Feeling sensations as sensations

This is one of the pointers I have found invaluable:

Feel sensations as sensations.

Instead of seeing it as anger, sadness, grief, exhilaration, discomfort, physical pain, compulsion, or something else, feel the sensation component of it as sensations. Notice where it is in the body. Feel the sensations.

It sounds almost too simple, maybe even naive.

And it can be amazingly effective, when we are able to do it. When the shift happens to feeling the sensations as sensations.

It’s not always so easy. The reason it initially appears as anger, sadness, or whatever it is, is that the sensations are connected with images and words. They form a whole, which we have stories about, and which may seem scary.

It can help to do some simple inquiry. Feel the sensations. Notice images connected with it. Notice words connected with it. Rest with it. Ask simple questions about it, to make it easier to see what’s already and really there.

Look at the word “anger”. Look at the letters, the shapes, the spaces between and around the letters. Are those letters angry? Are they anger?

Look at the image of your father. Look at the colors, texture, lines. Imagine touching the surface. Is that image your actual father?

Look at the image of a dark ball. Is that image a threat? Can it hurt you?

Doing some inquiry with the associated images and words helps us see images as images, words as words, and sensations as sensations. It helps us feel and rest with sensations as sensations. It can make it much easier to do so.


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Different forms of resolution

Most of us experience a wish for resolution. It seems almost built in.

And that makes sense.  I assume that for our ancestors – both human and those before – the drive to seek resolution benefited them. It helped them survive and pass on that particular trait.

We can find resolution in several different ways:

In a conventional sense, by taking care of our life and situations we find ourselves in.

At the story level, by reframing, question our thoughts, look at it from other perspectives, see that what we thought happened didn’t, and so on. (The Work, cognitive therapy.)

At the basic perception level. For instance by looking for a deficient or inflated self, a threat, a compulsion or similar. Seeing how our minds create these stories and experiences. And perhaps being unable to find what we are looking for outside of images, words, and sensations, and that those are not “it” either. (Living Inquiries.)

Through meeting our experience with kindness. Finding love for our experience, for our hurt, pain, anger, grief, sadness, wounds, trauma, discomfort, physical pain, and more.

By resting with what’s here. Notice. Allow. Resting with whatever is here in our experience. Notice the space it’s happening within. Shifting from thinking to noticing. This is a form of kindness towards our experience, and ourselves. It also helps us find ourselves as that we already are, that which all experience happens within and as.

There is something else we can do to find a sense of resolution. We can include our (very human) desire for resolution, and perceived threats in not finding it, in what we explore using the approaches above.

We can question our beliefs about resolution, and any scary stories of what may happen if we don’t find it. We can see if we can find a thing called “resolution”, or lack of resolution, a threat, or a command to find resolution. We can meet this in us with kindness, and find love for it. We can rest with it, in kind presence.

We may still seek resolution, including in the very ordinary and everyday ways. And now with more ease. And less sense that it has to happen or has to happen a certain way. (Less compulsively.)


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Beings wishing for their own liberation

Every aspect of our experience can be seen as a being.

We welcome some. Are indifferent about others. And actively ignore, reject, or battle some.

The ones we ignore, reject or battle wish for what all beings wish for.

They wish to be treated with respect. Kindness. They wish to be acknowledged. Listened to. Rested with. They wish to be liberated from their own suffering. They wish to be liberated from being treated unkindly.

They come with that wish. And I am the one who can do it for them. I am the one who can treat them with respect, kindness. I am the one who can rest with them, in kind presence.

I am the one who can ask simple questions about the stories creating their suffering, and helping it liberate.

I can do this with any aspect of my experience. Any of these beings, whether they are called sadness, anger, grief, fear, discomfort, pain, suffering, or anything else.

We all have a shared wish to be treated with kindness. So why not give that to these parts of my experience. After all, they are what I am. They are me. It’s a kindness towards me.

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The love of your life

Do you want to meet the love of your life? Look in the mirror.

– Byron Katie

This may seem as a nice thought, and yet we know that it’s not true, right?

It may not feel true. And the reason it doesn’t feel true is that we are not quite there yet.

If we have spent a lifetime being lukewarm to ourselves, or even ignoring or battling ourselves, it takes some intention – and perhaps time – to turn it around.

How do we love ourselves?

The answer comes in two parts. First, what do we mean by “ourselves”? Is it just the image I have of myself? No. The answer is more radical than that. It’s all of our experience. It’s all that I am experiencing, here and now. What I am experiencing happens within and as what I am. It is what I am, in the moment.

Then, do I love it? Typically, we find that we like some parts, dislike other parts, and are neutral towards some parts. Loving it is different. It means kindness to our experience, no matter what that experience is. Kindness towards sadness, anger, joy, exhilaration, grief. Kindness towards resistance, discomfort, contractions. Kindness towards joyful and scary thoughts. Kindness towards physical pain. Resting with it, in kind presence. Even finding love for it.

That’s how we love ourselves. Finding love for my experience, as it is, here and now.

It’s a tall order. It’s radical. And it’s how we discover that we are the love of our life.

I, as all of my experience in the moment, is the love of my life, when I have found how to meet it with genuine love.

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Adyashanti: you need to take responsibility for what’s happening

The teacher can light a fire, but the teacher is not going to complete the process for you. Transmission is most powerful for people who feel a sense of resonance with what is being offered. If the resonance is there, a potential is ignited. Once the potential is woken up, then you need to take responsibility for what’s happening.

Don’t just sit around waiting for the teacher or the teacher’s transmission to do it for you, because then you come into a dependent relationship. And as soon as you come into a dependent relationship psychologically or emotionally, the effect of the transmission is dampened down tremendously. It just kills it right on the spot.

It’s like putting water on a fire. We need to become responsible for our own transformation because no teacher can in any way do everything for us. We’ve got to do it for ourselves. We’ve got to look for ourselves. Being in the presence of somebody might light a fire spontaneously, but you yourself have to tend that fire.


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Dark night of the soul: challenges & some remedies

The dark night of the soul has its own timing and its own life.

And yet, there are things we can do that can make it a little more bearable, and even align us more consciously with what the process seems to ask of us. (Also based on reports from people who have moved through it.)

Here are some common challenges for people in a dark night of the soul:

We feel that we did something wrong.

We feel that it will never end.

We don’t know what’s happening.

We struggle with and resist what’s happening.

We are caught in painful stories about what’s happening.

We are faced with painful stories surfacing to find liberation. These stories may be old stories recreating deficient selves, perceived threats, compulsions, wounds, trauma, and more. They are unquestioned and unloved.

We may have dread, terror, and trauma surfacing. (To find love and liberation.)

Our identities are “under siege”. Life may put us in situations where our familiar identities don’t fit anymore. (Sometimes, although not necessarily, through loss of relationships, health, work etc)

We experience periods of intense discomfort, perhaps without being able to put a label on it.

Shadow material tends to surface. Whatever is unhealed and unloved tends to surface.

It can feel overwhelming. Unbearable. We can’t take it anymore.

There may be losses – of relationships, health, work, and more.

We may have periods where we are unable to sleep, or get very little sleep.

 And some remedies:

Information. Talking with others who have gone through it.

Inquiry into the painful stories. The beliefs about what’s happening. The beliefs creating the painful experiences that may surface.

Meeting the pain or discomfort with kindness. Holding it in kind presence.

Resting with what’s here. Notice. Allow.

And some more things that may be supportive:

Spend time in nature. Walk. Garden.

Use your body. Swim. Walk. Do gentle physical activities that feels nurturing and supportive.

Eat well. Eat foods that work with your body. Drink plenty of water.

Nurture nurturing activities and relationships.

Receive sessions that are nurturing and supportive. Perhaps massage, acupuncture, craniosacral etc. Find practitioners who are OK with what you are going through, and don’t have a need to “fix” you. (Nothing needs to be fixed, but some activities and modalities can be supportive in this process.)

Find support from others who have gone through it, and are going through it.

Find a guide who has gone through it, and is experienced guiding people through it.

Rest. Get plenty or rest.

Be kind with yourself. Ask yourself what would someone who loves themselves do? (The answer may be very simple and for that moment.)

Be a good steward of your life, as much as you can.

Ask for guidance. Ask for support. Ask for your will be done. (Ask life, the universe, God.)

Let go of limiting ideologies, if they create stress and don’t seem to work for you anymore. (This includes ideologies about food, practices, world views, how you should live your life, and more.)

Ordinary human kindness. Ask for kindness. Be kind towards yourself and others, as much as you can.

See also previous posts on this topic, including for a list of helpful resources. (Adyashanti has talked and written about dark nights. Jeannie Zandi writes and speaks about it. There are several good books on spiritual emergencies, which includes a mentioning of dark nights. Evelyn Underhill’s Mysticism has a good chapter on the Dark Night of the Soul, although colored by her tradition and times. There is a lot more information out there.)

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Steve Jobs: Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.

Almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

– Steve Jobs

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Notice all as awareness

At some point in the process, it can be helpful to notice all as awareness.

This sound, this image, this word, this sensation, it’s all awareness.

It happens within and as awareness.

Even what seems most solid to me – this tension, contraction, discomfort – is awareness.

When I look for something that looks real and solid (Living Inquiries), and it’s unfindable to me, it’s often easier to notice this.

It may seem that the images, words, and sensations themselves are real and solid, so I can look for them. And it may seem that awareness is a “thing” so I can look for that too.


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Keeping it simple

In my own life, and when I work with clients, I am reminded of how helpful it can be to keep it simple.

Here is the simple recipe that seems to work best for me:

Simplicity. Keep it simple.

Ongoing. Make it part of daily life.

Comfortable. Find a way to do it so you’d want to do it forever.

And another principle that keeps it simple:

Reality.  Use practices and guidelines that are aligned with reality, and helps you align more consciously with reality, with what already is.

When it’s simple, it’s…..

Easier to remember and do.

More attractive to actually do.

Easier to do when things feel more overwhelming and challenging.

Something I’d want to make part of my daily life.

Here are some practices that fits these guidelines for me:

Heart practices. Loving kindness. Ho’oponopono. Doing this towards me, others, parts of me and my experience, the world, life. (Other practices: Tonglen, holding satsang with parts of my experience.)

Head practices. Inquiry. Asking simple questions in everyday life. (Is it true this is too much? Is that image of the future the actual future? Does that sensation mean something terrible is going to happen?) Sometimes doing it in a more structured way, for instance using The Work or the Living Inquiries.

Belly practices. Feeling sensations, especially the apparently uncomfortable ones and contractions. Resting with them. Doing simple body-inclusive practices. Walk in nature.

General practices. Resting with what’s here, with my experience as it is. Notice. Allow. Notice they are already allowed. Notice all as awareness.

Most of these are quite simple. And how are they aligned with reality, or how do they help me more consciously align with reality? Other posts have addressed that question so I’ll only mention a few things briefly here.

Love and kindness feels good. It’s a relief. And it’s what we are, when we find ourselves as that which any experience happens within and as.

Inquiry helps us see what’s already here. It helps us see what’s more true than our initial beliefs. It helps us see images as images, words as words, and feel sensations as sensation. (Not jumbled together as they initially often are, creating the appearance that these images and words are solid and true.)

Feeling sensations, along with inquiry, helps us feel sensations as sensations. Initially, they may seem to mean something, perhaps even something scary. (Because images and words seem “stuck” on them.) Through feeling them, and perhaps asking some simple questions about them and the associated images and words, we can feel sensations as sensations. We recognize that they don’t inherently mean anything. We can rest with them, more as they are.

Resting with what’s here helps me shift from thinking to noticing. It helps me find myself as that which I already am. As that which any experience already happens within and as.

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Absent of I

What does “absent of I” mean?

Simply, it means that what I take myself to be is, when I look, unfindable. Whether what I take myself to be is a me or an I, a human self, a body, a deficient or inflated self, a doer, an observer, a soul, awareness, Spirit, or something else.

When I look, I cannot find any of these outside of images, words, or sensations. And those aren’t “it” either.

Unfindable doesn’t mean doesn’t exist. It just means unfindable.

P.S. The URL for this blog is absentofi.org

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My influences

I thought I would make a list of some of my influences. I am sure  I am (accidentally) leaving out many important ones.

Teens & Early Twenties

  • Fritjof Capra **** – very strong influence in his exploration of the intersection of science and spirituality.
  • Ken Wilber **** – I started with No Boundaries, and have read just about all of his books since.
  • Shirley Maclaine –  yes, I know, but reading her books did early on help open my mind.
  • Parmahansa Yogananda *** – I read just about everything published by him.
  • Meister Eckhart – after the initial awakening, I found someone who was coming from the same place in his writings. (Although filtered through a different culture, tradition, and intentionally wanting to be a bit obscure.)
  • Saint Francis ***** – very strong heart connection.
  • The Gospel of Thomas ***** – strong resonance.
  • CG Jung ***** – very strong influence, I read a great number of his books in my teens and early twenties.
  • Taoism, I Ching etc. ***** – I felt a strong connection to Taoism and read and reread a number of the classics, and also some more modern texts.
  • Rudolph Steiner ** – I read a number of his books as well, along with other Anthroposophical writings.
  • Tibetan Buddhism *** – many of the modern and traditional classics.
  • Zen **** – during my time at the Zen Center, I read a number of modern and traditional classics in Zen too.
  • Ecospirituality, ecopsychology, The Great Story **** – I have been deeply interested in this since my teens, and have read most of what’s been available on these topics. (Which, for a while, wasn’t that much.)
  • Arne Næss **** – the ecophilospher, another one I feel a great kinship with.

Later on

  • Douglas Harding *** – I really like his simple and direct approach.
  • Ramana Maharshi, Nisgaradatta, Papaji, Ramesh Balsekar, UG Krishnamurti etc. – I had a phase where I read many of the modern classics within Advaita.
  • Adyashanti ***** – the teacher and teachings I resonate the most with. He feels like a brother on the path, one that’s a bit older and wiser. (It also felt that way when I met with him a few years back.)
  • Byron Katie **** – yes, very clear and has been very important to me.
  • Bonnie Greenwell **** – clear, down to earth, practical, insightful, experienced.
  • Scott Kiloby **** – I really like his ordinariness and down to earth approach, his clarity, humanity, and the approaches he has and is developing.



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Adyashanti: Awakening is not a magic cure for all that ails you

Awakening is neither a magic cure for all that ails you, nor an escape from the difficulties of life. Such magical thinking runs contrary to the unfolding of Reality and is a great impediment to its mature expression. The aim of this teaching is to wake up to the absolute nature of Reality, then embody and live it to the fullest extent possible. Such awakening does eventually bring a sense of deep peace, love, and well-being, but these are the by-products of the awakened state, not the goal.

- Adyashanti in The Way of Liberation

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To find strength, embrace weakness

To find strength, embrace weakness. To find courage, embrace fear. To find love, embrace the unloving. To move forward, embrace resistance.

To find one thing, embrace the opposite in yourself.

What does it mean to embrace it?

Meet it with kindness.

Find love for it.

See it’s here to protect me. It comes from deep caring. It comes from love.

Rest with it.

Then, inquire into both sides of the polarity. Can I find threats? Needs? Commands? Is it findable, the weakness or strength, or whatever it is?

When I do this, what’s left is a more natural strength, courage, love, or moving forward. One that includes both ends of the polarity, and is not opposed to either.

There is more freedom around the whole topic, and the polarity.


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Adyashanti: No spiritual teaching is a direct path to enlightenment

No spiritual teaching is a direct path to enlightenment. In fact, there is no such thing as a path to enlightenment, simply because enlightenment is ever present in all places and at all times. What you can do is to remove any and all illusions, especially the ones you value most and find the most security in, that cloud your perception of Reality.

– Adyashanti in The Way of Liberation

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Ways to avoid feeling what I don’t want to feel

There is really just one way to avoid feeling what’s here.

And that’s to bring attention out of feeling sensations and into thoughts.

The only reason I would do that is because I believe thoughts saying that feeling the sensations, and perhaps being exposed to the associated images and words, is uncomfortable, dangerous, a threat, bad, or undesirable.

This avoidance can take a large number of forms, probably many more than I am going to list here.

And the remedy is simple. Feel the sensations. Ask myself what would I have to feel if I didn’t [the avoiding behavior], and then feel that. Take time feeling the sensations. Perhaps look at associated images and words, and ask simple questions about them to see more clearly what’s there.

So here is a very incomplete list of behaviors most or all (?) of us sometimes engage in to avoid feeling what’s here.

Going into thought, independent of the content of these thoughts. Go into thinking instead of feeling and noticing.

Blame someone else, life, the world, God, for what seems wrong. And, really, blaming something “out there” for the uncomfortable feeling. (Although that’s usually not part of the blaming story.)

Going into (otherwise) constructive activities, such as writing (as I do here), working, being with family and friends, playing with kids or pets, going for a walk, read something interesting, listen to a podcast. (This one is very familiar to me.) These are all fine activities, and when I do them to avoid feeling something, there is a sense of compulsion there.

Analyze or comment on what’s going on. Trying to understand it. Make up stories about it. (Not that this is always inappropriate, but it can be habitual or a bit compulsive.)

Distractions of any type, including any form of thoughts or any activity.

Doing something enjoyable. Eat, sleep, go for a walk, cuddle, have sex, watch a movie, be in nature, do art, photography, make music. All of these can be done to avoid feeling what’s here, and when that happens, these activities can feel slightly compulsive. They become something I am compelled to do so I can avoid feeling what’s here.

Going into drama, getting caught in the drama. It may seem we are feeling here, since it can seem quite intense, but we are actually avoiding really feeling and resting with the sensations.

Putting it off into the future. Telling myself I can do it tomorrow, perhaps when I am in the right mood, or have more time, or am in a better state of mind.

Going into “awareness” or the “witness”. Which is really going into an idea of awareness somehow different from and split off from feeling the sensations that’s here.

Spacing out. Going into daydreams.

Numbing out. And not feeling this as sensations.

Getting sleepy, drowsy. Getting bogged down by sleepiness. This can often seem like sleepiness from lack of sleep or hard work, and a thought will often tell us it is. It usually comes up at just before or at the beginning of feeling something apparently uncomfortable, and it can disappear quite quickly if rested with and inquired into. (Sometimes, it is actually physical tiredness, of course, but perhaps not as often as you would think.)

Telling myself that I don’t need to feel it, or don’t have to, and having an apparently good reason for it.

Going into an ideology saying I don’t need to or have to, or that it’s bad, or “low frequency”, or that I should seek only “good” states and feelings and avoid the “bad” or “low” ones. (This rests on a lot of unquestioned assumptions.)

Going into spiritual ideologies, for instance saying it’s all a dream, or nothing really exists, or that all is perfect as is. Which I then take as meaning that I don’t need to feel what’s here. (I don’t necessarily disagree with any of these, but they can be made into an ideology and used to avoid feeling what’s here.)

There are many other ways to use spiritual ideologies to avoid feeling what’s here. I can get fascinated by it. Get into wishful or magical thinking. Assume I will be magically “saved” in the future, so I don’t need to do much now. Imagining light and bliss and feeling that instead of the discomfort that’s here.

While feeling sensations, immediately going to images or words instead of feeling and resting with the sensations for a while. (During inquiry.)

Some of these are subsets or variations of other ones on the list. I thought I would just put them all up here.

When these come up, I can use them as a reminder to ask myself what would I have to feel if I didn’t [….], and then feel and rest with that.

I can also explore the dynamic of the avoidance. Slow it down. Feel and rest with the sensations of the avoidance. Look at the associated images and words, one at a time. Ask simple question about these, to see more clearly what’s really here.

There is nothing inherently wrong with avoiding feeling what’s here. It’s very human. We all (?) do it now and then. And we can’t all go around and intentionally feel sensations all the time. We wouldn’t get much else done.

At the same time, it’s uncomfortable to avoid, and be trapped in the mindset of avoiding feeling what’s here. It can also lead to (compulsive) life decisions we wouldn’t have made if we were more clear and allowing of the sensations.

It’s good to notice when I avoid feeling what’s here, perhaps notice how I do it, and sometimes intentionally rest with the sensations and feel them, and inquire into what makes it look scary to do so. It can become more and more of a habit, and it can seem less and less threatening to do so. It can even become enjoyable. An expression of kindness.

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Identifications are tiring

Identifications are tiring.

When a story is believed and held as true, it tends to create struggle. And that’s tiring.

It takes a lot of energy. It can be draining. It can even impact our health in quite obvious ways.

If it’s that way with just one identification, imagine how tiring it is to have a whole bundle of them, as most of us do. We are, in some ways, bundles of identifications, and that’s tiring.

That’s one of the things we see when we are relieved of identifications and struggle, even if it’s only temporary.

We may be “lifted out” of identifications and glimpse the ease and simplicity of life without. (And the richness and fullness of life without identifications.)  We may examine a particular hangup or identification, and find release from it.

We may also discover it through resting with what’s here. Shift from thinking to noticing. Finding ourselves as a whole. Shift from resisting to allowing. Shift from rejecting to holding experience in kind experience. Inquire into beliefs and see that what we thought was happening isn’t. Look for and being unable to find the threat, or deficient self, or command, that initially seemed so real and solid.

I imagine that the struggle from identifications is one of the things that creates old age as our culture often thinks of it. It has little to do with a biological inevitability, and more to do with the effects of accumulated struggles over a lifetime.

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Resting with velcro 

It’s quite possible to rest with velcro.

Rest with a jumble of words, images, and sensations. Notice the jumble. Allow.

It’s better than not resting with it.

And what’s even better is to take a look at what’s there. Slow it down.

Look at each word, each image, feel the sensations, and ask simple questions to see what’s really there.

That’s where a more real relief can happen.

Just resting with it can be a relief. Although the velcro may still be there, and the beliefs behind it held as real and true – and stressful. Taking a closer look can help loosen and release the velcro, and offer a more real relief.

Velcro here means sensations that appear “stuck” on images and words, giving them a charge, and often a sense of reality and solidity. It’s what makes images and words feel true. (And sometimes uncomfortable and stressful.)

Note: Thanks to senior Living Inquiry facilitators to point this out, as they have pointed out other things I am exploring here.

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Welcome with the intention of having it go away

There is a common phase where we (a) recognize it doesn’t work to try to make something (a painful experience or part of us) go away, (b) shift our strategy to welcome it, find love for it, meet in in inquiry, and (c) do it with the intention of having it go away.

We basically say welcome, now go away.

No wonder it doesn’t work. We still want it to go away. And what we are trying to get rid of knows. It says I know what you are up do. It’s not going to work. 

It knows what we are trying to do. It’s not fooled. And the reason it knows is that it’s me. Whatever is here, is who and what I am.

So what’s the solution? It’s to include the wish for it to go away. To include it in the welcoming, the resting, the inquiry.

It’s to welcome the desire to have it go away. To see it’s already here. It’s already allowed.

It’s here to protect me. It comes from a deep concern for me. It comes from kindness. It comes from love. This recognition makes it easier for me to return the favor. To meet it with kindness. Meet it with love.

Rest with it. Notice. Allow. Rest with it in kind presence.

Inquire into it. What’s the belief behind it? What to do I find when I examine it? (The Work.) Can I find the perceived threat in the apparently threatening experience? (Living Inquiries.)

This help shift us into the next phase. A phase where we more genuinely welcome what’s here. Find love for it. Rest with it. Inquire into it, to see what’s really there.

It’s a phase where we recognize more genuinely that what’s here is OK. It really doesn’t have to go away.

First, there is a more conventional phase where we battle what’s here, where we try to make whatever seems uncomfortable go away. Then, we sneakily try to make it go away by welcoming it, allowing it, resting with it. And then, we see that it really doesn’t have to go away. We find peace with it, as it is. We more genuinely welcome it. Rest with it. Inquire into it to see what’s already here.


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Why is there ambivalence in identifications?

Why is there often ambivalence in how we relate to our identifications?

Identification here means identification with a story. The story is held as real and true. And we identify with its view on ourselves and the world. When it’s activated, we take it as who and what we are.

From my own experience, it seems that identifications are held in place in two ways. There is a perceived threat (a) in not holding onto it, and (b) in holding onto it. We fear what may happen if it’s not there, and are also uncomfortable with what happens when it’s there.

There is a perceived benefit in having it, and also a threat in not having it. And when the identification is here, it’s often apparently enjoyable since it fulfills those needs. And it’s also uncomfortable, since identifications are inherently stressful and at odds with reality.

That ambivalence is partly what distracts us so we don’t see what’s really going on.

That’s why it’s good to look at both sides to how we relate to our identifications. To slow it down, and look more systematically at first one side, then the other.

As mentioned in a previous post, I (may) feel compelled to eat sugar, and also feel ashamed about it. I feel I am unlovable, and experience a threat in not having that identity while it’s also painful when it’s here. I want recognition and approval by many, while also experiencing it as a threat. I identify with a story of the world as a threat, and it’s also threatening to imagine that belief not being here.

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Looking at both sides of whatever has charge

It can be helpful to look at both sides of whatever has a charge for us.

I may fear not having what I want, and also fear having it.

I may hold onto a deficiency story, and also want it to go away.

I may be compelled to do something, and also feel ashamed about it.

I may experience a threat, and also being someone who is threatened.

Whenever there is an identification, there seems to be an ambivalence about it. I want to hold onto it, and also have it go away. I fear what may happen if it’s not there, and I am uncomfortable with what happens when it’s there.

So why not look at both sides?


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Visualizing what I want

Some nondual folks speak out against visualizing what you want. I get why.

If there is identification with the visualization, it just means reinforcing those identifications. It means (perhaps) reinforcing ideas of the future, that I need whatever I am visualizing, that what’s here is lacking and not good enough, that what I am trying to compensate for (deficient selves, lack) is real, and so on.

For me, it’s not either/or. The two can co-exist, or even support each other.

When I make a list of what I wish for in my life and also visualize it (which happens as soon as I think about it), several things happen. If there are identifications there, I may have fears come up around not having it, or having it. A sense of lack, or of missing something, or a deficient self, may be stirred up.

Whatever is left for me to see or meet or love or question is stirred up.

So I get to see it. Meet it. Rest with it. Find love for it. Question my beliefs around it. I can also see if any of it is findable. Can I find an actual threat? What I am seeking? What I feel I am lacking? The compulsion for it to be different, or to get something specific? (Living Inquiries.)

This can all lead to a deeper sense of freedom. And here, my preferences are held more lightly. Some of them may have initially seemed like a need, or even a matter of life and death. And now they are more a wouldn’t it be nice if.

It can still be helpful to make lists of what I would like in my life. It helps me clarify my preferences. It helps me mentally try out different options, and see how it resonates with me. It helps me reorient. It guides me to work towards what I would like in my life. It helps me recognize and take opportunities that bring me in that direction I wish for my life, when they come up. In short, it may help me become a better steward of my life.

It also helps me see what’s left for me. What’s left to look at. Welcome. Rest with. Inquire into.

It’s all about how it’s done. I see how these types of lists and visualizations can reinforce wishful thinking, a sense of lack, deficient selves, and more.

I also see how it can be done in a more wise way, and be very supportive.

Also, research – for instance outlined in The How of Happiness – shows that certain forms of this practice can be very helpful.

So I agree with the nondual folks. I also agree with the “ideal life” list making and visualization proponents. And I see the two approaches as mutually supportive, if done with that intention.


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Natural cycles

It’s easy to get the impression that some folks – the ones who speak or write about it – are able to consistently love what’s here, inquire into stressful beliefs, rest with what’s here, and more.

Some may indeed be able to do that. And for most of us, it goes in cycles.

Sometimes, I am overwhelmed and don’t do any of it. I may indulge in identifications, or attempts to escape from the discomfort. I may go into victim mode. I may be reactive. I may act in ways that hurt those around me.

Sometimes, things hum along and I just enjoy life, or am absorbed in everyday activities.

And sometimes, I do indeed do those things. I find love for what’s here. I inquire. I rest with it. Often, this is when things are moderately triggered. I sometimes even do it when things are more strongly triggered, especially when I remember and find the intention to do so.

It’s good to be aware of this.


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In the same boat

Whether I work with clients or teach a group, or am a client or student, there is often a sense that we are all in the same boat.

The roles, there and then, are different. One is a facilitator, the other a client. One is an instructor, the others students. After the session or the class, the roles change. They even change during the session or class, sometimes.

Behind the shifting roles, we are all human beings. We are all exploring universal dynamics. What I see in you is what I know from myself.

When I work with someone, as a facilitator or client, it’s often with a sense of a shared exploration of universal dynamics.

Of course, it may be that the person in the facilitator or instructor role has more experience or skill in a certain area. But even that may not be the case.

This makes it much easier. We are in the same boat. I don’t need to pretend.


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Doing inquiry along with the client

When I facilitate someone in The Work, I often do it with them. And I remember I had the same question when I first learned the Living Inquiries. Do people who are more experienced tend to do their own inquiry along with the client?

At the time, it seemed too difficult. But now, I find myself sometimes naturally doing the Living Inquiries with the client. They tell me what shows up for them, I sometimes feel it in my own body, or I look at the image that comes up for me, or the words they are looking at. And I do it with them.

It helps me stay with them in their process. And it also helps me in my own process. I get to do my own resting and looking along with the client.

Sometimes this happens, sometimes not. And either is OK.

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Slow down 

Slow down.

That’s one of the most helpful pointers for a wide range of practices.

Slow down in resting with what’s here. Looking. Holding something in kind presence. Training a stable focus.

Find a way to do it so you would want to do it forever. 

Most of us have a tendency to want to skip ahead, or avoid feeling or looking at what’s here. Slowing down is an antidote to this. If it feels threatening, include that in the rest. Inquire into it. See if it’s from deep caring (wishing to protect you?). See how it is to meet the fear or apparent threat with kindness.

How would it be to slow down, as an experiment?

Is it true it’s uncomfortable? Too much? Dangerous? A threat?

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Some people like to talk about narcissism. I am sure it can be helpful as a diagnosis, in some cases.

For me, it’s more a matter of finding it in myself. And when I do, what I see is a part of me that feels unlovable and unloved, and attempts to compensate for it. So I can meet that part of me.

I see how it’s here to protect me. It comes from deep caring. It comes from love.

I can find love for it.

I can hold it in kind presence. I can rest with it.

I can examine my beliefs about it.

I can see if I can find the deficient selves (unlovable one, unloved one), or the threat, or a command to seek love, or affection, or approval from others (for me, especially partners, God).

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