Calling, Passion & Conscious Evolution
It seems that our calling makes itself known through our passion - that which has most energy for us. That which sparks our passion. And it may well change our time.
And as we are the living face of evolution, an aspect of the current unfolding of the universe, this calling is also our evolutionary calling. It is part of the leading edge of evolution, as it is currently unfolding. Of course, even not noticing our calling, or not taking it seriously, or not bringing it fully into life for one reason or another, is also evolution unfolding in all its complexity and richness.
One story often comes to mind around these topics. A young native american man went on a vision quest, but nothing seemed to happen. One day, he saw a young attractive woman down by the river washing clothes, and watched her transfixed. Upon returning to his tribe, he told the medicine man that nothing had happened. The medicine man asked some questions, and the young man eventually and embarrasedly told about him watching the young woman. The medicine man said "that is your calling, to raise a family and bring your love and energy into it fully".
For me, this story is a reminder of how our calling can appear very simple, very ordinary, very daily, but contain something far beyond that which seems so ordinary.
What are my passions in my daily life? Where is my attention and interest drawn? What sparks passion and interest in me? And how can this unfold into a conscious recognition of this calling? How can I bring it into my life more fully? How can I make myself more available to it?
Calling, Passion & Conscious Evolution
Being With & Surrender
This post needs some cleaning up. It turned out to be a moving target as I wrote it.
There are so many ways to work with the content of our experiences.
Right now, I am exploring the various ways of allowing what is to be and unfold on its own, and even within this quite specific category there is a range of approaches.
(a) Being With
One is to be with whatever is experienced right now. To allow it to be. This includes finding myself as it and allow separations to fall away. Or to be with it without labels.
Some of the specific practices here are...
Mindfulness practice, shifting the center of gravity into/as the witness, allowing whatever is happening to unfold independent of content, and with little interest in the specifics of the content.
Being with whatever is experienced, as promoted by Raphael Cushnir, and one specific form of mindfulness practice.
(b) Curiosity about content
Another is curiosity with content. This can show up in the form of insight practice, which tends to focus on insight into the general processes of the mind. Another is curiosity about this specific and unique process. To be with it and actively follow its shifts and changes into something else - to follow the whole unfolding process with curiosity and see where it goes.
Some of the specific practices are...
Buddhist insight meditation, exploring the various ways the mind works and discern the various general processes.
Process Work, where we actively follow the specific and unique process of unfolding and are interested in the specific content.
Active Imagination, very similar to - and one of the predecessors of - process work.
And yet another is various forms of inqury into content so the attachment to it falls away.
Some of the ways this shows up in a more formalized way is...
Byron Katie's inquiry process, where we explore the content and what is true for us about it, allowing attachments to fall away through a more clear seeing.
And varius inquiries into who/what am I? Including Douglas Harding's experiments, exploring the infinite causes to any apparently personal activity, finding the border between I and other, atma vichara, and so on.
What these approaches, and the many others similar to these, have in common is a surrender to content.
This surrendering comes from less resistance to content, less holding onto and pushing away of content.
And less resistance in turn comes from... Shifting the center of gravity to the Witness, the pure seeing of it. Or following the shifts of content with curiosity. Or seeing clearly so attachment to content falls away.
The first is more detached and emphasizes the seeing. The second is more engaged and emphasizes the process. And the third is uses the power of clear seeing to allow attachments to fall away.
Surrender is partial as long as there is an attachment to the idea of "I" as a segment of what is. And it is more complete when there is the clear realization of no "I" anywhere.
To me, it seems that each of these approaches have their strengths. And each of them are also somewhat incomplete (with the possible exception of Byron Katies' inquiry process, which seems to include all three general approaches).
Again, being with emphasizes shifting the center of gravity to the witness, and this is very useful. We become more familiar with ourselves as pure seeing, and how this allows for a certain detachment from content. The content of our content can come and go as guests.
And exploring content is useful in two ways. First, in familiarizing ourselves with how the general processes of the mind tend to show up. And then also in exploring specific content, which may be very helpful in healing and maturing on our human level.
And inquiry in turn offers something else, a more specific exploration of how it is all put together - the seeing and the seen, the doing with no "I".
The Both/And of Either/Or
My general orientation to life is both/and. Existence - and whatever I see as "I" - are beyond and including any and all polarities.
But I notice a tendency sometimes to exclude either/or from this both/and. I see how some teachers and groups have an either/or view, and somehow see that as "inferior" and "bad", while it really is just less inclusive. Some advaitaists exclude the path, process and the relative. The Center for Sacred Sciences exclude evolution and development in the world of phenomena. (They see it as irrelevant to awakening, which is true in a certain sense but also a limited view. Evolution and development - God exploring itself, goes on before and after selfless awakening.) But that is really all that is going on, it is a view slightly less inclusive than Existence, God, and even the Universe itself.
So if I see that as inferior and undesireable, then my view is equally exclusive and less inclusive than what is, than God in all its many manifestations.
A more inclusive both/and view goes beyond and includes both/and and either/or. Both are ways this universe, and Existence, God and Buddha Mind manifests. One more inclusive and apparently more closely aligned with what is, the other more excluding and apparently less aligned with what is.
As with so much else, this is clear on a certain level, but also not 100% clear at the level of my human self. It is not 100% clear to all aspects of my human being, so this is another part of the deepening and maturing.
I did a process over phone tonight - similar to process work or active imagination - using my fatigue as a starting point.
Here is the process, as well as I can remember now (the sequence may be slightly off):
- Attention to fatigue, as a brownish cloudy soft nebulae in the upper chest/throat/head area. It has a particular quality. It does not change.
- The feminine quality from the dream this morning comes in. She is nearby, with her infinite feminine qualities - holding, warm, caring, wise.
- The fear and confusion following the dream this morning comes up again. If I sink fully into this inner feminine, what will happen to my outer relationships? In the long run, it can only bring more fullness, but there may also be pain in the short run - during the initial adjustment period.
- Our cat jumps up on my lap with a similar quality of caring and feminine energy.
- Attention to tension in jaws and face, which vanishes in space.
- Attention to tension at the base of the scull, which vanishes in space.
- Attention to contraction in stomach.
- Suddenly an awareness of all the rigidity throughout my body, from toes to head.
- This rigidity turns into a dried up corpse.
- I stay with the image of the corpse. It starts to soften and move. Life comes gradually into it again.
- The former corpse is now revealed as the woman from my dream this morning.
- She unfolds in her infinite feminity and it melts into everything.
- The feminine holds the fatigue and everything else. The infinite care, warmth and compassion is deeply moving.
- It all vanishes into space again.
- A fear comes up: when all the rigidity is gone, what will be left?
- I stay with the fear, and realize it has the same qualities as the initial fatigue (!). They are two sides of the same.
- I stay with the fear and fatigue together.
- The feminine goes into and holds the fear and fatigue, and I laugh as I realize that the fear and fatigue is no match to the feminine.
- It all vanishes into space.
- What is left is space and some tension in the jaws.
- I stay with the tension.
- It has a red and powerful quality, goes down through my body and out the soles of the feet and then swoops up and unfolds similar to a huge red flower unfolding.
- I stay with it more, and it suddenly flows into the whole universe. It becomes and is revealed as the masculine energy which makes anything move throughout the universe. The energy which initially seemes dangerous and unpredictable is now revealed as the process of the universe, in all its infinite forms.
- I am aware of wanting to censor this (seems too close to certain philosophies), and that this censoring is what is holding the energy back and locking it into the jaws.
- There is a fear around the inner feminine: If I sink fully into it, what will happen with my outer relationships? It can only bring fullness in the longer run, but there may also be pain in the shorter run, during the adjustment phase.
- The fatigue was connected with fear of nothingness, of what will be if there is no "I".
- The infinite feminine can hold all of this. The fear and fatigue is no match for the cosmic feminine - and she is always here.
- The jaw tension unfolded as forceful and slightly dangerous masculine energy, which was revealed as the yang energy throughout the universe - it is the universe as process. Everywhere, as everything, as it all unfolds according to its own nature.
- The cosmic/infinite feminine and masculine came up during different phases of the process. And sometimes, one gave birth to the other. When I looked at both, I saw that their source is the same - and they are not really so different in their manifestation either. One holds and nurishes, the other is the process itself unfolding.
I met a woman and there was an immediate recognition that we were to share our lives. It seemed to be a cosmic connection, beyond mere soulmates. We went to her house and I familiarized myself with it. She wanted us to have a child. It was all very matter-of-fact. Meant to be. And wonderful beyond words.
There was a deep sense of the feminine in this dream - warm, holding, flowing, caring, wise, heart and mind intelligence, intimate, fullness.
I also noticed the confusion this brought up after I woke up and replayed the dream. There is the knowing of this as the inner feminine. And yet, a part of me is confused and ambivalent since I am in a stable external relationship. If I go fully into this inner relationship, what does that mean for my outer? How will I and all my relationships change? Still, this inner relationship is so strong and meaty that I definitely want to explore and sink into it further.
About a year ago, I learned that my Constitutional Element is fire, as they see it in the five element view of Chinese medicine.
And this fits well with what I have discovered on my own. I thrive in warm and dry climates, maybe especially in Utah where I lived for some years. While living there, I had more energy and passion than anytime before or after, and connect with this again even on shorter visits. Wet, damp and humid climates are exactly opposite and drain my energy and passion quickly.
Wood fire is very beneficial for me, and I spend most nights in front of the wood stove during the winter. Candles are also helpful, as are sunning the eyes (closed) which I do anytime there is an opportunity.
In terms of food, the typical heat foods are good for me. Spices such as cloves and cinnamon, and spice teas such as yogi tea and the spices of chai (minus black tea and sweetener) are very helpful. Brussel sprouts and some meat (local and free range of course) likewise.
Similarly, colder foods - such as dairy, sweeteners and refined food - is generally not very good for me. The energy usually plummets if I eat too much of this.
In the winter, I eat cooked food - slow cooked is even better, and avoid almost all raw foods. And in summer, half or more is raw to balance the heat from the weather.
It is very easy for me to understand how all these recommendations came about, as I experience it so directly and immediately for myself. As I do with acupuncture and other treatments - the effects of each needle is typically immediate and obvious, and usually aligned with the theory. If it works at all that is, which seem to depend largely on the practitioner. With some practitioners, the effect is strong. With others, there is almost no effect.
I read through the most recent issue of Yes! Magazine Saturday, and am immensely grateful for the work they are doing.
They focus on the serious issues facing us individually and collectively today, issues far too often ignored or trivialized by mainstream media. And the articles are consistently solution oriented, practical and grounded in what people are already doing. And they certainly know about solving for patterns: finding solutions good (as we best can tell) at all levels and scales.
The most recent issue includes ten hot topics right now, from consumerism to democracy to global justice to food production to eco-spirituality and more.
In spiral dynamics terms, Yes! is an example of either very healthy green, or - more likely - second tier thinking.
You can actually get this issue for free, or support them (and yourself) by subscribing.
Dials To Neutral
Over the last weeks and months, there has been a sense of all the dials going towards neutral. For some years, they were far over to one side: bliss, intensity, insights, engagement, success in the world and attachment to all this. Then, far over to the other side: loss of just about everything that used to give comfort, and resistance to this loss and everything it brought up.
Now, there is more of a sense of neutrality towards it all - and not from trying as it has been in the past. Just from having seen it all pass through - including the reactions towards it, from weariness of it all. It seems that all that is needed is to rest in it, and that seems the only option as well because of the fatigue which has set in again over the last few weeks.
And I see how the mind relates to all of this as I write it down. The whole parade of thoughts, of hopes and fears, of trying to see this as superior or inferior to myself in the past or others right now, and so on. And the seeing of the play of the mind around it is another way the dials go towards neutral.
Movies & Fluidity
I find movies a great way of experiencing the fluidity of experiences. Today, I watched the World's Fastest Indian, and even a relatively simple movie like this brought up a wide range of experiences, including strong emotions of various types.
And since there is little or no resistance to any of these (it is just a movie, after all), they come and go with little or no stickiness. They arise, are fully experienced, move on, and give space for something else.
Noticing this is a great practice for bringing it into daily life. Why should daily life be any different? Why should I resist experiences there, by holding onto them (resisting their passing) or pushing them away (resisting their coming and staying), when I don't do it while watching movies?
The only difference is the thought that my daily life is "real" and "serious" while the movie is "fiction" and "entertainment". But it is so much less energy and suffering involved in allowing it all to just pass through, even in daily life. And it does not take away anything from fully experiencing what is going on (if anything, it allows for a more full experience of it), and it does not in any way prevent me from acting in the ways which seems appropriate. So why not?
Aside from all that, The World's Fastest Indian was well worth watching. It is based on the life of Burt Munro, an elderly New Zealander who modified an old 1920s motorcycle and set several land speed records in the 1960s and early 1970s. It is an example of someone who lives in a heartfelt way, childlike in following his passions, who takes it all as far as it can go, and equally appreciates his relationship with the world of speed and technology as with people.
Energy & Intention
Our current energy situation is a good example of good intention is not enough. And also a quite typical example of how special interests skew the public discussion on an important issue.
Biodiesel is promoted by Bush and others as one way to replace petroleum, at least for transportation.
The problem is that it typically takes more energy to produce biodiesel (from growing the plants to getting it to the vehicles) than we get out of it. Another problem is the huge land areas that will be needed to produce enough of it, at least for today's number of vehicles.
Biodiesel works well on a local and limited scale and can be a part of a tapestry of varied solutions, but it does not seem to be a good idea on a larger scale.
And some of the same people who promote biodiesel, including Bush, also promote fission energy. This again has obvious problems.
We produce extremely toxic waste which thousands of future generations will have to deal with (maybe one of the most undemocratic actions we can take, as they do not have a say in our current decisions), and there is no good way to deal with it.
Another problem, which the media for some reason is doing its best at ignoring, is the limited supply of uranium. If the world's energy need was met by fission energy, we would only have enough uranium for four years. If a quarter of our global energy use was supplied by fission, we would have enough for sixteen years. Instead of peak oil, we would quickly run into peak uranium.
And there are several other problems as well, including possible accidents, insurance by taxpayer's money, and significant fossil fuel emissions through mining, transportation, production of the plants, and so on.
So, we have a technology which produces one of the most toxic byproducts known to humans. It takes 10-15 years and huge resources to build a fission reactor. It is prone to devastating accidents. And the raw material needed is already in short supply, only enough for four years of production if it was to cover our global energy needs. Again, this is something that only makes sense for those who stand to make a nice profit in the short run, and not for all the rest of us - including the thousands of future generations who will have to deal with the fallout of this brief feast.
The longer term resolution to our energy situation is most likely not found in one single approach, but a tapestry of partial solutions, including reduced consumption, new technologies, and use of a variety of renewable sources - tailored to the needs and possibilities of each region.
The main and most significant solution is reducing consumption, which in turn means to meet our needs at their own level. Only our most basic levels are met through material and energy consumption. The wast majority of our needs are met through meaningful and nurturing connections with other people, ourselves, the Earth and the Universe. It also means to live more locally in terms of our material and energy consumption: increased local and regional self-reliance.
Renewable energy includes solar energy in all its many forms: solar, wind, waves, and with a limited amount of biofuels mixed in. There is also one from lunar energy: tides. There is one from the birth of our planet: geothermal. And there is the possibility for viable fusion energy within some decades, which right now seems far less harmful than fission energy. If it is centralized, will it brings its own problems. If it can be done on a smaller scale and locally, it may be one of the greatest revolutions in our energy situation.
Most of these solutions will create their own problems, and evolving our relationship will energy is and will continue to be a process.
At our evolutionary group last night, we did a collective infinite causes experiment.
The question was what are some of the things that contributed to each of use being here tonight?
And we answered popcorn style, going from the proximal to the distal, in widening circles from that which is immediate in time and space to that further out.
It was a great way to hear more of people's personal stories, and another way to see the infinite connections and infinite causes to any (apparently) simple and limited event. It was also an opportunity to honor our ancestors, in a wide sense of the word, all the way back to the Great Radiance. And to find an appreciation of the mystery and awesomeness of Existence, as it unfolds as this universe, this planet, and ourselves as parts of these larger processes.
If we had gone longer than the one hour, we could have explored more the less obvious connections. And another - complementary - version of this experiment is to explore what is happening right now - for humans, other beings, systems, the Earth, solar system, the universe.
From the view of the whole, that which is beyond and including all polarities, the notion of free will - as it is most often talked about - makes little sense. It is all movements of the whole, appearing as causes and effects, as a separate and fixed individual choosing and doing something and so on. But that is just appearances.
From the view of the whole, there is only God and only God's will, in all its innumerable expressions - including human beings, choices and doing, which may appear as operating separate from the whole and with "free will".
One way to explore this in our own life is to take any activity, for instance something very simple and daily, and explore all the different causes that led up to it. There is the thought to do it, the acting on the thought, and so on - back to the Great Radiance (Big Bang), and it is clear that there are infinite causes to any action. It is all discerned out of a seamless and fluid whole.
Is there really room for a separate and individual doer within all this? Within this infinitely rich tapestry? The more I explore it this way, the more the whole idea of an individual and separate doer appears absurd, a naive and somewhat ridiculous idea.
There is only the whole, temporarily acting through and as a human being. That is all.
This is the absolute end of the spectrum.
From the relative end of the spectrum, there is of course (at least the appearance of) individuals and doers. There is the appearance of local deliberation, choices, actions - somewhat separate from the larger whole.
We act as if there is local choice, and that is OK. It only adds to the drama of it all, the appearance of reality of us as tiny separate beings - somehow separate from the larger whole.
It allows the whole to explore itself as parts, the infinite to experience itself as finite, the creator to experience itself as creation, Spirit to experience itself as matter, the complete to experience itself as incomplete. the flawless to experience itself as flawed.
It is just one of the many veils that allows the drama to temporarily appear real and unfold as real.
If It Can Happen, It Will
It seems that if something is possible within the way Existence is set up, then it is likely to happen.
If it is possible, then God is going to explore it to experience itself in even more richness.
So my life has a human being is just the playing out of one way it can happen. One strand in the overall and infinitely rich tapestry.
If we ask why? The answer may be just because.
Universal & Unique
The process of deepening into awakening and our humanity can be expressed in many ways.
It is a deepening into the one and the many, into the whole and the part, into the absolute and the relative, into the impersonal and personal, and into the universal and the unique.
Deepening into the one, the whole, the absolute, the impersonal and the universal, allows for a deepening into the many, the parts, the relative, the personal and the unique. And the other way around. Deepening into one allows the other to deepen.
It is also interesting to look at how each of these appear in many different ways and at several levels (infinite ways and levels, deepening on how we slice it).
For instance, the universal is found at a human level. Everything in us is universally human, although with a unique flavor. And we can work with the universal at this level through various approaches, such as projections (seeing in my human self what I see in the larger world), the Byron Katie inquiry (this is what happens when we believe in any particular thought), the Big Mind process (the voices play themselves out in similar ways for all of us), and so on.
The universal is found at the level of the world of phenomena. This universe is one seamless process, always reorganizing itself in different and new ways. It is all (part of) the same process. And the Earth is also one seamless process, reorganizing matter coming out of a number of supernovae - all our physical ancestors. The living Earth is solar energy transforming and animating matter. And so on.
And the universal is found at the transcendent level. Everything - beyond and including all polarities - is God, Buddha Mind, Allah, Brahman, Dao, Spirit and so on.
And these universalities are always expressed in finite, personal, unique ways, including in each of our lives. It all comes out filtered differently, in each aspect of the whole and in the present. It is always different from any other aspect, and always new, different and fresh.
Every aspect of existence, including our human life, is completely universal and completely unique. It cannot be any other way.
Fully Awakened, Fully Human
It seems that to be fully awakened and fully human are just two sides of the same coin.
Before awakening to no "I", there will always be resistance to aspects of our human nature, which hold these back from maturing and developing.
And without the deepening into our full humanity, it may be that the awakening cannot unfold and refine completely either. Through this deepening, we see where there is still lack of clarity in the awakening, and where it has not yet been brought more fully into our human self and matter.
It is a process of God exploring itself more and more fully as matter, through this human self. It is matter awakening to itself as God, in and throughout each of our cells and everything else that is part of our human nature.
And it is a process. As long as the world of phenomena is around, this deepening is likely to go on. Always on and on. Always deeper, higher, more complex.
I live in a warm climate, in Spain or Latin America. I am exploring my new house, and find a hand on a balcony. It talks and can move, and belong to a young woman. It has just escaped from the house next door where it (she) was held hostage by her family, who also abused her. I initially wanted to bring it back to the house, but she pleaded with me and explained her situation, and decided to help her. At this point, there was a flash to a different and simultaneous situation, where the rest of the woman (everything apart from the hand) was in a struggle with her current partner at a different location of the town. She was and about to break free from him. Seeing that, I knew that she could (would?) be reunited with her hand, and that we could (would?) be a couple. She was strong, fiery and beautiful. It was a unification at two levels (hand/body and couple), a coming back together of what belonged together.
This is a very unusual dream for me. The severed hand, which could move (with difficulty) and talk, did not seem out of place in the dream. I was slightly surprised and puzzled, but also took it in a matter of fact way. There was also the clear impulse of doing the "right" thing, which first seemed to be to return it to the house next door, and then to help her. And then there was the knowing of the possibility/likelihood of the double unification, if I only took care of the hand for a little longer. In Jungian terms, the woman is my anima, especially as she was very attractive to me in the dream. She was also far stronger (in terms of power) than what I consciously see as a good match, so this is an indication that I am selling myself to short in terms of what my feminine side can be. It can be far stronger and more fiery and powerful, than I currently imagine. She is also split/handicapped, and each part are hostage in somewhat abusive relationships, but she escaped one already (although precariously and in need of help), and is about to escape the other as well. And when she does, there is the double unification. Of course, the abusive relationships are in me also, and were not resolved in the dream.
After some weeks of hibernation, I am getting more into doing Big Mind and Breema sessions with folks again. It feels great, both the cycles of engagement and rest from it, and now getting back into each of them.
I facilitated a Big Mind session tonight with a friend, and found a great deal of enjoyment in doing it. It comes from seeing the process unfold. From noticing how intuition becomes more alive in the facilitation process. And from realizing how the other is a mirror of what is going on in myself. When I facilitate, I have one foot in the facilitator role and one foot in the voice and exploration process we both are going through simultaneously.
Tonight, it was also very clear how voices and processes seem universal and just part of being human when there is some clarity and familiarity with it. And how it seems intensely personal when there is still stuckness there. For me, everything that came up for my friend seemed just human and universal. But for him, it seemed very personal and private.
And this is quite typical when people first explore some of the basic voices. It seems to change over time as we get more familiar with them, as they play themselves out in ourselves and others. The more familiarity with them, the more universally human they appear - and also completely personal of course, with a personal and unique flavor in each case.
I also see the stuckness we all have, in being too closely identified with some voices and in disowning other voices, and how this prevents the natural fluidity between all the many voices on personal and transcendent levels. This fluidity which is held back when there is resistance (through holding onto some and pushing others away), and which is more free when the resistance is reduced and falls away.
Functioning Without Beliefs
People who encounter the Byron Katie inquiry - and similar approaches that tends to unravel beliefs - often wonder how it is possible to function without beliefs.
With beliefs, it is relatively simple. We believe in an idea, and make choices and act as if that idea is an accurate representation of the world. The problem is of course that it isn't, so when life does not conform with the idea, it tends to bring up suffering.
Without beliefs, there are still the same ideas floating around. The difference is that we don't attach to them the same way, we don't believe in them, we don't take them as accurate representaions of the world. And we can still use them of course, although now just as provisional maps and guides, and nothing more. To the extent there are no beliefs in ideas, there is also no suffering when life does not comform with the ideas.
And for this more complete release from suffering, we need to clearly see through the belief in the idea of "I" as a segment of what is - most typically as this human self, the doer, and/or the knower. When this is thorougly seen through, over and over, it eventually drops away on its own. And this applies to the belief in the idea of no "I" as well, which also needs to be recognized and seen through.
This seems to be the typical process: to see through the idea, over and over, so the belief in it naturally falls away. To see through the idea, and familiarize ourselves with what is true in our immediate experience, even if this does not comform with conventional wisdom. As somebody said, the truth shall set you free.
Seeing Clearly the Burden Of I
In a certain sense, spiritual practice is about seeing the burden of I. Seeing over and over the burden that is created when there is a belief in the idea of "I" placed on any segment of what is.
There is no need to fuel remorse or anything else, because this is really to fuel the belief itself. Just the seeing seems sufficient. And the more clearly and thoroughly the burden is seen, the more possible it is for it to eventually fall away.
Right now, the burden of "I" is very clear and very sobering. But if I fuel the expectation of it falling away through this seeing, I am again fueling the belief in the idea of I and other... So that expectation is included in the burden of "I".
A part of all this is surrender. Seeing that what this "I" has been placed on, no matter what it is, cannot do anything to change this. Surrendering is truly the only option. Surrendering to the seeing, to what is, to what is beyond this apparent "I".
For me right now, the burden of "I" includes a sense of weakness and extreme exhaustion, and all the struggles that comes up when there is the belief that this should be different, that this "I" brought it on myself (although I don't know how), that "I" should be able to pull myself out of it, and everything else that comes up around all this.
There is what is. And on top of this, there is the belief in the idea of "I", and the sense of neverending drama and struggle brought about through that belief. And that itself is what is, of course. That too can be seen as it is.
The Use & Dangers of Goals
Since getting more involved with the Center for Sacred Sciences, I have had an opportunity to explore more the use and dangers of goals in spiritual practice.
They have a clear focus on selflessness (realizing no "I") and use this as a lense to view a wide range of traditions and practices. It brings a great deal of clarity to the field of mysticism, how the different practices work together, and where they ultimately lead.
The danger is of course that the idea of this goal comes to the foreground and eclipses what is happening here now. We may be so fixed on this idea that we are blind to what is, and the details of whatever practice we are engaged in. It may prevent the sincerity neccesary for a spiritual practice.
Other traditions and teachers often emphasize the practice and play down the goal of selflessness, although it is there of course. And they do so exactly because an attachment to goal can become a hindrance, and because all we need to focus on is the practice. The rest will take care of itself, especially if we work with a good teacher.
But there is also a complementarity between the two. The first gives the big picture, a direction, and a way to sort out the various practices. The second - sincerity - allows us to focus on what is, here and now, and engage more wholeheartedly in a practice as it unfolds in the present.
Map and terrain
This is where the map and terrain analogy can be useful.
The map is the outline of the process and the eventual goal of realizing selflessness. And the terrain is what we need to walk through and explore to arrive there.
It is helpful to stop and take a look at the map occasionally. But if we get transfixed by the map, we won't get anywhere. And if we walk while keeping our eyes on the map, we are likely to stumble.
Most of the time, we just need to place one foot in front of the other, and be present to what is. But if that is all we do, if we never look at or recall the map, we may wander aimlessly.
So both are neccesary, although the walking is what gets us there. The map is only a tool.
And "there" is of course right here - with what is already present, only now realized as selfless, as having no "I" anywhere.
Great Story & Big Mind
Science and religion
There are many ways of looking at the relationship between science and religion (organized, exoteric) and/or spirituality (less formalized, esoteric).
One is to subsume one under the other, although this leads to the distortion of one or both. Another is to assign them to separate domains, although this assumes a split of the world.
A third is to assume that existence is a whole, and that science and spirituality are two equally valid and legitimate ways of exploring this whole.
Exploring the parallels in spirituality - as expressed through eastern traditions and by mystics of any tradition, and new science - such as quantum physics, is of course interesting and can even give us some new insights and avenues for exploration.
If we are clear that we are only exploring apparent parallels, and that the current views of science are transitory and will be replaced by something else, then there is little to loose in this approach. The connection is tenuous as best, and we allow each approach to stay themselves and (mostly) intact. The only danger here is the usual one: to get caught up in abstractions and take them for reality, mistake the map for the terrain.
But if we push a stronger connection, there is another danger - as Ken Wilber points out. We now try to hitch spirituality onto particular views from science, we attach the perennial wisdom from spirituality onto inherent transient and replaceable views from science. When the particular view of science goes down (such as current understanding of quantum physics), it could - for some - take with it perennial spirituality.
Apart from quantum physics, there is another area of science which is often mentioned in connection with spirituality: evolution.
Of course, there are the Spiral Dynamics blue who see evolution as opposed to religion. But there are also those at orange and beyond who see how the two are mutually enriching.
Maybe the currently best example of the cross fertilization of evolution and spirituality is the Great Story, or the Universe Story.
The Great Story...
- Is the history of the universe as told by mainstream science
- Is told as our creation story - shared by all humans, all species, the whole of the universe
- Sees the universe as one seamless process, beyond and including all polarities in the world of phenomena
- Sees the universe as a holarchy
- Sees the largest whole - beyond and including any and all polarities, including that of existence and nonexistence, as God, Allah, Buddha Mind, Brahman, Dao, Spirit
- See all living beings as the awareness organs of the universe
- Sees the universe as becoming aware of itself through all beings
- Recognizes evolution as becoming aware of itself through humans
- Sees our ancestors as the supernovas that created the matter we are made up of, and all previous generations of species
- Sees evolution of the universe, the Earth and humanity as the universe reorganizing itself in always new and more complex ways
- Sees human culture and technology as the universe organizing and exploring itself in new ways
- Is deeply transdual, seeing the largest whole as including and embracing all polarities - including existence and nonexistence, creator and creation, spirit and matter, body and mind, nature and culture and so on
- Helps to heal the apparent splits of polarities such as those above
- Sense of awe
- Sense of the absolute mystery of anything existing at all, and the way it is all unfolding
- Sense of belonging to the universe, the earth and humanity
- Sense of connection with the larger whole, up to the largest whole of the universe and/or God
- Sense of meaning
- Sense of responsibility to allow this amazing experiment - of humanity and our culture, to continue beyond the foreseeable future
The Great Story, when it comes alive in us, invites us right into Big Mind - into that which is beyond and includes all polarities. And this is also God, Brahman, Allah, Dao, Buddha Mind, Spirit. It allows us to have a taste of ourselves as that largest whole, temporarily functioning through and as a human self.
As both The Great Story and the Big Mind process are relatively new approaches, it is not surprising that there is not an explicit connection between the two yet.
But I would be surprised if not people from either approach will take on the other and find ways to combine them in ways that offer an experiential deepening beyond what each offer alone.
Filtered Through "I"
During sitting this morning, there was another parade of "I" animals. A series of snapshots of how they mind - and in particular thoughts - functions when filtered through the belief in the idea of "I".
Every single thought and impulse coming through seemed to have to do with bolstering a particular self-image, and the idea of "I" itself. Attention went to something, and right away there was the impulse of wanting and exploring how to make use of that to enhance and polish this self-image. How can I make advantage of this to look better than others?
And when I noticed that I noticed this, even that got included in this process. How can I make use of noticing this to appear better than others? It gives me another badge as a meditator. It gives me an upper hand in interaction with folks who don't see this. And so on.
Not a pretty sight, And noticing this tends to deflate the process itself.
There is the process of using anything and everything to bolster a particular self-image - as better than others, special and so on. But this process itself is not particularly admirable, so noticing it tends to deflate the process. And noticing how this noticing is baked into the same process, using that as another way to be better and special, tends to deflate that attempt as well.
It may be that the process of bolstering a particular idea of self contains its own antidote. When it is noticed, it unravels itself (to the extent it is really seen).
Matter meets antimatter, and what is left is space and neutrality.
A few ways of looking at karma...
Karma can be taken as referring to habits. We engage in certain ways and this form habits, the grooves deepen. This is as area we are very familiar with from our daily life.
When we fuel a particular pattern, we are (typically) more likely to fall into in the future.
From the view of the whole, we see that the world of phenomena is one seamless process.
There are movements within the whole expressed throughout the whole. Filtered through a layer of abstractions - which allows for discernment - these movements show up as causes and effects.
And we see that for each change in any part of the whole, there are literally infinite causes and infinite effects.
Karma is then the movements of and in the whole, showing up for us as causes and effects.
This view of karma is completely impersonal. It is just the movements of the whole of the ocean showing up as movements in currents, waves and so on.
Cause and effect
Karma can also be seen as causes and effects on a personal level. We train in certain skills, and gain more familiarity and (apparent) mastery of it. We work and make money. We send out lots of post cards, and receive lots of post cards. We smile, and others smile back. And so on.
This form of karma is really the process of familiarizing ourselves with how the world of phenomena operates. We learn more of its ins and outs, and learn how to function more effectively in the world.
Another way to look at karma is as guides.
We act from a certain blindness, and receive consequences which invites us to see more of what we were blind to.
:: Blind to context ::
One blindness is to context. To the inherent nature of what is as having no "I" anywhere. To selflessness.
We believe in the idea of "I", place it on a segment of the world of phenomena, and experience suffering. We are identified with something that is temporary and isolated from the rest of existence, and this naturally brings about various forms of suffering.
This suffering does not go away until there is the realization of selflessness, of no "I" anywhere as any segment of what is.
:: Blind to content ::
The same process takes place in terms of blindness to content, to how the world of phenomena operates.
The world is beyond and including any and all polarities. So whenever we we leave one end of any polarity out - from our view or identity - we receive situations which invites us to become familiar with this end of the polarity, and include it in our view or identity.
For instance, I see something in terrorists and not in myself, and this brings up fear and obsession with terrorists. This allows me to be more familiar with what I see in them, and invites me to gradually recognize it in myself as well.
Or I am strongly identified with being self-reliant. Life brings up a situation I cannot deal with on my own, and I have no choice but to rely on the assistance and support of others.
We see social systems as divorced from natural systems. From this comes a model of economics which assumes unlimited access to resources and unlimited disposal possibilities of waste, and we receive the consequences in form of destruction of our global and regional life-support systems. We are invited to change our view of human systems in relation to natural systems, and see the larger - global - system they both are embedded in. And to reflect this in all areas of our social systems, including our economical system.
This is the view of karma as gentle and persistent guides, helping us to awaken to context (selflessness) and content (the transdual processes of the world).
Another way to look at it is in terms of beliefs in ideas.
I believe in an idea, and this idea is - as all ideas inevitably are - limited. The world is always more than and different from any idea I have, so when the world shows up in a way that does not conform with the idea, there is suffering.
One way to deal with it is to modify the idea(s) I believe in, but this is only a temporary fix. The world will always show up differently, and bring about suffering again.
The only resolution is to see through the whole process of believing in ideas, which allows the process itself to fall away. And this allows the nature of mind to be revelaed, in its inherent clarity - and expressions of insights and compassion.
How situations are met
Any situation can bring suffering. And any situation can lead to insights and deepening compassion. It just depends on how they are perceived, and on how we habitually meet situations.
This goes back to the initial form of karma. We can train in particular ways of relating to daily life situations, and through this create habits which serve us when the situations become more difficult.
Although this too is movements within the larger ocean, dependent on infinite causes to unfold - or not. It may not be as much up to us as individuals as it often appear.
And life will gently nudge us towards bringing both the context (selflessness) and content (transdual processes) more into awareness.
Context & Content
Context and content
In general, spiritual practice tends to focus on the context. On exploring, realizing and becoming familiar with who or what is experiencing, meditating, practicing, doing. On what is realizing its own nature of no "I" anywhere.
Conventional practices, including all the trades and sciences, tends to focus on content. On exploring and becoming familiar with the world of phenomena, including our human self. On engaging actively in evolution and development.
And since this is all God exploring itself in various ways, the first form of practice and realization complements the second and the other way around.
As human beings, we are an expression of the evolutionary process of the universe, this planet and this species, before and after the awakening to no "I". And as human beings, we mature and develop in all the many areas human beings can, before and after this awakening to no "I".
An awakening to no "I" is an end to delusion about what is experiencing and doing, but not necessarily an end to anything else. The context shifts, but that is about it.
There was an exclusive identification as our human self and/or a doer and seer. And now, there is no belief in the idea of "I" as a segment of what is. There is no doer, only the doing. No seer, only the seeing. It is all realized as the whole - beyond and including all polarities, God, Buddha Mind, Brahman, Dao, Spirit - acting, seeing.
Before realizing no "I", we were initially reluctant players in this unfolding, resisting and struggling and creating a big drama out of it.
After, we play along, following the rules of the game, and now in the realization of it all being God expressing, manifesting and exploring itself in some of its infinite potentials.
And both of these are also God exploring itself in some of its many ways.
Absolute and relative
Realizing selflessness - who or what is experiencing and doing - is the absolute. Here, we see that it is all the play of God. The universe is consciousness, and I am that consciousness.
And the content itself - the evolutionary process of the universe, exploring itself in always new and infinitely varied ways - is the relative.
One cannot be without the other. They are two aspects of the same.
A nondual (or deepening transdual) approach takes both into account.
We explore the context, through the various forms of spiritual practices.
And we explore the content, through engagement in the world, trades, sciences and more, and through maturing and developing in the many areas human beings can mature and develop in.
Awakening to context
Awakening to context is just that, awakening to context. Where there used to be a belief in the idea of "I", that belief has now dropped away. And that is all. The world of form continues to unfold. The game goes on. And as human beings, we are now free to more fully engage in this game, with less or no resistance.
Before and after awakening to context
There are many differences before and after this awakening to context, and the main one may be in the sense of "I", of who or what is experiencing and doing.
Before, there was an exclusive identification with a segment of the whole of what is, beyond and including all polarities. Most typically, there was an identification with our human self and/or as an experiencer, a doer and so on.
After, the belief in an "I" as a segment of what is falls away. There is no experiencer, only the experiencing. No doer, only the doing. Another way to say it is that God - beyond and including all polarities, awakened to itself as the only "I", the only experiencer, the only doer.
Resistance and engagement
Before awakening to context, there is resistance to content. There is resistance to some particular content going away, and other particular content coming or staying. We are ambivalent about experiencing and engaging with content. There is a sense of struggle and life-and-death drama.
After awakening to contenxt, this resistance falls away. Or, to be more accurate, the resistance to the resistance falls away. Our human self will continue to have preferences, but there is no resistance to these, nor any need to blindly act on them. We are free to more fully experience and engage with content. The sense of struggle and drama falls away.
God experiencing itself in struggle and not
Before awakening to context, there is struggle and resistance. This allows God to experience itself in always new ways, and in struggle with content.
After awakening to context allows us to experience and engage with what is more fully. It allows God to continue to experience and explore itself in always new ways, without the resistance.
That is really the only difference. Before, there is exploration with struggle. After, there is exploration without struggle. And both are parts of the exploration process.
Both are some of the infinite ways God is exploring itself, of the dance of God, of lila.
It is really OK, no matter what. But as with any good movie, we need to take it seriously and as real to be caught up in. There has to be a strong sense of reality in the drama for us to be engaged. Or rather, for God to be engaged.
God, Buddha Mind, Allah, Brahman, Dao, Spirit is beyond and includes all polarities. Beyond and including existence and nonexistence, spirit and matter, creator and creation, body and mind, nature and culture, life and death, false and right, and so on.
And as beyond and including any and all polarities, God is complete.
So to explore itself more in its fullness and richness, it needs to explore and experience itself as everything that is not complete and perfect. As incomplete, imperfect, fallible, flawed, mistaken, deluded, suffering, and so on.
In one way, this is what is (apparently) excluded from the completeness of the whole. In another way, it is completely included in this completeness. It is one end of all the polarities included.
So when we ask why? Why so much suffering? Why so much imperfection? Then this is one temporary answer.
The suffering and imperfection is God (temporarily) experiencing itself as everything it - as a whole - is not.
And why not?
It can be experienced as unbearable and awful beyond words when in the middle of it, but in the bigger picture it is just another aspect of the dance of God.
Believing In Stories
There are two ways to believe in stories.
Believing in some stories and not others
The conventional way is to believe in particular stories and not in other. We believe that the Earth is round, because science and travel tells us so. We believe the universe is expanding. We don't belive in (physical) dragons. And so on.
The most pervasive story is of course the story of "I", typically added to the fluid and temporary phenomena of this human self.
Allowing belief in stories to drop
Going beyond this, we can realize the folly of believing in stories altogether, in any story - no matter how reasonable, sane and well-supported it may seem.
It seems that this process can be gradual, starting in some areas of life and then spreading. We may realize that science is just a succession of stories, as are our religions, and actually all of our collective and individual worldviews.
These stories may be valuable and useful, aligned mostly with the world as it appears to us, and allowing us to navigate, explore and communicate. But still, they are just stories. Just ideas of what is. Just mental maps. Merely tools of limited and temporary value and use.
Eventually, we may be ready to see through the most pervasive story of them all, that of an "I". An independent and fixed "I", as a segment of the fluid seamless process of the universe.
And when the belief in this story unravels, the belief in other stories tend to unravel en masse.
Fixing The Unfixable
Through believing in stories we make what is inherently fluid apparently fixed. And a great deal of our human suffering seems to come from this.
Joan Tollifson, in Bare-Bones Meditation, points this out in relation to our preferences for intimate relationships. Of course, we cannot know who we will be attracted to next. It is a mystery, as the rest of our life. And still, we put a label on ourselves and others which makes this seem much more explained and fixed than it really is.
Belief, values and imposing it on others
Beyond this, we may believe in the label, ignoring the mystery and unpredictability of life. So when life shows up in a different way than what the label predicts, there is confusion, struggle and possibly suffering.
We also may add value judgments to these labels. We may see heterosexuality as "better" than the other options (allows for procreation, aligned with particular interpretations of some religions). Others see bisexuality as "better" (more options and more fluid), and so on. And this only increases the suffering when life shows up otherwise.
And beyond all this, we may not only apply it to our own life -stifling it, but also to other people's lives - trying to stifle theirs. And this is another way to enhance suffering.
Suffering from what is beyond the label
The label itself is harmless. It is only a label, a temporary abstraction added to a temporary phenomena. The suffering comes when we belive in the label and life shows up differently, when we add value judgments to the labels, and - maybe especially so - when we try to have others conform to our own idiosyncratic stories.
Sort of There & Completely Obvious
Since engaging with Byron Katie's inquiries and the deekshas, my partner has been going through a quite remarkable process. Following the talk this morning, she talked with excitement about her immediate tastes of selflessness, and how it often comes up in various situations throughout the day - most recently during the talk, and during a dance performance she watched Friday night.
We also talked about how we "sort of" get it for a while. We can find selflessness when we look for it, but there is still an idea of "I" lurking somewhere. It is almost like a party game, fun and interesting, and we can talk ourselves into seeing that there is no "I" anywhere.
But then, there is a shift and it pops. It becomes completely and utterly obvious. It is just there, plain as day. Not even a trace of any "I".
Again, the difference seems similar to falling in love. If you need to ask or question it, it is not it. And when it happens, it is beyond doubt.
Todd, one of the assistant teachers, talked this morning at the Center for Sacred Sciences.
The content was not particularly remarkable, at least not for this setting. The focus was on realizing selflessness, and we did a nice guided meditation at the end.
But what was remarkable was how he was obviously completely plugged into selflessness as he spoke, and how this made it easy for my partner and I to tune into it for ourselves. It was right there, in his presence and words, and we could surf along on it.
This is of course one of the meanings of transmission. Our state tends to be influenced by those around us, and when we are around someone who has realized selflessness, we can more easily hook into it.
Food & Content
I am daily reminded of how foods influences what comes up for me, especially since I have some food sensitivities.
Last night, I made a stew with onions and garlic. It is long between each time I use those two ingredients, and waking up this morning I (again) knew why. My system seemed dense, dull and easily irritable. I noticed how I woke up with an undercurrent of anger (very unusual for me, and almost always triggered by food if it happens), I noticed the searching of something in the surroundings or the situation to put it on, and also how all this was just my human self playing out whatever it had to temporarily play out, and that there was no need to give energy to it. It could just unfold within space.
Fortunately, it does not last very long and is mostly over now - especially after some physical activity (going for a walk in the sunshine). The yogic traditions warn about those two foods, and it is easy for me to understand why.
Other foods that impacts me include dairy (sluggish, heavy, clogged up), sugar (energy drops dramatically) and wheat (odd mental space, sense of unreality). Artificial sweeteners, flavors etc. are even worse, especially in triggering an odd mental space.
It seems that food is one way the content of our experiences are influenced, and a reminder of how the content of our experiences has infinite causes, some which are quite physical and seemingly mundane. For me, at least, food is also a relatively simple and transient way to experience a range of mental states. Not that I need to seek it out, food-induced states comes frequently enough anyway.
For each of us, some "I" gestalts are more seductive than others.
For me, they include resistance (the activity of pushing something away or holding onto something), thinking and subtle movements in the throat area as if pronouncing the words to myself, the knower/seer (knowing/seeing with an added "I" to it), and I am sure many others that don't come to mind right now.
It seems that the Big Mind process are getting at some of this. Through the process, we see which voices we are overly identified with (for me, those mentioned above), and also which ones are repressed or disowned. And just by bringing awareness into all this, and also acknowledge the function of each voice, it all seems to sort itself out. The strong identifications are loosened up, and the disowned voices are brought into awareness and can be engaged with more freely.
Through the Big Mind process, we also see that each of these gestalts arise within - as a tiny part - of Big Mind. And we can also explore them as composites to see that there is no "I" to be found anywhere in them or in their wholes.
As we gradually become more familiar with our own nature, we gradually learn to recognize it behind our own apparent imperfection and that of others.
This happens in many ways and at several levels.
At a conventional level, we learn to recognize how fear, confusion and so on often cover up our natural compassion and sense of shared humanity. And we see how this also happens for others.
One way to explore this is through projections. Every quality I see out there is also in here. Every characteristic I see in the wider world is also in my human self. Through this exploration, we naturally open for a certain degree of clarity and compassion - with ourselves and others.
We see how we all have the same range of human qualities, and the blindness and suffering that happens when we are not familiar with these in ourselves. This is the same for everyone, and everyone has access to this clarity, compassion and wisdom when the interest in working with projections this way is awakened.
At an early transcendent level, we become familiar with ourselves as stainless awareness - as this awareness within which this human self and the whole world of form arises.
And from this new ground, there is a new release from content and a new sense of spaciousness, clarity and some wisdom. We begin to taste the clarity which is the nature of mind, and the compassion and wisdom that comes out of that.
Then, we become familiar with ourselves as having no "I" anywhere. It is all Buddha Mind, God, Brahman, Spirit, the Dao expressing itself in myriads of forms. We see how all appearances come from this, and we know that what is behind the apparent imperfection of ourselves and others is this perfection. This stainless clarity that is behind all the confusion, and this universal consciousness expressing itself in and as all there is.
This recognition of the perfection behind the imperfection usually comes gradually.
And it comes mainly through familiarizing ourselves with who and what we are. It is a side-effect of this exploration. Nothing more.
It is not something we need to seek for its own sake.
In many (all?) cases, the realization of no "I" seems to pop. There is a sudden shift, no "I" is clearly realized, and the "ground" all phenomena arises from and as also pops into the foreground. It just seems to happen, often following a longer period of certain practices.
This is similar to the phase transitions of systems theories, where the system suddenly shifts from one attractor state to another, often with a phase of instability in between - where the old falls apart and the new has not yet appeared.
And it is also similar to the popping of gestalts as described in gestalt psychology. First, we cannot make anything out - we may be told what to look for but cannot see it even if it is right in front of our eyes. There is a focused effort here, but for a while it seems to yield little or no results. Then suddenly the image pops out, it is obvious, clear, beyond any need for effort or strain.
Nothing has changed, yet everything has changed. And what appeared to take a lot of effort is now there effortlessly, on its own.
Gestalts & Aggregates
The aggregates in Buddhism are very similar to the gestalts of gestalt psychology.
There are sensations, feelings and thoughts arising in space. There is attention to some of these, a searchlight which brings some of these into focus. And there is the awareness it all unfolds within. All of these together make up the gestalt of "I". A mostly coherent image of an "I" to which all of these are attributes.
A gestalt - including that of "I" - is an idea imposed on temporary phenomena to create an impression of coherence.
Of course, when we explore this more closely, we may find that there does not appear to be any "I" in any of the components nor in their combinations. They all just happen, within this stainless awareness.
I am not sure if the gestalt psychologists went that far.
Absolutely Not Qualified
One way of not knowing is to realize that we are not - in any way - qualified, in any area.
It is a humbling realization. No matter how far I go in any area, I am still only just scratching the surface. My pitiful "knowledge" or "realization" is a tiny island in an infinitely wast ocean of existence. And this seems true also for those who have realized no "I", and also for those who have high levels of realizations at F1 through F9 in Wilber's framework (matter through deity mysticism).
And in taking this all in, it frees me from playing around with this pitiful knowing. It now appears within the context of not knowing and realistic humility, so it is somewhat safer to play around with and bring into the world. It is cushioned in not knowing and humility. The edges are taken off. It is a little more user friendly.
Not Knowing Freeing Up Knowing
The more familiar I become with not knowing, the more liberated I am from knowing and the more freedom it is to explore. And takes many forms.
Forms of not knowing
The not knowing is at two distinct levels.
:: Conventional not knowing ::
First, there is the conventional not knowing. This conventional not knowing is summarized nicely in this statement: the world is always more than and different from our experiences and maps of it.
Our experiences are filtered in many different ways, through biology, culture, personal experiences and so on. And as a segment of an infinitely larger whole, we cannot possibly have any complete knowledge of this whole. It will always be incomplete, always limited. There is always more.
And when our experiences are expressed, they take the form of abstractions - ideas, thoughts, words, maps, models, theories and so on. All of these are abstractions of the experience. The terrain is always more than and different from the map.
So in all these ways, we see that our conventional knowledge is - obviously - severely limited. We are always only scratching the surface, exploring the world in fragments. There is always more.
The world is always more than and different from our experiences and maps of it.
>From this realization comes conventional humility. We realize that all our experiences and all our maps are tentative. They are temporary guidelines only. And they will always change, as our situation and experiences of the world change. Often, they change only in the details. And sometimes, they change as a whole - turning everything upside down.
:: Transcendent not knowing ::
Then there is the transcendent not knowing. Here, we find ourselves as pure awareness, distinct from abstractions of any form. We are that which abstractions - as any other temporary phenomena - arises within and as.
And since pure awareness is distinct from abstractions, it is another form of not knowing. It is just pure seeing, pure receptivity, a clear mirror for temporary phenomena. It is a sky through which clouds pass, leaving no trace.
And this is the pure awareness seeing everything happening right now - the screen, the patterns on the screen, the letters and words, the tapping on the keyboard - and also seeing that all those descriptions are only interpretations, coming from an added layer of abstractions, itself a temporary phenomenon along with all other temporary phenomena.
Expressions of not knowing
As we become more familiar with these two forms of not knowing, it brings a liberation in several different ways. It brings a liberation from knowing. And this in turn brings freedom to play and engage with various forms of knowing.
The more familiar I am with not knowing, the more free I am to explore knowing - in all its many forms and expression. And I can do this because I don't take them too seriously. They appear within the context of not knowing, as passing clouds in the sky.
They are seen as temporary phenomena, only of temporary and limited interest and use. And still very valuable in helping me, as a human being, explore, describe, orient and communicate in the world.
It frees me to play with a wide range of different stories - collective and personal, and explore their implications.
To the extent I am familiar with not knowing, it liberates me from beliefs and into a more open, receptive and fluid exploration and engagement.
Freedom To Play With Stories
In our small local weekly evolutionary salon last night, the topic centered on stories. Our individual and collective stories of the world, the universe. Our stories of ourselves. How they all are just stories. How they all have real life consequences. How they all change.
What came up for me is that the more there is a freedom from belief in stories, the more I am free to play and engage with various stories. I am less blindly caught up in them. I can switch among a wide range of stories. I can explore the possible implications and consequences of each of them. There is a far greater freedom here, more fluidity and richness.
Even when there is a clear realization that stories (abstractions, ideas, thoughts) are just stories, an overlay on top of what is, it does not mean that stories are abandoned. They are as important as ever, although now just as temporary tools to explore and navigate the world and to communicate with ourselves and others.
This is another example of going into the extreme in one end of a polarity and coming out at the other end. The further I release beliefs in stories (through for instance the Byron Katie inquiries), the more free I am to engage with, play with and explore a range of stories.
What implications does a particular story have? What are the implications on our collective and indivudal levels? What are the differences between believing in it and using it as a temporary guideline? Which stories seem to have desireable outcomes when we use them? Which stories are more aligned with the world as it appears to us? And so on.
Own relationship with stories
In looking at my own relationship with stories, I found three turning points that stood out.
As a child, I had a strong desire to know something for certain, and I would pester my father about the probability of such and such, whether something was true beyond doubt, and so on. Eventually, typically after a series of questions and responses, he would say "I don't know anything for certain." It was frustrating at the time, but in repeating this process many times it also sank in.
Then, in my teens I started exploring stories in a different way. I realized that for each statement, there is an opposite statement which also has some truth in it. The world is beyond and includes all polarities, so any statement (and any story) has only a limited take on it. They are all simplified maps of a highly complex and infinitely rich terrain. The world is always more than and different from our experience of it, and even more so when it comes to our representations of our experiences of it (words, stories, theories, maps).
And about a year ago, I came across the Byron Katie inquiries which helps me unravel beliefs through exploring what is true for me around them. Is it true? Can I absolutely know it is true? What happens when I believe in it? What would I be if I didn't believe in it? Turn the statement around, in as many ways you can, and explore how each of these new statements are as true as the original.
Believing in stories is suffering. Freedom from belief in stories is freedom from suffering. And it is also freedom to play with and explore the implications of various stories, without taking any one of them too seriously. They are, after all, only stories. They are maps we make up to help us orient in the world. They are of immense value, and also not more than temporary tools.
Context & Content
I have noticed that the Center of Sacred Sciences focuses exclusively on the awakening to no "I", something I have a great deal of appreciation for. It is the main focus of all the spiritual traditions, and what the mystics from many traditions express. It helps to sort out what is really important in various practices and approaches. It is what I am exploring right now. And a clear focus will necessarily leave much out, no matter what area it is in.
For me, I am equally intrigued with no "I" (the context) as evolution and development (the content), and see them as two sides of the same coin. If the first is left out, we are blindly caught in a cycle of suffering. If the second is left out, we leave out the whole relative realm and all the wonderful richness of it.
Evolution and development is one way God manifests, explores and expresses itself, always in new ways, in infinite richness and complexity. And this evolution and development continues, independent on whether what is awakens to its own nature of no "I" or not. There is an awakening to no "I" at some point, and evolution and development continues. We now see that it is just the play of God, and we are free to choose to actively engage in this play.
As long as we don't realize it is just a play, we take it deadly seriously and there is real drama and suffering. When we realize it is indeed a play (of God, Buddha Mind, Brahman, Allah, Dao, Spirit), we can choose to play along. Just because. For the compassion it brings up. For the adventure of it.
The evolution of the universe, earth and species continues. The development of our human self, in all its many aspects, continues. There is a deepening. It is always new, fresh. It is an adventure and exploration process.
Why No I?
I am sure many who hears/reads about no "I" wonders what the big fuzz is about? And what does it mean anyway? Is it just an intellectual or philosophical game? Is it something for especially gifted people?
Realizing no "I" changes nothing, in that the content tends to be about the same. There are still sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts, activity, the wider world and so on. And yet, it changes everything. The whole context for the content is radically different. There is no object as a segment of what is which is seen as an "I", so the resistance tends to fall away as well. Everything now just happens, on its own. There is no doer, only the doing. And in this, the drama and suffering falls away, and the inherent clarity of the mind is revealed, and with this comes wisdom and compassion.
And it is not for a select few or only for especially gifted people. It is for everyone. It is the nature of this mind reading these words, and closer than our own breath. It is what is right here, although we don't always recognize it through the dust kicked up by the belief in an "I". Fortunately, there are many ways to realize it, and we all have at least glimpses of it now and then. It is very familiar territory, although we don't recognize it as such. And practices such as Byron Katie's inquiry is one way to explore this, to familiarize ourselves with this territory which is who we are behind the content.
Realizing no "I" is - as some folks say - in many ways the final defeat.
Our search for comfort and resolution in content has come to an end.
And after having passed through the gate, there is the realization that no-one is there to take credit for it. There is just what is, largely the same content as before, but no segment of this - not the sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts, attention or awareness, nor any combination of all these - has any "I" inherent in it. There is just what is that awakened to its own nature, and this what is is not different or separate from anything.
So there is a complete defeat in terms of searching for a resolution in content. And there is a complete defeat for any "I" trying to gain or attain something. That "I" is revealed as a figment of the imagination, although it seemed so real at the time.
Head On Top of Head
In Zen, they talk about putting a head on top of our head. There is what is - sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts - and we put an image of an "I" on top of it.
This is really to put a head on top of the head that is already there. It is not necessary. It is only fake. It is no more than a mask, an abstraction added to what is. And believed in, with all the consequences that has of similarly unnecessary drama and suffering.
It is all self-created.
I am on a steamboat somewhere in South America. It is a cruise, and sometime within the last half century. I share cabin with four or five others, males and females, all of whom I know. I walked up on deck one night and saw the most beautiful sunrise - rolling hills in the distance, white clouds illuminated from behind by the sun, beautiful colors everywhere.
At one point, I fall asleep. In my sleep, I bring attention to the conglomerate of sensations, feelings, thoughts, attention and awareness in my throat area, and each time the sense of "I" dissolved and it is a free fall. I try to scream but is unable to since my body is sleeping. Then the sense of "I" come back to some extent, and this repeats itself several times. Bringing my attention to this conglomerate was unintentional, it just happened.
I don't remember much about the first dream, apart of the atmosphere of comradeship, mystery, the sense of adventure, and the beauty of the landscape and the ocean. The second part of the dream is almost embarrassing as it is very similar to what I have been exploring in my waking life. What it may be telling me is the fear that comes up being on the verge of no "I", a fear which is typically not acknowledged in my case. Although there is certainly a fear there. A fear for it all being too "cold" and impersonal, of being as one-sided as I see in some who have had a nondual awakening, a fear for the adventure to be over.
Maybe that is the connection between the two parts of the dream. What stood out in the first part is the sense of adventure, exploration and beauty. And there is a fear here for that being lost when there is an awakening to no "I". This comes from it being portrayed as an "end" by some, although I consciously see it as just another phase, another end and beginning. There is something in me that really wants it to allow for exploration, adventure and mystery, and from those I know who have a mature awakening, that seems indeed to be included.
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I thought I had lost this initial post, so I rewrote it as seen below. A little fewer details, and a little more to the point.
I am on a steamboat somewhere in South America. It is a cruise, and sometime within the last half century. I share cabin with four or five friends, both female and male. One night, I walk up on deck and see the most beautiful sunrise. Rolling hills in the distance, white clouds illuminated from behind by the rising sun, beautiful colors everywhere. People are partying in the restaurant area, and some are also out here admiring the sunrise.
At some point, I fall asleep. The focus goes to the conglomerate of sensations, feelings, thoughts, attention and awareness in my throat area, and the sense of "I" dissolves. There is a free fall. I try to scream but cannot as I am asleep. This repeats itself several times.
The second half of the dream is almost embarrassing as it is exactly what I am exploring in my daily life right now. The dream may be telling me that there is more fear around it than I acknowledge. And this fear may have to do with the first part of the dream.
The steamboat journey has a sense of comradeship, adventure, mystery and beauty about it. And this is exactly what a part of me is afraid of loosing if there is an awakening to no "I".
My conscious view is different, and I know people who have had this awakening and still seem to have a sense of passion and adventure, but something in me still fears it.
One of the Blogger databases had trouble yesterday so all posts from that day disappeared. But, I was able to recover most of them in various ways, so will post them all again now.
This is another reminder of impermanence. In the world of phenomena, everything is process. Everything that is enjoyed right now - by me and others - will be gone. This writing, this room, this view, these trees, this music, this body, this air (with its human-friendly mixture of gases), this planet, this sun, this universe - it is all temporary. It will all be gone. Everything any human being has ever experienced, throughout all time, is temporary and will be gone.
So what is a few blog posts in that perspective? Their impermanence is just a reminder. An opportunity to allow the realization of impermanence sink in. An opportunity to align myself a little more with what is - the impermanence, fluidity and freshness of it all.
We had a housemate for just a month, and it was quite an intense experience. One aspect of it was his smoking, and we have been finding snipped off Marlboro filters in his room, next to the house, and in our car which somebody broke into two days after he left.
I mentioned the pattern of snipping off the filters before smoking, and my partner said "another of his self-destructive behaviors". Her statement triggered a reaction in me (resistance), which is a clear indication that I myself am engaging in self-destructive behavior that is not quite brought into awareness.
I don't consciously blame others for it, but there is a reaction coming up when others blame someone, and even that points to a certain blindness for me around the issue. So...
He shouldn't be self-destructive
- Yes (for his own sake and those who care about him)
- No, only an opinion.
- Care, concern. Blaming him for acting in a way that harms himself and those around him.
- Clarity, space. Be with whatever happens. No need for reactivity.
- (a) He should be self-destructive. (Yes, because he is - until he isn't.)
>> (b) I shouldn't be self-destructive. (Yes, this is where the juice is. I am self-destructive in so many ways, especially in believing in thoughts. This is one of the ways I bring myself down. I also procrastinate, which tends to cause problems for myself and others. I am reactive, which causes problems for myself and others. I don't keep in contact with family and friends as much as I could, which weakens the bonds. I don't save enough money for the future. I am wavering in several areas of life, which creates insecurity in different ways. I don't engage in spiritual practice as much as I could, allowing valuable opportunities slip through my fingers. I allow opportunities slip by in many areas of life. I live as if I would live forever. I live as if everything will continue to be as fine and dandy as it is right now. I am self-destructive in so many ways, in so many areas of life.)
She should see in herself what she sees in him.
- Yes (that seems to be a good thing)
- No, only an opinion.
- Irritability. Judgment (she should be more aware, especially since she has experience with these inquiries). Resistance to what she is saying, and to the reactions it triggers in me. Wanting to be somewhere else. Wanting to talk with someone who is more aware. Wanting to clear it up for myself.
- Clarity, presence. Compassion for all of our blindness and how we all create suffering for ourselves that way. Recognizing in her what I see in myself.
- (a) She shouldn't see in herself what she sees in him. (Yes, not until she does.)
>> (b) I should see in myself what I see in her. (Yes, this is very true. I am seeing her judgment, and overlook how I am equally judgmental of her. In the moment I react to her judgment, it is my own judgment coming up. She is a perfect mirror of what is going on right here, in myself, right now. And this brings up recognition and gratefulness. What seemed so painful brings a release. It is turned around to something to be grateful for.)
I need to appear clever.
- Yes (who knows what will happen if I don't).
- No, only an opinion.
- Fear. Always looking for ways to appear clever. Always looking for material in the current situation which I can twist and frame in a way that will make me appear clever. Always looking at how I may appear to myself and others, in what way it may appear clever, and how far up on the cleverness scale it goes. Always looking for ways to appear more clever, with what is now and in the future. Always concerned about what people think about me or view me.
- Clarity. Presence. Be with what is. Can be who I am, without concern of how clever it appears. A certain freedom. Space. Freeing up attention and energy.
- (a) I don't need to appear clever. (Yes, maybe I don't. Maybe what I am, without the extra cleverness, is OK as it is. It is certainly a liberation to not have to appear clever. Maybe that in itself is reward enough.)
(b) My thoughts need to appear clever. (Yes, it is the belief in that - and similar - thoughts that creates the impression of having to appear clever. It is all belief created.)
(c) My thoughts don't need to appear clever. (Yes, they can be exactly what they are. In fact, they cannot be anything else. There is not even any need trying.)