Time & Age
There is less than an hour left of the year, and it brings up thoughts about time & age for me.
As a human self, I was born a certain number of years and days ago, and am that old.
As this Universe - temporarily in the form of this human self - I am ca. 13.7 billion years old.
As the Unborn - as formless awareness - I am distinct from the world of form, time and age. I am always present.
As Big Mind this universe, this human self and time and age all happen within me.
And all of these are present, different facets of me. Sometimes, one comes to the foreground. Other times, another comes to the foreground.
Time & Age
Ethnocentric & Worldcentric Nationalism
Watching The Right Stuff yesterday also brought up for me the various forms of nationalism.
Forms of nationalism
Ethnocentric nationalism (or patriotism) is exclusive. Taken to its final conclusion, it says "my country right or wrong", or "my country, no matter what the consequences are for others". This is a form of nationalism and patriotism that is not so helpful in today's world, far more interconnected than this view takes into account.
Worldcentric nationalism is different. This is a nationalism that expands to include all humans, or the Earth as a whole. Here, we seek solutions good locally and regionally, and also globally. And these are solutions that tends to bring deeper and longer lasting benefits as well. In a world where we are thoroughly interconnected, and we know that the health of ourselves and the Earth is intimately related, this is the only way forward. Far from being a naive view, it is the only deeply realistic one. And there are indeed many solutions out there that yield benefits at many scales.
I was also reminded of how, even - or maybe especially - as a child, patriotism in any form did not make sense to me. I didn't even understand why I was expected to root for a particular sports team, or the athletes who happened to be from the same country as myself. I could not see the connection. They are individuals and humans, and so am I, and so are all the others. Their actions did not relate to me any more or less than anyone else's that I didn't know.
Later, of course, I found that a more deeply worldcentic view resonated with me. One that includes all humans, all beings and the Earth as a whole. If there is life other places, then that life as well. And ultimately, this is a care and concern that includes it all - the whole of Existence. We are all intimately related, it is all one seamless process. It is all within me as the Unborn. It is all me as Big Mind.
Actions & limitations
Within this is also included the relative, differentiations. If there appears to be no choice that benefits all, then I will most likely do something that benefits those closer to me. That too is part of the whole picture. And if I have to act that way, I will also acknowledge that my exclusiveness is most likely because of my own limitations. There is no need to try to justify it. Instead, I can use it to more diligently explore inclusive options.
Yin & yang compassion, and no justification
And inclusiveness does not mean only yin (receptive, nurturing) compassion. It also includes yang (ruthless, forceful) compassion when needed. Also here, I acknowledge that my actions are from a limited view, and that there are other - more skillful - options available. There is no need to defend it, only a need to explore further. This too does not prevent action, it only prevents blind justification of these actions.
Human Self & Earth :: Big Mind & Space **
I watched The Right Stuff last night, about the Mercury astronauts. I am a sucker for anything related to space, so I found it fascinating and well done too.
Human Self & Earth
It reminded me of how I used to be fascinated with the correlation between the Earth as a whole and ourselves as a mind/body whole. It seems that they go hand in hand.
Experiencing ourselves at a centaur level (in Ken Wilber's terminology) and experiencing the Earth as one living system seems to be two sides of the same coin, in theory and practice. Those engaged in mind/body practices such as yoga, tai chi, chi gong, breema and so on, also tends to be interested in sustainability and see the Earth as a living whole.
In a way, it is all part of the green phase in the Spiral Dynamics model.
I still see it this way today, but the fascination with it has faded - maybe it seems too ordinary and familiar now.
Big Mind & Space
So if there is a correlation between experiencing ourselves as a whole at a human level and seeing the Earth as a seamless living whole, can we take the analogy further?
To me, it seems that the answer is yes.
There is a rough analogy between space and Big Mind.
Through the Universe Story, we see that experiencing the universe as one process - beyond and including most or all polarities, can lead us into Big Mind.
Exploring outer and inner space both leads us into a deepening transdual view. And both are the final frontiers, as we see them today.
Inner & Outer Explorations
So we can say that in the first case, we explore the whole at a local level: ourselves as a whole beyond and including psyche and body, and the Earth as a whole beyond and including all its various subsystems, both ecological and cultural.
And in the second case, we explore the whole at a wider level: Ourselves as Big Mind beyond and including all polarities, and the Universe as a whole similarly beyond and including most or all polarities.
Again, there is a beautiful symmetry here.
Childhood Heroes & Current Villains
From EST (or something similar) there is a simple & instructive little exercise: Look at who your childhood heroes and current villains are, and you'll find you persona and shadow.
In my case, my childhood heroes included Thor Heyerdahl, David Attenborough, Carl Sagan, and many of the characters in books by Jack London, Joseph Conrad, Ray Bradbury, Jules Verne and others. What they all shared was a sense of adventure and exploration of unknown and exotic territory. They were all explorers and most of them were deeply and richly human as well.
Looking at my life today, and can certainly see that this is how my life has unfolded. I moved to and live in a foreign country, I married a foreigner, I explored different spiritual traditions than the one I grew up with, I continue to explore and deepen into one of the final frontiers - the inner one, and I still have as an aim to continue to deepen into my humanity as much as possible.
Exploring the villains is part of this process. For me, my main "villains" include GW Bush and his entourage, unscrupulous corporations, those who promote neo-liberal globalization, police abusing their powers, corporate media serving the interests of corporations, green/immature spiritual teachers, and so on. What they share is abuse of power, a narrow circle of concern, and a view of themselves as more important than they are.
Oops, I guess I do all of that as well. Again, the question is not if I do it, but how.
Benefits of the View of Three Streams
The view of the three streams seems to be a framework with several benefits.
The three streams (see previous posting) is deepening familiarity with ourselves as (a) human self, (b) Big Mind, and (c) interaction between the two.
Some of the benefits of this view includes...
(i) It shows clearly that it is all a process of exploration, deepening and clarification. It does not stop anywhere, and does not begin with an awakening as Big Mind.
(ii) It allows for a multitude of sequences. It is not prescriptive in terms of phases, and allows for the myriad of sequences we see out in the real world in terms of the awakening process.
(iii) It seems to fit with the view and approaches of many (all?) traditions, including Buddhism and Christianity.
(iv) It is very simple, and can be complexified and filled in as far as anyone would like to take it. It can serve as a simple framework for many other outlines and views, including but not limited to the five phases of Tozan & Underhill.
Three Streams of the Awakening Process **
Three streams of the awakening process, as it appears to me now.
The main three are...
(a) Deepening familiarity with ourselves as a human being. (b) Deepening familiarity with ourselves as Big Mind. (c) Deepening familiarity with the interaction between the two.
From this perspective, we see that the awakening does not start with an awakening as Big Mind. It is continuous - including our conception and birth as a human being, and an exploration of ourselves as a human being in childhood and throughout life.
This exploration process includes (i) how to be effective in the world, how to orient and function in the world. (ii) Maturing along the various lines of development, such as cognitive, emotional, interpersonal and so on. (iii) Healing from wounds, developing coping strategies and so on. (iv) Integration of all we are as a human being, at any time.
Our familiarity with ourselves as Big Mind is also a continuous process. It can start with a glimpse, then a process of clarification and deepening, and integration with our human self.
This deepening familiarity tends to trigger a deeper healing and integration at our human self as well. Areas that were in the dark now float to the surface to be brought into awareness.
The integration and fluidity among ourselves as a human self and Big Mind is similarly a continuous process. We find a deepening familiarity as either, and with the fluidity between the two. While we at first may identify more with one or the other, we now deepen into a freedom from any fixed identity. We become more fully human, and more fully Big Mind living as and through this particular human being.
I had a long conversation over tea with someone who had an awakening some years back, with a following "fall". And it was just another reminder to me how wide range of awakening processes there are. Some elements are of course shared, but there is also a unique flavor and path to each.
It would be very interesting to explore more deeply the deeper/shared processes, and the wide variations in subprocesses, sequence and flavors. People have of course done it within particular traditions (such as Underhill with Christianity), and others - such as Ken Wilber - has mapped out some of the developmental stages across traditions. But I don't know of more systematic and in-depth studies across traditions of the awakening process itself.
One way to look at it is to work backwards from what is commonly seen as a more mature integration, which - although it is often portrayed as a "final" phase - in itself continues to deepen. This is a phase of deepening familiarity with both the human and Big Mind, the relative and absolute, and a fluidity in living and expressing this. There is no stuckness in any particular identity. It is deeply human and deeply Spirit. It goes beyond and includes all polarities, and is free to express anything as appropriate to the situation. It is as free as Existence itself.
To get here, we need to (a) deepen our familiarity with ourselves as a human being, (b) deepen our familiarity with ourselves as Big Mind, Buddha Mind, Spirit, and (c) deepen our familiarity with the relationship between the two, and find a deepening fluidity among them.
For most of us, a basic familiarity with ourselves as a human being is more or less given - through growing up in our times and culture. Our familiarity with ourselves as Big Mind either comes out of the blue, or from practice.
And before and/or after (in most cases probably before and after) an awakening as Big Mind, we need to go through a process of deeper healing and integration at our human level. There are many areas that needs to come into awareness, many wounds that need some healing, many projections to notice and integrate, and so on. Awakening to ourselves as the Absolute seems to initiate a deeper healing and integration of our human self. Aspects that were in the dark now floats to the surface as a cork, and is brought into awareness. This is of course not always a pleasant experience.
Then we have the whole identity situation, where we often start out with a conscious and exclusive identity as our human self. Then an identity - sometimes equally exclusive - as Big Mind. Here we can say "I am really Big Mind. My true self is Big Mind, the Absolute", and this is equally partial and exclusive as the previous exclusive identity as a human self. And finally a phase where there is no particular and fixed identity and more fluidity.
So there are many strains to follow in the process. Some of these are our identity (human self, Big Mind, fluid). Our view (dual, nondual, transdual). Our healing and integration at a human level. Our development at a human level (various lines of development). Our integration of our human self and Big Mind, and fluidity between the two.
It seems that the process can go in several areas simultaneously, deepening our familiarity with our human self as well as ourselves as Big Mind, healing and integration at our human level, and exploring how to live as both human and Big Mind and find a deepening fluidity in that.
At the same time, there may be a larger process which emphasizes one or the other at various times. Tozan & Underhill's five phases is one example of how that may look.
First, there is an exclusive identification with our human self. We explore and learn how to function in the world, to at least a basic degree. This is an essential and invaluable phase.
Then, there is a glimpse of something beyond the human. This is the conception phase. The glimpse may take many forms. It could be just an intuition, or a direct and more full blown experience. In any case, it is not fully stable or as clear and integrated as it can be, so we...
Engage in a process of clarification and deepening, often through a specific practice and under guidance of an experienced teacher. This is a process of purification and preparation. We gradually release our exclusive identity as a human self. We have glimpses of something beyond, and these may become more frequent and clearer as we go on.
During this phase we also come face-to-face with ourselves as a human being in various ways - our attachments, our fears, our hopes, our hangups, our wounds, our projections and so on. One of the roles of the teacher is to bring this out in us, and help it into awareness. This can be quite unpleasant, and quite a rollercoaster ride. If it becomes too intense, it may cause us to drop out as well.
Towards the end of this second phase, there may be a sense of being pulled apart and of dying. Of course, it is only our identity as a human self that dies, but since that is all we know it seems that "I" am dying (true in a certain sense). This is the dark night of the senses, and it can be a quite dramatic experience.
Here we awaken in a more full and stable way. First as the Witness - formless awareness, the Unborn, our Original Face. Then as Big Mind, beyond and including all polarities.
In this phase, we explore and become familiar with ourselves as Big Mind, as the Absolute.
This is the brilliant sun of enlightenment, and what is typically described as a full blown awakening. Now, our human self and the whole world of form arises within us. There is a release from habitual patterns and a sense of ease.
A part of this phase is a deeper healing and integration on our human level. Much of what was left in the dark comes out and up, into awareness.
There is also a continuing exploration of how to live from/as Big Mind through the vehicle of our human self, and how to express it through words and our life.
Phase three is the birth of the Buddha, and the infant and childhood stages of the Buddha. Although there is a tremendous clarity, insight, compassion, capacity and so on, it is all a little immature and "green".
We may also find ourselves with an identity as the Absolute, with a sense that this is the "true and real Self". There may also be a sense of it being "special" and an accomplishment.
We are stuck in/as the Absolute, and reek of the "stink of Zen" as they call it. There is often a subtle arrogance and exclusivity here. Subtly or less subtly, we see it as remarkable and an accomplishment and exclude the relative. We appear to ourselves and others as special.
This phase typically last for many years, and the majority of teachers seem to be at this phase.
Then, life may help us detach from our identity as the Absolute. We are thrown out of the Absolute and back into the Relative. This is experienced as a terrible fall from grace. God has abandoned us, or we God. We are just an ordinary wretched human being again, and our whole life may fall apart in many or all areas. We are ground to dust, humbled in any way possible.
It is as if everything we found comfort in is taken away from us, and much of what we excluded is taking over. There is little or no clarity, insight, compassion, will or anything else. We are at the mercy of circumstances. This is similar to a deep depression, a phase of tremendous loss.
This phase may also last for several years, and the turning point seems to come when we are ready and able to embrace our wretched state more fully. As the resistance falls away, often from pure exhaustion, it begins to turn around.
Phase five is a deeper integration of our human self and Big Mind, of the relative and absolute. Now, it all comes back, but in a different way. It now seems completely ordinary and unremarkable.
There is no particular identity anywhere, not as Big Mind nor as human being. There is a new fluidity among it all, and a deepening interweaving.
This is the hazy moon of enlightenment, the more mature phase of the awakened Buddha. We appear completely ordinary, more deeply human.
Personal & Universal
I remember that during the initial awakening, I had the impression that Buddhism was more impersonal and Christianity was more personal. I experienced a deep connection with both, and the relationship between the two was not quite resolved for me.
Now, that is almost hard to imagine. It seems so clear that they are both there, in the traditions and in my immediate experience as well - and they are intimately intertwined in a myriad of ways, and ultimately one and the same. (At the same time, it still seems to me that Buddhism is a good way to experience the universal, and Christianity the personal.)
Anything we experience is universal and impersonal in several ways. It is all Big Mind - an aspect of that which is beyond and including all polarities. It arises from the ground, from formless awareness, the Unborn - as the whole world of form does. It is universally human - anything we experience is something shared by so many others.
And at the same time, it is completely unique and personal. It is a completely unique expression of Big Mind, experienced right now through this particular human self. It is universal, and yet arising intimately, in a completely new and fresh way. It is experienced and expressed intimately through this alive, pulsing, warm, sensual, flesh and blood human self.
It seems that when we deepen our experience of one, it allows us to deepen the experience of the other. The universal & impersonal and the unique & personal deepen together.
Of course, the separation of the two comes from an added layer of abstractions. It is more accurate to say that it is just the universal/personal happening right now. And even more so that it is just what is happening, as it is.
Phases & Master
My dream this morning helped me see something else about the five phases outlined by Tozan & Underhill. During phase three, we are not only identified as the absolute - Big Mind, beyond and including all polarities - but also typically with the Master, in the Big Mind process terminology. We are the Master of our life, in every respect.
During phase four - the fall from grace - we loose connection not only with the absolute, but also with the Master. We are completely at the mercy of the circumstances of our life. Completely not in charge, not even in a conventional sense of the word.
At phase five, we again have access to the Master, although now more fluidly - responsive to the situation.
My partner has always had a drawn to spirituality, but have never done any serious practice. Last year, she did some Breema and started applying the principles in her daily life, and this spring - we both got into the Byron Katie inquires - and she really caught on to it fast. It seems that both prepared the ground for an awakening this summer, triggered by her first deeksha. She was completely changed, and it is as if I am living with a different person. Even her face and posture is vibrant and radiant, and her hangups are all but gone in daily life (at least as I experience it). She is clear, present and radiant. I find a deep gratitude for witnessing such a shift, and for being able to share in it though our daily life together.
When I look, who or what do I find myself to be?
I find space, and in it a procession of experiences - slight tension where the forehead and neck is, taste of peppery stew, music, room, words arising, formless awareness and so on. That is all I can find.
I also see that there is a slight tendency to see parts of this human self as an "I" - especially around the head/neck area. There is a sense of condensation in this area, which sometimes is taken as an "I". There is 85-95 percent sense of all just happening as it is, with no "I", and some percent of an "I" here. Although this changes with the situation as well.
This summer and fall, I had phases where the sense of no "I" was 100% and also where the groundless ground "popped". During this time, there was absolutely no difference between sitting practice and daily life. It was all a continuous samadhi, although a completely functional one.
During a retreat (!) in November, this faded somewhat although is definitely there in the mid/background, and sometimes foreground as well.
Right now, there is just a sense of relaxing completely into what is, even if it means a slight sense of "I" - which vaporizes as soon as I look at it more closely. I know it is just another phase, another melting into what is, allowing it to simmer whatever it is.
I am also not doing much of any practice right now, apart from good eating, some physical outdoor activity (walking, hiking), daily self-breemas, and some reading and watching movies. I rarely do any Byron Katie inquiries, and rarely any of the Douglas Harding experiments. Sitting is sporadic at best. And it all feels completely OK. It is more a period of rest and integration.
Dreams & Ground
I frequently have dreams where I am a quite different person than in my waking life. Not only is my circumstances different, but there is also another human self. The age, body, gender, personality and so on can be just about anything, although there is a slight tendency for it to be closer to my own age and gender.
I notice that there is (of course) the same ground of choiceless, mirrorlike awareness, but filtered and operating through a very different personality.
And this is how it appears to be. There is the ground - the Unborn - and the human self and world of form arising within it. And somehow, this seems to be the case for everyone. The ground in each case seems limitless etc., yet clearly functionally centered on that one particular human self. There is a functional separation between all the ground/self units, although also a sense of no separation.
And if there is anything like rebirth, then that may also function in this way. It is the same ground, yet functionally connected with a procession of different selves, each one coming and going as a guest. Each one with a tendency to take itself as all there is, which is true and not. It is all there is, right now. And there is a procession of selves, arising within one ground.
Dream: The Master
I am a young British upper class (aristocratic?) man, and there is a party. My fiance and her family is coming to dine with my family. I cannot remember anything. Something has happened and I cannot seem to remember anything from my former life. I am lost, helpless, inept. My fiance does not recognize me at first, due to the change, and I only half way recognize her. Her family is now disapproving of me, as I am dressing and acting below my stand. Apparently, I used to be confident, clear and acting my stand, but that is only a very vague memory now. Everything seems to be falling apart and lost for me.
I watched Master & Commander the night before, and in the dream I was a character who seemed a mix of the young boy, the doctor and the captain of that movie. Although something had happened, and I had become more similar to the bewildered and inept officer who jumped overboard.
I have amnesia, everything from earlier days is forgotten. I see that if I don't do something drastic, I can remain helpless and bedraggled for the rest of my days. But I decide to relearn every skill I used to engage in, and I go about it methodologically and with determination.
There are especially three areas: music (string instruments), naturalist science and social interactions (as appropriate for my stand).
I notice how it all comes back, but now in a very different way. My music has a new depth, flow, freedom, range and intimacy - and above all, it is more deeply human. My naturalist studies now is for the benefit of all, independent of stand. I am at service to the world. And in my social interactions, I don't make a difference between people of high and low stand. I am equally at home with all segments of society, and I find a new skill in listening, being genuinely interested in each person, and allowing them to feel important and good about themselves.
I see how there used to be so much bravado and emphasis on skill in all I did. In my music, there was an emphasis on a virtuoso technique and on impressing the listeners, now it is to convey the deeply and fluidly human in the music. My naturalist studies were a diversion, and now to benefit all. My social interactions to impress, now to help others explore and feel good about themselves. All my skills are still there, but now in a more deeply human context.
Throughout this process, I see that it is all about becoming the master in/of my life again, and I find great support socializing with others who express this with skill and humanity.
I find that I am now respected by all, and my relationship with my fiancee and her family is restored.
My day life
It is pretty clear how this relates to my life, and also the five phases described by Tozan and Underhill. The previous phase was number three, the brilliant sun. The dream depicts number four, the fall from grace. And the active imagination is about phase five, the new integration.
The Fall of US Empire, Projections & Acting
I find it comical - and tragic - how mainstream media in the US depicts Chavez and Morales (legally and democratically elected presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia). Mainstream media, and especially corporate media, are of course dedicated to promoting the profoundly destructive neo-liberal form of globalization, and those speaking up for local interests and the underdogs are perceived as their main enemy - especially if they are elected leaders as that shows that people don't buy their propaganda.
European media generally have a far more favorable impression of the policies of these two, and it seems that regular European often see them as far more sane than Bush and co. - as I do.
Still, the US government has shown over and over - for decades - that they are willing to do anything to further their global economical, cultural and military influence. Nothing is beyond them, including the most profound corruption, deception and use of violence against legally elected governments and hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
There are many signs of a collapse of this US empire, and what is happening now is seen by many as the last desperate convultions - trying to hold onto something that is falling apart under their feet. It will fall of course, the only questions are when - and what will replace it globally.
Ideally, it is a strong global governance where the interests of regular people, ecosystems and economy all are balanced and taken into account in a real way. And where the voices of the weak are strongly represented and taken into account - and not only current humans but future generations and the Earth as a whole. But what usually happens is not as bad as our worst fears, and not as good as our highest hopes.
One thing I find interesting is the European tendency to root for the underdog, the weak in society and otherwise, and the US tendency to root for the powerful. It is partly rooted in history (the US has a history of everyone for themselves, and success only to the most ruthless and powerful), and maybe more so - a sign of the success of the propaganda of the powerful in the US, combined perhaps with the gullibility of its people.
Projections & Acting
Well, this was a general rant and a reminder of the relationship between projections and heart. On the one hand, I need to do my homework with projections, and notice and integrate them- especially when something is triggered in me as it often is around these topics. On the other hand, we need to act on what we see - especially when it comes from our heart.
That there is always delusion in our view and actions is not a reason to not act, it is only a reason to pay attention when we do so.
Control & Church
In reading Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels, and also from listening to a program on Norwegian radio about women in early Christianity, I am reminded of how the early church filtered the teachings for the purpose of control.
Mary Magdalene - one of the closest disciples of Jesus - apparently had a following and also her own gospel. And as the early church did not have an interest in the equality of women, they filtered out the gospel and discredited Mary Magdalene.
According to Pagels, something similar may be the case with the Gospel of Thomas. He teaches that the kingdom of God is within us all, which is not in the interest of the early church as it would take control away from them. Instead, they included the Gospel of John which (as the only gospel) discredits Thomas and promotes a salvation only through Jesus Christ and the church.
Of course, this fits conveniently in with our contemporary liberal view, but it also seems to fit in with the radical and egalitarian nature of Jesus' teachings. After all, he spent his time with the outcasts of society and did not seem to have much interest in hierarchy or control.
From reading Beyond Belief, I am also reminded of a particular view of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the human being who walked on Earth. Christ is the spiritual aspect, fully embodied in Jesus, and that which we all can connect with and bring into our lives. When the three first gospels talk of Jesus as son on man, it can be seen as referring to his human self. And when the fourth gospel talks about Jesus as God, it can be seen as referring to his Christ embodiment. My sense is that Christ here is very similar to Big Mind/Heart, but also somewhat different.
Awakening of Mind & Heart
During the overall awakening process, there is an awakening of the mind and heart - and these are somewhat distinct from each other.
The awakening of the mind is an awakening as Big Mind, as that which is beyond and including all polarities. Here, everything is complete as is. There is nothing missing, no preferences. It is complete equanimity and - in a way - detachment. As Genpo Roshi says, it is the ultimate masculine (!).
The awakening of the heart is an awakening as Big Heart, as unlimited and unconditioned love and compassion for all beings and all there is. Here, there is indeed a preference - for relieving suffering and removing the cause of suffering (not yet awakened as Big Mind). And there is active and passionate engagement in the world. Big Heart shows up in many ways, including masculine (tough love) and feminine (receptivity, gentle). To me, it also seems that it can show up in a more cool way or a more fiery way.
And again, there is a beautiful mutuality between the two. Big Mind gives the clarity and detachment, and Big Heart the passion and engagement. Without Big Mind, there is no guidance or relief. Without Big Heart, there is no direction and life. And the deeper we go into one, the deeper we can go into the other.
Opening of the Heart
The heart opens on its own accord, and yet there are things we can do to nurture and nourish its awakening.
From Big Mind, we can shift in the direction of the relative and into Big Heart. Here, we find ourselves as infinite and unconditional love and compassion for all being and all there is. We can find a deeper familiarity as this, and even allow our human self to be infused and gradually healed by it.
As our human self, we can work on noticing and integrating projections. All that I see out there is also in here. Everything I see in any other being is also in myself as a human being. This opens for a deep sense of intimacy with ourselves and others, and a deep compassion for the suffering and confusion of all of us.
Both nurture the heart, it provides compost for the heart, allowing it to eventually open and enliven and gradually deepen into it. And this in turn brings a deepening passion, compassion, joy, pain, bliss, suffering, intimacy and active and joyful engagement into our life. It profoundly transforms our life.
Heart & Mind
To me, there is such a profound sense of connection with Buddhism when it comes to its understanding, practices and maps. And there is an equally profound sense of connection with Christianity, in its heart-centeredness.
Buddhism provides the clarity and outlines, the mind aspect. And Christianity provides the enlivening of the heart.
Of course, there is an emphasis on compassion in Buddhism as well, but it sometimes seem more cerebral. In Christianity, I find a fullness and a wild raging heart-centered fire of passion and compassion.
And again, for me, the two are such as perfect match, profoundly complementing each other. Buddhism has the clarity of the first person explorations as Buddha Mind, God and Spirit. Christianity has the raging fire of the second person relationship, merging into first person.
There is a sense of my heart opening again, gradually deepening. There has been many years of a closed off heart, and with it any enthusiasm and passion. And before that again, there were years of a naked heart - full of passion, joy, pain, bliss, suffering, compassion, rejoicing and a sense of sweetness and vibrancy of life.
And this is coming back, gradually and in waves. I am reconnection with Christianity as well, through many readings by and about Christian mystics and Jesus. This evening, I am reading Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels, about the Gospel of Thomas. It is amazing to me how profoundly I experience a connection with the early Christians and the mystics up until today.
In reading The Second Birth yesterday, about Waking Down awakening stories, I found many connections with my own experiences. One that was striking was in the story by Linda Groves where she experienced all the pain in the world within her. Last year, following a fall Breema intensive, I had two or three days where I went through something very similar. It was as I - not as a human being but Big Heart - experienced all the pain and suffering in the world within me. As Big Heart, I was the pain of the world. Raw, naked, richly, with a tinge of bliss and joy in it as well.
It seems that for me, an opening of the heart means an opening of anything and everything of the heart - joy, pain, bliss, suffering, intimacy, compassion, rejoicing and much more. It is all there, simultaneously - and deepening.
Projections, Big Mind & Human Self
OK - another post on this topic! (I tend to rewrite things several times if I find myself drawn to a topic.)
Working with projections can occur at two different levels.
As Big Mind, everything is me. There is no room for projections or "working with projections". It is all me anyway.
And as a human self, there is definitely room for working with projections. Any quality I see out there, in the larger world, is something that is also in here, in my human self. When I recognize this, it is a conscious projection. I have access to the quality in my own life, and can relate to it in a more conscious way when it appears in my self and others. If I don't recognize it, it is a blind or unconscious projection. I don't have access to it in my own life, and I tend to relate to it in a reactive way when it appears in myself and others.
And there is a beautiful relationship and mutuality between these two.
Noticing and integrating projections at my human level allows me to deepen into a transdual view, and eventually Big Mind. And dipping into and familiarizing myself with Big Mind allows me to more easily recognize and integrate projections at my human level. I am already familiar with being it - whatever quality it may be, which makes it easier to transfer to my human self and daily life.
Paths To Big Mind
There are several paths to a glimpse or taste or awakening as Big Mind, that which is beyond and includes all polarities.
One is the "path" of it happening out of the blue, with no conscious preparation.
Another is a more traditional awakening, first as the Unborn - that in which the world of form arises, and then as Big Mind - that which includes the Unborn and the born, space & awareness and the world of form.
A third is the Big Mind process, where we explore and become the various dualistic and transdual views, including Big Mind and Big Heart. This gives us a taste of it.
And a fourth is the Universe Story, where we use mainstream science as a pathway into a view of the universe as a seamless process, beyond and including a wide range of polarities. In itself, it may not get us completely into the view Big Mind, but it is very close.
It seems that the three last ones work well together.
The more stable and deepening awakening comes through various practices, including meditation. The Big Mind process helps us explore ourselves as Big Mind, although it needs to be grounded in our life and through practice. And the Universe Story helps us ground it in science and our modern worldview. And, to be honest, the awakening always comes "out of the blue", no matter how much we prepare for it, so the first is included as well.
The Universe Story & The Transdual
The Universe Story comes from and leads us into a deepening transdual view. It helps us see the unfolding of the whole world of form (as we know it) as one seamless process, beyond and including all polarities.
Or at least almost all polarities. Some are left out if the focus is purely on the world of form, such as those of existence and nonexistence, creation and creator, spirit and matter, formless and form, and so on. But they can be included if the storytelling goes beyond to include the formless aspect of Spirit, emerging into Big Mind.
The Universe Story is a wonderful way to use mainstream science as a stepping stone into a more deeply transdual view, and into a glimpse of Big Mind.
Transdual & Dual Qualities
Just about any human quality can be filtered through a dualistic (conventional) or a transdual (Big Mind/Heart) view.
And quite naturally, when awakened teachers act or talk from a transdual view, the terms are often understood in a more dualistic way by those receiving it.
Some examples of transdual and dual ways of understanding various qualities...
Love. In a transdual sense, love is unconditional. As Big Mind, I recognize all as me. And as a human being, I see in myself what I see in others. Love in a dualistic sense has more to do with attraction, and it is conditioned on many things.
Anger. In a transdual sense, anger is a forceful action in the context of Big Mind/Heart. It is ruthless or yang compassion aimed at reducing or preventing suffering. In a dualistic sense, it comes from blind reactivity and aversion - from coming up against something that is not made aware in oneself.
Spirit. In a transdual view, Spirit is either (a) the groundless ground, space & awareness, that in which the world of form arises, or (b) Big Mind, the view which goes beyond and includes all polarities. In a dualistic view, Spirit can be seen as opposed to the world of form including our human selves.
Development. In a transdual view, there is the Unborn (the ground) which is distinct from the world of form and any development. And there is the born, the world of form, which does develop. Both are right here, now. In a dualistic view, development may be all there is. I am less or more developed, and that is the whole story. And only those more developed have access to Spirit.
Present. In a transdual view, the present is the ground in which all arises. It is this formless awareness here now, in which this body and the rest of the world of form arises. It is that in which the world of space & time arises, and it is always here now. In a dualistic view, the present is the razor's edge between past and future, and it takes a great deal of effort to "be present" - to not get lost in thoughts about either past or future. In fact, it is impossible.
Truth. In a transdual view, truth it what is - as it is, beyond yet including abstractions about it. It is Big Mind, beyond and including all polarities. In a dualistic view, truth can be arrived at through abstractions, and some abstractions are true and other false - or some are at least more true than others.
Awakening. In a transdual view, awakening is God awakening to itself. There is no change, apart from just the noticing that all is Big Mind, Spirit, God. Both awakening and delusion is Big Mind, Spirit, God, so although there is a difference, there is no absolute separation between the two. In a dualistic view, humans are either deluded or awakened, and they are mutually exclusive.
And so on.
Of course, there is the possibility that we act from a dualistic view and justify it by calling it transdual, and there has probably been a great deal of this among various spiritual teachers throughout history. The safest seems to be a sincere approach, acknowledging that there is always delusion - no matter how awakened we appear to be.
We can also look at various concepts this way. For instance...
Spirit & Body. In a transdual view, spirit and body are both God, Spirit, Big Mind. They are just the formless and form aspects of God. In a dualistic view, body is good and spirit nonsense, or spirit is good and body is a trap.
Infinite & Finite. In a transdual view, the infinite and finite as both God. It is God manifesting and experiencing itself as both, and one through the other. In a dualistic view, there is either one or the other, and one is seen as good or safe and the other not.
Shadow & Spirit
It is also interesting to see how the shadow shows up in the awakening process.
If I identity exclusively with one pole of any polarity, I leave the other out - and this shows up in projections.
If I am exclusively identified as a human being, I am either oblivious to the ground and/or Big Mind and not interested in any "spiritual" path (which is fine). Or I see it only out there - for instance in "awakened beings". I may become an unquestioning follower and disciple, which may lead me into some hard lessons and invite me to find a more balanced approach to myself and the teacher - seeing both in myself, and finding a teacher who does not encourage blind following.
If I am exclusively identified as "good" and "spiritual" I leave out that which is "bad" and "not spiritual". And these will then show up in my life in unexpected and uncontrollable ways, inviting me to embrace these sides of myself as well. Inviting me to become a little more human, to sink a little more into the fullness of what I already am.
If I am exclusively identified as the ground, as formless awareness, I leave out my human self and the world of form. And this neglect leads to a great deal of suffering, through for instance disease, unfavorable circumstances and so on.
If I am exclusively identified as the absolute, as Big Mind, the relative is left out and I see the relative only in the delusions of others. In other words, I don't see myself as fully human, and others may not either...! I may become a larger-than-life being, ripe for adoration by others. And this sets me up for a fall into a more inclusive and real identity.
And so on.
In all cases, we identify with one end of the polarity and leave the other out. And what we leave out comes back to bite us. It is life's way to invite us to find a more inclusive view and identity.
If we respond to this invitation by rejecting it all, we miss out of this lesson - although it will come back and we'll have another opportunity. If we respond with receptivity, we may indeed find a more inclusive experience of the world.
Seeing the new King Kong movie a few days ago sparked a (renewed) interest in shadow projections. Specifically, what are the typical shadow projections today? What are the typical projections of our current western culture, and of some subcultures?
Projections just means that whatever we see out there, in the external world beyond our human self, is something we recognize from in here, in our internal world inside of our human self. Otherwise, we wouldn't recognize it - we would be blind to it.
And projections can be conscious or not. When they are conscious, we are aware that we see in others what we know from ourselves. When they are not conscious, we see a characteristic as out there and not in here.
The unconscious projections take two general forms. If the quality is seen as desirable from our worldview, it comes up in the form of attraction to the projection object. If we perceive it as undesirable, it takes the form of aversion.
Although there are many specific techniques to work with projections, there is a general guideline: whatever quality I see in the outer world is also here in my inner world. It is not a question of if, only of how. How is it lived, how does it come out? How can I relate to it with more awareness? And if it is a desirable quality, how can I nurture it and bring it out more?
And the effects of bringing projections into awareness are many. They include deepening empathy (seeing in myself what I see in others), deepening sense of intimacy with my inner and outer worlds (myself and others), widening repertoire of qualities and characteristics (more familiar with more of them), and a more conscious way of relating to them when they come up in myself and others.
Shadow projections 101
Shadows are one form of projections. When we have a limited conscious identity - which we all do - something is left out. And some of what is left out is seen as undesirable in our conscious worldview. This is then the shadow. That which does not fit our conscious identity, and is seen as undesirable to boot.
Typical shadow objects include primitives and monsters (both seen in King Kong), bandits and criminals, ghosts and aliens, political opponents, people from other ethnic groups, poor or rich (depending on where you are), and so on.
When a shadow object comes up and triggers this projection for us, there is often a sense of aversion and antipathy towards the object and a tendency to dehumanize it.
For instance, I may have an image of myself as an honest, self-made and upstanding citizen, and seeing a homeless person triggers my shadow. I may see him as a parasite on society, someone who is lazy and does not deserve any help from taxpayers. I make him less than human. And there is very little empathy, as there is very little recognition of myself in him. I cannot see those qualities in my current life (although they are bound to be there), and I cannot see that I am only a couple of paychecks - or a major illness - away from the situation he is in now.
Wars and oppression in any form is fueled by shadow projections. They are the main tool of oppressive regimes and movements anywhere.
Projections 101: Big Mind & human self
Another aspect here is how integrating projections show up slightly differently at the Big Mind and human self levels.
As Big Mind, we are whatever happens. There is no room or possibility for projections, because it is all me anyway. As my human self, I can see in myself what I see out there, and there is indeed room for projections - blind and conscious.
Working on projections at a human self level can help us awaken as Big Mind, and it can definetely help us bring it into daily life and live from Big Mind. And becoming familiar with ourselves as Big Mind also helps us work with projections on a human level. We have already experienced how it is to be all there is, so it is not so foreign when we bring it into our human level.
Current shadow projections
To find our shadow projections, individually or more collectively, we can look in two places.
One is our conscious identity - whatever is left out tends to be in the shadow. The other is those we tend to see as "other" and a disturbance.
So what are the typical shadow projections in our current western culture? It is obviously complex as there are many worldviews even here - so there will be many shadows as well.
If we look at our identity first, we see that it tends to include an idea of progress and tolerance. This means that anyone who is seen as regressive and/or intolerant tends to become shadow objects.
Fundamentalists tends to fall into this category, whether they are muslim, christian or of any other brand. And this is also what we see. Fundamentalist muslims are almost universally made into the "other" in current western civilization - they are seen as a disturbance, and they are dehumanized in various ways as well. This dehumanization can be blatant as seen in the use of torture and indefinite detainment of suspected muslim terrorists, and more subtle in for instance our lack of sincere exploration of their views and the possible grains of truth in it.
And by more progressive westerners, christian fundamentalists (happily confined mostly to the US) are seen as an equal problem, and maybe even more troublesome as they are inside of our own culture and influences policies and the direction of our society.
Fundamentalists are also who are most often seen as "other" today, which is another indication that they serve as projection objects.
Using the Spiral Dynamics framework, we see that at any first tier level, any of the other levels can fall into the shadow - maybe especially those next to us at either side. And second tier is not immune to shadow projections either.
Fundamentalism is a blue expression, and their perceived "enemies" are at red and orange mostly. Similarly, those most dismayed by fundamentalism are typically at orange.
The new King Kong movie has another example of this. On top of the layer of old shadow projections (from the 1930s movie, with primitives and monsters), there was a another layer of shadow projections - this time of the brutality of civilization. And this seems to be one of the typical shadow elements of the Spiral Dynamics green level. We see the brutality of civilization "out there" in others, in Bush and CEOs and people in biplanes shooting primates, but we don't see the same brutality in how we live our own life.
It is interesting how difficult it seems to describe the difference in awakenings between Waking Down and some other traditions. The experience is clearly quite different, but putting it in words is not so simple. The words often come out similarly for each.
Buddhism et al.
In Buddhism and other traditions, the awakening includes (a) formless awareness, (b) content (whatever is happening), (c) a sense of spaciousness, (d) and a sense of intimacy and no separation. The world of form arises within formless awareness, and there is a sense of overview and release from habitual patterns. They may still arise, but there is no "hook" there. There is also a sense of universality, although expressed through the vehicle of a unique personality. Even in the reworking of this particular body and personality, there is a sense of universality about it.
In the second birth (the initial awakening in Waking Down), I can find all the same components although in a quite different experience. There is much more of a sense of it being local. My body and surroundings become alive, vibrant, sensual, intimate - almost as if there is a "bubble" moving around with me. And it is if all the components of awakening are "collapsed" into one. There is just the vibrant, alive, sensual fluidity of awareness/content, right here, locally. I am what is triggered, and I am the soft, warm, alive space it is held within and melts into. It is a different form of release.
There is also a sense of a very detailed reworking on a cellular level, unique to each cell. There is a sense of the unborn and born, the absolute and relative, being interwoven in a very detailed way, in this very body.
It is interesting how the deeksha seems to have components of both of these processes.
It has the "transmission" component of the second birth - almost like a virus transmitted from one to another, or maybe a seed planted which then unfolds. And it also has the very detailed reworking of the physical body, similar to the Waking Down process.
At the same time, it seems to facilitate an awakening process that is very similar to that in Buddhism, Adveita etc. It brings (a) an awakening as the Witness, (b) a sense of no separation, and (c) a full awakening into/as Big Mind, beyond and including all polarities. And, as in Buddhism and other traditions, there is a release from habitual patterns. They still arise as before - at least in the beginning - but they do not stick, there is no "hook" in it anymore.
I have had (deeply transformative) experiences with each of these three, and I see how more and more people have awakenings through these processes and other ones out there.
In Buddhism, new approaches are used - such as the Big Mind process - which speeds up the awakening for many. And Waking Down and the deeksha has the "seed" component to it which helps it spread quickly, with less effort on the part of the receiver.
So from this perspective, it may indeed appear as if we are entering a new era.
Of course, even if awakenings are spreading more widely, it does not mean the resolution of all problems. Only a very small segment of the human population is going through this right now. And even if it spreads, it will most likely take a while before a significant number of people are involved - enough to change how we live our lives collectively.
And the awakenings themselves are just a beginning. It still needs to be clarified, deepened, integrated and matured. It still needs to be brought into daily life. There is still maturing unfolding in all our lines of development. There is still the need for healthy integration at whatever overall level we are at.
There are still a huge number of challenges facing us collectively, not the least in terms of creating a more sustainable civilization. Good intentions - and a transdual view - is not enough. There is still the big question of how - how to live it individually and collectively - and there are no given or final answer here. It is a continuous exploration process, with always new challenges.
So whatever is happening - mass awakenings or now - there is the same challenge. How do we live our insights? How do we bring it into our lives on an individual and collective level? How do we organize our lives to faciliate a transition into a more life-centered and sustainable civilization?
This involves deep transformations and dedicated work in all areas of our individual and collective lives. Awakenings themselves are not nearly enough. They may not even be neccesary, but they do seem to facilitate this process.
Awakening Emphasis: Waking Down Uniqueness (?)
Reading the book about Waking Down awakenings, I was reminded of how awakenings share many characteristics, but are also unique in each case, and also differ among traditions.
I cannot say much about it for sure, but here are some things that seem true for my own experience.
In Buddhism and other - older - traditions, there is a sense of (a) formless awareness and (b) the world of form arising within this awareness. There is a sense of spaciousness, of "distance" between awareness and its content, although there is also a clear experience of no separation and intimacy. This seems also true for Douglas Harding's experiments and many other approaches out there.
In the initial awakening in the Waking Down community (the "second birth"), it is very similar to this but also quite different. For me, the difference was/is in that it feels more "local", with a deeper and richer sense of intimacy, vibrancy and aliveness. It is as if my body and local physical surroundings are consciousness, alive, vibrant, sensual and deeply intimate. And there is also little or none of the sense of spaciousness. It is all here, right now, as one. It is if it all has collapsed into one sensual, flowing, vibrant whole. And along with this is a sense of a very detailed reworking on a bodily and cellular level, unique to each cell.
It is a flowing whole of awareness/content, richly sensual and vibrant. I am whatever happens, all of it right now - intimately, richly, sensually.
When something is triggered, I don't "allow it to unfold within space" as I do when in the Buddhist mode, but I am fully what is triggered, and I am also the sensual/fluid/intimate/aware something it is held by and melting into. There is no need for distance - everything is right there, fully in it, with no need for any change.
It seems to be a deep intertwining of the absolute and relative, of the unborn and born, at a detailed cellular level.
It is of course difficult to put into words, but the experience is quite distinct.
Of course, who am I to say that this does not happen for people in other traditions - or out of the blue for others. I am sure it does. But it does seem to be a particular characteristic of the waking down process as well.
And as much as I am triggered by Saniel's mannerisms, I am very grateful for having connected with it. For me, the second birth happened in the weeks following my initial - and only - workshop with Saniel. And I am sure it is unfolding, although it is difficult to tease out what comes from where. It all becomes part of one process.
Still, reading this book of second birth stories, I again experienced deeply the second birth qualities - which have been in the background lately because of my focus on Buddhism and other traditions. It is a reminder of the role of intention and focus, and how we both interpret and guide our experiences and process through our conscious view.
Synchronicity (Attraction & Repulsion)
I read "The Second Birth: Stories of Awakening" today, partly at Borders coffee shop. These are stories by people who have gone through the second birth, as they call it in the Waking Down community, and one paragraph triggered something in me. It was by someone who, at his initial evening workshop with Saniel, had told Saniel that he did not do a very good job at it. The day after, he apologized and Saniel said "we all get to be assholes sometimes".
Saniel has a way of pushing my buttons, and even this brief story pushed a big one for me. What works for me is when people acknowledge that anything anyone can say about them is true. Any statement has truth in it, and when we hear it - whether it is directed towards us or not - it is an opportunity to explore, sincerely, how it is true in my case, in my life. It is such a tremendous opportunity for sincerity, humility and discovery. Such as tremendous gift. So when someone smugly pushes it away and places the blame on the one expressing the statement - the hidden gold - it triggers a strong reaction in me.
And I know of course that this is because I don't always apply this to myself fully, as much as I am invited by life to do. It is my own hangup.
The comical aspect of this story is that I had a warm fuzzy feeling reading the stories, until this one paragraph. And during this time, two people who sat at other places in the room moved over to the two seats next to me. They obviously did not have to, and there were few people in the room so it was a little unusual for this flocking together. But it also made sense to me as I did feel very open and warm hearted at the time, which - I thought - possibly attracted these two to bask in the enjoyment of it.
As I came to the paragraph mentioned above, I decided to do a Byron Katie inquiry into it, and as part of that process - I went fully into anything triggered by the story, which was a good deal. I did not move or do anything that would be very obvious to others, but about a minute or so into it, one of the people next to me left her seat and moved to another corner of the room. And shortly after, the other person moved to another seat a ways away from me.
I don't know if this had anything at all to do with what happened with me - if they somehow picked up on and respond to it, or if it was just coincidence. In either case, it was an interesting synchronicity.
During my first awakening, my heart seemed completely open. There was a sense of rawness, fullness, intimacy - an openness for all pain and joy experienced by humans, in me and in others, and in all beings as well. And this experience was very tangible although difficult to describe in words.
And now, it is coming back. There is the now familiar sense of open heartedness, receptivity to any and all joys and pains, fullness, warmness and sense of intimacy.
I also notice my tendency to attach explanations to it from my current situation (it comes from concern about a choice I need to make, from something I said to my partner, from an agreement in the past I did not follow up on, from someone that was hurt by something I said or did a long time ago, and so on). But I know now that it is not born from any particular situation.
Rather, it gives a poignancy to any situation. It keeps me receptive to the joys and suffering of any being, others as well as myself. It helps me notice and look at what I do or say which may trigger pain and suffering in others. And maybe most of all, it gives a deep sense of intimacy with myself, others and life. There is a tremendous fullness in it all.
I live my life in the dance between awareness - when everything is unfolding within me, and forgetfulness - when habitual patterns take over and I am lost in them.
Circumstances & agency
I notice how situations are conducive for one or the other. For instance, when it is quiet or I am in a supportive situation for awareness (such as a Breema intensive), it is easier to allow it all to unfold within awareness. Other times, when things are happening fast or the situation appears less conducive for awareness, the habitual patterns tend to take over.
At the same time, I know that it is all about me as well. It is not about the situation.
And this is where accumulation, or forming new habits, come in. If I engage in regular self-breemas, breema bodywork, sitting practice and so on, it is much easier to transfer this into other situations. This is true on many different timescales.
If I do sitting and/or self-breemas in the morning, it tends to transfer throughout the day. If I do it in the evening, it transfers into my sleep. If I do it regularly over weeks, months and years, it tends to transfer into more and more different situations, even those which tends to trigger the deepest and most habitual patterns.
It accumulates. I am creating new grooves, deepening over time.
And it is also like money in the bank. When I practice - through self-breema, sitting and in daily activities - I deposit a small amount in the bank. And when the situation turns difficult, I can draw on it.
When we awaken as formless awareness, we find that there is no center.
There is of course a functional center in the world of form, also known as this human self. In a way, it is the vehicle for the formless awareness in the world of form. But this space & awareness itself does not appear to have any center.
It is just the space & awareness in which the world of form happens.
First, we realize that there is no separate or fixed human self. It is just a vortex in the world of form. Then, we may realize that there is no "I" anywhere in all of this. It is just what is happening, with the same content as always, but with no "I" anywhere.
And since there is no center to the Unborn, it appears that everything is self-experiencing. The tree is experiencing itself, the stars are experiencing themselves, the table is experiencing itself, the body is experiencing itself. To be more accurate, everything is self-experiencing through the channel of the senses of this human self. It is God experiencing itself, as form and as formless awareness, through the human self.
But even here, there is an overlay of abstractions. There is a an idea of a subtle separation of experiencer and experiencer.
Ultimately, there is just what is - beyond and including all polarities. No words can even approach it.
No User Manual
On the list of weirdness, there are a few pretty high up.
The top one may be that anything exists at all. To me, this is profoundly baffling and mind boggling. How can there be that something exists? That anything exists?
Another one is that we are apparently dropped into this world, and there is no user manual. We are just muddling our way through, and any attempts at constructing a user manual - through religion, spirituality, philosophy, science and so on - are all pretty feeble, even in what we see as their highest manifestations.
We find ourselves as a human being, embedded in this planet, solar system and universe, and we are completely baffled by it. And we naturally try to orient ourselves in any way we can, through various maps available to us - and modifications we make as groups and individuals throughout our lives. It is a quite pitiful situation, in both meanings of the word. It is pitiful, in the sense of it being somewhat pathetic. And it is pitiful, in the sense of inviting compassion.
Even looking at it from a more transdual view - which to me makes the most sense right now - the whole thing is quite baffling.
It is all a manifestation of God, Buddha Mind, Big Mind or Spirit - that which is beyond and including all polarities. And this world of form is evolving, continuously reorganizing itself in more complex ways.
When a being is born, the ground - the Unborn, the Original Face, formless awareness, space & awareness - becomes functionally connected with this particular being. And if the being is constructed in a complex enough way, this formless awareness ends up being identified as this being. It doesn't even recognize itself as distinct from the world of form, but sees itself as this being in the world of form. If it's lucky, it awakens to its own nature and realizes that the world of form is arising within itself. It sees that the being it was identified with is just a temporary vortex in the world of form, with no separate or independent existence. And from there on, there may be the realization that there is no "I" anywhere. There is just what is - the formless awareness and the world of form arising within it - and no "I" located anywhere in this.
But even realizing - directly experiencing - this, does not take away the utter bafflement of it all. We can continue to deepen and clarify our realizations, and it is all still a profound mystery.
Will it change? I don't know, but to me the most attractive view - until proven otherwise - is that it won't. It keeps me open, humble, receptive, curious, present.
Most teachers seem to be at phase three, with its tint of greenness. It is often a slightly immature phase, not yet fully humanized and made ordinary.
This is OK if it happens within a tradition, where junior teachers work with guidance for senior teachers. If it happens on a "freelance" basis, it may be more questionable. In both cases, there are pitfalls. But in the second case, there is no-one to help you see it or get out of it. Of course, life will still help you see it, but it may happen in a more unpleasant way.
Adyashanti is a good example of a teacher at phase three. He is brilliant and clear, obviously tapped into the source. Yet, his teaching is also quite immature. It is the infant and child buddha stage. Still a buddha, but not yet matured.
Genpo Roshi is an example of a teacher at phase five. Mature, solid, thoroughly ordinary and human.
For Me Now
Looking at the five phases by Tozan and Underhill, it seems quite clear that I went through all the four first phases over about 15 years. The first three phases were all merged somewhat, and lasted for maybe 8 years. And then about 7 years of phase four, which I may be at the tail end of.
But it is still difficult to imagine that it will come back. I had an awakening as formless awareness for about a year when I was sixteen, then a full blown awakening into Big Mind/Heart which deepened and clarified over several years. And then, a terrible fall from grace, apparently triggered by just random circumstances. During this time, everything that seemed so stable was stripped away, and there was only an utterly human life left - with no glory or comfort to find anywhere. It all seems to fit the phases.
Over the last one or two years, some of it has gradually returned, although in a quite different way. The main difference is that it now seems completely and utterly ordinary and unremarkable. I find myself as Big Mind, although at a volume that is quite a bit lower than during the initial awakening years ago. There is a far deeper familiarity and comfort with it now, but also less intensity. And I can see how this is a process of continuing deepening, clarification and integration. There is no "goal" or "endpoint", just this - gradually maturing.
Dark Night of the Soul
As Everlyn Underhill mentions in Mysticism, there may be several reasons for the dark night of the soul.
Disidentification with the absolute
The obvious one is to facilitate a disidentification with the absolute, to allow for a more fluidity between the relative and absolute. If we are stuck in the absolute, if we have the absolute as our identity - even subtly, we are still stuck.
And then there are two other reasons, or rather mechanisms through which this process unfolds.
One is exhaustion. During the brilliant sun of enlightenment, there is often tremendous amounts of energies coming through this human self, and there is often a tremendous level of activity and engagement in the world. Although it seems that it will go on forever, there is also a certain exhaustion that comes up on the level of our human self. And this exhaustion builds up until there is a collapse.
The other is an integration of a subtle shadow, in Jungian terms. When we have any identity, what is left out is in the shadow. And in this case, our identity was the absolute (beyond and including all polarities, the superhuman), which means that the shadow is the relative (the world of form, differentiation, the purely human). So we are thrown out of our primary identity, and into our shadow. We become utterly human with all our weaknesses, flaws and delusions.
From being superhuman - beyond the human, and living through human life with a tremendous clarity, insights, compassion and engagement, we become utterly human - with flaws, weaknesses, delusions.
These two, and probably other mechanisms as well, come together to create the dark night of the soul.
Dark Night of Senses & Soul
I keep returning to this topic, partly because it sheds light on my own experiences, and partly because it is not covered very extensively by many others. I am still looking for more information about this, but so far, the only sources I have found are Tozan's five ranks, Underhill's Mysticism, and a brief note in Fire from Heaven about the deeksha process.
Tozan and Underhill both outline five phases:
Stable exclusive identity as human self, and a glimpse of something beyond. This initiates the process, in the form of practice or more spontaneous unfolding. This is the "conception" of the awakened buddha.
- Detachment from identity as human self
This is a phase of purification, of submission to what is, in the form of God, Christ or a physical teacher, and often of various forms of practice. This can be a quite painful process, and is often experienced as being pulled apart and of dying. There can also be experiences of disassociation here. We find ourselves as formless awareness distinct from the world of phenomena, and are not quite used to it yet. This is the gestation period for the awakened buddha.
- Identity as Big Mind
Full blown awakening as formless awareness (emptiness) within which the world of form arises (fullness). We find ourselves beyond and including all polarities. There is a tremendous clarity, insight, compassion and often a very high energy and activity level in the world. This is a "superhuman" phase, in the sense of finding ourselves as something else than our human self, and also in our insights and activity level. We are now identified as the absolute. It is an apparently stable awakening, and it seems that it can never go away. This is the "real" I, so how can it change? There are also traces of a sense of accomplishment, of it being somehow special and remarkable, and some subtle arrogance here. We may even think we are beyond karma, since the whole world of time & space now unfolds within me and is me. This is the brilliant sun of enlightenment, and the infant and child stages of the awakened buddha.
- Detachment from identity as the absolute
In the previous phase, we find an identity as the absolute, which - as any identity - is partial. So here, there is a detachment from even this identity. This is often experienced as a terrible fall from grace, a loss of anything that we used to find comfort in. A loss of connection with God or Buddha Mind, a loss of clarity, insights, compassion, ability to meet situations in an "enlightened" way, and so on. We are plunged into everything that was not included in our previous identity. This is the dark night of the soul. Where the dark night of the senses was one of pain and a sense of being pulled apart and dying, this is one of devastation and deep despair. We find ourselves as utterly and helplessly human. Ground to dust. We may find our life fall apart in many or all areas, from our spiritual life to work, relationships, health and so on. There is no comfort anywhere. It is a profoundly humbling phase. And it changes when we finally begin to come to terms with it, when we are able to embrace it as it is. When we find the humility to just be this, a completely ordinary human being in all our vulnerability and weakness.
- Deepening integration
Here, we find a new integration of the relative and the absolute, of our human self and God or Big Mind. This time, it is all coming back in a new way, one that seems completely ordinary and unremarkable. There is a deepening into ourselves as a human self and as Big Mind, and there is no sense of fixed identity anywhere. We are far more fluid in what is expressed and how. In the terminology of the Big Mind process, this is the integrated free functioning human being.
There is a tremendous richness of and uniqueness in awakenings, each one with a different flavor. And why not? If God awakened to itself in only one way, it would only need to happen once.
But what we see is that it happens over and over. Thousands, millions and billions of times. Always in a unique way, with a different flavor to it.
Awakenings are always new, always different, always fresh. Just as the present.
First Person: More Intimate & Less Vulnerable
I had a conversation with a friend just now, and we went into the topic of talking in a generalized and abstract way versus a personal way.
When we talk in a generalized way, we speak as if what we are saying are general rules. It makes the impression that what we are saying is true for all people, everywhere, in all instances. And this naturally triggers a search for exceptions in the listener's mind. The way we are talking is not aligned with reality. It is lost in a world of generalizations and abstractions, and this can easily - and justifiably - be shot down. I say "advaita people are stuck in cold-heartedness" and you say "no, that is not true at all! you are full of %**!".
When I talked from personal experience, and don't try to overgeneralize or make it into a rule, it is different. Here, it is completely personal. It is completely aligned with reality and experience (to the extent I am sincere about it). Others cannot argue with it, although they can offer their experience in return, which is unique to them and therefore a little - or a lot - different.
I say "in my experience with advaita, it seems to focus on clear seeing and maybe leave out the heart aspect". And you say "that is interesting to hear. My experience is quite different. I had a strong heart opening through advaita practices, and know others who experienced the same." And from here we can explore the real complexity of the situation, the real meat of it in all its richness. We can go beyond an arguing about overgeneralizations and abstractions, and into a mutual exploration of the various experiences on the topic. (Of course, there is just a separation in degrees here. It is all abstractions when it comes down to it. But it also makes a difference.)
Effects of first vs. second/third person
To me, it seems that speaking in second on third person is an attempt at removing it from the personal and thus make it more "safe". It may also be an attempt at making it sound more "scientific".
But both is a mistake. Speaking in second or third person tends to get people searching for exceptions, disagree with us, and want to shoot down what we just said. And if it is not aligned with the listener's experiences, there is an even stronger - and often emotional - reaction. Neither of these are very "safe" in a social/emotional sense. Rather than creating a safe space for ourselves, we set ourselves up for attack. We place ourselves in a weak position. Speaking from second and third person is less personal and more vulnerable.
When I speak from first person, it is obviously unique to me and cannot really be argued about. And others are free and invited to share their unique experiences. If it happens to be true to them as well, then they are more likely to experience it as their discovery rather than an imposition.
Speaking from first person is more intimate, because I reveal myself as I am. And it is at the same time less vulnerable, as it is not open to attack in the same way as second and third person language.
Alignment & release from suffering
This is just another example of the realtionship between alignment with what is and suffering.
When I am out of alignment with what is - through trying to overgeneralize in second or third person - I place myself in a vulnerable situation. I am open for attack, and I suddenly have something to protect. This brings up stress and some forms of suffering.
When I align myself more closely with what is - by speaking from first person - there is nothing to protect, and there is less stress and suffering.
I notice that my tendency when speaking with people is to speak from first person, both in words and (I hope) tone.
But my language tends to get more formal and second/third person-like when I write. Sometimes, the tone may be second/third person, even while the words are first person...! The surface is first person, the atmosphere and depth is second/third person.
There is a subtle violence in this. First, there is a violence towards myself - my own experience. I am overgeneralizing from something that is really quite personal and unique. Then, there is a violence towards anyone who may happen to read it, as the words is an attempt to hit them over the head with generalizations - which may or may not fit their experiences.
Saying all this can be quite simple and personal as well.
I notice that when I speak from second and third person, there is a discomfort that comes up from knowing that I am overgeneralizing. And there is also a discomfort from knowing that other peope may get triggered and argue with what I just said. I am setting myself up for attack, and set my words up for being shot down. I may try to protect myself by talking in abstractions and making it less personal that way, but I find that I am really making it less personal, and myself more vulnerable. Even if none of these happen and others agree, there is a further discomfort from now being lost in a conversation of second/third person abstractions and generalizations. After a while, it feels empty and bloodless.
When I speak from first person, it is all aligned with what is. Others cannot really argue with it, but they are invited to share their own first person experiences. And in this sharing of first person experiences, there is a great deal of juice and aliveness. I speak in a more intimate way, find a more intimate connection with others, and am less vulnerable.
The other side of all this is of course inclusion. If we are always lost in unique first person experiences, we get nowhere. So there is a place for generalizations, although it is important to know what to include in these generalizations - and make explicit what is excluded.
We may say that something appears true for the experiences of most people who engage in a certain mediation practice daily over several years, but also aknowledge that this is not true for all who do so, and is not neccesarily true for other practices - even those quite similar.
We can generalize and still leave the door open for unique and different cases, and this is of course the way of western science as well.
One Taste & Engagement
When we awaken as formless awareness and the world of form arising within it, we see the One Taste of all there is. It all arises within the ground of space & awareness. Here, everything that arises is I, there is no "other" and there cannot be any "other".
If we are stuck here, we are also stuck in a certain arrogance and cold-heartedness. We see the One Taste of all beings, of delusion and awakening, of suffering and bliss, but not the (also) very real differences between them.
When we integrate our human self in this and appreciate that there is an "other" on a human and relative level, we open for genuine and deepening empathy and compassion, and the real life engagement that naturally comes out of that.
There is the One Taste, and there is also real differences, compassion and activity in the world.
Seeing & Heart
Exploring adveita and Douglas Harding's experiments this summer and fall, I now see more clearly the difference between seeing & heart.
In clear seeing, I find myself as space & awareness within which the world of form arises. I am the groundless ground distinct from the world of form. And I am the world of form arising within this space, including my human self and anything else arising.
This gives me a new overview and allows me to see the world of form as a fluid seamless whole. My human self is a temporary vortex in the stream, with no separate or fixed existence.
This also allows any experiences to come and go as guests. There is no need to blindly fuel or resist what comes up. I can just allow it to come and go on its own, as it does naturally.
There is a great sense of liberation in all of this.
But there are also some pitfalls here. One is to get stuck in the emptiness of it all, the clear space within which anything and everything happens. Another is to get stuck in the One Taste of it all, to see it all as (only) the same and ignore or downplay differentiation.
I may see the One Taste of delusion and awakening, and not appreciate the difference between the two. I may see the One Taste of this human self and other human selves, again without appreciating the differences.
If we are stuck here, it too easily leads to a certain form of superiority, arrogance and cold heartedness, which in turn leads to a sense of separation on a relative (human) level.
In itself, clear seeing is a cerebral and incomplete form of awakening.
Fullness of Heart
The remedy of all this is to unstick from the absolute and integrate it with the relative. There is the One Taste, but there is also the differentiation and richness of the world of form.
Although there is the One Taste of delusion and awakening, there is a real difference. Although there is the One Taste of suffering and bliss, again there is a real difference.
This brings it all down into the body and the heart, into action and compassion.
I find myself as a human being, with a wide range of human experiences including delusion, confusion, blindness and suffering. And when I see this in others, it opens up for deepening empathy and compassion, and a desire to help relieve them of suffering.
And I do this knowing that temporary relief may be welcome in some situations, in any form it may take such as listening, practical help and so on. And in other situations, a nudge in the direction of more lasting relief may be welcome, helping them find themselves as formless awareness and eventually Big Mind.
This is an awakening on a body and activity level, bringing it more fully into the world.
Traditions & lineages
It seems that there is more emphasis on the heart expression of this in Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism, and more of the clear seeing emphasis in Zen and adveita. But both are of course included in all traditions, and expressed with different emphasis by different lineages and individuals.
The danger of an exclusive heart emphasis (as is sometimes found in Theistic traditions) is that the clear seeing is left out, and the heart expression left somewhat muddled. The danger of an exclusive seeing emphasis (as sometimes found in adveita) is that it never progresses beyond the absolute, down into the body, heart, actions and the world.
With both, we can clarify and deepen into clear seeing and fullness of heart, into view and engaged action. Tibetan Buddhism seems - again - to have the most inclusive, thorough and comprehensive approach here.
Absolute & Relative
Here is a simple way to look at the absolute and relative, although I don't know how accurate it is according to Buddhist terminology.
The absolute has two faces: One is the ground (space & awareness). The other is the ground and the world of form arising within this ground.
In the first case, it is distinct from the world of form and empty of any characteristics. In the second case, it shows up as the One Taste of all there is. It is form where the ground is emphasized.
The relative is the world of form, of polarities and poles, differentiation and separation. The relative is - in a way - the form aspect of the absolute. It is form and differentiation emphasized, and the ground and One Taste in the background.
If we are stuck in the absolute, we don't fully appreciate the differentiation. If we are stuck in the relative, we don't fully appreciate the One Taste of all there is. With both, we deepen our experience of One Taste and of the differentiation. We become more fluid betwen the two, able to bring it into our life in many different ways.
There are many simple ways to find a basis of happiness in life. Here are some random examples of possible components.
Simple physical activity and excercise is one, benefiting both body and mind. Even a brief brisk walk- outdoors - a day has significant benefits.
Simple hearty food is another, eating unprocessed seasonal food. For me, stews and cooked food in the winter, and lighter fresh food in the summer.
Engagement is another aspect, for instance engagement in paid work and/or our social and ecological community. This is a reminder of our interconnections with life, with the larger social and ecological wholes.
Intention is another key, expressed in many ways. One is through rejoicing in other's happiness, which provides an unlimited source of happiness in our own life (this may sound naive, but really works). Another is setting the intention of living our own life to the benefit of all, ourselves and others.
Sincerity - primarily with ourselves, and spilling naturally over into our relationships with others - gives a sense of intimacy with ourselves and life, and through that meaning and direction.
Bringing interconnections into awareness is another aspect of finding joy. As human beings, we are profoundly interconnected with all there is.
We are born from stardust, related to and an expression of the whole universe in a very direct and tangible way. We are connected with the whole of Earth and all past and future generations of all species. The Universe Story and Deep Ecology activities are ways to deepen our experience of this.
And as Big Mind, the whole world of form arises within us. All there is is infinitely intimate.
We can also find an intimacy with ourselves as human beings - and Big Mind - through various forms of yoga such as tai chi, chi gong, breema and so on.