Random reflections from the intensive

 

I am attending a weeklong bodywork intensive, and as usual, it is deeply nurturing, healing, and triggers noticing and inquiry.  (This post will continue to change until the end of the week.)

Some of what I write here comes from friction between something in the intensive and my own hangups. When I write about this, it is with the aim of moving from reaction to appreciation.

Understanding = appreciation.

Translating you to I, and always to sometimes

The main teacher tends to talk about “you” and “all humans” in apparently absolute terms. I assume it is mainly a teaching strategy to shake people up, get their attention, and get a point across. If I take it literally, it sounds imprecise. So instead, I can translate it in my mind. When he says “you” and “all humans”, I translate it as “I”. He is speaking about himself and from his own experience. When I recognize that, I am more free and available to find it in myself. Similarly, when he says “always” I translate it to “sometimes”. Through this simple translation, I can get around the initial obstacle – my own reaction to the style – and receive the message behind the words.

Mirror of imprecision

Other people and the world is a mirror for myself. I tell myself the head teacher speak in imprecise ways, and it bothers me – even if it often is just sligthly. This means there is more there for me to look at and find in myself.

How and in what ways am I imprecise?

First, how am I imprecise in how I see him and his teachings?

I am most obviously imprecise in believing my stories about him. Also, I don’t really know if it is imprecise. It may be very precise, just coming from another world view (it certainly does) and with another intention (also likely).

….

Then, what are the gifts of this imprecision?

It is more poetic. Often more juicy and closer to ordinary experience. It speaks more to the gut, feelings, and heart than the mind. And it is always more about the atmosphere and soaking up the atmosphere than the content of what he says (which may sound airy-fairy, but it is a very tangible and consistent experience).

Difference between timelessness & altered states and experience of time

What is timelessness? I recognize timelessness when I notice (a) my images of time (past, future, present) and how they create and organize memories of the past and images of the future and present, and (b) what this happens within and as. My experience of time happens within timelessness.

And this experience of time shifts – it shrinks, expands and so on. Within timelessness, which is already here now, any flavor of experience of time can happen.

Trigger: When receiving the bodywork, I sometimes go into altered states where a few seconds or minutes are experienced as lasting for a very long time. This is very different from recognizing timelessness, which is in some ways simple and more available. I notice the mental overlay creating and experience of time, organizing images in time, which makes it easier to recognize the timeless it all happens within and as.

We are not the body, but the body is very important – in what ways?

This was a question from one of the new students. What “we” are is that which experience happens within and as, so identification with any one part of content of experience – whether it is the body, psyche, soul or whatever else it may be – is only a partial recognition of what we are, or what is.

The body is important as one of the ways existence explores and experiences itself. As someone said (Sri Chimnoy?), the infinite wishes to experience itself as finite. And it does that first by manifesting as form – including bodies and beings, and then by identifying with this or not. It is all part of the exploration and the play.

The body is essential for a life as a human being, and it is part of the wholeness of who we are. Through body-inclusive practices, shadow work and so on, we can get to experience ourselves as this wholeness that includes and appears as body and mind. This gives a (limited, partial, yet important) sense of coming home, of security and so on.

We can also use the body (sensations) as an object for attention and train a more stable attention that way. This is helpful in our daily life, and also in exploring who (as a human self) and what (Big Mind) we are.

Bodywork as a laboratory

It is a bodywork intensive, but the bodywork is not the focus – just a tool for us to explore and get to know ourselves. It provides an opportunity to bring attention out of stories and to the body (sensations, breath, movement), and it provides great feedback for whether I am caught up in stories or “present” – returning attention to the body, recognizing stories as stories.

See, accept, and move on

One of the principles in this form of bodywork is see, accept, and move on. Taken in its simplest form, that is very good advice for many situations. And it does help wear off the habitual pattern of getting caught up in stories. Still, beliefs tends to resurface, and I realize that The Work is another way of seeing, accepting, and moving on. Through the questions, I get to explore and see what happens when I believe a thought, who I would be without it, and find the validity in its reversals. In this way, I find acceptance and appreciation. And this allows me to move on.

Looking from who to what, or what to who

When we talk about who (this human self in the world) and what (Big Mind) we are, we can talk about it from the perspective of either one looking at the other. The main instructor tends to talk about it from the perspective of who we are looking at what we are, which has several benefits. It makes it sound more familiar and ordinary. It is a perspective most of us can relate to. And it prevents one possible problem with looking at it from the Big Mind perspective, which is that we may think we “get” Big Mind just because we intellectually understand how things may look from that perspective. But it also has drawbacks. The main one is reinforcing identification as an object within experience.

Talking about it this way is of course quite imprecise in the first place. When I say “from the perspective of who we are”, it really means “from filtering the world through identification with stories and viewpoints” and in particular the story of an “I” that has an “other”. When we look at Big Mind from here, it doesn’t quite make sense. It may look like this “I” is “one with” everything, with Existence, with Big Mind, but that is far from what is recognized when it is recognized.

And when I say “from the perspective of Big Mind” it is not really a perspective. It just means how things appear when identification is released out of the story of “I” and the center of gravity is in that which all experience happens within and as.

Learning in order to impress

Why do we learn something? Why do we do what we do? It is helpful to make an honest list and inquire into it.

One of the reasons we learn something may be to impress ourselves and others.

Statement: I need to impress.  (Through my insights, achievements, and knowledge.)

  1. True?
  2. Sure it is true?
  3. What happens when I take that story as true?
  4. Who would I be without it?
  5. Turnarounds.

Trigger: The main teacher talking about just this.

When it is too simple

– if too black & white, can backfire (people know it is more nuanced so may take it less seriously)
– either “present” or “mechanical” – is not either/or but continuum

….

Putting down and appreciation

How do we relate to things we don’t like? Do we put it down, take it in a neutral manner, or find genuine appreciation for it?

When I put down something – including hangups, beliefs, and confusion in myself or others – I make it into an “other” and an enemy. I am acting on and reinforce a belief. And as attention goes to beliefs, attention will regularly go to whatever I put down. Attention will be glued to it, as an invitation to (a) notice my belief and (b) find what is – often already – more honest for me about it.

In addition to noticing and examining the belief, it is often helpful to balance a tendency to put something down by finding the genuine benefits of it. It helps me fill out and find a richer picture, and it may also – over time – invite in a shift in my felt and immediate response into sincere appreciation.

For instance, when I recognize that hangups, confusion and beliefs is one of the ways existence is expressing, exploring and experiencing itself, I find its equivalence with insight and awakening. Of course, the consequences for this human self are quite different, and we will naturally aim for one over the other because one is more painful, but they are still equal in being ways existence is exploring itself. And that seems to be the goal of existence, to explore and experience itself in as many ways as is possible.

In addition, the hangups of others are a mirror for myself. I can often see it more clearly in others, which in turn helps me find it here, including in how I relate to them. And there is an adventure in going from one (hangups) to the other (a little more insight, clarity).

It is perhaps the most interesting and fascinating adventures of them all, at least for me.

So in this case, what are the benefits of putting down – for instance – hangups and belief?

It does provide a direction in the very early phases of exploring these things. Finding appreciation may come a little later, although it certainly can be included from the beginning as well.

Seeing it in others provides a mirror for myself. It is a great and invaluable help in recognizing what is going on right here.

It is one of the ways existence (universe, earth, humanity) expresses, explores, and experiences itself. Beliefs and hangups creates a wide range of experiences, each one its own little world. It is a way for existence to vastly multiply the ways it experiences itself. Stories themselves vastly multiplies the ways existence experiences itself, and adding beliefs – taking these stories as true – again vastly multiplies the ways existence experiences itself.

Trigger: The instructors sometimes talk about our conditioned nature + mechanical tendencies with apparent disdain, even if it is slight. Again, this may be to shake people up and invite them to recognize it for themselves. For me, it often seems more helpful to aim at finding the genuine gifts in these tendencies, befriend them, and invite appreciation. From there, it is easier to work with them in a constructive way. It is difficult to work against something, as I do when there is lack of appreciation. And easier to work with it, as I am more able to do when there is genuine appreciation.

Genuine questions answered with answer nr. 3a

This is something I notice in some groups.

A newbie asks an alive, genuine and interesting question, and an oldtimer answers in a formulaic way.

It is perhaps understandable. We learn a certain language. We learn how to answer certain questions. But it is also somewhat disappointing. The answer doesn’t feel very satisfactory to me, and probably not to the one asking it either. So it is a good pointer for me. When I answer a question, I wish to use a language that is more my own, more alive, coming from fresh and immediate experience, and perhaps quite different from how I would have answered the question in the past.

Should or exploration

Comfortable with discomfort

One of the principles of this tradition is body comfortable, which has layers of meaning. The first layer is that when I do bodywork, or anything else in daily life, I can find ways to do it that are comfortable for my body. The next layer is an experience of body-mind comfort, which has to do with how I relate to inner/outer situations. And this “body” also includes the wider world, the larger social and ecological systems, so I can aim at living my life in ways that makes this larger body more comfortable.

Yet another layer is to find comfort with discomfort, for instance some physical pain or unease. Quite often, it is appropriate to do something about it. But at times, when it is mild, or if I can’t see a way to do something about it, it is more appropriate to work with how I relate to it and find a way of relating to it that is comfortable.

Attention out of stories, and stable attention

One of the aims of this practice is to bring attention (a) out of (being caught up in) stories, and (b) to the body (sensations, weight on the ground, breath). There is a strong emphasis on this in the bodywork and throughout daily life, which is very helpful. Still, I wonder why they don’t also include or recommend periods of sitting (or laying down) breath practice? It seems it would be a valuable and helpful supplement.

Body centered and breath practice

Bringing attention to the sensations (weight of the body, breath) is important in this form of body centered practice. And combined with the movements and guiding principles, it creates a certain atmosphere – it is nurturing, the body, attention, and feelings are aligned, and so on. There is a fullness in it. A sense of nurturing fullness and aliveness, quite different from what I have experienced through other body centered/inclusive practices such as tai chi, chi gong, or yoga.

In contrast, traditional (Buddhist) breath practice trains attention more exclusively, and may come with a sense of clarity and luminosity as an side effect. Attention stabilizes relatively quickly with regular practice, continue to stabilize, and naturally comes into daily life and everyday activities. Attention can become a laser like tool. Sharp. Stable. Far less easily lost in stories.

I find that through this body centered practice alone, attention is trained to some extent but remains slightly scattered and easily drawn into stories that are believed. Through breath practice, it is possible to train a stable attention to a far greater degree than through the body centered practice only.

The body centered practice brings in an alive, nurturing fullness, a deep sense of healing, and it invites in maturing. And the breath practice brings in a very stable attention. Both seem to go hand in hand.

Maps

When they speak of “three centers” in this tradition, it is different from the three centers I sometimes mention here. In either case, they are of course just an idea, a map, a way of organizing our thoughts and guide attention.

Trigger: One of the instructor’s saying “here at the center, we believe there are three centers”.

Forms of compassion

I overheard one of the students talking about living at an ashram in India, and how much love there was there.

Again, a reminder that love and compassion comes in two forms.

The first form is the love and compassion that comes and goes, that is an experience, content of experience. This one is beautiful. It enriches our life. It gives us a taste. It is one way of filter the world.

The other one is more stable and not really an experience.

– a feeling, heart centered, etc. – comes and goes
–  big heart – not feelings, states, etc. (although can be colored by feelings and states as they come and go)

Understanding = appreciation

From understanding and insight comes appreciation. When I react to what someone says or does, however major or insignificant it looks in a conventional view, it is because I have not come to a good understanding of it yet. I have not yet resolved how to relate to it in a fruitful way. And when I do, through for instance inquiry, there is a natural appreciation – for the trigger, the triggering, and what was triggered in me. From appearing as a problem, it all becomes a support for me.

This will of course change over time. I may find a satisfactory resolution here and now, and tomorrow or next week or next year or in two decades, I will need to revisit it and find a resolution more satisfactory there and then. And my reminder and guide is my own reactiveness. When I notice reactiveness in me, it is an invitation to find a fuller resolution for myself.

Two facets of health

Health has two facets. First, health as a freedom from illnesses of body and mind. And then, health as how we relate to inner and outer situations, including our body/mind health. This form of bodywork works at both of those, although there is a strong and appropriate emphasis on the second. We may have illnesses in a conventional sense, and yet experience health when we find genuine support and nourishment through the way we relate to our situation. This form of bodywork and practice is a tool and support for just that.

Trigger: The director of the center mentioning that the aim is not primarily to restore health in the first sense, since the imbalances most likely will return through old habits and continuing circumstances. But rather to give a taste of how it is to relate to the inner/outer world in a more nurturing and supportive way. (He didn’t say it exactly that way.)

If not now, when?

If not now, when? It is a common pointer from many teachers and traditions. Of course, things may happen in the future in a conventional sense, and we can plan for it and make it more likely to happen. But the pointer invites us to look at at least two things. First, can I do it here now? Or if not, can I move in that direction here now? And then, can I find it here now? As Adyashanti says, is it true it is not already here? The story of it possibly happening in the future is here now. And what it points to – especially in terms of characteristics and qualities – may be here now as well.

Trigger: An instructor briefly mentioning if not now, when? in relation to “being present”, bringing attention to breath, movement, weight, and out of being caught up in stories.

No-one to blame

No one is stopping me except myself.

I stop myself through my own fears and how I relate to these fears. When I try to escape my fears, I go into beliefs, and these beliefs limit how I feel, see, and behave in the world. Another way to say this is that I can chose to take full responsibility for my own choices and actions. If I don’t, I disempower myself and get caught up in blame, complaints, and victim mentality. If I do, I am aligned with reality and there is a sense of coming home.

There is no one to blame, not even myself.

Every choice and action has infinite causes. It is all innocence. I can also see this by exploring my beliefs. When I take a story as true, I have to see, feel, and act as if it is true. And I take a story as true out of innocence – to deal with fear, through what I have learned from family and culture.

Trigger: One of the instructors giving this summary of what the main instructor had said earlier.

Allow imperfection for vitality

The lesson from the history of language invention is that if you want your language to be a success, you need to hand it over and allow people to ruin it’s perfection.
Arika Okrent from the esperanto episode of World in Words, 7:25-7:56.

The training and promotion of this form of bodywork is directed by the Center to keep it pure, and that seems appropriate. It is a young tradition, and central directions helps ensure that the essence and original purpose is not forgotten or left out. And yet, in the long run, central control may actually hold back vitality and flourishing. At some point, it may be necessary to allow people to make it their own and “ruin the perfection” it in the words of Arika Okrend. That’s what flourishing traditions, such as yoga, tai chi, and Buddhism, seem to have in common. They have allowed people to make it their own, to adapt it to their culture, to infuse it with their own insights and approaches. It is a messy process, and some varieties may exchange the original purpose for something else. But that  is OK. Some varieties will retain the original purpose and it will still be available to those interested.

………..
………..
………..
………..
………..

– benefits of imprecision
– how i do the same, including here now
– don’t know

………

– diff. between timeless and altered state exp. of time

– “we are not the body, but the body is very important”
— exclusive identification with particular content of experience
— infinite wants to experience itself as finite
— – first as a being/body, then through identification w. it or not

………

How do we relate to things we don’t like? Do we put it down, take it in a neutral manner, or find genuine appreciation for it?

  • putting down, neutral, and appreciation
    • putting down, opportunity to notice beliefs, inquire into, find a fuller picture
    • neutral – ok
    • appreciation
      • find genuine appreciation for it
      • see, inviting in feel, inviting in love
      • (not make it into an enemy, an “other”)

……

Should or exploration

Some traditions and teachings depict awakening as a “should” while others see it more as an exploration. This tradition definitely treats it as a should, which has benefits and drawbacks. It may fuel practice, and it may give people a sense of meaning and purpose to their lives. On the other hand, it can backfire. It can become a one-sided obsession, people can feel they fail and miss the purpose of their life, and the human side of the equation (healing, maturing) may be overlooked. A more neutral way of looking at it may be as lila. Awake or not (released identification w. stories or not), it is all part of existence exploring itself. It is all part of the play.

It seems that this tradition (a) emphasizes awakening as our purpose in life and presents it as a “should” (that is at least the feel of it), and (b) tries to avoid the pitfalls by strongly emphasizing the most basic, foundational, and very first steps of a practice without taking it much further.

The benefits of seeing it as an exploration is that we cannot fail, partly because there is no goal apart from the exploration itself, and partly because it is all the play of a seamless whole, or of this no-thing that is right here. It gives a sense of freedom, and an exploration that comes more from curiosity than shoulds (fear). Emphasizing healing, maturing, ethics and so on can of course be done whether we use a should or exploration story. The drawback of an exploration view is that we may not work on healing, maturing, and relationships to ourselves and the larger whole, but this can be remedied by pointing out – and encouraging people to explore for themselves – the consequences of not doing it, and of doing it.

The should approach is more of a babysitting approach, and perhaps it is appropriate for some. The exploration approach see people as able to take care of and make choices for themselves. I personally feel much more comfortable with the exploration story.

In fairness, I have to point out that although the main tone is “should”, the head teacher very occasionally acknowledges the exploration perspective.

……

Attention out of stories, and stable attention

One of the aims of this practice is to bring attention (a) out of (being caught up in) stories, and (b) to the body (sensations, weight on the ground, breath). There is a strong emphasis on this in the bodywork and throughout daily life, which is very helpful. Still, I wonder why they don’t also include or recommend periods of sitting (or laying down) breath practice? It seems it would be a valuable and helpful supplement.

It is a simple and effective way to help attention become more stable and make it into a useful tool in everyday life. From my experience, the effects of regular breath practice naturally carries into everyday life, allows attention to go to stories and make use of stories while recognizing these as stories, and is the best help in changing the habit of having attention get lost within stories.

…….

Bringing attention to the sensations (weight of the body, breath) is important in this form of body centered practice. And combined with the movements and guiding principles, it creates a certain atmosphere – it is nurturing, the body, attention, and feelings are aligned, and so on. There is a fullness in it. A sense of nurturing fullness and aliveness, quite different from what I have experienced through other body centered/inclusive practices such as tai chi, chi gong, or yoga.

In contrast, traditional breath practice trains attention more exclusively, so it usually (in my experience) does not come with that sense of alive, nurturing fullness. In addition to a more stable attention, there is instead often a sense of clarity and luminosity.

Through breath practice, it is possible to train a stable attention to a far greater degree than through the body centered practice only. It stabilizes relatively quickly, continue to stabilize, and naturally comes into daily life and everyday activities. With body centered practice, attention is trained to some extent, but it remains slightly scattered and easily drawn into stories that are believed. With traditional Buddhist breath practice, attention can become a laser like tool. Sharp. Stable. Far less easily lost in stories.

For me, the body centered practice brings in an alive, nurturing fullness. And the breath practice brings in a very stable attention. And both seem to go hand in hand.

The body centered practice have more of the qualities of the belly center, while exclusive attention practice has more of the qualities of the head center.

….

To speak (even more!) metaphorically, the body centered practice have more of the qualities of the belly center (nurturing fullness, reorganization of emotions), while exclusive attention practice has more of the qualities of the head center.

…..

Restoring health, and what is more important

We can restore health and well-being in two ways. First in the conventional way by treating physical and mental problems. Then in perhaps a more important way, in working on how we relate to and receive inner and outer situations.

– restoring health, temporary only – will often revert b/c of old habits/patterns
– more important to give a taste of being present

– forms of health, conventional + how relate to
— relate to inner/outer situations in healthy, supporting ways – moving in the direction of finding support in whatever happens
– both important, and to learn how to relate to outer/inner situations in a healthy/supporting way gives a deeper and more lasting satisfaction

…..

Another way to say this is that although my choices and actions have infinite causes, I can chose to take full responsibility for my own choices and actions.

……….

Allow imperfection for vitality

– currently, central control to keep it “pure”
– tends to hold back flourishing
–  instead, encourage people to make it their own, allow people to “ruin” it
– why yoga, buddhism etc. are flourishing – people made it their own
– some won’t get it, will miss the essence, but that is OK but others will still keep it, it will still be available for those interested

….

– feels fresh, alive and genuine when new people talks about it, sometimes formulaic when more experienced people talk about it

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