Tag Archives: being

Is There an Authentic Sexuality?

Recently, something I heard raised a question about what is authentic in terms of sexuality. This essay is the result of my contemplation of this question about sexuality and authenticity. To begin I want to make clear what I refer to by the term “sexuality.” In my view, one’s introceptively perceived states, feelings, thoughts and impulses are generally the basis for what becomes one’s sexual identity. Further, these states, feelings, thoughts and impulses can vary in clarity and intensity. As I’ve made clear in another piece on this site, I think that sex, sexuality, sexual orientation and gender are four separate variables that have a range of independent outcomes. The speaker that I heard made it clear that authenticity should be conferred only when all four of these variables were consistent with one another relative to one of the two biological sexes.

I have framed the essay in the language of dualism largely because the dominant worldview and the structure of language make it difficult to do otherwise. I have broken the phenomenon of sexuality up into categories and given them labels, for the same reasons just stated. I also suspect most readers are likely to be dualistic thinkers and subscribe to materialism and naive realism as their ontology or worldview. Personally, I subscribe to a nondual worldview in which the entire universe is an organic whole. The universe, as I see it, is an indivisible ecology that includes humanity. Most people, especially in the west, see the universe as a vast collection of separate, independent and at times interdependent parts that include living organisms such as ourselves. Nondualism in Western philosophy is known as monistic idealism. Links to the work of a contemporary advocate for monistic idealism can be found here.

As I considered the question raised, my thoughts went back to the early history of life on this planet when sex evolved as a reproductive strategy. Biological evolution, as a process, produced two reproductively distinct sexes. The strategy has endured because it improved the odds of successful reproduction of viable members of any species using it. Sexes exist for a biologically functional purpose and only for that reason. Remove the biological advantages from sexual reproduction and sexes never would have evolved. Any fundamental differences between the two reproductive sexes, whether in anatomy, physiology, affect, cognition or behavior appear of necessity to be tied to reproductive functions.

Therefore, a male is capable of successfully fulfilling one part of the two-part process of reproduction and a female is capable of successfully fulfilling the other part of the reproductive process. To meet this criterion, one must not only have the requisite biological characteristics but must be either of an age suitable for reproduction or to have been able to meet it when of a suitable age. This describes in its most fundamental sense male and female or functional sexes (FS). The majority of individuals are male or female in the functional meaning of the labels. I think the speaker alluded to above would argue that this and only this is natural and therefore authentic. However, anything that is a product of nature is natural. There are a number of variations on the functional theme described above. These variations to a greater or lesser degree are socially influenced.

How might one understand the labels “boy/man” and “girl/woman”? Here it is necessary to shift focus from a functional biological frame-of-reference to a sociocultural frame-of-reference. Man and woman are labels applied in a sociocultural context and are typically based largely on observable characteristics related to physical appearance and behavior. Behavior characteristics are more closely related to gendered dress, speech, affect, language, attitudes, and mannerisms, etc. These characteristics are grouped to socioculturally (SC) define men and women. Any characteristic attributed to the SC categories of man or woman said to have a biological rather than a social basis must be shown to be linked to characteristics required by functional reproduction. The defining characteristics of men and women have varied somewhat both across cultures and history. Thus, there appears to be some purely sociocultural dimension to such definitions. While there is a high probability that a sociocultural classification (SC) of boy/man or girl/woman will prove to be strongly correlated with matching FS classifications of male or female, it is not a one-to-one correlation.

For example, a child who at birth is labeled as a girl and who identifies as a girl and is socialized as a girl can, as an adult, be classified as a woman. She will be so recognized in the sociocultural context as a girl/woman though she might not meet the definition for a FS classification. Under this analysis, for example, a person who is genetically XY and has Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (CAIS) could be socially classified as a woman. In such a case, the individual looks female, has been socialized in the feminine gender role and identifies as a woman. However, she would not be functionally female under the reproductive definition. This analysis could also be argued to apply to someone who is genetically XX but congenitally sterile for whatever reason.

Evolution is not an invariant process and a minority of births result in atypical outcomes. Some atypical outcomes are more easily identified than others. There are variations in anatomical outcomes such as in the structure of the genitalia. There are also physiological variations such as CAIS, mentioned earlier, which result in a female-appearing individual who internally has no female reproductive organs. There also appear to be a range of atypical outcomes, possibly related to physiological processes, that aren’t well understood. These are usually only identifiable through overt behavior and/or reports of covert psychological states such as thoughts, feelings and behavioral impulses arising in awareness, which may or may not be overtly acted upon. These, for example, can be outcomes such as variations in sexual orientation, e.g., homosexuality and/or sexual identity, e.g., cross-sex identification. These atypical variations can be manifest to varying degrees and will be stronger and more intense in some individuals than in others. There also exists the possibility that some individuals might adopt what I’ve referred to as atypical sexuality by choice. Probably, a choice influenced by temperament, personality and experience. I suspect that if such individuals exist, they comprise a very small portion of the atypical population.

The most ambiguous group of outcomes are generally thought to arise from variations in physiology, such as atypical hormone exposure during development that is hypothesized to occur at the wrong time or persist for too long or too brief of a period or to involve the wrong hormone altogether. There exists some evidence in support of this hypothesis, but the actual mechanisms have not been clearly identified and verified as the cause of these outcomes. Such individuals, strictly speaking, are classifiable as FS if they are capable of carrying out the reproductive function for which their body type evolved. Even a person with a strong sense of being in a wrongly sexed body but who has not undergone alteration of physiology and anatomy and is capable of reproduction could still be classified as FS. If they do reproduce, they are clearly FS.

A person may have engaged in reproductive behavior and produced progeny in the past and then undertaken physiological and/or anatomical alterations that now prevent carrying out a reproductive function. Such an individual has, in effect, chosen to remove her/himself from their previous FS classification. However, removing yourself from one FS classification (e.g., female) does not and cannot qualify you for the alternate FS classification (e.g., male). Such an individual now presents as a man or woman and lives through a masculine or feminine gender role. Clearly, on the basis of the above argument, they are not what has been termed female or male and have no FS status. I would also suggest that they are not what has been socially defined as a man or a woman and usually don’t achieve a SC status. Of course, the labels trans man or trans woman claim neither functional status nor sociocultural status but make a claim to have transitioned to a cross-sex status. This appears to constitutes a third category; i.e., transsexual (TS), which could also be argued to be a variant on the SC category.

A TS person has altered their body and adopted the social role that contrasts with the body they were born into and the gender role into which they were socialized. Thus, we have persons who have undergone a cross-sex transition and identify as trans women or trans men. Also, in recent years, there have been children who cross identify and are socialized in that cross role and make an early transition through hormone therapy and later surgical alteration. These children become trans women and trans men, though they may in some respects be more difficult to classify. They will usually represent a close approximation to someone in a SC classification. It could be argued that they should be classified in the SC category under the same reasoning that someone with CAIS can be classified as SC; i.e., for all practical purposes they are indistinguishable from SC men and women.

It could be argued that transsexualism as described above is not natural on the grounds that it requires human intervention through medical procedures. However, the underlying impetus for the medical procedures appears to occur as a natural variation of reproductive biology. Such individuals have existed and lived cross sexed lives long before there were any medical interventions available. Thus, the ability to reconfigure the body didn’t create TS individuals but merely gave them an option that wasn’t previously available. In other words, radical reconfiguration of the body has become possible through the evolution of human culture, especially through the expansion of medical science during the past one hundred years or so.

In my opinion, gender is part of a socially constructed role. I think that we can legitimately talk about feminine gender and masculine gender in terms of a range of presentations, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and so forth. All of these can be and probably are commonly learned through developmental socialization. One could acquire such gender characteristics through more formal learning methods later in life, but they may not be as complete or as deeply programmed as when acquired developmentally through socialization. Some would argue that gender characteristics are biologically based but my opinion is that many of them arise from social convention and for social purposes. Making a biological connection for a gender characteristic requires showing a derivative relationship to a reproductive function. While gender is often employed as a stereotype, there is actually a fair amount of variability within a gender role in any given sociocultural context. In other words, it is possible for there to be some overlap in gender characteristics, so they aren’t as exclusive as some stereotypes seem to suggest.

There are many individuals with atypical sexuality who are not transsexuals in the sense of having reconfigured their bodies to conform in appearance to the anatomy of a man or woman. Such an individual may conform partially, e.g., is only on hormone therapy. It could be argued that partial conformity should qualify as TS and perhaps it should. It seems to me, however, that there should be a significant degree of irreversibility in whatever modifications are used to so qualify as TS.

Cross-identified individuals, who forego the option of body reconfiguration, simply limit their modification to cosmetic efforts. An individual who is not TS but is cross-gendered may identify with and learn the cross-gender role and socially present through cosmetic changes combined with gender role behaviors. Any individual who makes an effort to change their social presentation to that of a man or a woman and live through that gender role but who is not transsexual, as defined earlier, I would classify as cross-gendered (CG). Thus, providing a fourth category, which also could be argued to be a variation of the SC category. Cross-gender must also be considered as natural, if one accepts, as I do, that CG is highly likely to have its origins in developmental biology.

There still remains the possibility of someone who identifies, at least in part, with a gender role different from the one in which they were socialized but who continues to conduct their life through the role in which they were socialized. These individuals have not transitioned physically and socially nor do they make a social transition. I do not count, as social transitions, social presentations such as limited events like costume parties, special interest club events and presentations limited to the home. I would not classify such individuals as CG. However, I think for most such individuals their decision not to transition is due to a weaker impetus, though in some cases it may simply be social pressures that prevent them from transitioning. Nevertheless, I would again suggest that the impetus likely has its roots in developmental biology and is therefore natural.

I suppose one could think of these non-transitioning individuals as gender explorers (GE). A GE can be as limited as someone who sometimes engages in cross-gender fantasies and/or sometimes identifies with cross-gender characters in novels, television programs, movies, public personalities or acquaintances. A GE can further make a study of and learn parts of a cross-gender presentation such as dress, speech, mannerisms and so on. This group too could be argued to be a variation on the SC category since gender role appears to be heavily influenced by sociocultural factors.

However, the sociocultural factors in SC, as initially defined, are more fundamental and widespread in their application and acceptance for that classification relative to those classifications that follow it in this discussion. I am aware that there are many who would disagree with my choice of labels and their definition, but they make sense to me. I also tend to think about the “categories” described above as positions along a spectrum or dimension that represents a range of natural diversity. In another piece on this site, I have argued that male and female represent a complimentary pair that anchor the points at either end of a spectrum lying between the pair.

Based on the line of thought above, I would argue that all variations of sexual identity are natural and, if natural, must be authentic. The remarks made by the individual mentioned at the beginning of this piece expressed the opinion that most of the variations described above are not natural but are choices made by persons who suffer from psychological disorders. I have heard a number of such people expound this opinion and find in them two common characteristics. First, they live from a narrative about how the world should be or, as someone else has said, “are lost in their minds.” These people can’t or won’t make a distinction between their mental narrative about the world and reality as it presents to those who have eyes with which to see clearly. Second, the mental constructs from which their narrative is built are impervious to change and seldom susceptible to explanations or evidence that contradict their beliefs. In short, they tend to have rigid personalities and a need for certainty even if they are certainly wrong.

I would further argue that authenticity is a concept and not a part of the natural world. Concepts are the brick and mortar from which narratives are constructed. Thus, when an argument is made about someone not being authentic, what the argument entails is comparing the individual to an idea or set of ideas forming a belief integral to a narrative and finding them wanting. To put the matter differently, it is as if I were to compare someone to a fictional hero in a novel and find them unauthentic because they don’t meet the ideal set by the fictional hero. The concept of authenticity might be useful as in determining that a painting is an authentic Dali but it is useless for judging the inherent characteristics of people.

To fully understand human sexuality requires that one not focus on the end points but also take into account all the transitions along the spectrum, which no doubt are more varied than it was possible to cover in this piece. True understanding comes not from the parts but from the whole. I have also argued in another piece on this site that identifying fully with either end point limits one’s ability to gain an understanding of the whole. Those who fall onto the spectrum between the anchors are in the best position to blend the duality into an understanding of the whole. This, however, is only possible if one can rise above the motivation to make oneself conform as close as possible to one of the dimensional anchor points.

One way to approach the task of “rising above” is to consider the task from the point of view of monistic idealism. If asked who you are, you mostly likely will begin with a litany of role descriptions; e.g., I am a woman, a wife, a teacher, a Swede, an amateur athlete and so on. This is not who you are. This is a shorthand account of the narrative that you have created to establish an identity. You are not your identity. Your identity in and of itself does nothing and knows nothing. It is just a story, a story that depends entirely upon the conceptual mind and memory. This is not to say that an identity doesn’t have its uses especially as an interface with the web of the world.

What I mean by the mind is that scaffold of mental constructs that might be called ideas, concepts, beliefs, information, language, etc. The mind, in my view, might be thought of as a cognitive structure existing within awareness. By way of illustration, imagine a large grassy field (awareness) with a complex set of “monkey” bars (mind) set up on part of it. Most of us spend most of our time “playing” on the monkey bars and give scant attention to the field (awareness). When an experience occurs, we usually interpret it through the structures comprising the mind. This is what is known as top-down perception. Looking at an experience from the perspective of the field and excluding the monkey bars is called bottom-up perception and is typical of young children.

Our experiences are encoded through images and language and are therefore linked to the scaffold. The development of mind is supported by the experiences of the body in the physical world. Experience is a critical contributor to the development of mind. The complimentary pairs mentioned earlier exist because they make experience possible through the tensions produced by the contrast between the anchor points – if no contrasts, then no experience and no mind.

In nondual philosophy, the body exists to support our individuated awareness, which is but one “frequency” of awareness. Your frequency is generated by the Source field of awareness, which is the ground of all being. Think of Source as a carpet and your personal awareness is like a single thread running through the carpet. Further, the body comes equipped with many basic programs that drive its functions, and these are added to, expanded and extended through experience. Many of these programs are what I have called in other pieces on this site APs or automatic programs. These programs run outside of awareness and make a huge contribution to what you do both covertly and overtly. In fact, many of the beliefs that we hold are acquired as a means of explaining some of the automatic outcomes from our APs. In short, we spend a lot of time making up explanations for why we think, feel and behave in certain ways. This gives us the illusion of being causal actors in the world when in fact we may be much more like zombies than we’re willing to admit.

Thus, the body/mind moves us through the world according to its own programs and patterns. If you think that you are your thoughts, memories, impulses, feelings, sensations, etc., just sit quietly and experience them arising and subsiding (one objective of meditation). Are they coming and going of their own accord? Are you making them come and go? If you think that they are part of you and you are instigating them, I suggest you command them to stop and see what happens. If, as I suspect, you have little success in giving effective commands, consider this question: who is doing the observing of the body/mind and its activities? I would suggest that you consider that observer to be the much neglected and scaffold-free awareness. In other words, the large, flat, green field that you give little or no attention to as you swing happily through the maze of monkey bars.

I suggest that you adopt the perspective that you are pure awareness (what I’ve called the natural mind in another piece on this site) and not the body/mind. This is not as easy as it might seem because you have a great deal of practice in identifying with the body/mind. If you succeed in making this perceptual shift, you will find that identifying with pure awareness puts everything in a different light. Be aware  that a perceptual shift is not the same thing as understanding a new concept but is rather a direct, intuitive knowing. One difference you will perceive is that pure awareness has no sex, sexuality, sexual orientation or gender. It is unencumbered being. You will have risen above the duality of sex (among other things) and are now in a position to understand the whole without being confused by attachment to some part of the whole.

This expansion in perspective does not remove you from planet earth. You still have a body/mind and you still have to get along in the everyday dualistic world (a.k.a. living life). You still need a body and you still need to take care of it. However, you will come to see and treat your body as a vehicle that has a lot of useful features, not unlike your car. You don’t confuse your identity with your car and should not confuse your identity with your body. The same applies to your mind, which can be a very useful tool, but one must be careful not to get so engrossed in thinking and thoughts that you become lost in your memories, stories about them, explanatory narratives and imagined future events. More on the above can be learned from various teachers and guides. A partial list of teachers is located at this link.

The late Franklin Merrill-Wolff was an American mystic who lived from awareness. There is a short piece on Merrell-Wolff on this site. He described his perspective as “the high indifference.” He was not using the word “indifference” in its common meaning of not caring. What he was trying to indicate was that one deals with life and the world as needed and with as much loving kindness as possible. In doing this, one acts without attachment to the outcome of the action. This requires avoiding emotional entanglement in the endless flux of the world of human creation or what I have called, in another piece on this site, “the web of the world.” Thus, one lives and acts from high indifference. From the perspective of pure awareness, a question about authenticity never arises.

Taken

          The title for this piece, unlike the book by the same title, has nothing to do with alien abductions. It is drawn from something one of my sons used to say when very young. If asked why he did something he would often reply, “It just took me.” That observation seems apropos to the content of this essay.

After reading and listening to a number of people that I feel confident are spiritually enlightened people, I have come away with the following points about Enlightenment:

1.     You can’t develop it. There are no steps you can master one at at time. It is not like working through a belt system in karate. There is no black belt to be attained in the end.

2.      You can’t learn it. The study of theology or philosophy will not help. As one Enlightened being remarked, “…many of you are too intelligent for your own good. You have developed ways of interpreting the world that are highly complex. And so in order to address you…I am called upon to help you get past your education back to the simplicity of being, which is that God is Love….”

3. You can’t earn it. Being charitable and doing good works may make you feel good and may be needed and appreciated by the recipients, but they do not contribute to some “spiritual score board.”

Enlightenment is equally available to a serial killer and a pious nun. Going to church and going to a casino are equally efficacious. In short, you have no control over it. It is largely out of your hands. It just takes you.

So, how do you come to be taken? The simple answer is by Grace*. Most of the sources I’ve read or heard suggest that there are only two things that you can do that might serve as an “invitation” to Supraliminal* Consciousness (Christ Spirit, Buddha Nature, Holy Spirit, Shakti or what have you) to manifest. The operative word here is “might.” The first is meditation. The specific practice is not important as long as it makes the fictive- self* or ego transparent. This simply means getting mentally out of the way so that there is an opening through which Supraliminal Consciousness can shine through your mask. A transparent self is essentially what was discussed in The Natural Mind.* Returning to this state of mind has many benefits in and of itself. It is not, however, a condition necessary for Grace. The second is by Transmission.* Transmission is an invitation extended through a person in whom full enlightenment has manifest. Contact with the power of Supraliminal Consciousness emanating from such a person can create an opening in those exposed. The operative word here is “can.” Neither of these two methods will manifest Consciousness. In the end, it is entirely dependent upon Grace.

Terminology:

*Grace, a non-contingent, unconditional gift. It is independent of any response you can make to affect it.

*Supraliminal, liminal refers to a threshold of perception. Think of the Unified Field of Consciousness flowing through you like a beam of light. Conscious awareness is comprised of those frequencies of the light that you can perceive. There are frequencies that are both below (sub) and above (supra) your conscious awareness.

*Fictive-self, see The Natural Mind below.

*Natural Mind, a state of unconditioned awareness unobstructed by your story about yourself .

*Transmission, a term in a spiritual context that means transmitting a level of subtle energy that is only present in a fully enlightened person that can provide an opening in the perceptual barrier between conscious awareness and Supraliminal Consciousness. In early Christian practice this was called Initiation or Conveying Blessing and probably has had no real role in Christianity in nearly two thousand years. In Siddha Yoga this is called Shaktipat and has been and still is a recognized practice. It is not commonly practiced but is available through a small number of persons.

The Natural Mind

          The natural mind is called by many names, including among others, the unconditioned mind, original-mind, presence and selflessness. It is, in my view, the unconditioned awareness that you were born into when you entered this world. It is always present but most of us have “lost” it.

How could you lose your natural mind? The process begins to unfold very early. There are three aspects to the process. The first might be called primary programs that are biological in nature. These programs send signals into conscious awareness that we react to. Hunger is one example. When you become aware of a hunger signal, you engage in activity directed at responding to the signal. You engage in activity that results in you consuming food, and the program rewards your activity by eliciting satisfaction. Secondary programs come to be built upon primary programs through choices made and repeated. At the earliest stages one has little choice except to reject or accept what is offered by a caretaker. Later, one begins to have a wider range of choices and some independence from caretakers’ choices on your behalf is achieved. Through choices and repetition of those choices new programs are acquired.

Once a program is established it becomes automatic. Given a choice of foods, you don’t have to consciously think about the choices and, even if you do, the probability favors you making a selection that has a repeated history under similar conditions and in similar circumstances. Your automatic program (AP) makes the decision for you and when an impulse to act on the decision enters your conscious awareness (CA), you mentally say to yourself something like, “I think I’ll have candied yams. They are really tasty.” When given choices that you have no history with, such as in an ethnic restaurant whose menu is outside your range of experience, you may be conflicted without your “inner guidance” and will have to actually apply conscious decision making to the choices by seeking more information about the items on the menu or, failing availability of sufficient information, resort to a random selection.

Even in such a situation, your AP’s may come into play as you gain information and an AP partially matches up with a menu item because of some commonality in an ingredient or ingredients with established choices. An AP may make a decision based on additional information and send a choice (as an impulse) into CA and you mentally say to yourself, “Oh yeah, that dish has lamb in it and I like lamb so I’ll go with it.” Lacking ingredient similarity, an AP may act on similarity in aroma or appearance. An adult with a lot established programs may seldom fall back on a purely random choice.

In addition to secondary programs there are tertiary programs. Tertiary programs are programs established through directed learning experiences. These may be informal, such as being taught a language or languages in the home, that our family doesn’t eat pork, Americans support their country, men are leaders and women must pay attention to their appearance. Other informal learning experiences may have other social influences that are outside the family such as a peer group, community organizations and the media. You may acquire AP’s related to such things as music preferences, clothing preferences, religious beliefs, sexual attitudes, political ideals, occupational preferences and prejudices. Other directed learning experiences may be more formal like those found in educational programs to teach subjects like reading, writing, mathematics, history and physics.

[Note: If you would like a demonstration of the reality of these AP’s, click on “Implicit Attitude” and take some of the tests, especially those on social attitudes, and compare what you believe about the topics with what the tests reveal at the unconscious level.]

Many AP’s will usually be functional, efficient and of great benefit. Other AP’s may do no great harm. Some may be or may become highly dysfunctional and create a constant source of problems, the origins of which are difficult to identify. One simple example might be a woman who repeatedly makes poor choices in men because of dysfunctional AP’s that influence what she finds appealing in a man or, conversely, a man who finds problematic women appealing because of dysfunctional AP’s.

As you develop and acquire more and more AP’s, you begin to engage in a lot of thoughts, feelings and actions that arise from beneath CA. Conscious awareness creates explanations to explain the occurrence of these thoughts, feelings and actions. Over time the explanations are woven into narratives that explain who we are and why we think, feel and act in certain ways. This becomes an evolving self-description or what might be called a fictive-self. The fictive-self usually has several narrative variations, which draw on existing AP’s and new AP’s that may develop out of circumstances peculiar to a particular variation. There is usually a variation for each of the long-term roles that we acquire in the course of our lives, such as student, spouse, parent, employee, partner, friend and so on. Some of these variations may be more functional than others and especially dysfunctional when they are contradictory and in conflict.

Another important process in the creation and maintenance of our fictive-self is memory and imagination. When our “mind” is not externally focused on some attention-requiring task like composing this essay, it goes into narration mode. Memories associated with our narrative arise in CA. We ruminate on past accomplishments, pleasures, failures or misfortunes as a way of illustrating and reinforcing our story. If a memory doesn’t fit our story well, we will modify and tweak the memory to bring it into better alignment with our story. We also project these memories through imagination into hypothetical future scenarios, which is different from drawing on past experience in considering how we can accomplish a specific goal. That type of thinking is called planning and is not pointless rumination. Narration strengthens our story and our identification with it.

We become strongly identified with the fictive-self we weave. It becomes us and we go through our lives thinking that we are the story that we have created to explain the AP’s operating beneath CA that direct our thoughts, feelings and actions. The more strongly we are identified with our fictive-self, the less aware we are of our original self and the less self agency we exercise. In short, we have lost our natural mind and, in the process, the ability to see the world as it is rather than as it appears through the explanatory filters we have created to explain the effects of our AP’s. Literally, I AM my story and my story is ME, but a story is just that — a story. Many people arrive at such an understanding spontaneously. This epiphany about the fictive-self tends to be powerful, transformative and often viewed as a spiritual event. Such events are also sometimes referred to as noetic events.

Personally, I had such a noetic event when I was seventeen years of age that revealed to me that my concept of self was simply a matrix of beliefs in which I had invested my identity. This was a transformative experience for me, but one that took years to manifest its effects and be fully understood. A decade later, I had a second noetic event in which I realized that, not only do we have a personal matrix of beliefs that we identify with, but there is a larger more universal matrix in which our personal matrix is embedded and entangled. If you’re interested in these two noetic events in my life, they are covered in A Personal Odyssey.

Stories can be changed. The first step is to recognize that who you think you are and why you think, feel and act in particular ways is because you’re following a script that you’ve created. The more strongly you’re identified with your fictive-self the more difficult it will be to change your story. The techniques discussed in “Creative Self-agency” include methods for working on your AP’s and the story you have written about them. Self-agency is the tool that needs to be developed, if you want to improve your story and change the way you relate to the world. Self-agency requires that you recognize that you have a fictive-self that you created and that you can change it. The second step is to employ some of the techniques available to understand your story and then to effect functional changes in the story. Just knowing that you are articulated by a story and making that story more functional can make significant improvements in your life.

However, recognizing that you are identified with a story and making improvements to that story will not alone restore your natural mind. Restoring the natural mind requires that you stop identifying with the story that you’ve woven around your AP’s and relax back into the pure awareness of being. Being present with the natural mind will provide a fresh perspective on everything and you can respond to situations as if they were unique happenings, not instances of AP-driven events that make up part of the story that is your fictive self. Being in the natural mind will let life flow through you unimpeded by efforts to control and direct it to make it conform to your story.

Ending identification with your I, fictive-self, ego, personality or whatever term you want to use for the construct is not generally something that people find easy to do even once the idea becomes viable to them. There are many approaches to ending identification with the story and most of them involve extended programs of meditation. Meditation will give you greater access to material that has largely been beneath conscious awareness for most of your life. Coming to know and understand your AP’s will lead you to an intuitive understanding of the fictive nature of your ego or self. It is this direct understanding that begins to free you from identification with your story.

Many spiritual teachings speak of losing the self or getting rid of the ego or living totally in the present moment. All of these notions should be considered as metaphorical ways of saying that you should stop identifying with your story. You can’t get rid of your fictive-self because it serves useful purposes. But your phone, computer or car serve useful purposes and mentally healthy people don’t invest their identify in them. These and many other useful things in your life are just tools. Likewise, once you stop identifying with your story, your fictive-self simply becomes a cognitive tool that is used as needed and then put aside until needed again.

To illustrate what this might feel like, consider the following scenario. You were selected five years ago by your employer to go overseas to work in a subsidiary. Let’s say that you went to Germany. You lived in Germany for five years and became fluent in the language and came to understand the culture. Call this your German identity. At the end of five years, you return home to work in the corporate headquarters.

You now operate in a way consistent with your native culture and speak your native language. One evening you are having dinner in a restaurant and overhear some German tourists having difficulty with the menu and placing their order with the waiter. You get up go over to their table and in German ask them if you might be of assistance. They readily accept and you help them negotiate the items on the menu and place their order for them with the waiter. The Germans invite you to join them and you do so and put your German identity to work during the dinner. When this task is complete and the German identity is no longer needed, it is put to “bed” so to speak.

Think of your fictive-self as similar to this hypothetical German identity. When you can put it to “bed” and wake it up when circumstances require it, you will bring to an end almost if not all of the narration that has previously had a near continuous run in the theater of your mind. You can now live your life largely in the present moment, which is all that really exists. You will have a much fresher and unencumbered view of events and can respond to them on their own terms rather than in terms of the character in a play of your own authorship. Thus, you have recovered your natural mind.

Many spiritual traditions see the recovery of the natural mind as the first step in moving on to a transformation of consciousness and identification with what might be thought of as unity consciousness. For example it might have been the natural mind that Jesus was referring to in the following:

Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

 A translation of this into other terminology might read, “Frankly, unless you can regain your natural mind, you will be unable to know unity consciousness.” You can replace unity consciousness with whatever terminology works best for you. Examples might include Christ consciousness, consciousness of the divine, God, unified field of consciousness and so on.

Regaining the natural mind is significant in itself. However, for those so inclined, it can become a doorway. Passing through that doorway opens possibilities for several transformations of consciousness that end with unity consciousness, but that is beyond the scope of this essay (see Creative Self-Agency).

The Looking Glass

This piece was adapted from a post by Fred Davis

You are always awake, but you are not always consciously awake.

What matters is simple recognition [that is, of when you’re consciously awake], because however you display yourself to yourself, you’re almost surely going to have to come back to fresh conscious recognition over and over again. This is the discipline part. This is the process part. Awareness colonizes the body one bit, one seeing, one unconscious pattern at a time.

In every moment that you ally yourself with thinking, which includes every activity of the mind, you are voting for thinking. It’ll take some work to shift that default position. It’ll take a lot of willingness. Thinking isn’t a bad thing, it is just that most of us do too much of it when it isn’t necessary. When your car is stuck in mud, you need to think about how to free it but when someone cuts you off in traffic there is nothing to think about.

Again and again, as you touch truth through actual experience–as you discover truth through continuous inquiry–that touch will bring a longer, stronger, more profound experience of what you always already are–that which knows what you are. Your true essence is pure awareness of what is now, not what you think about it.

Be relentlessly aware of and skeptical about your thoughts. You won’t always have to take your thoughts through a process of formal inquiry. In the beginning inquiry is necessary to purge your mind of pointless chatter. Ask yourself again and again, “Is what I’m thinking really true, or is it a belief, an opinion, a judgment or even a delusion? Even if what you’re thinking is true, do you really need to be engaged in this line of thought right now? The veil of thought arises, it’s questioned, penetrated, and it parts. Repetition is the mother of clarity. Eventually, the inquiry becomes less formal and more spontaneous. Life itself becomes constant inquiry. Like everything else, you don’t have to do a thing. It just happens effortlessly.

You may tell yourself, “It can’t be that simple.” It is.

Liberation is all about right now, this moment.

Freedom is now or never, here or nowhere.

[Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Mark 4:9]

A simple demonstration exercise follows below:

 

Exercise

This exercise based on a Buddhist meditation practice called rigpa (being aware of awareness).

Find a quiet relaxing spot where your visual awareness can be spacious. Examples of the type of setting that I have in mind might be sitting or standing on a peak gazing out across a beautiful wooded valley, sitting on a dock in the early evening gazing out across the waters of a quiet, undisturbed lake or whatever works for you. The essential feature is the relaxed mood the setting evokes, not the setting itself.

Now, just enjoy the feeling of relaxation that the scene evokes in your body, take in the spacious view before you, listen to the subtle sounds arising from the scene, feel the air move about your face and body, smell any odors carried by the air you breathe. Allow yourself to become fully immersed in the totality of the moment. When you are fully settled into the exercise you will be acutely aware but your awareness will be free of thoughts (i.e., words and images) but full of sensations and feelings — pure experience. Fully present.

This is you as an awake consciousness or in your natural mind. It is always available. It can be brought to any circumstance under any conditions. You merely need to learn to stay in this state of consciousness as your normal or habitual way of being. Practice the use of thinking as a tool for accomplishing a specific task and then put it away and become present with your immediate experience.

There is probably no end to the depths of this state of awakened awareness but you first have to learn to live in it before it can flower.