myself I have to be consciousness, and the world as it appears to me has to happen within and as consciousness, within and as what I am. I cannot generalize from this and say that this is how reality or all of existence is.

The big interpretation says that everything is as it appears. Everything is consciousness and the divine. Everything is God.

If we call existence God, then this is the atheism that is the purification of the notion of God.

This is the atheism that differentiates our ideas about God, ourselves, and everything, from what’s here in our immediate noticing.

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Spiritual stories vs what’s here in immediacy

Anyone into spirituality has all sorts of spiritual stories floating around in their minds. And most who are not into spirituality have these kinds of stories as well, they may just dismiss them.

For instance, if we are into mysticism or non-duality, we may have stories about the afterlife, karma, what awakening refers to, what awakening would mean for us and our future, the role of masters, the existence of non-physical entities and deities, and so on.

It’s helpful to differentiate mental representations and our immediate noticing.

MENTAL REPRESENTATIONS

For me, all of these stories are mental representations. I cannot find them anywhere else.

Someone created those stories, told them to someone else, and then they reached me.

I may have stories about the source and whether it’s reliable or not. There may be research matching the stories to a certain degree. Some of the stories may even match my own experiences.

And yet, to me, they remain mental representations and stories. I cannot find them outside of that. I cannot find it in my immediate noticing.

DIFFERENTIATING MENTAL REPRESENTATIONS AND IMMEDIATE NOTICING

For all I know, reality may not be anything like what the stories describe.

That’s a sobering realization and an important one.

In life, it helps us stay grounded and it’s a kind of vaccination against going too far into spiritual fantasies.

And more importantly, it’s a part of learning to differentiate mental representations from direct noticing. It’s a part of learning to recognize mental representations for what they are, holding them more lightly, and also differentiate all that from a direct noticing of what’s here – which is our own nature.

The only thing I can notice directly is actually my own nature. Everything else is a noticing plus a story, a mental representation.

WHAT I AM LEFT WITH

Any story about who or what I am is a story. Any story about the content of experience is a story. Any story about reality is a story.

And what I am left with is a direct noticing of my nature and that any and all experience happens within and as what I find myself as.

IT’S ALL I KNOW

When I learn to differentiate the two, I also notice more clearly that all I know is my own nature. Any content of experience happens within and as what I am, within and as my nature. Even the nature of mental representations is my nature.

To me, the nature of everything is my nature, whether I notice or not.

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Dream: I am African

I am with a group of people from around the world. We talk, and I happen to look down at my arms and notice my skin is dark brown. I realize I had forgotten and make a mental note that in the world, I am that way.

In the dream, it felt very natural, I just needed to remember. And if I had noticed I looked Asian or European, that would have been the same. I just needed to look and then remember.

NONE OF IT IS INHERENT TO WHAT I AM

For me, this dream is mainly a reminder that to myself, I am not inherently any of these things. I need to remember and then tell myself what I am. No label is inherent to what I am.

As I often write in other articles, I have a certain identity in the world. I have gender, nationality, education labels, profession labels, relationship status, address, political leanings, food preferences, and so on. None of that is wrong, and I need to know, remember, and play those roles reasonably well in order to function in the world.

And yet, what I am in my own first-person experience? What am I to myself? Here I find I am more fundamentally something else. I am capacity for my whole field of experience – which includes what thoughts can label the human self, others, the wider world, sights, sounds, sensations, thoughts, and so on. I am what all of it happens within and as.

Here, I have no inherent identity or label. I am inherently free of it all, and that allows all of it to come and go.

MY INNER AFRICAN

This dream also points to my inner African. Perhaps the dream is inviting me to be more in touch with these qualities and characteristics? Or that I am getting a bit more in touch with it?

What do I associate with being African? The ones I have met have been grounded, sane, enthusiastic, alive, and very much in touch with their body and movement. I also associate shamanic traditions, an emphasis on community life, dance, music, and so on. (I love many types of African music and have recently especially listened to the latest album from Sona Jobarteh.)

FIRST CONSCIOUSNESS, THEN HUMAN, THEN THE REST

Something else also came up for me related to this dream.

To myself, I find myself as capacity and what the (my) world happens within and as. And then there are layers of identities from the more universal to the more unique.

And that’s how I like to see others as well. I assume they are like me. To themselves, they are primarily consciousness. They are open to the world. They are space for the world. And then they are an expression of the universe and life, a part of this living planet, human, and finally and more peripherally a certain gender, ethnicity, and so on.

Note: In the world and in waking life, I am Northern European.

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Kurt Vonnegut: Everything is nothing with a twist

Everything is nothing with a twist

– Kurt Vonnegut 

This is a surprisingly accurate pointer, especially when it’s specified a bit. 

To me, everything is nothing with a twist.

In one sense, I am this human self in the world. It’s what my passport tells me and how others see me, and I need to be able to play that particular role in order to function in the world. 

And when I look in my first-person experience, I find I am more fundamentally something else. I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am what any content of experience happens within and as. 

Said another way, I find myself as consciousness. I am the consciousness the world, to me, happens within and as. I am the consciousness this human self and anything else happens within and as. 

All that is just to say that I am nothingness that takes the form of any and all experiences. 

To me, everything is nothing with a twist. 

It’s not a metaphor. It’s not poetry. It’s not even science. It’s direct noticing. 

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What you seek is seeking you

What you seek is seeking you

– attributed to Rumi

I imagine this has been expressed by many through time and across cultures and traditions. It’s an expression of perennial insight or wisdom.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

It’s often used to mean that if we seek something essential – love, or truth, or home, or the divine / God, or our nature – then that seeks us. Or even that it’s seeking us whether we are seeking it or not.

IS IT ACCURATE?

In a practical sense, it seems accurate.

When we seek love, truth, the divine, our nature, and so on, and do so with sincerity, receptivity, honesty, and diligence, and with some good guidance, then things often move and fall into place in ways we didn’t arrange or made happen on our own, or couldn’t have. We invite grace. It’s as if what we seek is seeking us.

In some cases, that grace happens without us consciously seeking it. Something happens that puts us on the path. We receive guidance and pointers without asking. Our nature reveals itself to itself without any conscious interest or intention on our part. Here, it definitely looks as if what we seek is seeking us.

NOT ALWAYS THE WAY WE WANT

When what we seek is seeking us, and when grace happens, it can happen in many different ways.

It can be in the form of a glimpse or shift, meeting someone that puts our life in a different direction, finding a book, finding a guide or community that’s a good match, and so on.

And it doesn’t always happen in a way that our personality likes. It’s not always pretty. What puts us on a different course can come in the form of an illness, accident, loss, conflict, and so on.

It can come in the form of gentle or fierce grace.

IT’S ALWAYS HAPPENING

We can also say that the quote is always accurate. Our seeking is always, in its essence, for the essential. And the essential is, in some ways, always seeking us.

Whatever it looks like we are seeking, we are really seeking something essential. We may think we are seeking comfort, love from another, approval, success, money, admiration, being understood, ice cream, and so on. And even here, the essence of the seeking is a seeking for love, truth, the divine, and our nature. (We can find this for ourselves by taking a surface desire, asking “what do I hope to get out of this”, repeat that question, and see what we are most essentially seeking.)

And even if we are caught up in surface seeking – which we all are at different times and in different ways – what we are essentially seeking is seeking us. Love, truth, the divine, and our nature is seeking us. It’s inviting us to notice the essence of our seeking. And it’s inviting us to notice the love, truth, the divine, and our nature making up our whole experience and reality.

Reality is set up so the invitation is always here. We are swimming in it whether we notice it or not. We are swimming in our seeking of the essential, even if it takes the surface form of seeking all kinds of things. We are swimming in the invitation to notice the love, truth, the divine, and our nature that’s all we know, whether we notice it or not.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

We also have the usual bigger picture.

This is all happening within and as the consciousness we are. The seeking, the sought, the process, the apparent failures and successes, and so on are all happening within the consciousness we are. What seeks and what is sought happens within and as what we are. It’s the consciousness we are taking all of these forms.

It’s the oneness we are going into a trance forgetting itself as oneness. It’s the oneness we are seeking to notice itself as oneness. It’s the oneness we are seeking to wake itself up from the trance.

FINDING IT FOR OURSELVES

I am very aware that this can sound abstract, distant, and convoluted.

That’s OK since this is not about the words. This is something we can find for ourselves.

In a conventional sense, we may appear to be this human self in the world. That’s an assumption that works relatively well, although it comes with some inherent discomfort.

And when we look in our own first person experience, we may find something else. I find I am more fundamentally capacity for the world as it appears to me, for any experience that’s here. I find I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

This oneness is what goes into a trance of taking itself as someting within the field of experience and the rest as “other”. This oneness is what seeks to find itself. This oneness is what seeks to release itself out of the trance.

The essence of this process is to differentiate our mental representations about ourselves, the world, and anything from what’s here in our immediate noticing. The first may tell us we are something in particular within the content of experience. The second shows us we are what our experience happens within and as.

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Forgetting which part of the field I am supposed to be

Just about any experience highlights certain features of who and what I am.

It highlights certain parts of me as a human being in the world, and it highlights certain parts of my nature. And sometimes, experiences come that highlight a certain feature very clearly.

FORGETTING WHICH PART OF IT ALL I AM SUPPOSED TO BE

About fifteen years ago, in a Breema class in Eugene, Oregon, one of these strong highlighting experiences happened.

I was giving Breema to another Breema student on the floor in front of the fireplace in Asha’s house. I found myself as the field of experience that I am, and everything in the sense fields – the bodies, the Persian rug, the fireplace, the walls, the sounds, the smells – happened within and as the field.

And I also forgot which part of the field I was supposed to be.

Somewhere in me, I knew I was supposed to be something in particular within this field of experience. But I couldn’t access what it was supposed to be.

Was it the rug? The walls? The body on the floor? The body I could see only legs and arms of?

In regular time, this lasted perhaps just a few seconds, or maybe even just a fraction of a second. It brought up some anxiety in me, and that snapped me back into remembering.

I was supposed to be this body that I could only see arms, legs, and parts of the upper body of.

HIGHLIGHTING FEATURES OF WHO AND WHAT I AM

I have had several similar experiences where I forget which part of the field of experience I am supposed to be, although this one stands out.

Even at the time, perhaps fifteen years ago, I was familiar with myself as this field of experience. As the field of sound, taste, smell, movement, sensations, and mental representations.

So what was new? What stood out to me was that I forgot which part of this field I was supposed to be, in a conventional sense and in order to function in the world. That side of it was gone.

And that highlighted that it takes effort to remember those things. It’s an active part of the mind that helps me remember that I am supposed to be this particular human self. The one I can only see parts of, and only can see more of in the mirror or in a photo. The one my passport tells me I am and others tell me I am.

The experience also highlighted the differentiation between the two. I can find myself as the field while forgetting I am supposed to be this particular human self. And the reverse is also possible, to some extent.

WHAT’S THE FUNCTION OF THESE EXPERIENCES?

These experiences help me clarify parts of who and what I am. They someyimes show me something in an undeniable way.

For instance, when I was sixteen, the initial awakening shift showed me – this field I am – that all without exception is God. It’s all consciousness. To me, the whole field of experience is consciousness and there is no center anywhere. Everything and nothing is a center.

It was undeniable. And although that noticing never went away, the clarity of that initial shift created a kind of reference.

Similarly, many experiences also highlight features of who I am. I get to see different sides of my psyche.

What does “oneness” mean? Some examples of different forms of oneness

What comes to mind when you hear the word “oneness”? That it always refer to the same? That what it refers to is something mysterious? Something that belongs to certain religions or New Age thought? Something not grounded in reality? Something real you cannot check out for yourself?

The word oneness can refer to several different things and it’s helpful to differentiate.

THE ONENESS WE ARE TO OURSELVES

We may take ourselves to be this human being in the world, and that’s not wrong and it’s an assumption that works reasonably well. 

And yet, if we look more closely in our own first-person experience, we may find something else. We may find that we more fundamentally are capacity for the world – for any content of experience – as it appears to us. And we may find that the world, to us, happens within and as what we are. 

Said another way, we may find that we inevitably are consciousness and that the world, to us, happens within and as this consciousness. 

We can also say that we are oneness, and the world happens within and as this oneness. 

This is the oneness we are and we can explore in our own experience, especially if we are guided by a structured inquiry and someone familiar with the terrain. 

ONE IN A MORE CONVENTIONAL SENSE  

In mainstream culture, we sometimes say we are one – whether that comes from poetry, politics, science, religion, or something else.

We are one in an ethnic or political sense.

We are one in terms of our shared history, either as a group or as humanity.

We are one in terms of our evolution and shared ancestry, either as humanity or all Earth beings.

We are one in that the essence of what we want is the same and shared by all beings. We all wish for comfort and happiness and to avoid suffering.

In some cases, it can be a dangerous rhetoric if it sets “us” up against “them”. And it can be beautiful and healing to the extent it is inclusive.

ONE IN A SYSTEMS SENSE 

We can take this one step further and find oneness in a systems sense.

We are all parts of a seamless system. All of humanity, all of this living planet, all of this evolving universe, all of existence. All of existence is part of a seamless system. 

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

ONE IN A SPIRITUAL SENSE 

It’s also possible that all of existence is God or the divine or Spirit. Spirit takes the form of all there is and all we know, including everything connected with this human self. 

It’s all the play of the divine. It’s the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways, as all there is. 

All of existence is divine and one. 

SEVERAL DIFFERENT ONENESSES 

We can find several different onenesses. 

To ourselves, we are the oneness the world happens within and as. 

We are one in several different social, historical, biological, and evolutionary ways. 

We are parts of a seamless system. 

And all can be seen as expressions and explorations of Spirit. 

THE VALIDITY OF EACH 

Each of these ways of talking about oneness has validity, and the validity is slightly different in each case.

I can check the first one for myself. I can find myself as that oneness.

The two next ones make sense within the realm of stories, and I include science here since science produces stories that help us function and navigate in the world.

And the last one is what mystics from all traditions describe. We can say that they found the first kind of oneness and then over-generalized and assumed that their nature is the nature of all of existence. And there are also hints beyond that suggesting that the “all as Spirit” view is valid in itself. (See articles on the small and big interpretations of awakening for more on this.) 

Image: Enso / Zen circle by Sengai

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Hilde: When the scaffolding of taking yourself as the center of the universe falls, the jaguar emerges

When the scaffolding of taking yourself as the center of the universe falls, the jaguar emerges. It comes from the depths of life to remind us that we are instinct, river, and jungle.

– Hilde

I love this quote, found at the bookstore in the town I am in.

It’s not just our pristine nature that’s revealed when the scaffolding of taking ourselves as the center falls. It’s everything else as well. Our human nature. The nature in us that comes from all our ancestors going back to the first single-celled organisms. It’s ourselves as the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

What does it mean that the scaffolding falls?

In a conventional sense, it means we realize that although we are at the center of our universe, every other being is also at the center of their universe. Every single thing is at the center of the universe. It’s not just us. We are part of the web of life. We are one local expression of this living planet and this universe, just like every single being and every single thing. Living from and as this is profoundly transformative, and it opens for the metaphorical jaguar in us.

It can also mean to notice our actual and real nature. Our thoughts may tell us what we are, for instance this human self, something within the content of our experience. And when we look more closely in our own first-person experience, we may find something else. We may find we more fundamentally are capacity for the world as it appears to us. And what our experiences – of the world, this human self, and anything – happens within and as.

Here, we find we already are the world. To us, it’s happening within and as what we are. And we are more free to find ourselves as nature, as instinct, as river, as anything.

Center of gravity shifting from separation to oneness

We all have a metaphorical center of gravity we typically perceive and live from, and we can think of this center as moving along a line from who we are (human self) to what we are (oneness).

This center of gravity will shift naturally a bit along this line for all of us.

And if we are in a process of actively exploring our nature, we may see a process that moves the center of gravity from who we are to oneness.

Here is how that may look:

CENTER OF GRAVITY: HUMAN SELF

In most cases, it seems that the center of gravity is in our human self. We perceive and live as if we most fundamentally are this human self.

In an early phase of the awakening process, this is typically where our center of gravity is. We may have an intuition or curiosity about awakening, and explore it mostly through mental representations. And we operate and function as if we fundamentally are this human self.

This is how most onenesses seem to live in the world today.

CENTER OF GRAVITY: IN HUMAN SELF BUT OPENING UP

Then, the oneness we are may start intuiting or glimpsing or being curious about its nature.

When these glimpses or intuitions happen, they tend to be filtered through our habitual mental stories and separation consciousness.

We may sense all as consciousness, and perceive it as the divine in nature.

We may have experiences of oneness and interpret it as if we – as a separate self – is one with everything else.

We may have more clear glimpses of our nature, of the world happening within and as what we are, of everything as consciousness, Spirit, and so on. And then we tell ourselves we had it and then lost it.

Here, our center of gravity is still in our human self although it’s opening to the possibility for something else and is more ready to move.

CENTER OF GRAVITY: SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN

Then there is a process of noticing our nature more clearly. We find ourselves as what the world to us happens within and as. And we learn to notice this more easily when we look for it, and we learn to notice it more often in daily life.

We notice our nature when our attention is brought to it and perhaps less so at other times. And if issues and traumas are triggered, we may get caught up in them for a while.

We may see everything in a general sense as happening within and as us, or as consciousness or the divine. We may not always notice it in things our personality doesn’t like, perhaps because we forget to look for it. We may not yet have a deep love for all as our nature or Spirit. And we may not yet have a visceral sense of it all as our nature or the divine.

We may also shift into states that show us aspects of our nature, and these can be brief glimpses or last for days, weeks, months, and perhaps even years.

Here, our center of gravity moves from our human self towards our nature, and it shifts a bit back and forth depending on our attention and the situation we are in.

CENTER OF GRAVITY: MORE STABLY IN WHAT WE ARE

After a while, we learn to notice our nature and live from this noticing in more and more situations and areas of life. It becomes a new habit.

We also learn to notice our nature even when deeper and more central issues and traumas surface, and to recognize that our nature is the same as their nature. Our center of gravity remains here even in more challenging situations.

We mostly see whatever is here as happening within and as what we are, or as consciousness or Spirit.

And we tend to find genuine love for all as our nature, as happening within and as what we are, as consciousness or the divine.

Here, our center of gravity shifts more into our nature.

CENTER OF GRAVITY: MORE VISCERALLY AS WHAT WE ARE

This invites another shift. A more visceral sense of it all as our nature, as happening within and as what we are, as consciousness or the divine.

Our center of gravity is more solidly in our nature, reflected and supported by this visceral shift.

THE CENTER OF GRAVITY OF OUR MANY PARTS

One side of this process is what’s happening with the many parts of our psyche.

Many of our subpersonalities may still operate from separation consciousness even when the oneness we are generally and “globally” recognizes itself.

As mentioned above, when these are triggered, we may get caught up in them and join in with how these parts of us perceive the world. We enter their separation consciousness and perceive and live from it. At least, for a while.

We may also keep recognizing our nature, that our nature and the nature of these parts of us is the same, and stay in that noticing. This is part of what allows these parts of us to unravel their knots and join in with the awakening, although more specific approaches are often needed.

In the first case, our temporary center of gravity shifts towards our human self, and our more habitual sense of gravity is likely closer to our human self. In the second, our center of gravity remains more in our nature.

Also, each of these parts of us colors our perception and life even if they are not noticeably triggered. They are part of our system. They have their own view of the world. The more parts of us are operating from separation consciousness, the more our system as a whole is colored by separation consciousness. Even if our “global” and conscious view is one of our nature recognizing itself.

The more parts of us join with the awakening, the more our center of gravity can remain stable in our nature. In our nature noticing itself and living from this noticing.

CENTER OF GRAVITY: GENERAL TENDENCIES AND BRIEF SHIFTS

As suggested above, it seems that our center of gravity generally is somewhere on an imagined line from separate self to oneness. There is a place or area on this line where we most often are found to operate from.

At the same time, there are more temporary shifts along this line. During meditation or inquiry, where we perceive from may move towards oneness. When we are triggered and caught up in the trigger, our center shifts more toward separation. And so on.

CONTINUED EXPLORATION

There is no finishing line here. It’s an ongoing process.

It’s a process of continued exploration, clarification, deepening, and maturing.

For instance, our nature has many aspects – oneness, love, activity, mystery, capacity, and so on.

And this process tends to reveal and highlight different aspects of our nature to us at different times, allowing us to get more familiar with it.

SIMPLIFIED OUTLINE

This is a very simplified and idealized outline.

In real life, it’s far more varied and often messier.

It’s typically not so linear. We get hijacked by our issues, traumas, and hangups. It may appear that the process is going backward at times or is stagnating. And that is OK. It’s the oneness we are – or life or the divine – exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in all of these ways.

It’s just how I like to map it out now. And my own process hasn’t followed these steps so neatly.

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Am I dreaming or awake, right now?

Whatever we come up with, we may find it difficult to justify the answer. We cannot come up with any watertight argument.

We cannot know for certain. And for a very good and important reason.

To us, dreams and waking life happens within and as consciousness.

They happen within and as what we are. To us, there is no difference between the nature of the two.

This doesn’t say anything about the nature of waking life or existence itself. It also doesn’t say that we shouldn’t take waking life seriously or not be good stewards of our life. It just says something about how this particular question appears to us when we look into it.

And it says something about what our more fundamental nature is, in our own first-person experience. Which, I assume, is why the question was created in the first place.

Cartoon: Drawing by Schulz, text attributed to Stephen LaBerge.

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The outer is (also) inner

This is one of the Life 101 topics many talk about.

The outer is (also) the inner.

A CONVENTIONAL VIEW: THE WORLD IS A MIRROR

The outer world – and the dynamics we experience with others – reflect something in us.

We have the dynamic in ourselves, and we have what we see in others in ourselves.

For instance, we may have an identity as a victim. We see ourselves as a victim of others, situations, life, or even God. That’s one side of it. And the other side is that we also have a victimizer in us. We have a part of ourselves that play the role of the victimizer. Otherwise, we wouldn’t and couldn’t feel like a victim. We couldn’t maintain that identity over time and through various situations, including when the outer victimizer is not present.

In a practical sense, that means that if I work on finding healing for (my relationship with) the victim in me, I also need to work on finding healing for (my relationship with) my inner victimizer. I need to notice and get to know each, find healing for my relationship with each and their dynamic, and possibly also invite healing for both of these parts of me.

This is the conventional view: The world is a mirror. Whatever we see in the outer world is also in us. Whatever story I have about others or the world, I can turn that story to myself and find genuine and specific examples of how it’s valid.

A MORE REAL VIEW: IT’S ALL HAPPENING WITHIN AND AS WHAT I AM

There is another layer to this, and that is that it’s all happening within and as what I am.

My mental field creates an overlay of mental images and words that makes sense of the world for me. This overlay is where any and all labels and stories happens. All my interpretations happens here. And it’s all happening within my mental field. Any ideas of victimizer and victim, and any ideas of inner and outer, you and me, and so on, happens within my mental field. And I can notice this in real time as it happens.

Also, in one sense, I am this human self in the world. That’s an assumption that works reasonably well. And when I examine what I am in my own first-person experience, I find something else. I find I more fundamentally am capacity for the world and any content of experience. And I find that the world, to me, happens within and as what I am. Any content of experience happens within and as what I am.

THE LAYERS

So there are several layers to this.

The world is a mirror. Whatever I see out there is also within me, including all the roles and identities I try to exclude. Those too are here. I have an inner victimizer as much as I have an inner victim. And that goes for any and all of the polarities I see in the world.

My interpretation of the world – labels, stories, and so on – happen within my own mental field. It’s all created by my mental images and words to make sense of the world. It helps me orient and function in the world. So any stories about victimizer and victim, and anything else, happens within my mental field. (That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen “out there” in the world as well, just that my stories about it are mine.)

To me, the world – and any content of experience including of this human self – happens within and as what I am.

All of this are things I can explore for myself in my own immediate noticing. It’s all something I can notice here and now, in real time since that’s the only place it happens.

THE EXPLORATION

How can we explore these layers?

Personally, I explore the mirror dynamics through projection work, including The Work of Byron Katie.

I get to know the mental field through examining my sense fields and how they interact, for instance through traditional Buddhist inquiry or modern versions like the Kiloby Inquiries.

And I find myself as what it all happens within and as through inquiries like the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

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Does our timeless nature mean we live forever?

I sometimes hear people say:

My timeless nature means I’ll live forever.

My physical body happens within me so I’ll live beyond this physical body.

For me, it looks a bit different.

TIMELESS IS NOT THE SAME AS ETERNAL

Yes, I find myself as what the world to me happens within and as.

I find myself as the timeless that time happens within. I find myself as the spaceless that space happens within. I find myself as what this physical body and the rest of the world, as it appears to me, happens within and as.

And that doesn’t mean that I – meaning this oneness the world to me happens within and as – will live forever, or continue to live beyond the death of this physical body.

IDEOLOGIES ARE NOT THE SAME AS REALITY

Yes, there may be many religions, spiritual traditions, and ideologies that say that we’ll live beyond this physical body.

There is even some research pointing to that.

And that’s all second-hand information. It’s not something I can test out for myself. I cannot know for certain.

MEMORIES ARE NOT THE SAME AS REALITY

My whole life, from early childhood, I have had what seems to be a memory from between lives and before this life.

When I look, I see that this apparent memory consists of mental images and words, associated with some sensations in my body.

Those mental representations and sensations are just that. They may not point to anything real. Again, I cannot know for certain.

BEING HONEST

I notice that if I tell myself I’ll live forever, or beyond the life of this physical body, it’s stressful.

I tell myself something I cannot know for certain. I tell myself that what to me is imagination is reality.

I know I cannot know for certain.

And that’s stressful. It’s also stressful to have to remember that imagination, recreate it, enhance it, support it, defend it, and so on.

What’s more honest for me is that I don’t know.

I’ll get to see when that phase of the adventure comes.

What I can find here now is my nature. I can find myself as what any content of experience – including time and space and this physical body and the world as it appears to me – happens within and as.

And that’s enough.

There is a joy in being aligned with reality.

In being honest with myself.

AI and consciousness

A few weeks ago, there was a story in the news about a Google employee saying in public that an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system they work on is conscious.

CAN AI BE CONSCIOUS?

Is AI conscious? Or can AI be conscious, perhaps as we develop it further?

I have to say I am on the side of Google and the conventional view here.

AI can obviously mimic certain content of consciousness and especially thoughts and sometimes even emotions. We can create it that way. And it can appear quite convincing. We are right on the edge of developing AI that can be mistaken for a real human being if we interact with it verbally.

And the content of consciousness is not consciousness itself.

WHAT IS CONSCIOUSNESS?

Conventionally, we would say that consciousness is what any conscious being has.

And, when we look more closely, we find that consciousness is what any conscious being is to themselves.

To ourselves, we are consciousness.

And that means that to us, the world, as it appears to us, happens within and as what we are.

Just like a dream, waking life to us happens within and as consciousness.

There is a lot more to say about this (1), although it’s not so relevant here.

A WRINKLE

There is a little wrinkle here.

If consciousness only belongs to organic beings like ourselves and our fellow beings part of this planet, then the above is correct.

If all of existence is consciousness, then perhaps AI can be called conscious? I am not sure.

Another side to this is that AI which is very good at mimicking human thoughts and feelings will, inevitably, be perceived as conscious by us, even against our supposedly better judgment. It’s an instinct in us. And that means that, for our own sake, we should treat it with respect as we would any conscious being. It’s a good habit.

NOTES: (1) For instance, to ourselves we are oneness and the world happens within and as oneness. The oneness we are typically learns to take itself exclusively as one particular content of experience, this human self, and interprets the rest of the content of experience as others and the wider world. We learn that because those around us operate in that way. And we can unlearn it, either spontaneously or by being around other onenesses recognizing their nature and through examination of our direct experience.

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“I am picking up feelings that aren’t mine”

Some people on a spiritual path experience that they are picking up feelings that aren’t theirs, and feel some distress around it.

In a limited and conventional sense, it may be true they are picking up something from others.

We can sense what’s going on with others, to some extent. Either through picking up signals or even at a distance without any obvious connection.

If this is a pattern and feels overwhelming, there are several ways to work with it. We can practice respecting the boundaries of others, and setting our own boundaries more clearly. We can explore different ways of grounding. We can energize our system so it’s in better condition to deal with what’s happening in our surroundings. We can strengthen our etheric field. (The energy field closest to the body.) And so on.

And there is also another side to this.

THE WORLD IS MY MIRROR

The world is my mirror. Whatever story I have about someone else, or even a particular feeling, I can turn it to myself and find specific examples of how it’s true – here and now and in the past.

When this happens, it’s an opportunity to get to know more sides of myself, and often sides I have shunned in the past.

BEFRIENDING

When people say these things, it’s often because they find the feeling uncomfortable.

So this is an opportunity to get to know the feeling and whatever stories we have about it.

How is it to meet and allow the sensations?

What does this part of me want to tell me? How does it see me? In what way is it trying to help me? What advice does it have for me? How can we find a better partnership?

What story do I have about the feeling? What do I find when I examine this story?

EXAMINING STORIES

Beyond this, what stories do I have about the other person? The one the feeling supposedly comes from? What do I find when I examine these?

Is it true the feeling comes from the other person? What do I find when I examine this story?

What other stories do I have about this situation? And what do I find when I examine them?

HAPPENING WITHIN AND AS WHAT I AM

Whatever happens in my world happens within and as what I am.

Whatever happens in others or the wider world, to me happens within and as what I am.

Whatever happens here in this human self happens within and as what I am.

Most fundamentally, I am capacity for all of it and it’s all happening within and as what I am.

All of it has the same nature. It’s all what a thought may imperfectly call consciousness, Spirit, and so on.

It all has different forms and it’s all “one taste”.

Note: This article is originally from one of the Brief Notes posts.

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What is it that doesn’t come and go?

In basic meditation, we notice and allow any experience that’s here.

We notice it’s already allowed and noticed.

And we may notice that any and all experience comes and goes, including what we take ourselves to be.

So what is it that doesn’t come and go?

If we are asked that question, our mind will likely look for something within the content of experience. After all, that’s what we are used to looking for, and the word “what” may also suggest we are looking for a kind of thing.

But this what doesn’t refer to a thing. It refers to what our experiences – the world as it appears to us – happens within and as.

And although it’s what we inevitably are most familiar with, it’s also ephemeral and unpinnable. It cannot be pinned down by thoughts or concepts.

Our mind will create mental representations of this and call it oneness, love, consciousness, or something else. Our mind may also mistake these mental representations for what they point to. So it’s helpful to be aware of these mental representations and examine them and notice that these too happen within and as what we are.

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Taking refuge in a story to make ourselves feel better

Am I going into a story in order to feel better? To distract myself from an uncomfortable story and associated feelings?

Do I notice any of the telltale symptoms of doing this?

This is an ongoing exploration for me.

TAKING REFUGE IN A STORY

When I hold a story as true, I do it to find a sense of safety in it. At some level, it feels safer to hold a story as true than admitting I don’t know for certain.

This is a habitual pattern, and learned from others as we grow up. We do as we see.

These can be any story. They may tell me I am better or worse than others. They may tell me I know how I am or the world is. They may assign blame. They may take the form of ideologies, whether polticial, spiritual, psychological, or anything else.

When I hold a story as true, I identify with the viewpoint of the story and the identity created by it. I take myself as that, and not as what’s left out even if that’s also here.

The safety I seek is the safety from being faced with one of more of my uncomfortable stories and their associated feelings.

Seeking refuge in stories has many consequences. I need to remember, prop up, defend, and elaborate on the stories. They are always at risk of being disproven and shot down by my own mind or others or both. It creates contractions of body and mind. It limits the ways I have for exploring the world in my imagination and life.

There is no real safety in taking refuge in stories. The stories can be disputed. They are literally imaginations. And uncomfortable stories and feelings are still here.

THE ALTERNATIVE: BEFRIEND AND FIND PEACE WITH

There is another way to find refuge that’s more aligned with truth and reality.

And that is to explore the stories with some sincerity.

To examine the specific stories and find what’s more genuinly true for me. (That I cannot know for certain, and the limited validity in the story and its reversals.)

And to recognize the inherent characteristics of stories. (They are pointers and here to help me to orient in the world. They are different in nature from what they point to. They cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. Reality is always more than and different from any story about it.)

And befriend and find peace with the stories and experiences that are here, as they are. (For instance, through inquiry, dialog, heart-centered practices, noticing that stories and feelings happen within and as what I am, and that their nature is the same as my nature.)

IN DAILY LIFE

Knowing about this is a first step, and its real value is in exploring it in daily life.

I notice the symptoms of holding onto a story. (Defense, rejection of views, reactivity, contractions, obsession with ideologies, any form of compulsion, and so on.)

I identify the story I find refuge in.

I examine it and find what’s more true for me.

I explore how it is to hold it more lightly.

I find the validity in other views and its reversals.

I find in myself what I see in others.

I find in myself the reverse of the identity created by the initial story.

Perhaps most importantly, I find the discomfort in me I used the initial story as a defense against.

I explore the uncomfortable stories and their associated sensations.

Here, I often use some version of the befriend and awaken process.

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I am held by something older than time

I am held by something older than time

– a social media friend of mine in one of her posts

That’s my experience too.

WHAT’S OLDER THAN TIME?

I am held by something older than time in the sense that it’s more primary, more fundamental, and goes before time. It’s what any sense of time happens within and as. It’s what any sense of space happens within and as.

And that something is my nature. When I look, I find I am what any and all content of experience happens within and as. It’s what time happens within and as.

To me, it’s what time happens within and as.

It’s not something far away or for special people. It’s not something particularly mysterious in a conventional sense. It’s what I am already most familiar with. It’s what takes the form of any and all experience, including time.

My nature is older than time. It’s what metaphorically goes before time. It’s what time happens within and as. It’s the timeless taking the form of time.

HOW DOES IT HOLD ME?

This is what holds any and all experience. It’s what holds any experience of this human self. It’s what holds itself.

My nature holds itself and any and all experience, including of this human self and anything associated with it.

A SENSE OF IT VS NOTICING VS FINDING OURSELVES AS IT

We can have an intuitive sense of this. We can sense there is something here that seems older than time. That’s often what’s expressed in poetry and by some mystics.

We can notice and find it more directly. We can notice our nature as capacity for any and all experience, including time and space. And we can explore how to live from this, and invite the different parts of us – formed within and still operating from separation consciousness – to join in with this noticing and living from it.

And we can, also through grace, viscerally and undeniably find ourselves as that which any and all experience happens within and as, including time and space. And live from and as it, and invite the different parts of us to join in with this.

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– When I am with you, I feel I am out here (pointing to the area outside of the body)

A series of events led my wife and me to a realtor who quickly also became a friend, and we talked about energy healing, synchronicities, and so on, all topics she has a growing interest in.

At a café earlier today, she said: “When I am with you, I feel I am out here.” (Gesturing to the space around her body.)

I laughed and said: “That’s the reality”.

WHY OUTSIDE OF THE PHYSICAL BODY?

Why did she experience herself “out there” outside of her physical body?

When the oneness we are is identified with just a part of its content, with this human self, it creates an experience for itself of not only being this human self but somehow contained within this human self.

When the oneness we are recognizes itself, then it recognizes the world – as it appears to itself – as happening within and as itself. It finds itself as oneness. It finds itself as consciousness, and the world – including this human self – happening within and as consciousness.

And in the transition between the two, it often creates experiences for itself like the one our new friend described. It still experiences itself mostly as this human self, out of habit. And it also has a sense of itself as more than that and outside of this human self. There are tastes of oneness, often as glimpses.

This helps us get used to our nature, even if our nature is not recognized very clearly at first. And it often serves as a carrot for continuing our exploration.

WHY WHEN WITH US?

Why did she experience this when she was with us?

As an infant and child, being around onenesses that take themselves to be this human self helps us mimic and learn that for ourselves. It’s what others do, so it’s what we learn to do.

And being around those who recognize their nature helps us recognize our own nature. It’s what they do, so it’s what we learn to do.

Of course, there is a lot more to this. Many things facilitate the process of recognizing our nature, even when we are around others who do. For instance, receptivity, interest, and readiness. Guidance. Active exploration. Effective pointers. And so on.

In this case, it seems she was just ready for it.

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Being stuck in the absolute is not very helpful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The banality of awakening

There is a certain banality to awakening.

WE ARE CONSCIOUSNESS

To ourselves, we are consciousness.

We can find this in our immediate experience. When I explore my first-person experience, I find my nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me, capacity for any content of experience. And I find I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

And logically, I find the same. No matter what I more fundamentally am in a conventional sense, to myself I have to be consciousness.

It may well be that I most fundamentally am this physical body and this body somehow produces consciousness.

Any experience happens in consciousness, including the experience of this human self and anything associated with it – thoughts, feelings, emotions, sights, and so on. Any experience happens within and as consciousness, including of anything thoughts may tell me I am.

So to myself, I inevitably and most fundamentally am consciousness.

To me, the world happens within and as what I am. To me, the world happens within and as the consciousness I am. To me, the world happens within and as the oneness I am.

AWAKENING

We are typically trained to take ourselves most fundamentally as something within the field of our experiences, as this human self, as an object in the world, as an I with the rest of the world as Other.

This is not wrong, but it’s not what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience.

So this assumption, and living from it, inevitably creates a sense of something being off. We metaphorically throw ourselves out of paradise, the kind of paradise that comes from finding ourselves as the oneness we are.

And in some cases, the oneness we are wakes up out of this separation fantasy and into finding itself as oneness. It finds itself as the oneness the world, in its own experience, happens within and as.

Why? It can happen spontaneously and without any obvious preparation or even conscious surface interest. (As was the case with me.)

It can also happen after some conscious and intentional exploration, especially when its sincere, dedicated, under skillful guidance, and done with receptivity, curiosity, and over some time.

WHO AND WHAT I AM

As who I am, I am this human self in the world. That’s how most others see me, it’s what my passport tells me, and it’s what my thoughts may tell me. It’s an assumption that works reasonably well.

As what I am, I am the oneness the world to me happens within and as. This is what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience, whether I notice it or not. Here, I am not most fundamentally a human being.

The first happens within and as the second. And the story of the second also happens within the second.

THE BANALITY OF AWAKENING

Awakening is often presented as something special.

And yet, it’s also very banal.

What we find is, in a certain sense, inevitable. It’s inevitable if we look with some guidance and sincerity. And it’s inevitable logically.

It’s what we already are most familiar with, whether we notice it or not. It’s what we always have been and always are.

And it’s all we have ever known. Any experience happens within and as what we are. It’s most fundamentally, and completely, what we are.

EXTRAORDINARY AND BANAL

Noticing what we really are is extraordinary in that it’s not all that common in the world today. And it certainly may seem extraordinary when the oneness we are shifts from operating from separation consciousness to recognizing itself.

It’s also banal. And to me, sinking into that noticing is a relief. It’s an antidote to stories saying it’s special.

And, of course, those are both labels with very limited validity. As anything else, the reality is more than and different from any labels or stories about it.

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The field

How do I experience myself?

Mainly, as a field. The field my experiences – right now of this room, this body, the computer, the sounds of the keys, and so on – happen within and as.

Sometimes, the focus goes more into the human self. I am the field, and there is a kind of focus on the human self. It stands out a little more.

And I am also very aware that many parts of my psychology still operate from separation consciousness. They too happen within and as the field, and they seem to assume they are separate.

All of that is part of the richness of what’s here.

SEEING VS VISCERAL EXPERIENCE

This is also where the difference between seeing and a visceral experience comes in.

For me, it’s inevitable to find myself as this field in terms of seeing. That is the visceral experience most of the time. And sometimes, when parts of me operating from separation consciousness are triggered, the visceral experience shifts into a sense of being separate.

That too is part of the richness that is here. The field takes that form too, sometimes.

COLORING

And when I look more closely, I find that these parts of my psychology experiencing and operating from separation consciousness color everything even when they are not triggered. It may appear to not be very obvious, but it’s here.

Until all parts are liberated, the whole is not fully liberated.

And that’s OK and more than OK. It’s all how the field and the whole expresses, explores, and experiences itself. It’s part of the richness.

THE FIELD

What is this field?

It’s what I most fundamentally am. It’s what takes the form of all content of experience – the whole world as it appears to me. It’s more familiar to me than any particular content of experience. In reality, it’s all I have ever known since it’s what takes the form of all content of experience.

Thoughts can label it consciousness, or oneness, or love, or Big Mind / Big Heart, or – if we want to be more fanciful – Spirit, the divine, Brahman, and so on. And as with anything else, labels can only point to it.

How can we find it for ourselves?

In one sense, we are this human self in the world. It’s how most others see us, it’s what our passport tells us, it’s what our own thoughts may tell us since we have learned it from others. It’s not wrong and it’s an assumption that works reasonably well. Although it does have some inevitable drawbacks since it’s partially out of alignment with reality. (It tends to create an underlying sense of something being off, and – to the extent our system pretends it’s true – it tends to create discomfort.)

And yet, is that what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience? And how can we explore this for ourselves?

We can explore it through basic meditation. Notice and allow what’s here in this field of experience, and notice it’s already noticed and allowed. Through this, we may get a visceral sense of how any and all content of experience comes and goes. And yet, something doesn’t come and go. What is that? Is that what I more fundamentally am? How is it to find myself as that?

We can explore it by investigating our sense fields, and especially how our mental field combines with the other fields to make sense of the world and help us function in the world. (And how it also can create a sense of fundamentally being something within our field of experience, this human self, even if that’s not the full picture.)

We can perhaps most easily and directly explore it through guided noticing. The most effective approaches I have found are Headless experiments (from Douglas Harding) and the Big Mind process (Genpo Roshi).

“We are not humans”

I like overhearing fragments of conversations and finding the truth in them.

The other day, walking on Karl Johan in Oslo, I overheard someone saying: We are not humans. (“Vi er ikke mennesker”.)

I have no idea what he may have meant, but I can find some truth to it.

I AM A HUMAN IN THE WORLD

In some ways, I am this human self in the world. That’s how most others see me. It’s what my passport tells me. It’s what my mind tells me when it has that thought. And it’s an assumption that works pretty well. It’s a story with some validity.

WHAT I MORE FUNDAMENTALLY AM

When I look more closely in my own first-person experience, I find something else. I find that I more fundamentally am something else.

I am more fundamentally capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am capacity for any experience that’s here. For what’s seen, heard, felt, tasted, smelled, thought, and so on.

And I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am what the world to me happens within and as. (And with “the world” I mean any content of experience, any thoughts, sensations, sights, sounds, and so on. This human self and anything associated with it. Others. The wider world. States that come and go. And so on.)

A thought may call this oneness. Or consciousness. Or even Spirit or the divine. It doesn’t matter so much.

I AM NOT HUMAN (!)

What matters in this context is that, in my own first-person experience, I am most fundamentally not human.

On the one hand, what I am is what’s already the most familiar to me. It’s what I have known for my whole existence. It’s all I have ever known since what I am takes the form of any experience.

On the other hand, it can be a bit shocking and unnerving to realize this and take it in. It goes against our conditioning.

To myself, I am not most fundamentally human.

We are not humans. Just like the random guy on the street said.

BOTH TOGETHER AND INSEPARABLE

And at the same time, we are very much humans in this world.

What I am allows and takes the form of this human self in the world. And realizing this allows me to even more deeply embrace my humanity and all of who this human self is.

Awakening comes from and is a kind of maturity

Through an imagined dialog with someone who has lived for eons, it became more clear to me that awakening – noticing our nature – is, in a way, inevitable with enough time and experience. Especially if we have some receptivity and curiosity.

A NATURAL PROCESS OF RECOGNIZING OUR NATURE

Why? Mainly because all content of experience comes and goes, and that includes anything we may take ourselves to be within the content of experience.

Given enough time, we gain a great deal of familiarity with this. With some receptivity, curiosity, and authenticity, we will eventually consciously recognize it. And that leads to the realization that we cannot most fundamentally be anything in particular within the content of our experience.

So what are we, more fundamentally, in our own first-person experience? We may find we are what the world, to us, happens within and as. We are what this human self, others, the wider world, thoughts and ideas, feelings, states, and anything else happens within and as.

Since we don’t live for eons, this natural process tends to not come to fruition in most cases.

And we can compress and support this natural process so it does come to fruition. We can engage in basic meditation, noticing and allowing any content of experience. (And notice it’s already allowed and noticed.) We can explore what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience. We can use pointers and practices from a range of different traditions. We can find someone familiar with the terrain to guide us.

AWAKENING COMES FROM AND IS A KIND OF MATURITY

In this way, we can say that awakening comes from a kind of maturity.

It’s a natural process that may be more or less (?) inevitable given enough time.

It’s a natural process that can be compressed and sped up through various practices and intentional explorations.

And it’s a more mature way of noticing and living. It’s the oneness we are finally recognizing itself as any and all experience, as the world as it appears to us.

AWAKENING AND MATURITY IN GENERAL

There are several connections between awakening and maturity.

Awakening itself is a kind of maturity. It seems to come as a natural result of noticing the reality of our experience, which is a kind of maturity.

Awakening is supported by several types of maturity. It’s supported by ordinary life experiences and noticing patterns, including that all content of experience changes. It’s also supported by innate characteristics present when we are more healthy and mature. For instance, receptivity, curiosity, sincerity, and authenticity. And from sincerely wishing to know our nature, or truth, or love, or the divine.

Awakening tends to support this human self to mature further. It can open up for and deepen sincerity, authenticity, and receptivity, and a sincere wish to know our nature, truth, love, or the divine.

Our relationship with our nature matures over time and through familiarity. We deepen into it. We explore how to live from and as it. We may even explore how to share it with others, as travelers shares stories of the places they are familiar with.

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Everyday mystics

I am a classic everyday mystic.

Most people who know me don’t even know I am into this, but it’s a – or the – central part of my life.

I just live it and explore it quietly in daily life, and write a bit about it here or in paper journals as I have since the shift in my teens.

I am not a very good writer or communicator. I have not been called to take on a more public role. And the essence of what I write about hasn’t changed since my teens. (The changes are more in the details.)

LIKE MOST PEOPLE INTO SOMETHING

This is just like most people who are into something, whether it’s playing the piano, chess, history, or anything else.

Most people do it for their own enjoyment and are not very public about it. They may share a bit for a small group – of friends, family, or folks on the internet, and it may be appreciated because it’s simple, sincere, and does come with a unique flavor (as anything anyone does).

ANY MYSTIC IS AN EVERYDAY MYSTIC

Of course, any mystic is mostly an everyday mystic, even if some sometimes take on the role of a book writer or public speaker or spiritual teacher. These roles are fleeting, like any role.

It’s lived in daily life. It is, in a sense, ordinary to us.

EVERYONE IS AN EVERYDAY MYSTIC

And we are all everyday mystics, whether we know it or not.

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

We are all oneness living daily lives through and as our human self in the world.

We are living from and as oneness, whether we notice or not.

In that sense, we are all mystics.

We are oneness exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself through and as our life and all our experiences.

WHAT IS A MYSTIC?

In a more narrow and conventional sense, a mystic is someone sincerely engaged in exploring their nature and how to live from and as it in the world.

It’s a oneness engaged in noticing and exploring itself, and how to live from and as it through and as this human self in the world.

There has to be an aspect of direct noticing and living from and as it.

There has to be a sincere interest in the essence of what this is all about: our nature. Not just a fascination with states and experiences that come and go. (Although that can be the beginning of it.)

And, of course, most don’t go around calling themselves mystics. I am doing it here just for the purpose of this article.

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The more you feel your feelings….

The more you feel your feelings, the easier it is to understand them.

As usual, I would say ”yes“ and ”no” and ”it depends”.

What do we mean with feelings? For me, it’s anything with a sensation component – what we call physical sensations, emotions, emotional and physical pain, and also states and contractions.

Crucially, beliefs and identifications also have a physical sensation component and a story component, and may be called feelings, pain, states, a contraction, and so on.

I assume the quote mainly refer to sensations and emotions we experience as uncomfortable or undesirable, although it goes for anything with a sensation component.

WHEN IT DOESN’T HELP TO FEEL OUR FEELINGS

We may feel our feelings and emotions in a quick and somewhat reactive way, and that won’t help us understand them. (Or anything else.)

We may feel our feelings and emotions without identifying the painful stories behind them. This won’t help us understand where the feelings come from or what keeps fueling them.

We may feel our feelings and emotionsand get caught up in and actively fuel (some of) the painful stories behind or elated to them, and that won’t necessarily help us examine these painful stories to find what’s more true for us.

BEFRIENDING AND EXAMINING IN A MORE SKILLFUL WAY

And we may feel our feelings and examine what’s going on in a more skillful way.

We can feel the feelings as physical sensations. Notice where in our body we feel it. Notice that they are physical sensations. Rest in that noticing. Notice the (infinite) space they are happening within. And so on.

We can welcome them. Allow them. Notice they are already allowed. (By mind, space, life, existence.)

We can shift how we relate to them through heart-centered practices like ho’oponopono and tonglen. (We can do ho’o towards the emotions or us experiencing them, and we can do tonglen towards ourselves experiencing them.)

We can dialog with the feeling or emotion. How does it experience the world? How does it experience me? How does it see me relating to it? What function does it have? What’s the deepest intention behind it? How can it genuine help and support me? How can I relate to it differently so we can have a more beneficial partnership?

Through dialog – and evoltionary psychology and our own experience – we can come to find the value in the energies of feelings and emotions. Anger, when used in a less reactive way, has energy that helps us get things done and change situations. Sadness helps us contemplate and examine past situations and our painful stories around it, and if used wisely, it may help us find a deeper resolution. Happiness shows us what our personality likes and encourages us to do more of it, and we may also discover that gratitude gives us a deeper sense of contentment and happiness independent of situations. And so on.

We may identify the story components associated with the feeling, see if it’s a painful story, and examine it and find what’s more true for us. (Which is typically far more peaceful.) .We may identify and explore different kinds of stories. For instance, the story which labels the physical sensation creating the appearance of an emotion or physical contraction. The stressful stories creating the contraction. And the stories that create a reaction to the emotion or contraction.

Through these story-level explorations, we may find that the emotions and feelings are here to protect us. They come, ultimately, from love and are an expression of love. And that may make it easier for us to meet them with kindness, befriend them, and get to know them. It makes it easier for us to genuinely thank them for protecting us and for their love for us. And it makes it easier to identify and explore the painful stories they often operate from, which are an expression of confused love, and find what’s more true for us.

We can sit with the feelings and emotions in basic meditation, noticing and allowing them as any other experience. We notice them. Feel the physical sensations. Notice they are already allowed. Notice they come and go as any other content of experience. And perhaps even use it to find ourselves as what doesn’t come and go, as the no-thing that it all happens within and as.

It’s not wrong that I am a human being in the world. That’s what the world, my passport, and my own mind may tell me, and it works relatively well in a practical sense. And yet, is it what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience? What I find is that I more fundamentally, to myself, am capacity for the world as it appears to me and what the world happens within and as. I find I am consciousness and the world, to me, happens within and as this consciousenss. That seems to be my nature. And when I explore feelings and emotions, I find that they are the same. They have the same nature as I do. They happen within and as what I am, so we share nature. This too shifts how I relate to these feelings and sensations.

In all of these ways, and many more, I can explore and get to know feelings and emotions. I can recognize them as physical sensations with a story component. I can identify and examine the story, and find what’s more true for me. I can make use of the energy within the emotion. I can notice it’s content of experience and comes and goes and changes as any other content of experience. I can use that to find myself as what they happen within and as and find my more essential nature. And I can notice that the nature of the feelings and sensations is the same as my own nature, and rest in that noticing and allowing it to work on me.

This may sound simple when written out this way, and it is simple in a way, but it can also be challenging since most of us learn to avoid certain feelings and emotions from an early age. We learn to ignore them. Pretend they aren’t there. Distract ourselves from them. React to them so we won’t need to feel them or acknowledge them. And so on. The way we react to them can take a wide range of forms, but it’s always compulsive. It can take the form of compulsive work, entertainment, relationships, sex, food, talking, thinking, going into ideologies, going into blame, shame, and victimhood, and much more.

How have I explored sensations and emotions and how I relate to them? Through all of these ways and more over a few decades – basic meditation, evolutionary psychology, Process Work, Big Mind dialog, the work of Byron Katie, Kiloby / Living inquiries, and more recently through the Befriend & Awaken process which is a combination of these.

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Awakening doesn’t change our life?

I have been reading The Triune Self: Confessions of a Ruthless Seeker by Mike Snider and love it as I loved the two talks he gave on request from Adyashanti.

He is clear. He follows his own path. He is unfraid to call out what he sees as bullshit often found in nondual and spiritual communities.

In general, I feel a deep resonance with what he talks and writes about and his process, and he has been unfailingly kind and wise in the few interactions I have had with him.

At the same time, there is one thing I am curious about. He says that his nature recognizing itself – AKA awakening – didn’t change who he is in the world. (This is based on memory since it’s a few weeks since I read it, and my memory is not so good these days due to CFS and post-covid brain.)

Why does he emphasize this point? And does awakening lead to a transformation of our human self and life in the world or not?

AWAKENING IS ITS OWN THING

It’s true that awakening doesn’t neccesarily lead to an immediate transformation at the human level.

Oneness recognizing itself doesn’t depend on anything in particular within the content of experience. It doesn’t require our human self or life to be any particular way. (Apart from having the basic psychological makeup to allow for awakening.)

And the noticing itself doesn’t neccesarily transform our human self or life in the world. At least not right away.

AWAKENING AND TRANSFORMATION

And it’s also not the full picture.

In my experience, there is an ongoing and lifelong process of transformation that happens at many levels and in many areas.

One is transformation in perception. This is a shift from oneness viscerally taking itself as something within itself (this human self and ideas about this human self) to noticing itself to viscerally finding itself as oneness to different layers of its nature (oneness, love, capacity etc.) revealing itself to itself in new ways.

An aspect of this is transformation of identity, of what oneness viscerally takes itself to be.

And then there is the transformation of our human self – of our psychology and life in the world.

Many parts of our psyche were formed within and still operate from separation consciousness and these will inevitably color our perception and life in the world. If they are not actively triggered, they still color our perception and life. And if they are triggered, oneness may get more strongly caught up in them and more obviously perceive and live from them.

That’s inherently uncomfortable. And it gets even more uncomfortable when the oneness we are recognizes itself.

And it seems that awakening sets in motion a process of transforming our human self so more of it is gradually more aligned with oneness recognizing itself.

Some of that transformation may happen through various practices before our nature recognizes itself. Some may happen in the moment the recognition happens. And in many or most cases (?), most of that transformation happens after and within oneness recognizing itself.

We may intentionally support that process through various practices and our attention, receptivity, and sincerity.

And, in my experience, most of it happens through unprocessed psychological material surfacing on its own. Often, as a trickle. And sometimes, uninvited and to an extent that can be overwhelming, disorienting, and scary to our human self. (When that happens, we may label it as a kind of dark night.) This may be triggered or amplified by life events and loss – of willpower, health, friends, family, belongings, status, reputation, and so on.

This process happens whether we consciously want it or not, and it often happens in ways that our personality doesn’t like. It’s happens by necessity in that way since it’s a process of our old patterns and conditioning wearing off and something different and more authentic emerging instead. And then that may be worn off so something new and more authentic can emerge. And so on.

WHY THE EMPHASIS ON THE FIRST?

So why did Mike Snider emphasize that his human life didn’t change?

There may be several reasons.

One is that his life didn’t change to any significant degree. Perhaps his life already is relatively authentic and loving? (It seems that way.)

Another may be that he wants to emphasize that awakening is not about getting anything or getting anything from it. It’s about our nature noticing itself, not really about any secondary transformations. If it happens, fine. But it’s secondary and a side-effect.

THE VALIDITY IN BOTH

That’s true. And it’s especially true, in my experience, that a too strong focus on getting something out of it distracts from a simple noticing of our nature and living from that noticing.

At the same time, the transformation does happen and it’s important. Our human life is important. How we live our life is important. It’s important for our human self. And it’s important for others.

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