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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. Please rate posts to your heart’s content. Thanks!

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Scott Kiloby: Glance at a mental picture that seems to torment you for three seconds

 

Glance at a mental picture that seems to torment you for three seconds. Look directly at it, notice the open, empty space around it simultaneously. Often, but not always, a three second direct glance is all that is needed to unhook from identifying with it. Then gently feel the emotion/sensation if there is one.

This is especially effective for addictive and fearful thoughts. Do it all day today and tomorrow and see if you don’t notice a difference in your degree of overall well-being.

– Scott Kiloby

 

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Adyashanti: You are that in which opening and closing is happening

 

Yes. There may be a sense of expansion or contraction, of opening or closing, and that’s happening within the space any experience is happening within (including the sense of conventional space).

It’s literally boundless, since any boundary is imagined (a mental image) happening within this space.

It’s already here. It doesn’t close. It doesn’t open. It allows for (and is, takes the form of) any experience of closing and opening, contraction and expansion.

Said another way, it’s all happening within and as presence. Even the idea of presence (the words, images, sensations representing presence in our mind) is happening within and as this presence.

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Taking about Living Inquiries: Get to see how my mind creates the experience of X

 

When talking about the Living Inquiries, I tend to avoid the “unfindable” terminology since it easily can be misunderstood.

People may get caught in thoughts such as “if it’s unfindable, doesn’t that mean it doesn’t exist?”, and may even scare themselves unnecessarily through that way of thinking.

Instead, I often say:

Through the inquiries, I get to see how my mind creates my experience of X. And after an inquiry, there is often a sense of lightness around it, and less stickiness and drama. (It’s not about whether something exists or not “in itself”. That’s another topic, and not really relevant or important.)

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Emergency measures

 

When something – an emotion, physical or emotional pain, cravings and addictions – feels overwhelming and unbearable, what do we do?

As psychologists (and others) identified a while ago, there is a range of coping strategies. From the more unhealthy ones such as drinking, using drugs, and aggression and violence, to the moderately unhealthy ones such as eating, shopping, and entertainment, to the more helpful ones such as friendships, nature, movement, to the ones that may resolve it all such as inquiry and seeing through the beliefs of overwhelm and unbearable.

Among the latter, some may be helpful short term and some in the longer term. And we each have to find what works for us.

Here are some emergency measures that works for me:

Move. Go for a walk. Do self-Breema. Shake (TRE). Jump up and down in place.

Talk with a friend.

Conscious breathing. Place hands on belly and chest and notice the breath. Make outbreath longer than inbreath. Breathe into the sensation, allow the sensation and breath to merge.

Feel the sensations. Feel them as sensations. (Set the stories aside for a while, if I can.)

Use ho’oponopono. Say to myself (the scared part of me), I am sorry, please forgive me, I love you. Say this also to whatever triggered it. (A person, symptom, situation.)

Alternately amplify and drop the stressful stories. (10 sec. each, described by Joey Lott in some of his books).

Tapping. (EFT type tapping.)

Say to myself: I love you. I love you. I love you. / It’s OK to feel this.

Ask myself: Is it true this is overwhelming? Is it true it’s too much? It’s unbearable, is it true?

And some longer term strategies:

Inquire into how I relate to what’s been triggered.

Can I find the threat? The overwhelm? Intensity? Pain? (Living Inquiries.)

Is it true it’s unbearable? Too much? (The Work.)

Inquire into the triggers. (Perceived threats.)

Inquire into being triggered. (My stories about it, deficient identities, fears.)

I posted a question about this on a Facebook page for inquiry, and here are two answers I found especially helpful:

Venting to a best friend. Talking it out, focusing on how I feel versus the triggering event or person. Giving it that voice helps it wash through through a big honest cry.

Also, lately I’ve been using the words “I am willing to feel this” with whatever arises. Physical or emotional pain, lately it works for me most of the time. Another one: Put my hand on my heart and say “I love you” over and over again. or Put my hand on the area of my body that hurts/triggered and do the same thing. “I love you” “I’m sorry you’re feeling this” “I love you”. caress my face, caress my arms, like a pet… for a few minutes. tapping also. These are mine.

– Marina B.

An interesting question. As time has gone on, I’ve discovered that it’s possible to rest with even the most intense states/feelings. That’s been incredibly valuable, as I spent many years feeling that I couldn’t be with what I was feeling, and so using all the tools that we’ve described above, and more. They certainly have their place, and yet what has helped me the most is being with or resting or inquiring even in the direst of times. There’s something so profound about discovering we do have the capacity to bear it all, even when it feels unbearable

– Fiona R.

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Adyashanti: What the universe will manifest when you are in alignment with it is a lot more interesting

 

What the universe will manifest when you are in alignment with it is a lot more interesting than what you try to manifest.

– Adyashanti

Yes, and as usual there is a lot more to this.

In one way, we are always in alignment with the universe. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts and feelings of the universe. (As Carl Sagan said.) What’s here is the universe feeling, thinking, acting, doing. It’s not two.

In another way, it’s possible to be more or less aligned with the universe. When I am caught up in fears, beliefs, velcro and drama it’s difficult for me to act from kindness and clarity, and follow (the quiet) inner guidance. When there is more clarity, and less trauma/beliefs/velcro/drama, it’s much easier for me to act from kindness, clarity, and guidance.

So there is always and already alignment with the universe. It’s unavoidable. And I can be more or less aligned with the universe, through (a) recognizing what I am (what this experience happens within and as), (b) healing my human self, and (c) relate to what’s here – including unloved fears and unquestioned fearful stories – with love, presence, and gentle and engaged curiosity.

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Katie: Would you like to know the secret to happiness?

 

Would you like to know the secret to happiness? Kindness and Gratitude. Nothing else is required.

– Byron Katie

Yes, and that includes kindness and gratitude towards everything in our experience. The whole field of experience. Any image. Any word. Any sensation.

Since most of us are trained to not do this, at least not consistently or universally, it can take time. We are retraining ourselves. We are forming a new habit. A large oil tanker needs time to slow down and turn, and that’s how it often is with us too. But with intention and dedication, it is possible. It can be done.

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Rest, mining, timelime

 

A reminder for myself about what I have found especially helpful when working with clients, using the Living Inquiries:

Rest. Plenty of resting, especially with sensations. (And sometimes images, words.) Noticing. Allowing. And with sensations, feeling.

Mining. What does X mean? (Especially sensations). If it could speak, what would it say? What does it want from you? What would satisfy it forever?

Timeline. What’s your first memory of X? (E.g. of having that sensation.) Then explore that, peel of images and words, feel the sensations as they are.

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Roxana N: What I was running from was what I was yearning for

 

What I was running from was what I was yearning for.

– Roxana N. in Facebook (and many others)

My experience with this:

What I have been running from are scary images and words, and sensations that seem scary. (Because images and words tell me so.) I have been running from my own experience. I have been running from myself.

When I meet this, welcome it, examine the words and images, feel the sensations, I come home. I find what I have been yearning for. I come home to myself. I come home to reality. I come home to love.

I come home to myself, as love, as love for all of this, as all of this, as what all of this happens within and as, as presence.

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Adyashanti: Be a true representative of the goodness in your heart

 

Be a true representative of the goodness in your heart, and don’t expect it to be easy or even noticed.

– Adyashanti

And…. notice how I stop myself from doing that. What do I fear? What stories do I believe?

What unquestioned stories are there? What unfelt sensations? What unloved parts of myself? What unloved parts of my experience?

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Byron Katie: The body is the ego’s greatest ally

 

The body is the ego’s greatest ally.

– Byron Katie

Yes, in so many ways.

I am this body. I will die. I don’t want to die.

My body is sick. It will get sick. It’s not good looking enough. It’s too old. It will get old. I won’t be attractive anymore. They won’t like me. I am wearing the wrong clothes. What will people think about how I look? Am I good and impressive enough looking to find a partner?

I am this body. The rest of the world is not me. It’s something that can help me or hurt me. It’s a precarious situation.

And more basic:

These sensations are connected to these images and words, and means these images and words are real, solid and true.

The mind is great at coming up with thoughts related to or relying on the body. And there is no end to how much stress can be created by these thoughts when they are unexamined and held as true. (Even if just a part of us hold them as true.)

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Byron Katie: Pleasure is pain

 

Pleasure is pain.

– Byron Katie

Yes. Pleasure is pain because……

Pleasure and pain are both sensations + images + words. The only difference is the meaning my mind attaches to the sensations. (One example is fear. If I experience fear while watching a good movie, or while on an amusement park ride, I may interpret it as pleasure. If I experience fear while alone in a dark alley, or after getting a diagnosis from my doctor, my mind may interpret it as pain.)

Pleasure is pain when I attach to the idea of needing pleasure. When it’s compulsive, pleasure seeking is painful. Trying to get it is painful. Anticipating it going away is painful. Having it go away is painful. Anticipating not finding it again is painful. Realizing that pleasure seeking is inherently unsatisfactory, while still being caught in it, is painful.

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Empathy towards those low on empathy

 

There are many reasons why some of us are low on empathy. It may be partly genetic. Partly life experiences. Sometimes trauma. (Trauma can get us in survival mode, which puts empathy on the back burner.)

These days, there is a lot of very understandable anger towards a US dentist who killed (“hunted”) a lion. Yes, I also don’t support it. I also see hunting as pretty lame. I also support animal rights. (And the formalized rights of ecosystems, species, and future generations of humans and all species.)

And yet, I can have empathy for this man, even if he is low on empathy. If he is low on empathy, which seems likely, that in itself is a good reason to have empathy for him. I can find it in myself. I sometimes am low on empathy too, especially when I am caught in fear.

Empathy can very well coexist with disagreeing with someone’s actions, and even actively work to prevent certain harmful actions to take place. It even supports it. It helps me come from a more clear and heartfelt place.

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Any thought can be stressful 

 

Any thought can be stressful.

Even the most apparently peaceful and hopeful thought can be stressful.

I will go to heaven –> Maybe not? Maybe I did or will do something terrible so I won’t go to heaven? Maybe I don’t even know how horrible it is as I do it? Maybe there isn’t a heaven?

Everything happens for me –> Yes, although if that’s true I am not making full use of it. Maybe I am missing what it means for me. Maybe I am missing opportunities for growth and healing. I am not up to the task. I miss the boat, over and over again.

These types of thoughts may be comforting, and they may help us reframe or give us pointers for action or exploration. At the same time, they can be – and eventually will be – stressful. Holding onto them as true may even stop us from exploring what’s more true for us than these thoughts.

They become a place to “land” and life is too kind to allow us to land for very long anywhere, including in nice ideas about how things are, so it nudges us along through making holding onto these ideas stressful.

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Compulsively avoiding velcro

 

I know this sounds simplistic, and it also seems quite accurate.

Compulsively avoiding velcro is what creates discomfort and suffering, and what keeps it in place. When I avoid velcro, I avoid feeling certain sensations and looking at images and words associated with it.

Velcro here refers to the sticky conglomerate of sensations and associated images and words. When sensations stick onto images and words, it makes these images and words seem real and solid. It’s another word for belief, or identification, or even “ego” as its sometimes used in spiritual circles.

When I compulsively avoid velcro, I compulsively seek something else. That helps me avoid the velcro. It gives me something else to do, and it may even appear to promise deliverance. They are two sides of the same coin.

I go into compulsive avoidance, overthinking/intellectualizing, rumination, hopes or fears about the future, regrets about the past, eating, entertainment, spiritual practice, work, wanting to be a good person, being liked, being admired, and more. For some, the compulsion may even involve drugs and alcohol.

The remedy is to do the opposite. To feel the sensation component of the velcro. To rest with it. To examine the associated images and words. To look at what’s really there, and already there.

This approach supports us in noticing what we are, and in the healing of who we are. As velcro (identifications) soften or fall away, it’s easier for what we are (presence, what experience happens within and as) to notice itself. It’s easier for the natural rest that’s already here to notice itself as what’s already here, and more consciously rest in itself. And it supports the healing and maturing of who we are, as an ordinary human being.

In this way, what a thought calls spirituality and psychology are both included, and the thought-created division between the two becomes less or not important.

Note: This experience, as it is, independent of how peaceful or turbulent it seems from a conventional view, is already natural rest. Sometimes, that’s noticed. Other times, it’s not. It’s still natural rest. And when that’s noticed, independent of the content of experience, something shifts. There is a sense of coming home. Of release. Of relief.

In what sense is it already natural rest? It’s already happening within and as presence. It’s already happening within and as what we are. It’s already sensations, images, words, each of which happen within presence and natural rest.

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What’s been surfacing in the dark night

 

I keep returning to the dark night of the soul here.

In short, for me it came after:

(a) An early awakening to all as Spirit (God). Or, more precisely, Spirit awakening to itself as all that is with no exceptions. This happened out of the blue, since I was an atheist and had no interest in spirituality before this. After some time, I found the writings of some mystics who seemed to describe a similar shift. (Mid-teens.)

(b) A “download” of huge amounts of insights and inspiration, along with a great deal of energy going through my system. It felt like high power going through regular housing wiring. It also felt like being pulled apart and put together differently. This may have included a dark night of the senses, and reduced identification with my human self. This came with the initial opening or awakening. (Late teens, early twenties.)

(c) Honeymoon phase. A sense of everything falling into place in my life, in amazing ways. (For the most part.) Being guided and held by God in smaller and larger things. Clear and strong inner guidance. Amazing synchronicities. (Early to late twenties.)

(c) Early dark night of the soul. I went against my guidance on an important life decision (where to live following marriage), and this was the start of the dark night of the soul. I felt off track and gradually felt more and more lost and aimless. (From having been very focused and quite ambitious in a healthy way.) There was also a period of a nondual state where there was no self or I to be found anywhere. (Any images or words creating the appearance of an I or self were seen as that.)

(d) Intense dark night of the soul. This came after diksha (which may have fried my brain somehow) and the nondual phase. It started with strong chronic fatigue (CFS), and the lid being taken off what was unprocessed – and unhealed and unloved – in me.

So what’s been surfacing in the dark night of the soul?

CFS symptoms. (Fatigue, brain fog.)

Persistent dread. This is with me constantly these days.

Initially, archetypal material. Heaven and hell images.

Unprocessed personal material. Unhealed and unloved parts of me, especially from childhood and teenage years. Unquestioned stressful stories.

Regression. Going back to early childhood and even before, and then slowly moving forward. Feeling like I am that age. Having memories, wounds and themes from those ages surfacing through my daily life. It’s not quite that linear, but it does seem that I am in the early twenties now.

Fear about the future. Regrets about the past. These too surfacing so I can learn from it, and also to heal, be loved, and for the stressful stories to be questioned. (The stressful stories that brought me to make the choices I regret, and the regretful and fearful stories themselves.)

Sometimes hopelessness. Giving up. Unable to see any way out or through this, including being unable to find peace with it as it is.

Losses of many types. Loss of energy, inner and outer resources. Relationships. Health. Opportunities coming along, and then falling apart. And more.

Trauma surfacing to be healed, loved, and for the trauma-inducing thoughts to be questioned. This is mostly trauma created over time in childhood, from longer lasting stressful situations (at home and with peers).

Sometimes speaking and acting from the fear, confusion and trauma, which has its consequences.

And what is it asking of me?

To find kindness towards my experience, as it is.

To find love towards my experience, as it is.

To invite and allow healing for the parts of me that needs healing.

To question the stressful stories, including the ones (re)creating trauma.

To rest with what’s here, as it is. With kindness. With gentle love.

To love the unloved and question the unquestioned.

To live from integrity. Live from authenticity. Follow my guidance. Noticing, welcoming and questioning the fears preventing me from doing that.

To be a good steward of my own life, in middle of all this, as well as I can. This includes asking for help, when that’s needed.

During the initial phase, there was a sense of all being given to me. Now, there is a sense that I need to grow up. I need to apply what I learned in more difficult situations and in relationship to deeper and more painful wounds in me.

Instead of basking in heaven, as a child receiving everything from its parents, I need to more intentionally bring heaven (love, kindness, presence, natural rest) into how I relate to what’s here. It’s more a sense of work. It’s a process of sobering up.

I am invited to even more intentionally bring what I want (love etc.) into how I relate to my experience, as it is here and now, independent of its content.

I knew all of this before too, and even applied it. The difference is that this situation is far more intense and challenging, and require more intention and work. It’s like going from the ashes to the fire.

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Scott Kiloby: Changing the Paradigm around Awakening

 

Changing the Paradigm around Awakening – Our Desire Not to Feel

I do wonder if the search for awakening or enlightenment is really about something different than what it is often made out to be.

Every time I have watched someone use this kind of work we do to start resting with and making all emotions conscious, letting them be as they are, inevitably the spiritual seeking begins to wind down right alongside that practice.

I think it is much more than a coincidence.

It would seem to be that it might drastically change the entire conversation about enlightenment or awakening if we all began to experience that this is indeed the case, that the mechanism of avoidance and escape of feelings is very much behind the drive to awaken. It seems the conversation around awakening would be much different, more pragmatic, if we began to view the search to awaken as merely an extension of our desire to avoid or escape painful emotions. It would no longer be about being special or being “those who are awakened” or any of that. And really no more about gurus. There would be a very practical view of it, helping everyone to reorient themselves systematically and begin addressing this desire to avoid and escape what is quite natural – emotions.

It seems that identification with thought itself diminishes greatly, once these feelings are owned fully. The Kiloby Center has become a lab for me to test out this theory. And it seems very accurate.

The focus for those who search for awakening often centers on the notion of awareness as something prior to the arising of thought, emotion. The focus is often on thoughts themselves, or identification with them. The idea is, “If I identify less with thought, I will recognize my True Self as this Awareness.” Ok, fair enough. But what will that give you? What will that show you ultimately? Is there something about the human experience itself that is driving this idealized search for something beyond? Virtually every mature awareness teachings says that even awareness (as something prior to thought and emotion) falls away at some point. So recognizing an Awareness prior to phenomena is not even the final frontier. It seems to me that recognizing awareness ultimately must come with a full-on acceptance and allowance of all phenomena to be as they are – all thoughts and emotions. And this results in less identification with thoughts and emotions. Could it be that it is our relationship to thought and emotion that is the key factor here – not some transcendental notion of awareness?

In the last few years, I have been focusing much more with people on the Velcro Effect, which is the experience of thoughts being stuck to emotions and sensations. The Inquiries undo this stuckness, not through avoidance and escape, but through the bare naked present allowing of all emotions, both conscious and unconscious. And at the Center, when clients become adept at this skill, their spiritual seeking fades. They come naturally into alignment with the present moment and the natural acceptance of all that arises. Identification with thought decreases with the undoing of the Velcro. And although many report a shift into present awareness, it ends up being not something prior to thought and emotion. The whole idea of “prior to” starts looking like an escape or avoidance of thought and emotion. As the Velcro Effect is undone, even thought and emotion are totally ok. Everything is allowed. And so the whole paradigm of awakening is blown out of the water. The word “awareness” and all the other words thrown around about awakening begin to seem silly and unuseful.

What people actually come to see is that they just didn’t want to feel. And they had spent their whole lives trying not to feel. As feelings are fully felt and the velcro is undone, life looks different.

There is no longer a state in the future that looks so appealing, either as a state of only positive bliss or a state in which emotions are absent. There is nothing to seek. There is nothing to avoid or escape. There is no specialness to this. It’s a matter of simply reorienting themselves to emotions that were stuck to thoughts. Learn to undo the Velcro, and the avoidance and escape stops. Therefore the seeking stops.

– Scott Kiloby

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Jeff Foster: Held not healed

 

Stop trying to heal yourself, fix yourself,
even awaken yourself.

Stop trying to Fast-Forward the movie of your life.
Let go of ‘letting go’.
Healing is not a destination.
Be here.

Your pain, your sorrow, your doubts, your longings,
your fearful thoughts: they are not mistakes,
and they aren’t asking to be ‘healed’.

They are asking to be held. Here, now, lightly,
in the loving, healing arms of present awareness…

– Jeff Foster

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Scott Kiloby: A stuck sensation dissolves when there are no words or mental pictures containing it

 

A stuck sensation dissolves when there are no words or mental pictures containing it, only pure space surrounding and permeating it.

– Scott Kiloby

Yes.

Although it’s not important in this context, a brief note about space:

Space here can be experienced as physical space, but it’s really something slightly different. It’s spaciousness (for lack of a better word) with an added image of 3D space added onto it. Our experience is space is partly that spaciousness or boundlessness, and partly the overlaid image of a three dimensional space. It can be interesting and helpful to explore this in immediate experience. I notice the spaciousness or boundlessness. (Literally, without boundaries.) And I notice my own images of three dimensions overlaid on it.

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James Eaton: Enjoying the Party

 

A friend was telling me how she recently arrived at a party and didn’t know anyone there. Immediately she felt awkward, not good enough, ‘out of her power’. Sad and ashamed that as a grown woman she was still prone to feeling this way, and fearful that others might notice her awkwardness, she began forcing her behaviour – to try to make things different, to be rid of the discomfort, to not be ‘found out’.

Then came an extraordinary thought: ‘Maybe it’s fine?’.

And with that thought she simply relaxed into the feeling of awkwardness to discover, to her amazement, that it really was ok, that it didn’t have to be any different, that she didn’t need to pretend after all.

This is real freedom, freedom that has no prerequisites, freedom despite whatever is happening.

Although she’d probably heard that message a thousand times before – to go beneath the storyline and feel deeply into the presently arising dis-ease – this time it suddenly hit home experientially and she could taste its power.

And the same is true for us all, whatever our situation. Whether it’s feelings of loneliness, loss, confusion, anxiety or stress, thoughts about not being good enough or being inferior to others, or the discomfort from contorting ourself to try to ‘fit in’; whether it’s the fear of speaking in front of groups, of being thought badly of, of being laid bare without our carefully crafted layers of personality for protection, or of seeing all our ‘certainties’ about who we are and what life is fall apart; whatever it may be, when we actually drop into the raw, felt experience of those energies and contractions, that we normally spend our lives trying to avoid or deny, we realise the marvel that who we really are is never threatened.

As our confidence in that recognition grows, as we even start to see beauty in the ‘discomfort’, wonder in its aliveness, we naturally lose interest in playing the game of avoidance, of needing to disconnect or distract ourself with compulsive thinking, rationalising, complaining, working, shopping, sex, drinking, drug taking or whatever our particular means of escape might be.

Then, just like my friend, despite those feelings of awkwardness, in being released from all the extra psychological baggage of it needing to be otherwise, we’re free to act naturally and spontaneously, to be playful, creative and connected, to express and celebrate our own uniqueness – we’re free to enjoy the party.

– James Eaton, Enjoying the Party

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Bear Grylls: Breaking Point

 

o-BEAR-GRYLLS-570

I have enjoyed watching some episodes of Bear Grylls’ Breaking Point, where he takes people with phobias into the wilderness, and helps them overcome their fears.

What he is doing is very similar to behavioral or exposure therapy. He does it quite well and with kindness. And it does seem to work. (He says he is inviting them to do what he would do if he had those fears.)

What’s not shown, although it’s implied, is that these people are ready. They have voluntarily applied to be part of the TV series. They have been selected out of hundreds of applicants. Some of them have gone through years of therapy. They are ready. What Bear Grylls is doing with them is the finishing touches.

He is having them go out and actually do what they are afraid of. He has them face their fears, and do it anyway. And that’s a hugely important component.

Also, after they come home, I assume most of them will have to overcome their fears again and again, on a daily basis. As that becomes a new habit, it does become easier. And the fears may even go away completely.

For some, it’s easy to take refuge in therapy, inquiry, analysis or similar mind work. We can feel that it’s enough. That we are done. Or that it’s safer to explore things in the mind than actually go out and doing it. I know that for myself.

What’s the remedy? To actually do it. And that can be much easier if we enlist support from someone who can help us – with some skill and kindness – to actually do it.

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Passive and active aspects of the dark night

 

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

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

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

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Aspects of the dark night of the soul

 

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

– Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism, Chapter 9

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

Sense of sin. Yes, in many different ways.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the full paragraph from Mysticism:

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

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

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

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

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

– Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism, Chapter 9

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

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Scott Kiloby: The five most helpful points for awakening

 

The Five Most Helpful Points for Awakening

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

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

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

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

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

– Scott Kiloby, Facebook

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Scott Kiloby: Are you having a problem today?

 

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

– Scott Kiloby, Facebook

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

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My experience with Lyme in Norway

 

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

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

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

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

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

The last one I talked with was initially friendly and welcoming, and when heard why I called responded “that’s a controversial topic in Norway, I need to go now and will call you back later, goodbye”. And then didn’t respond to my later attempts at contacting him.

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

Several things come up for me around this:

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

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

I don’t know the politics around this, but the official policy on Lyme in Norway does seem to be influenced by politics, and perhaps arrogance and wounded egos.

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

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

Update: It seems there are three possibilities when people are infected by Lyme. (a) It lasts for a relatively short period of time, and then is gone, perhaps due to antibiotics treatment. (b) It can become longer lasting, due to continued infection. (c) There may be an auto-immune response which creates problems. I am sure there are other possibilities too. I haven’t read much about it yet.

Update 2, mid-July 2015: I went to Poland to see a Lyme specialist there. It turns out that he also specializes in CFS. It’s possible that there is a weakness in my system that makes me more susceptible to both CFS and Lyme. He took a good number of tests to get an idea of what’s going on, and what the best course of treatment may be. One of the main questions is why my mitochondria seem compromised, and unable to produce as much energy as they normally would. I feel a little better, partly from what he gave me, and partly from feeling I am in good hands and that someone actually takes my case seriously and may be able to do something about it.

Update 3, July 16, 2015: I had an appointment with my regular doctor in Norway (about referal to nevrologist for CFS), and he interrupted me and changed the topic as soon as I tried to give him an update about the Lyme. I still have numbness in arms, legs, and face, a stiff neck, strong headache, very strong grogginess, memory problems, diarrhea, and more, so it seems irresponsible by him to dismiss it – to the point of not even wanting to hear about it. (The symptoms are stronger some days than other, and obviously quite debilitating.)

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Processed food and hopelessness 

 

Nothing new here, but a useful reminder:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Gospel of Thomas, verse 70

Here is one way of understanding this.

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

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

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

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

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

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Hell, heaven, purgatory

 

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

– Byron Katie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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