Cherry blossoms in Lucas Valley

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I am now taking private clients. If you have questions about doing a session, or would like to schedule, please contact me. Most sessions are over Skype or Zoom.

Through my work with individual clients and groups in a professional setting, I have helped many with anxiety, depression, and compulsions, and also in clarifying or stabilizing spiritual openings or awakenings.

My background includes a graduate degree in psychology in addition to being certified in Living Inquiries, Vortex Healing, Tension and Trauma Release Exercises, and Breema bodywork. I have worked on my own healing and awakening process for more than two decades under the guidance of spiritual teachers from a range of different traditions.

See testimonials from clients.

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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. Feel free to rate. Thanks!

November 2015 update: I have the book idea(s) on the back burner for the time due to health and other life circumstances. 

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Kindness to all life

 

A saw a new Shambala book called A Plea for the Animals.

It looks interesting, and I am sure it can help shifting something for many who reads it.

Here are a few things that come to me on this topic:

As Buddhism reminds us, all beings wish to be alive, happiness and avoid suffering. They are just like us. We are all alike in this.

When we treat other beings with kindness, we live from kindness and that benefits us and our well-being immediately.

When we consider the far reaching and long term effects of our actions, for all beings and future generations, it’s a practice that benefits us now. The solutions that benefit life overall are most likely the best for us right now as well. (Myoptic solutions often come with serious and unexpected drawbacks.)

If we have human rights, why not extend similar rights to all beings? They too feel, bleed, hunger, wish to stay alive, wish to avoid suffering, and wish for a good life.

It may take some effort to live like this, and most of us won’t do it consistently, but I find it helpful to keep this in mind and use these as guidelines for myself. At the very least, it helps me stay honest. And it may also guide me in my decisions and life.

An additional thought:

It’s important to give a real voice to the voiceless. In this case, non-human beings and future generations. They need someone to speak for them in politics, our legal system, and through our society. They also need real leverage to influence politics and regulations. This will be an important correction to often short-sighted policies and actions, and bring in a bigger-picture thinking that benefits all of us. Big picture thinking often creates better solutions in the long run, and also in the short run (more elegant, efficient, and comprehensive solutions).

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Hafiz: Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”

 

Admit something: Everyone you see,

You say to them, “Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud,

Otherwise someone would call the cops.

 

Still though, think about this,

This great pull in us to connect.

 

Why not become the one who lives

With a full moon in each eye that is always saying,

With that sweet moon language,

What every other eye in this world is dying to hear?

 

– Hafiz & Daniel Ladinsky

Yes. That is the deepest longing in us, and it’s the deepest longing for all parts of us as well. Everyone and everything in us wish to be met in love. In a very real way, any experience is asking for love. And any action that comes from hurt or a sense of lack is asking for love.

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Adyashanti: Life will be as hard or soft as it needs to be

 

Life will be about as hard or as soft it needs to be. It doesn’t care what it takes for you to wake up. Suffering is just a way that life registers that you are holding on to your position.

– Adyashanti

Some may hear this as some entity “life” intentionally deciding to give us a soft or hard life.

In reality, this is just built into life. Holding onto positions is inherently painful because life and reality will rub up against it. And the stronger we hold onto positions, the more painful it will be and life will be experienced as hard.

We don’t really have a choice in how we hold onto positions. Something in us holds onto positions out of a desire to protect us, and out of unquestioned and unloved fear. It’s innocent. It’s automatic. It’s often inherited from our ancestors through biology and culture. And it can soften through meeting that fear, and the innocent wish for protection, in presence, kindness, patience, and gentle curiosity.

Here, waking up may mean a few different things. (a) Waking up to the positions we hold onto. (b) Waking up to how holding onto positions creates suffering, and comes from innocence. (c) Waking up to what we are – the presence it’s all happening within and as – when these positions soften and there is more space for presence to notice itself.

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All made up

 

Sometimes, I hear someone say it’s a made up word. What they mean, of course, is that someone recently made up the word. And really, it’s just a reminder that all words are made up. And that all ideas are made up as well. Anything imagined – including all words and images and all abstractions and ideas – are made up.

All religions, philosophy, science, worldviews, self-images, stories about anything and anyone, are made up. It doesn’t mean they may not be meaningful, or useful, or work well to help us orient and function in the world. Many of them do some or all of those things for us.

But it does mean they are made up. They don’t reflect any absolute or final truth about the world or ourselves or anything else. And they are passed on through generations making up culture, religion, and worldviews that is shared by most or many in a society, and are then made to look final and absolute since so many take them for granted.

Through inquiry, we can begin to undo this sense that these ideas are final or absolute. We get to see how our mind creates and recreates them for itself here and now. We may get to see how imaginations combine with sensations where imagination gives a sense of meaning to sensations, and sensations give charge and a sense of solidity to the imaginations. We get to see how they must have been initially imagined by someone, perhaps a long time ago. We get to see how they are passed on from parents to child, and society to individual. We get to see how they can seem real and absolute just because they are shared by many in a society. We may find that we can relate to them more intentionally and use them more as seems appropriate. The charge in them may even lessen or fall away.

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Barry McDonagh: How to stop panic attacks

 

A good summary of some of the tools I also have found helpful.

(a) Remind yourself it’s there to help. It will pass. You will survive, and have before.

(b) Get excited about it. Amplify and make it stronger. Ride it out

(c) Shake it out. (Including TRE.)

These are helpful in relating to any strong and uncomfortable experiences.

 

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Rock, roll, and crawl like a baby

 

– See also Sitting Wrecks Your Body from Outdoor Magazine.

I like approaches to health and well-being that are simple, fun, and intuitive (since they are aligned with our evolution and development). In this case, rolling, rocking, and crawling like a baby. It’s also very similar to what’s found in many traditional approaches, including different forms of yoga, and also Breema.

 

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Types of resolution

 

When something troubles us, it’s natural and healthy for us to seek resolution. And there are different ways to find this resolution.

It can be a resolution of the troubling situation. Our first impulse is often to resolve it in that way, and that’s healthy.

It can be a resolution through befriending our experience of the situation. This can happen through reframing. Through various heart-centered practices such as tonglen, ho’oponopono, prayer and so on. Through resting with the sensation and imagination components of the experience. And it can happen through inquiring into how the mind creates its experience of the situation – the problem and the one faced with the problem.

It can be a resolution through seeing that experiencing it as a problem is not in itself a problem. It’s OK. We don’t need to fight it or make that too into a problem.

It can be a resolution through seeing more clearly how the mind creates its experience of the situation, and what that experience really is. This can happen through looking at the sensations, images, and words making it up. And it can happen through recognizing it all as happening within and as presence (aka awareness, Spirit).

Each of these is valid and important. With many things in life, each is required for us to experience a fuller sense of resolution. If the first one does not seem possible, perhaps because it’s about a situation in the past or a person who is no longer here, we can still find a sense of resolution through the three next ones.

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Fear of resolution

 

It’s common to fear resolution, even of what we deeply wish would resolve. It could be a long-standing illness, emotional issue, painful identities or beliefs, or being unenlightened.

So it’s good to look at that fear. Notice it. Allow it. Befriend it. Look at how the mind creates its experience – using sensations and imaginations – of the fear, what it fears, and the one threatened.

What do I fear would happen if this resolves? What’s the worst that can happen? Is there something desirable I won’t have anymore?

Do I experience a threat or a problem with it resolving?

If I could push a button and have it resolve completely and immediately, what would stop me from pushing it? What would make me hesitate?

And to make sure we look at both sides:

Is there a problem if it stays? What’s the worst that can happen if it stays?

Imagine you know it will stay forever. What emotions, feelings, and thoughts come up?

And then explore the components of this sense of threat and anything related to it. The sensations, mental images, and words making it up.

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Adyashanti: In order for the body to live the mystery knowingly, its personal agenda has to be dissolved

 

So in order for that body to totally live the mystery knowingly, its personal agenda has to be completely dissolved. The body-mind cannot dissolve the agenda just because it thinks it’s a good idea, but it can happen naturally as beingness sees more and more thoroughly that the only thing that actually exists is itself. It’s a visceral thing. Can you start to get the feel of it?

There is nothing to hold on to. No viewpoints to hold. No separation.

This is why it has always been said that the truth sets you free. But the whole being has to realize the truth. It has to be the truth, knowingly.

– Adyashanti, Emptiness Dancing

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I am not good enough, original sin, and marketing

 

I am not good enough. I am broken beyond repair.

These are core beliefs for many people.

Where do they come from?

The immediate cause may be childhood experiences and what the mind does with them to protect us.

The broader cause is to be found in our culture. For instance, the marketing industry intentionally reinforces our experience of not being good enough and then promise that their products will make us good enough – at least temporarily. They create a problem and then sell a product to fix it.

And it may reach all the way back to the Christian idea of original sin. In Christianity, we find the same strategy of creating a problem (original sin) and then selling a product to fix it (Jesus as a savior). Christianity has permeated our culture for a couple of millennia so it’s natural that the underlying beliefs and assumptions in Christianity still operate in our culture, even if many or most no longer consider themselves traditional Christians.

As usual, there is a lot more to explore here. For instance, is the core identity of “not good enough” found only in our culture or in all cultures? (I would guess it’s cultural more than inevitable.) It’s also clear that the marketing industry intentionally play on and reinforce people’s low self-esteem so it’s easier to sell them products and services.

There is also the issue of how to tackle this issue. When we work with individuals, it’s helpful to do inquiry on this and help people find freedom from this identity, and it’s also good to help them see the bigger picture and where it comes from in terms of marketing and culture. Working at a group level, we can support critical thinking and media literacy at all school levels, and also work with the marketing industry. (Media literacy also includes being critical to what’s sold by Christianity and other religions.) Ultimately, we need to shift out of a consumerist economy and into one that’s healthier for all of us, including ecosystems and future generations.

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Adyashanti: Freedom is freedom to

 

[It is a] myth that [when I’m truly enlightened] I can rest in some assuredness that I will never again feel insecure, or feel fear, or feel doubt, or feel those emotions that we don’t want to feel.

Forget it. That’s not it. That’s the pipe dream. That’s the opium that’s sold to the masses. And they eat it up and they never get there, and they end up disillusioned. That’s not how it works.

Freedom is never freedom “from.” If it’s freedom “from” anything, it’s not freedom at all. It’s freedom “to.” Are you free enough to be afraid? Are you free enough to feel insecure? Are you free enough not to know? Are you free enough to know that you can’t know? Are you free enough to be totally comfortable knowing that you can’t know what’s around the next corner? How you will feel about it? How you will respond to it? That you literally can’t know?

Are you free enough to be totally at ease and comfort with the way things actually are?

That’s freedom. The other thing is the ego’s idea of freedom.

– Adyashanti

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Second sleep

 

I find myself naturally going to bed early (often 8 or 9pm), awake for one or two hours around 1 or 2pm, and then waking up early (5-6am). It feels very natural and comfortable. And after I noticed this pattern for myself, I realized it may have been a very common sleep pattern for some of our ancestors. It’s often called segmented or biphasic sleep.

In my early twenties, I did experiment with sleeping four times one hour daily, and it worked very well – apart from socially, and that’s why I didn’t continue. I found myself needing my hour of sleep, but couldn’t or wouldn’t for work or social reasons. This is called polyphasic sleep.

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Co-sleeping and evolution

 

I often use an evolutionary perspective to check how I live my life.

For instance, from an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense to eat mostly less processed food, locally and with the seasons, low on the food chain, and varied foods (mainly vegetables with some fish and meat, and not the same every day). In terms of exercise, it makes sense with variation (walking, running, lifting, swimming), and to vary moderate activity with briefer periods of more explosive and intense activity. It also makes sense to bring it into everyday activities as much as possible. And in terms of child rearing, it makes sense to seek out a community (extended family, if possible) and also to carry the baby on the body and to sleep in the same bed as the baby. All of these things are how humans have done it for millennia and how our evolutionary ancestors have done it for millions of years. If there is a discrepancy between what experts recommend, and what makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, I tend to choose the latter. (For instance, eating butter, eggs, and salt, all of which feel really good for my body in moderate amounts.)

I talked with a friend a couple of weeks ago about her new baby. She sleeps in the same bed as the baby (the baby usually on top of her), and it makes feeding natural and effortless for both of them. The baby stirs gently, she wakes and feeds the baby with just a few adjustments of her body, and they both fall back to sleep. It’s effortless, natural, and minimally disruptive to sleep.

In contrast, if we believe what someone came up with intellectually, we may choose to have the baby sleep separately which means the baby needs to make more sound to wake the mother (be more desperate), the mother needs to get up to feed the baby, the baby needs to be lifted, and it’s all far more disruptive and stressful. It can even be somewhat traumatizing to both of them, and especially to the baby. In an evolutionary perspective, sleeping alone and having to cry loudly to be fed is a signal it is not safe. And when that happens consistently, I imagine it has an impact on the child’s trust and sense of safety, and it’s something they may carry with them through childhood and into adulthood.

I know this is a bit simplistic. For instance, our ancestors’ lives varied over generations and was adapted to geography and climate. And I still find it a very helpful guideline.

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Imagining the future

 

Here is an idea for a project that may already be in existence:

Anyone from around the world can submit a short story or artwork about a day 30, 50, or 100 years into the future. It will be set in a world they would like to live in. The story can lean in a more realistic (nuanced) or utopian (idealized) direction. And it can focus more on social and technological changes, or a more personal view, or both. This may especially be a good project for school kids or students at any level.

Creating and reading stories about possible desired futures helps us mentally explore what type of future we would like to live in, and may support us in creating that future for ourselves.

When we think about the future, it’s easy to take what’s in existence and project it into the future, and perhaps also to polarize and think in terms of best (utopian) or worst (dystopian) scenarios. That’s natural and unavoidable. What’s more likely is that there will be shifts and changes we couldn’t predict (or very few predicted) and that it won’t be as good as we hope or as bad as we fear.

Some also tend to think in terms of technology rather than social changes, while the two go hand in hand, and social changes often bring about a deeper transformation. (Women’s rights, democracy etc.)

Here is a brief framework if I were to write such a story. I’ll write it as if written from the future, around the turn of the next century (2080-2120), sometimes looking back.

Global and regional

We have a combination of regional and local governance for most issues, and global governance on the big picture issues (long term survival of humanity). Nation states are less important and only a few are left, although many current regions correspond to the smaller nation states of the past.

Regional differences

Some individuals, groups, and regions are strongly devoted to thrivability (sustainability) and the bigger picture, and other groups are less big picture oriented. People tend to move to areas of like-minded people, and this helps us test out ideas on a regional scale and we get to see what works and what works less well.

Sustainability baseline

There is a regional and global sustainability baseline. We have organized ourselves individually and collectively according to ecological realities, and this is ongoing and keeps being refined. There has been a reorganization and realignment in all areas of human life (economy, production, transportation, energy, etc.) and also reflected in health care, education, and even our entertainment and religion. Ecological and big picture awareness is, by necessity, reflected in all areas of human life.

For most of us, this is just to the extent required and they do it just because the systems they live within have changed. For some of us, it’s a much deeper and more all-encompassing alignment.

Structural changes leading the way

Structural changes have led the way. We have structures in place so that what’s good for the social and ecological whole is also what’s the easiest, most convenient, and most desirable in terms of individual behavior. For most people, living in a more sustainable way happens effortlessly and almost invisibly. We just do what’s easiest for us to do, within these new ecologically informed structures.

For instance, since inexpensive energy is available from solar, that’s what most of us use. And since most products available are made to last and be repaired, and are modular so we can update components rather than the whole thing, then that’s what people we buy and use. And since we have various forms of collective and individual forms of transportation that are nonpollution (including in terms of noise), and these are readily available, that’s what we use.

All of this has been put in place through structural changes, and largely through incentives. These incentives make it attractive for companies of all types to do what’s ecologically sound and that in turn makes it easy for regular people to do the same.

Realizing the benefits all around

It’s a given that we mostly seek out, create, and use solutions attractive at all levels. Including for the larger social and ecological whole, for future generations, and for our communities, families, and ourselves. I know that in the early history of sustainability, many people saw a dichotomy between these but that’s long in the past.

More inclusive sense of us

Policies and worldviews reflect a more inclusive sense of us. More of us realize that including all of Earth into our sense of us is good all around. It’s good for us since it gives us a sense of belonging to a wider community and to the Earth. It’s good for the Earth as a whole, for ecosystems and nonhuman species, and for future generations. And that, in turn, is also good for us, it creates an environment that allows us to thrive. Many of our stories reflect this more inclusive us, as do much of our philosophy and religion.

More integral

Variations of a more integral view are common. These place all areas of human life and experience within an overall framework.  (Ken Wilber’s integral model is an early example, one that seems quaint now.) People still specialize, but they tend to do so within these larger integral frameworks. That allows for research and thinking that’s more free of the old artificial boundaries between academic disciplines.

Gratitude for past generations

Our heroes today include many of the sustainability pioneers of the past, both groups and individuals. These went against the mainstream view of their day (which was very narrow and quite misguided in many ways), and made it possible for us to have the world we have now. One that does take ecological realities into consideration and has created a better life for most of us. It’s still now perfect, by any means, but many of us today are working on it.

Social challenges

Many challenges of the past are less current today, but we do have our own. Overall, we are much more allowing of minorities – in terms of gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background and more. More and more of our regions have good social safety nets so people won’t have to fear for their basic survival. (We realize this makes for much better societies overall, and better lives for all of us.) The problems of the past with large multi-national corporations is mostly in the past  with our current system supporting smaller and more regional worker owned companies. (It made a big difference when we got rid of the old stock market system.)

Our main challenges are regions where they don’t have social safety nets and where society is in general disarray. We also have groups not devoted to an ecologically informed way of life. And we do, of course, have natural and man-made disasters in different regions. I doubt that will change very soon if ever.

Health and spirituality

We see health in a larger picture than you did. The old divisions between society and individual health, and mind and body, are largely gone. When we look at individual health, we also look at the social and ecological system the individual functions within, and we also look at both mind and body. These are all parts of the same system. As mentioned above, people specialize but they do so within different integral frameworks taking the larger picture into account.

More people today use spirituality in a more pragmatic way, free of the old religions and traditions. At the same time, we do also have people nourishing and continuing the traditions since they realize there is value there. And we do also have some fundamentalists within the different old religions, trying to hold onto what was.

Science and technology

We keep exploring space and have bases on some of the closer planets and moons. Although our main focus is on the long-term survival of humanity and the Earth, most of us recognize that we need to become a multi-planet species for our long-term survival. (As many did in the past as well.)

Technology is more seamlessly a part of everyday life. We have found a sort of balance between technology and our natural human life. As before, some are more into technology and some prefer a more un-assisted and natural life.

The rights of nonhumans, ecosystems, and future generations

At some point, more of us realized that nonhuman beings, ecosystems, and future generations needed to have a voice in our political and legal systems. So we gave them a voice. We did this for their sake since they are living beings and gradually were seen more as us. And we did it for our sake since their well-being is intertwined with ours. Giving them a political and legal voice informs us about the bigger picture in a different way. We now have university training and degrees for people who wish to make this a career. In some regions, companies are required to have these roles filled, and many do anyway since it benefits their decision-making process and position in the market.

Adult development

This is still a slightly, sensitive issue, although it doesn’t really need to be. There has been a great deal of research on adult development, especially in terms of social and ecological orientation. We know that it’s common to deepen in appreciation for the interconnectedness of all life as we mature, and also that this orientation is stronger tendency some people – even early in life – and less so for others. All of that is fine. And we also want to nurture this orientation and deepening in people in general, and we do that through education, entertainment and more.

Surprises

As always, there have been surprises. We have had surprising developments in science and technology, things none or few predicted. And in our social changes, things have happened – both good and bad – that were similarly surprising and not expected by many. I won’t give many details here since I don’t want to give it away to you from the past 😉

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Various

In the regions that take care of people and life more intentionally, people live until about 100 and tend to stay healthy much longer than in the past.

The intelligence and emotional life of animals are more fully acknowledged than in the past. There is much more sense of kinship of all life. (The idea that humans are in a special category compared with other life is seen as belonging to the past and a bit misguided.) This means that even animals in captivity are treated much better than in the past, and given a more natural life.

Some regions have set aside relatively large areas for nonhuman life. Human interventions in these areas are quite restricted.

The idea or realization that all life has intrinsic value (or value to itself) is much more common today than it was for previous generations. It informs policies and human activities to a greater extent.

Fewer people belong to traditional religions. Especially in some regions, it’s very common to use insights and tools from a wide range of spiritual traditions in a pragmatic and practical way. Research into these approaches has been going on for a long time now, and we know much more about how and why and for whom these work.

In general, our view of the world is a bit more open and inclusive compared to the early modern and scientific era. It’s more accepted to do research into topics that previously were shunned.

Since most regions have a decent social safety net for its people, fewer people are radicalized and disgruntled compared to the past. This is not universal since some fall through the cracks, some regions have less of a safety net, and there are occasional social or ecological disruptions that bring out the best and worst in people.

Artificial intelligence in different forms is used in many areas of life, often quite seamlessly and as a support that feels quite natural. The fears that some people had about AI in the past is seen as belonging to an early period of AI where people feared what they didn’t understand.

Biomimicry is a natural part of just about any design process, whether it’s buildings, transportation, or even production. The aim is to enhance and enrich ecosystems through human activity, including travel, housing, and production.

We are much more cautious with toxic chemicals than in the past. We see the early modern period as quite misguided in this area, and going overboard in using toxic chemicals in everyday products.

Oil is used sparingly and only as needed today. Most of our energy is from the sun, wind, ocean, fusion, and a couple of sources not known to earlier generations. Most regions use a mix of these, and also a mix of centrally produced energy and energy produced very locally.

We are not living in a utopia, although certain aspects of our lives would certainly seem that way to past generations. We have solved some of the core problems of a hundred years ago, mainly in terms of living a life – at all levels – more aligned with ecological realities. Many problems remain, and our solutions have created their own problems. And really, we wouldn’t want it differently since challenges are part of what makes us grow and thrive.

We intentionally nurture a sense of connection to the larger social and ecological whole, to future and past generations, and to the universe as a whole. We know how important this is for a sense of meaning and well-being, and also in informing our actions and choices as a society and individuals. (Past generations called this the Universe Story, the Epic of Evolution, Big History, Practices to Reconnect, and similar things.)

Since more have a more pragmatic approach to spirituality, using tools and insights from a range of traditions, science and spirituality are seen as going hand in hand. We use science to explore these tools and the states and experiences traditionally seen as belonging to spirituality, and the insights from this research inform our application of these tools. Science and spirituality are just two ways to explore reality, and they often converge.

I guess I should say something about climate change since I know you from the past are interested in it. Yes, there has been climate change, and yes, we know it was largely human created (just as you knew). We have had to adapt to rising sea levels and regional shifts in climate. And, of course, we have aligned our life with ecological realities to a much greater extent than you did. We would have needed to do that anyway, climate change or not.

In terms of healthcare, there is a stronger emphasis on prevention informed by the mind-body-larger-whole connections. As mentioned earlier – there is more of an integral and systems view on health, and we know that prevention is the most effective use of our focus and resources.

One of the major problems in the past was the inequality of income and access to essential resources. That’s still a problem today, especially between regions and within some regions. There is a much better undertanding today that our lives are interconnected in very real and noticeable ways. (Especially global ecosystem health, migrations, and spread of diseases.) Some regions have a strong emphasis on this work, and most acknowledge its importance. It has helped greatly to curb the power of multinational corporations, and have them follow basic international social justice and sustainability regulations.

Another major problem was overpopulation, and that was one past generations were reluctant to address. In less developed countries, overpopulation was a problem in terms of access to basic resources. In more developed countries, it was a problem because of over-use of natural resources. The former was very obvious and directly impacted the people living there, the latter was no less of a problem but more hidden – at least for a while. Today, addressing overpopulation is taken for granted because we know and have seen how important it is. And as we have known for a long time, education and good social safety nets are the most effective ways to reduce or prevent overpopulation.

In the past, taxes were used in a somewhat misguided way. Now, most regions are much more intentional about taxing what we want less of (use of virgin natural resources, pollution), and not taxing or subsidicing what we want to encourage (including work). Also, many regions focus on a deeper form of democracy than in the past, with citizen councils, instant runoff voting, more thorough and instant fact checking of politicians, and mandatory voting.

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Wholeness vs perfection

 

In our society, we are trained to strive towards perfection. There can be many benefits and gifts in aiming at improving our skills in different areas of life. And – as we all know – striving too hard for perfection has its downsides. We may never feel we measure up, and we are chasing a moving goal.

It can be good to balance this with wholeness. And that wholeness can be found in a few different ways.

One is a wholeness that’s already here. This is the wholeness of presence allowing our experience as it is. The wholeness of what we are. It’s wholeness since it’s all inclusive of our current experience. (Natural rest, shikantaza.)

The other is the wholeness related to identity. An identity that’s more open, flexible, and inclusive. And identity that adapts and grows from finding in myself what I see in others, whatever it may be. There is a wholeness here since it can grow to include both ends of more and more polarities, and there is a gradual deepening here as well. These polarities can be body and mind, spirit and psyche, good and bad, male and female, smart and stupid, and so on. (Shadow work, The Work, parts work, body-mind practices etc.)

A third is wholeness from our connections with the larger social and ecological whole, and how we see ourselves in relationship to this larger whole. A friendly relationship to this larger whole gives us a sense of wholeness. And our identity can also be permeable and inclusive enough to include this wholeness. (Practices to reconnect, universe story, the epic of evolution.)

The first of these forms of wholeness is part of the next two. When we notice our experience as presence, we also notice our human self and the wider world as presence. And there is a wholeness inherent in that presence.

Each of these forms of wholeness is already here, and they are waiting to be brought into conscious awareness. The first require noticing and resting with it. And they all require some engagement and work.

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Adyashanti: Grace is simply that which opens our hearts

 

I remember hearing a talk from a very famous Tibetan teacher, a man who had spent many years in a small, stone hut in the Himalayas. He was crippled, and so he couldn’t use either one of his legs. He told a story of how a big boulder fell on his legs and broke them, and he spent many years in a stone hut, because there was really nothing that he could do. It was hard for someone with broken legs to get around much in the Himalayas.

He told the story of being in this small hut, and he said, “To be locked in that small hut for so many years was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. It was a great grace, because if it wasn’t for that, I would never have turned within, and I would never have found the freedom that revealed itself there. So I look back at the losing of my legs as one of the most profound and lucky events of my whole life.”

Normally, most of us wouldn’t think that losing the use of our legs would be grace. We have certain ideas about how we want grace to appear. But grace is simply that which opens our hearts, that which has the capacity to come in and open our perceptions about life.

– Adyashanti, Falling Into Grace

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Testimonial

 
Dear P,
I wanted to let you how much I appreciated meeting you at the Kiloby Center. It was such a pleasure to work with you, to learn more about and experience the Living Inquiries, and to benefit from your wise and quiet counsel. I especially enjoyed learning about the Trauma Release Process from you, and loved experiencing first-hand how amazing the exercises are. In fact, I was so excited about them that shortly after I arrived home I signed up to take a course to go deeper into that work. Thank you!
Sincerely,
Grace Lambert
Sequim, WA

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The purpose of the Living Inquiries

 

What’s the purpose of the Living Inquiries?

There are many answers to that question, and the answer will usually be tailored to the person asking.

Here are two whys:

It’s about reducing suffering and living a better life.

It will help clarify and ground a spiritual opening or awakening.

And the hows:

It helps us investigate how the mind creates its experience of anything, and especially that which is painful and creates discomfort for us.

And that, in turn, tends to reduce its charge. With a reduced charge, it has less of a hold over us. We can relate to it more intentionally and it doesn’t control us as much as before.

In this way, the Living Inquiries – along with Natural Rest – can quite effectively help with anxiety, depression, cravings, and stabilizing an opening or awakening. It can help us heal, grow up, and even wake up.

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The high of openings or awakenings

 

A spiritual opening or awakening can come with a high, especially if it’s the first time. That high may be a gentle wave or very obvious, and it may last briefly or for weeks, months, or even years. That’s all natural and nothing is wrong if it happens.

Although if it happens, it’s good to check in about a few things.

Does the high mask something? Perhaps something still unhealed, unmet, and unloved in me as a human being? If it does, that’s very common and very natural, and it’s also good to be aware that something may be masked and may resurface later on.  That’s OK and natural as well. It’s just good to be aware of. We can also prepare for what may surface and know and practice how to relate to it more intentionally.

Do I use the high to avoid something? Do I latch onto the high (or the awakening itself) in order to avoid a certain feeling, emotion, or painful story about the world or myself? If I do, can I allow myself to rest with whatever I try to avoid? What do I find if I investigate how my mind creates its experience of the fear and whatever it fears meeting?

Beyond that, what does this opening or awakening point to about reality and what I am. What does it reveal that I can notice and explore through any state and experience? Perhaps including when I experience what my habitual mind says is a “bad” experience. Can I find what it points to even in a contracted state, emotional or physical pain, discomfort, or resistance to my experience?

In short, an opening or awakening can be used to avoid certain emotions, painful thoughts, or states. Or it can be used as a support to meet and perhaps befriend what we may have spent a lifetime avoiding.

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Highs, happiness, and contentment

 

There is a distinct difference between highs, happiness, and contentment.

A high is euphoria triggered by a number of things including entertainment, good news, sex, an opening or awakening, caffeine, or a variety of drugs. It makes us temporarily feel good, partly because it distracts us from uncomfortable feelings, painful thoughts, and in general anything unresolved in us. There is nothing wrong with feeling good but it’s helpful to see if we seek it or latch onto it in order to avoid something uncomfortable. If we do, it’s something we can look at so we can find more freedom and fluidity around how we feel, and welcome more wholeheartedly and be more OK with a wider range of feelings and states.

Happiness is similar, and it can perhaps be seen as a mild high. Again, it’s a perfectly natural state. And occasionally, it may be good to check in to see if we seek or try to hold onto happiness in order to avoid something.

Contentment is different. It’s a fundamental OKness with what’s here, with our experience as it is right now. That may seem a tall order, although it’s very much possible to taste that fundamental OKness in more and more situations. How do we find this OKness with our current experience? Through shifting into noticing and allowing. Through noticing that this experience is already allowed as it is (by awareness, space, mind, life). Through allowing and resting with our resistance (fear) to it. Through inquiring into our fear about it, and how our mind creates its experience of it. Through cultivating kindness towards it – for instance by using ho’oponopono, tonglen, or another kindness practice.

I personally prefer contentment since it allows me to find peace with whatever experience is here. If there is one thing we know from experience, it’s that our experience changes. States, emotions, thoughts and any other flavor of experience changes. It comes to pass, not to stay, as Byron Katie says. And that means I welcome and enjoy happiness and natural highs. I can even enjoy them more because they are less marred by a wish to make them stay or to seek the next high or a more permanent happiness (which may never happen).

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Pamela Wible: How the word “burnout” perpetuates a cycle of abuse

 

“Burnout” and similar labels are dangerous to the individual and also distract from the real diagnosis—human rights abuse. (FYI: Meditation, yoga, and taking deep breaths are not treatments for human rights violations.)

Pamela Wible, MD

This is an article written by my medical doctor in Oregon. She is saying the obvious: burnout is very often a symptom of abuse and human rights violations inherent in the workplace system. In this case, it’s the hospital system, but it’s also found in many other types of workplaces. We can do meditation, yoga, and many other things to try to cope with it, but that doesn’t deal with the abuse inherent in the system.

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Love addiction and polyamory

 

Love addiction comes from not feeling loved sufficiently. We typically have an identity as someone unloved or unlovable, and we are also unable to love ourselves fully and in a satisfying way. We are unable to sufficiently find love and kindness towards our own emotions, emotional and physical pain, painful thoughts, and general discomfort and unease.

We were not shown how to do this as babies and children. Our parents were perhaps unable to give us sufficient unconditional love, and they were unable to do it to themselves as well. So we didn’t learn it.

What we did learn was to seek it outside of ourselves, from others. Many of us spend a lifetime trying to find love from others, to fill that hole in us through the love of others. It works to some extent, but not completely. It may not be sufficient, it may be uncertain and withdrawn, and since the only real remedy is to give it to ourselves it will never be enough when we try to get it from others.

I was reminded of this when I talked with a friend who is in a polyamory relationship, somewhat against his preference. Polyamory may, for some, be a strategy to find that love. We get it from multiple sources, and we always have one or more backups if one should fail.

It can be just another way to avoid facing the pain of feeling unloved or unlovable, and to avoid the challenge and discomfort in learning to truly and more consistently meet our own experience with kindness and love. The other side of it is that it can provide a setting for us to learn to love ourselves, just as any other setting – whether we are single, in a conventional relationship, or in an open or polyamorous relationship.

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Resting with and investigating an uncomfortable feeling

 

I woke up from a slightly uncomfortable dream and with an uncomfortable feeling in my body. I know from experience that discomfort is created by my own mind, so I can explore it and see what’s really there.

So I rest with the sensations. I notice where I feel the uncomfortable feeling, and notice the sensations making them up. I notice these sensations are already allowed. I take time feeling them. I say “welcome home” to them. I continue resting with them – noticing and allowing.

Then I see if there are any images connected with it. I notice a dark texture overlaid on an image of my upper body. I notice and rest with that image.

I check for words, but none come.

I check for resistance to the uncomfortable feeling, or any other experience that’s here now. Do I want it to go away or change? Where in my body do I feel that want? I do find some resistance to the uncomfortable feelings, a wish for it to change or go away. I notice it in my upper chest and face, and especially the jaw. I notice, allow, and rest with those sensations.

Rest and inquiry can be used throughout the day, in just about any situation. And it can be quite simple, and doesn’t need to take a long time. (Although watch for the tendency to want to shorten it to avoid feeling or meeting an experience.)

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Keep secrets from myself?

 

Can the mind keep secrets from itself? Not really. It knows its own games and what it tries to hide from itself. It knows what it’s trying to compensate for, what it doesn’t want to face (see, feel), what it’s trying to avoid.

That’s why the question what do I know that I don’t want to know can be helpful.

And perhaps especially when we feel torn and indecisive. Often, there is a knowing there that we don’t want to take in. The indecision and torment come from the tension between knowing while not wanting to know.

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BERLIN: ELECTION, 1932. 
Billboards in Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, for the German presidential candidates of 1932, Paul von Hindenburg and the future German Chancellor Adolf Hitler. Photographed in March 1932.

When it’s unethical to vote your conscience

 

Imagine you are in 1930s Germany. There are two opposing candidates to Hitler, one you like very much and one you don’t like so much. The one you like is out of the race, so you have the option of voting for the one you like not as much (who is opposing Hitler) or not voting. You chose to not vote. Hitler wins. In hindsight, how does your decision look? Wise and mature, or short-sighted and even dangerous?

I know it’s somewhat unfair to compare Trump to Hitler, but sometimes it’s good to amplify a situation – in this case through a thought experiment – to make a point. The point here is that, in some situations, it can be unethical to vote (or, in this case, not to vote) your conscience.

Voting is not really about ideology or having the perfect candidate, it’s about having a practical effect on society. And in this case, the practical effect of not voting can harm other groups in society far more than your own. Most of the “Bernie or bust” people are white, educated, and privileged. And the ones who will be most hurt by his candidacy are non-whites, immigrants, Muslims, and other minorities.

I understand it can feel good to take a “Bernie or bust” position. You may feel hurt by not being able to vote for your candidate, and sometimes it feels good to act reactively to hurt. If I can’t get what I want, I won’t participate at all, I won’t give you what you want. There may also be good reasons to justify such a position.

Still, reality is that voting or not voting has a very real and pragmatic effect on society. And in this case, if Trump is elected – perhaps partly due to people choosing to not vote – it will harm others far more than you. In this case, not voting is a lack of solidarity. It can even be dangerous.

Personally, I would have loved to see Bernie win. As it is now, I would vote for Clinton without hesitation, and mainly for the reasons above. Mainly out of solidarity with those who would be most harmed by a Trump presidency.

Note: I know that a big part of the problem in the US is the – quite undemocratic – two-party system. Germany in the early 1930s had a large number of parties so people could, in fact, vote their conscience. And a majority did vote for Hitler, largely out of fear and despair coming from their own personal situation.

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Slow it down 

 

When we do inquiry or any exploration of our own experience, the impulse is often to speed it up. And when we do, it’s often to avoid something, and that comes from unmet fear. We are acting on a compulsion to avoid resting with our own experience. And that, in turn, comes from a fear of meeting and resting with our own experience.

When we notice this impulse to speed it up, we can take it as a reminder to slow it down, and also look at our own fears. Where in my body do I feel the fear of slowing down? What happens when I slow it down and rest with the sensations of that fear?

I can also ask myself some simple questions to see what’s there. What do I fear would happen if I slow down? If I rest with my experience as it is now? What’s the worst that can happen?

And I can also explore….. What sensations and imaginations (images, words) create this fear? What happens when I take time and rest with each of these? 

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Senseless, sensible, coming to our senses

 

Senseless: Lacking common sense, wildly foolish.

Oxford Dictionary

Sensible: Done or chosen in accordance with wisdom or prudence, likely to be of benefit.

Oxford Dictionary

Come to your senses: to start to understand that you have been behaving stupidly.

Cambridge Dictionary

There is often wisdom in traditional sayings and expressions and even embedded in everyday words.

What does it mean to come to our senses? In an everyday use, it means to perceive and act in a more grounded and sensible way. There is a literal truth in that expression. When we are caught in thoughts, we can get a bit loopy and insane. We live in abstractions. We take our own imaginations, our own mental images and words, as reality. We make ourselves crazy that way.

Coming to our senses means to bring attention to our senses, to sensations, sights, sounds, smell, and taste. And also to our imaginations as what they are, recognizing them as mental images and words (imagined sounds and mental images). When we bring attention to our senses, the mind is incapable of simultaneously be caught up in stories and content of thought. It’s either one or the other. (Unless we do both half way, in which case we are still caught in stories and imagination.)

The more we bring attention to our senses, the more we make it into a new habit, and the more we have an actual freedom in shifting attention between our senses and occasionally into stories. Now and then, we do need to bring attention into stories to function in the world. Using stories in this practical sense is natural and kind. And we can do it as needed and while recognizing these stories as imaginations.

There is some effort here in terms of intentionally bringing attention to our senses. And over time, it becomes more and more effortless. Even the recognition of imagination as imagined becomes more effortless more often.

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