When I am identified with the small self, I see myself as a small part appearing in an (apparently) infinite world.
When I recognize myself as space & whatever arises in this space, the small self appears as a very small part of this (as far as I can tell) infinite field.
There is a complete reversal of view, and one that affords me a great deal of freedom.
Widening Holarchy of Being
When I look, I find that...
I am space, and I am what appears interior of this small self - the body, energies, sensations, emotions and thoughts. My holarchy of being goes from the physical body through to the space, from the Relative through to the Absolute.
I am space, and I find that I am whatever appears in/to this space. I am the world as it appears in the present, always fresh and new. When I don't have any fixed or exclusive identity, when I am just this capacity, I am whatever phenomena appears in the present. My holarchy of being includes all phenomena as they appear and the space in which they appear.
My holarchy of being includes whatever arises interior and exterior to this small self, and the space within it all appears.
It may go against what I have been taught growing up, but it is my immediate experience. Always available to me when I look.
I notice that the hurricane Katrina situation - among other responses - triggers some judgment in me: There is deep empathy coming up for those who were not able to leave the area due to lack of transportation and/or poor health (for many, both are related to poverty), and for those who did leave the area and lost all or most of their worldly possessions and maybe their livelihood. But for those who could have left and didn't, there is judgment coming up.
They knew that this was a category five hurricane heading directly at New Orleans - far stronger than any they have experienced in decades. And just about nothing can withstand a category five hurricane (it did reduce in strength as soon as it landed, so that prevented the total destruction there could have been). Why didn't they leave? Why did they allow petty concerns (protecting their property) and/or ideologies (misguided self-image, toughing it out) from preventing them to take care of themselves? I notice this judgment clouding empathy from coming up.
They should take care of themselves
1. Yes. It feels true (and I can see I make it seem so, I convince myself so).
2. No, I cannot absolutely know that. It is just an opinion.
3. (a) Judgment and repetitive thoughts: why didn't they take care of themselves? Why didn't they leave when they knew that this would be far worse than any hurricane they have experienced so far? The information was out there, repeated over and over in the media, for at least two full days before it hit. How could they be so arrogant? So stupid? And now, they tie up resources used to save them which could be used to save others who did not have the opportunity to leave. (b) Concern over myself, seeing how this judgment covers up my natural response of empathy. Although this is very human, in a sense - it reduces my humanness, my ability to fully experience with them as a full human being. It closes my heart where it could be open. (c) A fascination with the situation. I spend more time reading stories online than I do with other stories, and what I probably would have if I didn't attach to this judgment. I create a situation for myself where I allow myself to see that I am attaching (quite strongly) to a thought, caught up in a hangup. (d) Lack of empathy and an open heart. (e) Contractions, including shallow breath and muscle tension. (f) Some confusion, lack of clarity.
4. Clear and with an open heart. Receptive to their double suffering, first from the situation they are in and then for blaming themselves for not leaving.
5. I should take care of myself. (Yes, this is definitely true. When I get absorbed in this, I don't take care of myself. I end up reading stories on the internet when I could do something far more nurturing for myself. I am in their business, not in mine. And I allow myself to get caught up in thoughts, clouding my natural empathy, and live from a hardened and shallow place. Taking care of myself here includes doing an inquiry and allowing this spell to dissolve.)
I find that there seems to be slightly different ways of experiencing the Absolute - or at least what seems to be the Absolute.
For me, there are two distinct experiences, and both share an experience of being space & awareness, or just the function of experiencing, empty of any characteristics. I am space & awareness, in which the fluid phenomena appear. And I find myself to be the space and the phenomena simultaneously.
The difference is more in the context.
In the more typical mode for me, there is a sense of a slight veil, a subtle "fog" throughout.
Occasionally, there are periods of an incredible clarity where this veil or fog lifts. The space is crystal clear and empty. I know the Tibetans use the term diamond mind, and that is a term that seems to fit this experience.
Of course, the Absolute is what it is - in both cases. The difference is in the clarity in which I experience it. In the first case, there is a subtle fog layer (in the world of phenomena) filling the space. In the second, the space is crystal clear.
Identification & View
Identification and view seem to go togheter, as two sides of the same coin.
- I start out - at birth - as space and undifferentiated phenomena. I operate from a nondual view.
- I learn to exclusively identify with the small self. I operate from a dualistic view.
- I re-awaken to my nature as space. For a while, I may flip back and forth between experiencing myself as space (oneness) and as the small self (differentiation). I shift between nondual and dualistic views.
- I integrate both. I am aware of myself as space within which this small self and the rest of the world of phenomena arises. I operate from a transdual view.
Within this simplified view, there is an unlimited possibility for differentiation.
- In the beginning, I am space & the seamless whole of phenomena arising within it. There is no differentiation, just the fluid whole of seer and seen. This is a truly nondual view, and nonfunctional as well. I am helpless, not just from lack of experience but mainly from a view that does not allow for any differentiation.
Soon, I learn that I can control some parts of this field. I develop a sense of what I can immediately control, and discern between this and the rest of the field. Later, I learn to call this the body. There is no neccesary separation even here, just an emerging sense of differentiation and discernment within the fluid field.
- Later, culture and society teaches me to exclusively identify with this body, and to create an identity for myself as a personality - different from any other personality.
To the extent I disidentify as space & the field arising within, and exclusively identify with this small self, my view functions dualistically. The seamless field is broken up into me and you, this small self and the rest of the world of phenomena. I begin to identify with one end of each polarity, and disidentify with the other end. I create a limited, exclusive and relatively fixed identity for myself. This is a lonely place.
Even here I experience myself as space. But I may not notice it, or I don't take it seriously, or I don't realize the implications of it. It is not a conscious part of my identity. In any case, it is what brings moments of joy, peace, generosity, gratitude, humility, sense of connection and sanity to this existence.
- I re-awaken to my nature as space. There may be a gentle and gradual process here where I drop the exclusive identification as the small self and expand my identification to include space. There may also be periods where I exclusively identify as space. Where I can say that I am not this body. I am not this personality. My view shifts between nondual, dualistic and sometimes transdual.
- I learn to integrate both. I am space within which this small self and the rest of the world of phenomena arises. I have learned to differentiate and function effectively in the world. And I see all differentiations as within the fluid seamless whole of Existence. I see the changing tapestry and the patterns and threads within it. My view is deepening transdual.
I am space & all the fluid arising phenomena. There is no separation and there is infinite potential for discernment and differentiation.
Ideas & Hurricanes
When it became clear that the (then category five) hurricane Katrina was headed towards New Orleans, the authorities ordered a mass evacuation of the area. Most left, and of the ones who stayed, many had no or little choice due to lack of transportation or poor health.
But among those who stayed were many who did so by choice. And among these (I realize this group is becoming small), some did because of attachment to the thought of having to protect property, or to uphold a self-image of not being pushed around by others - including nature. And among these, some most likely died. They died because of believing in a thought.
Believing in a thought has many and varied consequences, most of which involve suffering in many forms and to various degrees. And this includes, in some cases, the suffering of the death of the small self.
Field of Inner and Outer
I notice myself as space in which the world of phenomena arise. And I see that I can discern in innumerable ways within this fluid seamless whole of phenomena.
One way to draw a light and dotted boundary line is between what arises within this small self and what arises outside of this small self.
Within this fluid seamless whole, I can see that some phenomena arise within the small self - such as sensations, emotions and thoughts; and other phenomena arise outside of this small self - such as other human beings, trees, houses; and some again arise as both the small self and the larger whole - such as the Earth, galaxies and the Universe as a whole.
When I am this capacity for experiences, this fluid and seamless whole arises within me. And what arises from within the small self is often just a small part of the whole field. In most situations, it is in fact a very small part of the whole field.
This is a great relief, because I find that I don't need to take what arises from within the small self so seriously. It only takes up a small part of the whole field. It is just one small part of the whole rich tapestry of the present.
And it is a great relief for another reason. I find that in this whole rich tapestry is change. This present is always fluid. There is no need to hold onto anything, not even what arises from within the small self.
Experiencing Ourselves as Void
Although I can't remember, I assume I experienced myself as void after birth. All phenomena arise in me as space, as a fluid seamless whole. There is no me and you, no this and that.
Early on, I figured out that I can move parts of this field. The parts I now call my body.
And a little later, I started identifying with this body. This is me and that is you. And I started identifying with different characteristics as well, which set this me apart from the rest of the whole. I created an image of a personality, which was different from other personalities.
Throughout all this, the experience of being a void was present. And most of the time, I didn't notice, or I didn't take it seriously, or I didn't realize the implications of it.
Now, when I see myself as this void - this capacity for experiences - it seems uneventful. And I also realize that the implications of it are tremendous.
Our Many Faces & No Face
As Douglas Harding points out, we have layers of appearance.
[link to a brief movie.]
From the view of someone else, I appear as a human being at the distance of a few feet. Closer up, I appear as cells. Even closer up, I appear as molecules and atoms. Even closer up, there is just space. Going out, I appear as this house. Further out, I appear as this city. Even further out, I appear as this planet. Further out, I appear as a galaxy. Further out, again there is mostly just space.
From my own view, I appear as space in which this world appears.
To someone else, and to myself in a mirror, I have layers of appearances - ending at both extremes in space. To myself, there is just this space - this void - this capacity for experiencing the world.
Is this how it is for you? (I appreciate how he always speaks from own experience, and invites others to see how it is for them.)
Freedom to Be What Arises in the Present
I saw the John Wayne movie Rio Bravo last night, enjoyed it tremendously, and also noticed how I in the past probably wouldn't (or at least would have been conflicted about it).
When I find myself as space, there is no particular identity, and I can be whatever comes up inside or outside of this person.
So if there is enjoyment and engagement coming up, I can be that enjoyment and engagement. If there is tension and contraction, I can be that tension and contraction. I am aware of occasional and various thoughts arising on how it may compare with some of the innumerable possible self-images and ideologies, and these are also what arises in the present.
I can enjoy John Wayne dealing with the ruffians in a language they understand, and with no extra. I can enjoy the intrigue and the unfolding situations. I am aware of how what comes up - within and outside of this small self. And among what arises are now and then thoughts on how this may compare with different thoughts and ideologies. They arise and fade, as everything else passing through. When I look at them, I cannot find any substance to them.
Sometimes there may be reason to take this comparison more into account, for instance when engaging with other people. But even here, there is nothing to take too seriously. It becomes more pragmatic. It is real in the sense that these are some of the comparisons people make, and that may be important to know, but not real in any inherent way.
The Difficulty of Upholding a Self
We often hear emphasized the difficulty of letting go of the self.
But the other side of it is equally true: the difficulty of upholding a self.
The difficulty of upholding a self
As Douglas Harding - and many others - points out, our direct and immediate experience of ourselves is of a vast void in which the world appears. On top of this, we can create an idea of a limited and fixed self. But this takes a lot of energy and effort in face of the obvious which we experience in everyday life, that which we are most intimately familiar with - ourselves as vast void in which everything appears.
It takes tremendous effort to think ourselves into such an obviously false impression of ourselves. And it creates tremendous drama and suffering in our lives. When we have a limited, separate and fixed identity, we are at constant war with the rest of Existence. It is a self-created drama.
The difficulty of letting go of the self
And yet, it is also difficult to let go of this false sense of self. It is, after all, what culture and society teaches us we are, in spite of our own immediate experience of ourselves. It is a self-created limitation we gradually become familiar with. And this space - doesn't that seem just too simple, too naive?
When we allow ourselves to experience ourselves as this space, it seems very simple - very uneventful. And as we become more familiar with it (again), it can have a tremendous effect on our life.
We see this person, which we previously took ourselves to be, as arising within us - as everything else in the world of phenomena. We see that it is all part of a seamless and fluid whole. The self-created drama gives way to a sense of easy in daily life.
If I no longer take this person so seriously (how can I when I know myself as void?), then where is the need for drama?
We find ourselves gradually living more effortlessly, with more ease, from a view of recognizing everything as emerging from this void. We may find ourselves live with more engagement now, less hindered by the self-created drama. There is more immediacy, more freshness, more intimacy with everything arising. There is no separation between this void and phenomena, no separation between the experiencer and the experienced.
The separation gives way to no separation. Drama gives way to ease. Dullness gives way to freshness. Resistance gives way to intimacy. A need to protect gives way to receptivity. The wave gives way to the ocean.
I can certainly see both views in myself, although the latter now is far more alive than the former. When I look, it is almost impossible to find even the possibility of a separate and limited self. I can play the game of being a self, of talking about this person as somehow separate, of finding the information about this person - such as age, name, birthplace, current address, biography, daily activities, interests, likes and dislikes. But it doesn't seem all that real.
I profoundly appreciate this person, for being a vehicle for this space. And still, this person is just a temporary manifestation - a changing, temporary and infinitely small pattern through which (the matter/energy of) this Relative world flows and enlivens.
The Headless Way
Among fellow headless travelers - as we all are - I recently found one who has a delightful approach to helping us all recognize that we have no head: Douglas Harding.
As he says, he is only pointing out the obvious. When we experience the world, there is no head. It is just a vast emptiness, just space, in which everything appears. In our own direct experience, this self is really not there - it is just a creation out of confusion. It is something we have to think our way into in order to make real for ourselves. It is a figment of our imagination, a creation so fragile and tenuous that we need a lot of energy and effort to uphold it.
The direct and immediate experience is of no self, of just a vast space in which everything appears. And on top of this we sometimes place this tenuous idea of a self, which contradicts our direct experience. There is no wonder we create such a drama out of life, in an effort to uphold this case of mistaken identity. And really for no apparent reason.
When I started reading On Having No Head a few days ago, I noticed a thought breeze through me along the lines of ah - this is such an embarrassingly naive approach. Now, there is a though going through me saying ah - this is such a wonderfully naive approach.
His approach is fresh, from his own immeditate experience and in his own words. And although it is aligned with the view of the spiritual traditions, and he is well aware of them, his approach is free of dogma, free of theology, free of esoteric and technical terminology. He uses a simple and everyday language to describe the everyday experience we all have of having no head.
His website has some good pointers, including a series of brief movies.
Systems View, Karma, Emptiness & Awakening
A systems view is quite compatible with the Buddhist view on the world of phenomena. It is also a quite good way to get a glimpse of what terms such as karma and emptiness may refer to.
From a systems view, the whole world of phenomena is a fluid and seamless whole. It is a holarchy, systems within systems - from the largest whole down through the smallest.
From this view, we see that anything humans do influences the larger social/ecological whole they live within, which in turn influence them. As we live within a seamless whole, the consequences of our actions comes back to us in one form or another.
We also see that the small selves do not have any fixed or independent existence. They are temporary and changing patterns through which the matter and energy of the larger whole flows (autopoietic systems).
Beyond this, we can also use a systems view to look at the awakening process.
From an attractor state of close identification with the small self, we move into an attractor state which includes the Absolute.
Practice - in whatever form we engage in - helps us more from one to the other. As we flip into the second more frequently, and have more tastes of it, the first attractor state gradually becomes more shallow, while the second deepens. Eventually, the whole system shifts more stably into this new attractor state.
And, as we experience in many areas of life, the transitions are usually preceded and accompanied by a period of confusion and apparent chaos. The system becomes unstable, shakes loose from the first attractor, and have an opportunity to find its way into the second.
Any system have control variables which influences when systems go out of one attractor state, and fall into another. In this case, the main control variables may be focusing on becoming familiar with ourselves as space & awareness and loosening any fixed/exclusive identity. And we can do this through inquiring into our nature, and/or rest in/as it through for instance shikantaza. Many supporting practices, such as contemplation, ethical guidelines, developing compassion etc. also help guide the system into this new attractor state.
Naming the Nameless
There are many names for our nature as space & awareness, each pointing to a certain aspect of it. I'll start with the ones that are most intimate with my experience right now.
Space & Awareness
It is clear, empty space and awareness. It is that in which any phenomena can arise within.
Function of Experiencing
Even the word space seems to much, more "something" than it really is. It is more just a pure unbound function of experiencing.
It is that which is witnessing the fluid unfolding phenomena. That in which phenomena unfolds within.
It is just clear seeing, without the emotional/thought filters of the small self.
It is distinct from the world of phenomena, and is thus without form and without birth.
It is empty of any characteristics.
It is a void, in which all phenomena can arise.
It is our original face, distinct from the world of phenomena and time. It is there before, in, after, and distinct from this small self and time.
We are capacity for the world, as it arises in the present.
It is that which is left when there is no head. When I become clear seeing, space & awareness, there is no head. (Coined by Douglas Harding.)
It is the source of all phenomena, that which all phenomena arise within, and that which experiences all phenomena. As a friend said "everything grows on a nothing tree."
And I am sure there are many more.
As it is distinct from the world of phenomena, and words are used to differentiate within this world of phenomena, words can of course not do it justice. They can only point to it.
A simpler view on simple karma.
Karma can be seen as cause and effect, here and now. Although this is a very simple and ordinary (in the sense of nothing special) view, it may be sufficient as a guideline for our lives.
Within small self
On the level of the small self, we see that there are habitual patterns of emotions/thoughts and behaviors. These habitual patterns are formed by the habits and processes of this universe, by biology (evolution of humans), by our culture and by the individual experiences of the particular small self.
These processes and patterns live their own life. They come and go on their own, often triggered by various external/internal situations.
When we are exclusively identified with the small self, we have no choice but to engage in whatever processes of the small self comes up. We either fuel it, or try to push it away. We deepen the groove of the process itself, or the process of resisting it.
When we awaken as space & awareness, all the processes of the small self unfold within us. In this case, the groove of staying as both context (space & awareness) and content (processes of the small self) deepens.
In either case, we deepen grooves which the system is more likely to fall into in the future. In systems language, we deepen the attractor state that we bring attention to.
External to small self
Also in terms of the behavior of the small self, we see that there is a process of "as we sow we shall reap".
The small self is a part of a larger fluid seamless whole. The consequences of our behaviors for the larger whole, becomes the context in which this small self lives. What goes out comes back.
This is a process we find socially. The way we relate to others is often mirrored in the way they relate to us.
And we find it ecologically. The health and well-being of the local and global ecosystems are intimately connected with our own health and well-being. If we damage the health of ecosystems, it comes back to us. If we help preserve it, we support our own life-support system.
Karma is feedback. We are embedded in a seamless whole, and when we send something out - it comes back to us one way or another.
If we act from a view of separation, we receive consequences that invites us to see no separation. And this process take place in all our relationships - to the small self (body, energies, emotions, thoughts), to others, to the larger social and ecological systems, to Existence.
As soon as we act from a view of separation, we receive unpleasant consequences. And these invite us to see that there is no separation.
If I ignore the body, I may get sick. If I resist emotions/thoughts, they will come back - in any possible way - until I finally acknowledge them. If I treat others with respect, I am more likely to be met with respect. If I act without thought of the far-reaching and long-term consequences of my actions, these consequences will come back and haunt me, until I bring these into my view.
In a very immediate way, I see that as soon as I attach to a view of separation, there is a sense of isolation and then suffering. And I also tend to act from a limited and fixed view, which in itself tends to bring suffering.
What we sow, we reap.
A simple way of looking at karma is to see it in terms of immediate cause and effect. And in some ways, this seems to be a sufficient way to look at karma as well - at least in offering us guidelines for how to relate to our lives.
Karma can occur within and outside of the small self.
Within the small self
Within the small self, it can refer to deepening grooves. Whenever we engage with a pattern of the small self, there is an effect. Habits are formed.
The patterns of the small self come and go on their own. They live their own life, formed by the habits of this universe, biology, culture and personal experience.
When we fuel a pattern, the groove deepens. If we try to push it away, then that groove of pushing away deepens. When we allow them to unfold within ourselves as space & awareness, the groove of the patterns of the small self becomes more shallow - subtly or sometimes suddenly. And the groove of staying in our more inclusive holarchy of being is deepened.
So, whenever we are exclusively identified with or caught up with the small self, or an aspect of small self, the patterns of the small self are reinforced. We cannot help it.
And whenever we rest in our larger holarcy of being, the habitual patterns of the small self soften a little. They decrystallize. The habitual grooves become a little more shallow. And the pattern of staying in our larger holarchy of being is reinforced, that particular groove deepens a little.
We set up patterns and habits that will continue on their own, and which we will continue to live with and relate to.
Outside of the small self
The actions and behaviors (or lack thereof) of the small self in the wider world of phenomena also creates karma.
We relate to others in a certain way, and that makes them more likely to relate to us in a certain way (usually mirroring our own behavior) . We relate to our physical environment in a certain way, which influences our physical environment and in turn creates new conditions for the small self.
The world of phenomena is a fluid seamless whole. Whatever the small self does or does not do influences the larger whole, which in turn changes the circumstances for the small self.
This is very obvious on a large scale today. We operate with an economical and social system which assumes unlimited resources, we do this within a planet with finite resources, and the consequence is unraveling ecosystems. We destroy the life-support systems of our own small selves.
Karma as Feedback
Another aspect of karma is feedback.
Whatever our state when we relate to the inner/outer world, it creates consequences which faithfully reflect our state.
If we operate from a dualistic view (blindly identified with the small self), we receive consequences which invite us to see the other side - the one we were not identified with.
For instance, I create a separation between myself and the Earth and act from this. The consequence is (in our case) that the ecosystems unravel which invites me see the lack of separation between the two. My sense of separation was false, and the world of phenomena invites me to see this.
I awaken to the Absolute, and realize that there is no karma in the Absolute. It is distinct from the world of phenomena, so there cannot be karma there. But, I take this too far and extends it into the world of phenomena. I think there is no karma for me anymore, anywhere. I may then act in reckless ways, which will create consequences I will have to deal with - such as others withdrawing from me or becoming upset with me (people who perceive themselves as hurt by my actions), or I may set in motion some of the ways society has evolved to deal with socially "loose cannons" such as the law.
Karma is very faithful in reflecting where we are at. It is Existence giving itself feedback, giving itself - as us - the opportunity to shift into a more inclusive and differentiated view.
The Many Ways of Being Centric
We can function in many "centric" ways: gender centric (aka sexist), ethnocentric (aka racist), worldview centric (dismissing the validity/value of other views), species centric (anthropocentric), earth centric (not so much an issue until we meet non-earth beings), and time centric.
I was reminded of this when I watched a documentary about Chaco Canyon yesterday.
The buildings of Chaco Canyon were constructed around thousand years ago, and appear to be systematically aligned with solar and moon paths. It seemed that the approach of the movie was to induce a sense of surprise and astonishment in the viewer - how amazing that they could figure it out and pull it off!
But this would only surprise us if we hold one or both of two centric views: ethnocentric (westerners are smarter than natives) or time centric (we are smarter than people were in the past).
Of course, both of those views are based on an illusion. People from all ethnic groups are about equally smart. And people way back in time - at least several hundred thousands years back - were equally smart as we are today. People in any culture and far back in time were as smart as anyone we know in our own lives.
When it comes to the builders in Chaco Canyon, we can have deep appreciation for their insights, skills and dedication. But surprise is not needed.
Another, briefer, way of looking at not knowing...
When we rest as space & awareness, we find ourselves as distinct from the world of phenomena. There is naturally not knowing. Knowing does not apply, as it is just a thought - an abstraction.
And on the level of the small self, of the world of phenomena, there are also approaches we can use to help us loosen up ideas of knowing.
We can explore a variety of views, and find the (limited) validity of each of them. In this way, we learn how to fluidly move among a variety of views and not get stuck in any particular one.
We can use Byron Katie's inquiry process to allow beliefs into particular thoughts (and eventually the whole tapestry of beliefs) to unravel.
We can use turnarounds, especially when we find ourselves attaching to a particular thought. If I turn it around to its opposite(s), in what way are each of the new statements true?
When we then rest in the holarchy of our being, from the small self through to space & awareness, we find an inherent not knowing in the Absolute, and a fluidity of views on the level of the small self. We are free to apply any one, or any set of views, in any particular situation - depending on what the situation seems to call for.
We apply it, see it for what it is - just a thought, and abstraction, one of many valid and possible views - and release it. It is the catch & release approach to views.
The effects of this are many. On a practical level, it means that we can see any situation in a more comprehensive way and that we are free to apply any particular view(s) depending on what seems appropriate. Our toolbox is larger. It also means that we are free to experience more directly, with fewer filters of particular beliefs and abstractions. And it helps us not take our views so seriously - we have a lighter touch and a sense of humor about them.
Power of Gawking
Brian Swimme uses the wonderful phrase The Power of Gawking
[see page 8 of this pdf from What Is Enlightenment magazine].
If Existence is God manifesting and exploring itself in an infinite variety of ways, then we are one of the many ways God experiences itself. When we experience, God experience through us.
In a certain way, it doesn't matter how or what we experience - whatever it is, it just adds to the richness of the total.
The other side of it is why not engage in it, as the experience organs of God, with dedication and enthusiasm. Why not gawk? Why not making a habit of gawking with delight.
God knows (literally) that there is enough to gawk at - anything is a miracle worthy of our gawking. It is Existence manifesting, perfectly and completely, in the present. Wonderfully, in always new and fresh ways.
Unfolding Sense of Our Holarchy of Being
There may be three phases to our unfolding experience of our holarchy of being.
First, our sense of our holarchy of being is limited to the small self. The body, energies, emotions and thoughts.
Then, it expands to include the Absolute. We find ourselves as space & awareness within which this small self arises.
Then, it may expand to include Big Mind - all of Existence. Space & awareness, and all phenomena arising within it.
Expanded Sense of Our Holarcy of Being
Operating from a partial sense of our holarchy of being, there can be a certain sense of claustrophobia. We are identified with just the aspects of the small self - the body, energies, emotions and thoughts. In a way, we are trapped in and as this small container. This small separate object in a vast world of other separate and unpredictable objects. We have no choice but to get blindly caught up in all the drama of the human life, in the various ways it plays itself out.
As our experience of our holarchy of being expands, there is a shift. And as we become more familiar with this larger holarcy of being - from the small self through to space & awareness - the ripples of this shift gradually spread. Now, drama can give way to ease, complexity to simplicity, fragmentation to wholeness.
In a certain sense, not much has changed. Everything that was there before is still here, except the exclusive identification with the small self and the drama that comes with it. And that small exception means a great deal to the life of the small self. There are still the daily activities and life of the small self, but now in a different context.
Not a Big Deal & Profound Consequences
Awakening to the Absolute can be a little disappointing, at least in my experience. It is just space & awareness, nothing spectacular. It is very simple, actually simpler than any description of it can be. In a way, it is quite uneventful. It is just a very simple, clear, spacious context for any and all experiences that comes and goes.
And it becomes very clear that this small self does not have any separate or fixed existence. This bag of skin does not end at the skin, but is part of the larger whole of the world of phenomena. There are no absolute separations. And it always changes, from conception through to its death. It is just temporary and changing patterns through which the matter and energy of the larger whole flows to give it some temporary life and substance. Although I want to take care of it and help it live well, I also see that there is no need to take it too seriously. It has its peculiarities and its habitual patterns of reactions, and all this too arises within myself as space & awareness. The reactions of the small self come and go, as everything else. No need to take it too seriously.
At the same time, I am free to engage with the small self in whatever ways seem appropriate in the situation. I can allow the situation to inform engagement. There is a remarkable simplicity in this, and an ease. There is no need - or wish - to add drama.
On the one hand, this awakening is no big deal. It is quite uneventful.
On the other hand, it has profound consequences for this small self - for how it functions and operates in the world.
From operating with space & awareness blindly identified with it, and all the self-created drama and struggle that comes with it, there is differentiation, space and a remarkable simplicity and ease.
No Subject, No Object
Staying as space & awareness - shifting attention into that aspect of our being - has several consequences.
One is that we allow any and all experiences to unfold within us, without a need to automatically engage with them through fueling or pushing them away. We are still free to engage with them, within the context of this space & awareness. The habitual patterns of the small self, such as contractions triggered by certain circumstances, unfold on their own - within space & awareness. We can say "yes" to the "no".
Another is that any inherent and fixed identity falls away. Our Absolute aspect is distinct from the world of phenomena, and does not have any inherent, fixed or exclusive identity. Only the small self can have such an identity, and this small self is just arising within this vast/limitless space. We have and can operate through/as a small self, but are not exclusively identified with it. It is just one part of the whole holarchy of our being.
Having no inherent identity, there is no separation between subject - that which is experiencing, and object - that which is experienced. I am this space & awareness. And I also am whatever arises in the present - the sound of the cars, the pressure under the butt and feet, the pressure under the pads of the fingers, the comfortable temperature of the slight breeze, the dog barking in the distance, the cat mewing, the movement of the fingers and the body. All this arises within me, and as me. There is no separation. There is no distinction between subject and object.
When there is a fixed and limited identity, there is automatically subject and object, the experiencer and the experienced. And this happens as soon as my awareness of my being contracts down to exclusive identification with the processes of the small self - with thoughts, emotions, sensations.
As soon as I am aware of the whole holarchy of being, from the small self through space & awareness, it shifts. I am this space & awareness which is the context for all experiences. And I am whatever arises, in the present. There is no subject and no object, only the inseparability of the space & awareness and that which is arising in the present.
I also see that I can find a distinction, if I look for it. I can see that it is possible to distinguish between the experiencer and the experienced, the subject and the object. But the experience in the moment is that there is no subject and no object.
And there is no need for any particular practice or situation to do this. I can bring attention to it at any point throughout the day, in any situation.
Small Self Going Down
Awakening to/as the Witness, as space & awareness, one aspect of the exploration process has to do with what happens when the small self goes down, through illness, tiredness and sleep.
Do we, as space & awareness go down with it (into unconsiousness), or can we learn to differentiate and stay as space & awareness even though the small self goes down.
In the beginning, we can learn to stay as space & awareness when the small self is tired and ill in various ways. Then, we can stay as a stream of space & awareness through the sleep of the small self. And eventually, it we are relatively familiar with and stable in this process, we can (it seems) stay as space & awareness through the death of the small self.
(This topic came up as it seems to be a fertile ground of exploration for my partner right now.)
Detached & Heartfull
Writing the previous post reminded me of the difference between living from a transdual view with a detached vs. a heartfull flavor.
In the one case, we see clearly. We are fully aware of the seamless fluid whole of Existence. And we act from this view. But there is "nobody home". There is just a sense of clarity and space.
In the other case, we have everything the more detached flavor has, but now more fully engaged. From a sense of deep and heartfull connections with ourselves, others and Existence.
The difference is not in the seeing, and not in the compassion that comes from realizing the seamless whole of Existence. The difference is more in the fullness and richness of the life.
In the soulful life, we are more fully human. We live more fully from our whole holarchy of being.
Searching for Blue
I was reminded of the different meanings of "doing it for oneself" tonight.
First by finishing up Freud and Man's Soul, a book which shows the soulfulness of Freud's approach and the technification and de-souling of it by the English language translations. And then by Searching for Blue - a beautiful movie about a young man from a tribe in Peru.
So the themes of the evening seems to be all the different aspects of narcissism, doing it for oneself, living one's life for others, and maturing as a human being.
Freud saw US culture as a prime example of narcisim written large. Of people living for themselves, in the narrow sense of the word. Of the "me" culture, with little regard for others. Where ones own narrow self-interests takes the place of solidarity, superficial friendliness takes the place of soulful, deep and rich connections, cynicism takes the place of heartfull and sincere connections, and sentimentality takes the place of deep recognition and empathy.
Narcissism is that which prevents us from becoming fuller and richer human beings, from maturing through sincere and vulnerable heart connections, to allow difficulties to deepen our humanity, through living our lives sincerely and in a wider context.
Living ones life as service
The movie Searching for Blue showed the exact opposite. A young man from a traditional village in the rainforest, born to be a painter, studying in Lima - all so he could be a bridge between his own culture and that of the city. He lived his life to serve his own culture and his own people, and also so other people could learn from his culture. And his own family lived their lives so he could fulfill this role in the world. They all lived from heartfull connections, and they all lived their lives for something beyond themselves. They all allowed themselves to deeply care, to break open, and allow themselves to mature as real and full human beings.
Doing it for oneself
Doing it for oneself can have different meanings.
One the one hand, it can be taken in a very narrow sense. To live for myself and maybe those closest to me, and not care much about anybody else.
On the other hand, it can be understood in a more soulful way. When we really connect with ourselves, others and the world around us, doing it for ourselves becomes doing it for the whole. I live this life, fully knowing the intricate and deep connections with those around me, with my culture and society, with this land, with future and past generations, with this Earth, with this Universe. With Existence.
I do it for myself, and live for something larger than myself.
In a way...
When I live for myself, I see a tendency to want to do for others. I do for others to please them and get what I want.
When I live for something larger than myself, I do it for myself. I do it because of the connections, not for the approval of others.
One is a life of impoverishment, fear, lack and isolation. The other is a life of richness, fullness, sincerity and deep connections.
When we come to ourselves as space & awareness, as the function of experiencing, there is no knowing. This space & awareness is distinct from the world of phenomena and that in which all phenomena arises. It is the context for our experiences.
Knowing is always a thought. It is the thought of "I know".
When we awaken to the holarchy of our being - from the small self through to the Witness or Big Mind, from the Relative through to the Absolute - we see all experiences as arising within the context of the Absolute.
There is space to allow the experience to arise and unfold, without getting caught up in them. They are guests passing through, and - as Suzuki Roshi said, we can leave the doors open and don't need to serve them cookies and tea. We see thoughts as what they are, just thoughts. Just abstractions temporarily passing through. They have some uses, but there is no need to take them too seriously. There is no need to believe in them.
The clear seeing - the context, the space & awareness - is gives such as sense of freedom and overview. Why choose to contract down into exclusive identification with experiences?
This is a process, but as we become more familiar with ourselves as clear seeing and the holarchy of being, there is less and less need and desire to get absorbed - and contract - into the temporary experiences of the small self.
Instead of being identified with the experiences or perceiving them as happening to me, they now arise within me.
And this allows us to be more fully engage in the world of phenomena, more fully participating, and with a new sense of ease in daily life.
- Is it true?
No. It is just a belief, just an idea.
- Can I really know it is true?
- How do I react when I hold onto the thought that I know?
Fear of loosing the knowledge I have. Fear of being proven to not know. Fear of this knowledge, which I am protecting so fiercly, not being good enough. Attachment to knowing, to every bit and piece of it. I am more attached to the idea of knowing, and of what I know, than being with what is. I have something to protect. I have an image to uphold. I am stuck in an abstraction. There is a sense of separation from myself, others and Existence. The idea of knowing, and of what I know, prevents me from experiencing Existence as fresh and new.
- Who/what would I be without the thought?
Open. Receptive. Clear. Fluid - able to freely explore different views. Free to allow particular knowledge/insights/ideas come and go. Make use of them when appropriate, and let them go when appropriate. Nothing to protect. Sense of connection and initimacy with myself, others and Existence. Sincerity. Intimacy. Richness. Freshness.
I don't know. (Yes, that is more true. I cannot know. Even the term "knowing" doesn't seem so real anymore after this. It has lost its meaning.)
Path & Nowhere to Go
I remembered a story I heard about Krishnamurti. He had apparently spoken for a long time on nowhere to go. It is already here. At the end of the talk, a woman raised her hand and asked "that is beautiful - how do I get there?" (probably not a very accurate rendition of the story).
It is of course a funny story, but it can be seen as funny for different reasons.
One is that she didn't get it, and didn't even try to hide - or didn't realize - that she didn't get it.
One is that it shows the other side, the one Krishnamurti (apparently) did speak about: the path.
From the view of Existence, everyone and everything are perfect expressions of Existence, of God, of Buddha Mind. Whatever we do, whatever we say, whatever we experience, it is all a perfect manifestation of God. We cannot escape it, no matter how hard we try.
On the other hand, there is a path into this realization. It doesn't help that there is a diamond sown into our robe unless we know it is there.
If we get stuck in one or the other, we are... stuck.
If we are stuck in the idea of nowhere to go, we won't get there very easily if we are not already there. We get stuck in an idea of nowhere to go.
And if we are already there, we won't be able to guide others into it very easily either. We are stuck in the Absolute or Big Mind, not able to acknowledge or interact with others functioning from different perspectives. We are not able to meet people where they are.
If we are stuck in path, then we will never get there. There is always something else over the next hill. We are exclusively identified with seeking, and not able to open up for what already is - here and now.
We have a small Byron Katie inquiry group meeting here every other week, and I find it to be a great support. It gives a boost to my own inquiry process, and there are always new insights coming up from the interactions. Whenever one of us is exploring the attachments to a particular belief, we all do. The thoughts, and the process of attaching to them, is not confined to any one particular person - although they appear within each of us with an individual flavor.
He shouldn't reject what he doesn't understand.
3. Argumentative. Separation between him (as wrong) and myself (as right). Repeat an imaginary dialogue with him over and over. Stress, constricted breath and stomach. Judgmental of him (missing out of something good) and me (judging him). Also judgmental of myself, as I didn't present it well enough. And it may have been the one right thing for him, and I screwed it up.
4. Appreciative of him taking care of himself, not pushed around. If clear enough to say "no" in this situation, may be clear enough to say "yes" in another - if that seems right to him.
>> 5a. I shouldn't reject what I don't understand. (Yes, when I believe the thought, I reject his decision. As soon as I believe the thought, and he acts in a way that triggers it, I reject him and his decision. I automatically and instantly do exactly what I am telling myself that he should not do.)
>> 5b. I should reject what I understand. (Yes, because it is just another thought. Whenever I think I understand, it is just another thought. Another abstraction, which prevents me from experiencing the freshness of the present.)
Wealth, as anything else, can be seen from different perspectives. I overheard someone yesterday talking about how he was hardly wealthy, yet he owns two cabins, a house, a high quality car, have the opportunity to take frequent and long vacations, has plenty of food to eat, a comfortable bed, good friends, a close family.
Small self wealth
From the view of the small self, wealth is a very real issue. Yet what we see as wealthy or not obviously depends on how we define it, and then on what levels of it we see around us, and our own and our culture's expectations.
In terms of material comfort, current modest material comfort in the western world is for most people around the world a wild luxury they can only dream of. And what seems an ordinary level today in the western world, was even here luxurious a few decades ago. A few centuries ago, this modern level of modest comfort was beyond the dreams of even many of the wealthiest.
And then there are many other areas of wealth, such as knowledge, information, insight, wisdom, skills, opportunities, family, friends, social support, etc.
Big Mind wealth
From the view of Big Mind, we include this level of wealth, but there is also another that appears. We see that the whole of Existence is our wealth. There is no separation between ourselves and all there is. This small self obviously has physical access to only some of it, to varying degrees. And yet, the incredible wealth, richness and fullness of Existence unfolds within us as space & awareness.
There seems to be an awakening process in terms of need for connections. First, on a physical level (food, shelter), then socially (to others and ourselves), then to Existence - to God.
The connections on the Relative level may or may not be there, but the one to Existence is always here, whether we are aware of experiencing it or not.
Direction & Context
Of course, there are many levels of details to this picture. For instance, if we try to satisfy a need for social connections through physical connections, we will experience something missing. Similarly, if we try to satisfy our need for connection with Existence through social or material connections, there will be a sense of something not quite right. We experience dis-ease. And this will prod us to explore further, until we - eventually - awaken as Big Mind.
The world today, and maybe it has always been so, seems a mad and messy rush to explore how we can meet our needs for connections. This comes from a sense of dis-ease. And although we find temporary and limited satisfaction in different ways, this process in itself ironically brings a sense of dis-ease.
As long as we are in desiring mind and seeking mind, there will always be something else over the next hill. This is never quite enough. And if we are exclusively identified with this mindset, there will always be a sense of dissatisfaction. The remedy is to become familiar with the other end of the polarity, non-seeking mind. And then to shift into that which includes both - Big Mind.
First, we are stuck in a sense of lack and seeking. This gives us a wonderful motivation for exploring and be actively engaged in the world. It is one expression of that which fuels the unfolding of this universe. It is one aspect of that which fuels the evolution of humans, and the development of the small selves. This gives direction and movement.
As we have a taste of and then awaken more stably as Big Mind, we find that nothing was really missing in the first place. This is a place of equanimity and rest.
And finally, we embrace both. We embrace the drive and engagement in the world of the small self. And we embrace the larger view of Big Mind.
There seems to be a movement today in terms of demystifying awakenings. And this seems to occur in several different ways.
One is giving people more immediate access to it, or at least the taste of an awakening into the Witness and Big Mind. Some examples are simple inquiries into the nature of mind (similar to the Dzogchen pointing out instructions), the Big Mind process, and Byron Katie's inquiry process.
Another is placing the different aspects of awakenings and development into a shared framework, such as Ken Wilber's AQAL approach.
Taking the broad lines of the process out of the sometimes obscure language of the traditions and into everyday and common language. And do this while keeping traditional terminology for important distinctions, precision and clarity.
Richness of Views
And, maybe most importantly, as more people have glimpses of and then awaken more stably as the Witness and Big Mind, there are more first person reports available. There are more and more people exploring how to speak about it in their own language - in a way that makes sense to them and in our contemporary society.
Hopefully, this process will be another example of include & transcend. As much as this new approach seems needed and appropriate, there still needs to be some grounding in and appreciation for the wisdom accumulated and offered in the traditions. The exuberance of the new needs the keel and rudder of the old.
True Religion & Mantras
To look at our true religion, the one we live by in everyday life, we only need to look at our most cherished beliefs.
And these beliefs are often expressed through mantras - statements and thoughts we repeat over and over for ourselves.
For me, a core at my religion - and my mantra as well - has been that people should me mindful in general and not noisy in particular. Others may be that people should be friendly and compassionate, or that they should do their dishes. Or, as it was for Byron Katie, that the kids should pick up their socks.
Of course, any thought is an abstraction and represent a limited view. So any belief in a thought is in conflict with reality and brings suffering. We create our own drama through believing in thoughts.
And Byron Katie's inquiry process is one way we can recognize this and allow the beliefs - the attachment to thoughts - to drop us. First one by one, and then as the whole tapestry of beliefs start unravelling on its own.
Becoming What is Resisted
There is the familiar saying "We become what we resist", which - according to Google - is variously attributed to Ron Hubbard, the Delphic Oracle, China, Vedic wisdom, Buddhism, etc.
From a Big Mind view, I see that exclusive identification with the small self - or an aspect of the small self - is what produces resistance. When I am caught up in the small self, there is a separation between me and you, and a dualistic view emerges.
From this, I operate from an exclusive and limited identity. I am this and not that. I am identified with one end of the polarity, and not the other end. The particular content of this identity (formed by culture and personal experiences) is less important the existence of it.
And whatever does not fit this identity is resisted.
This resistance can take the form of aversion. I see something in you which I see as undesirable and am actively resisting in myself. I am right, you are wrong. I am smart, you are stupid. I am happy, you are sad. I am enligthened, you are deluded. I don't want you around because you are embodying that which I don't want to have in myself.
Aversion may also come up when I see something in you which I see as desirable, but also reminds me of my own failure. You are smart, I am stupid. You are happy, I am sad. You are beautiful, I am not. You are enlightened, I am not. I don't want you around, because you remind me of my own failure.
Or the resistance can take the form of attraction. I see something in you that I see as desirable but am not aware of in myself, something I on some level resist because it does not fit my current self-identity. You are beautiful, and I am not able to see myself as beautiful. You are smart, and I am not able to see myself as that smart. You are insightful, and I am not. You are enlightened, I am deluded. Maybe through becoming closer to you, I can find this in myself?
There is also another form of attraction. I see something in you that I see as undesireable, but I am also fascinated with it. You are brutal, and I am not but I have a fascination with it. You are promiscuous and I am not, but I find it fascinating. (The news and entertainment industry figured this one out a long time ago!).
And from Byron Katie's inquiry process, I see that whenever I resist something appearing in someone else, I automatically engage in exactly that which I tell myself I am resisting.
I tell myself that "she should not contract", and as soon as the appears to contract, I contract in response. I tell myself that "they should not be noisy", and at the moment they appear to be noisy, I become very noisy in my thoughts and judgments about them. I tell myself "he should not judge", and as soon as he appears to judge, I judge.
There is a beauty in this. Existence is completely faithful and sincere in giving us everything we need to wake up right here and now. It is all made available to us, although we are not always available to it.
As soon as I am blindly caught up in the processes of the small self, as soon as I operate from a limited identity, as soon as I resist one end of the polarity and identify with the other, and as soon as all this is triggered, I immediately become what I resist. And this gives me a beautiful opportunity to see it, become receptive to it, allow it gently into my identity. To allow my identity to expand, become more inclusive, soften, more fluid.
As our identity becomes more inclusive and fluid, and embraces both ends of more and more polarities, we have the opportunity to loosen our exclusive identification with the small self. We have the opportunity to emerge gradually into a more transdual and Big Mind view.
Existence seems to operate with many forms of glue.
Whenever we resist something, we are glued to it until we see it as ourselves and can move beyond. We identify with one end of a polarity and see it as "me", and resist the other end and see it as "not me". And from this split, there is either an attraction or aversion arising to that which is "not me", which functions as a glue. It glues our attention to it, until we are able to see that as "me" as well, which allows us to include and transcend.
Whenever there is an awakening, there is bliss, sense of new freedom and fullness, etc. which keeps us coming back. Of course, this too is just a temporary and fleeting experience, but it does keep us glued to the awakening process - which allows it to deepen and clarify. Eventually, we come to recognize ourselves as that in which all experiences unfold, independent of the character of these experiences.
Frog in a Well
When we awaken to the nature of mind - as space & awareness, the Witness, the formless unborn, our original face - we are like the frog in the well.
For a while, it is just amazing to see this little area of sky. We are fascinated with it. Mesmerized. We experience joy and bliss. But it is still just a little area of sky.
From here, as we become more and more familiar with it and rest as it and our holarchy of being in more and more daily situations, we may awaken as Big Mind. We realize that this piece of sky is just one part of a much larger sky. We realize that it is that in which all of Existence arises. And I am that.
The Mystery of Now
Existence manifests in always fresh and new ways. It is never the same as it used to be. The way it manifests is always new, will never come back in the same way.
At the same time, the present is always available. It never goes away.
The present - Existence manifesting - is always fresh and changing. And it is always available, it is only that available. Both are there.
And when we rest in ourselves as space & awareness, this is all there is. There is no separation between Existence manifesting and this space & awareness. You cannot even slide a sheet of paper inbetween the two.
If we get temporarily caught up with and identified with processes of the small self, such as thoughts, then there is a filter of abstraction between that which experiences and the experienced. There is a subject and an object. The world is fragmented into opposites. Confusion enters. Suffering in all its many forms enters. We get lost in thoughts, in abstractions, of the present, past and future. And this is OK as well. It is just another way Existence manifests. Another play of God.
Both are Existence manifesting, perfectly, here and now. Both are complete. Both are perfect expressions of God. One without suffering, the other with.
The small self functions thorugh a dualistic view, through a discernment essential to keep it alive. At the same time, if there is only discernement and not a more transdual view as well, it tends to create a lot of trouble and suffering.
One of the ways the small self functions is by comparing itself to other small selves. This serves a survival function, and is also a source of suffering.
When we are exclusively identified with/as the small self, it creates suffering. When we awaken to our nature as space & awareness, and eventually as Big Mind, it is just discernment within a transdual view.
Village vs. Global
Within the level of the small self, there is also another aspect to this - as others have pointed out.
In the past, we compared ourselves to our local village of 50 (or so) people. In most cases, we had at least one area where we compared favorably with any of these 50. It could be in stonemasonry, in hunting, in weaving, in wisdom, in rearing children, in social skills, in predicting weather patterns, in recognizing animal tracks, in carpentry, in preserving food.
Today, in our age of mass media and the internet, we compare ourselves with 6.5 billion or so people. In this context, few of us compare very favorably. In any area where we have some skill or ability, there are in most cases a larger number of people who do much better than us.
The solution to not get terribly depressed by this is...
To avoid thinking about it. This does not prevent it from stewing under the surface and come up now and then.
To see through the thought, through for instance Byron Katie's inquiry process. To allow the belief to let go of us.
To awaken to our nature as space & awareness. Here, we find ourselves to be complete as we are. Nothing is missing.
And when we embrace our holarcy of being, from the small self through to our nature as space & awareness, we see that we are perfect as we are - and that there is room for improvement.
Simple Rules & Complex Results
When we awaken to/as the nature of mind and Big Mind, we discover that the immense complexity of the Relative world of phenomena unfolds from and within the Absolute. From that which is distinct from the world of phenomena, beyond simple and complex, unfolds immense complexity.
At the levels of the Relative closest to the Absolute, there are likely to be very simple rules - very simple habits - from which this complexity unfolds. And cellular automata is one model for how this may work, exemplified in games such as Mushroom Life.
In other words, you don't need natural selection to pare down evolution to a few robust forms. Rather, organisms evolve outward to fill all the possible forms available to them by the rules of cellular automata. Complexity is destiny—and Darwin becomes a footnote. "I've come to believe," says Wolfram, "that natural selection is not all that important."
The more sciences he probes, the more Wolfram senses a deeper pattern—an underlying force that defines not only the cosmos but living things as well: "Biologists," he says, "have never been able to really explain how things get made, how they develop, and where complicated forms come from. This is my answer." He points at the shell, "This mollusk is essentially running a biological software program. That program appears to be very complex. But once you understand it, it's actually very simple."
[Interview with Steven Wolfram in Forbes]
Simple rules have complex consequences.
Systems theories in general (within which cellular automata are often included) provides a wider and more sophistiated view beyond that of traditional mechanistic/reductionistic/soulless science and the view of creationsists and intelligent design. In a certain sense, it transcends and includes both.
Religion & Spirituality
A very simplified way to describe the difference between spirituality and religion, may be to say that spirituality points to and reflects the direct experience, while religion is an institutionalized version of the same - typically with an emphasis on guidelines for behavior.
Spirituality has to do with coming to the "local" Absolute - a.k.a. the Witness, space & awareness, formless unborn, function of experiencing, and to Big Mind - that which embraces the Absolute and Relative. It has to do with the landscape we find when we enter this territory, and how we each describe it influenced by culture, the language and terminology available to us, and personal flavor.
Religion has to do with how we function when we are exclusively identified with the small self. As there is a strong tendency to be identified with the habitual processes of the small self, there is naturally an emphasis on guidelines of behavior on this level. This is necessary to reduce the expression of some of the most destructive behavior.
We can also say that spirituality is esoteric, while religion is exoteric.
To oversimplify further, we can say that there seems to be a tendency for religion to be found on the first tier in Spiral Dynamics terminology. Today's spirituality seem to be more at home at the second tier, and also more aligned with second tier science.
The Rich Flavor of the Present
Through Breema, I have come to experience the present in a even richer way. While Shikantaza, and resting in myself as space & awareness, and in the holarchy from the small self through to the Absolute, is wonderful - Breema has opened up another flavors for me of the present.
There is a wonderful richness in just coming to the breath, as it is. Through coming to the weight of the body, the posture, the facial expression, the tone of voice - as it manifests right now. There is a bliss in it, independent of what else may be going on. Often, when I look at what I most would like to do right now, the answer is to just come to the breath and the weight of the body. It is such as rich, full, sensual experience with an undercurrent of bliss.
Of course, I realize that these experiences arise because this is relatively new for me, and that it will wear off as it becomes more familiar to me. Still, I'll take it. It is the glue Existence is using to bring my attention to it, and I am a willing subject. I assume that what will be left is resting in the holarchy, with this additional richness of being body, being breathed.
Happening To & Within
When I came home tonight, there was a good deal of liveliness and activity in the house.
My body is still pretty shaky, so a part of me wanted a calm and quiet situation.
I noticed how the sounds appeared as disturbing when I saw it as happening to me. And I saw it as happening to me when I engaged with the thought that the situation should be quiet.
As soon as I shifted into Big Mind, the sounds and liveliness now appeared within me, along with everything else. It did no longer happen to me, and it was fine. Even enjoyable. I could enjoy the life in it, life manifesting in this particular way in this precious Now.
Only Now - May as Well Appreciate It
As we become more familiar with living as/from ourselves as space & awareness, it becomes more clear how there is only this present, this always changing always new and fresh now.
Past and future are only present as thoughts, as memories and abstractions. And even being caught up in thoughts about the present filters it through an abstractions.
Coming to ourselves as space & awareness, we can allow thoughts to arise along with all other experiences in the present. We realize there is only this present, always new and fresh, never manifesting the same way again.
There is only Now - I may as well appreciate it.
Shakiness & Support
My body has been a little shaky the last couple of days, probably from some food I had which contained food chemicals (it seems pretty sensitive to it).
Today, during the Breema class, I had an opportunity to see how this can be a support. Mainly, it turned out to be a support in doing it for myself. I needed it so much that it was the only thing that came up as realistic in the situation. And it also allowed me to disengage from the thinking process, as it would take too much energy. Much easier to just rest as space & awareness. At the end, it was so clear that this physical body is just a small aspect of this whole holarchy of being - and that the rest of it was doing quite well.
And in this new context, I notice that the shakiness of the body brings me to greater receptivity. It slows me down a little, I soften and open up more.
Zone 1 & Holarchy of Being
The previous post started out more spontaneusly, and then morphed into a somewhat more balanced view.
When we emphasize immediate experience, we emphasize zone 1 (subjective experience) of the left quadrants in the AQAL framework. Here, it is indeed important to allow abstractions to go, and rest in what is with some sincerity.
For the other zones and quadrants, abstractions are appropriate and useful, as long as we take them as just that - abstractions. The map is never the terrain.
Better to Forget & Holarchy of Being
Two views on immediate experience & abstractions.
Immediate Experiences [zone 1]
Whenever there is an (apparent) insight or realization - anything coming from direct experience in the present - it is better to forget it right away. Any experience only exists and is alive right now, and becomes dead and a burden as an abstract memory.
Anything I write here that is from a direct experience, only has value as I experience it and find a way of phrasing it. As soon as it is typed down, it becomes a dead memory and concept.
Anything written down which is already based on a dead memory and concept, does not even have much value as it is written down.
The main value of these words comes from the extent they are from an immediate and alive experience. And possibly as an immediate reminder and pointer to myself and anyone else reading them.
Beyond this, they have some value to the extent they help me figure out how to phrase these experiences in a way that makes moderate sense to myself and maybe others. But again, only to the extent they come from an immediate experience, and then are left behind as a dead concept.
It is important to appreciate words for what they can do, which is to reflect an immediate and alive experience, maybe allow others into a similar experience, and to help us clarify and explore our immediate experience of existence. And it is important to recognize when they become a burden, which is as soon as they become dead abstractions.
Of course, this is only one view - and one that emphasizes immediate experience.
Holarchy of Being
Another may be to include both more explicitly. Immediate and direct experiences, from ourselves as space & awareness, is important. And abstractions and words are important as well. They both are included in our holarchy of being.
When we rest in this holarchy of our being - from the small self through to the Witness and/or Big Mind - we see thoughts and abstractions as what they are, just thoughts and abstractions. We take them less seriously. We see their usefulness in some situations, and not in others. We see their benefits, and their drawbacks. We have a more sober relationship to them. We are neither completely caught up in them, nor do we completely dismiss them.
When we enter the same (or similar) landscape, the ways we describe it will be similar but also with a distinct flavor.
One of the common themes is that of stripping off, of letting go, of relaxing into what is - at least for those who take a more yin approach to awakening.
The stripping off refers to letting go of blind attachments to the small self, and to all aspects of the small self. And this is typically a gradual process - of resting in/as the witness in more and more situations. When a contraction arises in the small self, we allow this to arise within space & awareness, and this allows some space around the contraction - we don't have to get caught up in it. As we do this in more and more situations, the tapestry of blind attachments gradually softens and unravels.
What is left is the "ground" of space & awareness, within which all experiences unfold. We rest more in our whole holarchy of being in more and more situations.
And this gives more freedom in how we relate to the situations of the small self. We are no longer blindly caught up in the habitual patterns of the small self, but can respond from more clarity and overview. And we are less caught up in any fixed identity, which allows us to respond with more fluidity and flexibility. There is more fluidity and richness in the responses available to us.
And there is a sense of ease and simplicity in our engagement as/in the world of phenomena. There is more of a sense of space and overview, along with a sense of intimacy, richness and connection.
Along with all this is a difference in how we relate to the small self. Initially, there is a strong identification with the small self. Then, this identification softens and becomes more inclusive, until there is no fixed identity anymore. We see this small self as embedded in the larger fluid whole of Relative phenomena. It is a temporary and changing pattern through which the matter and energy of the larger universe flows. It is empty of any fixed and separate existence, and empty of anyone to identify with it. It is that which the Absolute temporarily works through/as in the world of phenomena.
All its habitual patterns are there, although now softened, and these allows for access to memory, information and evolving skills, and allows for a flavor of personality to this vehicle for Big Mind.
Preferences & Not
Another look at how something appears from different views...
When we awaken to ourselves as space & awareness (the Witness, formles unborn, function of experiencing), we discover that it is distinct from the world of phenomena. No characteristics seem to apply.
And from here, we can awaken in various degrees to Big Mind, that which embraces the Absolute and Relative, the space & awareness and the phenomena arising within it. Here, there are no preferences. Everything is seen as Existence, God, Buddha Mind manifesting in always new ways.
It is a neutral/impartial view in some sense, and one that gives a tremendous freedom in allowing it all to appear as it is. The Big Mind view is free from resisting, but it does contain resistance as it contains all phenomena.
Big Heart does have a preference: to alleviate suffering, and to bring all beings to awakening. And it can do this in any number of ways, depending on what seems most appropriate in the present. It can be gentle, listening and holding, or it can be a kick in the butt.
The small self definitely have preferences, as it should have. It is its nature, and vital for its existence and continued survival. It has a preference to staying alive, for not stepping out in front of the bus, for anything that is pleasant and supports life. These preferences are formed partly by biology (biological preferences for survival in many forms), partly by culture (somewhat more arbitrary), and partly by family and personal experience.
If we look at our holarchy of being, from the Relative through to the Absolute, from the small self through to the nature of mind, we see that there can be a number of combinations.
At the level of the Absolute, it is all OK no matter what. At the level of Big Heart, there is a preference for alleviating suffering and for helping to insight into the nature of mind. At the level of the small self, there are any number of preferences - some of which may even appear conflicting.
This means that it can be OK, good and good. OK, good and awful. OK, not good and awful.
In the first case, there is a growing insight into the nature of mind, and a situation aligned with the preferences of the small self. In the second case, there is a growing insight into the nature of mind but a situation not aligned with the preferences of the small self (difficulties which we are able to learn from). In the third case, there is not much (immediate, obvious) learning, and a situation not aligned with the preferences of the small self.
And most of us will experience all three situations throughout the life of the small self. One or another will be more in the foreground during different periods of our life, and they may all occur during the course of a single day as well.
My partner asked me my age for health insurance reasons, and I noticed a brief period of confusion - which age does she want? Which one is appropriate in this context?
Age, as anything else, can be seen from different views...
In the Relative world, we as small selves have a particular age. We were born, as this small self, and that was a particular number of seasons ago.
Even within this view, there are differences - in particular in how/if we attach a particular "value" to age. Some cultures value youthfulness, and abhor aging. Other cultures value wisdom and experience, and appreciate aging in that sense.
And we can hold the two views as complementary and appreciate youth for their youthfulness and aged for their life experiences (and see the drawback of lack of experience in youth, and the drawback of lack of youthfulness in the aged).
Moving beyond the boundaries of the small self, we see that all of Relative existence is a seamless fluid whole. It is a seamless whole which continuously reorganizes itself in always new ways. What used to be energy is now matter. What used to be hydrogen molecules is now this Earth. What used to be molten rock now [is formed into human beings and] sings opera, as Brian Swimme like to remind us.
This small self does not have a fixed and separate existence. It is a temporary pattern through which the matter and energy of this Relative existence continues to flow.
From this view, our age is that of the universe - 13.7 or so billion years.
And when we come to our Absolute aspect, we cannot find any age. It appears distinct from the world of phenomena. Distinct from time, aging, birth and death. Those concepts somehow does not seem to apply. There is a sense of timelessness, yet existing within time and allowing time to arise within it.
God & Science
I came across two pretty different articles on God & science/society this morning. One, from NY Times, focused on the (apparent) division between religion and science in the US. The other, from Klassekampen (a Norwegian socialist newspaper), focused on religion and society - specifically the natural alignment of progressive political issues and Christianity in Norway.
The little I know about Spiral Dynamics seems to be able to explain this to some extent.
In the US, religion is still mostly at a blue level. This creates an apparent division between blue level religion and orange level science, especially when they each manifest in a relatively unhealthy way. Religion holds onto myth as fact, which is not easily compatible with orange level science. And orange level science sometimes throws the baby out with the bath water by rejecting religion altogether, instead of just this one aspect of one form of religion.
In Norway, as in most of the industrialized world, religion is mostly at orange level (with some spillover into green and blue). This makes it a more easy fit with science (and progressive political issues). Orange religion and orange science find ways to accommodate each other, for instance by delegating God into the role of the watchmaker - setting the universe into motion, and science as that through which we figure out how the machinery works.
Of course, later levels of the spiral find other - and to me more interesting - ways of looking at science and religion. There is more of a natural and intimate merging and affinity between the two, and this becomes especially apparent at second tier levels.
One example is the explorations of connections between mysticism and eastern spirituality, and modern science such as systems theories and quantum mechanics. Another, more comprehensive, approach is the AQAL framework, allowing room for the experiential and observable dimensions, and the singular and plural.
At second level tier, the separations of science and spirituality naturally falls away - and the integration of the two emerges more naturally.
Of course, there was never any separation, except in our view. Both science and spirituality (especially that of eastern traditions and mystics) use a similar methodology, emphasizing sincerity and experiences. And both explore aspects of the one seamless whole of Existence.
As mentioned in a previous post, it takes a while to integrate and mature into any awakening - at any level.
Some pitfalls and other issues that comes to mind...
- Not working closely with an experienced teacher/guide following the awakening, to help integrate it into ones life, and wear off all the extra.
- Seeing it as "it", as the "end point" rather than just another phase in a process of further clarification, awakenings and integrations.
- Not aware of the process of integration. Believing that the awakening itself is "it" and sufficient.
- Not aware of the possibilities of further awakenings. For instance, we may awaken to the nature of mind (space & awareness) and see this as "it", although it is only the first of these phases of awakenings. We can still awaken into Big Mind, into realizing the universe as consciousness and I am that consciousness, and probably beyond.
- Being attached to ideas about ones awakening and current functioning, rather than just relaxing into what is with sincerity. This relaxing into what is, allows the process of integration and further awakenings to unfold in a more grounded, integrated and healthy way.
- Ignoring the need for further healing and maturing of the small self. Believing that everything is perfect, that any view and behavior is a perfect expression of realization, while it very well may be an expression of hangups - of areas not brought into awareness, still far away from being healed.
- Ignoring the lines of development. Ignoring their existence, the differences in development and maturation levels among them, and that each is in a continuous process of development and maturing.
- Not seeing the universality of it (believing nobody else has "got it" in the same way before).The awakenings seem to always have an aspect of universality, as well as a somewhat individual flavor.
- Flaunting it. For instance through teaching or going public too soon, rather than allowing it to mellow, mature and become more integrated. Skipping the rehumanization process.
- Stuck in the Absolute (space & awareness) or the Big Mind view. Not allowing this attachment too to fall away, through a process of relaxing into it and rehumanize.
- Believing all problems will be solved. In a way, it is true that the experience of "problems" may go away, but there are still things to be dealt with - within the small self, in the relationship with the small self to the wider world of phenomena, and in the world of phenomena itself. There is integration, healing and maturing needed on the small self level. There is intimate and other relationships, and activity in society that needs focus. There are social and ecological issues that require urgent attention. These won't go away, but we will find another ways of relating to them.
They too are perfect as they are, while allowing room for improvement.