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Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
– Howard Thurman
A friend pointed me to a post in Bentinho Massaro’s Facebook group. It’s about shadow work vs. Bentinho’s approach.
I don’t know enough about his approach to say much about it, but here are some general thoughts.
To me, shadow work is about who I am as a human being in the world. It can help me find a little more maturity, and relate to myself and others in a bit more mature way.
And I suspect Bentinho’s approach is more about what I am, and perhaps even seeing how the appearance of a shadow and a me is created by the mind.
Both are equally valid and helpful, in my experience. They complement each other. They are different tools, for different jobs.
I can use various forms of shadow work, or explorations that include shadow work, such as tonglen, Ho’oponopno, The Work, the 3-2-1 process, and more. And I can also explore a particular shadow, or shadow situation, with – for instance – the Living Inquiries, and see how it’s created by my own mind. I get to notice the images, words, and sensations creating my experience of it, and perhaps that the “thing itself” is unfindable.
The Facebook post also mentions focusing on our dreams, and that can be helpful too. That’s again a different tool for a different job.
We can use shadow work to mature a bit as a human being. We can use inquiry to see how our minds create a certain experience, including relating to psychological shadows, and invite the charge around it to soften or fall away. And we can focus on our dreams, and what we would like in our life, to support bringing it in. It reprograms and reorients our mind so we more easily move in that direction.
In reading the comments to that post, I notice that some seem to see these things as opposed to each other. To me, they are complementary. As mentioned, they are different tools for different jobs.
I can use a shovel to shovel soil. A baking pin to make a pie. A toothbrush to clean my teeth. No need to try to use one tool for everything, or set them up against each other when the purpose for each is different.
Update: I just saw Bentinho’s answer to the original Facebook post. I resonate with much of what he writes.
At the same time, and that’s more for me to look at, I notice that his tone and some of the content seems like it’s written by someone quite gung ho and early in their own process. It has the flavor of coming from someone who is newly “saved”. It’s quite similar to what I said and wrote when I was about his age, and still early in my own process – and in the honeymoon phase. I would moderate it quite a bit now. And that’s how it is. Both have their gifts.
There are often gifts in what we are most ashamed of.
The shame itself suggests that there is something still unloved and unquestioned there for us.
Finding love for the unloved is a gift in itself, and may open up for other gifts we didn’t even know was there. The same goes for questioning unquestioned assumptions holding the shame, guilt, wounds, pain, and suffering in place.
For instance, I have shame around being bullied, or at least sometimes being treated unkindly, by kids at school. Finding love for that shame, and the pain behind it, is a gift in itself. Resting with the sensations, words, and images is a gift. Questioning my stories around it is a gift. Seeing that I wish I had stood up for myself is a gift. Seeing that I don’t wish to treat others that way, including by vilifying those kids, is a gift. (They were most likely in pain too.)
And I am sure there is a lot more there for me since there is still more for me to meet and explore.
It can be fun to wonder about the future of spirituality. Or, really, how I imagine it can be, based on what I am currently familiar with and interested in, and what I would like to see.
I am in the Bay Area now, and I imagine that what’s happening here does say something about the future of spirituality. What’s happening here is what we may see in some other places in the relatively near future.
It’s a more grounded and practical approach to spirituality, one that’s closely connected to human healing and growth, social engagement, and even spirituality. To me, those cannot really be separated in lived life. They are expressions of a recognition of oneness – in immediate experience (all as awareness Spirit), through science (astronomy, Big History, ecology, systems views), and even through the “paranormal” (ESP, synchronicities etc.).
Since it’s a practical approach to spirituality, it’s compatible with most worldviews – including most or all religions and even atheism.
Also, since it’s a practical approach, it can be applied to many areas of life, including schools, health care, hospitals, prisons, workplaces, and more.
Since it’s a practical approach, it’s also subject of research. What are the effects of different practices, for different groups of people? (Physiologically, psychologically, health wise, socially etc.). What mediates these changes? What works best for whom and when? What are the risks? How do we minimize these risks?
Since it’s a practical approach, it’s also more widely accepted and respected by mainstream society.
And since it’s a practical approach, teachers are – as Adyashanti suggests – more like coaches. They share their experience, and give practical suggestions. That’s about it. (There will inevitably be some projections, as in any human relationships, but a practical emphasis may typically reduce this.)
We already see all of this.
I also imagine more organizations, businesses, and centers where they explore the intersection of practical spirituality with a range of other areas, including business, education, healthcare, science, ecology, city and regional planning, sustainability and more.
I imagine more centers where people can devote themselves to exploring this area of themselves and life. (Often not affiliated with existing traditions, although drawing upon their experience and wisdom.)
And I imagine centers where people who are going through spiritual emergencies can find rest, guidance, and support. (I have sometimes wished for that for myself, especially during the initial phase of the awakening, where there were intense energies and I felt quite alone at a human level, and my current dark night phase. This is, and has been, especially close to my heart. It’s something I can see myself working with, if life goes in that direction for me.
What we are already embraces – and is – all there is.
An awakening process is, in many ways, a tour of some of the essentials of what we are. All as awareness. All as love. All as dispassionate. All as allowing what’s here. Expansion. Contraction. Bliss. Pain. Suffering. Being human with all that means, including the messiness of human life.
After an initial opening and perhaps even expansion, it’s natural to wish to stay there, to make it into a permanent state. It doesn’t quite work that way. Life may well invite us to recognize all as Spirit, including contractions, pain, and the messiness of human life.
That’s one type of dark nights. The one where we “lose” the bliss, opening, expansion, and may get to experience the reverse – contraction, and the still unloved wounds, pain, reactivity, and other very human parts of ourselves.
To the extent we struggle with this, it will feel even more painful. We add suffering to a process that’s in reality very kind and loving, and even wise. We struggle against it, because we don’t quite recognize this process too as Spirit, as love, as wisdom.
And when I say “we” I mean I, me.
I sometimes will say my body tells me….. to eat this, not that etc .
There is a wisdom in the body, and one of the ways it’s expressed is in guidance for what to eat. (And it seems very accurate.)
Of course, it’s not really my body telling me. It’s my mind.
Using conventional language, I may say it’s the part of my mind more connected with my body.
Or, closer to my experience, it’s the part of my mind that appears as the body. It’s the part of my mind that we often call the body.
Really, those are all stories. It’s what the mind calls guidance that another thought says comes from the body. And recognizing that doesn’t mean I won’t listen to and aim to follow this guidance.
What’s stopping me?
That can be a helpful exploration.
What’s stopping me from resting with what’s here?
What’s stopping me from getting [….] done?
What do I find, when I look at images, words, and sensations? Feel the sensations? Ask some simple questions about each?
For instance, what’s stopping me from updating my website?
I notice a sensation in and around my head, and also an image of my head and a kind of light colored fog.
Look at the image. Look at the color, the lines, the texture. Is the color stopping you? No. Is the lines stopping you? No. Is the texture stopping you? No. Is the image stopping you? No.
Feel the sensations in the head. Take your time. Drop into the middle of it. See how it is to completely allow it. Does that sensation stop you? Yes, it seems to. How do you know it’s stopping you? What tells you it’s stopping you?
There is another sensation in the throat, almost a lump in the throat, a contraction. Feel that sensation. Give it all the space it needs. Notice the space in and around the sensation.
Do you see a shape, color, or texture? Yes, an image of my throat and the lump. Look at that image. Does that image stop you? No. Is that image the actual throat and lump? No, it’s an image.
Feel the sensation in your throat. Stay with it. Drop into the middle of it. Feel it, as if it’s feeling itself. Notice the space in and around it. Does the sensation stop you? Hm, it feels like a threat.
What tells you it’s a threat? I see an image of my eyes, looking at it, and looking worried. Look at that image. Is there a threat in that image? Yes, I feel a slight contraction in my belly and solar plexus.
Feel that contraction. Feel the sensations. I feel some nausea. Feel that nausea. Rest with the sensations. [Pause.] What’s happening now? It’s less strong. Is that sensation stopping you? No.
Rest with what’s here.
Can you find what’s stopping you? (etc.)
Earlier in life, I had strong “will power” and was able to muscle through and get things done in spite of whatever fears, hesitations, hangups etc. were there. I could override it. I was very good at it.
Now, with the fatigue, I am unable to do it the way I used to.
So now, even small fears, beliefs, identifications, hangups, wounds, makes it difficult for me to take charge and get things done. Small bumps topple the cart. (En liten tue kan velte et stort lass – Norwegian saying.)
It’s true that it’s related to the fatigue and lower executive (higher brain) functions, but it may not be directly caused by it. It seems that it’s more cause by a reduced ability to override and muscle through.
There is a gift here. I did ask to be shown what’s left, a few years back, and this seems to be part of me seeing what’s left.
The remedy may be the usual one:
Rest with what’s coming up, including the fears and wounds, and my reaction to it.
Meet it with patience, kindness, even love.
Question assumptions behind the fears. Explore the velcro. See what’s really there – the images, words, and sensations making up the fears and reactions to what’s happening.
See if I can find what’s stopping me. Can I find it in images, words, sensations? (This helps me see how it’s created in my mind.) Can I find it outside of those?
Seeing that there is a gift in it helps me befriend it more. And it also helps to see that both the the fears, and the reactions to it, are there to protect me. They come from deep caring, from love.
Even the fatigue and poor executive functions may be there to protect me, and comes from deep caring and love. In the healing process, the organism seems to prioritize physical function and lower brain functions over the higher brain functions, and that’s a way of protecting me. And the reduced higher brain functions allows me to rest, which is also a way of protecting me.
Note: Some may call what’s stopping me “resistance” but to me, it’s more unquestioned and unloved fears, beliefs, identifications, wounds and even hangups.
It seems that mood swings are quite common in a kundalini (awakening) process, and perhaps especially if it turns into a spiritual emergency.
During the initial awakening phase, I wouldn’t really call it mood swings, but it was a sense of shifting from bliss and expansion to pain and contraction, over and over, and it was quite dramatic at times. This happened mostly in my teens and early twenties.
Then, there were several years where everything seemed more stable.
And more recently, in the darker phase of the dark night of the soul, it’s been more of what I would call mood swings. Shifting from depth of terror and dread (a couple of years back) or contraction and pain, and a sense of ease and even joy.
Most of the time, the shifts happen within the same day, each one lasting one or a few hours.
Rereading this, I see that “mood” doesn’t quite cover it. It’s more a swing between a sense of ease, joy, bliss, expansion, and pain and contraction, and the specific flavor of each has changed over time.
Of course, one invitation here is to recognize that it’s all coming and going as content of awareness, and that awareness itself is always here. Another is to meet what’s coming up, including my reactions to it, in natural rest, and with kindness and even love. And yet another is to identify and questions any assumptions I have about what’s happening. It’s easy to say, and not always so easy to do. I still don’t do it consistently, and that’s part of finding a more genuine humility in all of it.
Yes, vigilance is very important. It is part of taking responsibility for yourself and not just waiting around for good things to happen. The vigilance here is to not be fooled by the endless variations of the mind’s confused attempts to remain in control. When we continually give our attention to our mind’s confused thinking, it is like looking for a diamond in a trash can. Hence the importance of vigilance, and not simply hoping that the mind will one day become cooperative and still. The mind may become quite still at some point, but not if we are not participating in the effort to remain clear, and discerning truth from illusion. As the ancient teaching counsels, “Be still.”
As for the experience of fear and falling:
- Do not be moved.
- Face whatever you fear until it pops like a bubble.
Remember this, everything in your mind or imagination is transitory, like a bubble or a dream. Within the dream it all seems so very real. Outside of the dream it never existed at all.
With Great Love,
– from the Q&A section of the Way of Liberating Insight study course
Q: My mind constantly discounts the relevance of everyday things, such as work, relationship, joy and love. It uses a deep sense that “all is well” to reject their significance.
This rejection has brought much confusion and suffering to my life, yet I continue to live from it. Can you offer some direction?
Adya: The idea, as well as the direct experience, that “all is well” can be used to hide from the many challenges of life, both individually and collectively. If the insight into the all-is-wellness of life is genuine, the wellness of life becomes the foundation from which you fearlessly and lovingly engage in life. It is not something that you hide behind. It’s about fearless and joyous participation, not rejection and denial.
If you can feel directly into the all-is-wellness of life right now, you may notice that it is fearless and loving. It is the foundation of wise and loving action, as well as appreciation.
With Great Love,
– from the Q&A section of The Way of Liberating Insight study course
I sometimes hear spiritual teachers advice their students to use a different approach than what they themselves used on their path.
It’s understandable. They may wish to share their current view, and what seems the most helpful advice now.
And yet, it’s a bit like someone using a boat to cross a lake, and then – when on the other side – telling the people on the other shore that a boat is not needed anymore. They themselves don’t need the boat anymore, so they assume others don’t need it.
I especially see this in people who worked hard early on in their process – perhaps struggling and “muscling through” with meditation and a wide range of other practices – and then found more simplicity and clarity. They may recommend that their students skip the “work hard, do lots of meditation” phase, and instead suggest more “subtle” practices such as natural rest or looking. That’s what works for them now, so that’s what they recommend to others, ignoring that they themselves came to it through a different path and lots of hard work.
I can’t say that this is not good advice. I don’t know. But it does seem slightly odd. At the same time, I know that people will do what they’ll do. They will follow the impulse in them, wherever it takes them. Some may hear this advice, and still try to “muscle through”, and perhaps through that arrive at a similar place as where the teacher is coming from.
Others may follow the advice, and they may indeed have an easier time with it. That’s entirely possible. I don’t have enough information (yet) to say much about it.
I am saying this partly since my early process also involved lots of hard work – hours of meditation and prayer daily – and now feels much more simple. And I also notice that I can’t unreservedly recommend others to start with what I now find most helpful. It may just be most helpful to me now because of what I did earlier. I can’t recommend others to start where I, and others who have explored these things for a while, am now. What I can do is share what’s been helpful to me at different phases in my process, and then let people go with what seems most helpful to them. They’ll do that anyway, which is a good thing. (Not that anyone has asked. And I still feel I am in the middle of my own process so others probably have much more perspective than I do.)
I listened to Adyashanti talking about the dual motivation of (a) wanting release from suffering, and (b) love for…. Spirit. (Or life, Existence, Spirit, God, or finding clarity, or aligning more consciously with love and truth…. whatever form it takes.)
I can find that in my own experience.
One motivation may be to find release from suffering. (Or even to escape it, depending on how the mind frames it.)
Another may be love for this self, or others, or life, or Existence, or God.
For all of us, I assume that both of these plays a role. Sometimes, one may be more in the foreground, and other times, the other. And they may also be understood in different ways.
For instance, the wish to find release from suffering is really a wish to protect this self. It comes from caring. It’s a form of love. It is love.
So whether the surface appearance is a wish to find release from suffering, or love, it’s love. It’s just love taking different forms. And it can be very helpful to recognize this.
For me, love was in the foreground for many years. A deep, heartfelt love for Existence, life, all as Spirit, all as love. This came following the initial opening or awakening in my teens, where everything – without exception – was revealed as awareness, God, Spirit, love, wisdom. And even before then, from as far back as I can remember in early childhood, I had a deep longing which I later realized was a longing for all as awareness, Spirit, love, wisdom. (Or a recognition of this, a lived recognition of it.)
I remember being at a retreat a few years back, and the teacher talked about suffering as our motivation to find “enlightenment”. I suggested that perhaps love was part of it, and he seemed to scoff at it. It helped me see that for him, avoiding suffering was probably the strongest motivation. (I also got that from his autobiography.) That’s completely OK. Life takes many different paths. And it’s completely possible that he recognizes all of this, and more, and chose to not speak about it there and then. (As a teaching strategy.)
I must admit that I have gotten to experience the “wishing to resolve suffering” side much more during this most recent phase of my life, what some would call a “dark night of the soul”. Even here, there is love “at the bottom”, and a recognition of that wish as a deep caring for this self, and love. A love for life. (Although I sometimes “forget”, when mind gets caught up in struggle and drama.)
As Adya also said, it seems that love can take us further. Also since we can, or perhaps will, recognize – at some point – that both are forms of love.
Wanting to escape suffering is very understandable, especially if we experience a good deal of suffering in our life. And yet, it tends to create a sense of struggle, and it comes from a slight misunderstanding. It comes from not yet recognizing this impulse as a deep caring for the self and life, and a form of (worried) love. When it’s recognized as a form of love, as love, this dynamic tends to soften and relax.
Suffering itself comes from a wish to protect this self, and love. It’s worried love. And recognizing that, suffering itself is more easily allowed and welcomed. It’s recognized as love itself. It’s not something we need to escape, or do away with, or avoid. It’s welcome. It’s recognized as awareness. As love.
What if it would never change?
I was reminded of this question yesterday, when I noticed the impulse in me for some of my symptoms to go away. (Especially the weird energetic feeling in/around forehead, poor executive functions, etc..)
What if it would never change? Then what?
How would it be to find peace with it? Learn to live with it? Function with it? Rest with it? Even find love for it?
It’s a shift from the victim perspective and struggling against it to finding peace with it and working with it.
It also highlights the victim dynamic. The question makes it more visible. Can I see how the victim dynamic is here to protect (the imagined) me? That it comes from love? How is it to see, and feel, that it’s a form of protection, and comes from deep caring and love? How is it to rest with that too, and find love for it?
It also reminds me that what’s here now is all there is. Anything else is just a thought, perhaps connected with a feeling in the body. It highlights any tendency to invest an imagined future with hopes or fears, and I can do the same with this. I can notice. Rest with it. Find love for it. See it’s there in an attempt to protect me, and comes from deep caring and love.
I sometimes use the words “spiritual practice”.
It’s a convenient shorthand. Most people have a general idea of what it means.
At the same time, I can’t say I like either of the words very much.
The word spiritual can refer to many different things, and be understood in many different ways. (Most of which are different from the way I intend it.) It may sound special or something out of the ordinary. While for me, it’s more synonymous with life or existence. It’s ordinary. Simple. It’s what all already is. It’s all already Spirit. We cannot escape it, even if we try.
I also see that the word spirituality does point to a certain orientation to life, so in that sense it’s useful.
The word practice sounds a bit heavy handed to me. It may bring to mind drudgery, or something that’s overly disciplined. While what it really means, at least for me, is something that’s just part of everyday life. It’s a resting with what’s here. Finding love for what’s here. Occasionally asking some simple questions, to shift out of habitual views.
It’s very simple. Even ordinary. A part of everyday life. Ongoing. Restful.
This too is about slightly different orientations, and perhaps phases of our process. Initially, both spiritual and practice can be helpful and meaningful words. They hint at a different orientation than what we perhaps were used to, and the discipline we initially may need to shift to that orientation. After a while, as we become more familiar with the terrain, the word spiritual may hint at something that seems too extraordinary, and practice doesn’t fit either since what it refers to is just part of ordinary everyday life – a resting with what’s here, finding love for it, an inherent curiosity.
I have had old unloved wounds surface lately, along with the unquestioned stories that creates them and holds them in place. Much of it has to do with leaving my guidance when I got married, feeling derailed since, regretting lost opportunities, and being unhappy about where I find myself now.
When these old wounds come up, it’s easy to turn away and neglect them again. After all, that’s been my pattern for most (or all?) of my life. It’s easy to follow the groove created over years and even decades. It’s easy to repeat what’s most familiar.
And yet, the remedy is to do the opposite. To turn towards it. To rest with it. To meet it with love and quiet attention. To question the assumptions that creates and maintains these wounds.
I seem to still repeat the pattern of (a) getting caught in old and habitual ways or responding to these wounds (avoiding them), and (b) shifting into resting with them, finding love for it, and noticing and question the assumptions behind them.
And that too is something I can rest with, find love for, and where I can notice and question any stressful assumptions.
During the initial awakening in my teens, it was very clear that all is an expression of life. Whatever it is, it’s an expression of life. (I remember even using those words to express it.)
Listening to Adyashanti from his online course last year, I heard him suggest that as an exploration. How is it to see everything as an expression of life?
That’s a good reminder or pointer for me too.
It does seem, as so many say, that during the initial opening or awakening, all is freely given. Then, it fades, and it’s a matter of doing the work to find it here too.
If I clearly saw that all is an expression of life, can I find that now too?
If it was clear that all is consciousness (or awareness, or Spirit, or God), can I find that here and now?
If it was clear that there is no separate “I” here, can I find that here and now?
If it was clear that what’s happening is the absolutely best that can happen, can I find that now?
Can I find it here too, in my current experience, even if the content of my experience now is different from back then? Can I find it, independent of the particulars of my current experience?
This is a step in the direction of “spiritual maturity”, and one step beyond the given ease of the honeymoon.
Being in the Bay Area, I find an interesting mix of “my tribe” and sometimes feeling that some folks are a bit naive and create a spiritual ideology. Of course, that happens anywhere people are into spirituality, and is often a part of our process of maturing.
Some folks seem to think that a larger scale awakening will save humanity, or perhaps that it’s the only thing that will save us.
First, I see this as a projection. It may be true or not, and in any case, it’s pointing to something that’s right here and now. Can I find that?
Second, I am not sure if I see it the same way.
To me, healing, kindness, and engagement seems more important. Of course, those things can come through an awakening process, but it’s not guaranteed, and awakening is certainly not necessary for that healing to happen.
Healing is all about who we are as this human self. Awakening is more about what we are noticing and recognizing itself. As mentioned above, an awakening can certainly support healing, but not necessarily, and it’s not necessary for healing.
The single most effective way to allow this healing may be through schools. For instance, by offering basic life skills as part of a regular schooling, starting as early as possible. This may include meditation, communication skills, parts work, heart-centered practices, self-love, and similar. It can be done in a way that’s sensitive to local culture and compatible with atheism as well as a range of religions and spiritual orientations.
It is, after all, just basic life skills. Life skills that can make a huge difference for individuals, the school community, families, and also impact the wider local and even global community.
Some spiritual teachers and teachings makes it sound either/or, or black and white.
The other side of it, is that it’s all here.
Whatever I see out there, in others or the past or future, is already here. What any concept refers to is already here. It may appear small, and take some looking, but it’s here. At least, that’s been my experience so far.
Both ends of any polarity is here. It happens within and as life, awareness, what I am.
Either of these ways of talking about it – as either/or or all here – are teaching strategies. Both have truth in them. Either one can be helpful for some people in some situations. Neither is, or even points to, any absolute or final truth.
And for me, the it’s all here pointers resonate the most, and is more interesting and juicy as an exploration. At least so far.
It’s the Oscars soon, which reminds me of a recent visit to Los Angeles and Hollywood, the Hollywood hills, and a (quite good) exhibit of movie costumes.
That visit reminded me of how the Hollywood movie industry is all about image-making, and people buying into it. They are very good at creating a certain image through storytelling, pictures, music, and more. People buy into it. (And it has been very profitable to many.)
There is nothing wrong with this. It’s how culture is created and maintained. It’s what’s happening in just about all areas of life, from entertainment to politics to religion to our most basic stories about ourselves and life.
It’s good to notice. Someone makes up stories, and people buy into it or not.
And that goes even for basic stories, such as:
I am unlovable. Life is good. Life is terrible. Life is fair. Life is unfair. Death is terrible. I need more money. I need your love.
What stories do I buy into? What happens when I recognize that someone initially made it up? What happens when I question it, and find what’s more true for me?
Any wish for attaining a permanent state or end point comes from an idea, which may be held as real and true.
So when that comes up, I can rest with it. I can also ask some simple questions, such as:
Can I find the goal? An end point? Is there a threat in not finding it? What would I have to feel if I didn’t seek it?
What’s left is something much more restful. Resting with what’s here, whatever it is. Looking at words. Recognizing them as word. Looking at images. Recognizing them as images. Feeling sensations. Recognizing them as sensations. Perhaps asking some simple questions. And resting with what’s here. Resting with word, images, sensations, when they are here.
And, of course, sometimes getting caught in seeking, wishing, goal orientation and so on. That’s part of it too. That’s perfectly OK too. When I notice, anything that comes up around it can be rested with as well. Noticed. Allowed. Notice it’s already allowed.
Awakening is not as great as some think. We may hope it’s a state of continuous bliss, free of sadness, anger, wounds and so on. But it’s not a state. (Apart from as a state of what we are recognizing itself.) It’s an allowing of any state, as it is. It’s not a particular experience, in a crude sense, but an allowing of whatever experience is here. It’s an allowing of the full range of experience, from heaven to hell and in-between. It’s a love for what is, as it is. It’s a recognition it’s already allowed – by life, and what we are. And it’s a recognition of any experience as what we already are. The impulse to fight it doesn’t make sense anymore, in that context.
At the same time, nothing is really better. And for the same reason. It’s an allowing of what is. A love for what is, as it is. A recognition of any experience as what we already are. And that’s not too bad.
What is awakening? It’s not so easy to put into words, since it’s outside of words (as so much else). In a sense, it’s awareness (this ordinary awareness here now) noticing itself as all there is (this field of experience, as it is). It’s really not that exotic or out of the ordinary. What is perhaps somewhat rare (still) is a more stable recognition of this, throughout the many states and experiences of everyday life. A recognition that’s less often distracted by the drama of identifications.
Many experience a feeling of emptiness. I remember it especially from my late teens and early twenties, and I still have feelings of lack come up now and then (which is a type of emptiness).
I would guess it comes from some sort of neglect early on in life. And most of us have experienced that at some point in time, in one or more areas of life. We didn’t get our needs met. Even if our parents were caring and healthy, we may still have experienced a sense of neglect at some point.
Parts of us feel neglected because they were, usually by others when we were small and felt dependent on them. And these parts may still feel neglected because we continue to neglect them. We try to distract ourselves from them when they come up, because they feel uncomfortable, and we do so through work, entertainment, analysis, food, love, sex, and so on. We continue the pattern of neglect, which continues the sense of lack, or feeling of emptiness.
There are a few different things we can do when the emptiness feeling is here.
We can meet our needs, in an ordinary and conventional way. If I feel alone, I can seek company. If I feel unloved, I can seek out someone who loves me. If I feel un-nurtured, I can do things that nurture me. This is very natural, and very sensible.
Another is to reverse our tendency to neglect this neglected part of us. I can meet it. Allow it. Notice it’s already allowed. Rest with it. See its innocence. See that it comes from love. See it’s worried love. Find love for it.
I can also do explore it through inquiry. While resting with it, I may notice sensations as sensations, the images connected with it as images, and the words connected with it as words. I can ask simple questions about these. For instance, does the sensation really mean what images or words says it means?
If I only do the first, the neediness behind it may create trouble. If I only do the second or third, I am neglecting some very basic human needs. If I do the second without the third, I may continue to perceive the emptiness and lack as real, solid and true.
Some folks think that humanity is in an awakening process.
Here are some things that come up for me around it:
Behind this is an assumption that humanity is not already awakened. That may be partly true, and partly not so true. We are – and all life, and everything – is already awake. We are awareness already. (And obviously so, when we look or notice.) At the same time, if we don’t recognize this, if it’s temporarily covered up by the distractions and drama of identifications, we can say that we are not quite awake. We are awake, without knowing it. Or, more precisely, the attention of awareness is temporarily absorbed in the drama of identifications, so it doesn’t recognize itself.
What these folks really wish for is perhaps more people living from kindness, and that this is reflected in how we organize ourselves as a society. That doesn’t really require awakening. It only requires a shift in orientation. And that shift may happen through relatively simple things, such as mindfulness in schools, and kids learning basic life skills early on in life – including simple practices such as loving kindness, tonglen, ho’oponopono and similar. (Of course, that requires that enough people – and the right kind of people – recognize the importance of that, prioritize it, and actually implement it.)
Assuming that humanity is in an awakening process looks very much like a projection. There is an awakening happening here, so it fills our awareness, and that makes it look like the world as a whole is awakening.
It may also be wishful thinking. A comforting thought.
If it’s held as a belief, it comes with some drawbacks. It becomes a viewpoint we may feel we need to defend and uphold. It can feel threatening if it’s challenged. It can lead to complacency. It can lead us to think it’s all already taken care of, so we can sit back and let it happen, without actively engaging as we perhaps otherwise would.
For some, it may look like humanity is awakening because of who they are exposed to. They may live in a place where many are interested in these things (for instance the Bay Area). They may meet likeminded people through workshops, events, or online. And by meeting a number people who are interested in awakening, it is easy to generalize and think that this reflects what’s happening with people other places, and even globally.
Historically, it’s very common for some people to project their hopes and fears “out there” on the world as a whole. Throughout history, groups of people have expected something very good (or very bad) to happen shortly, on a grand scale. Thinking that humanity is awakening may be just the flavor of the month (or half century) of this pattern.
It is also possible that something like this is really happening. And that would be a question partly for science and research. There are more people in the world than ever before, so even if the percentage of people who live in awakening is the same as before, the absolute number will be higher. Also, helpful information, pointers, and teachings are more openly available than before. It may also happen for other reasons.
When I experience pain, fear, and wounds, and rest with it, perhaps ask myself simple questions about it, and find love for it, something happens. I find more peace with it. I befriend it. I see it’s coming from worried love. I see it’s coming from an attempt to protect the (imagined) self.
And something else happens. When others act and speak from their own passion, fear, and wounds, it’s easier to recognize it as worried love, and deep caring.
To the extent I am familiar with the first, the second may happen as a side effect.
Mind sometimes identifies with a viewpoint, or a collection of viewpoints. It takes itself to be that viewpoint, and the identity created from the viewpoint. There is some fluidity in what viewpoints are in the foreground, although there also tends to be some recurrent ones.
The dynamics of identifications is also what sometimes, perhaps a bit misleading, is called “ego”.
This is what tends to create stress and suffering, at least if it’s not seen, felt, and loved.
And that’s perhaps the key to this. Identification itself is not a problem. It’s innocent. It comes from worried love. (And is also what creates this worried love.)
The suffering comes more from not seeing this, and not meeting it with understanding, respect, and love. That creates a rightness around the whole dynamic.
So why not explore this. What happens when I believe a certain (any) thought? What’s more true for me? How is it to meet this – the identification, the stress, the reactions to identification – with love? How is it to rest with the images, word, and sensations that are here, making up identification and the reaction to it?
It’s understandable if the first reaction to seeing the results of identification is to see it as “bad” or undesirable, or something we need to get rid of.
So why not include that too – in the rest and inquiry. Why not see that too as worried love? Why not meet that too with love?
That tends to soften the whole dynamic. By resting with it, it rests. By recognizing it as love, it’s easier to find love for it. By finding love for it, it tends to soften and relax.
This is written in a more general and abstract way. In practice, I can take whatever concrete identification that’s here – any stressful thought or reaction – and explore it in this way.
For instance, I now have a wound triggered around: (a) not sharing essential information about my situation and wishes when that would have been the most kind. (b) Following the advice of someone I trusted even if it was based on incomplete information and went against my own common sense and guidance. And (c) feeling misunderstood and not seen when I tried to clear this up. There is also (d) a victim identity triggered from this. I feel a victim of others or life, even if I was the one who withheld essential information, and choose to follow advice I strongly suspected want not good for me.
Another way of saying this is that I sometimes feel hurt when others make (incorrect) assumptions about me or what I want, don’t say anything to correct it, and then feel resentful about it – especially if have acted on their advice. There is a victim mentality behind this, and also a deep wound.
This comes from and has triggered a deep childhood wound, and it feels very young. I also see a reaction to it, a fear from seeing the hurt, the youngness of it, what happens when I act or speak from it.
So I can see the innocence in what’s here. That it’s worried love. I can rest with the sensations, and the words and images connected with it. I can meet it with love.
Where do you end?
That’s a good question to ask the mind. And then also the heart, and belly.
Do you have an end? A color? Is anything outside of you?
Note: thanks to Kiara L. for reminding me of this question today. This is also a question used in the big mind process, and probably by many other practices and forms of exploration.
I am healing – from CFS, brain fog, (what looks like) PTSD, and many losses – and see that the next step for me is to meet what’s here with love. Meet the symptoms with love. And meet my reactions to it – mainly fear – with love.
I can do that through natural rest. Resting with the sensations, and the images and words. Allow and notice. And notice it’s all already allowed. This is a form of love. I can also ask simple questions about the sensations, images, and words, to clarify that that’s what they are, and clarify what they are not. This may support resting with what’s here.
I can do it through ho’oponopono with the symptoms and the fears.
I can do it through holding satsang with them. You are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me. What would satisfy you forever? What are you really?
Spiritual teachings, and also psychology and self-help information, may create a false impression.
It’s relatively easy to talk or write about these things, and make it all look clean and straight forward. After all, we want to present it in a clean and straight forward way. And that tends to give the impression that what’s referred to is that way too.
And yet, it’s so often not. Reality tends to be messy and bumpy. People in teaching roles are people too, just like you and me. (They are you and me.) or our lives is sometimes messy. We don’t always apply what we talk about. It’s like that for just about anyone. I know it certainly is for me.
Why not bring all this out in the open? It can be very liberating. It shows we are all in the same boat. It’s more honest. When it’s out in the open, it’s easier to do something about it, and receive support to do so. There is less stress from feeling we need to hide so much from ourselves or others. There is less stress from fearing being “found out”.
For instance, I have – at different times – lied, cheated, stolen, hurt people, mislead myself and others, and more. I have done so out of fear, confusion, wounds, and trauma. And I have often not admitted it to myself or others. I have tried to deny it, justify it, make it seem smaller. And that too is from fear, confusion, wounds, and trauma. I am no saint, no more than anyone else.