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Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Quotes about Ground

Being Experienced as the Ground of the Soul

Love, faith, and hope can develop and deepen because they are qualities of the transforming soul, and transformation is a dynamic process—not just an experience. Faith helps the soul to go deeper into experience, as the soul learns that it has a true, good, and intelligent nature or Essence, that its interiority is Essence. At the beginning of waking up, the soul can feel supported by the fact that there is true Essence within—that keeps you going. At deeper levels, as the soul develops and experiences deeper dimensions, especially the boundless dimensions of Being, we can no longer accurately speak of Essence as the soul’s inner nature. This is because, on the boundless level, we are experiencing the inner nature of everything, and all of reality is experienced as one thing. At this level, Essence, the nature of the soul, is superseded by Being, the nature of all of reality. Being is then experienced as the ground of the soul which makes it feel held and supported. This ground that gives rise to the soul is also seen as the ground of everything, the nature of everything. Faith, then, is the reflection of the certainty that there is a real ground for the soul to stand on and experience its reality and life. Our faith, of course, increases when we recognize Essence in its boundless dimensions, since we see that it is not just the nature of our soul, but the nature of everything, which enables us to have faith in all of nature, all of reality, all of existence.

Facets of Unity, pg. 249

Comparative Judgement Becomes Fertile Ground for the Superego

The moment we posit a particular state as ideal, we also fall into the mode of comparative judgment. We’re comparing where we are now with that ideal state. This becomes a fertile ground for the superego. The superego loves this position. This is exactly the gap it needs to enter into your experience. When you make a comparative value judgment, you become engaged in: “Here’s where I am, and over there is where I am supposed to be. Where I am is not as good as where I’m supposed to be, so where I am should change to be that other place.” When you say this, you are rejecting where you are at the moment. And when you reject where you are at the moment, not only do you disconnect from your personal thread, you also disconnect yourself from your true nature, from your beingness itself. When you reject where you are at the moment, you cannot simply be, because merely being means not acting on yourself in any way. Comparative judgment disconnects you from Being whether the comparisons you make are accurate or not. This happens when you take a position about what’s supposed to happen and then try to practice from within that context. For example, you may realize that the way you are right now is not the fullness of humanity; it is not the most realized, most whole, deepest possible condition. You may be aware that feeling compassionate toward someone would be more effective than the resentment you are feeling. And sometimes you can’t help but know that there are conditions that feel better than what you are feeling at that moment.

Differentiation of the Nonconceptual Field of Pure Awareness

In other words, pure awareness, a nonconceptual presence and truth, is the ground of all manifestation, more fundamental than any knowing. But this nonconceptual field that gives the soul both her fundamental ground and her capacity for perception, differentiates into the various forms of manifestation, the shapes and colors, the tastes and flavors, the changes and movements. These forms appear differentiated in pure awareness, but such differentiation does not imply recognition, rather it means simple differences, a perception of patterns of color and shape that we do not recognize as having any meaning and do not even isolate as forms. We simply see an indivisible transparent medium with patterns of color and shape, but we do not even recognize these as colors and shapes. We perceive these patterns without abstracting out forms from these patterns, without even isolating any details in the patterns. We see the patterns of appearance in their totality, but without mentally registering that we are doing so. Cognitively contemplating our perception we can then say we saw patterns, shapes, and colors. (See Luminous Night’s Journey, chapter 6, for a detailed description of this perception.)

Ground True Nature is One Unified Field

The continuous display that true nature enacts always appears in the context of time and space. True nature is timeless and spaceless, but manifests everything in time and space. It forms the ground and essence of all manifestation, but as we saw in our example of Jack’s dream, this ground is one and indivisible. The ground true nature is one unified field that underlies and constitutes all existence. In itself true nature has no dimensions, no spatial or temporal extensions. Yet because all forms manifest within true nature, we will experience it as a boundless, infinite field of coemergent presence. We perceive the presence of true nature as an infinite field of awareness or consciousness, unbounded and unlimited. True nature in manifestation appears, then, to be omnipresent. It is everywhere, as the indivisible field of presence forming the ground and substance of everything. In self-realization, the soul will experience that she is everywhere, she is everything, she is infinite, she is boundless. In other words, dimensionless true nature will appear in manifestation to possess infinite and endless extension in space. Its original spacelessness appears in manifestation as infinite space. True nature has no distance but it is all the distances in manifestation.

Grounded in Emptiness the World is Always Insubstantial

The insight that emptiness is the ground of all forms is specifically significant for the inner journey, especially for the journey of descent. Through the absolute descending into the world we see that the world is grounded in emptiness, and hence is always insubstantial and lacks any ultimate existence. The soul learns that to live in the world from the perspective of the absolute is to never forget that the world is ultimately insubstantial, that it is groundless; for the absolute ground is simply absence. More precisely, its groundlessness is its truth and freedom and the liberation of the soul is in remembering that she can rely ultimately only on the absolute: it is the groundless ground. She can trust emptiness, for it is the ultimate unchanging ground that is certain to be found at the depth of everything. In other words, the ground of all manifest forms is that when we try to find their ultimate essence they disappear. The unfindability of their ultimate existence is their ground.

Grounding Our Work in a Normal Life

Living a normal life is an important cornerstone of our work because it tends to ground the work in our life instead of making it some kind of mystical, spiritual, otherworldly thing that exists apart from our daily experiences. This is the other world. This table, as you see it, is God’s back. In the beginning, you might have all kinds of far-out experiences that separate the face from the back, the depth from the surface. In time you realize that the very world we live in, what we see, everything around us that looks like stone or rock, is really the love that we feel in our heart. The world lives in harmony and luminosity. And the more you see that, the more your need for love from other people relaxes. You pine after love, and one day you open your eyes and see that the rock is made of love. People see love manifesting all around them all the time, and yet they still want this one person to love them. Who cares about all this other love! But in time the love and the true beingness touch your consciousness. Your sense of ego dissolves a little and you relax. You become more reasonable and less of a brat.

Looking for Ground

So we recognize here the subtle tendency in our consciousness to find a place that is somewhat opaque, somewhat solid, somewhat stable for us to stand on, so our mind can feel a sense of existence and presence. But at some point, that place can become a perch for the ego. Presence can, of course, be experienced as spaciousness, fluidity, radiance, or solidity. It can be all of these things, and it is never just one thing, because it is always changing and moving. But we need to understand what we usually end up doing with the notion of True Nature, of presence. We say that our practice is to be where we are, but we can reify that, too: “Be where I am? I’ve got it now! I know what to do—just find where I am and remain there.” The teaching of being where we are condones that; what’s more, it encourages it. We finally feel good about being able to be where we are, and we are happy to have support to keep doing that. But when we don’t understand how our mind works, we can’t see that this is actually a way to continue being. The part of “to be where we are” that appeals to the ego is “to be,” because that translates to us as, “I am going to continue to be.”

Non-conceptual Reality, the Ground of the World of Concepts

Even consciousness, which is not exactly a concept, can be shed. At some point, usually without anticipating it, one realizes that one is perceiving the Nameless Reality as external to oneself. One becomes aware that one is beyond the Nameless, and the world that it supports, as an unknowable mystery. The Non-conceptual Reality, which is the ground of the world of concepts, is experienced here as not absolutely real. In fact, it is experienced as a radiance, ephemeral and insubstantial, in relation to and emanating from an unfathomable Absolute. One realizes that one’s most absolute nature, which turns out to be the underlying nature of all of existence, transcends not only the mind, but consciousness itself. One is the beyond, beyond whatever can be experienced or perceived. Absence is seen as an incomplete glimpse into the Absolute. One is the ultimate subject, which cannot be an object of perception, and hence is unknown and unknowable. The Absolute is not aware of itself, but awareness of everything else proceeds from it, while what characterizes consciousness is that it is conscious of itself.

Presence is the Ground of All Change and Movement

In the soul’s realization of this dimension she dies to being an individual soul and recognizes herself as the infinite and boundless expanse of pure presence, whether in unity or oneness. But this presence, because it is the ground of all differentiations and forms, is also the ground of all change and movement. Movement is basically the flow of differentiations, the succession of different forms that the moving body takes or perceives. Movement is actually a type of change, which is also the flow of differentiations, the succession of different outlines that the particular changing form assumes. All differentiations occur in the expanse of pure presence, as its differentiating self-structuring. Hence, all change occurs in pure presence. This is the case for all kinds of change: action, movement, expression, transformation, evolution, development, growth, maturation, decay, living, and dying. In other words, not only objects but processes occur as the self-structuring of true nature.

Presence is the Ultimate Ground and Reality of All the Dimensions

The experience of the body in the dimension of essential presence indicates that the core of the self is experientially deeper than the living body. This core is the very consciousness that allows us to experience the body as living. Our definition of the self includes the living body, but as we have made clear, also includes more fundamental dimensions. More accurately, it is not that the body is a more superficial reality than presence; it is more that the self is a wholeness that contains all dimensions, including the body, and this wholeness is disturbed when there is dissociation from presence, because it is presence which is responsible for this complete wholeness. Presence is the ultimate ontological ground and reality of all the dimensions. Awareness of essential presence does not negate or devalue the body; rather, it gives it, along with the other aspects and dimensions of the self, a greater sense of integration, wholeness, and lightness.

The Final Irreducible Ground of Being, the Absolute

This is similar to our view and understanding of the process of spiritual development and the role of the Essential Identity in it. We have explored this in detail in previous chapters, so we will recapitulate it briefly here, to help us situate our work in relation to other spiritual teachings. In our view, Being has a final, irreducible simplicity that we call the Absolute or absolute dimension. It is the original nature of everything, the source of all manifestations (see Chapter 41). Everything arises out of this ground and ultimately returns to it. This ground is totally mysterious and indeterminable, but implicitly contains all the perfections of spiritual nature. It manifests these perfections in a differentiated and explicit way within the soul as the essential aspects. So each aspect of Essence is a differentiated manifestation of an inherent, implicit perfection in the Absolute Essence, each explicitly expressing a specific quality and function. Each aspect serves to provide the soul with a quality and function needed for her life, development, and maturation. But centrally, each aspect reveals one of the perfections of the Absolute in the experience of the individual soul and its role in the relationship of the soul to the Absolute.

The Ground of Existence

The nature of mind is seen as space, but even the notion of space must be transcended to deeply understand the nature of mind. As long as there is space, there is someone there experiencing something and calling it space. But completely experiencing the nature of the mind involves complete openness, or complete nothingness; when you really experience the nature of the mind, there is utter stillness with no observer observing anything, no experience, thought or label. Any experiencer would be just one of those contents, just a thought or feeling or constellation of thoughts or feelings. You continue finding nothing, you don’t even find space; there will be space but no one to find it. This is sometimes called the ground of existence. In this perspective, then, the mind is taken to be everything, and the ground for everything. Everything is the mind because the mind is known in its most absolute nature as nothingness, as the absence of anything, which is seen as the ground for everything.

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