Teachers, Privileged & Not
The previous post brought up the topic of the role of spiritual teachers. Over the last few decades in the west, we have seen some of the pitfalls of bringing teachers and teaching styles from a more authoritarian Eastern traditions to more egalitarian Western cultures. There is no shortage of examples of power abuse in many different forms, especially in terms of sex and money.
One of our current koans in the West is, what is the currently appropriate role of spiritual teachers?
Spiritual teachers do have a privileged position in terms of the realization that comes through them, and the integration of it into their lives. They have spent decades exploring this territory, which does give them a natural authority in this one area - the spiritual line of development.
This does not mean that the learning does not go both ways even in this limited area. Students may well have deeper insights and more extensive experiences in certain aspects of this process than their teacher.
At the same time, it seems important that other areas of their relationships with their students are more egalitarian and democratic, and follow ordinary common sense, respect and conventional ethics. For instance, money could be handled by the community as a whole (if it is small) or an elected subgroup of students. And the teacher is obviously accountable for their personal actions and relationships with others, as we all are. They are not immune for human flaws, nor for justified criticism or actions if they abuse their position.
This is just common sense. Someone is naturally gifted or has a great deal of experience in a particular area - in this case the spiritual line of development - and others gather to learn from this person. At the same time, the guidelines for behavior and the mutual relationships among all these people can be governed by mutual respect, conventional ethics, and mutual accountability - just as what we would expect from any voluntary gathering of people in our contemporary Western society.
There is nothing inherently esoteric or particularly complex in this. And it seems that this is getting worked out more in contemporary groups.
Teachers, Privileged & Not
I have found working with projections as one of the most useful practices for finding a sense of wholeness on all levels (psyche, mind/body, human self/Existence), a deepening transdual view, maturing as a human being, and for basic sanity.
Whatever I see out there, is also in here.
When I see a quality or characteristic in somebody else, or in nature, dreams or stories, I can ask myself - how does this quality show up in my own life? When am I doing the same?
This helps us dissolve the artificial "I" vs. "other" boundary on all levels of our being. It opens up for a deepening transdual view, and for deepening compassion, gratitude and humility. We see ourselves in others, as well as - eventually - the larger whole we as human beings are all forms within.
From my teens and for several years, working with projections was my main practice. It still comes up, although less frequently and often embedded in the Byron Katie inqury process (the turnaround).
The topic of projections came up this weekend when I talked with a native Oregonian about the Osho community in central Oregon which went down in a spectacular way in the 1980s. It seems that the whole situation was rife with projections.
The locals projected wildly onto the Rajneeshnians. Osho seemed to have seen himself as special and in a priveledged position. His secretary and followers projected onto others within the Rasjneesh community and the wider community. And so on.
For the locals and the secretary and followers, it was a case of shadow projectios leading to paranoia, power abuse and violence in different forms. For Osho, it seems that he projected his human and flawed sides (which we all have) onto his followers which left him as somehow special and priveledged.
When we make something into an "it" by projecting it out, it will come back and demand our attention. And this is (partly) what happened in spectacular ways with the Osho experiment.
The Least & The Most Remarkable
Awakenings is simultaneously the least and the most remarkable.
It is the least remarkable as it is God, Existence, Buddha Mind, Spirit awakening to itself. It is just awakening to what already is. Nothing is manufactured, nothing is added, there is just an awakening to what is, just a noticing. What can be less remarkable than this?
From the perspective of the whole, what is absolutely remarkable and astonishing is that it can form itself into these myriads of forms, evolve these forms into always more complex forms, and temporarily delude itself to identify exclusively with one or a small subsection of these forms. This is truly and absolutely remarkable.
To awaken from this is just coming back to what already is. Nothing can be less remarkable.
From a human perspective, the awakening is absolutely astonishing and remarkable. It is so utterly remarkable that it can even be seen as impossible, either in principle (modern science) or for oneself (many "spiritual seekers").
When we identify exclusively as a human being - as one of the temporary form within Existence - then it seems impossible to awaken. We may also cling to many ideas of what an awakening entails, which in themselves can cause further suffering and struggle.
When there is an awakening - when Existence awakens to itself as a whole, still functioning through this human self which it previously was identified with - then it may seem utterly remarkable. There is such a profound sense of liberation, expansion and simplicity compared to the contraction and confusion of the exclusively identified state. And when this release comes, suddenly or gradually, it is often associated with bliss and joy.
So from the view of the whole, the awakening is utterly unremarkable. It can maybe even be seen as a slight disappointment because the richness of the temporary drama is over.
And from the view of the part, it is utterly remarkable and astonishing. Compared with contraction, drama and suffering of the temporary contraction of identity - down to a particular form within the whole - there is a sense of enormous release, liberation, joy and bliss.
3 Qualities, 2 Levels
A simple way of looking at our human life is to see...
The three qualities of attraction, neutrality and aversion towards different experiences, on the level of our human self.
And the two levels of our being: Our human self - with its personality, conditioned and habitual patterns and preferences. And our "ground of being" - the choiceless formless awareness or Witness.
When we become familiar with these two levels of being, we can find a new appreciation in the situations of life, independent of whether our human self relates to them with attraction, neutrality or aversion. It all becomes a part of the richness and fluidity of life.
So again, everything - in terms of content - is as it already is. Nothing is changed, except we are now noticing the context in which it always unfolds - the nondual, choiceless, changeless, formless, unborn, crystal clear, effortless awareness. And this changes everything.
From being blindly caught up in the inner/outer situations and seeing ourselves as an object struggling with them, we now find ourselves as the space in which they all unfold. And this opens up for a new sense of freedom, intimacy, richness and wholehearted engagement in life.
What Is - Is That Which We Seek
It seems that many of the same impulses are expressed through delusion and clarity, or more precisely - when we are exclusively identified as a human being and view the world dualistically, and when we awaken as Big Mind and view Existence in a more transdual way.
The list can probably be nearly endless...
When we are exclusively identified as a human being, the selfishness functions in a dualistic way. My circle of care, concern and compassion is exclusive and may be drawn at many different locations. I may place myself, my family, and maybe friends, community and country within the circle, and I may even include more, although there will always be something outside of the circle. It could be political opponents, people from other ethnic groups or religions, future generations, non-human species, etc.
When we awaken as Big Mind and a deepening transdual view, the circle first expands to include all of Existence and then falls away. The whole of Existence is a seamless whole, including and embracing all polarities. Now, self-centeredness takes the form of Existence-centeredness, selfishness takes the form of effortless compassion.
As I withdraw my hand when it is in the fire, I am engaged in the world to alleviate the suffering of others.
Some other examples include...
Anger becomes tough love, energetically cutting through delusion.
Dullness becomes resting as what is, as it is.
Spaced-outness becomes the vast open space of Existence, capacity for the world.
Greed becomes engaged activity on behalf of the well being of others.
Envy becomes rejoicing in the happiness of others.
Dualistic views becomes discerning wisdom.
Pride becomes gratitude for Existence as it is.
Arrogance becomes clear seeing of the wisdom and compassion inherent in Existence, and in this mind.
Passion becomes engagement in the world, and (in intimate relationships) engaged exploration and celebration of the differences among us as human beings.
Joy becomes joy in what is, as it is. (It goes from conditioned to unconditioned.)
Comfort becomes comfort in what is, as it is.
Deceit becomes skillful means. Any description is by its nature a lie (words split up the world, and Existence is beyond and including all polarities). Any tool or practice for awakening is in an absolute sense a detour as it aims to get us "somewhere" when there is nowhere to go. Still, words and practices are important, it is a helpful deceit - skillful means.
Recistance becomes active engagement. In a dualistic view we resist what is as an object resisting another object. In a transdual view, we engage with it as space engaging in an object (or not, depending on the situation).
And so on...
Inherent and transformed
The point is that when we awaken as Big Mind - it is all revealed as that which already is. We see that we already are and have that which we previously tried to find somewhere else or manufacture.
We see how each of these qualities and characteristics, many of which we try to get rid of while being exclusively identified as a human self, now transform into that which we have been seeking when we awaken as Big Mind and a more transdual view. They are transformed in their expression. And in both cases, they arise effortlessly - as our nature.
Of course, it takes time to explore how to live it and bring it into our daily life more fully.
In the beginning, there is in often a good deal of oscillation and old habits coming up. There may be oscillation in view, and even if the view is stable as Big Mind, the way it comes out in our human lives may still be influenced by habits formed from the exclusive small self view.
And after a while, the qualities emerging from a Big Mind context are lived more clearly and effortlessly.
Apes & Osho
In my quest of familiarizing myself more with various aspects of popular culture and the spiritual traditions, I read some of Books I have Loved by Osho and watched a documentary about the Planet of the Apes movies.
Nonhumans outside of circle of concern
In the movie documentary, several talked about how science fiction is a good medium for social commentary. In this case, shedding a non-mainstream light on the Vietnam war and racism. But what they left out, which is maybe the most obvious - and literal - way of seeing the movies, is the relationship among species.
The way humans have and still do behave towards other humans, based on somewhat arbitrary distinctions and groupings, and which is abhorred by mainstream society, is how we still behave towards other species, and accepted by mainstream society.
We see it as barbarian to keep human slaves, but we keep other species slaves on a massive scale. We recoil in horror by what the Nazi doctors did to fellow human beings, but mostly unthinkingly support the same and worse experimentation on non-human species. We view with disgust cannibalism, but happily raise close evolutionary relatives to eat their flesh. We condemn imprisonment without trail, and yet imprison without any trail or justification innumerable living sensing beings for their flesh, for experimentation or for entertainment.
And we scientifically justify this behavior because non-human primates and mammals are so similar to us, and ethically justify it because they are different from us. Scientifically, we know that there is very little difference between humans and other mammals, especially in the experience of pain and suffering (how could there be?), but ethically we are still stuck in the old mechanistic view seeing animals as just machines, as not feeling or experiencing in any way similar to us (noble) humans.
There is a profound blindness around this in contemporary society.
And if there is no major collapse of human civilization, future generations are likely to see our current behavior towards non-human species with the same disbelief and horror as we currently view human slavery and the experiments of the Nazi doctors. As our current (eventually suicidal) blind anthropocentrism gives way to a more life sustaining biocentrism and gaiacentrism, there will be many questions coming up for people. How could they do it? How could they be so blind? Why did not more people speak up? Why were these issues not part of the public discourse?
The power of identification
The documentary also mentioned something which mirrors several social psychology findings from the 1950s on: the actors and extras who played chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas naturally group with "their own" during breaks, even if the assignments were arbitrary. This shows the power of believing in thoughts and abstractions as they couldn't even see their own face and which species they belonged to. As we see over and over again, our identification - no matter how arbitrary it may be - has powerful real life consequences.
I am not sure how far I will get in Osho's Books I Have Loved as it seems light on substance (any meaningful or insightful description of the books) and heavy on opinion (personal likes and dislikes).
He seems to emphasizes the (somewhat) arbitrary likes and dislikes of his human self, minimize any analysis, explanation or description which could be helpful for the reader, and appears to put a good deal of blame and judgment on some the authors of the books and leave out the perspective that any book is God expressing itself in different ways, sometimes more clear and sometimes not so clear.
There may be many reasons for this...
He may have chosen to emphasize the quirks and arbitrary preferences of his human self, and de-emphasize the Big Mind/Big Heart view. If this is the case, it shows a nice fluidity in moving among the various voices on personal and transpersonal levels - although it does come across as a little harsh.
He may have practiced "tough love" - cutting through the nonsense and emphasizing distinctions rather than soft compassion. Although that may have been more effective if there was more explanation there.
And, I guess it is possible that he didn't quite see the habitual and arbitrary quirks of his human self as just that, so its edges didn't soften in the way it came out.
I am sure there are many other possible reasons as well.
After helping start up a Healthy Children - Healthy Planet group last night, I had some time before the bus came and went to a sandwich place. They had a "daily special", and I decided to just get whatever they offered, independent of personal preferences. It turned out to be a meatballs sandwich, and I had it after I came up - just about an hour before going to bed (I usually don't eat much in the evenings to allow the digestive system to calm down before the night). Predictably, my body rebelled and it was quite uncomfortable on a physical level for a while.
It was also a support to discover anew how I seem to have a foot in both worlds. I found myself clearly as capacity for the world, as emptiness, as no discomfort to the discomfort. And at the same time, I found myself as a somewhat miserable human being clogged up digestively and energetically. And the first allowed me to just be with - and be - the second.
When there is a deepening transdual view (first through awakening as the Witness and seeing the world of phenomena as a seamless fluid whole, and then as "no I" even there and all of Existence beyond all polarities), there is also a deepening sense of Existence as "one body" - beyond and including all polarities.
And from here, a natural and effortless compassion emerges. Just as I pull my hand away from fire, I naturally engage to alleviate the suffering of others. This hand, that human being, it is all part of this same body.
And this is from a direct and effortless experience of what already is, not from any abstractions or ideas of "one body" or any "shoulds" associated with it. That is indeed why is is effortless, untiring, natural and spontaneous - to the extent it is not clouded over by beliefs in thoughts.
Self-interest as altruism
When we exclusively identify as a human being, our natural and effortless self-interest sometimes manifest as narrow selfishness.
As we mature as human beings, we tend to expand our identity and our circle of concern. Now, we may for instance include our family, friends, community and country. And still, there are large parts of Existence excluded, which is how it should be. It is just a natural part of our maturation process.
Eventually, as we awaken as what is - as Existence in human form and the view of Existence as a whole - our identity and circle of concern continue to expand and become more inclusive, until any boundaries and exclusive identities fall away entirely.
Here, our natural and effortless self-interest is revealed and expressed as natural and effortless compassion for all beings and all there is. It is all part of Existence, of this One Body. And it is a direct realization, it is fully lived in a deepening way, not just by trying to believe in abstractions.
It comes from simply awakening as what already and always is, as it is.
So our effortless self-interest does not really change, it is just what we experience ourselves as that changes, and that makes all the difference.
I just finished Awake in the Heartland: The Exstacy of What Is by Joan Tollifson, and deeply enjoyed reading it. It is beautiful, honest, personal, funny and insightful, and just what I needed to read right now.
She demystifies the awakening process, using ordinary language and showing how our ordinary human life - with all its ups and downs, confusion and clarity, joys and sorrows, ease and problems, is it. At the same time, she expresses clearly the wonder and magic of this ordinary life.
This is such as relief, especially as so much writing about these issues is in an a-personal and sometimes abstract language. The personal aspect of awakening is often filtered out (as if it ever can be), and the language is often more esoteric sounding than it needs to be.
Both has its place of course, both the a-personal and more technical view, and the personal and more intimate approach.
According to one of the definitions I find online, an avatar is...
The manifestation of a Hindu deity (especially Vishnu) in human or superhuman or animal form; "the Buddha is considered an avatar of the god Vishnu".
So in that sense, we are all avatars. We - as human beings - are Existence, God, Buddha Mind, Brahman, etc. manifesting, expressing and exploring itself in human form.
The difference between those that get the label and those who don't is that in some, this is a living realization and in others it is not. Apart from that, there seems to be no significant difference.
Crusificion & Resurrection
In the final chapter of "The Eye of Spirit", Ken Wilber describes in a wonderfully simple and rich way the essence of the nondual view. It is probably the most elegant description of it that I have found anywhere.
He also frames crusifiction and resurrection in a way that makes a good deal of sense to me.
Crusifiction can be seen as the death of the (impression) of our human selves as somehow separate and fixed. It is the death of the separate self.
And resurrection is the realignment and reorganization of our human self - on all levels, physical, energetic, emotional, mental, behavioral - in this new context. It is the transformation of the human self that naturally occurs when Existence is aware of itself as a whole, when we live from Big Mind.
No Self & No I
The way "no self" and "no I" is sometimes talked about, at least in the past, it seem to sound more esoteric and weird than it has to. For someone exclusively identified as a human self, it already sounds weird enough, so there is no need to amplify this by using exotic terminology or holding back information.
When there is "no self" and "no I", everything still is as it is, in a completely ordinary way. There is this body, sensations, emotion, thoughts, behaviors, and everything else arising in the present.
With "no self", the difference is that there is no absolute boundary between the human self and the rest of what arises. It is all one field, a seamless fluid whole. As they sometimes say in Buddhism, it is similar to breaking a vase - the space which was inside the vase is still there, and the space which was outside of the vase is still there, and now they are revealed as the same space.
Another way of describing this is to say that before, there was an exclusive identification with the human self. "I am in here looking out at the world. I am an object in a world of innumerable objects". And now, I am what arises - it is all happening within me, both the human self and everything else.
And how does this come about? It seems to occur when we find ourselves as the Witness - pure formless choiceless awareness, aka the Unborn, the Original Face, that which is unchangeable, the groundless ground. From this new "ground" we see the world of phenomena as a seamless fluid whole, no matter whether it arises as this human self or anything else in this universe. There is a disidentification from our human self, and a re-identification as pure formless awareness.
Of course, this means that there is still an impression of "I" and "other", it is just that the content of each has shifted.
When we realize this, and that the whole impression of an "I" comes from a belief in a thought, this too erodes and falls away.
Now, what is left is still the same content. Still this human self with body, sensations, emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and anything else arising in the present such as cars, trees, a room, a cat, a computer, etc. But now, there is just what is happening. There is no "I" to be found anywhere, and so no "other" either. The "I" and "other", and any other differentiation for that matter, is seen as coming from an added layer of abstractions.
And seeing this, we are free to be what is happening in the present with no inherent "I" or "other". And we are free to play around with differentiations coming from this added layer of abstractions - such as experiencer and experienced, human self and rest of the world, etc.
Nothing & Everything Changes
Nothing really changes, except the belief in the thought "I". And we also see that everything changes in how Existence is experienced and how we live our lives as a human self.
We are now - often gradually - released from the habitual patterns of emotions, thoughts and behaviors. They still come up, but we are not impelled to act on them. We are free to take it or leave it. And free to act in other ways as well. There is a release which gives a new freedom in how to live our human lives, now more from the inherent clarity, wisdom and compassion that we found Existence to be in its aspect as pure awareness.
There is a release from the need to create drama and suffering for ourselves, and a new ease in everyday life - even if nothing has changed otherwise.
Using the Word "I"
Of course, we are also free to use the word "I" in daily conversation and communication. Other people still see us as "I" so we can play along with the game. There is no problem here, especially as we know it is a game.
It is just the whole of Existence giving the appearance of being separate from itself.
Flavors of Awakening
Sombody said that if there are 6 billion awakenings, then there are 6 billion different awakenings.
In each case it is Existence awakening to itself. It is the whole, awakening to itself as a whole, beyond and embracing all polarities.
At the same time, the flavor of this awakening is different in each case. There may be an emphasis on Big Mind (clear seeing, equanimity) or Big Heart (compassion, engagement), etc.
And in each case of embodiment, the content is always unique, which adds to the different flavors. Existence is always new, different and fresh, and so is any awakening.
Whether or not there are 6 billion embodied awakenings, there is already an infinity of flavors of awakenings - although even richer with 6 billion embodied ones.
I noticed a dying spider in the windowsill this morning. It slowly hunched up in protection when I blew on it.
Compassion came up, and then the thought of what some as saying - that it is all a game, an illusion, an appearance.
This seems partly accurate, but also heartless... And only half of the picture.
Whenever there is suffering (maybe not for the spider, but at least for many other animals), the suffering is as real as anything else. It is Existence experiencing suffering, through temporary misidentification as an object - one of the many forms within Existence. But this does not make the suffering any less real.
As some theists say, whenever there is suffering (in a human or any other being), God is there experiencing the suffering. Or in a more transdual language, it is God - temporarily identified as a human being - experiencing suffering.
Compassion then is just a beautiful expression of deep interconnections and intimacy, or rather of God experiencing and manifesting as both suffering and compassion through its various forms.
To be deeply human is to experience both the pain of life and the compassion, and to do this knowing ourselves also as Existence, as Big Mind.
I talked with a friend yesterday (half-way around the globe for free) and mentioned the Byron Katie inquiry process, and the topic of affirmations came up as well.
Although affirmations obviously can be very helpful for people, it is also an approach of "replacing" less desired thoughts with more desired thoughts. In a way, we are setting ourselves up for a battle among thoughts (as if we don't have enough of that anyway, both within and among ourselves).
The Byron Katie approach instead unravels the believes in thoughts, and allows us to notice and rest in/as pure awareness (a.k.a. the groundless ground, the unborn, the original face, formless choiceless awareness, etc.) And from there, we find a natural and effortless expression in the direction of freedom, engagement, intelligence and kindness.
Of course, as human beings we can have all sorts of attainments. We learn and refine skills, we accumulate and refine knowledge and information, we collect experiences, we gain degrees and diplomas.
But when it comes to awakening to or as what is, there is really no attainment to be found. As Chogyam Trungpa said, awakening is the ultimate disappointment to the ego.
We awaken as what is happening right now, in the timeless present. And there is no "I" to be found anywhere. There is what we can discern (through an added layer of abstractions) as formless awareness and the world of phenomena, with an absence of "I" as any particular part of what is.
So there is just the awakening to or as what already is and always is. Not much attainment there.
And there is an awakening from the impression of a "self" (as a separate human self) or an "I" (as for instance pure formless awareness), so there is no-one who could have any attainment.
If there is any "attainment" at all, it could be said to be that of Existence awakening to itself more as it is, and expressed through this human self.
Alone & Communion
It is interesting how some patterns repeat themselves at different scales and in different areas. One of the more pervasive ones is the relationship between one and many, or aloneness and communion.
When we identify exclusively as a human being, we are bound to be alone - one object in an infinetely larger world. And we are also in communion with the rest of Existence, through the infinitely rich network of connections within Existence.
When we awaken as (local) Big Mind, we are also alone - it is this Big Mind functionally connected with this small self. At the same time, there is the deep communion of no separation with the whole of Existence. There is aloneness, within a more fully transdual view.
And as nonlocal (big) Big Mind, there is aloneness, because this is all of Existence. It is Existence as a whole. And there is infinite communion within this whole, through the innumerable appearances and forms.
Paths To Deepening Transduality
Some paths I am currently exploring, each opening for deepening transduality...
- Byron Katie Inquiries
I identify a thought I believe in, inquire into it, and allow the belief to unravel. This reveals the unborn pure awareness, which is naturally expressed as compassion and intelligence.
- Big Mind Process
Exploring voices (perspectives) on personal and transpersonal levels. Through this process, we open for deep appreciation for each voice (subpersonality/perspective), for a more balanced relationship with each (not too identified with, and not pushed away), a direct experience of a fully transdual view (the view of the whole of Existence), and a deepenening fluidity among all these.
Facilitating and fuelling an awakening process. First as Witness, then deepening transdual view.
Simple experiments to find ourselves as headless, and as what is happening.
Deepening transdual view/being through bodywork.
Seeing here what I see there. This one is included in the turnarounds in Byron Katie's process. (This used to be my main practice - seeing in myself what I see in the rest of the world - but it is not so alive now as there is no "I" here...!)
Clarity & Confusion
The more we find ourselves as the groundless ground during confusion and triggered habitual patterns, the more we can recognize the groundless ground in others when confusion is expressed.
We know, from our own experience, that behind the confusion - behind the beliefs in thoughts and the drama and suffering created from that - there is clarity. And that this clarity is effortlessly expressed as kindness and intelligence when it is not covered up.
And we know that this is the case for others as well.
This takes a good deal of the sting out of it, when we see and relate to people - including ourselves - temporarily caught up in confusion.
Engaging In What Is
I find that there is a richness and playfulness in engaging more actively in what comes up. There is just being with or being what is, and within this a more active and focused engagement.
There is space, and there is focused engagement. And this allows for a freedom in the engagement, including to let it go or change focus in the present.
I can engage in indignation over the indifference among humans (including myself). I can engage in laughter. I can engage in deep sadness over the suffering of humans (including myself). I can place all my focus and energy at a task at hand.
And there is a tremendous freedom in all this, including the freedom of letting go and just be with and be what is again. To go back into this "neutral" which itself is so rich.
When we believe in thoughts, we have many reasons for not being fully engaged...
We make people into "others", and even "evil" or an "enemy".
We may believe that everything is perfect as it is, and there is no need to be engaged.
We avoid engagement through distractions.
We have an exclusive and limited circle of concern and compassion.
We are concerned with our own salvation, either materially or spiritually.
We think we cannot be fully engaged until we are clearer and more effective.
And all of these are just beliefs in thoughts...
When all this falls away, there is just natural engagement - on behalf of all those who suffer and especially those without a voice.
Engaged As Humans...
Watching the US government and their policies triggers a good deal of things in me. There is a mixture of anger of their apparent ignorance, and of deep sadness of the suffering which is likely to be the results of their decisions.
For instance, there is immense suffering and urgent and desperate need for help among the hundreds of thousands of earthquake victims in Pakistan. The UN is urging countries to donate more, as they do not have the funding needed to meet the needs. And what does Bush focus on? Taking action against Syria for unproven involvement in the killing of one person. Of course, that needs to be addressed as well, but where is the perspective here?
There are so many examples, and new ones every day.
500,000 children die of AIDS every year, one child every minute... 16,000 children die of hunger every day...
It seems like such an incredible stupidity when americans and the US government spends tremendous amounts of money, time and energy on what is far less significant.
Only 3,000 died on 911, and although it is a tragedy for those relatively few personally impacted by it, and this too is a situation that needs to be addressed, the amount of time and money spent on this issue seems utterly absurd.
There are so many other issues in the world which impacts far more people, and desperately needs our attention.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is tremendously costly in terms of money and human life and suffering, and the voiced reasons for them have been bizarre from the beginning. The money could have alleviated so much suffering in the world, and now it is spent to fuel suffering and hatred. And so many americans, including the US government, still supports it...
And there are so many smaller instances as well, such as the bickering among government agencies following Hurricane Katrina, and the incredible stupidity and bigotry shown by the government officials who told the police to "shoot to kill" the "looters" who only were getting food for those who were desperate for food and clean water.
This is such a blindness. And such an example of what happens when people are obsessed by the belief in a thought.
Of course, there is a judgment behind this as well, but that is not a reason to not speak up for those who suffer in the world - to point out the differences in scale here.
And when we clear up our own hangups around this, we can speak up and engage even more effectively. Without making anyone into an "other"...
When we open our heart, and clear up our own hangups, we can be more fully engaged - on behalf of others and especially those without a voice themselves - the poor, the children, the non-human species, ecosystems, future generations...
Even if we are not quite "there" yet, that is no reason to not be fully engaged as we are... It is only being human.
And even if we see clearly that this too is just the play of God, and that suffering comes from belief in a thought, that too is no reason to not be fully engaged. If we use this as an excuse to sit back, then we deny our humanness...
I can feel the heart opening, after several years of being closed down... And with this opening, there are glimpses of the passion, energy and sense of direction I used to have - during the years before this fallow phase when my heart was wide open.
It is a good lesson for me. When my heart is closed, there is apathy, lack of direction, lack of energy. When it is open, there is passion, direction and fire.
And one way to allow it to open is to live my life for the larger whole, in the service of the larger whole. Not just for myself. To do this benefits "me" tremendously, as well as the larger whole.
Over the last few weeks, whenever I take time to fully experience and be whatever comes up for my human self (whatever is triggered etc.), it immediately becomes fluid and turns into a sense of bliss.
And this in itself is a part of the fluid and always changing experiences. It is here now, until it is not.
Identity & Not Knowing
There seems to be several processes leading us into an erosion of identity and into a natural not knowing...
One is the process of gradually allowing our identity to expand, become more inclusive, more porous, and then finally fall away.
This can occur through working with projections (whatever I see "out there" is also "in here"), the Big Mind process (becoming familiar with being a wide variety of personal and transpersonal voices), deep ecology activities (taking on the role of past and future generations, and other human beings and species), and the Universe Story (seeing ourselves as not separate from Existence). We see how we can identify ourselves in a wide range of ways. Our identity expands and becomes more inclusive, fluid and rich. Any fixed or limited sense of identity falls away.
Another process is what comes from finding ourselves as pure awareness - formless, unborn. Here, there is no identity apart from being space & awareness, and no knowing in the conventional sense (in terms of believing in abstractions). Here, we see that "I am not the body, not the personality, not this, not that". After familiarizing ourselves with this for a while, and bringing it into everyday life, we may see that this too is believing in the thought "I", and this too erodes and falls away. Now, there is only what is. It is the same content as there would be if believing in the thought "I", but there is no "I" to be found anywhere. There is a natural absence of an identity of any "I".
In the first case, there is an absence of any fixed and limited identity, and a natural transdual view - embracing both ends of any polarity. This transdual view naturally allows for a freedom and a not knowing. We see clearly that for any statement, there are many turnarounds which each are equally valid. There is no one fixed and true view.
In the second case, we know ourselves as that aspect of Existence which is pure awareness, distinct from conventional knowing (beliefs in abstractions). From here, any view is possible and there is similarly a great richness and fluidity in moving freely among a variety of views and recognizing the limited truth in each of them.
Both allows us to find ourselves as this wonderfully natural and receptive not knowing, which allows for intimacy with what is, and in our human lives for a new and deepening intimacy with others as well.
When we know in a conventional sense, through believing in thoughts, we are invariably at odds with Existence.
A thought is always exclusive and limited. Existence is always beyond and including all polarities. So when we believe in a thought and Existence shows up otherwise, we create drama and suffering for ourselves.
When we believe in a thought, we attach to an abstraction to the exclusion of the rest of what is, and we find ourselves out of step with what is.
When we believe in a thought, we shield ourselves from what is, and there is an absence of receptivity to what is.
When we believe in a thought, we have something to defend and justify, which creates the appearance of drama and suffering.
When we believe in a thought, we create a sense of "I" and "other" out of Existence, and from this a sense of separation, drama and suffering.
This is just idle speculation, but looking at Michael David Schacker's chart of worldviews in transition, we see something interesting. The organic worldview was first formulated (according to his model at least) as the previous worldview, the mechanical, first gained a foothold. As one view finally is going mainstream and is in the process of transforming our culture, the next emerges.
If this pattern is repeated, then we can expect to see the post-organic worldview formulated within the next few decades.
And as the mechanical view roughly corresponds to the orange phase in Spiral Dynamics, and the organic with green and yellow/turquoise phases, the next post-organic view may correspond with the 3rd and 4th second tier phases.
Most of us are not quite sure what the 3rd/4th second tier phases look like, and similarly we don't quite know what the post-organic (post-systems, post-integral) view may look like. It is just over the horizon, still.
It may appear to many of us today that the integral view - as formulated by Ken Wilber and others - is somehow "final" or "complete", but that is also how it was for the pioneers of the mechanistic worldview. That too seemed to be the final answer, at least as far as they could tell.
And it also may mean that young people today into Ken Wilber's AQAL model may be the old geezers in a few decades, desperately holding onto a worldview that initially was leading edge, then went mainstream, and then became somewhat outdated.
It is also possible that as we move into second tier views, there is just more of a refining and increased inclusiveness rather than dramatic worldview changes.
And it is possible that the next shift is on a whole different level. It may for instance have to do with what emerges when large segments of the population has awakened as Big Mind, there is more of an intimate integration within humanity and between humanity and technology, and Earth life spreads from Earth into larger areas of space.
Nature & Culture
In the western world, we have gone through at least two worldviews where humans are seen as somehow separate from the rest of the world: that of Christianity and mechanistic science.
In our new, emerging worldview, we see that humans are not separate from the rest of Existence. We are the Universe and the Earth organizing itself into human form.
We are a way for the Universe and the Earth to bring itself into awareness, to explore itself through our senses and minds. And through organizing itself into culture, the Universe has found an even richer way of exploring itself.
The Universe has organized itself into language, writing, technology, science, and through this has found ways to combine and make use of the acumulated experiences and abilities of a large number of individual human beings in this vast exploration process.
There is no absolute separation between nature and culture, the Universe and the Earth and humans, a cloud and a thought, a mountain and a city, a sperm and a space ship (both potentially used to replicate and distribute life).
It is all Existence, the Universe, the Earth, expressing, manifesting and exploring itself in always new and rich ways.
Compared with the more dualistic view of traditional western worldviews, this is far more inclusive and transdual. It is closer to the view of Existence itself, which embraces and includes all polarities. And it is a deeply meaningful and inspiring view. One that can help us transform our culture and civilization into one that is more deeply life-centered, life-honoring and life-enhancing.
Some Byron Katie style inquiries...
This is one that is not aligned with my conscious views, but still comes up - especially in face-to-face teachings. I often sense that they are speaking from a thick layer of assumptions, not receptive to the situation. And there is a sense of this situation, of what is here, not being seen. They are speaking as if this situation (the situation of "I" if I could find one) was something else. This especially comes up in relation with the Waking Down teachers and teachings.
I need to be seen.
1. Yes, feels true.
2. No, just a belief. Cannot even know that being seen is what is most "helpful".
3. Hurt. Not seen. Resentment. Lots of judgement of them (for being caught up in assumptions) and of me (for reactiveness obviously out of confusion). Repetitive/circular thoughts. Imaginary dialogue with them, trying to explain my situation so they can see their assumptions and allow them to drop. Hopelessness, because often cannot get through in that way. Separation, and the pain from sense of separation. Anger, because they are blind! Anger, because I sometimes invest money and/or time for just listening to garbage which comes from inaccurate assumptions. Frustration, for encountering this over again. Want to be somewhere else.
4. Clear. Can see more clearly what is going on, where there is a match and where there does not seem to be a good match, and can act on this from more clarity. Can choose to examine more carefully, and then continue involvement or not - from clarity. Reactiveness is not neccesary.
5a. I don't need to be seen. (Yes, that is as true. I often am not, in my opinion, and I am still around. It is just part of being human. And can even be helpful.)
5b. I need to be not seen. (Yes, that is true in more than one way. I have a desire to not be seen, sometimes. To go unnoticed. And when I am not seen, even if it is experienced as hurtful, that is valuable as well. I learn something about my beliefs, can see myself more clearly.)
I should always feel good.
2. No, just a belief.
3. Wary, always looking for something that could trigger "not feeling good", or for signs of already not feeling good. Apprehensive. See any little sign of it as a potential disaster. Hypervigilant.
4. Free to experience what is. To stay with, be with the experience, as it is. To even enjoy it, whatever it is.
5a. I should not always feel good. (Yes, because I sometimes don't.)
5b. I should always feel bad. (Yes, that is as true. Both are present in my experience, in the present.)
This one is one I have used to stop myself from engaging in things I am passionate about, but would/could bring public attention to me.
People shouldn't look up to me and admire me.
1. Yes, definetely feels true.
2. No, just a belief (and a quirky one at that).
3. Concerned about any signs of people looking up to me. Apprehensive. Dismayed when/if it happens. Trying to avoid and prevent it, by not placing myself in a position where it could happen.
4. Clear. OK with it, either way. Can see more clearly what is going on, and address it if appropriate. Easier to navigate.
5a. People should look to me and admire me. (Yes, if they do they should.)
5b. I shouldn't look up to me and admire me. (Yes, it is just Existence manifesting.)
5b. I should look up to me and admire me. (Yes, for the gifts coming through me.)
5c. I should look up to others and admire them. (Yes, for the gifts coming through them.)
5d. I shouldn't look up to others and admire them. (Yes, what I see in others is what I recognize from myself.)
I should not "hook" on habitual patterns.
1. Yes, there is a desire for this.
2. No, just a belief.
3. Apprehension. Looking out for patterns that could hook, and for signs that there is hooking going on. A sense of despair when it does happen, of failure. Judgment. A sense of hopelessness.
4. Clear. What is, is. Being OK with what is, and see that this too is what is happening.
5a. I should hook on habitual patterns. (Yes, when do then should.)
This one comes up when I listen to NPR, both in terms of the way the stories are reported, the stories and people reported on, and especially the way many Americans - including the government - is apparently obsessed with minor issues and completely overlook what I perceive as the truly important ones (the tens of thousands of children dying daily from hunger, aids and preventable/curable diseases, the ongoing destruction of our life-support systems, etc.)
Americans should see their bigotry, ignorance, and shadow projections.
2. No, just a belief.
3. Anger coming up. Judgment, of their stupidity and ignorance. Judgment, of this judgment. Sense of failure, since there is judgment coming up and temporary attaching to it. Want to be somewhere else, not in this utterly corrupt country and culture.
4. Clear. Seeing the confusion it is coming from, both what I see in them and what is triggered here. Able to relate to it with more clarity, in whatever form that takes (if any).
5a. Americans should not see their bigotry, ignorance and shadow projections. (Yes, they don't so they shouldn't.)
5b. I should see my bigotry, ignorance and shadow projections. (Yes, I am the one who is bigoted, ignorant and projects shadows, as I believe in that thought.)
5c. I should see their bigotry, ignorance and shadow projections. (Yes, see it with clarity and discernment, for what it is. No need to add anything extra.)
Here is one way of outlining one process...
First, there is just Existence, beyond and embracing all polarities.
Then, it is functionally connected with a human being. It receives sensory information through it, and gradually learns how to operate as this human self in the world of phenomena.
Then, there is an exclusive identification as a human self. "I" am an object in a world of unpredictable objects.
Then, there may be an "awakening" as not-human, as pure awareness. Here, there is a recognition that the human self is an aspect of the seamless fluid whole of the world of phenomena. There is a recognition of "no self" in the sense of no separate and fixed human self. The boundaries, which seemed so real, now dissolve in recognition of it as just a thought, a mere and temporary appearance.
Then, there is a recognition of what happens when we believe in the thought "I". The seamless whole of Existence is split into "I" and "other", no matter what areas fall into each. When this is seen, there is just what is. There is just what is happening in the present, with no "I" to be found anywhere. As before, the content does not neccesarily change, but the boundaries continue to dissolve. We can still differentiate within what is, and that is now clearly seen as just an added layer of abstractions.
Then, there is a new appreciation of being human, of our humanness. There may be a deep gratitude and sense of wonder. A deep appreciation of the uniqueness and quirkiness of this particular human self, and each of the human selves out there.
They are all the infinite expressing itself as finite, in infinite richness. They are all God temporarily experiencing itself as limited, in always new and different ways, in infinite variation. There is such an incredible beauty in this, such an incredible wonder, mystery and beauty.
Here, there is also a deep appreciation of the whole process. The temporary confusion, misidentification, suffering, joy, awakening, integration - it is all God expressing, manifesting and exploring itself, beyond any notions of complete and not complete, perfect and not perfect.
The ultimate mercy is built into Existence: there is only what is happening in the present, and it is always new and fresh.
The past and future is only present as abstractions, and when we see them as just abstractions, and notice what is here, their apparant substance evaporate in the brilliancy and vibrancy of what is.
Any other forms of mercy, as welcome as they may be, fade in comparison with this... the mercy of an Existence which only exists here now and is always new and fresh.
Awakening & Content
It is often said that awakening is awakening as that which never changes. The content of what is happening always changes, but ... (space, pure awareness, the formless unborn etc.) is always here now. The content is fluid and always changing, but the context is distinct from change.
There is another aspect to awakening, and that is that what is included in the experienced changes. In a way, it is the only thing that changes.
What happens is that the experiencer (a) brings itself in as the experienced (aware of itself as awareness), and then (b) finds itself as the experienced no matter what that is (trees, emotions, thoughts, etc).
Life naturally and fluidly changes from expressing itself in any possible way, beyond and embracing any and all polarities. At one time, one end of a particular polarity is expressed more clearly, and at other times the other end of the polarity.
And this is also the case for our experienes - they fluidly, and on their own, shift from one end of a polarity to the other and back, fluidly and richly. Of course, we may like it or not, but it still happens on its own. To resist it is about as effective as resisting the clouds passing overhead through the sky (if we could even figure out how).
At the same time, it appears that when we attach to a certain experience, its reversal comes up more quickly and strongly. I actually don't know if this is just a convincing appearance, or if there is something to it. In my life, it certainly seems to be this way.
If this is the case, then the quickest way to awakening (even enlightenment) would be to attach to being non-awakened. To take pride in being non-awakened, and/or to even deny the existence of any form of awakening. This is all there is.
And the interesting thing here is that this is indeed an approach to awakening, and one that appears to be quite direct as well. This is all there is. There is nothing to seek. Nowhere to go. There is no escape. Everything is as it is, and perfect as it is.
In the first case, there is a fluidity within the content of experiences. But in the case of awakening, it is not dependent on the content of the experiences in quite the same way. It is Existence experiencing itself as (a) pure awareness and then (b) as what is happening in the present. It can maybe be said to be Existence bringing itself into awareness in a more complete way.
Relationships & Believing In Thoughts
A friend asked me a while back about long term relationships. Doesn't it get boring? Doesn't it feel confining?
And one answer is that it all depends on whether you believe in thoughts or not.
If you don't believe in thoughts, it is always new.
If you believe in thoughts, anything could happen depending on what those thoughts are.
As closely as this may (and does) reflect my experience, it can also be seen as a quite unsatisfactory and arrogant answer.
If it doesn't match the experience of the recipient, and they don't experience a choice in believing in thoughts or not, then this answer is in a way useless and arrogant. But if it is given along with a way for the recipient to explore this for themselves, through for instance Byron Katie's inquiry process, and the recipient is receptive to this exploration, then it can indeed be (or at least appear) quite helpful.
For me, after exploring the inquiry process since last spring, I see how I sometimes do believe in thoughts about the relationship - and anything, any experience, can come out of that, both pleasant and unpleasant. And when I just rest in/as what is, then it is always fresh, always surprising, always a gift.
And the believing phases now seem briefer and briefer, and don't have much substance even when they do appear. They seem to be quite transitory guests.
Of course, these are the more gross and obvious beliefs, through which I create obvious drama for myself. There are most likely still plenty of subtle beliefs there, which do not show up in the same way in everyday life. (These includes a belief in the thought "I" - as an "agent" or pure formless awareness, etc. which seems to come and go, more as an old habit.)
Humans As A Speck
If we look at the 13.7 billion years of the Universe Story, we see that humans only show up at the very end - as a little blip at the tip of the tail end of the unfolding story. And in a larger timescale yet, we will most likely see that the human story is a very limited and short chapter in the story of the Universe as a whole.
In a similar way, when we look at the Universe as nested systems, as a holarchy, we see that humans only show up at one particular scale of size. When we look at energy waves, atoms, molecules, tissue, organs, etc. there are no humans to be found. And when we look at the scale of planets, solar systems and galaxies, there are also no humans to be found (although some effects can be detected on the planetary scale).
Both views - showing how limited our human existence is in time and space - is a help for seeing our lives - as individuals and a species - in a larger and more meaningful context.
And for me, it also opens up for a tremendous sense of gratitude, compassion and humility.
Gratitude, for being a part of this amazing and beautiful Universe. Compassion, for the lives of all these little specks - especially when we don't see our lives in this context. And humility, for being such a small part of such an immensely large whole.
At the same time, it allows me to see how limited I am as a human self, and how precious, miraculous and beautiful our human lives are. And it allows me to find myself as Big Mind as well, as that in which this all unfolds - the history of the Universe, the Earth, of humanity and of this particular human self.
This view allows me to find myself as a precious human being in this amazing Universe, and as Big Mind within which it all unfolds.
Gawking & Being With: Taking It In
If THIS awareness, is the larger whole - the Earth, Universe, God - experiencing, then we see that it occurs in many different ways and through a wide range of awareness organs (a.k.a. species).
It doesn't really matter if we see it this way or not, it still happens and still works.
On the other hand, it may be interesting to align ourselves with this more consciously. To take it all in, as if this is indeed Earth, Universe, etc. taking it all in through and as us.
When we do this in relationship to the larger whole - the social and ecological whole, the Earth and the Universe, then it is what Brian Swimme describes as gawking. It is the Universe dropping its jaw in amazement of itself.
And when we do this in relationship with the smaller wholes - sensations, emotions, thoughts - when we melt into what we are experiencing, it is what so many traditions and approaches suggest as a way to reduce suffering through reduced resistance, and find bliss in what is experienced.
Gawking and being with - both are ways for the Universe to consciously take itself in, in amazement, and through us as human beings. And both are quite pleasurable as well.
I just read an article about the New Puritans in the Observer.
They're the New Puritans. A generation of young, educated and opinionated people determined to sidestep the consumerist perils of modern life. [source]
Of course, the term New Puritan is tongue-in-cheek and meant to grab attention and be a little funny (which it is).
On the other hand, it does reinforce a somewhat outdated view that we live simple lives out of any sense of "duty" or "ethics".
For me, it is pure self-interest.
When I reduce consumption, I can work fewer hours (or retire earlier), I am more free in choosing meaningful work since I am not dependent on a high income, and I have more time for other activities, family and friends.
And when I choose more Earth-friendly activities and lifestyle, this too is in pure self-interest. My human self is intimately embedded in the larger social and ecological systems, so when I act in a way that benefits these larger systems, it directly and indirectly benefits myself as well.
And there are also many many choices which are of benefit at all levels, from my human self and up.
These include eating locally produced and organic food: it is cheap since I can buy it from the farmer, it is fresh and tastes wonderful, it is good for my body, it is good for the local economy, it keeps family farms in business, and it is good for our local ecology.
When I use a bike instead of a car to get around, I get much appreciated exercise, I get to know my neighborhood and the local area much more intimately, I am connected with nature, I save large amounts of money which otherwise would go to gas and a car, and it is good for society and the Earth as precious oil is not spent and it does not pollute.
When I reduce my consumption, I can afford to choose work that is more meaningful and also benefits the larger social and ecological whole, and I can spend more time with family, friend and neighbors. At the same time, I do not use precious natural resources, nor do I fuel the currently very (socially and ecologically) destructive global economy - patterned as it is on neo-liberal ideology - and multi-national corporations.
Wherever I look, there are benefits all around when I choose according to what is good at all levels of the holarchy.
Choosing as if only one level (such as my human self, the country etc.) was the only level that mattered, the consequences will come back and bite me. Choosing as if the holarchy, including all levels, is one seamless system - which it is - I benefit myself in every possible way.
Another way to put it is to say that when my "self" is the Earth as a whole, including its social and ecological subsystems, then my choices naturally are aimed at benefiting the holarchy from the largest whole and all the way down to my human self and its parts.
Of course, I am still dependent on insight and information to make wise choices, but the direction and the intention is quite different, and the impact is likely to be quite different as well.
Absence of Conventional Knowing & Intimacy
When we rest as pure awareness, or as what is happening including pure awareness, there is also a natural and effortless receptivity and of not knowing, as the word knowing is used in the conventional sense.
We see clearly that when we add a layer of abstractions to what is, then this layer is indeed just abstractions, it is a map and a menu, not the terrain or the food itself. It has only practical and temporal value, as a tool for exploration, differentiation and communication.
So here, there is an absence of conventional knowing - in the sense of believing in abstractions. And there is a receptivity to what is and to explore all the different views and differentiations possible. And a joy in this as well.
And in this space, there is a deepening intimacy - with Existence, our life as a human being, and with other humans as well. There is an intimacy, exploration and open-endedness that cannot be present when we believe in abstractions, when we take them as gospel truth.
Personality As 1st & 3rd Person
I listened to a varied music program last night as I was reading a book, and my partner came into the room and said "that is interesting music, is that a new CD?". I laughed and said "no, I would not buy that type of music".
I realized that I spoke about this personality as a third person, laughing in recognition of its peculiarities and particular preferences.
If this personality is first person, then I need to defend its identity, choices and preferences. When it is (also) third person, I can relax and see the humor in its peculiarities and appreciate its uniqueness.
In the first case, the laugh may have been about the music or the (obviously ridiculous!) idea that this personality would buy that type of music. In the second case, the laugh was in appreciation of the wonderful uniqueness of this and any personality.
It is Existence filtering itself through a personality, in a unique expression and unique experience of itself.
Nature Deficiency Disorder
There is a new book out on Nature Deficiency Disorder and children (I saw it in a bookstore, but now can't find it online).
It reminds me of something that happened when we lived in the countryside in Wisconsin (west of Madison).
Parsifal, our cat, was hit by a car, miraculously survived, and had a swollen brain for some weeks. It meant that he could not do most of his regular activities, such as seeing, grooming, eating solid food etc. He was a zombie - if he walked, he would walk until he got to a wall, then walk along the wall to a corner, and be stuck there.
Knowing how important nature is for me, including the stimulation coming from the rich sensory input, I took him outside, and he became a whole different cat. He became alert and alive, interested in his surroundings, and walked in a much more purposeful and receptive way. From then on, we had him outside - in our company - as much as we could, and he recovered completely.
I don't know if it made a difference in the recovery, but it is likely.
This also reminds me of the horrors of modern hospitals, sterile in every sense of the world. How can we expect people to recover in such an environment? And why do we choose this, when we could allow for natural surroundings with their beauty, rich and varied sensory stimulation, reminders of who we really are as human beings, and a much wider context which allows us to see our own personal problems more in perspective.
And if we raise whole generations of children who has not had these experiences, what does that mean? It may mean that we'll have generations of human beings...
Who do not appreciate nature and wilderness, which is our life support system.
Who are deprived of the rich sensory stimulation coming from nature and wilderness.
Who do not have the vast life processes - of the Earth as a whole and the history of Earth - as a natural context for their own individual lives.
Who live in a "bubble" constructed by the human mind, with little or no (refreshing, reminding) input from the larger life processes.
It is a scary scenario, although I also have faith in life's ability to kick itself in the butt and bring itself back to itself.
There are after all some deep and powerful self-organizing, self-correcting and self-healing processes going on in all of life, including the human body/mind.
Connection With Nature
I notice how important connection with nature is for me, both domesticated and especially wilderness.
It works on many levels...
It gives me fresh air and exercise.
It gives me sensory stimulation and sense of aliveness.
It reminds me of - as a human being - being an intimate and integral part of this wonderfully rich Earth.
It reminds me that I - as a human being - grows out of the Earth, and that I - quite literally - am the Earth bringing itself into awareness.
It places my human concerns into perspective, they appear much smaller and less significant compared to the vast and ongoing processes of life.
It helps me prioritize in my own life, to see what is really important (being a full human being with others and as part of the Earth) and what is not (status, nonessential objects, etc).
It helps me see how little I really need of physical things for a high quality of life.
It allows for deeper conversations with friends.
It brings vitality, aliveness, meaning, context, depth and richness to my life as a human being.
Teacher As A Friend & Human Being
In reading Awake in the Heartland by Joan Tollifson, I am reminded of the different ways teachers manifest.
On the one hand, the main guru for all of us is life itself - Existence as it manifests on its own, as the fluid interplay of awareness, human selves, the Earth, the Universe.
On the other hand, we learn from each other. We are all students and teachers for each other, often without even knowing it.
And then there are people who either take on the role of a teacher, or whom others perceive as in the role of a teacher.
And for these, there are many variations. In many traditions, spiritual teachers are sometimes presented as flawless and superhuman, or at least where their ordinary human life remains a mystery not talked about and not brought into the teachings. In this case, it can be a shock for the students when the human flaws of their teacher becomes visible, and it can lead to a good deal of upheaval. At the same time, this form of exclusion of their ordinary human lives tend to make the teaching seem abstract and mysterious, and there is a good deal of juiciness lost along with opportunities for a different way of connecting between teacher and students.
Joan Tollifson is an example of the completely other end of the spectrum. She does not go into a traditional teacher role but see herself more as a companion and a friend, a fellow explorer - with more experience in some areas, and maybe less in other areas, compared to each of her fellow explorers. It becomes more of a collective exploration process. And also, she reveals her own life in her teachings. She reveals herself as a full human being, with all the joys and sorrows, challenges and talents, problems and ease, as we all recognize from our own lives. She takes the mystery out of who she is, and this brings the mystery to where it belongs - to the mystery of each of our lives, of Existence itself.
Both approaches have their value, and I expect that we will see the second approach much more in the western world as more of us mature into realizations, integration and the roles of teacher/students. And who knows, maybe this spills back over into asia again? Maybe this is one of the contributions of the west to the dharma.
Another aspect of this is the integration of (a) the natural authority of what comes out of a great deal of experience in this exploration process, and (b) appreciating the contribution of any one of the fellow explorers.
There is a natural hierarchy - coming from different degrees of experience and maturity, and there is a natural egalitarianism - coming from realizing that we are all fellow explorers and that we each have a unique perspective and contribution. And the trick is to realize that no one of us are habitually in one or the other role, but shift fluidly between them according to the situation.
Another way to say it is that we are each teachers and students. We all have a unique perspective and contribution and can learn from each other. And at the same time, some of us do have more experience and maturity in certain areas.
We can be receptive to experience and maturity wherever it shows up. We can show respect to anybody, as a human being, no matter their level of experience. And we don't need to show blind respect to any one person, just because they are in a particular role such as of a teacher - if something needs to be pointed out and dealt with, we can do that as we would with anyone.
Relationship With Experiences
As with so many thing, there seems to be an almost infinitely fluid and rich relationship with experiences.
Take for instance all the different ways we can relate to and with the habitual patterns of our human selves, and maybe in particular those which we sometimes experience as a "problem" or challenge.
As the belief in the thought "I" erodes away, there is just what is happening. There is just what is, as it is. No relationship is necessary. I am what is happening, or I can say that there is no (separate) "I" to be found anywhere.
And if we differentiate more by adding a layer of abstractions, including the thought "I" (as for instance pure awareness), then we find - in no particular order...
I can be with whatever I am experiencing in the present. I am space for it to unfold on its own, without resisting - by either pushing away or fuelling it. It unfolds on its own, naturally changing into something else. I fully experience it without engaging in it too much. And this process also fuels my awareness of myself as the Witness, as pure awareness.
I can be whatever is experienced. Here, I am being with whatever is experienced (as the space and awareness it unfolds within), and there is also no belief in the thought "I" - or the thought "I" includes the experience.
I can become whatever is experienced. This is a more active merging into it, allowing it to unfold a little more fully.
I can melt into whatever is experienced (or allow it to melt into me). When I take some time and do this, I find that it shifts and changes into a form of blissfulness - independent of what it started out as. This has become more alive for me over the last few weeks.
I can resist the experiences in various ways, through pushing it away or repressing them, or fuelling and indulging in them.
There can be declutching, where I find myself as space/awareness and whatever arises in the present, and where I watch the sensations, emotions and thoughts arise within this space but with no need to engage in it through resistance or fuelling or any other way. Within this, there seems to be room for different variations as well. It becomes a part of the tapestry of what is happening in the present, and it can remain just a small part of the tapestry or I can bring more attention to it (and feel into being it etc.).
I can come to my breath and my body, and notice how the experience often dissolves - vaporizes into thin air.
All of these happen for me these days, along with a tremendous gratitude for the fluidity and richness of it (even the suffering that comes from temporary resistance).
I notice a fascination with it all, and some living questions coming up as well.
If I habitually allow the experience (for instance something triggered in my human self) to vaporize by coming to the breath, do I miss out of something? It is a form of bypass?
If I habitually allow the experience to just unfold on its own within space & awareness, is this too a subtle form of bypass?
If I allow myself to become the experience, and the experience to melt into me, more fully - does this allow for a deeper form of embodiment and maturing as my human self?
Right now, I suspect the answer can be a tentative "yes" to each of these. And that is why the current natural fluidity among all of these brings up so much gratitude.
I resist, I allow it to unfold within space & awareness, I allow it to vaporize through coming to the breath, I take time to melt into and become it, etc. And all of this creates a richness that would not be there if I switched between a more limited set of these.
Blinded By Belief
With the current "intelligent design" debate, Europeans have another reason for viewing large portion of US citizens as unfortunately misinformed. Evolution occurs right now, even in our own garden (if we do selective seed saving) and with our own animal companions (through selective breeding), and our current ecosystems and the fossil record provides ample indications that this process has occured throughout the history of the living Earth. In addition, why not embrace this wonderfully rich and deeply meaningful context for our lives? It can only deepen our sense of intimacy with each other and all life.
At the same time, what we see in the "intelligent design" folks is a reminder of what we all do. We all tend to be blinded by belief. All of us, including those in science, are often blinded by our pet models and theories, even when new data does not fit. And in our daily life we all believe in various thoughts - each one inevitably not aligned with Existence - and so create a great deal of drama and suffering for ourselves.
What we see in others is a reminder to look for the same in ourselves.
In this way, the "intelligent design" proponents are doing us all a great favor in holding up a mirror for each one of us. If we are receptive to it, it can lead to insight and a certain liberation. If not, it can lead to continued drama and suffering. And either is OK.
Two Forms Of Intimacy
One form of intimacy is that which comes from clear seeing, from finding oneself without a head, as emptiness and fullness, capacity for whatever arises and that which is happening in the present.
Here, the intimacy may be experienced in different ways.
If we believe in the thought "I" and have it refer to ourselves as pure choiceless awareness, then we may see the intimacy between our human self and the rest of the world of phenomena. It is all a seamless fluid whole. And there is also a sense of "no separation" between "I" and "that".
In the absence of such a belief, there is no "I" to be found anywhere, and there is only what is happening. If we are to add a layer of abstractions onto it, we can say that there is either "no I" to be found anywhere, or "I" is the whole of what is happening.
But if this clear seeing includes a subtle way of denying our human life, then this creates a sense of separation in our interactions with others - which after a way feels more and more "off", unsatisfactory and phony.
So now we are invited into another form of intimacy, the ordinary human one. We bring our humanness into the clear seeing, and there is a new depth of feeling, experiencing and being in the world. There is a deepening empathy with ourselves and others, a deepening sense of gratitude, compassion and humility. A deepening sincerity and honesty about how it really is for us, without having to fit a norm or an idea of how it "should" be. And all this allows for a far deeper intimacy and connection with other humans. We rejoin the human family, but now in a far richer and deeper way.
From being exclusively identified with as our human self, we awaken as what is happening in the present - and our nonhuman existence, and then finally bring it all back into our ordinary human life in a far deeper and more intimate way.
Of The Earth
I went hiking up a butte with a friend today, and on the way down there was a shift for me. I took in the wonderful smell of moist earth and forest, and the textures and colors of the soil, rocks, plants and the sky and clouds. At some point, there was a shift into a deepening experience of no separation. In an intimate and viceral way, I experienced how the matter in the soil, roots, trees - all this organic life, is the same matter as in this body. It is truly just one field, one life - taking all these forms. And this is also a reminder of how realizations deepen. The words may be the same, but the experience is new. And it is a reminder of the richness of how life is experienced in us, both during the lifetime of each of us and in the richness of the experiences of all sentient beings.
Clear Seeing & Fullness of Feeling
The headless experiments are good at helping me, and many others, into clear seeing. Into realizing that "I" am emptiness and fullness, capacity for anything to arise and whatever arises in the present - including this human self.
But if we remain stuck here, it is a dead end. It can too easily just be a subtle way of avoiding being fully human, and in some cases living with subtle (or not so subtle) heartlessness, arrogance and sense of superiority.
The other side of it is fullness of feeling. Of becoming more fully human, of allowing the clear seeing into our ordinary human life. This gives another depth to the seeing and how it is brought into our human lives. Now, I can open up for a deepening compassion, gratitude, humility, sense of connection (on a human/heart level and not just a seeing level), surrender, passion and devotion as well.
This is how the clear seeing becomes engaged. And how we become a more real and full human being.
To remain in just clear seeing is to create another form of hell for oneself. It is another way of creating separation. There is the seeing in which there is no separation, and there can also be a lack of ordinary human connections, sincerity and intimacy, which is another hell.
When we bring our humaness to it, there is a whole other dimension opening up. There is a new depth, richness, intimacy, rawness...
And sincerity and receptivity, along with clear seeing, seems to open this up for us.
As much as I appreciate and enjoy many of the postings on the headlessness listserv, I also see how many postings seem to come from a stuckness in just clear seeing - and in a certain form of heartlessness that can come from it. And there is also a tendency sometimes of "headless fundamentalism" and formulaic answers. All these are just other ways of shielding oneself against life, another way of resisting what is.
Working With Inherent Intelligence
One of the significant differences between the old mechanistic worldview and the new, more systemic, organic and integral worldview, is in the degree and type of trust in what is.
In a mechanistic worldview, manipulation is required. Nothing happens on its own. The world is just a machine, and we need to intervene to create changes and make it work for us. Most of the time, we end up working against what is happening, trying to make it conform to our own ideas of how it should be.
In a more systemic and organic worldview, we appreciate and work with the inherent wisdom in the Universe. In ecological design, we work with the landscape, climate, local materials, wind, sun, water, and natural ecological process. We use the processes already there, and align ourselves with them. In medicine and psychology, we trust the inherent wisdom and healing processes of the system (body/mind, family, etc.) and just create the conditions for these to unfold. We get out of the way to allow the healing to take place.
Both approaches have their place. The mechanistic approach is good for working with certain types of machines and for acute conditions (physical/mental/bodily emergencies). And today, the organic approach may be more appropriate as a context and guideline in just about any other situation.
Some examples of the organic approach as applied to body/mind include... Breema, where we get out of our own way allowing the body/mind to decrystallize and reorganize according to its own inherent healing processes. Just being with what we are experiencing right now, again allowing the body/mind heal according to its own natural healing processes. And Byron Katie's inquiry process, unravelling the beliefs and knots temporarily hiding the innate infinite wisdom in the nature of Existence - the ground of our being and of all there is.
I walked with a woman who I knew represented the deep wisdom in me, and I sincerely asked her to come up stronger and more intimately in my daily life, and guide me. She replied that it is a dynamic process of offering a gift and then me noticing, appreciating and allowing the gift to come into fruition in my life.
She brought me over to an apple tree and an apple fell to the ground. I picked it up and bit into its juicy flesh, and she said that this is how it works. The apple matures and falls to the ground (the gift of inner wisdom) and I notice, appreciate, pick it up and bite into it. Each is an intimate part of the process.
Headlessness: Simple, Yet Infinite In Its Expressions
I shared some of the headless experiments with the people in our integral group on Monday, and it was quite entertaining as well as (apparently) effective. It seems that they "got" it and enjoyed it as well.
I had the "Head Off Stress" book by Douglas Harding there, and one of the participants made the comment that for being so simple, he seemed to be able to write a lot about it.
And this reminded me that although headlessness indeed is simple - it is just what already is here for all of us right now - the expressions of it are infinite. If six billion people wrote every day their whole life about their experiences with headlessness, it would still be fresh and new and always more to say.
Emotions As Things
I notice that when I resist emotions, they seem to become more substantial and fixed. And this resistance can take the form of holding onto them (resisting them going away) or pushing them away (resisting them staying). Even putting a label on them is a way of fixing them.
When I consciously allow them to come and go as guests (as they do anyway), and without any labels, they appear more ephemeral, fluid and unfixable. It is difficult to put a label on them here, even if I tried.
Through resistance, we create the appearance of emotions as "things", as substantial, fixed and ripe for a label. Through allowing them to come and go as guests, they take on an appearance as ephemeral, fluid and temporary.
In the first case, we create drama and suffering for ourselves. In the second, there is a sense of ease and even - sometimes - bliss along with whatever else is going on.
The shift may seem - and is - simple, but has a big impact on our life.
Emotions As Guests
I notice that although I have the "general habit" of allowing emotions to come and go as guests, there is often a subtle holding-onto-them or pushing-them-away going on. And this makes them take on a more substantial appearance.
When I consciously just notice what is, and allow it to be what is, then there is a sense of more space, of a release, and I see how the emotions (and any experience) seem more fluid and changeable. What seemed substantial in my experience now seem far more ephemeral - both in quality and time.
This noticing can often be very gentle, and occur even as I am active doing something else. It still allows for this space, release and fluidity. Other times, if what comes up is stronger and has more of a "hook" for me, I may lie down for a few minutes and just be with it - allowing it to unfold within space on its own. Allow it to come and go as a guest, as it does anyway. But now without the resistance of holding onto it (resistance to letting it go) and of pushing it away (resistance to having it stay), and the appearance of substance and fixedness that tends to come with it.
Sound As A Reminder
Ever since I was a little kid, my human self has had a somewhat neurotic relationship with certain sounds, especially those which appear (in my judgment) to come from lack of awareness, any "excessive" noise...! (noisy eating, slamming doors, leaf blowers, etc.)
I have tried many different approaches to work with it, and although they are less strong than in the past, they still persist. Sometimes I can just allow these patterns to come and go as guests, without attaching to them, and sometimes I do attach more to them and create drama and suffering for myself.
Over the last few weeks, I have noticed a quite different relationship with sounds.
I have used sound as a reminder of the "diamond" space, the crystal clear space within which everything appears - stars, trees, the wind, rain, smells, cars, streets, people, and the sensations, emotions, thoughts and behaviors of this human self. This is the crystal clear, diamond space which is always there, no matter what the content is.
And there is such a relief in coming to myself as this space. Unchanging. Effortlessly allowing anything and everything to come and go as guests. There, completely independent of any content.
And one way I notice this space is through sounds - distant and near. I use the sound, no matter what it is, as a way to notice the diamond space throughout the whole field of what is.
So over the last couple of weeks, I have noticed a definite shift in how I relate to sounds. Even sounds which previously used to trigger aversion in my human self, now is a trigger for gratitude. It is of course a side-effect of just noticing the diamond space, it is merely a change in the always changing content of this diamond space, but also shows that habitual patterns like these can shift.
Of course, it may be temporary, who knows. And that is OK as well.
Ant & Anthill
I am doing exactly what I want to do, such as Breema, Big Mind process, community sustainability work (NWEI), etc. I have a good living situation, good friends etc.
And still, something is definitely missing. Something is off. There is a sadness and a longing here that does not go away, and it has to do with my external situation.
What comes up for me is the image of an ant lost from the anthill and the wider community of ants. An ant can do all its ant things by itself, but it also seems a little meaningless. It only becomes a full ant in the context of the community.
And this is how it is for me as well. When I lived at the Zen community in Salt Lake City, I - for the first time - experienced that I was in the exactly right place. Even in the midst of all the typical challenges coming up in our human lives, I experienced clearly that nothing was missing. And when visiting Jes Bertelsen's Vækstsenter in Denmark, there was the same experience.
Every fiber in me longs for that form of community, and the longer I resist it, the longer the sense of being an ant separated from the anthill persists. It is what nudges me to do what I most deeply want to do, what brings me the deepest satisfaction, joy and flowering.