Inviting feedback and comments from readers Sunday, March 25, 2007 |
Please note the new address for this blog: www.absentofi.org (also a good place to post new comments.) Thanks!
I am curious about who is reading this blog, so if you'd like to post a comment or feedback here - whether you are a new or regular reader - please go ahead!
Anything goes, including thoughts you have along the lines of "he's ..." and "this is ..." Chances are, you are right, and seeing it may help me find it for myself as well. What is it that I am not seeing?
Also, what - if anything - do you find helpful for yourself? What would you like to see more of? Less of?
I am writing this blog mostly for my own benefit, although if someone gets something out of it beyond that, even better! You may discover something by exploring for yourself something referred to in these writings, or you may realize that "no, that's definitely not how it is for me" which also helps you clarify it for yourself.
Inherent neutrality Friday, March 23, 2007 |
We can explore the inherent neutrality of anything happening from its emptiness and its form sides.
From the emptiness side, it is emptiness dancing. It is awake emptiness itself taking various forms, in an unending stream. There is nothing inherently good or bad, or desirable or undesirable, in it. Just the play of the void.
From the form side, we can explore the many stories about it and their reversals and find the grain of truth in each of them. This reveals that they are all only relative truths. In a sense, they all cancel each other out, revealing the inherent neutrality of the situation.
Together, there is a more thorough exploration of the inherent neutrality of anything happening, gradually allowing us to release identification with more and more stories, including our core ones. Which, over time, allows Ground to start noticing itself, more and more, in our daily lives.
When there is a Ground awakening, there is a complete freedom to allow what is.
Of course, Ground always allows what is. The only difference is that sometimes, it is identified with its content, and tries to resist other content, which creates a sense of struggle. When it awakens to itself, it sees that it always and already allows any and all content. It is effortless. It is what already is.
It is a no-thing allowing any thing. A void allowing any content. Space, not resisting anything happening within it.
Ultimately, it allows it all because "it all" is no other than itself. It is awake emptiness allowing content, because this content is no other than awake emptiness itself.
I am often struck by the simplicity of awakening. And if it is an awakening to what we already and always are, why shouldn't it be simple? That doesn't mean that it easy, though. Often, it seems impossible and confusing, until it happens and it is revealed as utterly simple. In some ways, it was the complexity we added to it that held the temporary misidentification in place.
There are many ways of talking about it, and none are really that accurate. As with anything put into words, it becomes a relative truth, limited and with all its reversals true as well.
One is to say that what is awakens to itself.
Another, as awake emptiness awakening to itself, and to form as no other than itself.
Or as awakeness awakening to itself, no longer identifying with any of its content... with sensations, thoughts, this human self, the soul level, or anything else that is content of awakeness. And then realizing that it is all one field, all awake emptiness and form inherently absent of any separate self anywhere.
Or as the void awakening to itself as void, absent of everything... of form, substance, human self, soul, luminosity, any thing-ness, any thing separate from any other thing. And then realizing that all content is no other than this void, emptiness dancing, still absent of any separate self.
Or as the Ground of awake emptiness awakening to itself. The no-thing which allows all things, already and always. The Ground which allows any and all content, utterly independent of its particulars.
And even if it remains just a map, or a memory of a glimpse, or a vague intuition, this map can be helpful. It can help us see that content is not it, no matter how amazing and beautiful it is. Whatever changes, whatever comes and goes, is not it. What remains, is. The no-thing that remains, utterly free from yet allowing any thing, any content, any experience.
Forms of awakening: ordinary, amazing and neutral Thursday, March 22, 2007 |
Sometimes I wonder if these large-themed posts have much value. But then I notice that although these themes have to do with the big picture, they also reflect what is alive here now, in immediate awareness.
The human self, yes, right here, with its thoughts, sensations, emotions, actions in the world. The soul, yes, also right here, as the alive presence (more or less in the foreground, and filtered in different ways.) The spirit, yes, also right here, as the stainless awareness all of this is happening within and to, and even as. Even if it is temporarily identified with its content, forgetting about itself, the spirit level is still here. It is just spirit temporarily forgetting about itself.
One of the big picture themes is the different forms of awakenings... to our human self, to the soul, and to spirit.
An awakening to our human self is an awakening to the evolving whole of who we are as a human. This whole which is reflected in everything in the wider world. All I see out there, I can find in here.
An awakening to the soul is an awakening to the alive presence, filtered in innumerable ways, yet always with a sense of aliveness, vibrancy, timelessness, transparency into the void.
An awakening to the spirit is an awakening not only to, but as emptiness, as the void, the ground of all form. It is an awakening as the void, which is the same everywhere and always. To the awake void, which is timeless and spaceless, pure seeing. To the awake void which is no other than form, absent of a separate self anywhere.
The first type of awakening is a deepening into our humanity, a healing, development and maturing into becoming a more whole and mature human being. It is a deepening into our individual humanity, which is also a deepening into our shared humanity, opening for a real sense of intimacy, recognition, fellowship, empathy, compassion, and understanding. I recognize in myself what I see in you, and in you what I recognize in myself. In many ways, it is a deepening into ordinariness, becoming a more thoroughly ordinary human being, to whom nothing human is foreign.
The second form of awakening is an awakening into the extraordinary... into the alive presence, the luminous blackness, the fertile darkness, the indwelling god with is infinite love, intelligence, receptivity and its guidance, the alive luminosity, the brilliancy... all of this, which seems to extraordinary when we are used to identifying exclusively as a human being.
And the third form of awakening is a strange one. It is an awakening into and as void. As the void all form, all content of awareness, anything at the soul and human levels, arises within and as. In some ways, it is completely neutral. There is, literally, nothing there. No content needs to change for this awakening. Pain, fine. Bliss, fine. Even confusion, fine. It can all be there. The void can still awaken to itself, as void, and as emptiness dancing as all these temporary forms.
Together, there is the deepening into the fullness and ordinariness of a human life, the amazing qualities of the soul level, and the utter neutrality of the ground.
One of the things that brings up discomfort in me (=shadow) is people who seem agitated, driven in an unsettled way, haunted, hunted... who perform daily activities in a harsh way.
I notice for myself that when I feel this way, it is because I have created a box for life and myself, through beliefs and identities, and life comes up with something that is outside of this box, reminding me that it is too small. It comes knocking, I try to ignore it, it keeps knocking, and I become unsettled and agitated, haunted by its presence.
So what happens when I become unsettled when there are unsettled people around? I have a belief that people should be more conscious, more at peace with what is, and I also have an identity for myself as more conscious than that, and more at peace. So what the person is doing comes up outside of the box, and is unsettling to me. Their behavior becomes a reminder of what I left out in my views and identities, and that is exactly what unsettles me and haunts me.
As usual, what I see out there, in someone else, is exactly what is happening right here, at the same moment. It is a precise mirror.
I think he is stupid, and maybe it is a little stupid of me to believe that? What do I really know? Maybe there are some good reasons for his choices and actions? I think she is agitated and shouldn't be, and as I believe that, I am agitated because what is shouldn't be, according to my story. I think someone is brilliant, and right there, there is a hint of my own brilliancy in even noticing. I admire someone for having an open heart, and if my own heart was not at least partially open, I wouldn't recognize or admire it.
The whole process of having things show up outside of the box can be unpleasant, but it is also a good thing. Life invites me to examine those beliefs and identities, broaden them to make them more widely inclusive, and eventually allow any identification with them to release.
A practice I have found interesting (although it gets repetitive after a while!) is to explore the infinite causes to any simple activity I engage in, or even any belief or identity that comes up.
This morning, I did it on the belief that I need to be successful in the world, roughly as society defines it.
Following the trail of causality, I see that it comes from first an innocent thought (a question), which is then taken as true, which in turn may lead to certain behaviors. And this thought, and the tendency to take it as true, comes from my birth family and my upbringing, and that in turn comes from the larger society - which also whispers the same in my ear now, which in turn comes from our civilization, and going far enough back, I see that it (most likely) has to do with survival. To survive, as an individual and group, we need to be successful in specific ways, and the more successful, the better the chances to survive. And this in turn comes from the evolution of this planet, the universe as a whole, and the universe as it appears now - supporting everything happening locally.
This larger perspective helps me see how it is just a belief. It comes from a natural impulse for self-preservation, and is added onto it to support it.
Whatever I choose to explore in this way, and it can be in far more detail than this, reveals a similar pattern, going from thought, taking it as true and/or acting on it, my upbringing, to culture, to civilization, to survival and biology, to the evolution of Earth as a whole, and the evolution of the universe as a whole, and then the unfolding of the universe as a whole, and all of it as it is present now, supporting what is happening here locally.
This is of course just another story, but it does poke some holes in the sense of a separate self right here being in charge.
Dear Sangha and Supporters,
As you may already know, we're offering a limited hardcover edition of my forthcoming book, Big Mind / Big Heart: Finding Your Way. These specially printed and bound books will be signed and numbered, and will only be available to those who order them before publication.
We are wishing to publish it ourselves, as the new Big Mind Publishing company. In this way, we will maintain full control of the editorial content and appearance of the book. My experience in having my work issued by other publishing companies has been that I have had to compromise my intent and style to please the publishers. In order to avoid this we are planning to raise enough capital for the printing, advertising and promotion, and other costs.
Our goal is to sell at least 300 copies to finance this project. As of right now we have sold just about 100 copies. So that we don't have to go to an outside publisher, I would like to encourage you, if you haven't already ordered one or more copies, to order now; or if you have already ordered a copy, to think about ordering additional copies as gifts.
The original deadline for ordering was the end of March, but since we haven't yet raised enough to go to press, we are pushing the deadline forward to April 15th. We are only printing as many of these hardcover books as are pre-ordered. Afterwards it will not be possible to buy the book in hardcover; it will only be available in paperback. You can order by clicking the following link: Big Mind / Big Heart: Finding Your Way Special Edition
I am including here some short excerpts which will give you a taste of the book.
With thanks for your continued support,
A tough one III: the dark nights of the soul and senses Tuesday, March 20, 2007 |
There are many forms of dark nights... In a more technical sense, there are two of them, and in a loose - daily - sense, lots of them.
The two formal ones are...
- The dark night of the senses, which is an initial stripping away of beliefs and identities, enough to notice all as God, to notice that everything is a field of awakeness, of consciousness, even of awake emptiness. It can be painful, maybe an experience of being pulled apart, dismembered, even of dying. What dies is really only beliefs and identities, but when we are identified with these, when we take ourselves as that, the experience is of being dismembered and dying. For me, this was a very intense time, but there were lots of rewards in the middle of it as well. It was painful, but also immensely blissful.
- The dark night of the soul, which is similar but goes more to our core beliefs and identities, and specifically the one of a separate self, of someone that this is all happening to. Here, any and all beliefs are stripped away, and it often happens through a profound disillusionment. Everything that we found comfort in is stripped away, taken away from us, and none of our practices have meaning or even work anymore. Nothing is left. God is gone. Any sense of accomplishment is gone. Any ideas of being special, or chosen, are gone. There is no place to anchor any of those beliefs anymore. They get stripped away, whether we want or not, and most often we desperately cling to them as long as we can, making the torment even stronger for ourselves.
And having cleared out even more, including the sense of a separate self, through the dark night of the soul, the emptiness is revealed in its completeness. When I am gone, emptiness is revealed, as the Ground of it all... of awakeness itself, of the soul level, of mind, of form. It is all emptiness dancing, already and always absent of any trace of any separate self anywhere.
Our core belief, and core identity, of a separate self is greatly diminished through the dark night of the senses, and that is exactly what allows the soul realm to be noticed and come more into the foreground. Here, there can be a sense of no separation, of all - absolutely all - as God, as divine, as consciousness, as the divine mind, there can even be a sense of oneness, but there is still a trace of a sense of a separate self here. And this serves as an anchor for a sense of being special, privileged, of having accomplished something, of being chosen.
The dark night of the soul takes care of that. Every reason for feeling special, privileged, of having accomplished something, of being chosen, is taken away. And none of the practices or tools that at one point work so easily and so well, have any use anymore. They are all broken.
Where the dark night of the senses is more of a dismemberment and a sense of dying as a human being, the dark night of the soul is a deep existential falling away... my most core identity of being something at all, separate from anything else, is wrestled away... leaving just emptiness. No angels. No luminosity. No bliss. Nothing special. Just emptiness. The emptiness that allows, and is, the dance of everything.
The dark night of the senses leads into an amazing awakening, with lots of bells and whistles... God in all its glory. Alive luminosity. Guidance. Inner God, and all as God. Amazing insights. Amazing abilities to do things in the world. Amazing energies.
The dark night of the soul leads into nothing at all. At the threshold of it, it appears thoroughly boring, neutral, like nothing. And inside of it, there is the Ground of all, that which allows the dance of everything. It is nothing special. Just what is, here and now, always.
The void that never changes, and allows all change. The no-thing that allows all things. The absence of everything which allows the fullness of everything. The groundless ground, which already and always allows every fruit.
The bottom falls out of everything. Leaving only the dance of emptiness, with no separate I anywhere.
So when we start letting go of some of the identities that I described in previous posts, what is left? What, if anything, is revealed?
For me, it has to with simply seeing what is already more true for me, in immediate experience, without knowing in advance what I will find or am looking for, and doing it for its own sake.
If I think I know what I'll find, I am creating another box for myself. I have an agenda. Receptivity to what is really there goes out the window.
If I do it for some other motive, to find release, to get rid of discomfort, to get somewhere, then I am creating yet another box. Again, there is an agenda there. And again, receptivity - or even interest - in what is really there, goes out.
Thinking I know what to find, and doing it for a particular result, is just another way for me to limit myself, to box myself, life, existence, and even God, into a far smaller space than where it already is. It may look safe for a while, but is in the long run nothing but a dead end.
I think I'll get something or somewhere by doing it, but all I am doing is boxing myself in. Staying put.
What it all comes back to, and down to, is doing it for its own sake. I engage in inquiry, for the sake of doing inquiry. I engage in headlessness, for the sake of headlessness. I am with experiences, for the sake of being with experiences.
And seeing all the parts of me that is not doing it just for its own sake, is part of it as well. Allowing even that. Being with even that. Seeing even that, as what is, right here and now. For its own sake.
In a previous post, I wrote about what we all probably go through in periods: a sense that all our work has had no effect. Old patterns come up, as before, as if nothing had happened. And this is another invitation to see our beliefs and identities... My work should pay off. My life should be getting easier. I should see progress. I should get somewhere. It is an invitation to see all of these, how one-sided, limited and - yes, even limiting they are, and loosen the grip on these beliefs. These too are boxes i try to put life and myself inside of, and life is far more than what can go inside of any box.
Not only do the old patterns come up as before, but my tools don't work anymore either
Another part of this, which I forgot in the initial post, is that my tools don't seem to work anymore. For instance, last night as I was falling asleep, there was a lot coming through, and a slight sense of uneasiness about it. I thought, well - I know how to deal with these things, and tried to be with it, allow it all including resistance, finding myself as headless, doing a journey (ala active imagination and process work) and other things. But nothing worked. Nothing had any effect. Tools that had been trusted companions for so long were useless. And here too, there is an invitation to recognize beliefs and identities... I know how to work with these things. I have skills that allows me do deal with what comes up. I know some of the secrets of the mind. I am familiar enough with the terrain so I can navigate it with more ease.
Boxes and what is outside
All of these are narrow beliefs and identities. Boxes limiting, in my own view, what life, and my life, is and can be. They create a boundary, allowing some things inside and putting other things outside, and then life brings up what is outside and it keeps knocking on our door. Reminders of the boundary, that it is false, and an invitation to see this and find ourselves as big enough to allow what is outside as well. It is an invitation for a wider embrace, partly in our conscious view, but far more importantly in the depth of our life, and in how we live our daily life.
Eventually, what is revealed is very simple... it is just what already and always is... life as it is. Revealed as inherently neutral, as simply the dance of life, of existence, of God, Brahman, Tao.
Absent of beliefs, of taking relative truths as absolute, and absent of identification with identities, it is revealed in its utter simplicity, simpler than what words have any chance of describing.
It has been very alive for me how I box myself and life in through beliefs and identities. I create a dividing line through life, and saying that this is true and ok and that is not (beliefs) and I am this and not that (identities.)
Since life is bigger than any box I try to put it and myself inside of, it will come knocking on the door. It wants to be let in, and ultimately, it invites me to allow boxes in general go... or at least the taking of them as true, and the taking of them as defining who I am.
When life comes knocking, when it shows me that my belief is flawed and my identity too narrow, and I resist and try to hold onto my beliefs and identities, there is stress.
The parallel is very close to having someone knocking at the door of my house that I don't want to let in. I try to ignore it, I become agitated, tense, frustrated, rigid, angry, sad, depressed... there may even be a sense of being driven, hunted, haunted. At times, there may be a relief. Whomever is trying to get it is not there anymore, or at least has quieted down. But after a while, it comes back. The knocking is there again. And my stress is there again.
The only solution is to take a closer look at what is happening. Is this boundary, this idea that I take as real, really an accurate reflection of life, and of what may already be more true for me? And is this boundary, this identity I take as defining who I am, an accurate reflection of who and what I am, in my own immediate experience? Is there something that is already more true for me, if I am receptive to it and examine it closer? And is what I find closer to what life is trying to tell me about itself and my life?
Beliefs have their own shadows, and beliefs also create identities with their own (very similar) shadows.
The shadow of a belief is all the reversals of the thought or idea believed in. The shadow of an identity is anything that does not fit into the identity. And any belief creates an identity.
Say I have the thought that people shouldn't lie, and believe in it.
The shadow of the belief is the grain of truth in each of its turnarounds, mainly that people should lie. Why should they? Because they do. And because people often have good reasons for it, at least as it appears to themselves. There are many reasons why people should lie, and even the gifts in it, and I can always find one more.
The shadow of the identity is the ways I lie. My identity is as someone who does not lie, so the shadow is the ways I lie in my own life. How do I lie? At one level, everything I say is a lie, or rather at best only a relative and limited truth. At another, more conventional level, I lie as well. I may come up against a threat to an identity, and come up with an (apparently innocent) lie to protect it. And I also lie to myself in many ways. I lie to myself when I believe in any thought, since I at another level already know it is not true. The list is endless, and here too, I can always come up with yet another example.
The shadow of the belief has to do with how I box the world in, and the shadow of the identity has to do with how I box myself in. And the two are of course closely related, just two faces of the same boxing in.
A tough one: an identity of wanting to get somewhere Sunday, March 18, 2007 |
As the process of exploring who and what we are moves along, we get to more and more core identities... We come face to face with them, how they are all too narrow, their (mostly unpleasant) effects on our life and the lives of those around us, and the necessity of surrendering them.
Last weekend was one of those times when core identities came to the surface. I found myself in the midst of a judgment and irritability attack, where everything was a trigger for both to come up. Not only was I helpless in doing anything about it, it also seemed that all my work in the past was for nothing... that its effect was zero. I was back in the grips of old patterns just as before, maybe even worse than before. (This weekend, my partner went into something very similar.)
And this too can be seen as a deepening of the process.
It is a wearing off of core identities and beliefs... of an identity of wanting to get somewhere... wanting my practice to pay off... wanting my life to be good... wanting a sense of ease...
All of these identities and beliefs came up against reality, and lost, as beliefs always do. Reality always wins, hands down. Even if we try to hold onto identities, the inevitable friction between identity and reality makes them erode... it may be a painful process, and it may take a while, but they do erode... And we can make it a little easier by seeing what is going on, bringing the identities into awareness, seeing how they are too limiting, and consciously allowing them the freedom to fall away.
I have had the pleasure of spending some time with Deep Surface lately, including at the Center for Sacred Sciences this morning, and he asked Joel a really good question.. one that I am sure comes up for most of us sooner or later, and probably over and over in slightly new ways.
(Paraphrased:) There is an apparently separate consciousness here, and there also seems to be apparently separate consciousnesses out there, in other people and animals. What is the relationship between all of these? Is it one, many? If it is one, why does it appear as many?
Joel asked us how many consciousnesses we each have direct experience with, and the answer for all of us was one. He then also helped clarify the difference between awareness itself and its content, the seeing and the seen... the content is many and always changing... different sights, sensations, thoughts, subpersonalities and so on. But the seeing is always one, always the same.
This helped clarify it for me as well, and here is one way to talk about it:
A field of awake emptiness
The Ground of all form is awake emptiness, appearing as a field of awake emptiness throughout space.
Over here, the content of this awake emptiness is from this individual. Over there, from that individual. Over there again, from another individual.
Emptiness is always the same. Simply emptiness. Yet its content is always different. It is different here, over time. And it is different at different points in space, with content arising from different individuals (including all sentient beings.)
So the awake emptiness is one, yet its content is many. And this is also why it can be awake to itself over there, in that individual, and not here, in this individual, and so on. In one individual, it takes itself to be that content, that individual. In another, it has awakened to itself as awake emptiness, recognizing the whole field as nothing other than the same awake emptiness.
One, and many (and neither)
So is it one or many? As usual for me, the answer seems to be "yes."
It is one, in that in our own experience, there is only one. And it is one in that it is the same awake emptiness everywhere (emptiness is emptiness.)
Yet, its contents is of course many, and it appears separate until it awakens to itself as awake emptiness, recognizing the whole field as nothing other than this awake emptiness.
And also, it is such an unusual situation, at least for our minds to grasp, so we cannot really say it is one or many. It is somewhere in between, something a little different, not quite either.
Here are three general phases in befriending the shadow, letting go of narrow identities, or inquiring into beliefs (all aspects of the same process)...
- Being blindly in the grips of it, not even noticing what is going on
- Noticing it as a shadow, an identity, a belief, and exploring it
- Finding resolution through befriending and becoming intimately familiar with it, and seeing what was already more true for me than my surface belief
I know there is a monster in the back yard, and that I cannot get rid of it, but I am not happy about it either.
Exploring it further, more wholeheartedly, in my daily life and in more detail, seeing what is already more true for me, the monster is revealed as not a monster at all. I find the genuine gifts in that which was placed in the shadow, and in the situation I initially didn't want.
As in the story of Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver by Michael Ende, the demonic queen dragon turned into, when captured and kept safely in a cage, a golden dragon of wisdom. The horrors of it was real as long as it was roaming free, untamed by civilization. But through capturing it, and containing it without killing it, it was allowed to transform into golden wisdom.
What I initially was blind to, and then begrudgingly accepted, is now something there is genuine and unreserved appreciation for.
For instance, say I have a chronic illness. Initially, I am identified with getting rid of it. After a while, seeing that it hasn't worked yet, I start working on my own attitudes around it. I try to find peace with it, although I still see the illness as something awful and undesirable. Eventually, I may come to see the real gifts in the illness... I start realize what it has brought to my life that I genuinely appreciate... the maturing and deepening that has happened for me through the illness... this obstacle which nothing could be done with... I may still not have chosen it, if there had been a choice, but now, there is a genuine appreciation for it. Beyond acceptance, is appreciation.
Or I may have trouble with anger, for instance through a one-sided identity as somebody who is not angry. Anger then becomes a real problem, and something I try to avoid in myself and others. It becomes a monster in my life. Then, I may half-heartedly accept that it is here as well, although I still don't like it much. And finally, as I explore it further, I see how it supports my life when it is allowed to become a part of the team of all of me. I learn to genuinely appreciate all of its many gifts to my life... its energy, its ability to get things done in certain situations, its assistance in getting through to people if everything else fails.
In alchemy, this is the process of nigredo (the suffering of being in the grips of it), albedo (the work), and rubedo (the fruition of the work.)
After a vacation from The Work, it is now coming back although a little less intensively than before.
I need to get my life back on track.
- Is it true?
Yes, feels true. (For a part of me.)
- Can I absolutely know it is true?
No, cannot know for certain. Only my opinion, my version of the story.
Can I know that it would be better for my (or others) path?
No, I cannot know it would be better for my path, nor that it would be better for the path of others.
- How do I react when I believe that thought?
I feel that my life is off track, that it used to be on track, then got derailed, and need to get back on track again. I look for evidence for how it is not off track, and also why it used to be on track.
Where in the body do I experience it?
Sinking feeling in the chest and stomach. Uneasy feeling in the stomach.
What images do I see?
I see my examples of how it used to be on track, and now not.
How have I lived my life because of this belief?
Not appreciating my life as it is, not allowing myself to appreciate it. Choosing to not make the most out of it. Going into a victim role.
Whose business am I in when I believe that thought?
My life's business, or life's business, or God's business (not my own.)
What is the most terrible thing that could happen if I don't hold onto that belief?
I wouldn't try to get it back on track. I would be content with it as it is, not knowing that it is off track (!)
- Who would I be without the belief?
I would be content. At peace with it as it is. Appreciate it, as it is. I would find things to appreciate about it, and find ease in appreciating it.
How would I live my life differently without the belief?
I would make the most out of my life, as it is. I would find the gifts in it, appreciate it, even love it.
My life is not off track.
Yes, my story about it being off track is just that. a story. It is my interpretation of it. Something I came up with because it went in a different direction than how I thought it would go, and the way I wanted it to go.
My life is on track.
Yes. It is certainly on some sort of track, although I can't consciously quite see where it is going.
Three examples of why it is on track, even according to my definition of it:
(a) I have time and opportunity to explore these types of things, which even according to my initial definition is being "on track." (b) I am still alive, and doing OK physically and in terms of my circumstances. (c) I have people who care about me, and the other way around, which is another of my initial definitions of being on track.
I am sure I can find more:
(d) I am enjoying good music right now, and the warmth in my body of a good miso soup. The weather is pleasant, going into spring. I live in a nice house, at the edge of the woods, close to a beautiful trail going up to a butte overlooking the local region. (e) The process (of being "off track") has been very humbling for me, wearing off some of the hard and sharp edges, rounding me. Hopefully becoming more mature as a human being. This is certainly being on track, even according to my initial definition. (f) I still have many opportunities open in my life, many directions to go. Most of the initial ones actually.
Labels: own inquiry
Something is wrong Saturday, March 17, 2007 |
Any belief gives the sense that something is wrong.
We believe life should be a certain way, and it either is but can change, or it is not. In either case, there is a background sense of something being wrong, off, precarious.
And something is wrong, in a sense. But it is not what the content of our beliefs tells us. It is the belief itself... or rather, it is the natural consequence of believing in any thought that creates the sense of something being wrong. It creates a box for our life and life in general, and life doesn't fit inside any box. It insists of also being on the outside of it, which creates stress and a sense that something is wrong.
In addition to this, there seems to be an inherent knowing, or intuition, that who (the fullness of us as individuals) and what (awake emptiness) we are cannot be limited by any belief or identity. Any identity, when believed in, is a mistaken identity. So when there is a belief, the discrepancy between what is already more true for us in immediate awareness (that we cannot be limited by any identities or beliefs) and what we try to believe (creating a box for ourselves) gives us a sense that something is wrong.
So beliefs in themselves create a sense of something is wrong, and the discrepancy between intuition and belief also gives a sense of something being wrong.
Amazingly wonderful, awful, and ground Friday, March 16, 2007 |
In looking at my own path, I recognize a pattern (which is pretty obvious) that is similar to what I have heard from many others...
- First, a normal life. I was an atheist and very science oriented. For me, this lasted until my mid-teens.
- Then, an awakening. For me, it came out of the blue, and although intense also amazing and amazingly wonderful.
- Then, a dark night, as awful and the previous period was wonderful,
- And then, the Ground, finding oneself as the Ground of all of this, the play of form.
At times, it is a painful process. And at times, with a sense of ease and even bliss. But there is always the same ground, the same void it is all coming out of, the same void within it, the same void it is happening to.
And after having gone through the extremes of ups and downs, the amazingly wonderful and amazingly awful, I am ready for the Ground. The Ground allowing it all. The Ground of emptiness that cannot be reduced to anything else. The Ground which is the nothingness allowing all things.
Writing the previous post, I realize that the process of loneliness and belonging happens on three levels...
First at our identity level, where we first move out of conventional identities and into more widely embracing ones, and then out of identities altogether. The identities are there, but not identified with. This can give a sense of social loneliness, of not being able to really believe in group or conventional identities anymore, because they are revealed as too narrow, and not being able to even believe in the solidity of the human drama... because we see through, and have found peace with, the drama in our own life.
Then, as human beings, where we deepen into more of who we are which is also our shared humanity. At this level, we find ourselves as part of the human community, recognizing in you what I find in me, and the other way around. This opens for a deepening recognition and empathy, which can be both painful and sweet. Here, there is deepening sense of belonging at our human level, below all the many surface manifestations and differences.
Finally, as Spirit, I find myself as awake emptiness and form absent of a separate self. There is only the Ground which already and always free to allow any and all surface manifestations. This is the final homecoming. The final release of any sense of I and Other.
As we mature and develop, we naturally grow beyond conventional identities, and eventually beyond identities themselves. First, we shed the conventional ones of gender, age, social norms, and so on. Eventually, our identification may go out of identities altogether, finding ourselves as awake emptiness allowing a fluidity of any and all identities.
As this happens, we find ourselves increasingly alone, at least in a certain way...
- We cannot find belonging or comfort through group identities or by blindly following social norms (nor in breaking them)
- Our views and experiences are often not aligned with conventional views
- We don't play the game of narrow identification anymore
- We don't play the game of splits so much, seeing me as right and you as wrong
- The typical human drama, with all its variations, has less and less charge for us (which sometimes makes us dull, although understanding, companions for those caught up in it)
- We have to stand on our own feet
And deepening sense of belonging and connection
And although it may leave us lonely in some of these ways, not being able to believe in group identities and less caught up in the human drama, it also brings a deepening sense of belonging and connection.
As I learn about what I see in you in myself, as more and more of what I am is included in my conscious view on myself, I deepen into my own humanity, which is also our shared humanity. I find myself in you, and you in me. We are perfect mirrors for each other. There is a deepening into the sweetness, and sometimes pain, of our shared humanity.
And as identification goes out of identities altogether, finding myself as awake emptiness and form, and as emptiness as the Ground of it all, there is another deepening into intimacy. This one, as an intimacy with my life, with Existence itself. First, as a growing sense of no separation, as oneness. And then through the falling away of the core identity as a separate self, allowing wide open space for anything arising, without any sense of separation.
This is the deep homecoming. The final release of any sense of I and Other.
Increasingly lonely on the surface, and increasingly at home in the depth
So there is a process of being increasingly lonely on the surface of it, in society. Not being able to wholeheartedly play along with the games of separation anymore.
There is a process of a deepening and more intimate connection with oneself and others, through a widening embrace of who I am as a human being.
And a process of any sense of separation falling away, leaving only the wide open space for anything to arise, the void already and always allowing it all.
This is another thing that keeps coming up for me, especially as I am exploring the soul level more actively these days...
- Ultimately, there is void. Emptiness. Nothingness. And awakeness and form all show up from, within, and as this emptiness. For a while, it sounds abstract, but then becomes a living reality (even obvious).
- Then, there is awakeness, as nothing other than emptiness itself. It is awake emptiness. In itself, this awakeness takes the form of pure seeing, pure awareness, pure witness.
- Then, the soul level, alive presence, which can be filtered in innumerable ways... as alive luminosity, alive presence in the heart area (indwelling god), fertile darkness, luminous blackness, and so on. All of these too arise as emptiness, void, as emptiness dancing. The void is right there in it, and they can exist only because of and as this void.
- Finally, the world of form as we typically think of it. All the contents of awareness, from physical objects to energies to sensations to thoughts. These come and go and live their own life, and these too are no other than emptiness. Their ground and essence is the void.
So we have the void, which is the ground of all there is. It is the one thing that does not come and go, because it is no thing. It is just pure emptiness. It is what allows anything else to be, to come and go.
Then, awakeness... timeless, spaceless. This too, a no-thing.
Then, the soul level... also timeless and spaceless... Sometimes as a field without center and any particular location, but also sometimes with a particular location, as the indwelling god. The soul level comes and goes in different ways, and especially in our awareness. We may notice it, or not. It is present, or not, to us. And it seems that it can be present or not, in different ways, beyond that as well.
Finally, the form level... obviously in time and space, and actually that which creates any experience of time and space. Very much coming and going, as a stream of form.
And all of it arises as emptiness, as insubstantial, transparent, as awake emptiness itself.
Needless to say, what we take ourselves to be within all of this hugely influences our experience.
- If my center of identification is in the world of form, I am at the mercy of the world of form.
- If my center of gravity is in the soul level, I find myself as the fullness here, deeply nurtured, guided, and at home. (Breema)
- If my center of gravity is in the awakeness, I am the witness, the seeing of it all, detached yet also (apparently) free from the comings and goings of everything else. (Sitting practice)
- If the center of gravity is in emptiness, then there is only the Ground allowing all of it to exist and come and go on its own... allowing awakeness, the infinite realms of soul, and the infinite richness of the world of form. (Headless experiments)
As Ground, it is all revealed as, always and already, absent of any separate self. The seeing and the seen has one ground, one nature, they are not two... only a field of seeing-seen.
I did a phone session with Karen this afternoon, and one of the things that came up for me was the fear of nothingness... and of infinity in all direction without a center...
It is one of those gateless gates that seem so real and substantial before we step through it, yet when we are on the other side and turn around, the gate is not there... it wasn't there in the first place. It was there only in appearance, mind made, and since it was taken as real, I lived as if it was real. And still do, for that matter, to some extent.
Sometimes, we need to go through it many times, to become more familiar with the terrain, and also to really see that it isn't there - over and over, until it sinks in more.
It is only natural to have a fear of nothingness and infinity. If we take ourselves to be something and finite, which most of us do (until we don't, as Byron Katie says), then it is a terrible thing to be nothing and infinite. We die, or are stretched into spaghetti and die then too.
Either, I am here, something and finite. Or I am emptiness and infinity (and dead.) Not both. Or at least, so it seems.
Exploring two parts of the terrain
There are at least two areas of exploration here.
One is to become familiar with the terrain of emptiness and infinity, dipping into it, first noticing it as an Other, and then finding myself as it, tasting it.
The other is to become familiar with the fear around it, and the identities which appear mutually exclusive to emptiness and infinity, at least as long as I am identified with them...!
So we explore what we already are, directly, and we also explore the box which keeps us as a finite thing here and that as emptiness and infinity out there.
And at some point, it is all clarified enough so the boundaries are revealed as transparent, insubstantial, not very real, and then fall away altogether.
Finite and infinite, thing and no-thing
Now, there is still this human self here, as a finite thing in the world. That didn't change. It didn't die, or explore, or get stretched out into spaghetti.
Yet, at the same time, there is... and I am... emptiness. It is emptiness taking the temporary form of this human self and its surroundings. Emptiness dancing, as this human self and whatever else is happening.
There are lots of identities, of being human, male or female, of a particular age, liking strawberry ice cream, voting republican, and so on.
Yet, at the same time, there is no identification with these identities. They define who this human self is, in a relative sense, and that is essential for its life in the world. But they do not define what ultimately is... and what I ultimately am... emptiness.
Together, there is a far wider embrace. It is closer to what already is... an emptiness as a ground of all... an awake emptiness as the seeing... forms arising, as no other than this awake emptiness itself.
The Big Mind process is an excellent way of exploring the vulnerable little animal, or at least to get familiar with the landscape enough so the different parts of the process comes up spontaneously in daily life.
- It allows all the different voices to be heard
- It allows the personality to see and appreciate the essential function they each have
- It allows them to see their own function and role more clearly
- It allows the personality and the voices to recognize how they function now, how it serves the personality, how it does not serve the personality so well, and how the voices can serve the personality a little better
- It allows the different voices to realign and work more as a team, knowing that they all have the same role of serving the human self
- It allows for a clear seeing of how there is no separate self anywhere in all of this, not in each of the voices, and not in how they function as a whole
- It allows for each of the voices to reorganize within the context of Big Mind
- And finally, it allows for each of the voices to be loved and appreciated as they are, including to soak deeply in the love of Big Heart
This has come up for me recently... how I, at my human level, is just a vulnerable little animal, and how all the human drama is wrapped up in this.
As a little animal, I am vulnerable... tiny in a big world... ultimately at the mercy of my surroundings.
From this comes all the human drama... hope, fear, longing, suffering, denial, joy, sadness, contentment, grief, ecstasy, reactiveness, hostility, feeling lost, feeling belonging, discomfort... the whole package, comes right out of that.
And all this little vulnerable animal wants and needs is to be seen and loved. To be held in love and compassion... to soak in it... as it is, with no need to change... and in that, it does change... it does realign... reorient... knots untie... hangups unravel...
I can find myself as deep love and compassion (Big Heart) and allow all of my human self, all of the different parts, soak in this... softening... allowing the hard edges to soften...
In terms of avoiding or minimizing inflation, it is safer to actively explore the 2nd, 3rd, and zero person relationships with Big Mind (see previous post), and then just allow the 1st person relation to come and go on its own.
Inflation inherent in a sense of a separate self
Although even here, as long as there is a sense of a separate self, there will be some inflation, and it is good to notice it and take it for what it is.
There is a sense that I, as a separate self, have a relationship with God, understand something about God, or am someone who has glimpses of the ground of all existence. So I am special, different, am in a special relationship with God or existence, and so on. All of this is inflation. We take something that is inherently neutral, place a value on it, and take it as happening to a separate self.
It is inevitable, and happens all the time anyway.
There is a sense of a separate self, and with it comes an automatic sense of superiority and inferiority, richly diverse and with many different flavors. This form of inflation is just one of those, although it can be an especially nasty one, and annoying to those around, if left unchecked.
So what can we do?
Working with inflation
Again, we can work with it from the form and the emptiness sides.
From the form side, one way is notice and work with projections, and especially shadow projections.
From the emptiness side, I can find myself as headless and see that all of this is (apparently) happening to an individual who is inherently free from a separate self, and more precisely that it is really happening as awake emptiness and form, inherently absent of a separate I.
In both cases, we come to see that it is all inherently neutral, and only takes on significance, meaning, and a sense of importance, through our stories about it, and through believing in those stories.
There are many ways to relate to and explore Existence as a whole, as God, Big Mind, Brahman, Tao.
One is with a second person relationship, as a you, through prayer, gratitude, meditation, contemplation, noticing an influx of grace and energy, and so on.
Another is through a third person relationship, as an it, something to explore, inquire into, study and talk about.
Yet another is through a zero person relationship, through headlessness experiments, finding ourselves as awake emptiness and form absent of a separate I, and so on.
And finally through a first person relationship, as the one transcendent I without an Other.
And through all of them together, fluidly shifting from one to another, there is a far richer exploration going on.
Center of gravity shifting
Another way of talking about this is that our center of gravity, who or what we temporarily take ourselves to be, shifts.
In the second person relationship, we explore ourselves as an object in the world and God as the whole. This one is most readily available to anyone.
In the third person relationship, we set a part of ourselves as if outside of the whole, exploring God as an it.
In the zero person relationship, we see that there is no separate I anywhere, not even in this human self. When I am not, God is, as Meister Eckhart said.
And the flip side of a zero person relationship is a first person relationship, seeing that there is only the one transcendent I without an Other.
Freedom to explore
All these relationships happen on their own, over time, but we can also consciously give ourselves the freedom to actively explore any and all of them, when they arise on their own, or through various practices.
If we make up an identity for ourselves which leaves one or more relationship out, there is less freedom in the exploration, and there is also stress. Life will inevitably bring up what is left outside of the box we put ourselves or existence in, and when it comes knocking, we try to hold it at bay, which brings stress and discomfort.
I tell myself that the only ultimately real relationship is the zero person one (which is true), and that I shouldn't go into any other relationships (which is not true), so there is a constant fight holding them at a distance.
I tell myself that I am an object in the world (true) but not the ground of it all (not true), so I put down any mentioning of a zero or first person relationship, and get very confused if they happen on their own.
I emphasize a third person relationship, knowing a lot about it, but don't actively explore it in my own life. The wisdom, love and freedom inherent in it does not work on my life, so continuing in old patterns there is stress.
A comment left some days ago made me explore in what ways there is an absence of I in awakening.
One, and the most obvious one, is that there is an absence of I in content.
When we look of content of awareness, we find sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations and thoughts. This human self and its surroundings is arising.
And we often take a portion of this content as who we are. I am this human being, or maybe even really some portions of this human being, the ones that correspond with an identity I have made for myself. I am this human being, and I am also smart more than stupid, nice more than obnoxious, right more than wrong, and so on.
In our own experience, there is an I in this content, placed on parts of this human self.
But at some point, we start to realize that all of this has really an inherent absence of I.
And we can discover that in maybe three general ways.
One way is to find ourselves as seeing itself, as pure awareness, the witness. I am the seeing and the seen is released from having an I in it. This can happen in meditation, as a result of yoga or shaktipat, or spontaneously... We find ourselves absorbed into pure seeing, realizing that the world of form is inherently absent of an I.
Another is to find ourselves as headless, as Big Mind, as awake emptiness and form, and again realize that there is no I in any parts of all of this. Anything arising is one field of seeing-seen, form as no other than awake emptiness itself, and this field has no center of an "I". If there is an "I" here at all, it is equally distributed throughout the field.
And a third, closely related to the two other, is to inquire into the world of form itself. I notice sounds, sights, smells, tastes, sensations and thoughts all come and go, live their own life. Can I be any of these? I do not seem to come and go. Following this leads us into finding ourselves as seeing itself, and then as Big Mind.
This form of inquiry also helps us see more clearly how a sense of an I within this is created. How thoughts are taken as offering absolute truths, are associated with particular sensations, and together serve as an anchor for a sense of a separate I. When this is seen, and especially as there is more familiarity with this territory, the gestalt falls apart into its components. Where there used to be a definite sense of I, there are just thoughts and sensations arising in space.
If there is no I in the content of awareness, is there an I anywhere?
Well, for a while it may appear as if there is an I in awareness itself, as opposed to in content. I am seeing, not the seen. But then that falls away as well.
The content of awareness is not different from awareness itself. It is all awake emptiness and form, with form as no other than awake emptiness itself. There is just a field of awake emptiness and form, absent of a separate I in any of its parts. Just a field of seeing-seen, and even saying that gives an appearance of a split that is not there.
The field is absent of a separate I in any of its parts. If there is an I anywhere, it is the one I which is everywhere and nowhere in particular. The one I distributed equally throughout the field. The I without an Other.
My main practice is to simply be with what is... to fully allow it, as it is. This automatically shifts identification out of content and more into the field of awareness and its content.
Resistance = suffering, being with = Big Mind
As long as there is identification with content, there is also resistance to other parts of content, and not an allowing of all there is. I am and want this, so resist what does not fit. An allowing shifts the center of gravity more towards headlessness and Big Mind.
When this happens, there is also a sense of release... a release of grasping, of contraction, of being blindly caught up in the drama of being an object in an immensely large world with lots of very unpredictable other objects (who I need, or can harm me, or sometimes both.) There is a new freedom in this. A freedom to allow content to be as it is. A freedom to allow God's, or reality's, or life's will be done, as it unfolds here and now.
A secret hidden in plain sight
When we discover this, one of life's secrets hidden in plain view, right in front of our nose, there is almost inevitably also a thought that ha! now I know how to release suffering! I'll use this as my practice to avoid suffering and find happiness.
Wanting to change it
But what is happening there? Exactly what is creating suffering in the first place: an identification with content, seeing myself as an object here wanting this and to avoid that. I'll engage in being with what is, so I can change what is.
The solution is to be with even this. The impulse to avoid suffering and seek happiness, or at least contentment, is something arising as content, and I can be with even that. And this in turn releases some of the identification with it. It arises, as anything else, coming and going on its own.
All of this also goes for the practice of self-inquiry. I may discover that certain practices of self-inquiry releases, or at least lessens, stress and suffering, so I use it as a way to manipulate the content of my experiences. I inquire to be free from suffering and find happiness.
But again, this is a trap. In this case, it adds a motivation to the inquiry which makes it less sincere and open-ended. I think I know what will bring about a release, so I try to direct the inquiry in that direction. I have a goal, created from memories of past experiences, and try to recreate what brought me there in the past, or try to manufacture something that brings me there.
Being with, for its own sake
The only real solution to all of this is to be with what is happening, just to be with it, just to experience it fully, without getting caught up in resistance and holding onto parts of the content. To find myself as the ground of awareness, which already and always allows it all. Just for its own sake.
Inquiry, to see what is already more true for us
And with inquiries, to use them as a tool to see what is. To find what is already more true for me than what I believe. To dive down below beliefs, to what is alive in immediate awareness.
A discovery of what already is
In both cases, it is a discovery of what already is, without knowing in advance what we will find, apart from that it will be different from any memory or expectation. It is always fresh, new and different.
A note: allowing activity, even more of it
And just for the sake of making it a little more complete: allowing our experiences more fully does not mean being passive in the world. If anything, it frees this human self up to be more active and engaged, free from any holding back coming from self-consciousness. Free from the burden of being taken as an I, it can function more freely, richly and fully.