Any donations are greatly appreciated and makes it possible for this blog to continue.
Any donations are greatly appreciated and makes it possible for this blog to continue.
It is well worth it to explore embodiment, to move from identification with the physical body to a sweet and loving inclusion of the entire bodily experience, without identifying with it anymore. Dare I say, it is blissful to take awakening that deeply. If you see that as a carrot, just notice the seeking behind that thought. That seeking is an escape route. Question it. I’m just sharing my experience. Not trying to indulge more seeking and projection.
– Scott Kiloby in Conscious Embodiment
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a sick society.
– Jiddu Krishnamurti
I partly agree. And it also seems slightly cynical to me, and it seems it can be used as an excuse to “check out of” or “rebel against” society.
I agree that it’s not necessarily a measure of health to unconsciously and in certain ways be well adjusted to our society. It’s perhaps not a measure of health to work yourself to the ground because it’s expected of you, or go to war to benefit corporations, or ignoring your own needs while trying to get love and appreciation from others.
At the same time, being healthy includes being well adjusted to society. We can be well adjusted, contribute in meaningful and valuable ways to society, and still chose to not participate in some of the expectations and habits of our society. We can even work to change society in constructive ways, including by supporting new expectations, structures and habits.
The quote does highlight something important, and perhaps especially in the historical situation it was initially said. At the same time, I would question both assumptions behind the quote, and also find examples of how the reverse is true.
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a sick society. Yes, I can find that. It’s possible to be well adjusted to unhealthy expectations and habits of our society. For instance, being really good at suing people with only money in mind, or increasing profits of your organization with little or no regard for the social and ecological consequences, or selling things that people don’t need, or producing things that destroy life. Or even to ignore our own needs and wishes, to the benefit of our work life, or an image, or being liked and accepted.
Our society is sick. I can find that too. We live in a society that’s not aligned with ecological realities, and where what’s easy and attractive in the short term – for individuals and organizations – sometimes is not good for society as a whole, and often is not good for ecosystems and future generations. We have organized ourselves in a very short-sighted way.
It is a measure of health to be well adjusted to our society. Yes, as mentioned above. It’s perfectly possible to be well adjusted to our society, not participate in certain expectations or habits, while actively contributing to creating a more healthy society. (However we envision a healthy society.)
Our society is healthy. Yes, in many ways. There is room for improvement. And in a historical context, we live in a quite amazing society where we are allowed to vote, speak our minds, explore our passions, and more.
Note: I assume that Krishnamurti spoke about our modern western society, since they lived there, the ones he mostly spoke to.
We are always in service to something.
Sometimes, it’s beliefs, identifications, and unquestioned/unloved fears.
Sometimes, it’s love, life, and reality.
And often, it’s a combination.
It will also change over time. In my late teens and twenties, I lived a life of service to community and ecosystems. My circle of concern was my community, all life, and Earth as a whole. Then, during the dark night phase, my circle of concern got much smaller. I lived in service of this one life, mostly just trying to survive from day to day. This was a period of quite serious health problems, and a great deal of unprocessed material surfacing, so it made sense to focus on myself during this phase. (Not that I really had a choice.) Now, my circle is gradually expanding again, while including myself more than I did in my twenties.
Not surprisingly, for me too there has been – and is – a mix of being in service to life and identifications.
Being in service to life can look many different ways. Sometimes, it means caring for myself and those close to me. Other times, it means focusing on the wider social and ecological circles.
Even being in service to identifications is, in a way, being in service to life. It’s love. Worried love, in service to life in the way it best knows how. It’s how service to life looks when filtered through unquestioned and unloved fears and identifications.
As I become more aware of this, service to life can include meeting these fears and identifications with presence, love, and curiosity.
However we live, we live in service of life, since it’s life living itself. And we can live more consciously and intentionally in service of life. We can meet our own fears, beliefs and identifications with love and curiosity. We can, as best as we can, live a life that’s in support of the wider social and ecological systems, and future generations.
Touch can be very comforting. We all (almost all?) know that from personal experience.
Touch – with presence and kindness – can not only support healing of emotions and the mind, but also physical healing.
This touch can be from an animal, another human, or even from ourselves in a pinch.
I was reminded the comfort of touch today during my first experience with oral surgery. It was a bit stressful, and I noticed my breath got deeper during the most intense phases. The nurse probably noticed the same, and put her hand on my shoulder during those times. It was very comforting, and my body and breath relaxed. It almost seemed that the body responded on its own, without going much through the conscious mind.
I have experienced and seen the same during TRE (Tension and Trauma Release Exercises) sessions. Here too, the body seems to relax when touched by someone else. Often, it’s just a hold on the shoulder or the feet. And the touch-relaxation connection seems to largely go outside of the conscious mind.
It’s similar with Breema. Here, the touch is deeply nurturing, and allows me – whether I am a practitioner or recipient – to find a deep sense of full, healing wholeness. A wholeness of myself and existence. This touch is guided by Breema’s Nine Principles, which – I assume – is an important reason why it’s so powerful.
Touch conveys our mental and physical state, and the recipient picks this up. That’s another thing I have noticed through Breema. Sometimes, almost any touch can feel welcome. And almost always, I definitely prefer touch that comes from a sense of presence, kindness, and a grounded, relaxed wholeness.
It’s common – in our culture, and our time – to use war metaphors in medicine and about our health.
As many have pointed out, it reflects a few different assumptions. It shows an assumption of a basic duality, or split, in ourselves and the world. An illness or medical problem is “other”, something that happens “to us”. And it also reflects an assumption that what’s happening is bad or wrong.
These views can be traced back to early Christianity, and Judaism, and perhaps even further back. And they can be found in some other cultures as well, in different flavors, although certainly not all cultures. Even that is a hint that these assumptions perhaps do not reflect something inherent in the world, and also that these type of assumptions are not inevitable. They are learned, and they can be unlearned, and perhaps be replaced with more helpful metaphors or assumptions.
I notice these basic assumptions in myself. Somewhere in me, there are assumptions that the CFS is “other”, something “other” that is impacting, me, and also that it’s wrong, bad, or at least unfortunate. There is also an assumption behind the label CFS, and what it means for me and my life.
When I notice that, there is the possibility to shift how I relate to all of this. Instead of taking it as how it is, and identify with the views created by these assumptions, I can relate to these assumptions – and what they trigger in me – more intentionally.
I can, for instance, say you are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. I love you. And repeat this, quietly, and sit in it.
It’s often easier to first do this towards one assumption or reaction at a time, and then perhaps with all of it.
I can also use ho’oponopono towards these parts of me, these parts of worried love. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.
I can experiment with simple loving kindness. I love you.
This is a 180 degree turning around from the war metaphor mentality. It’s an experiment. There may be fears coming up, especially at first. Worries that I won’t take care of myself and my health if I genuinely find peace with and love for the symptoms, and the reactions in me towards them. I can meet those worries too in this way, and see what happens. Is it true I won’t take care of myself and my health? What is the reality? What really happens when I shift into finding love for what’s here, including that which I previously saw as “other” or wrong?
Also, how do I change my view on these symptoms and what’s triggered in me (worry, confusion, fear, anger)? Do I see it as worried or confused love? How is it different when I genuinely see it more that way? Is there a sense of love meeting love, presence meeting presence?
I was told in a million different ways when growing up that the present moment was not enough . . .
that heaven was a far away place experienced only after death and only available if I lived a good life
that tomorrow will always be better, holding open the possibility of hope and the sense that something is not quite right now
that if I eat this or do that, I will look better and people will like me more
that if I study hard enough, I will be respected and valued tomorrow more than I am today
that sometime later I will meet my perfect lover and live happily ever after
that feelings arising now are bad and should be changed or avoided, so that better feelings can come later
that the past is who I am and the future is who I will become – there seemed like no place for the present to be what or who I am
that, if I got a job and worked hard and made lots of money, I would become happy later and have more value as a human being.
that if I change the way I am and how I behave, more people will love, acknowledge and accept me
that if I take this medication, drink this drink or eat this food, the next moment will feel better
I have been filled with these lies my whole life.
This moment holds it all – everything is here, including thoughts of the past and future. I have everything I need. Everything is perfectly in place – the good, the bad and the neutral.
To want more than what is isn’t even possible anyway, because “more” is a thought happening now.
I am what I am right now. I am however I show up. There is nothing to improve upon. The very notion of improving would merely lead me back into chasing the false promises of future, which have never satisfied.
I know that I am happy because I am breathing, thinking, feeling and that I am aware. This is enough. Totally enough. Perfect actually.
Dear world, take your lies somewhere else. I have lost interest in them
– Scott Kiloby, The Present Moment
For most human beings, being that exposed (by being truthful) brings up incredible fear. Most people walk around thinking, “My god, if anybody could look inside of me, if anybody could see what is happening in there, what my fears are, what my doubts are, what my truths are, what I really perceive, they would be horrified.
Most people are protecting themselves. They are holding a lot of things in. They are not living honest, truthful, and sincere lives, because if they were to do so, they would have no control. Of course, they don’t have control anyway, but they would have no illusion of control, either.
Yes, I recognize this from my own life. One remedy is to look for this terrible thing. Can I find it? Can I find the threat? Someone threatened? (Living Inquiries.) Another is to find love for the part of me that seems so terrible, and also the reaction it brings up in me. To hold it in presence, love, and curiosity.
For myself, I know there was – and partly is – a sense that there is something terrible here. But when I look for what it may be, I can’t find it. I can’t even find it at that initial level of looking. I can only find vague, abstract images, and sensations in the body.
What you believe about yourself, others, and the world can make you sick. What is true about you can heal everything.
– Byron Katie
I am happy to see that the parts view is used in popular movies.
It’s easy to grasp, since it’s so close to how we experience it anyway. And it can be quite illuminating, and – as this movie shows – entertaining.
Another simple exploration is I love you.
I can bring any part of me to mind, and say I love you, and especially those parts previously or habitually unloved.
Here is a couple of variations:
You are welcome here. I love you.
You are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. I love you.
What would satisfy you forever?
What are you really?
Often, being met with love is what these parts really want. Some of them have been rejected, dismissed, and seen as wrong or bad, for a long time. As they are finally met with love, something in them may soften and relax.
When I feel unloved, it’s because a part of me feels unloved, so I can turn around and meet it with love. And this turning around is in two ways. First, by turning towards this part of me. And then by turning from rejecting or ignoring it, to finding love for it. This also helps me see that it is a part of me. It’s not the final word about who I am as a human being, and it’s not who I am as a whole.
By welcoming it, I may notice it’s already allowed (by life, awareness), and there is a more intentional alignment with this allowing. By thanking it for protecting me, I may find that it’s there to protect me, or an image of me, a literally imagined me. Asking what would satisfy it forever, allows me to find that in myself, for this part of me. And asking what it really is may help me see what it’s made up of, which a thought may call awareness, or presence, or even love.
I realized I don’t often mention here something close to my heart.
It’s a very simple mantra or expression of gratitude.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I sometimes say it before falling asleep, or after waking up, or during the day while walking or doing things around the house.
And I sometimes bring to mind things in my life while saying thank you. These may be things it’s easy for my surface self to feel gratitude for, and also things I initially don’t like so much.
There is a shift while doing this. I may find genuine gratitude and thankfulness for it. And I also get to see the parts of me that don’t like it, and can say thank you for those parts too. They too are here. They are welcome.
I watched The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies last night.
After Laketown has been laid waste by Smaug, there is a scene where Alfrid crawls onto shore among hundreds of other exiled Laketown residents. They are all in the same situation, and yet Alfrid says why me?
It’s not very subtle, but it’s a good illustration of what many of us sometimes does, including me.
We experience what’s universally human. What millions or billions of people have experienced before us, and what billions may experience after us. And yet, we feel we have been singled out. Somehow, life is especially unfair to me.
There are several reasons for this experience.
One is that most people show the lighter and more glossy side of their life to others, even without intending it. Most of us dress nicely, put on a smile, and are selective with whom we share the most difficult things in our lives. So it’s easy to see the lives of others as easier and better than our own, especially since we are – sometimes painfully – aware of the disappointments and challenges in our own life. As Steven Furtick said, the reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.
Also, since there is identification as a self, including as one or more deficient selves, this self is naturally in the center of our awareness. We overlook or “forget” that others experience many or all of the same things as we do. My life is not necessarily more difficult than that of most others, even if it can seem that way at times.
What is the remedy?
One is to share these things with others, which allows them to share with us. We get to see that our experience is not unique.
Another is to find gratitude for it all, perhaps through an all-inclusive gratitude practice.
We can inquire into identifications and beliefs. And perhaps do ho’oponopono, or tonglen, or loving kindness practice.
We can also pray or ask for these experiences to help us find compassion, humility, gratitude, and a life of service.
And we can live a life of service. Knowing that others experience this too, we can dedicate our life to serve life. This can look like a very ordinary life. And yet it can make a big difference, for ourselves and others.
I listened to Radio Adyashanti from last night, and he mentioned that shortcuts are not always short.
That too fits my experience. Shortcuts may work, to some extent, but they may also come with consequences that takes time and energy to deal with and sort out.
A sense of hurry is very understandable, and it can also be good to meet that sense of urgency with presence, love and curiosity. What does it want? What would make it satisfied forever? Does it come from a sense of deficiency? How is it to meet that sense of deficiency with love?
My main example of a long and winding shortcut is diksha. I tried it initially because it seemed harmless enough, and I was curious about the effects. It did lead to a clear state of “no self”, followed by collapse, CFS, and a great deal of turmoil. It’s taken a good deal of time and energy to relate to this, and finding healing.
Any question rests on assumptions.
So one resolution to the question is to (a) identify these assumptions, and then (b) examine them.
There are of course many other types of answers too, each one potentially helpful in its own way.
One question may be why did I lose my awakening?
Assumption: It’s lost. Question: Is it true it’s lost? Is it true it’s not here now? Can you find it in immediacy? (Even if it’s perhaps less strong, more in the background?)
Assumption: It belonged to me. Question: Is it true it is yours? Is it true it was yours in the first place? Is it true it belongs to a person?
And there are other types of answers. For instance….
It’s a very common experience. It’s here, then apparently gone.
Also, it may appear gone for a couple of different reasons.
(i) It’s here, but doesn’t look the way you expect. You associate it with how it appeared initially…. perhaps in the foreground, extremely clear. It may still be here, only more quietly and in the background.
(ii) As soon as identification (beliefs, velcro) returns, the clarity may appear to be gone. This is not a bad thing or wrong. It shows you what’s left. It is an invitation to meet these identifications with presence, love, and curiosity.
All of these aspects of identity are invisible, known to us as thoughts and flows in our energy body. (No one will ever find your identity in an autopsy.) It’s as if we are a computer shifting all of this data around. When kundalini opens and begins to move through the system it is challenging and disorienting, as it clears away much of our identity, opening our body to a different kind of experience, one we might call prior to identification. It will eventually lead us to know ourselves as awareness without identity, which is a knowing that feels eternal in nature, and free of the stuck patterns in our history. It can be very frightening to feel something in us letting go of us. In western cultures we tend to believe this must be a sign of mental illness, but when kundalini is the catalyst it is a sign of spiritual awakening.
– Bonnie Greenwell, in Kundalini and Awakening
An excellent article by Bonnie Greenwell, giving a brief overview of kundalini and awakening.
In the initial awakening – which came “out of the blue” in my teens – it was abundantly clear that whatever happened was the best that could possibly happen. The universe is love and consciousness. What’s happening is love, infinite wisdom, and consciousness.
Then, during the dark night of the soul, this knowing went into the background, and seemed to become just a memory. My mind told itself that something had gone terribly wrong. I was in the wrong place in the wrong situation. I had left my guidance. I continued to leave my guidance. It felt wrong at a deep level. And there was a knowing there too, in the background, that this also is from and is love and consciousness, and perhaps the best that could happen.
Both are valid, in their own way. All is love and consciousness. What’s happening is and expression of – and is – that love and consciousness. And, when I leave my guidance as I did then, things do go “wrong” in an ordinary human sense. And that too is OK. It’s an invitation to notice. To see that it’s misguided to think I can put myself in a situation that goes against my guidance and heart, and think it will be fine at a human level. It won’t. In my case, I needed to learn that through experience.
The initial realization of “the best that could possibly happen” was given with little or no cost. It just came. This time, it seems I have to refind it more intentionally and through some work.
For instance, what if this – this situation, and what happened – is the best that could possibly have happened? How would it be if my mind intentionally shifts and takes on this view? Can I find specific examples for how it’s valid? What are the genuine gifts in what happened? How does my view on my situation, and what happened over the last years, change? How do I live my life?
Another way to explore this is through an all-inclusive gratitude practice. What happens if I thank life, or God, for all that has happened? What happens if I thank for even that which was the most painful? What happens if I write lists each day, saying “I am grateful for…..”, and include anything that comes to mind whether my impulse is to like or dislike it?
These practices will, most likely, bring up (unloved/unquestioned) fears, identifications, and beliefs. So how is it to sit with these in presence? With love? With gentle curiosity? Is it OK?
Whatever you resist you become. If you resist anger, you are always angry. If you resist sadness, you are always sad. If you resist suffering, you are always suffering. If you resist confusion, you are always confused.
We think that we resist certain states because they are there, but actually they are there because we resist them.
Realizing this, we can make even resistance into an enemy, and try to resist resistance.
Can I find resistance as an actual thing? When I look for resistance in words, images and sensations, what do I find?
As usual when there is a new form of information technology, some see it as unfortunate, as something that will damage the young people.
It’s very predictable, and it has happened throughout history….. when we went from a oral tradition to writing, when radio and cinema arrived, when we got TV, when we went from black-and-white TV to color (here in Norway, there was even a heated discussion in parlament concerning how color TV would damage people), and now it’s the same with the internet.
It’s good to take a sober look at this.
First, we see that some – perhaps those with a fear of the new – will have these opinions. It’s very predictable. It has happened thorughout history.
We also know that, in most cases, it won’t be as bad as some say, and it won’t be as good as some others say.
Also, it’s a tool. It all depends on how it’s used. A hammer can be very useful, and it can also be harmful. It just depends on how we use it.
We are adaptable. Our use of it changes, and the technology itself evolves. We see what works and doesn’t work, and we make adjustments.
And there is always a heightened facination with the new technology at first. I see that for myself. The use of and fascination with it reaches a saturation point, and the use becomes more moderate and appropriate to long term use.
Note: Yes, I know about “digital dementia” and that discussion. And I still find it helpful to see the bigger picture, and keep a sober view. There is an advantage and a drawback to any information technology. For instance, books allows us to be absorbed into a different world, and use our imagination to (re)create this world in our minds. At the same time, they are ridiculously linear, and makes us a slave of what the author wants us to imagine and feel. Books, movies and radio are forms of information technology where the recipient is expected to be quite passive in this sense. They are quite linear and authoritarian forms of information technology, and the information typically only goes one way – from the author to the recipient.
Even if it has its own drawbacks, the internet allows the user to be more active and intentional, and often create, share and participate more actively. That is a dramatic advantage of the internet over previous technologies. It levels the playing field for those with access to the internet, and dramatically lowers the threshold for contributing. Few could and can publish books, and even fewer can have their own traditional radio program. But anyone with access to the internet can have their own website, or blog, or podcast, or YouTube channel. Of course, many in the world do not have this access.
A common suggestion is to see how it is to allow what’s here, this experience as it is.
And also to notice it’s already allowed and align more consciously with that allowing.
As with so much else, the general pointer is simple, and the refinements endless.
For instance, I can shift into allowing this field of experience – these sensations, words, images – as it is. I can notice it’s already allowed, by life, mind, awareness. That is quite simple. (Although not always easy.)
Within this content may be impulses to act. Relating to these requires more discrimination and experience.
Some of these impulses may be a quiet guidance. And I can follow that if it seems appropriate, and kind.
Others of these may be reactive, they may come from identifications, beliefs and wounds. I can meet these with love and curiosity, without acting on them.
It may be like this during intentional sessions, and it’s often not like this in everyday life. And that’s OK. This is an exploration. How is it to do this in sessions? And how is it when I instead act on reactivity? Or do not act on guidance? What are the consequences?
Over time, with this practice and noticing, there may be a shift. What I do in intentional sessions may seep out into daily life. It becomes a new habit. A new groove. And the wish for that to happen is also something to allow, and perhaps meet with love and curiosity. read on…
During the darkest phase of the dark night, there was a sense of going back to earlier periods of my life – all the way to infancy and before incarnation. Later, my system seemed to revisit childhood and teenage years. Memories, impulses, wounds, unlived wishes, all surfaced. Not surprisingly, I also acted on some of them – which sometimes was enjoyable (playful impulses), and sometimes painful for me and others (wounds, trauma).
For me, this has happened in the form of phases – of weeks or months or even years – where I have felt, and sometimes acted, like an infant, or child, or teenager. These days, I feel like I am in my late teens and early twenties. For others, I know that this may come in a gentler or less all-consuming way.
In one sense, there is a regression any time we are caught in wounds, trauma, beliefs or identifications. We “go back” to when these dynamics were initially created. We feel, and sometimes act, as if we are five years old (or any other age when these dynamics initially were created).
Also, it seems that we can go back to earlier times in our own life as part of a healing process, or as part of a kundalini process.
And, really, there is no “regression” or going back in time. It’s all happening here and now, including any memories of the past, and any emotions, wounds, traumas, or unlived healthy impulses. Stories of regression can be a useful shorthand to communicate something, and it can also be misleading since it’s all here now.
In meditation, there are three dimensions I think of as field, focus, and curiosity.
Focus can be narrow or wide. Bringing attention to the sensations of the breath at the tip of the nose narrow focus. Bringing attention to lines or colors of an image, or the shapes of letters, is also relatively narrow. Bringing attention to the sensations of the breath as a whole, or a contraction in the shoulders, is wider. Bringing attention to the space a sensation, image or word happens within and as is wider. In either case, it trains a more stable attention. And a more stable attention benefits just about any activity in our life.
Attention can also be brought to any content of awareness as awareness itself. And the whole field of awareness, with its content, as awareness. The latter is an even wider and more inclusive focus.
Curiosity is an inherent part of this exploration, at least if the exploration is held lightly, and comes from a natural interest in who and what we are, and how reality reveals itself to us.
We may notice…..
How training a more stable attention allows attention to naturally stabilize over time.
How attention is drawn to identifications, to beliefs, to velcro (sensations “stuck” on words and images.)
That any content of awareness – any sensation, word, image – is awareness, it’s “made up of” awareness.
That any content of awareness, and the whole field of experience as it is, is already allowed – by life, mind, awareness.
That what we are is really this field of awareness, as it is. And looking more closely, the capacity for awareness and its content.
That identification with ideas – a.k.a. beliefs, velcro – creates an appearance of being a small part of content of experience, an I with an Other.
And much more.
Traditionally, these three are spoken of as distinct practices. We train a more stable attention. (Samatha.) We notice the field of experience, that it already allows its content as it is, and that this is what we are. (Natural Rest, Shikantaza.) We find a natural curiosity for what’s there, and explore it intentionally. (Inquiry, self-inquiry.)
It makes sense to speak of them separately, and it makes sense to begin our exploration of each of these separately. And yet, the closer I look, the more I see that they are all woven in with each other. Explore one for any length of time and you’ll notice and find the other two.
Note: I was reminded of this when a friend of mine said “those are two very different practices” when I had spoken of focus and natural rest in the same sentence. Yes, they are distinct. And yes, they also blend into each other.
Focus can be explored within the context of natural rest. We can bring attention to a sensation, image or word, notice it’s already allowed, and rest with and as it. And this focus can be expanded to include the whole field of awareness – as awareness, already allowing its content.
The word darkness can refer to a few different things.
(a) Something that’s hidden, unknown to us.
In a conventional sense, we know that we – as individuals and civilization – know only a small fraction of what there is to know, in any area of life. In a deeper sense, we cannot know anything for certain.
(b) Something that’s seen as undesirable, bad, or evil.
What I see out there is a reflection of what’s here. Any story I have about life, people or anything “out there” also applies to me, and I can find specific examples of how that’s true.
Also, any ideas of undesirable, bad, or evil are ideas. They can be taken as real and reflecting something inherent in reality or life, and this creates stress. They can also be recognized as ideas, as an overlay of words and images.
(c) Darkness as part of a dark-light polarity that’s seen as neutral, necessary, or enriching.
This is an extension of (b). Darkness refers to what some label undesirable, bad or evil, yet it’s seen as contributing to the richness of life. At an individual level, if embraced with some wisdom and love, it’s what makes life whole, full and rich. If it’s rejected, we are at odds with life and ourselves.
(d) Part of the divine play.
What appears as light or dark, through our overlay of ideas, is all the play of life and the divine.
I see all of these in my experience of the dark night of the soul. (a) It’s dark because there is a hidden or unknown process at work. Which there always is, it’s just life. (b) I sometimes see it as undesirable and bad. (Loss, health problems etc.). (c) I recognize these experiences as part of the universal human experiences. They are part of the richness of life. (d1) I see that my ideas about the dark night, and the label itself, are all an overlay of ideas. They are not inherent in reality or life itself. (d2) And it’s all the play of the divine.
I first saw The Truman Show with friends from the Zen center, and was immediately struck by the – almost too obvious – parallels with the story of the Buddha, and of each of us as we begin to see through what we take as real and true. I later read that it was, indeed, the intention of the creators of the movie.
Here are some things that come to mind:
Truman is the only “true” one in the TV show. He is also each of us, the “true” man in the sense of universal man.
He takes his world as real and solid, and “accepts the world presented to him”.
He begins to see that his world is not as it appears. Little hints here and there makes him suspicious that his world is not as it first appeared to him.
He seeks the truth.
This brings up fears. It’s a threat to his identity. It’s a threat to who he takes himself to be and what he takes the world to be.
His world creates apparent obstacles to finding the truth. This is a reflection of how our mind sometimes brings up fears and reasons for not pursuing the truth, since it means giving up our familiar identities, identifications, and how we see ourselves and the world. It can feel threatening.
He persists, since he wants truth more than comfort and safety.
And he finds reality, or at least what’s more real. Reality reveals itself to him.
Although this is not part of the movie, it’s possible that after having explored the “real world” for a while, he’ll be disillusioned about it. He may have his hopes and dreams dashed. He may regret having sought it out. And if he continues to persist in finding what’s more true for him, he may find a deeper peace with himself and his world.
This parallels the typical phases – or sometimes facets – of an awakening process. (a) Taking our world as it appears to us, without much questioning. (b) Initial curiosity, interest. Initial quest to find what’s more true. (c) Facing some unloved/unquestioned fears and identifications. (e) Early release from identifications. Honeymoon phase. (f) Facing deeper unloved/unquestioned fears and identifications. (g) A deeper peace with what is. (h) Repeat variations of f-g. (?)
I watched the climate change episode of the new Cosmos series with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and was surprised that he named “greed” as the main reason for the problems we are facing.
That may be a small part of it. But it’s not the main part, and it’s also not a helpful orientation if we want a change. We have tried shaming and blaming, and it doesn’t work very well.
To me, it’s mainly structural. And it’s also about identity.
We have an economical system that’s not aligned with ecological realities. It’s created as if there is unlimited natural resources, and unlimited capacity to absorb waste and toxins. And the same goes for how we have organized ourselves in terms of transportation, energy, waste, politics, education, and more. None of these systems have been designed with ecological realities in mind.
And there is a good reason why: they didn’t need to. When they were designed, or when they evolved into what we have today, ecological concerns were peripheral at best. Other concerns were far more salient and important. Ecology wasn’t important, since we didn’t have the technology to wreak the kind of havoc we can today, and we also didn’t have the numbers to make it add up the way it does today. Our current systems were designed in a very different situation than we have today, and they are outdated, and have been for a while now.
These systems were designed, unintentionally, so that what’s easy and attractive to do – for individuals, corporations, and societies – often happens to be what’s destructive for the living systems we are part of, and depend on for our well beings and lives. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s how it is right now. More and more people are waking up to this.
And we cannot fix it by patching here and there. We need to redesign these systems at a very basic level. We need to redesign them so that what’s easy and attractive to do, is what’s most supportive – or even restorative – for the Earth’s living systems, for ourselves and our families, for the global society, for non-human species, and for future generations.
We know quite a few solutions. One is to tax what we don’t want, and subsidize what we want more of. Another is to set product prices so they reflect an approximation of the real ecological, health, and human costs of the product.
This is also about identity.
If we see ourselves as an integral part of the Earth’s living systems, we are more likely to be concerned with this and support the solutions.
And if we are faced with (a) reasons to support these changes that fit into our existing values and identity, and (b) solutions that do the same, we are also much more likely to see this as important, and actively support it – through voting and how we live our lives.
One of the main themes, and core beliefs, in my life so far is I am unlovable, I am unloved.
This caused me to chose a life situation that didn’t feel right, and made me feel off track for several years, and also lose several opportunities.
Several years ago, I faced a choice of getting married and staying in a relationship, or letting it go and move back to my own country. Partly because of these beliefs, I decided to marry. And partly because of these beliefs, I chose to let go of a great deal that was very important to me to stay in the marriage. I compromised far more than I would have without these beliefs.
Any thoughts about this are thoughts, and not inherent in reality. It’s not right or wrong in reality, or fortunate or unfortunate.
It has helped me get more familiar with this dynamic in my own life, and see that I am not different from many or most others in this. (The acting-on-a-belief/wound dynamic.)
There is an invitation here for me to love and investigate this in me, and find more clarity.
It did get me on a course where I got many experiences I enjoyed and wanted.
And at the same time, it has been unfortunate for me at a very human level. I have lived in places that didn’t feel right for me. Worked in jobs that didn’t feel right. Left a community that felt deeply right for me. Missed out of opportunities I otherwise would have had.
All of these, and more, are valid in their own way.
Here is a selection of possible pitfalls in an unfolding awakening.
The “bad news” is that some of these happen for many. It can trigger identifications and wounds, which can be uncomfortable, stressful or painful. And we can put ourselves in difficult or uncomfortable situations in life.
The “good news” is that whatever happens is part of the process. It shows us our identifications, hangups and wounds. It’s an invitation for us to be a good steward for our life, live with more authenticity, and meet what’s coming up in us with love and curiosity. It’s the play of life, Spirit, or the Divine (lila). It’s life expressing, exploring and experiencing itself in always new ways. Whatever happens – including what appears as a separate self, choices, actions, reactivity and more – is a temporary play of life. In these ways, they are not really pitfalls. And the idea of pitfall is an idea, not inherent in reality (outside of the reality we create for ourselves).
In general, these pitfalls comes from identification with images and words. Believing stories – about others, ourselves, the world, life. Velcro – sensations apparently “stuck on” words and images. It’s all variations on this theme.
In an unfolding awakening, there may be different pitfalls during different phases, or relating to different facets of the process.
I’ll describe some possible beliefs that can be triggered during different phases (or by certain facets) of the process. Each of these are an attempt for the mind to “land” somewhere, and find a sense of safety and security. Each of these are, at one point or another, stressful. They are stressful because they are out of alignment with reality. And they out of alignment with reality for (at least) two reasons: (i) Although there is often a grain of truth in any story, it’s also out of alignment with reality, and painfully so if we hold it too tightly. Reality is always different from, and more than, any story. (ii) Also, we don’t know. We don’t know anything for certain.
(a) The more weird, the more spiritual. Spirituality is about what’s weird and unusual. (Spirituality is becoming familiar with what’s here in immediate experience, and as who and what we are. It’s very ordinary, and the label “spirituality” falls away after a while.)
(b) I need to dismiss my human side, or ordinary life. (Our human side is part of who and what we are. That too is part of life and Spirit. Our human side and ordinary life is no more or less “spiritual” than anything else. It’s all about discovery of what’s already here.)
(c) Spirituality is about getting somewhere that’s not here. (It’s about discovering and becoming more familiar with what’s already here, and often obviously so.)
(a) This is it. This is as far as it goes. (Ignoring that insights are infinite. Life is an ongoing unfolding. And discoveries about who and what we are also seems to be continuing and ongoing.)
(b) I have made it. I am better than others. I did it. (Taking credit for what is given, a gift. Attaching it to an imagined me. Ignoring that everything and everyone already is this awakeness. Overlooking that any story I have about someone else also applies to me, and the other way around.)
(c) They don’t get it. I need to show them how it is. (Again, overlooking that any story about someone else also applies to me, and the other way around. And that it doesn’t work to preach. The most we can do is offer our own experience, if asked.)
(d) I need to move forward. I need to stabilize it. I need to clarify my insights and mature further. (Pushing it, trying to stabilize it. Not trusting that it’s a natural process of unfolding and maturing, with it’s own tempo. It’s also not aligned with our wishes or dreams, so trying to make the process conform to these is stressful.) *
Honeymoon. Same as above. Also….
(a) I can do whatever, since there is no-one here (or there) to be hurt. Nothing is really happening anyway. (Ignoring the human side of our lives, where people – including ourselves – get the consequences.)
(b) I can deal with anything. It’s OK for me to ignore my guidance, because I can deal with any situation. (Over-confidence. Ignoring the importance of learning to follow my guidance, and find love for and question any fears – beliefs – that stops me from doing so. Not realizing how eroding not following my guidance can be, at all human levels.) **
Dark night of the soul.
(a) I have done something wrong. I made a mistake. (Ideas of wrong and mistake are created in our own mind. We can also find the truth in the reversals, with concrete examples.) **
(b) This will never end. It will always be like this. (Again, these are ideas created by the mind, and held as real and true. It’s easy to project our idea of what’s here into our idea of the future. Nothing lasts forever, even if it seems that way.) **
(c) This is too much. I can’t take it. (Is it true? What’s the reality here and now?) **
And in general.
(a) I should trust this teacher or guide more than my own guidance. I need to set aside my own guidance. (A good teacher or guide will encourage you to follow your own guidance.) *
(b) I don’t need a teacher or guide. I can do it all myself. (Someone who is experienced with the terrain may offer valuable pointers and guidance. He or she may also see something about our situation that we miss, or see and don’t trust.)
(c) All is Spirit. All is God’s will. There is no-one here. So I don’t have to take into account the human consequences. (Ignoring our human side, and being ordinarily kind to the human side of ourselves and others.)
None of these types of beliefs are unique to what’s happening in an awakening process. They are, often in different flavors and expressions, universally human.
Also, each of the beliefs mentioned above have a grain of truth in them. Holding them as true, for a while, can certainly give valuable experiences and insights. And they can also be quite stressful and uncomfortable, since they are out of alignment with, or go against, reality.
I have marked the ones that played a clear role in my own path with one or two asterisks (*).
To be updated if something more comes to me, and I think of adding it here.
Mindfulness has been very popular the last few years, both as practice (for a wider audience) and as a topic of research.
I rarely use the word, partly because I don’t know exactly what it refers to, and partly because other terms seem more specific and cover what I wish to talk about.
Taken literally, mindfulness may mean being mindful of – or bring attention to – something, for instance the breath or dynamics of the mind or how we behave in daily life.
To me, it makes more sense to divide it up into (a) training a more stable attention, for instance through bringing attention to the sensations of the breath, or movements, or even an image. (b) Natural rest, shifting attention – or center of gravity, what I take myself to be – to that which already allows and is the field of experience, as it is now. And (d) inquiry, a natural curiosity into immediate experience, whether it’s a belief, trying to find an identity or threat or command, or a separate self, or something else.