10828061_10203488755795919_460202539556757345_o - Version 5

Welcome to Mystery of Existence

Dear reader,

Welcome to Mystery of Existence.

These writings are a record of my own explorations, and will perhaps be of interest to you too.

Feel free to share your insights and comments, or ask questions.

Enjoy :)

June 2015 update: I am working on an eBook with a selection of posts from this blog. To help my selection, I have added a rating system. Please rate posts to your heart’s content. Thanks!

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Passive and active aspects of the dark night

 

Traditionally, it’s said that the dark night of the soul is passive, in the sense that it comes uninvited and on its own time, and when – or if – it leaves, that’s also on its own time. It lives its own life. As anything does, really.

It’s also active in that it invites us to actively engage with what’s here, to have an active relationship to it. To intentionally and actively relate to it, using whatever tools we have available, whether its kindness, love, gratitude, natural rest, presence, prayer, inquiry, service or something else, and whether it’s structured by guidelines (practices) or more natural and intuitive.

When I look a little closer, I see that the active relationship also lives its own life. That too is, in a sense, “passive”. It’s a gift. Although it can feel very much active and intentional.

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Aspects of the dark night of the soul

 

All these forms of the Dark Night—the “Absence of God,” the sense of sin, the dark ecstasy, the loss of the self’s old passion, peace, and joy, and its apparent relapse to lower spiritual and mental levels [….]

– Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism, Chapter 9

In Mysticism, Evelyn Underhill identified these forms of the dark night of the soul. To me, they seem more like aspects, perhaps since all of them at different times have been quite prominent in my experience.

Sense of sin. Yes, in many different ways.

Early on, visions of evil and evil figures from many cultures and traditions, and of being each of them. (Which is true for all of us. They represent aspects of us.)

Impulses to do things I previously pushed aside or saw as “too low” for me. Sometimes even acting on this, at least to some extent. (I am not very proud of it, and find it difficult to give examples here, although what I experienced and did is quite common in many people’s lives. To me, they felt like big things since they were so out of the ordinary for me.)

Dark ecstasy. Yes, pain and suffering, or a “dark desolation”.

Earlier in my process, I used to experience the “dark desolation” as a swing back after going into bliss, ecstasy, and love for everything. Now, since the dark night of the soul set in, it’s been a permanent companion. Sometimes stronger, sometimes more in the background.

Loss of self’s old passion, peace and joy. Yes, again in many different ways.

I lost just about all of my old passions, for painting and drawing (which I used to do every day and thought I couldn’t live without), loss of ability to meditate (which I also did every day, and thought I couldn’t live without), and much else. (Sustainability, sustainable design, community organizing, hiking, backpacking, concerts, theater etc.)

Relapse to lower spiritual and mental levels. Yes, both in terms of “regression” and “stupidity”.

I have regressed back in time, to infancy, childhood, and even before birth. Partly, this has taken the form of images and emotions from those times surfacing. Partly, it’s taken the form of experiencing myself as very young, and to some extent acting and appearing that way. Partly, it’s taken the form of interests from childhood resurfacing, including in comic books, animations, and games.

I feel I have also regressed intellectually. I am unable to read much, while I used to read several books a week. I am unable to write as I used to. In conversations, I often feel utterly stupid and unable to say much, even on topics I used to be very familiar with and could speak eloquently about.

Synchronicity: As I wrote “dark desolation” (dark ecstasy section) the song they played at the cafe I am at said “it’s always darkest before the dawn”.

Synchronicity 2: As I wrote “I am not very proud of it” (sense of sin section) the lyrics of the current song were “I still do things that I shouldn’t do”.

Here is the full paragraph from Mysticism:

All these forms of the Dark Night—the “Absence of God,” the sense of sin, the dark ecstasy, the loss of the self’s old passion, peace, and joy, and its apparent relapse to lower spiritual and mental levels—are considered by the mystics themselves to constitute aspects or parts of one and the same process: the final purification of the will or stronghold of personality, that it may be merged without any reserve “in God where it was first.”

The function of this episode of the Mystic Way is to cure the soul of the innate tendency to seek and rest in spiritual joys; to confuse Reality with the joy given by the contemplation of Reality. It is the completion of that ordering of disordered loves, that trans-valuation of values, which the Way of Purgation began.

The ascending self must leave these childish satisfactions; make its love absolutely disinterested, strong, and courageous, abolish all taint of spiritual gluttony. A total abandonment of the individualistic standpoint, of that trivial and egotistic quest of personal satisfaction which thwarts the great movement of the Flowing Light, is the supreme condition of man’s participation in Reality.

Thus is true not only of the complete participation which is possible to the great mystic, but of those unselfish labours in which the initiates of science or of art become to the Eternal Goodness “what his own hand is to a man.”

“Think not,” says Tauler, “that God will be always caressing His children, or shine upon their head, or kindle their hearts as He does at the first. He does so only to lure us to Himself, as the falconer lures the falcon with its gay hood. . . . We must stir up and rouse ourselves and be content to leave off learning, and no more enjoy feeling and warmth, and must now serve the Lord with strenuous industry and at our own cost.”

– Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism, Chapter 9

All of this very much fits my experience. It does seem like a weaning off, a transition from “spiritual childhood” to more maturity and adulthood. I don’t consider myself there at all, but see that that’s the invitation.

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Scott Kiloby: The five most helpful points for awakening

 

The Five Most Helpful Points for Awakening

1. Notice that thought? – Look at it, let it be all by itself.

2. Notice that feeling? Feel it, let it be all by itself.

3. Notice that there is an awareness that seems to remain no matter what thought or feeling is passing through. Notice that this awareness will not save you from having thoughts or experiencing feelings. So just go back to #1.

4. When you think you are still seeking, go back to #1.

5. When you think you are awake, go back to #1.

– Scott Kiloby, Facebook

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Scott Kiloby: Are you having a problem today?

 

Are you having a problem today? Start with feeling the fear underneath the thoughts directly. Welcome it so fully that the feeling is the only thing happening, all by itself. As the feeling vanishes, see if you still have a problem.

– Scott Kiloby, Facebook

Of course, there may still be things to take care of. But the uneasy feeling around it may be befriended, or gone. It may not seem like a “problem” anymore.

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My experience with Lyme in Norway

 

In mid-May, I noticed a numbness in hands, feet, and face, and weakness in my hands. Two weeks later, I discovered a red ring on the underside of my arm, near the armpit. I went to a doctor who thought it could be Lyme disease and gave me a five day antibiotics treatment (this was in the US). The numbness went away after one day.

Two weeks later, in Norway, the symptoms returned and were much stronger. The numbness was back in my hands, feet, and face, and now also tongue and mouth (and a bit later lower arms), along with stiff neck, very strong brain fog and grogginess, and fatigue. (The initial extremely strong fatigue and brain fog could be related to jet lag, and I also have a baseline fatigue and brain fog from the CFS. Although the unusually strong grogginess remains now even after the jetlag is gone.) I also have weak grip (things slip out of my hands), and when I get up after resting I move and feel like an old man.

I had gathered that Lyme is a controversial topic in Norway. The official position seems to be that it’s not very serious, and doesn’t last very long. (If the symptoms are serious or longer lasting, it’s something else.) Doctors who treat this “non-existing” disease in Norway risk loosing their license, and one did even last year.

When I called my regular doctor, I got an appointment the same day by the receptionist. She called back within an hour and said that when the doctor had heard why I wanted to see him, he cancelled the appointment and said I could possibly get an appointment two months later. A bright spot: Some days later, I was able to get an appointment. My doctor looked at the red ring, did some neurological tests, and agreed that Lyme is a probable diagnosis. He gave me a relatively mild two-week antibiotics treatment.

From what I understand, it’s important to treat it more thoroughly, especially early on, to prevent problems later on. I got the names of some doctors who may be more knowledgeable about Lyme, and contacted several of them. The pattern was the same with all of them: When they heard why I wanted to see them, they either didn’t respond or said they possibly had an appointment about two months in the future (and to call them then to set it up).

The essence is that it seems impossible to get quality treatment for Lyme disease in Norway. That’s why most Norwegians with Lyme disease go to Germany or Poland to see doctors there.

Several things come up for me around this:

I had expected Norwegian doctors to at least have the integrity to tell me they can’t treat me since they may loose their license if they do. Instead, they either cancel my appointment, don’t respond, or tell me to call back in two months (which is profoundly irresponsible considering my symptoms).

Since there is disagreement about Lyme internationally, I would expect the Norwegian doctors and government to take a precautionary approach. To treat any possible or likely Lyme disease thoroughly (initial four or six week antibiotics treatment + anti-cyst medication). Instead, they do the opposite and chose to either not treat it, or treat it in a way that may make it worse in the long run (too short and too mild antibiotics treatment).

I don’t know the politics around this, but the official policy on Lyme in Norway does seem to be influenced by politics, and perhaps arrogance and wounded egos. The casualty are all the people who are unable to receive proper treatment, or have to go abroad – often at great cost – to get proper treatment. (I won’t be surprised if this is used as an example of blind arrogance in medicine in a few years or decades.)

I should mention that I am among the more cautious when it comes to using medication and antibiotics (also to reduce the risk of creating more antibiotic resistant strains), but in this case, the risks of leaving it untreated or wrongly treated seem serious enough so I chose to go the medical route.

This also triggers the victim identity in me, since it comes on top of my existing struggles with CFS, and it happened just as I left the US (where I could have received proper treatment) for Norway (where I can’t).

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Processed food and hopelessness 

 

Nothing new here, but a useful reminder:

I went walking in the woods yesterday. The journey, which was intended to be brief, ended up much longer than planned, and I eventually found myself quite hungry and somewhere I hadn’t been before. There was a McDonald’s there and a bus heading back to the house, so I decided to have a meal at McDonald’s, as part of the adventure. (A meal with milk shake and ice cream.)

Predictably, I didn’t feel good for the rest of the day and the morning after. And specifically, I noticed hopelessness and sluggishness set in, along with a craving for more dairy and junk food. I usually don’t eat/drink dairy, apart from some kefir, because I feel sluggish from it. And I usually don’t eat junk food (fast food, sweets, chips etc.) because my system feels off when I do, and it does seem to bring about a sense of hopelessness for me. Another reason I mostly avoid this is that junk food creates a craving for more junk food. It feeds on itself.

For me, the effects of foods are most noticeable in how they affect my mind. Dairy makes me feel sluggish and drowsy. Sugar makes me feel drained and tired. Wheat makes my mind feel a bit weird and off. Junk food creates hopelessness. And so on. It seems that highly processed foods tend to fuel and activate painful beliefs, identifications, and a victim mentality, at least in my experience. Vegetables, moderate amounts of fruit, and non-wheat grains are usually fine, as are most unprocessed foods.

Now, two days later, the effects are mostly gone. I had a strong craving for more junk food yesterday (anything would have done), but didn’t indulge so it’s mostly gone today. My mind also feels more clear again.

From talking with others, it seems that I am not the only one experiencing heavily processed food in this way. It’s almost astonishing that they are allowed to sell and advertise it. Especially knowing that the food itself is designed, and intentionally so, to create more cravings for it. It’s a drug you can become addicted to. It does impact the mind (and obviously the body) quite strongly, and not in a favorable way. And it doesn’t provide any (real) value beyond that of less processed foods. To put it crudely, it’s there to line the coffers of large corporations.

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Gospel of Thomas: If you bring forth what is within you

 

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.

Gospel of Thomas, verse 70

Here is one way of understanding this.

What’s within me includes both wounds and gifts. And the saying applies to both.

If I don’t bring my wounds forth, into the light of awareness, it will destroy me. They will continue to operate in me, and influence how I perceive and act in the world. And if I do – if I bring awareness, love, kindness, gentle curiosity to my wounds – it will save me. The wounds are not only OK, but become gifts.

If I bring my gifts forth, if I develop and apply them, they will save me. They will benefit me and others. (If done with kindness and skill.) If I don’t bring my gifts forth, it may destroy me. It may remain as a  gnawing discomfort in me.

In both cases, not bringing it forth tends to come from unquestioned fear. Continuing to not bring it forth means I am reinforcing those unquestioned fears. So those fears may be among the first I bring forth. I can bring them into awareness, meet them with kindness and love, and question the stories creating the fears.

I should also mention that the labels “wounds” and “gifts” are used in a conventional sense here, and it’s worth questioning these labels. Can I find a particular wound, or wounds in general? Can I find a particular gift, or gifts in general? When I look, can I find it outside of my own images, words, and sensations? And are those it?

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Hell, heaven, purgatory

 

If in heaven you believed everything you believed here on earth, where would you be?

– Byron Katie

Hell, heaven, even purgatory are states of mind, and we experience them here and now.

Hell. In a way, it’s true that people who hurt others go to hell, because hurting others comes from a hellish mind state. It comes from believing painful thoughts. It often comes from unhealed trauma.

People who Christians traditionally thought would go to hell often already are in hell. Their actions comes from a hellish mind state.

And when I say “people” I mean (just about) all of us, including myself. I sometimes experience and act from a hellish mind state. It may not always be as extreme as it sometimes is for us humans, but it’s still a hellish mind state, and it can lead to actions that sometimes hurts others (in an ordinary, everyday sense).

Heaven. Similarly, we all sometimes experience heaven. We find ourselves in heavenly mind states. These come about in three ways.

(a) When things go our way. When life conforms to our shoulds.

(b) When we find peace with what is, as it is.

(c) When we meet our experiences and our world with heaven, with love, kindness, noticing, feeling, allowing (the content of our current experience).

The first of these is somewhat outside of our control. We are dependent on life circumstances for this form of heaven to happen. The third comes from intention, practice, and creating new ways of relating to our experiences and our world. We create our own heaven, by relating to our world in a heavenly way. (It’s much simpler and more ordinary than that may sound.) It doesn’t just happen, we make it happen in an active and engaged way. And the second comes from the third.

Purgatory. This is what happens on the way from hell to heaven, on the way from a hellish mind state to a heavenly mind state. It may happen in inquiry, when we look at and feel hell as part of the exploration, eventually leading to finding more peace with it. It may happen in TRE, when trembling releases old and previously unresolved emotions and memories. It may happen just as part of life, when old unresolved things surface with an invitation to see it, feel it, find love for it as it is (to meet it with heaven).

I usually don’t use these words, since they belong to a different worldview than the ones I am more comfortable with. But it’s sometimes helpful to use terminology from our mainstream culture to bridge and explore. (It also bridges something in me.)

And yes, I know that the ideas of heaven and hell come from Christianity and not Jesus. They are not found in the New Testament in the way they later came to be understood. They are created by the Christian tradition. And even within that tradition, there are many ways to understand these words.

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This is who you are not

 

I am often a nine on the enneagram. I am an Aquarius with the moon in Leo. I score high on openness to experience. I have many identities in the world, from conventional to more fringy sources.

And that’s all what I am not.

It may be how I appear in the world. Some of it may point to how I operate as a human being. And yet, it changes. It changes over situations and with time. And it’s not who or what I am. It doesn’t limit me, unless I believe the identities and live from them as if they are true. Also, if I look for the peacemaker, or the Aquarius, or the one open to experience, can I find that one? Can I find that one, outside of my own images, words, and associated sensations?

It’s not either/or. These identities may fit, to a certain extent, in terms of how I am in the world. And yet, they are unable to limit me or anyone or anything. Life is not bound by our labels. And when I look, I cannot find any of these identities as a real tangible thing. It’s unfindable.

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Victim identity

 

The last few years, it seems that life has made an extra effort to set up situations where my victim identity comes to the surface. (Illness, loss of relationships, loss of house, loss of friends, feeling alone and unsupported, fear of the future etc.)

It’s easy to tell myself life is doing it so the victim identification can be resolved in me. It’s life squeezing what’s left out of me (as Adya said would happen). It’s easy to tell myself these stories, although I see that I am the one who wants it to be resolved in me. I am the one squeezing what’s left out of me. And I see how I contribute to create these situations.

Life sets it up —> I set it up.

Life wants me to…. —> I want me to….

That’s more true for me, and I can find specific examples of how each is true.

The victim identity alone is images and words. Add associated sensations (velcro), and there is identification. The identity seems more solid and real, and it seems what I am.

At times, the identification is activated and seems solid, real, and what I am. And other times, it may be in the background while still influencing how I perceive and live in the world, and it’s also partially dormant waiting to be triggered and brought to life again by my mind.

So how can it be resolved? I know some ways that doesn’t seem to bring resolution: Ignoring it, trying to push it away, denying it, distracting myself from it, making myself feel good temporarily.

What are some other ways?

Notice and allow. Notice images, words, sensations. Allow. Notice they are already allowed.

Find love for it. Find kindness and love for the victim me, for the images, words, and sensations, for the victim me in the past. Perhaps use ho’oponopono, or loving kindness, or tonglen. Scan back in time, find times where the victim identity came up, and find love and kindness for myself then.

Inquire into it. Can I find the victim me? Can I find the threat? Can I find a command to be a victim, or not be a victim? What’s the worst that can happen if I am a victim? If I am not? When do I remember first feeling like a victim? Can I find the victim me in those memories? Can I find the threat there? A command to be a victim, or not be a victim?

Include the body. Use therapeutic tremors (Tension and Trauma Release Exercises, TRE). Bring the victim identity, and the situations triggering it, to mind while trembling. Go for walks, eat well, spend time in nature, do yoga (Tai Chi, Chi Gong, Breema etc.) as a support for my life, and for finding love for the victim identity and doing inquiry on it.

Ask for support. Ask life (God, Spirit) for support. Ask friends and family for support, if that seems appropriate. Ask people with helpful skills for support through facilitating inquiry and whatever else may support resolution.

What do I mean with resolution? It doesn’t mean making it go away. It does mean inviting in a shift in how I relate to it – the victim identity, identification, and anything else coming up around it.

It means notice and allow.

Finding love and kindness towards it. (Including from seeing that the victim identification is innocent, and comes from a wish to protect the me. It comes from love and kindness. It’s worried love.)

Inquire into it, to see what’s already there. See how the mind creates the victim identity and identification. See any associated images, words, and sensations.

It means treating it – the victim identity, identification, and anything associated with it – with respect. It’s there for a reason. When I see it’s there to protect me, it comes from love, it’s innocent, then it’s natural to find respect for it.

It means seeing that it really, honestly, doesn’t need to go away. When I find kindness and love for it, when I see it’s from love, when I see how the mind creates the victim identity and identification, then I also see it really doesn’t need to go away.

When I see the images as images, words as words, and sensations as sensations, and take time to feel the sensations as sensations, then I see it’s all OK. It’s all innocent. It’s all OK as is. It really, truly, doesn’t need to go away.

Also, when it doesn’t control me or my life anymore, it’s clear it doesn’t need to go away.

Similarly, when it finds it’s own liberation, it doesn’t need to act as strongly to get my attention. When it finds it’s own liberation from being mistreated, vilified, and pushed away by me, it naturally tends to quiet down, and it’s clear it doesn’t need to go away.

As always, knowing this can be helpful. It’s a first step. Even knowing it from previous experience, from a memory, is a first step. It’s like having a menu, or medicine in your hand. And what matters is actually applying it. Actually doing it. Actually ordering the food and eating it. Actually taking the medicine. And doing it wholeheartedly. Doing it thoroughly.

I see that the victim identity is quite central to my deficiency stories. Perhaps it’s like that for most of us. As soon as there is identification, the victim identification is set up to come alive. Even when we construct elaborate ways to deal with it, it may still be there underneath.

Our ways to deal with the victim identification may include creating an identity as as strong, capable or independent. Nurturing supportive friends and family. Using our natural strengths such as intelligence, knowledge storage, friendliness. Creating a life that’s safe materially and in as many other ways we can. All of these are fine, and many are even ways to be a good steward of our life.

And yet, the victim identification may still be there, and when it comes to the surface it’s good to notice, and perhaps explore it a bit. Sometimes, it’s so much in our face that we don’t seem to have many other options than really taking it seriously.

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When did you first experience X?

 

When I facilitate a Living Inquiry session these days, with myself or a client, I often ask:

When did you first experience X?

When do you remember first having that feeling? Sensation?

When do you remember first feeling X? (Unlovable, not enough, better than etc.)

And I then explore that situation for a while, to see what’s there.

Very often, the velcro was initially created in childhood, as a protection. And we then continued recreating it and bringing it with us into adult life and the current situation.

We keep recreating it, because not doing so seems threatening.

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Jesus Christ

Would Christians be delighted?

 

At the end of the gypsy episode of Stuff You Should Know, the hosts reads a listener email asking them if you could go back in time, where and when would you go, and what would you bring?

One of the hosts said he would go back to the time and location of Jesus, and bring a video recorder. Both hosts seems to think that Christians today would be delighted by the footage.

I am not so sure, and the reasons seem obvious.

We don’t know if Jesus was a historical person. It’s quite possible he wasn’t, and it’s also possible he was. We just don’t know. We don’t have sufficient historical information. (The information we have is all from the Christian tradition, which isn’t an independent source.)

Even if he was a historical person, what he said and did may not be represented accurately in the New Testament. The NT stories were written down decades and centuries after he lived, and they were written by people with their own understandings and agendas. The “real” Jesus may have been quite different from how he was represented there.

What we do know is that all or nearly all of the vital elements of the Jesus story are found in a wide range of earlier religions and spiritual traditions around the Mediterranean. (See, for instance, The Jesus Mysteries by Peter Gandi and Tim Freke.)

It may be that Jesus is an invented figure, used to convey (valid and important) spiritual principles and pointers.

It’s also possible that he was a historical figure, and later followers added familiar stories from existing regional traditions, either to make the Jesus story more familiar and attractive, or to convey spiritual messages and pointers.

It’s even possible that Jesus was a historical figure, and his life just happened to fit into all these existing stories. This seems quite unlikely, although theoretically possible.

Even if the footage did show Jesus as (a) not an historical figure, or (b) quite different from how the NT portrays him, some Christians would still be delighted. And that’s the Christians who genuinely are OK with Jesus (a) not being a historical figure, and (b) not being accurately represented in the NT.

It’s fully possible to have a deep relationship with Jesus/Christ, and still be OK with these two things. The Jesus story is still full of important and helpful metaphors for our own spiritual path. Christ is still a powerful and transformative presence. In short, it’s fully possible to have a deep and alive relationship with Christ, and still be intellectually honest.

It’s also simpler because it is more honest, and it reveals the essence of Jesus/Christ more clearly. It reveals the important pointers and metaphors in the Jesus story. It reveals the importance of the alive presence of Christ. It strips away the peripheral things.

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Enlightenment is….

 

In my mind, enlightenment can be defined quite simply:

Seeing images as images. Words as words. Sensations as sensations.

It sounds so simple – and perhaps ordinary – that many will probably reject that definition. That’s understandable. And yet, it’s the simplest, most clear, and most accurate pointer I can come up with now. It’s the one closest to my own immediate experience.

This means that we can, as Byron Katie points out, be enlightened to the thought that’s here or not. It’s clear that we can tend to be enlightened to thoughts to different degrees. And yet, what really matters is how enlightened I am to the thought that’s here and now.

Some side notes:

As so many point out, it’s not that a person is enlightened or not enlightened. It’s the thought of a person that “we” are enlightened to. We recognize the images, words, and sensations creating the appearance of a particular self as images, words, and sensations. (And “we” here means…. what a thought may call consciousness, presence, that which images, words, and sensations happen within and as.)

As implied above, I am suspicious of the idea of “being enlightened” in general. Obviously, there is a tendency to see images, words and sensations as images, words and sensations (or not), and this tendency may be relatively stable (or not), and may deepen over time (or not). And yet, even if there is such as tendency, it’s still possible – and sometimes inevitable – to get caught in the apparent reality of the creations of our own mind. We may still be mesmerized by our own imaginations. That especially seems to happen when traumas are triggered. Deficient selves that we haven’t yet thoroughly examined.

This is all much simpler and more ordinary than how many spiritual traditions presents it. I don’t really know why they present it in a way that seems more extraordinary, mystical, and unachievable. Is it to get more followers? Because many people in the traditions didn’t quite get it themselves, and created fantasies about it? Because the main role of traditions is to maintain themselves, and they are not primarily about reality and truth? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s a combination of these things and more.

Also, saying that I am enlightened (or not) to the thought that’s here and now, makes it sound a bit simpler than it is. Right now, there may be several thoughts and beliefs operating in me, and I am aware of only one or a few. Many of the unquestioned thoughts I operate from are partly or completely outside of my conscious awareness. And yet, through inquiry, they do tend to come to the surface. They seek the light, when it’s available to them. It just requires some attention, intention, and sincerity. And it’s ongoing. It’s an ongoing exploration.

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It’s not easy to believe a thought

 

It’s not easy to believe a thought.

It takes a lot of effort.

It’s stressful.

It needs to be maintained here and now.

And more than that….

 It needs to be elaborated upon. If it’s true, other stories follow from it, and these needs to be taken as true as well, and maintained as true.

It’s underlying assumptions must be reaffirmed and supported.

We need to filter our experience of the world through it.

We need to defend the truth of the story, since it is or will be out of alignment with aspects of reality. We need to defend it against other stories which may invalidate it.

We need to contract muscles to create persistent sensations which can support taking the thought as true, through lending the thought charge, and a sense of solidity and reality.

That’s why there is often a deep sense of relief when any particular belief is seen through and – even in temporarily – falls away. And it’s why there is even more of a deep relief when beliefs in general fall away, even if temporarily and in a glimpse or for a period of time.

From this perspective, the primary question isn’t why is it so difficult to awaken? (Although that’s a valid question.) It’s more, how come we go through all this effort to stay in our own dream world, specially considering it’s often painful? 

I don’t really have the answers to that. Although I suspect part of the answer is a combination of two quite simple things.

We do it because that’s what those around us do. As babies, we look to the adults in our life for cues about how to live here, so we follow them. In Rome, do as Romans do. It’s very innocent and understandable.

Also, intentional thought is a relatively new tool in our evolution. We are still grappling with how to use it effectively. We still stumble in how we use it. We take our own thoughts as real and true, even if they are simply thoughts and are better used as practical tools for navigating the world. This too is innocent and understandable.

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Body contractions follow and make possible stressful beliefs

 

It’s easy to think of body contractions as an effect of stressful beliefs (Velcro, identifications), and that’s accurate enough. It does seem that stressful beliefs create bodily contractions, and persistent and persistently retriggered beliefs may create persistent and chronic body contractions.

And the reverse may be true too.

Body contractions fuel stressful beliefs, and with it unquestioned fears, deficient and inflated selves, reactivity, and compulsions. Without body contractions, it may not even be possible to believe a stressful thought.

As I have written about before (long before I got into the Living Inquiries), it seems that in order to believe a thought, it has to be associated with sensations. These sensations lends a charge, and sense of solidity and reality, to the thought, so it’s possible to hold it as real and true.

So in order to believe a thought, the body-mind tenses certain muscles to create sensations which in turn can be used to give charge and lend a sense of solidity and reality to the thought. That’s, at least, one way to look at it.

It’s really not easy to believe a thought, so tensing muscles is one way to make it easier and more possible. And when the stressful belief is persistent and recurrent, it tends to require a persistent and/or recurrent body contraction.

This is one reason it can be very helpful to work at this – stressful beliefs, anxiety, depression, compulsions, addictions – from both the mind and body sides. We can do inquiry, loving kindness, ho’oponopono, natural rest and more. And we can massage the contraction, release tension through therapeutic tremors (TRE), do yoga, receive bodywork, and more. These approaches go hand in hand, along with working with the larger social system if possible, spending time in nature, engage in physical activities, improving the diet, and whatever else is helpful.

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Why things go wrong in a dark night

 

Recent experiences has brought me back to this topic:

Why do things tend to go wrong in a dark night of the soul?

When I use the term dark night of the soul here, I use it the same way Evelyn Underhill does in Mysticism, largely because the phases and how she describes them fit my experience. I am aware that the types, sequence, and characteristics of the phases people go through can vary quite a bit.

So why do things tend to go wrong in a dark night of the soul phase? Why do things fall apart or away? Why do things tend to not go “our way”?

In terms of contrast: It’s often reverse of the honeymoon phase

A dark night of the soul tend to follow an initial awakening and initial honeymoon phase. During this phase, life seems easy, joyful, and seems to mainly go “our way”. For me, there was a sense of being deeply on track, being held in God’s hand, and living a life full of amazing serendipities.

The following dark night phase has been the reverse of this, and it’s even more noticeable – and sometimes more painful – because of the contrast.

At a big picture level: Life squeezing out what’s left in us

A dark night of the soul is life squeezing out what’s left in us. It’s life rubbing up against remaining identifications (velcro, beliefs) in us, with an invitation for it to wear out, be seen through, and/or loved as is.

Central to this is life flushing out the victim identity in us. It comes to the surface, we cannot escape it, and are invited to meet it, examine it, find love for it as it is.

When I had a meeting with Adyashanti some years ago, he said I would find myself in this situation. And he used the words “life squeezing what’s left out of you”. That’s very much how it feels. I feel squeezed.

Flushing out what’s left from the inside: Victim identities and more

Along with all this, there also seems to be an inner impulse to flush out what’s left. Old wounds, traumas, hurts, pain seems to steadily come to the surface. With an invitation to examine unexamined painful stories, love the unloved, feel the unfelt.

They seem to surface even in the absence of “external” life circumstances and triggers, and although life certainly also has brought a lot of these triggers into my life during this phase. The internal impulse to flush out, and the external triggers, often go hand in hand.

And yes, I know there isn’t really anything internal or external. It’s all part of a seamless whole, all part of this seamless field of awareness. At the same time, it can be helpful to differentiate a bit using these words.

What’s missing: Lack of trust, confidence, resources

In this phase, it’s easy to lose heart. A sense of confidence, trust, and being able to rely on inner and outer resources may be among what’s lost. It’s been that way for me. It’s very humbling, and invites me to see what’s here without the possible defense or refuge of confidence, trust, and knowing I can rely on inner and outer resources. It makes me more naked.

At a more conventional level: Messiness begets messiness

When “the lid is taken off” our wounds and unresolved trauma, and these come to the surface and into focus, our life may reflect this (apparent) turmoil. We may act from these wounds, which in turn tends to create messy situations.

Inner messiness, confusion, and turmoil tends to be reflected in outer messiness, confusion, and turmoil. That’s how it’s been for me. Sometimes more than other times, and in some areas of life more than other.

Questioning the more basic ideas: Right & wrong, dark night, awakening, threats, someone going through it

As long as we hold onto ideas of certain things in our life going right or wrong, and the idea of right and wrong itself, life will rub up against it. Life will inevitably bring us into situations that we feel are wrong, or where something went wrong. (When I say “life” I could easily say “I” here, which would refer to both my human self and also the Big Mind/Heart/Belly Self.)

That’s an invitation for us to question our stories about right and wrong, look at the deficient and inflated selves our life situations brings up (victim, the one in control etc.), and find love for the unloved parts of us and our experience.

Falling away or apart is not the same as going wrong. That something goes against my preferences doesn’t even mean it’s wrong. When things fall away or apart, and it brings up the story of something going wrong, it comes with an invitation to look at that story.

Even the idea of a dark night is good to look at. Can I find it, outside of images, words and sensations? Can I find a threat? What’s the best that can happen? The worst?

And can I find someone going through a dark night? A victim? Someone going through an awakening process? Someone who is squeezed by life? Someone who has something going wrong, or right?

Healing, maturing, deepening

This phase can be a phase of healing, maturing, and deepening. A deepening in trust, prayer, inquiry, love, presence. A healing of old wounds and traumas. A maturing as an ordinary human being in the world.

It’s especially so when we align with this. When we intentionally allow this to happen. When we intentionally play along with it. (Instead of opposing it, resisting, complaining, although that too is often part of the process, and can eventually lead to further healing, maturing, and deepening. That too is part of being human, and noticing what’s here.)

Embracing it all: Being human

This too is part of the dark night of the soul. Embracing it all. Being human. Noticing what’s here. Notice and even find kindness for my human frailties, weaknesses, and  imperfections. I am human, as anyone else. I am no different. We are all in the same boat. There is a huge relief in admitting this, and really seeing it, feeling it, and taking it in.

The initial awakening and honeymoon phase may be a phase of transcendence. A phase of transcending, at least temporarily, our human frailties and weaknesses. The dark night of the soul is an invitation to embrace, get to know, and find kindness for my very human weaknesses and messiness.

Three centers: Including the heart and belly

For me, the initial awakening was a “head center” awakening, a recognition and seeing of all as Spirit. Shortly after, the heart came in, with a love of all as Spirit, and a recognition of all (and Spirit) as love.

The dark night of the soul seems to be a cleaning out of the belly center for me, of the emotional wounds, traumas, and traumas related to the primal survival instincts. It seems to open for a more deeply lived and felt sense of all as Spirit.

Is there a guarantee?

Reading Everlyn Underhill, it seems that the dark night of the soul inevitably leads to a clarification, maturing, and deepening. But that’s because she took people who had gone through it and come out on the other side as examples.

She didn’t look at those who may have gotten lost in despair, resentment, pain, and reactivity, perhaps for decades and the rest of their lives.

Is there a guarantee that this phase will lead to clarification, maturing, and deepening? Will this happen on its own? I don’t think so. I think it’s up to us to intentionally align with and support this process. It requires intention, sincerity, and work. It requires readiness.

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Velcro is velcro

 

Velcro is velcro.

It doesn’t matter what the story is seemingly about: something people agree happened (consensus reality), a dream, a vision, a fantasy, an apparent memory of a past life, a delusion. In any case, it can be helpful to explore it and unvelcro whatever may be stuck to it.

I was reminded of this with a client who said he has received visions and messages from God. Some may say it’s delusional. Others may see it as relatively normal. It just depends on how well it fits into our existing world view, and what we see as possible.

And it doesn’t matter. If there is stress around it, it can still be helpful to look at the images, words, and sensations making up the experience, and help loosen or release the velcro (sensations stuck on images and words).
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Historical perspectives: Including nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations

 

I just listened to the Revisionist History episode of Stuff You Should Know.

As they suggest, all history is by nature revisionist. We always change how we see and interpret the past, based on what’s important to us now (and sometimes just new information).

For a while now, historians have looked more at economy and class, gender, ethnicity, religion, and more. They have used these as filters, and looked at history from the perspective of groups previously left out such as women, children, non-European ethnic groups, the working class and poor, and religious minorities.

Two things were not mentioned in the podcast:

First, the difference between focusing on “ordinary” people vs. extraordinary people in history. Both has it’s value, and more historians are now focusing on the history of the ordinary people. How was their life and conditions? (This was a big part of my history classes in school.)

The other is looking at history through the filter of nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations. If history is, at least partly, about giving voice to the voiceless, and giving focus to the previously invisible, then this has to be included. How has our actions through history impacted nonhuman species and ecosystems, and also future generations? How have we treated these? How have they been ignored, or included and valued, in our decision process? 

A Green History of the World by Clive Pointing is an example from the 90s, and many people in the Deep Ecology and ecopsychology world have addressed the topic, but it’s still not included in mainstream history. It will, most likely, and perhaps sooner rather than later as ecological and sustainability issues become more and more obviously important to us.

Some green history questions that come to mind:

How have we (humans, at different places and times through history) treated the nonhuman world? How have we treated nonhuman species, nature, ecosystems? How have we treated future generations? (Both human and nonhuman.)

Have they been ignored? Included in our decision making? Respected? Have we been blind to them? Have we justified mistreatment of them, and how?

And why? How has our world view, values, fears, survival needs and more influenced this?

What can we learn from this? How does it apply to our current situation? What are the lessons?

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Phantom sensations

 

A client mentioned phantom sensations the other day, and I remember experiencing something similar early on with inquiry.

There is initially an unexamined and diffuse feeling of something “out there” outside of the body. For me, I especially remember it outside of and around the head. When I looked, I found sensations in the face and head, and an image of these sensations outside of and around the head. I also found words such as “diffuse” and whatever I took these sensations to mean. (Which I don’t remember anymore.)

So from a diffuse feeling of something around the head, it clarified into noticing it as actual and ordinary sensations in the head, clear images of something diffuse and fuzzy around the head, and words telling me what the apparent meaning of these were. Sensations are recognized as sensations. Images as images. Words as words.

The charge went out of it, and the meaning was recognized as created by my own mind and not inherent in anything outside of my own words and images.

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Mirroring in two ways 

 

When we use mirroring in inquiry, it can be done in at least two ways.

For instance, say I see someone as lazy, trying to get away with minimum effort, just going through the motions. How does he mirror me?

I can find what I see in himself in me. The easiest is perhaps to write down what I see in him, turn it around to myself, and then find specific examples of how it applies to me – in that situation, and other situations.

I am lazy. Ex1: I am lazy in the same way as him. I too sometimes go on the internet instead of doing my task. Ex2: I am lazy in how I see him and me. I put a label on both of us, and didn’t initially question it. Ex3: I am sometimes lazy when I do inquiry. I go to familiar answers, instead of looking afresh and seeing what’s really there. I sometimes am satisfied by just casually and intellectually finding answers, instead of letting it really sink in and change me.

What does it say about me? He is lazy, just going through the motions. What does it say about me? What person am I in relation to him, when he is that way? I am better. I am conscientious. I do the right thing. I am more likeable. More dependable. In this case, these may be inflated selves, and I can explore these in inquiry.

The first is a reversal of what I tell myself about him. It may help me see myself as the same boat as him. This is one element of The Work.

The second is exploring how I see myself in relation to him. This is an exploration of deficient or inflated selves. This is an element in the Living Inquiries. (A boomerang, used to find a self we can then look for through the Unfindable Inquiry.)

In both cases, I use how I see him – and me in relation to him – to find what’s more true than my initial assumptions. I get to see how I create these assumptions out of unquestioned and unloved fears.

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Even the strongest contraction happens within boundless space 

 

That’s it, really.

Even the strongest contraction happens within boundless space.

If I don’t notice that, attention may get absorbed into the contraction itself and the stories creating and reacting to it. I may experience my world becoming hard and small, and experience and act from that hard and small world.

When I do notice the boundless space it’s all happening within and as, something shifts. It’s all allowed to be as it is, and it feels less small, less contracted, perhaps even less real and solid. The qualities of the space I am noticing becomes my experience, and what I am. It always was and is what I am, and by noticing it there is a shift.

It’s pretty obvious. When all I notice is my contraction and contraction-inducing stories, that’s how I experience myself and my world. When I notice the boundless space it’s all happening within and as, that’s how I experience myself and my world.

Why is it boundless? How can I explore the boundlessness? The easiest is to notice that any boundary is imagined, it’s created by my own images and perhaps words, sometimes associated with sensations, and these too happen within space. Any boundary happens within space, so the space itself is boundless.

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TRE and back pain

 

Therapeutic tremors – the ones all mammals have after stress or shock, and is initiated through the Tension & Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) – heal the organism, and doesn’t seem to differentiate between body and mind. The healing happens wherever it’s needed.

One healing that happened early on for me was my lower back. I have scoliosis (still there), and used to have days where my back seized up and I stayed in bed for half a day or a full day to recover.

During the first few weeks of doing TRE, I had periods of soreness in the lower back, and trusted that it was part of the healing process. (While I also monitored it, and adjusted the frequency and length of my TRE sessions, so it wouldn’t get too uncomfortable.) After some weeks, or perhaps months, I noticed that the muscles in my lower back felt much softer and healthier, and it has continued to be that way.

There are still areas of chronic tension in my body, most notably in my shoulders. The shaking goes up there, as it has for a while, but I have – for whatever reason – taken that process a bit slower.

 

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Self control vs seeing through 

 

A client mentioned a few times that he needs more self-control.

If we take our urges to be solid and real, then it seems we need self-control to deal with or oppose them. That’s stressful. It creates a sense of struggle, and we may even lose that struggle.

Fortunately, there is another way.

We can examine the urge. How is it created? What images, words, and sensations makes it up? Can I find the urge in any one of the images, words, and sensations? Do any of them tell me to do something? And if it does, what images, words, and sensations tells me it does?

As I explore this, and get to see the images, words, and sensations making up the urge, the urge itself may soften or fall away. And as it does, self-control is revealed as not needed. (Of course, self-control can be explored in a similar way. Can I actually find what self-control seems to refer to? What images, words, and sensations makes up what appears as self-control? What’s the threat if I don’t have or use self-control?)

I should also mention that urges are often connected to a persistent body contraction, and this may need more exploration and work. There may be more images and words connected to the contraction,  creating and reacting to it. Physical activities, including TRE, yoga, and massage, may help release the tension and the contraction. As the contraction soften and releases, the urge may too, since bodily contractions seem to fuel urges and compulsions.

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Testimonial: Living Inquiries

 

Thank you for facilitating inquiry with me with such exquisite skill, precision, and gentleness. I was often surprised at what came up in sessions, but no matter what it was, you provided a space of complete acceptance and deep respect. I felt held, and safe to unfold layers of painful stories that have been with me for years.

As a result, I would leave each time feeling lighter and more alive. I also gained confidence in my ability to sit with any feeling that might arise, which in turn has greatly reduced the compulsions that used to rule my life. I am feeling more and more free as a result of working with you, and for this I am truly grateful.

You have a profound gift for this work. Thank you for sharing it with me, and I hope many more can receive the gift of this powerfully transformative work as well.

– With deep gratitude, AJ

I just received this very nice card / testimonial and thought I would share. I am available to do inquiry sessions over Skype.

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Scan timeline of my life: love, then inquiry as needed

 

Here is a simple and quite thorough process that I sometimes use:

Scan the timeline of my life. Go back from now to birth, or forward from birth to now. Or jump around to situations that stand out, and then scan as a check to see what’s left.

Find love for myself as I was then, for others in my life, and whatever else is salient in the situation. (Health, anxiety, depression, anger, school, etc.)

If the love feels easy, natural, and genuine, then stay with it for a while, and move on to the next situation in the timeline.

If it feels sticky, or difficult, or there is resistance, then take the situation to inquiry. After inquiry, check by finding love for it. If it feels easy and natural, then move on to what’s next. If it’s still sticky, do some more inquiry, perhaps from another angle.

For me, finding love is easiest now using ho’oponopono, although other approaches can also be used.

The inquiry can be The Work, or the Living Inquiries (what I usually land on now), or the Big Mind process, or some other form of inquiry – preferable somewhat structured.

I have to admit that I have used the “jumping around” approach mostly, up to now, but am inclined to scan more systematically now.

It’s also possible to scan forward in time, looking at situations that I imagine may be coming up, including scary ones. After all, they are all made up images, words, and sensations – just like the past and present.

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Breatharians

 

When we get into spirituality, it can be from love for reality and love and life.

It can also be to escape something. And that compulsion to escape can take different forms and be more or less strong.

I was reminded of this when I heard of someone who was interested in breatharians. (People who apparently live on sunlight and breath alone, and no food.) The first that comes up for me around that is:

What do you hope to get out of it?

What do you want to escape? Which feeling here and now? What in your life? Where is the threat?

With the breatharian fascination, it’s relatively easy to spot since it’s unusual and a bit extreme. It’s often pretty clear that he or she is trying to escape something, including their body and the feelings (and perhaps trauma) found there.

And this may be there in any spiritual seeking. There is often a component of wanting to escape something. And that can be very helpful to look at.

With breatharians, I assume some – perhaps quite a few – are scam artists. For all I know, it’s possible that it’s genuine in some cases, and that would be an interesting topic for science. And for me, it’s not really that interesting either way.

My fascination is more around finding love for myself and life, inquire into sticky and painful stories, live in a way that supports life, and be as good steward of my life as I can. And there too, there may be something I wish to escape (I know there is), which in turn creates a slight compulsion. It’s good to look at.

What do the breatharian fans mirror back about me?

(a) I am better than them. More evolved. More clear. More down to earth. More practical. More going to the essence.

(b) I am no different from them. I too use spirituality – my own form of spirituality – to escape something. To escape discomfort. Trauma.

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Byron Katie: There is no other

 

There is no other. There is nothing that isn’t born out of you.

– Byron Katie

My world is my own world of images, words, and sense experiences. My world is what I am. It all happens within and as this field of awareness. In that sense, there is no “other”. It’s all born out of me. And “me” here means this field of awareness it’s all happening within and as.

What’s more accurate is that “other” is unfindable. I cannot find others – or the world, or me, or anything – outside of my own images, words, and sense experiences. And unfindable doesn’t mean doesn’t exist.

In any case, for practical reasons, it makes sense to assume that there are others, and a world, and me, and the rest. It helps me orient, navigate, and function in the world. One doesn’t exclude the other.

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I won’t heal

 

A common fear is I won’t heal.

I am broken beyond repair. I am unhealable. It won’t work.

I see that in myself too, and I see how it sometimes stops me from doing inquiry, and especially self-inquiry.

Look at the words “I won’t heal”. Is there a threat in the words? Yes, I notice a reaction in face, throat, chest.

Feel those sensations. It’s shifting into a deeper sensations in the chest, more of a soreness.

Feel that sensation. I see a picture of darkness, in front of me and inside of me.

Look at that picture. Is it a threat? Yes, I feel it in my stomach.

Feel that. (Looking at more pictures, words, sensations until the threat is untriggerable and unfindable.)

And looking for the one who won’t heal:

Look at the words “I won’t heal”. Are those words you, the one who won’t heal? Yes, sensations in the face and throat.

Feel the sensations. I see a picture of my face and throat.

Look at that picture. Is the picture you, the one who won’t heal? Yes, slight sensation in face, and also throat and stomach.

Feel those sensations. I see a picture of something black in my throat.

Look at that picture. (Sensation in throat, stomach. Picture of me sitting here. Sensations in face. Continuing to look until it’s unfindable and untriggerable.)

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Manipulation and the dark night of the soul

 

What’s a dark night of the soul?

I tend to use the term the way Evelyn Underhill describes it in her book Mysticism. It’s what typically follows an initial awakening or set of awakenings, and an initial honeymoon phase. It seems to be a phase of life squeezing the bulk of what’s left out of us, so it can be seen, felt, and loved. Unexamined identifications come up to be examined. Unloved parts of us surface to be loved. Unfelt emotions come to be felt. It can be experienced as a very dark phase, depending on the duration and intensity of what’s showing up.

As Jeanne Zandi says, any form of manipulation tends to backfire in this period. It just makes things worse. The dark night of the soul seems to be similar to a gestation and birthing process that needs nurturing and support. (And not a problem or illness to be fixed, although there may be things happening during this phase that can benefit from such a approach.)

I notice that if I go as a client to someone who’s trying to “fix me”, it tends to not work. It’s painful, and it often makes things worse for me. It’s happened with spiritual teachers, a therapist, energy work, well-meaning friends, breath work, and more. It feels much too harsh, and it seems to come from a basic misunderstanding of what the dark night of the soul is about.

In the beginning of this phase, I got burnt several times, and now seem to fortunately have wised up a bit.

What does work is allowing and love, and also gentle inquiry to see what’s already here. And that – along with nature, understanding friends, a good diet, some herbal support, rest, and a few other very simple and nurturing things – seems enough.

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Inquiry on victim self

 

Own inquiry on victim identity:

Look at the word “victim”. Is that word you, the victim? (Q1) Yes, I feel it in my throat and chest.

Feel those sensations. Take your time.

Are there any images or words? I see a picture of me sitting here.

Look at that picture. Notice the space between you and the picture. Q1? Yes, I feel sadness.

Feel the sadness. Notice where you feel it. Drop into it. Allow it.

What is your first memory of feeling that feeling? I see a picture of me in London with my parents, exhausted at the end of the day. Angry. Sad. Tired. Despairing. (About 5 years old.)

Look at that picture. Q1? Yes. I feel it in my throat, face, chest, stomach.

Feel the sensations. Take your time.

(I am shortening a section here: An image of me sitting here. The word “victim”. Sensations in face. A surge of energy in face, throat area. Sensations in chest. Picture of me telling a friend a victim story. Sensations in face, throat, chest.)

Sensations in face. What do those sensations mean? I am a victim.

Look at those words, “I am a victim”. Q1? Yes, face.

Feel the sensations. Q1? No.

Look at the picture of you as a kid in London. Q1? (Slightly, face. Feel. Back to picture.) Q1? No.

(Rechecking words, images, until untriggerable and unfindable.)

Experientially, this leaves the victim identity without perceivable charge or stickiness (velcro). It feels more clear. I can still see the words and images, and perhaps feel some of the same sensations, but they don’t seem to make up a “victim” or a self that’s a victim. There is more freedom around this.

In general, it seems that a victim identity and identification happens as soon as there is identification at all. As soon as we take ourselves to be something, that something can be – and will be – the victim of X. Of life, others, ourselves. It’s good to look at.

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