Fluidity in the Life of Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
We always assign motives to ourselves and others, and that is only natural and part of being human. The difference is in whether we believe in our thoughts or not.
I have enjoyed seeing Bob Dylan freeing himself from his own patterns and stereotypes others have created around him. He has chosen to perform at casinos, and release a selection of previously unreleased tracks through Starbucks.
One way of looking at this, is that he is "selling out" or have lost his marbles somehow. Another is to see it as following a deeper pattern - one of freedom from expectations.
Early in his carieere, in the context of conservative mainstream culture of the 50s and 60s, freedom from expectations was in opposing many aspects of this mainstream culture. Now, his freedom takes the form of acting independent of the expectations of his followers.
The key here is of course "independent". If he acts contrary to expectation, then he is still tied to the expectations of self/others. If he acts independent of these expectations, based on different guidelines, then there is some freedom from expectations.
Fluidity in the Life of Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
Karma can be looked at from several different perspectives.
Simply, it can be said to refer to habitual patterns of the mind. We engage and strengthen some patterns, and don't engage with and thus weaken other patterns. Through this, we create the conditions of our own experience - in the current and future nows.
From a slightly wider perspective, we can say that when we operate from a dualistic view - when we see one end of the polarity and not the other - then we create consequences for ourselves that allows us to see the other end of the polarity, and invites us into a more transdual view.
And it also seems that even when awareness awakens to its own nature, there is still karma. There are still some patterns of the small self that are strengthened, and other patterns that are weakened. But since we are now functioning in a more transdual way, we can see and embrace both ends of each polarity - we are not bound by exclusive attachment to one or the other. So this karma just comes up as fluid expressions of Existence, not as separate from us or as a "problem".
I see other people as noisy and insensitive in their behavior, but do not notice how noisy and insensitive my thinking is in this situation. As long as I am stuck in seeing these qualities only in the outer world, I will continue to be caught up in situations that trigger these patterns and I will continue to be caught up in this particular suffering. This is a personal suffering.
I see muself as separate from the wider world - the larger social and ecological whole - and act in ways that seem beneficial to myself while ignoring the consequences for the larger whole. But I am an intrinsic part of this larger whole, so whatever influences this larger whole comes back to influence me. By seeing a separation between myself and the larger whole, and acting from this view of separation, I harm that which supports my own life. As long as I am stuck in this view of separation, I suffer twice. Directly from the sense of lack of connection, and indirectly from the harm I inflict on the larger whole which comes back to myself in various ways. Today, this takes the form of a collective suffering - although of course experienced and created by each one of us.
I see the body and mind as separate, and act from that view of separation. This creates disease or at least dis-ease, until I see and experience the larger body/mind whole.
I see the Buddha Mind as separate from this mind. Again, this creates dis-ease until I realize there is no separation; until I experience and familiarize myself with them as one and the same.
Any time we have the view of separation, we create a dis-ease for ourselves which persist until we realize there is no separation.
There are clear distinctions and ability to act in the world on these distinctions, but no experience of absolute separation.
The terms "higher consciousness" is used quite a bit, and I have always felt uneasy about it.
Partly, it is the term "consciousness" which seems to have too much baggage - and be perceived in too many different ways by different people - to be very useful.
Partly, it is the term "higher".
To me, the more I explore awareness it seems more about peeling away. "Higher consciousness" is what is left when layers of confusion and misidentification is peeled off - but then it seems more as just plain basic consciousness. In a sense, it is in the "bottom" of everything... It is the basic ground, what is left when the confusion lightens.
This awareness here/now - experiencing the sounds of the traffic and the wind, the cool air, the light from the computer screen, the hardness of the stool - is exactly this basic consciousness. It can function in different ways - as identified only with the small self, or only with big mind, or freely with both or none - but it is still always the same.
In the first case, it functions in a somewhat confused way and creates suffering for itself. In the second/third case, it awakens to its own nature - as spacious awareness distinct from all polarities and fluid content. It functions in a more deluded way, and a more awakened way, but is still the same basic awareness.
Big Mind & The Wild
As I mentioned in a previous post, I am curious about how to explore topics from ecopsychology, deep ecology, the Universe story, etc. with the Big Mind process.
The voice of the body.
The voice of the wild (nontamed/noncivilized).
And some topics...
How the culture and the small self relates to the body and the noncivilized.
How the body/noncivilized respond, tries to get the attention of the small self.
I suspect that in our western culture, with its strongly dualistic view of humans vs. ecosystems, culture vs. nature, mind vs. body, the body and the nontamed will typically come up as not respected, ignored, or not even seen by the small self. Yet, there is an enormous vitality in just these voices - which could be accessed by the small self if there is more of a partnership between these voices and the self.
There is a vitality, freshness, and free basic wisdom unhindred by culture and ideology.
Just finding the right terms for the wild/nontamed/noncivilized is difficult, in a culture where nature is seen as in the direction of "evil", and untamed and uncivilized are used as derogatory terms...
The Integral Institute has just launched the Integral Spiritual Center.
From what I hear, one of the functions of the center is to allow for interactions among spiritual teachers from a wide range of traditions, including mutual teaching, learning and feedback. This seems to be just what is needed today, to allow each teacher to deepen their understanding and become more well rounded, and to allow for cross-fertilization among teachers and traditions.
It also help identify teachers who are fluid, flexible and not too stuck in any one particular realization or way of teaching.
I have noticed that even in a Buddhist context, the word "ego" is often used as a noun rather than a verb, a thing rather than a process. This easily gives the impression that it refers to a solid entity, rather than just one of the ways the mind can function.
When awareness is exclusively identified with the small self, it naturally and effortlessly operates in a dualistic way. It experiences a clear separation between inner and outer, I and you, us and them, mind and body, mind and matter, life and nonlife, existence and nonexistence, and so on. It differentiates well, but is not able to experience these differentiations within the context of the larger seamless whole.
In addition, awareness tends to perceive the small self as a solid and separate entity, and even with a sense of permanency.
This only reflects a process. One way the mind can function.
There is also no "ego" to resist any form of awakening. It is only the awareness which does not know itself in any other way than as identified with the small self. In this situation, it is natural, understandable - and very sane - to resist "dropping" it. If you only know yourself in one way, as the small self, why would you want to drop it? There may not be anything else to take its place.
It seems odd when spiritual teachers...
- First talk about the "ego" as a thing, a noun. This naturally gives the impression that what they are talking about is the small self - this body and personality.
- Then complain that people are not willing to "let go of the ego". Why would anyone give up their only identification? And also, if there is a confusion about ego as referring to the small self, there is a natural and very sane resistance to giving up this small self as well.
- How awareness can be exclusively identified with the small self, and in this situation functions in a dualistic way. In this situation, awareness can differentiate well but is not aware of the larger context of a fluid seamless whole. It is also not aware of its own nature. In this situation, it is impossible to drop identification with the small self, because there is awareness of nothing else.
- How awareness can awaken to its own nature, as spacious awareness - distinct from all polarities and fluid phenomena. In this situation, there is a gentle transition from exclusive identification with the small self, via an identification as the Absolute (the nature of mind), and then both and none. In this situation, awareness functions in a more transdual way. Eventually, awareness becomes familiar with all the different ways it can function - on personal and transpersonal levels - and can fluidly shift among these as appropriate in the situation. There is no fixed identity, only richness, spaciousness, fluidity and responsiveness.
Meaning is a topic that comes up frequently in human life, and in particular in areas such as religion, spirituality, psychology and philosophy. The goal is often to find or develop a sense of meaning, but there are many layers to this topic...
From the Big Mind view, everything is as it is - there is no room for meaning or lack of meaning.
At the same time, Big Mind is all and any experiences - including meaning and lack of meaning in any and all shapes and forms.
And Big Mind is in a sense the meaning awareness seeks when it is exclusively identified with the small self. Awareness does tend to experience a sense of meaning when it connects with Big Mind in any way - as a "feeling", a numinous experience or similar.
There are at two main ways an experience of meaning comes up when awareness is exclusively identified with the small self: Through its presence or absence.
Awareness can here experience meaning through...
- Opening up for a taste of Big Mind (God, Spirit, Buddha Mind).
- Sense of connections with self, others, nature, cosmos. A sense of belonging.
- Through believing in thoughts, such as values, norms, commandments, moral guidelines.
- Through a sense of direction, and/or of having and working towards a goal of any type.
Again, we see a form of spiral pattern. The version with most suffering is the small self experiencing lack of meaning. The version with least suffering is awareness awakening to the Big Mind view, which is beyond meaning and lack of meaning. And inbetween are phases where there is a sense of meaning.
Needs & Wants
I am enjoying reading The Big Questions by Lou Marinoff, especially as it does its job in triggering insights and responses in me - the reader.
For instance, in the section on suffering he discusses the difference between needs and wants.
Conventional View: Needs & Wants
Needs are presented as basic physical survival needs (food, shelter, etc) and wants as that which is beyond our real needs - as "extra". Needs can and should be satisfied. Wants can never be completely satisfied - there is always more to want and pursuing them is a path to suffering. This is a common differentiation, although one that is maybe not all that precise.
Alternative View: They are all needs
Another way of looking at it, is to see all our activities as attempts to meet real needs.
We have a wide range of needs, from the basic physical ones such as food and shelter, to nontangible needs such as need for connection, sense of meaning, etc. And we apply certain strategies to attempt to meet these needs.
For the basic physical needs, our strategies are usually relatively effective (provided the external circumstances are favorable) and easy to recognize as what they are - strategies to meet basic physical needs.
For our non-tangible needs, there is sometimes less of a clear connection between our needs and the strategies we employ. We may not be consciously aware of our needs. We may not explore the connection between the need and the strategy we choose, and how appropriate and effective the strategy is likely to be. And we may apply certain strategies mindlessly, from habitual patterns learned from culture, subculture and personal experiences.
For instance, if we have a need for connection (intimacy, relationship etc), we may apply a strategy of eating food, or engage in consumerism such as buying clothes, gadgets, etc. This will not be satisfying, at least not for any longer than the distraction of the "hunt" lasts, so we will engage in the same or another habitual strategy again. It is a continuous loop, until the real need is recognized and satisfied.
From this perspective, the physical needs are what Marinoff see as needs. The non-tangible needs (no less real), which we often attempt to meet through a confused choice of strategies, are what he refers to as wants.
If this is indeed closer to what is going on, then trying to eliminate wants is futile, as they tap into real needs - which will always be there until they are satisfied.
Inner & Outer Sources to Nourish Nontangible Needs
When we recognize these needs, we can consciously apply a strategy that is more likely to satisfy them. For most needs, there is a wide range of possible strategies. For instance, we can find outside or an inside source of approval, intimacy, sense of connection, etc.
Seeking an outside source only tends to lead to continuing suffering (loss, fear of loss, hope, hope of gain). Taking care of the inner source gives more stability and sense of nourishment - we carry it with us wherever we are. This allows us to connect deeper with outer sources, and with less blind attachment. Even when the outer source is no longer around, there is still the inner.
The Outer Awakens the Inner
Of course, there is always only the inner. The outer is only there to remind us about it, to help us awaken it. If we don't recognize the inner source, we will loose connection with it when the outer source is no longer there. When we recognize and nurture the inner source, it will always be there - independent of the comings and goings of the outer sources. A loss of an outer source may still be painful, but not devastating.
Recognizing these patterns opens for a deep appreciation of and gratitude for those in our lives who remind us and help us connect with our inner source. Some of them may not even know us, others may be in our lives intimately.
There are many practices that helps us experience mind without beliefs, such as Buddhist meditation and the Byron Katie inquiry process.
Still, this is a view and an experience that is often not addressed in the west. I just read Lou Marinoff's "Big Questions" (about philosophical counseling), where there is a segment on beliefs. His take on it parallels that of western psychology, emphasizing exchanging one set of beliefs for another, but not questioning beliefs themselves.
The reason is that western culture has never taken seriously mind without beliefs, and there are still not enough people in the west who live their lives from this space for western philosophy/psychology to make the shift and include it in their views. There is also very little (or no?) research on this topic. How do we function without beliefs, without believing in thoughts? What are the physical/brain correlates? What are the processes/techniques that brings people to this space? What is left as guidelines when we don't believe in thoughts?
What we seem to discover when we explore beliefs themselves, is that there is a layer beyond beliefs which still functions, and helps us operate even more effectively in our everyday life. We are still ourselves, in the sense that this awareness is the same. We still have our experiences, our skills, our ability to discern and make choices. The only difference is that we no longer believe in thoughts, we are free from the artificial boundaries created by thoughts, and free to more fluidly respond to situations.
Although we may be less bound by specific beliefs, there is still the context of culture, available information, and personal experiences which we operate within. This is not likely to change.
When we awaken to the nature of mind - the spacious awareness, it seems that unconditional compassion also arises.
So when we make choices from this space, there is an interaction between the spacious awareness and innate compassion on the one hand, and whatever information and personal experiences are available on the other hand, from which we make choices on how to relate to inner/outer situations.
we now have...
+ Spacious awareness/innate compassion
Working With Nature
One of the lessons Existence seems to be offering us (our civilization) today is exploring how to work with nature - in many areas of life. How to move from a mostly adversarial approach to more of a partnership approach.
In the outer world, this is explored in holistic/green/ecological/sustainable design of industrial processes, transportation systems, economical systems, housing, food production, social change, decision making, and more.
One example is buildings designed to function in partnership with nature. Sun and ground is used for heating. Wind for ventilation and cooling. Materials are nontoxic, renewable, local and has low embodied energy. Food can be grown in the house. Energy comes from sun and wind.
Another is a more partnership oriented process of decision making, as exemplified in citizen councils and the work of the Co-Intelligence Institute.
In the inner world, this is explored through a variety of traditional and new techniques.
Byron Katie's inquiry process is one example. We take a belief that causes us suffering, inquiry into it, and allow the mind to nonconsciously process the information and unravel whatever is to be unraveled. It is a simple, gentle process - working with the natural processes of the mind.
Another is the Big Mind process, where a series of simple questions allows us to see how the mind functions on personal and transpersonal levels. We learn how to shift into a transdual - Big Mind - view effortlessly and gently.
This shift - from a primarily adversarial approach to more of a partnership approach with Existence - reflects a deeper shift in view.
From a mostly dualistic view, we are moving towards a more transdual view.
In the traditional western dualistic view, we...
- Assign spirit and value to humans and see the rest of Earth as mechanistic and brutal.
- See nature primarily as a resource to be exploited, not as a partner.
- Have human rights, but no rights for nonhumans or ecosystems.
- Typically use force - one way or another - to achieve what we want.
- See humans, nonhumans, ecosystems, the Earth and Universe, all as expressions of Existence.
- See nature as a partner, as one aspect of the seamless system we as humans are embedded in.
- Have rights and protection for all life.
- Use a partnership approach to provide for our needs, whenever possible.
Mind Without Beliefs
When awareness is embodied through a small self, it naturally identifies exclusively with the small self - this specific physical body and habitual emotional/mental patterns.
It defines itself through an exclusive self-identity. And this self-identity typically includes specific aspects of the small self acceptable by the culture, subculture and personal preferences, and excludes other aspects of the small self (including the shadow in Jungian terms) and the rest of Existence (others, the Earth, Universe).
Functioning vs. Nature of Mind
In this situation, it is inevitable and naturally for awareness to see only the functioning of mind and not notice or be aware of the inherent nature of mind - the spacious awareness within which all experiences unfold. It is aware of the always changing clouds and weather, but not the space and the always present sun.
This also means that it perceives dropping exclusive identification with the small self as a "death", it perceives it as dropping the only "ground" it is aware of - even if it is flimsy and always changing. Until it awakens to the other ground - its nature of spacious awareness - it is really impossible to drop exclusive identification with the small self. But when it awakens to its nature, the shift - usually gradual - is gentler and inevitable. There is some softening of exclusive identification, and the more it notices its inherent nature, the more softening there is.
One particular aspect of this transition is how awareness relates to beliefs. When there is exclusive identification with the small self, there is also a rigid identification with certain beliefs - beliefs that make up and correspond with its sense of self-identity.
These beliefs are inherently limited. They include a rough correspondence to some aspects of Existence, and do not correspond with other aspects of Existence. When the discrepancy inevitably comes up, there is suffering. This suffering is the gentle and often not so gentle reminder that beliefs are always limited - that they are always ultimately a lie.
Inherent in this suffering is an invitation to eventually discover the nature of mind, free of and independent of any particular manifestations. We can try any number of ways to deal with suffering - such as the rollercoaster of seeking situations that we assume will not trigger suffering (although they always will - as long as awareness is exclusively identified with the small self) and trying to not notice the suffering when it is there (distractions, numbing, spacing out, pushing away).
When awareness is exclusive identified with the small self, it seems impossible to imagine an existence without beliefs. Who would I be? How would I be able to choose or act? Wouldn't I just be a zombie or a vegetable? I am not letting go of the only guideline there is?
The identification with the small self and the identification with particular beliefs are two sides of the same phenomenon. One is dependent on the other. So how can we find a way out?
There are many answers, although maybe none that are fool-proof.
Awakening to the Nature of Mind
One is to notice the nature of mind, as it manifests here/now. This allows awareness to slowly familiarize itself with its own nature. Another is to engage in a practice such as the Big Mind process. Or the inquiry process outlined by Byron Katie. And there is of course the traditional meditation approach, that allows the always changing experiences to settle down - maybe just enough for awareness to recognize its nature of spacious awareness - beyond and distinct from any manifestations.
The fourth question in the Byron Katie process points directly to the nature of mind. Who or what am I if I don't believe in the thought? In the beginning, it may be almost impossible to imagine. And there may be considerable fear coming up. How can I navigate the world without beliefs? What is left?
Yet, as we continue the inquiry process - with the beliefs that present themselves in our everyday life - we may discover something quite surprising. We may discover that awareness is still there, as it always has been. That there is still perception, even clearer than before when it was tied to particular beliefs. And that there is still discernment and the ability to put on labels and talk about our experiences, although now free from the need to believe in the labels, thoughts and words. They are just useful tools for communication, but nothing that has any inherent value or reflect any "truth".
In this process, self-identity softens and becomes more porous and inclusive - until any fixed identity eventually drops away. Our "identity" just fluidly reflects what comes up here/now.
As awareness softens its beliefs in thoughts, there is typically a new sense of spaciousness, clarity, overview, discernment, fluidity and responsiveness, along with a sense of humor.
Although this small self is taken seriously as a vehicle for awareness, there is a softening of the need to present this small self in a certain way. There is a softening of the need to present this small self as special, as different from other small selves in the sense of "better" or "worse", to hold up or conform it to a particular identity.
Big Mind & Ecopsychology
As I become more familiar with the Big Mind process, I would like to explore the intersection between this approach and a spiritual orientation to the Earth/Universe - as reflected in ecopsychology, deep ecology, ecospirituality, and the universe story. (See previous essays on these topics).
Of course, an aspect of this is inherent in the Big Mind process and view. We shift into a transdual view, where there is no separation, where we clearly see and experience the fluid whole of all phenomena. We realize that there is no difference in the nature of any aspect of the universe, and the interdependence - in so many ways - of all phenomena. We as individuals and society are not separate from the rest of the Earth and the Universe.
But it is possible to go beyond this and explore these connections more in depth.
One way is to access different voices, such as the voice of the wild within each of us. The untamed part of us, the one that has been subdued and tamed by millennia of civilization. Another - transpersonal - voice could be the voice of the Earth. Of course, this is quite similar to the practices already developed by Joanna Macy and others.
Another approach is to explore the connections between humans and Earth - and in particular of this small self and the Earth. How does this small self relate to the Earth? Is she/he aware of the far-reaching and long-term consequences of her/his actions? If not, why not? What are the possible consequences? What could change?
And then view it from the Big Mind perspective and see that it is all OK as it, while there is also room for improvement and change.
Ezra Bayda writes about the practice of Three Breaths in the current issue of Shambala Sun. It is a practice that is simple, gentle, doable and most likely effective as well.
Whenever I remember, I can make a conscious intention to stay with whatever I am experiencing for three breaths. And then I allow my mind to wander again (it is important to keep our agreement with ourselves and allow these habitual patterns to come back).
This is a gentle way to bring mindfullness into our life, and to experience how it is to be with discomfort and the contrast with engaging in distractions. As Bayda mentions, we may eventually see that being with discomfort is easier than resisting it.
It can also be used with whatever addictions we may have (food, internet or something else). Whenever the addictive urge comes up, we can stay with it for three breaths, and then give ourselves permission to engage in our habitual patterns again - or not.
Causes & Conditions
There are layers of causes and conditions for whether we experience suffering or happiness (or anything else).
The "ultimate" cause is whether awareness is identified exclusively with the small self (suffering) or has awakened to its own nature (happiness).
Another and related cause is how we relate to the inner/outer situation. Do we relate to them with gratitude and appreciation (happiness) or with resistance (suffering)? This is also tied to the habitual emotional/cognitive patterns of the small self.
The conditions for our happiness and suffering is the inner/outer situation the small self finds itself in. These can trigger one or the other, especially as long as awareness has not yet fully awakened to its own nature, and/or allowed the patterns of the small self to reorient.
Albert & Katie
I checked out a book by Albert Ellis from the library on his Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). Mainly to compare it with Byron Katie's process.
The two approaches are quite similar in certain ways. They both invite us to inquire into beliefs that cause us suffering, and releasing us from them.
There is one major difference as well.
Albert Ellis writes from a small self view, emphasizing effort and force. This is after all the way awareness functions when identified exclusively with the small self. The book's title is tellingly How to Make Yourself Happy.
Byron Katie writes from the Big Mind/Big Heart view. The process is simple, gentle and enjoyable, and then works effortlessly. As she says, I do not drop the belief - the belief releases me.
The steps are very simple.
- Identify a thought that creates suffering.
Each one that we believe in does.
- Is it true?
We recognize it as a belief only, not reality. This softens our attachment to the belief.
- What are the consequences of believing in the thought?
Suffering in various forms. Recognizing this also softens our attachment to the belief.
- What/who am I if I don't believe in the thought?
Free from suffering, responsive.
- Turn the initial statement around, to self/other or my thinking.
Here we recognize and integrate projections. We take our own advice.
After having inquired into thoughts around a specific topic, I notice that in the following days (maybe weeks?) there is a wobbly shift occurring.
Today, I was on a bus with a number of noisy teenagers. In the past, I would have been quite uncomfortable with the noise, and engaged in many thoughts and judgments about the noise producers. My discomfort would give rise to the thoughts, and the thoughts to the discomfort, in a spiral of self-made suffering. Along this would be the seeing of what was happening, and a dismay of the difficulty (or impossibility) of changing it in the situation.
This time, I noticed it was different. I was on the cusp of several different ways or relating to the inner/outer situation, and could move in any direction. I could have a taste of my habitual patterns, although did not need to go far in that direction. I could stay neutral and focus on the article in Shambala Sun I was reading, without being much distracted. Or I could shift into a deep appreciation of the noise and the kids - effortlessly experience it all as Existence manifesting.
I have noticed a similar effect in other areas where I have engaged in inquiry. For a while, there is a wobbly situation where I can choose to go in any number of directions. The old patterns are still available, although I am not able to engage in them in any convincing way. There is a neutral option, if I choose to focus on something else. And there is the option of deep appreciation and gratitude by recognizing it as Existence manifesting.
It seems that it then stabilizes more, into the neutral or appreciative form.
People should pay attention.
2. No (is just a thought)
3. If others: Frustration, anger, self-righteousness, arrogance, judgment, irritable. If myself: embarrasment, frustration, shame.
4. Humor, receptivity, appreciate diversity.
5a. I should pay attention (yes, especially to when I believe in thoughts).
5b. People should not pay attention (yes, is what is).
I want the Universe to make everything easy for me.
1. No. 2. No.
3. Demanding, indignant, want it now, sense of injustice.
4. At peace with what is. Enjoy it, meet it, be with it. Enjoy the richness of it.
5a. I don't want the Universe to make everything easy for me. (yes, want what is as is)
5b. >> I want myself to make everything easy for me (yes, by seeing what is. By inquiring into beliefs).
Americans are unsophisticated, uninformed, stupid, brutal, deceived, caught up in ideologies, and place money over life.
1. No. 2. No.
3. Separated, sad, grief, angry, frustration, hopeless, in the wrong place.
4. Am here/now, appreciative, enjoying the richness and diversity.
5a. >> My thinking is unsophisticated, uninformed, stupid, brutal, deceived, caught up in ideologies, and places itself over life. (yes, that is exactly what is going on when I believe in thoughts. I am deceived and place thoughts over Existence.)
5b. Americans are not ... (yes, they have all human characteristics as we all do. Everything is expressed).
Suffering is important for learning.
1. Yes. 2. No.
3. Gloomy outlook. Slightly resigned. Lack of enthusiasm. Apprehension.
4. Free to choose to not engage in suffering. Spacious, open, wast.
5. Suffering is not important for learning. (yes, w/out suffering I can learn with more clarity, receptivity, responsiveness, enthusiasm).
One of the great supports from Breema is how humbling it can be.
I can imagine - with great believability - that I am present, that I am connected with the body, that I realize this and that. And when I do Breema bodywork, the fantasies crumble and fall away. What is left is what is - my wandering attention, lack of connection with the breath and body, all the extra of thoughts, ideas, of wanting to do it a certain way. It is a wonderful stripping away, down to what is.
Everything here is just an exploration only. Most of it (unless it is clearly speculation) does come from direct experiences, but these experiences are far from as clear and embodied as they can be. Mostly, it is a way for me to let go of what I perceive as "insights" - to put them down in electronic form so I can let go of them, empty the cup and open for something else.
And everything here is inherently a lie - it is just words, reflections of experiences made into concepts and words. It is inherently dead, incomplete and of only temporary use.
Existence is always more than and different from our experience of it. And when we form our experiences into concepts and words, it becomes even further removed from Existence. Existence is - as it is. Anything we say about it is too much, it is ultimately a lie.
A map is always a simplification. At its best, it is relatively accurate and highlights some features and leaves other out. But even here, it is just a map and not the terrain.
Realizing this does not seem to release us from trying to formulate it, to explore how to express it as cleanly as possible. And this is OK as long as we realize that the terrain is always different from the map.
When we believe in thoughts, we are not aligned with Existence and suffer. When our beliefs soften, or when we are released from believing in thoughts, we open to our spacious aware nature. We open to the space where anything can arise, spontaneously and effortlessly.
When I use big words, such as "ultimate" etc., it is usually because I drop into convenience and conventional language rather than take the time to find more precise words.
Existence is always more than and different from our perceptions of it, so it is good to leave room for something beyond our current perceptions and descriptions of these perceptions.
Memories of Home
The ultimate (?) home is Big Mind - the whole that embraces the nature of mind and all experiences.
And awareness seems to have hunches of this home, of its own nature and how it functions when it realizes its own nature.
Even when awareness is exclusively identified with the small self, it seeks faint reflections of these qualities. It seeks happiness and to avoid suffering, it seeks unconditional love and compassion, it seeks wisdom, it seeks richness and freedom.
Of course, when it is exclusively identified with the small self, it can never achieve this - it will always be over the next hill, around the corner, fleeting glimpses at best. And when it recognizes and awakens to its own nature, it realizes that these are the natural and effortless expressions of its own nature.
Only a shift in view is needed to realize this, although to become familiar with it - and realign the habitual patterns of the small self to correspond with it - takes time. It is a process of clarification, deepening and embodying.
Integrated Free Functioning Self
The "aim" of the Big Mind process is to awaken the Integrated Free Functioning Self. This refers to a fluidity in how we access and live from the different personal and transpersonal voices. We allow any and all to be experienced and expressed, fluidly, without being attached to any particular one. In this way, we become more fully and deeply human. This of course requires a softened, porous and inclusive identity - or rather no particular identity.
This comes out of the Zen tradition, and is reflected in the oxherding pictures, and phrases such as bright sun/hazy moon of enlightenment, and first mountains and rivers were mountains and rivers, then they were not mountains and rivers, and then they were mountains and rivers again, etc.
I have noticed a slight discomfort around this when I facilitate the Big Mind process with people who do not have a Buddhist background. In some traditions, this is not quite the aim (they may want to live exclusively from a Big Mind view for instance), and accessing and clarifying the Integrated Free Functioning Self is in a subtle way proselytizing. Of course, people can take it or leave it as they want - and will do just that.
And, of course, if they choose to be stuck in the Absolute or in the Big Mind view, there will be suffering - and this is the way out of it (at least that particular form of suffering).
Simplicity & Complexity
Existence is beyond and embraces all polarities, so when we bring one into awareness - it allows the other to unfold as well.
When we simplify our lives, it allows for natural complexity to arise without resistance. When we live a complex life, it brings simplicity. (This is of course an odd phrasing - it all depends on what we mean by simplicity and complexity in this context.)
The ultimate simplicity is the nature of our mind - spacious awareness, stainless, beyond existence and nonexistence. And when we awaken to the nature of our mind, it allows all experiences to unfold without resistance - all the immense complexity of all phenomena. The ultimate (?) simplicity allows for ultimate (?) complexity.
As with anything else, we cannot drop beliefs through the habitual patterns of the small self - through merely trying. As long as parts of us believe it, we believe it, no matter how hard we try to drop it.
Instead, if we really examine the belief - through for instance the very simple and effective process outlined by Byron Katie - we see through it more fully. It releases us. As she says, it lets go of us. We cannot believe it even if we try. And this has a profound impact on our life.
When we believe a thought, we are at the mercy of our beliefs. It brings rigidity in our perceptions, views and behaviors, and inevitable suffering. When we are relased from beliefs, it brings a new spaciousness, openness, fluidity, joy and responsiveness to situations.
Beliefs & Suffering
Any and all beliefs gives rise to suffering. Believing in any thought or sets of thoughts, inevitably gives rise to suffering.
Existence is always more than and different from our perception of it. And even more so from any belief, even if it is derived from our perceptions. A belief is always limited.
When Existence does not correspond to the thought we believe in (which is inevitable), then there is naturally suffering.
And this suffering is the most exact guidepost to the thought we believe in. To where we are stuck.
Perception is a construct, and it helps us relate to the world in a more genuinely humble way to realize it.
Perception is influenced by...
- The habitual patterns of this Universe
- The history of the whole of Universe
- The history of this planet, this one aspect of the Universe
- The history of life as a whole, and all the human ancestors
- The history of the human species
- The size and life-length of humans
- The biology of humans - the characteristics of our physical organism as a whole (sensory organs, whole-body nervous system, and how these connect with all the other biological systems)
- The culture we grow up in, and the history of this culture as it is reflected in the current culture
- The particular subculture we grow up in - family, social group, neighborhood, etc.
- Our personal experiences
- The current social/ecological system we live in
- Our current inner/outer situation (alertness, emotions, cognitive filters etc)
If we lived on the size- and timescale of the solar system, wouldn't we then naturally perceive the Earth as one seamless whole, one living organism?
If we had any other physical body, wouldn't we perceive colors, sounds, smells, touch, movement - in radically different ways?
If we lived in another culture, wouldn't we perceive Existence in a very different way?
Reminding ourselves of this naturally brings up humility. It helps soften our attachment to how we perceive and relate to the world, to Existence.
Credit & Blame
Our culture has an profoundly odd relationship with credit and blame. We assign each one to individuals, as if anyone could be credited or blamed for anything.
All phenomena are a seamless fluid whole. It is a holarchy, with innumerable nested holons. There are no absolute separations, no holons more "independent" than any other. It is arbitrary to emphasize the "individual" holon more important or real than any other, and there is no way the "individual" can exist as any form of independent unit.
At the same time, it seems obvious that anything anyone expresses as a gift, does not come from the individual only. It comes from all the levels of the holarchy, from the Universe as a whole down to the energy fields making up atoms and molecules. Without this, it could not arise. And it also comes from the whole and full history of this holarchy. From the basic principles embedded in this Universe, the early galaxy formations, the formation and evolution of Earth as a whole, from all of our ancestors back to the first single-celled organism. And the same is true with anything we can even assign "blame" for - it is not related to the individual.
Credit and blame are, in just about any way we can look at it, completely impersonal. Of course, this is just one aspect of the picture, but an important one and one that is frequently overlooked.
Spies & Sports
I listened to BBC on the radio this morning, and something that has puzzled me since I was a little kid came up again - as it so often does.
One is mainstream culture's relationship with spies. When spying is done for another country, it is seen as an awful and immoral crime. When it is done for this country, it is seen as heroic. This is one of the most basic and obvious examples of projections, of differing guidelines for appropriate behavior for us vs. them, and of blindness to our own ways of perceiving the world. This also came up a few days ago, at the anniversary for an Oregon man who was shot down over China on a spy mission several decades ago. He was presented as an hero, but the fact that he and his superiors were (undisputedly) international criminals was conveniently not mentioned.
Sports is another area that has puzzled me since I was a kid. The main difference between then and now is that I now am comfortable with my views - I can see that it is as legitimate as any other. It is deeply strange that we see an individual, or a group of individuals, as somehow presenting "us" - even though we just happen to be from the same geographical area and there are no other ties. How can that possibly be? I see twelve (or however many there are) people running around on an artificial meadow kicking a leather ball, but how can they in any way represent or be associated with me - more than the other group of twelve also kicking the leather ball? There are no ties between me and them, apart from the ties that connects me with all life, and I can in no way take any credit or blame for their actions.
Trust seems to come up for me frequently these days.
When awareness is exclusively identified with the small self, there is a natural sense of distrust. Awareness perceives itself as one object among a large number of unpredictable objects, and it needs to be on guard. Some trust is OK, but there is always an element of underlying distrust - of apprehension and being on guard. And this has a essential function: it helps the small self to survive. It is a neccesary protection.
When awareness awakens to its own nature (the Absolute) and Big Mind (the Absolute and Relative), there is no separation and there is unconditional compassion. This helps to dissolve some of the patterns of distrust of the small self, but it takes time. The small self has spent years operating from a fragmented and dualistic view, and has developed physical, energetic, emotional and mental patterns that correspond to this view. All of these patterns make perfect sense from an exclusively dualistic view, and now can gradually soften and reorganize in a more transdual context.
A deepening trust in Existence leads to a more transdual view, and is also inherent in a more transdual view. There are many approaches that can help open up for a deepning sense of trust, such as Breema, Tai Chi, Chi Gong, yoga, Big Mind process, Byron Katie's inquiry process, and various meditation practices.
I am noticing another shift in my relationship with the Byron Katie inquiry process. It seems to have reached a plateau, and the next step for me seems to be to trust the process even more. Instead of the subtle tendency to jump to an answer, I now need to stay open and allow the answer to come to me - to be with uncertainty and the unexpected. The other aspect is to stay with the insight, to allow it to sink in, instead of going on to the next question right away.
And this trust is really a trust in Existence. Trusting what is. Trusting that seeing what is - as it is - leads to openness. Trusting that we are being held by Existence, in the groundless and spacious.
There is no need to even subtly manipulate or change it (in fact - this subtle manipulation may be exactly that which limits). Instead, there is an invitation to be with uncertainty, with the unknown, with the open space where anything is possible.
And there is another trust here as well. Trusting that going through the process, sincerly but without taking it too seriously, is all that is needed. The process itself provides my mind with the food it needs to continue to process it and unravel whatever is ripe for unravelling. I do the inquiry, trust the process, and let it go.
I have recently facilitated the Big Mind process a little more, and there is always new insights - either about facilitating or the roles and relationships among the voices. Sometimes, it is quite obvious, but still important reminders.
As a novice facilitator, I find that it is helpful to check in periodically with the self. It helps us both digest and see where we may want to go next. I also find it very helpful to pick up on cues - in terms of qualities, characteristics, emotions, attitudes mentioned by the current voice - these may give hints about which voices to access next. And of course, after exploring the views of the voices on the personal level, there is often a more complete resolution when we access Big Mind and Big Heart.
All voices have an important role to play. All (?) of them are essential for the survival of humanity and of each one of us today. One function of the process is to help clarify the role of each voice, and how they each assist the self. This is an important reminder for the self, as well as for each of the voices.
In this process, the relationship between the self and the voices often sorts itself out. Where the self is too identified with the voice, there is more distance. Where the self is too closed off from the voice, there is an opening. We allow the voices in and find a more conscious partnership with them. There is also a gradual awakening of the Master. The captain of the ship. The conductor of the symphony who indicate which instruments come out when, and how they play together.
Fear is among the voiced that are often ignored and pushed aside. Our habitual conscious attitude typically tells us that fear is a problem, that it is undesirable. And when we resist it, we experience a lack of comfort, which in turns fuels our desire to push it away.
Through the Big Mind (and Voice Dialogue) process, we come to recognize fear as invaluable. It helps keep us alive, and it always has important information for us. As a self, we can learn to listen to the information in the fear, take it seriously, and make a judgment and decision on it in the wider context of our situation. When fear is taken seriously and listened to, it can relax. It can express itself more gently and directly, because we will listen to it. The relationship between the self and fear becomes more straight forward, simple and comfortable. Rather than having an adversarial quality, it becomes one of partnership.
For instance, fear may come up around pursuing a particular line of work. If I try to push this fear away, it will persistently come back and in different ways. No voice ever goes away. They each have an invaluable function for the self. Instead, I can take the information in that fear seriously. The fear may tell me that I won't make enough money. Is that true? What is the worst that can happen? What are the ways I can take this possibility into account in my decision making? I may realize... (a) Although it is possible, it may not be very likely. (b) If it happens, I have people who can help me out if need be. I won't die. (c) I can diversify my income so that I am not dependent on just one line of work.
There are three different ways (or more of less depending on how you slice it) of relating to any experience. Relating to any sensation, emotion or thought, or conglomerates of sensations, emotions and thoughts.
Fuel & Push Away
When awareness is exclusively identified with the small self, there are only two options. We can fuel it or or push it away.
Fuelling it means to give it energy, nurture it, identify with it. We allow it to grow stronger, and eventually lead to particular action.
Pushing them away means to avoid it in different ways, to put them aside, to repress them, or to deny they are there.
In this phase, the fueling/pushing away tends to come from habitual patterns. There is little awareness, choice, or sense of overview or perspective. At the best, we can see what is going on, but not know how to change it or stop it - even if we know it may leads to undesirable consequences.
When awareness softens its exclusive identification with the small self, and awakens somewhat to its own nature (the Absolute), it finds another way to relate to experiences. It discovers that any experience can unfold within the spacious awareness, with no need for fueling it or pushing it away.
Here, awareness has three ways to relate to experiences: Fueling them, setting them aside, or allowing them to just unfold within spacious awareness - without needing to trigger habitual responses.
As awareness becomes more familiar with its spacious and clear nature, it begins to function in a third way. It realizes that it is the experience. The experience unfolds within spacious awareness, and yet there is no separation. It just is. There is nothing to fuel, nothing to push away.
At the same time, awareness is free to fuel whatever comes up - when appropriate. When and in the way it wants to use the small self as a vehicle to engage in the world. Where it earlier was blindly caught up in the fueling, it now fuels the experience - leading to a particular exploration or action - within spacious awareness. It is not tied to blind habitual responses.
Each new phase includes each of the previous ones. There is more inclusiveness and choice, not just one approach exchanged for another.
When awareness deepens its experience of its absolute nature, it has all the approaches available to it. It can relate to the world with more choice, overview, perspective, richness, freedom and responsiveness.
One of the tools in Buddhism is to visualize our own death.
One aspect of this is to explore who or what we are - if the small self drops away right now. Who or what is left if there is no body, no sensations, no emotions, no thoughts? Who or what are we right here/now, if all this drops away?
We may discover that what is left is just the spaciousness and clear awareness. That which is always there, but often obscured by sensations, emotions, thoughts - everything that distracts awareness from noticing its own inherent nature.
Another aspect is to visualize that we will die (for certain) at specific times in the future - ten years, one year, six months, one month, one week, one day, one hour from now. What does it bring up for us? What is important in this perspective? How would we choose to spend our remaining time? This helps us clarify, distill and prioritize what is really important in our lives.
We can also visualize a time in the future, maybe a hundred years from now, where we (this small self) and everyone else alive today, are no longer alive. And then further into the future, when all of humanity - and every physical trace of any human activity - is gone. What is left as important in this perspective? How would our life be different if we lived from this perspective? This can help peel away expectations and that which would impress others and ourselves, and allow us to explore what is more meaningful for us here/now. As they say in Breema, do it for yourself.
I just finished Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson, a utopian story set in a small community in southern California, and in a more sustainable and post-capitalistic world.
It reminds me of the effectiveness of visualizations - on personal and collective levels. In both cases, visualizations helps us align, reorient and reorganize to allow a shift to occur.
In terms of allowing for shifts over time, they...
- Set up the inner conditions - the openness and receptivity - for the shift to occur.
- Allow us to recognize and engage in the opportunities that leads to the shift.
- Provide guidelines for choices we make in everyday life - leading in the direction of the shift.
And in the case of utopian stories, visualizations also allow us to think through the possibilities, to refine our visions.
It seems that these stories - fictional, relatively realistic and embodied in ordinary people's lives - is a crucial element in allowing a shift into a more sustainable and life-centered culture and civilization. There seems to be room for a great deal more of these stories, in literature, movies, music, computer/online games, and other media.
Stories that show a transition from our current industrialized growth society to a sustainable life-oriented society, and/or about life in a future life-oriented society. The more diversity in these stories, the better, so we can bring different possible scenarios into awareness. This will make the possible consequences of our actions here/now more real.
There are several paths for awareness to soften its exclusive identification with small self.
Sudden & Gradual
One is a sudden revelation of the Big Mind view, which makes it obvious that awareness is more than and different from the small self. This could come out of the blue, maybe through a personal crisis where awareness is no longer able or willing to hold onto an exclusive attachment to small self. It could also come as a consequence of long term practices preparing the ground for such a shift.
The other broad category is the gradual transitions, aided by practices such as the Big Mind process, Breema, yoga, meditation. Of course, also here - there are often breakthroughs and sudden shifts and revelations.
Of the gradual transitions, it seems that many have a few things in common.
One is the recognition of the true nature of awareness (the Absolute), and an opening into a Big Mind view.
Another is trust. A general softening into a trust in Existence and the nature of mind. And more specifically a trust in the process and possibly a teacher.
When awareness trusts Existence more, it can allow itself to let go of exclusive attachment to the small self, and open up for something else. It can allow itself to experience the Ground - the groundless ground from which all phenomena arise, and is the nature of all phenomena.
In Breema, this trust comes through a deepening sense of well being, from connection with the body, and allowing body/emotions/attention join. It is also aided by Breema's nine principles, such as Body Comfortable.
In the Big Mind process, this trust comes from seeing that nothing needs to be dropped, except the exclusive identification with small self. And a deepening comfort comes through seeing that all the ways awareness/mind functions, is the manifestations of Big Mind, Buddha Mind, Spirit, God, Existence.
All the ways mind manifests on a personal level - all the voices - have one aim and that is to serve the self. When the voices are undifferentiated and their role is not clear to themselves or awareness, it can look mixed up. But when they are brought into awareness and differentiated, they can heal and effortlessly function in a way that more clearly supports the small self.
In this way, awareness becomes more comfortable in its relationship with the voices and the small self. And through this, it can soften its attachment to the small self.
We had our Integral Group meeting last night, and talked about the different broad ways mind/awareness can function.
- Unawake transdual
All of existence, as it is. Examples are nonliving matter and plants. Awareness is dormant, a potential only.
- Half-awake dual
Awareness is awakened, although identified with the small self. This is the case animals and most humans. Awareness functions in a dualistic way. It is an object in a much larger world of unpredictable objects. Relating to the inner and outer world seems a constant struggle. It only knows how to either engage with or push away experiences. There is an attachment to the small self and the Relative.
- Awake nondual
Awareness awakens to the Absolute, to its nature of spacious clarity. When this happens, there is a natural fascination with its own nature, it wants to stay with it and explore it as much as possible, sometimes to the exclusion of the Relative. It is natural and healthy, but can also go too far in excluding the relative. It is possible to get "stuck in the Absolute", in denying - obviously or subtly - the validity of the Relative. There is an attachment to the Absolute.
For all the bliss, there is a suffering here from not being able to connect with other small selves. The view is just too different, excluding the relative, the small self and the small self views. If we perceive all phenomena as illusion, how can we interact with small selves in any meaningful way?
In Buddhism, this is a stage that they try to get people through as quickly and painlessly as possible.
- Fully awake transdual I
Here, awareness embraces the Absolute and the Relative. It awakens to the Big Mind view. It is engaged in the world, through the small self as a vehicle, but mainly identified with the Big Mind view. This is the Bright Sun of Enlightenment. The particular small self, serving as a vehicle, acts so that it is perceived as special by other small selves. There is still a subtle suffering here, in being somehow "special" and "different" from other small selves. And there is a subtle attachment to the Big Mind view.
- Fully awake transdual II
Here, awareness chooses to rehumanize more fully. There is no longer any need to appear "special". The deepest and richest way to function is to be just an ordinary human being, although now in a different context. In this phase, there is a freer flow between Big Mind and small self views and functioning. The rigid attachment to the Big Mind view is softened. We are so familiar with the whole terrain that we can finally relax into it.
- Fully awake transdual III
The final phase is one of active engagement in evolution and society. We explore how to function actively in the world, as individuals, society and a species, from a Big Mind view. And we explore how this always changes as the inner/outer situations changes - as our understanding deepens and our challenges changes.
On the other hand, it is not necessarily a linear process. We can all access any of these at any time. We can all have glimpses of them, for instance through the Big Mind process. Yet, it still takes time to stabilize, deepen, clarify, become familiar with and live from any of these.
What is interesting is that there seems to be a spiral pattern. The last phases are quite similar to the initial ones. First (1), there is just Existence - being in a transdual way. Then there is dualistic (2) and nondual views (3), and then transdual awareness (4-6). First, there is ordinary humanness (2), then there is an extraordinary enlightened being (3), and then there is rehumanization and an ordinary human being (5-6). First (2), there is focus on evolution and progress (at least in our culture), then there is focus on being (3) and acting in the world (4-5), then again on active engagement in evolution and change (6). The difference is the context, the view, and what is brought with us through the journey.
I notice how careful I need to be when using language to try to describe these things.
In conventional language, we use the word "I" frequently, and that is quite appropriate and functional. We know it is meant to refer to the small self, in almost all cases.
In an integral view - which includes the personal and transpersonal realms - it becomes more tricky. What does "I" refer to here? It could be the small self or Big Mind, or maybe the Absolute, or something else. From this perspective, our identity is like a Russian doll. We are all of these, either of them, and none.
The solution may be to not use the word "I", other than in casual conversation where it is taken to refer to small self and that interpretation is OK.
I find myself use "awareness" or "mind" instead, to refer to that which we ultimately are. And there is a slight preference to "awareness" as it refers clearly to a function, not a "thing" or entity of any sort. Mind could be taken as an entity, which is more solid than it really is.
So, I tend to write "awareness is identified with small self" or "with big Mind", instead of "I/we are"... It may seem abstract and impersonal, but it also seems more accurate.
Note: This differentiation of awareness, small self and Big Mind also goes some way in preventing an awareness that is exclusively identified with small self to think of this small self as Big Mind (awareness takes ideas or tastes of the Big Mind qualities and applies them to small self, which gives inflation and a slightly deranged way of functioning).
When awareness is exclusively identified with the small self, it functions in a dualistic way. It sees a strong difference between inner and outer, me and you, we and them, mind and matter, and so on. It tends to differentiate very well, but not to perceive the seamless whole of Existence. It learns how to effectively engage with and in the world, but it also causes a tremendous amount of suffering in different ways.
When awareness awakens to its nondual nature, it is freed from all of the struggle. It recognizes the Absolute as the nature of all phenomena. It is all beyond existence and nonexistence, beyond all dualities.
It is possible to here overemphasize the Absolute (the spacious/clear nature of all phenomena) and deemphasize the Relative (all phenomena). In this case, all phenomena appear as illusions. It would say "I am not this personality, not this body, not of this world". It is oneness, but not sufficient differentiation. In the extreme, it is a form of blissful idiocy. And there is also suffering, because it is not possible to interact with other human beings in any meaningful or connected way from this view. All is indeed perceived as one, but awareness functions in a way that sets it apart from just about everyone. It cannot connect with the small self view that most operate from.
In the Big Mind view, awareness embraces both the Absolute nature of all phenomena and all phenomena. It functions in a transdual way.
There is One Taste, and clear differentiation. Awareness can function effectively through the small self, making choices and distinctions in everyday life - in the contect of the Absolute, knowing that it is all manifstations of Existence. In this view, it can indeed connect with other small selves, because it does not exclude the small self or phenomena.
As it deepens in the Big Mind view, it becomes rehumanized. More and more human and ordinary, although now within the Big Mind view.
Killing the Ego...?
It seems fairly common for people on a "spiritual path" to have certain ideas about the ego. One that shows up is the idea of having to "kill the ego", of the ego resisting its own death, of a tremendous struggle and effort in the process.
This can come from an idea of the ego as equated to the personality, not realizing that ego typically refers to merely the exclusive identification with the small self (body/personality). Even when the identification is more inclusive/expansive, there is still this body and personality. Nothing has changed, except the view and context. Now, awareness recognizes itself as Big Mind, and the small self as a vehicle for Big Mind.
Small Self view
This sense of struggle also comes from a small self view, from a dualistic perception. Awareness sees itself as only a deluded and messed up small self, and enlightenment and Big Mind (or whatever it is seeking) as separate from itself. When engaged in, struggle tends to reinforce the exclusive identification of awareness with the small self. Struggle is from, and reinforces, an exclusive identification with small self.
If the process is one of sudden encounter with the Absolute, then there is indeed an equally sudden "killing" of the ego. Awareness is no longer identified with the small self. In this case, it may appear as a struggle.
If the process is more gradual, there is more of a softening of the ego. Awareness softens its exclusive identification with the small self, and makes room for something else - the recognition of itself as also Big Mind. In this case, there is less of a struggle.
The Big Mind process is an example of the softening approach. We explore the different ways that awareness/mind can function on personal and transpersonal levels. And we recognize that it is all good. It is fine for mind to function through the small self, and all the ways of the small self. And it can still do so even though it has awakened to the Big Mind view. The body and personality is still there, as a vehicle for Big Mind.
In the Big Mind process, awareness comes to recognize that all the ways it functions through the small self - are essential for the (physical) survival of the small self. It is doing an essential job by manifesting as anger, sadness, grief, joy, controller, seeker, desire, etc. These are all necessary functions, for the small self to survive and operate effectively in the world. And they are all essential for the small self to function effectively as a vehicle for Big Mind as well.
Through this honoring, this respect and acknowledgement of the universal aspects of the personality, and how they express themselves in this small self, the threat is diffused. We see that it can all still be there, even when awareness awakens to Big Mind.
Resistance from lack of acknowledgement
When we don't acknowledge and respect a person, we can expect to meet resistance. And this seems to also be the case with the voices, the different ways mind functions on a personal level.
The resistance against dropping the ego may be related to just this. If there is an idea of the small self and everything associated with the small self as "bad", as something to get rid of, there is naturally a resistance. And this resistance comes from an underlying wisdom.
The small self, and everything associated with it, is an essential vehicle for awareness to awaken to its own nature. It is essential as a vehicle for Big Mind. It is an expression of and part of Big Mind. And it is Existence exploring itself, in always new ways.
Absolute, Oneness & Big Mind
There is an interesting relationship among the Absolute, Oneness and Big Mind.
Awareness can recognize its own nature at any time, it is always present. In some ways, it is too familiar to be recognized as anything special. It is that which is always there, independent of changing experiences. It is the spaciousness and clarity of mind.
When awareness is identified with the small self, and recognizes its nature, it still seems very local. It is as if we recognize a drop of water. It appears small and local, yet has the same nature as the ocean. Of course, this drop is part of the ocean, we just don't recognize it quite yet.
When awareness awakens to its nature, and becomes more familiar with it, it also awakens to the seamless whole of all phenomena.
This comes from recognizing the absolute in all phenomena - everything emerges from, unfolds within, and fades back into the absolute.
It also comes from awareness softening its exclusive identification with the small self, which allows it to see all phenomena - inner and outer - as a seamless whole.
Through this expansion, we recognize the Absolute as the nature of all phenomena.
And this naturally leads to awareness awakening to Big Mind. It is familiar with and embrace both the absolute (the nature of mind/phenomena) and the relative (the changing manifestations). It functions in a transdual way - embracing all polarities. It is aware of the seamless whole as well as differentiations.
As awareness becomes more familiar with Big Mind, there is a natural consequence of generosity. There is a sense of effortless fluidity, inclusiveness (or rather non-exclusiveness), and generosity in many different ways.
The many faces of generosity
There is a generosity in the inclusiveness of the different ways mind can function and express itself, on personal and transpersonal levels. Nothing is excluded.
There is a generosity in the inclusiveness of all aspects of Existence. There is clear differentiation but no separation. Nothing is excluded.
There is a generosity towards all beings. What is expressed through them is an expression of Existence. There is no separation - no "other" and no "there" or "them".
There is a generosity with the resources of this small self, in how it relates to itself and other small selves, with attention, care, compassion, wisdom. With being itself, in all its many aspects - beyond and embracing all polarities.
There is an ease, deep natural comfort, non-exclusiveness, deep caring, which is natural, effortless, and quite different from what can come when awareness is exclusively identified with the small self.
Being at home
There is a deep and natural sense of being at home in Existence, in this universe, on this planet, in these ecological and social systems, in these particular surroundings and with these particular people. Nothing is excluded.
All is recognized as Existence manifesting - in all its many ways in the inner and outer world. There is a deep sense of familiarity, even while it is all completely new and fresh here/now.
Existence experiencing itself
Awareness recognizes itself as Existence experiencing Existence. Awareness functioning through this small self, relating to other small selves, these ecological and social systems and this particular universe, is Existence relating to itself. It is Existence exploring itself in all its many manifestations. It manifests in always new and different ways, within spacious cognizance.
When I do Breema, the experience of no separation deepens. Everything in the surroundings - all sounds, smells, colors, textures, sensations - is directly perceived as manifestations of Existence. There is clear differentiation within the context of a seamless whole.
There is a direct, natural and obvious experience of one Existence, manifesting in myriad ways. The sound of the wind in the trees, the sound of the traffic, the phone ringing, someone walking into the house, the smells of the fireplace, of the vegetation and soil outside, of this and the other body and clothes, the colors and texture of the carpet, the wood floor, the furniture, the clothing, skin and hair, this body moving, that body moving - it is all Existence manifesting. It is all movements in the whole, beyond and embracing all dualities. The session is Existence giving to Existence, with all of Existence participating here/now. And the experience is natural, effortless, obvious.
Of course, the initial sentence is not accurate, but only a conventional way of describing it. There is not any "I" which is "doing" "something". That too is just Existence manifesting, clearly differentiated within a seamless whole.
If regular sitting meditation is more "yang", emphasizing clarity and spaciousness, Breema is more "yin", emphasizing fullness of experience. In both cases, awareness awakens to its own nature. It embraces the absolute and relative, and functions in a more transdual way.
Compassion, Gratitude & True Humility
Compassion, gratitude and humility comes spontaneously when awareness awakens to the Big Mind view. At the same time, these are orientations that helps awareness open for the Big Mind view when it is still mostly exclusively identified with small self.
This is understood in just about all religions and spiritual traditions, which offer a wide range of tools and practices to help awareness first open for these qualities, and then shift into a Big Mind view. They are the qualities that helps us open up, allow contractions and rigidity to soften and fall away.
When awareness awakens to its nature, to the Absolute, these qualities helps it to not get stuck in the Absolute, and move into the more inclusive Big Mind view - embracing the absolute and the relative. It helps it function through the small self with fluidity, inclusiveness, compassion and engagement. There is nothing extra. Nothing to prove.
When awareness is stuck in the absolute, it excludes the relative. Compassion, gratitude and humility helps it move towards embracing the absolute and the relative, and function with engagement and compassion in the world.
This, as so many of these entries, will seem pretty odd to a mainstream mindset.
Absolute & Relative
Existence (God, Spirit, Buddha Mind) has two faces. The Absolute and the Relative. The Absolute refers to the spacious, clear, cognizant nature of Existence, the empty ground. And the Relative refers to the manifestations of Existence, all fluid phenomena. The two are inseparable, and always here/now.
Awareness, the cognizant nature of Existence, can function in many different ways.
In matter, it is dormant and a potential only. In some animals including most humans, it functions in a self-aware, half-awake and dualistic way (only aware of the relative). In some humans, it functions in a nondual way (identified with the absolute). And in others, in a transdual way (inclusive of both the absolute and relative).
When it awakens to a dualistic view, it functions locally and perceives the world in fragments. When it awakens to a nondual view, it perceives itself as unrelated to time/space. When it awakens to a transdual view, it embraces the nonlocal/timeless and the local/timebound.
First, awareness awakens to itself in many local points, in local "awareness organs" such as animals and humans. It is identified with one particular small self. It looks at itself in the "outer" world - the rest of Existence including other small selves - and perceive it as "other". The world is experienced as a struggle and a big drama. It perceives itself as unique, different, and separate from everything else.
Then it can awaken to its own nature - the Absolute aspect of mind and Existence. It realizes its own nature of spacious clarity and awareness, beyond and distinct from all polarities including that of existence/nonexistence. There is typically an immense and natural facination here, a wish to stay with and explore the Absolute as much as possible.
There is also a possibility that it - at least for a while - will exclusively identify with the Absolute. It will then say "I am not this body, I am not this personality". It sees the Absolute in all phenomena, and it may dismiss the Relative as an insubstantial "dream".
Eventually, awareness relaxes into an embracing of both the Absolute and the Relative.
It recognizes the small self as a way to engage actively in the world. It can choose to rehumanize - to deepen its humanity and become more fully human.
Awareness then is simultaneously universal, and it has a unique flavor and engagement. It recognizes itself as inherently unrelated to space/time, and as very much local and timebound.
It knows that everything "out there" is also Existence manifesting, and that this small self relation to the rest of the Universe is Existence interacting with itself - in its many diverse manifestations. It chooses to actively engage in this big exploration process, rather than distance itself from it.
When awareness awakens to Big Mind - the embracing of the Absolute and Relative - it is also actively engaged in the world, an active participant in the evolution of the universe, the planet and ecological and social systems. This process is always new, always adapting to new inner/outer situations, in the context of Big Mind as well as past experiences.
Playful and Serious
When awareness realizes that it is all Existence interacting with and exploring itself, it gives rise to playfulness as well as seriousness From the Big Mind view, it knows that all is perfect as it is - whatever happens. From the small self view, it is indeed a serious business.
Ego & Identity
The word ego is used in many different ways, and this can lead to confusion when the specific and implied meaning is not made explicit and clarified.
Buddhism & Ego
In Buddhism, the term is used in approximately the following way.
The ego refers to one way mind/awareness can function. More specifically, the way awareness functions when it is exclusively identified with the body/personality - with the habitual patterns of sensations, emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Awareness is identified with the small self.
Of course, the patterns of the small self are not fixed, and there is no absolute separation between these patterns and the larger world.
The patterns are always new, always at least a little different. There is nothing fixed that lasts through time.
And the patterns are part of a holarchy, with three distinct characteristics. They are self-organizing and seemingly independent of the larger whole. They are seamlessly embedded in the larger social/ecological systems. And they are composed of innumerable subsystems. All these are aspects of the existence of the small self. When awareness is exclusively identified with the small self, it tends to emphasize the first and ignore or de-emphasize the two other.
As we study these patterns and the tendency of awareness to identify with them - through contemplation and meditation - we gradually come to experience directly the lack of fixedness of the small self, and the lack of absolute separation between the small self and the rest of existence. As we deepen and clarify this experience, we can soften (and eventually drop) the exclusive identification with the small self and open up for Big Mind.
Ego & Identity
An interesting aspect of how awareness functions when identified with the small self, is identity. Awareness tends to function in an exclusively dualistic way in these cases, which means that there is an identification with one end of each polarity, and a dis-identification with the other end of the polarity.
Awareness is identified with the small self, and not with the rest of Existence. It is identified as male, and not female. As tall and not short. As young and not old. As black and not white. As a carpenter, and not a professor. As stupid and not intelligent. As outgoing and not shy. As nice and not unethical and bullish. As existing and not nonexisting. As human and not other beings. As Christian and not Muslim. As republican and not democrat. And so on - the list is for all practical purposes endless.
This identification comes out of a dualistic perception, and tends to reinforce a dualistic perception as well. We are this and not that. This form of identification is by its nature exclusive. It allows for some forms of perceiving oneself and the world, and exclude other ways. It allows for some (conscious and chosen) behaviors, and exclude other behaviors (and when these do occur, they can lead to experiences of shame, guilt and often to repression and rationalization).
It leads to a relatively rigid way of being in the world, and to a rollercoaster ride of emotions and struggles. We make brave attempts to see ourselves as aligned with our identity, and to exclude anything that does not fit.
It also leads to a good deal of projections. We see one quality in ourselves, and the "opposite" quality in others. This tends to reinforce a sense of separation, lack of empathy, and a justification of treating "them" according to different guidelines than "us".
All these patterns play themselves out in all our lives. When we are aware of them, we can relate to them more consciously.
We can also allow ourselves to open for a more inclusive, fluid and porous identity. And we can do this through a wide range of approaches.
One is to work with projections. Every quality and characteristic that we are aware of, are in the inner and the outer world. We can explore this in our daily life. Whenever an attraction or aversion comes up, we can explore which quality triggered it, and how this quality is specifically present in the inner and outer world - in myself as well as others. How does it play itself out in my life? How can I include it - honestly - in my conscious identity.
Another approach is using various forms of gestalt-inspired techniques, such as Voice Dialogue. We can also take this further by using the Big Mind process, which explores how the mind functions in all different ways on personal and transpersonal levels. This too allows our identity to soften and become more inclusive, fluid and porous.
Becoming aware of the nature of mind - empty of form - is another way of loosening a fixed identification with the small self, and a specific identity. We see that these manifestations are only one aspect of Existence. The other is spaciousness and clarity. And each of the manifestations have this as their nature. They are not solid in any way.
Small Self, Personality & Ego
Small self, personality and ego are quite distinct in this view.
The small self is this fluid pattern of physical body, emotions, thoughts and behaviors. It is not fixed, and not absolutely separate from the larger or smaller whole.
Personality is the impression of a somewhat fixed and stable pattern within the small self.
Ego refers to identification with this personality.
This means that even when awareness awakens to its true nature (the absolute), and then to Big Mind (absolute and relative), there is still a small self and the impression of a personality. Neither of those goes away, as long as this body is still alive. They just become a vehicle for Big Mind in this physical world, a way to be physically engaged in this world.
There are many motivations for spiritual practice. And the ones that brings awareness closer to recognizing its own nature, may have two sources: (a) The carrot. It has a hunch of its inherent qualities, and seek to clarify and unfold them. (b) The stick. It is "forced" into it through suffering.
In the first case, it has a hunch of its inherent nature of spacious clarity, and its functions when recognized - equanimity, compassion, wisdom, fluid responsiveness.
In the second case, it seeks freedom from suffering in its many forms. It may seek the peaceful centering from meditation as a way to calm hyperactive emotional/cognitive patterns. It may seek "meaning" or a sense of "purpose", as a remedy for a life that seems empty and pointless. It may seek a sense of belonging or connectedness, to feel at home in the universe and this body, as an antidote to a sense of separation and alienation.
These are some of the ways the inner/outer world nudges us towards practice, towards exploring the nature of mind/existence. Its the nature of awareness to bring itself more fully into awareness (as a tendency, not absolute rule).