Are you wondering why, after all these years, you still haven’t healed, awakened, transformed? Why your pain, confusion, doubts, sorrows, your deep longings for home, are “still here”?
“I should have found the answers by now. By now, my sorrow should have disappeared. By now, I should be free from fear. By now, I should be feeling more peaceful, clear, awakened. By now, joy should be consistent, my natural state. By now…”
Friends, ‘by now’ is the biggest damn lie of all!
There is no such thing as ‘by now’. There cannot be a ‘by now’.
There is only Now. Only this moment.
No ‘by’. No ‘still’. No ‘yet’. Healing is not a destination.
If we can drop the expectations and the false hopes around healing, drop the myth of ‘by now’ and instead bow to what is actually here, honour our present experience, see its sacredness and its intelligence, celebrate THE WAY WE ACTUALLY ARE TODAY, even if we feel sad, even if we experience doubt, or anger, or fear, then we may experience a total paradigm shift…
“Pain, sadness, anger, fear, why are you still here? I hoped that you’d be gone by now!”
“Ohhh! You ARE here! Yes! What an honour to meet you, here! You are life, too; a sacred wave of consciousness! There is no mind-made story that says you shouldn’t be here! No demand for you to have disappeared ‘by now’! You are not ‘still’ here, of course; there is no time. You are here, now, in this moment, only! Still here! I am still, here! And in the stillness that I Am, in this oceanic field of Presence, we can truly meet…”
A thought or feeling does not arise to be healed, friend; it arises to be HELD, lightly, in the loving arms of presence.
So that’s why you feel like you’re ‘not there yet’.
You are not there yet! You will never be there!
There is no ‘yet’. There is no ‘there’. There is no ‘by now’!
You are here. You are always here. You will always be here. Here is your home and your sanctuary.
This is true healing: the surrender into Presence. The sense of being held by something infinitely greater than yourself. No time required.
This is the great paradox of healing: You are already healed.
– Jeff Foster
What is awakening?
We can answer that question in many different ways.
For instance, it’s what we are – that which our experience happens within and as – waking up to itself. An early awakening is when it notices itself. And a more stable awakening is when the “center of gravity” shifts there, when that’s what it takes itself to be more consistently.
That’s roughly accurate, in my experience.
Another way to say it, which is perhaps a bit more accurate, is that the body wakes up. The consciousness doesn’t need to. It’s what happens within experience – within and as what we are – that wakes up. And that is the body, including the energetic “bodies” (aka etheric, emotional, mental, spiritual etc. bodies).
It’s in these bodies the experience of being a separate self is created. It’s here consciousness is filtered so it creates an experience for itself of being a separate self. And when these filters are either transcended or lost, what it’s able to (effortlessly) notice what’s more real. It’s noticing itself as its whole experience, whether it’s labeled self or world, matter or consciousness, or anything else.
So awakening happens through the body, or – more accurately – through the bodies. It may happen through practices aimed at aligning the bodies (the self) more with reality. It may be boosted by transcendent experiences offering a glimpse of what’s more real than the apparently separate self. It happens through grace, and explorations preparing the ground for grace.
When it happens, there is still a self in the sense of these bodies. They are still here, and they operate much as before. And there is no self, in the sense that the experience of a separate self is revealed as created by the filters. It’s a temporary experience. It’s life exploring itself through the experience of separation, for a while.
The “filters” have an energy and consciousness side. And the thinning and loss of them happens as a process. (Although the loss of each one may happen suddenly, after a time of preparation and ripening.) As there
As there is spiritual practice, often combined with transcendent glimpses and/or loss of the filters, there is a gradual realignment and reorientation of the bodies. They gradually align more with reality. This is a process that typically include some wrinkles and detours, and these are all integral to the process. It’s a process of clarification, healing, maturing, and embodiment – learning to live more from what’s revealed.
And from the outside, from the perspective of the world, this process often looks like someone becoming a bit more sane, grounded, healed, and mature in a very ordinary and human way. It is very ordinary and human. It is a healing and realignment of the human self, of all the bodies.
I should also mention that when the bodies wake up, when the filters are lost, it’s as if the whole world wakes up. The real body is the whole world – the physical world and everything else that exists at different energetic levels. And all of that is revealed as Spirit. It’s all the play of Spirit as all of it, the whole world and all that is.
That is what wakes up to itself, as that, and it wakes up through loss of the (temporary) filters of this (temporary) self that has a physical body and a set of energetic bodies.
That’s why the historical Buddha said “I and the whole world awoke”. And that’s also why it didn’t happen automatically through the other bodies since the filters there were (and are) still in place.
As with anything else here, these words are meant as pointers for own exploration. There is nothing absolute or final about it. It’s just the way of looking at it that makes the most sense to me right now, based on own experience and how I have heard others talk about it. (And these include Buddhism, Ken Wilber, Adyashanti, and – more recently – Ric Weinman and Vortex Healing.)
Continued from previous posts….
August 5, 2017
Trauma. What we see in Trump is typical trauma behavior. It’s not how everyone, or even most people, respond to or live out their trauma. But when we see that type of behavior (anger, reactivity, bigotry, impulsive behavior), it’s often rooted in trauma, in deep wounds.
Of course, it’s important to address the political issues, and it’s important to address the need for respect and a fact-based discourse in a democracy.
And it can also be helpful to remind ourselves that this is trauma behavior. It can be a spring board to look at how we respond to and live out our own trauma (whether it’s big or small), take it as an opportunity for trauma education, and also use it to look at how we can prevent and treat trauma in our society.
Trauma II. Similarly, I can’t help to wonder if not some Trump supporters are reacting to and living out their trauma in their support of him. Again, it’s important to address the political and social issues. But it can also be helpful to explore the possible trauma connections.
For instance, I wouldn’t be surprised if large portions of the US population are traumatized – directly and indirectly – by the significant social and economic inequality in the US. Which means they are traumatized by the policies coming out of neo-liberalism (which has become almost a religion in the US and most of the western world). And that’s why they support Trump because he, on the surface, seems to offer a way to deal with it. (Of course, he doesn’t.) His anger and bigotry plays to the trauma, and his words – at least during the campaign – spoke to the knowing of many of his supporters that neoliberalism is a cause of many of their problems.
In what way are people traumatized by social inequality? They are traumatized by lack of opportunities: lack of schooling, lack of good jobs, lack of money. And that, in turn, creates a life that creates more trauma (through drug use, illness, anger, depression etc.)
In what way is that connected to neo-liberalism? Neo-liberalism creates and deepens social and economic inequality. It’s built in. The wealthy get more wealth. The less wealthy tend to get even less wealthy, especially when the government doesn’t step in to moderate the worst effects of neo-liberalism.
In what way has neo-liberalism become a religion? It’s treated as sacred by many politicians and social commentators. It’s unquestioned. They tend to not address its inherent problems or any alternatives. (The best alternatives are known, but not by many and not implemented yet.)
In what way does Trump’s anger and bigotry play to the trauma? Some react to trauma with anger and bigotry. And to them, it feels like a relief to have someone like Trump in charge and visible in the media. He makes it OK to live out that particular reaction to trauma.
I watched the Wonder Woman movie yesterday.
There were several things I enjoyed, including the feel of the movie, the strong women characters, the female lead, the setting, the outsider’s view Wonder Woman’s background allowed her, and that it had a female director and there is a cool Wonder Woman back story. Overall, and in spite of what I’ll write next (!), I enjoyed the movie very much.
The movie also reminded me of a few different things.
Breaking the magic. Any story is more powerful if it’s believable within its own world. It mostly was, apart from a couple of things that broke the magic a bit for me. One was Trevor slightly coughing after drowning and the other was Wonder Woman very conveniently only needing to deflect bullets directly in front of her upper body or face.
Simplistic duality. Since it’s based on a traditional US comic book, the good vs evil and single hero vs single villain story was predictable, although slightly disappointing. There was a moment where Trevor brought in a more nuanced view, but that was quickly left aside and they were back to the familiar duality.
I understand that temporarily enganging in a simple good vs evil duality can be a relief, and that a single hero saving the world feels comforting, but it also seems a bit old fashioned. And not all that satisfying since it’s not really how the world works.
If I wanted to be cynical about it, I would say that this reflects a certain lack of maturity in the US culture, and that a good vs evil mythology is very useful for an empire (which the US is). And there may be some truth to that.
A mirror. Any story is a mirror for us, whether we tell ourselves it’s made up (movies, books, dreams) or from real life. That means we can make use of it in several ways. For instance, I can make a note of any charge or reaction I have to scenes in the movie. Find beliefs, identities, or memories connected to it. And take it to inquiry, Vortex Healing, the Big Mind process, or any other approach that seems helpful.
I am now taking private clients. If you have questions about doing a session, or would like to schedule, please contact me. Most sessions are over Skype or Zoom.
Through my work with individual clients and groups in a professional setting, I have helped many with anxiety, depression, and compulsions, and also in clarifying or stabilizing spiritual openings or awakenings.
My background includes a graduate degree in psychology in addition to being certified in Living Inquiries, Vortex Healing (Divine Energy Healing), Tension and Trauma Release Exercises, and Breema bodywork. I have worked on my own healing and awakening process for more than two decades under the guidance of spiritual teachers from a range of different traditions.
Hi P., I just wanted to say thank you for everything. Thank you for the difference you made my life and my recovery. I will never forget you. You were one of the greatest and most influential. You always thought of me and kept me calm when I wanted to jump out of my skin and run for the border.
– Thank you, keep in touch. Breana K.
See more testimonials from clients.
I am collecting material for a project on spiritual emergencies. Have you experienced one? If so, would you be willing to contact me and share your story? Everything will be kept confidential.
A spiritual crisis is defined as:
Spiritual crisis (also called “spiritual emergency”) is a form of identity crisis where an individual experiences drastic changes to their meaning system (i.e., their unique purposes, goals, values, attitude and beliefs, identity, and focus) typically because of a spontaneous spiritual experience. A spiritual crisis may cause significant disruption in psychological, social, and occupational functioning. Among the spiritual experiences thought to lead to episodes of spiritual crisis or spiritual emergency are psychiatric complications related to existential crisis, mystical experience, near-death experiences, Kundalini syndrome, paranormal experiences, religious ecstasy, or other spiritual practices.
A spiritual crisis or emergency can also happen when the “lid” is taken off unprocessed psychological material, perhaps following a retreat, spiritual or healing workshop, a period of more intense meditation and prayer, asking to “be shown what’s left”, or a spiritual opening or awakening. This can lead to an intense period of anxiety, despair, depression, confusion and disorientation, and overwhelm.
If any of this applies to you, please feel free to contact you. I promise you and your information will be treated with respect, kindnes, and confidentiality. I know from personal experience how raw we can feel when we are going through a spiritual crisis.
When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.
The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.
– Ram Dass
As usual, this practice also serves to highlight any resistance to it or anything in us not aligned with it. And that’s something we can take to inquiry to see what’s really there. Or we can invite a change in our relationship to it through, for instance, ho’oponopono or tonglen.
Some will tell you that fear is the opposite of love. And in this teaching the war begins. But love has no opposite, for it is whole and without division. Love is the field in which all form comes and goes, including the temporary, wavelike appearance of fear. It is the vast, tender space in which all emotions, feelings, and physical sensations arise, play for a short while, and then dissolve. Just like passing clouds could never taint the purity of the sky, the temporary dance of fear could never stain the majesty of what you are.
What’s the relationship between love and fear?
I agree that fear is the opposite of love, when we buy into that fear. When we are caught up in fear, it tends to mask love from us. And we may very well act in ways that seem anything but loving.
I also agree that love encompasses fear. The love we are already allows and even is fear, as it allows and is any experience.
And I even agree that the fear vs love idea is the beginning of war, when it’s misunderstood. If we see fear as wrong or bad or something to avoid or eliminate, that’s a war we start with reality. And that’s painful, futile, and somewhat misguided.
Here is another topic I tend to revisit.
What is love?
The simplest may be to look at it in terms of what and who we are.
What we are is that which all experience happens within and as. (Variously called consciousness, awakeness, Big Mind, Spirit, Brahman etc.) Here, love is what we are. This is not neccesarily a felt love. But it is the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. They belong to the same whole, so nothing is more natural than helping out as appropriate. And that looks like love.
Who we are is our human self. Here, the love from what we are is filtered through beliefs and identifications, and that means it can look like love in an ordinary human sense, and also a lot of other things. Ordinary human love is often mixed in with a sense of lack, need, wants, insecurities, compensations, and more. Felt love is often from some of these filters.
Going one step further, we see that even what doesn’t at all look like love (in a conventional sense) comes from love. That too is filtered love.
For instance, lack comes from care for our human self. It comes from a wish, or attempt, or impulse, to take our our separate self. And that’s still love, but in a filtered form. The same goes for fear, anger, wounds, trauma, greed, insecurities, and a lot more that from a conventional view looks like anything but love. And still, when we examine it more closely, all of it can be traced back to love. It comes from care for our human self, and an attempt to take care of our human self. It’s love filtered through all sorts of beliefs and identifications.
Who and what we are go together and are inseperable. That’s why the two forms of love mentioned above are largely inseperable and mixed together in our actual human lives.
In an opening or awakening, the first one becomes more clear, and it can be lived to some extent. The more we examine and clear up beliefs and identifications, the more it is revealed and the more we tend to live from it in more situations.
Also, the more we examine filtered love, the more we reognize it’s from love, and the less we tend to battle it. And that removes a layer of additional filtering which is also helpful.
As usual, there is nothing wrong with this filtering of love. It’s just how life plays itself out through us. It’s also inherently stressful and uncomfortable, and we eventually get to a point where we wish to find another way. And that’s where we can start to find a different relationship with the filters (more kindness towards them which tends to allow identification with them to soften) and also find ways to invite them to clear and release.
An important part of this process is to find more peace with and kindness towards the filtering. We see that nothing is wrong. We see it comes from care for this human self, and love. Identification with the filtering tends to soften and even release, partly from finding more kindness towards it. And, in general, everything feels a bit easier. It doesn’t mean that the filtering is all gone, or that all identification with it is released, but it does mean it generally is a bit easier.
It’s an ongoing process, and it tends to become more enjoyable and lighter as we go along. And from the outside, it may look as if we live more and more from the what-we-are type of love. The one that’s like the left hand taking care of the right. And it also tends to look sane in a very ordinary way, and deeply human.
Why is it appropriate to use a strong word as trauma in this way? Because beliefs and identifications are inherently stressful and – yes – traumatic. There is a low-level trauma inherent in any belief and identification. And in some situations, when life pushes up against the rigidity created through beliefs and identifications in just the right way, it can create a full blown trauma as trauma is understood in a conventional sense.
– from a previous post
There is a lot of information in that paragraph, and it may seem a bit opaque.
What does beliefs and identifications mean? A belief is when we hold a thought to be more or less absolutely true. And identification means that we are identified with the viewpoint of that thought. We – as strange as it may sound – take ourselves to be that viewpoint.
Why does it create rigidity? Because the mind goes from the fluidity of being able to consider and recognize the validity in any thought and viewpoint on a subject, to holding one or a few thoughts and viewpoints are true and real and excluding the validity of other – now apparently opposing – viewpoints. And this creates a certain rigidity of the mind.
It also creates a rigidity of the body since it needs to contract certain muscles to support these beliefs and identifications. (See the previous post for more on this.)
Why is this rigidity stressful? When life pushes up against these beliefs and identifications, it’s stressful. And life will since life is inherently uncontrained by any belief or identification, so it naturally creates situations that goes against any belief or identification.
How does this create trauma? It creates trauma, as trauma is understood conventionally, when life pushed up against the rigidiy of the body-mind in a strong way, or a way that’s especially stressful to that particular body and mind.
The role of society and culture. I should add that society and culture plays a significant role in this. Society and culture comes with a blueprint for most of our beliefs and identifications. The ones that may appear more uniquely individual are variations of themes set by culture and society.
Rigity and life flow. This rigidity of mind and body, in a sense, limits and blocks the flow of life. It limits our perception. It limits how we perceive opportunities and make chocies. It limits how we live our lives. And it even limits the mind’s and body’s natural and inherent capacity to heal itself.
At the same time, in the bigger picture, this rigidiy is the flow of life. It’s life creating this rigidy within itself. And in the even bigger picture, it does so in order to express, experience, and explore itself in its richness and in as many ways as possible. Including through temporary rigidity and what that temporarily creates.
Like a butterfly emerging from it’s cocoon,
I have been transformed inside,
All parts of myself now aligned in Truth,
I have nothing left to hide.
A friend of mine posted this quote on Facebook.
I understand that this is meant as as inspiration, or as a guide or a direction. And that can be very helpful.
There are also possible drawbacks to statements like this one that seem a bit absolute and overly idealized.
Some may see it as unachievable and give up without even trying, even if what it talks about sounds desirable to them.
Some may see it as undesirable since it may seem too sterile and in the unhealthy perfection-striving category.
Some may create a goal out of arriving at a certain state and then be done. Reality is often far more messy, and it seems more of an ongoing process of clarifying, deepening, and embodying. Also, awakening isn’t about a state – apart from perhaps a state of recognition. (What any experience happens within and as recognizing itself as that). And by setting a goal, it may be seen as out there in others and possibly in the future, and they may miss out of being more fully present, engaged with, and allowing of what’s here and now.
People can take it to mean that something is wrong. They know that their own process is messy and far from finished, so at best they are not “there” yet, and at worst they think there is something wrong with them or their process.
In some case, and especially following an opening or initial awakening, people may use these statements to tell themselves they have “arrived”. They may use it as a denial of what’s left, or to avoid what’s left.
To me, these idealized and absolute statements seem more like the “dream of the ego”, and they appeal to the dreams of the ego. They promise a future without any pain or problems, and where everything is fixed and aligned with truth.
These types of statements also seem a bit old fashioned to me. I know they are common in certain spiritual traditions. But today, it seems that a more nuansed, real, and honest description is often more helpful. And that’s a trend we see with teachers such as Adyashanti, Pema Chodron, Jeff Foster, and Matt Licata.
I should also mention that none of the “pitfalls” mentioned above are “wrong”. The mind goes to these types of ideas and ideals to find protection, and that is very natural and understandable. We all do it in our own ways. And it’s an inherently self-correcting process through the interplay between our assumptions and life, our dreams and reality. When there is a mismatch, it’s stressful and that’s uncomfortable, so we are invited to align more closely with reality.
For most of us, these types of wrinkles are part of the process. It’s part of the process of clarifying, deepening, embodying, and becoming more deeply human.
And in the bigger picture, it’s all part of the play of life.
Finding clarity often has to do with differentiation. And here is a very basic one.
There is a difference between thoughts, bodily sensations, and identifications.
Thoughts are mental imitations of the senses – whether they are images, sounds, taste, smell, movement, sensations, or something else. When we talk about thoughts, we usually mean images and words, and words are typically a combination of mental images (of the words) and sounds.
Sensations are bodily sensations. When the mind associates certain thoughts with certain sensations, the sensations tend to lend a sense of charge (reality, substance, solidity) to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations.
When there is identifications with a thought, it seems true. The mind identifies with the viewpoint of the thought. Thoughts that are not identified with pass through and are recognized as just thoughts. They are seen as questions about the world. Temporary guides for orientation and action in the world, at most. It’s clear that they don’t reflect any final or absolute truth. Thoughts that are identified with tend to seem true and real. And the mechanism for identification with thoughts is for the mind to associate sensations with thoughts, as described above.
When it comes to tools for exploring these, they each seem to work on certain aspects of this thought, charge, and identification dynamic. They each use a slightly different angle to invite a release of the charge out of the thoughts, and soften the identification with these.
For instance, Living Inquiries tend to release the association between thoughts and sensations. Thoughts are then more easily recognized as thoughts, and the previous associated sensations may still be there but now with less or no particular meaning. The Work helps us recognize that previously believed thoughts are not inherently or absolutely true, and that other angles are as or more valid. Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) tends to release the charge from the body which is associated with stressful thoughts and trauma, and the thoughts behind the stress and trauma tends to seem less charged and less true, and there may be less identification with them. Vortex Healing seems to work from both the bodily charge and consciousness side of this dynamic.
A footnote about mainstream psychology: I have for a long time noticed that mainstream psychologists sometimes don’t differentiate between these. For instance, many psychological questionnaires ask about thoughts but not how much charge they hold, or how identified the person is with these. And that’s one of many ways questionnaires can be interpreted in a misleading way.
It’s well known that certain psychedelics, like magic mushrooms and LSD, can be used to treat depression.
For some, it seems to work through giving the user a form of spiritual opening, a taste of oneness. And that, in turn, gives them a new context for life and everything, and a deeper sense of meaning and belonging. They see themselves and their relationship to the rest of life differently.
For me, this has happened spontaneously. And I do notice that depressions don’t seem to stick or take much hold. There can be a range of emotions, including despair and emotional pain, but depression doesn’t seem to make so much sense in the context of all as the divine. And that’s what I hear from others as well, including people going through a dark night of the soul. (Although I am sure there are exceptions.)
I have never used any psychedelics and don’t feel drawn to trying any. But I do know that if used appropriately, in the right setting and with the right guidance, it seems to help some people. I still wouldn’t recommend it if anyone asked since things can go a bit weird, and there are alternatives. There are alternatives for dealing with depression. And there are alternatives to having a taste of oneness. (more…)
Oxygen and the air pressure are always being monitored. In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.
This is the classic analogy, but it’s still very appropriate.
Take care of your own basic needs first, and then you’ll be in a much better position to assist others.
On the one hand, this is a dynamic balance. Sometimes, it’s appropriat to focus on taking care of our own needs. Other times, we are in a position to focus more on the needs of others. And this often changes with the roles we play over the course of a day and a lifetime.
On the other hand, they are two sides of the same coin. We may spend time taking care of our own needs, for instance when we need healing or to get basic needs taken care of, and that benefits others in the moment or later. Or we may find ways to assist others in ways that are deeply nurturing and meaningful to us, and also takes care of our own material needs.
Several things may help us find and live these solutions that simultaneously benefit and nurture ourselves and the wider world (even if it’s in apparently small ways).
It helps when we hold the bigger picture in mind. When we seek solutions good for all, including future generations. And when we are open to solutions outside of what we expect or are familiar with.
It helps when we take care of our beliefs and identifications around either being a self-sacrificing martyr or selfish. The solutions present themselves easier the less we are identified with these, and the more we are free from them.
It helps the less substantial we take the imagined boundary between ourselves and the larger whole to be. The more we experience it as just a temporarily imagined boundary, the easier it is to act in ways good for ourselves and the wider whole.
And it helps the more healed we are as human beings. Wounds often make us act in reactive ways, including from reactive and narrow-minded self-preservation. The more healed and whole we are, the more natural it is to wish to act in a way that’s kind and informed by larger picture concerns.
And working on these is, in itself, an example of a solution that benefit ourselves and the larger whole.
No smoke without fire.
This saying is an example of projection.
We hear a rumor about someone. We imagine it. This imagination combines with sensations giving it a charge so we feel it may be true. And we say no smoke without fire.
The saying is obviously not true in reality. There is often smoke without fire. False rumors with no basis in reality. (Apart from the universal that we are all capable of just about anything, and that we can always find examples of something in us if we look closely enough.)
I rewatched parts of the documentary The Secret Life of Brian about Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
And I was reminded that the controversy wasn’t about the movie making fun of Jesus (which it didn’t) but that it made fun of religious people and Christians in particular (which it very much did).
It’s interesting how both the makers and those offended seemed to buy into the “offended on behalf of Jesus” line while something else is really going on.
Those who were offended were offended because the movie made fun of them – of the flaws and misguided views and actions of many religious people – and they couldn’t take it. Most likely, it hit home too closely. And that was something they couldn’t admit.
Just to mention it: I love Jesus as he is depicted in the New Testament (whether he existed as a historical person or not), but I don’t have much fondness for much of what Christianity evolved into. I guess that’s why I, and many others, like the movie.
Some statements are often seen as poetic or romantic, but in this case, it’s a literal reality.
My larger body is nature and society. My larger body is this planet. My larger body is this solar system and universe.
My existence as a human being depends 100% on this larger body for its existence and survival. The only boundaries between this human self and the larger whole is imagined, and invested with reality only by our minds.
This is very real from a ordinary material and scientific point of view.
And going beyond that, as what I am – what all experience happens within and as – it’s all what I am.
It may seem a romantic or hippyish notion, but it has very real consequences for how we live our lives.
If I see myself as a human being mostly separate from the larger whole, I’ll act accordingly. I’ll act as if the health and well being the larger social and ecological systems matters little for my own health and well being. I’ll tend to act from a short term and narrow perspective. I’ll tend to act in a way that’s – intentionally or not – harmful for the larger whole. And we create our societies, social systems, and worlviews to reflect this. We’ll use economic models that assume that the health and well being of the larger whole doesn’t really matter. We’ll create transportation systems, production systems, food systems, water systems, energy systems, and more that reflect this world view. And we’ll reap the consequences individually and collective. That’s what we see today with a growing awareness of the consequences of toxins in our air, land, and water, diminishing ecosystems, and climate change.
If I see the larger social and ecological systems as my larger body, my view and actions will be different. I’ll act from a longer term and larger perspective. I’ll seek solutions that benefits myself as well as the whole. And we’ll collective use worldviews and systems that reflect this reality and this desire to support life at all levels.
If I see the solar systema and universe as my larger body, I’ll tend to experience a deep and profound sense of belonging and meaning. As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into conscious awareness.
Of course, this has to be a lived reality for us. It may become a living reality through natural adult maturation and development. It may happen if we live in a society or group where this is a mainstream view. And it can happen through education and experiences such as the Practices to Reconnect by Joanna Macy.
I am aware that I am using the word “reality” here and it’s not really that. It’s a perception. An experience. A worldview. But “reality” works as a shorthand even if it’s not that precise.
A couple of times, I have taken photos of someone, edited the photos for color balance and light levels, and they have asked for and used the unedited photos instead. Even if these photos sometimes are off in their color balance and light levels. (I often underexpose my photos to capture all the details in the lighter areas, and then bring up the exposure afterwards to make it look more like it did to the eye.)
It may be that they just like these dark and underexposed images more. But more likely, they have the idea that unedited photos are more pure, honest, and genuine.
That’s a noble idea, but misguided.
All photos are inevitably edited, even long before the shutter button is pressed.
They are always strongly influenced by technology and technological strengths and limitations, settings, and more. Just to take some examples:
Our cameras are designed to reflect our particular human perception of light. Other species perceive other regions of the light spectrum and would make cameras reflecting their own perception. (Of course, since the photos are meant to be seen by humans, this doesn’t matter. But it does show that the photos are strongly edited before they are even captured.)
Before color film, photos were “edited” by technological limitations filtering out color, and converting different wavelengths differently into black and white. That’s the case today as well, in other aspects of the image. (For instance, most cameras have a far lower dynamic range – the span between black and white – than human vision due to technological limitations.)
There are many decisions and assumptions built into the cameras from the manufacturer’s side. Other decisions and assumptions would make the images look different, and sometimes very different.
The settings from the user’s side also heavily influence how the image looks. The image may be set so it will be under- or over-exposed. On digital cameras, the colors may be set to be more or less vibrant, or to emphasize different wavelenghts. The depth-of-field may be short or long, determining how much of the image is in focus. The grain level may be set to be high or low. (And that, in turn, influences degree of motion blur.)
When it comes to basic aspects of the image, such as color balance, exposure levels, depth-of-field, and grain levels, the idea of a pure or unedited image is misguided. The image that comes directly out of the camera is directly and heavily influenced by technology and decisions and preferences from the manufacturer and user. It’s strongly edited before the image is even captured on the memory disk.
It’s, of course, different when it comes to photoshopping to delete or include elements that are not in the original image. In that case, the original may be more honest.
In my case, it’s been slightly frustrating when the recipient choses to use the “unedited” photos since they are often far too dark. The edited version is often much closer to how the scene looked to the eye. But I also realize that it pleases the recipient, for one reason or another, and that matters more. That makes it OK.
I have also noticed that only people less experienced with photography seem to prefer the unedited photos, so maybe some education is in order. That’s partly why I chose to write this article.
And just to have said it: The photo above is – more or less – correctly exposed. It’s one I took a couple of years ago at the cabin in Norway.
I saw the Hollywood Costume exhibit in LA a couple of years ago.
It was fun. And it also made the dream factory aspect of Hollywood very obvious. They are explicitly and openly in the business of (a) producing compelling dreams that (b) people will invest with emotional energy so it (c) seems real, substantial, charged, fascinating, and attractive to them, and they (d) seek it out and are willing to pay money for the experience.
It’s a manipulative business. But since it’s so explicit it’s also honest. We know what’s going on, and we – to a large part – chose to which degree we wish to participate. (The other side of this is that we get to vicariously experience a great deal we otherwise wouldn’t, which enriches our lives and – in the best case – help us learn and grow.)
Since the dream factory function of Hollywood is so obvious and excaggerated, it’s easy to see and explore there. And that can help us see similar dynamics in other areas of human life.
The dream factory side of the entertainment industry in general is pretty clear. But it’s also there in most or all businesses. Most or all organizations. And also in all religions.
All are in the business of creating dreams that people invest with emotional energy, draw themselves into, and are willing to invest time, energy, and sometimes money to experience more of.
There is nothing inherently wrong in this. But it’s good to be aware of.
I am in England and go for a walk with the father of a friend on mine (AH). He has the appearance and demeanor of the perfect older English gentleman. It turns out we have a great deal in common and we have a long and very interesting conversation. (We talk about topics relating to transpersonal psychology, spirituality, nature spirits, Jung, Ken Wilber and more.)
This older gentleman is the perfect gentleman and a radical fool. He is, in some ways, my ideal as it has been since my teens. On the outside, he is what society expects of a respectable person and good citizen. On the inside, radical and completely nonconforming. It’s what I was on solid course to become, and the dark night of the soul put a (temporary?) stop to. I am still respectable in my appearance and demeanor, but some mainstream identities were shot down due to illness.
The dream is a reminder that this image – of respectability combined with a radical orientation – is still very much alive in me. It may be good for me to look more at it. And if I move more fully in that direction again, to do so with more freedom and ease around it.
Day residue: I recently came back from London which may be why the English theme came up.
Note: When I call him a radical fool, it’s in the best possible sense. It’s just weird in terms of mainstream views. Not according to what many perceive as more real. The phrase came to mind also since it’s in the Starlight Scence lyrics by Yello.
The term dark night, or dark night of the soul, can be used in a psychological or spiritual context.
In a psychological context, it’s often used about anything psychologically shattering – trauma, loss, burnout or similar.
In a spiritual context, a dark night of the soul it’s what typically comes after an initial opening or awakening, and a period of “illumination” (as Evelyn Underhill calls it). It can take the form of a loss of conscious connection with the divine, a great deal of unprocessed psychological material surfacing, loss of health and other losses in life, and more. It’s a humbling and very human process, and the “darkness” comes largely from our reaction to it. Our minds don’t like it and perceive it as dark, even if it is the next natural step in our maturation and development.
They are quite similar. In both cases, we may have a great deal of unprocessed psychological material surfacing with an invitation to find kindness, understanding, and healing for it. We come up against our beliefs and identifications with certain identities and are invited to examine them and allow the hold on them to soften. In both cases, it’s an opportunity for great healing, maturing, humanizing, and reorientation.
In the bigger picture, both can be seen as a spiritual process. An invitation for healing, maturing, and even awakening out of our old beliefs and identifications.
There is also a difference, and that’s the conscious context of the one going through it. In a spiritual dark night of the soul, there is already a knowing of all as Spirit – even what’s happening in this part of the process. And that makes a great deal of difference. That helps us go through it, even if it’s just a background knowing.
What helps us move through a dark night, whether the context is psychological or spiritual?
Here are some possibilities: Taking care of ourselves. Understanding people around us. Therapy – body-oriented, mind-oriented, or both. Nature. Food that’s nourishing. Time. A willingness to face what’s coming up and move through it. Inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries etc.). Heart-centered practices (Tonglen, Ho’oponopono, loving kindness etc.) Body-inclusive practices (yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema etc.)
For me, support of someone who understands the process, finding helpful tools and approaches, and the willingness to face what’s here and move through it, have been especially helpful.
What tools and approaches have worked for me? The ones mentioned above, and more recently Vortex Healing.
Note: In a spiritual context, there are several dark nights of the soul. I simplified it here and just mentioned the dark night of the soul. The essence of having to face beliefs and identifications is the same for all of them, at least the ones I am aware of so far.
Note: In any dark night, and any life experience, our distress is created by how we relate to and perceive what’s happening. That’s why inquiry can be very helpful. There is an invitation there to find more clarity and consciously align more closely with reality.
The photo is one I took at the edge of Princetown on Dartmoor some years back.
Awakening can be described in several ways.
The most common ones may be…..
Awakening out of identifications, and typically a set of underlying identifications that we gradually become aware of. (Human self, observer, doer, I, oneness, awakeness, etc.)
And awakening to what we are. Which we may, very inadequately, label consciousness, awakeness, love, intelligence, emptiness, mystery.
Awakening is also, in a sense, awakening from avoidance.
It allows us to more easily be with what’s here. And that’s for several reasons.
We recognize all as what we are. All as Spirit, the divine, consciousness, awakeness, or whatever label we put on it. So it doesn’t make sense to avoid something, because it’s what we are.
We recognize all not only as Spirit or the divine, but also love and intelligence.
And a couple that may require some exploration:
We recognize the wisdom and love behind all our experiences from an evolutionary and human persepctive, including the most uncomfortable experiences. They come from and are kindness and care for this human self. For instance, fear has helped our ancestors and us to survive, and there is wisdom in it. The same with pain, anger, sadness, and any human experience.
We know from experience, most likely, that avoidance = suffering and being present with = healing and resolution.
We may see that we cannot really avoid our experience. It’s already here. Trying to avoid it is the mind trying to run from itself. It’s doesn’t really work.
And one that seems built into awakening:
Our ability to avoid may be seriously weakened. An awakening or opening often involves “taking the lid off” anything we have avoided in the past so it comes to the surface. And it typically involves an inability to effectively avoid our current experience, whatever it may be.
The “dream of the ego” may be that awakening will allow us to avoid even better. And reality is that it’s an awakening from avoidance, from perceiving avoidance as neccesary or even doable.
The “dream of the ego” is a catchy phrase, but it’s also a bit misleading. It’s more what’s created when there is identification with thoughts. We perceive ourselves as this human self. We wish to avoid certain experiences since they are uncomfortable and seem scary. So we get in the habit of avoiding them. It seems to work to some extent, but it doesn’t really work and especially not in the long run.
At some point, it makes more sense to intentionally be present with what’s here, with some skill so it keeps moving and we keep moving into more clarity and deeper.
How do difficult things look from the perspective of awakening?
How do tragedies look? Loss of all kinds, whether personal or collective?
It depends, of course. It depends on the level of clarity. It depends on how embodied and lived that clarity is. It depends on conditioning, tradition, and culture, both in how it’s perceived and expressed.
Here are a few things from my own experience.
It’s lila. The play of the divine. It’s all the divine – or life, the Universe – exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself.
It’s all Spirit. It’s happening within and as what we are and everything is. It’s happening within and as (what we may call) awakeness, consciousness, love, wisdom.
It’s not what it looks like. Partly because of lila. Partly because the way it looks, in a conventional sense, is filtered and created by believing stories and being identified with identities and stories. And many of these stories, especially when it comes to loss, are stressful.
When we examine these stressful stories, we may find that reality is kind. (As Byron Katie often points out.) And we can find this for ourselves, even in small ways, through inquiries such as The Work.
When it happens to someone else, there is empathy. We know very well how painful and distressing human experiences can be. We know from our own experience. We wish to be present with others going through it. We wish to be human with others. If appropriate and possible, we wish to alleviate the suffering. That’s all very natural.
And when something diffcult happens in our own life, we wish the same. To be present with what’s here as it is. To recognize the suffering as very natural. Recognize it as the play of the divine, and as Spirit. And if appropriate and possible, to alleviate the suffering. (In our own case, through presence, inquiry, love, and more.)
Mainly, it looks very human. In the best case, it looks like clarity and maturity in a very human way.
In other cases, our own wounds – areas in us not yet healed or on board with the clarity – are triggered and we act from these wounds and lack of clarity.
Often, there is a mix. There is clarity and lack of clarity. And that too is very human.
I discovered No Boundaries by Ken Wilber when I was 17 or 18 and loved it. He described exactly what was revealed to me in the initial opening or awakening. He felt like someone who understood – at least at an intellectual level which was something.
I have since then devoured most of his books, and love them and what he has contributed to the world.
And yet, there is another side to it. It’s perhaps not as significant but still important to mention. When I got to see more of him and his community through online interactions, some of what I encountered was a turnoff for me: Arrogance. Reactivity. Unneccesarily idealizing second-tier. Unneccesarily villifying the Green level.
Also, when I read what he wrote about topics I am familiar with, I would sometimes notice significant inaccuracies and even misrepresentations. Some of it was probably from carelessness. Some from a very human inability to be thoroughly familiar with everything he writes about. And some of it was certainly a straw man argumentation, whether intentional or unintentional.
This has led to a certain disenchantement with Ken Wilber as a person, which is healthy. And I still respect and admire most of his writing and find it very useful. The caveat is that I now know very well that his descriptions of the different approaches and traditions not neccesarily are accurate, and I need to look into it for myself if I wish to have a more accurate picture. And that’s how to do it anyway.
Rise and fall of Ken Wilber is a short and good article about Ken Wilber and the mix of respect, admiration, and disenchantment many have experienced.
If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t really understand it.
– attributed to Richard Feynman or Albert Einstein
I try to write very simply here, and it’s for a couple of different reasons:
It’s easier to read and understand.
Why not make it as easy to understand as possible? If I want what I write to be useful for the recipient, I want it to be as clear, simple, and understandable as possible.
It shows me how well I understand it.
If I start a post and it doesn’t flow or is easily written, I usually set it aside, let it simmer somewhere in me (without paying much or any attention to it), and return to it another day. Most often, it is then much easier to write and it flows better.
There is another reason why I chose to use a simple language. It’s because I have seen others, especially in academia, who use an overly complicated and fancy-sounding language. And more often than not, they do it – either intentionally or unintentionally – to mask a lack of clarity and poor understanding from their side. Some also do it to appear more impressive and mask a lack of self-esteem. I don’t want to play that game.
I want to understand and come from some clarity. And I want to use the writing process to find a bit more clarity.
Here is another topic that’s relatively insignificant in itself but points to a larger issue.
Why do so many of us have lawns when other options make more sense?
Lawns require a lot of work. Most people use noisy machines to maintain them and this bothers neighbors and is stressful. And they create a desert-like mono-culture that is not good for most insects and animals.
The alternatives make so much more sense. A meadow is beautiful, low maintenance (just need to mow and remove the plant matter in the fall), and creates habitat for a great number of insects and animals that sorely need it. An intelligently designed food garden (using permaculture principles) can be created to be multi-level, low maintenance, and produce wonderful fruits, berries, and nuts.
The answer to the why question is, of course, conformity and convenience. It takes time and effort to create something else, especially when most people don’t know how to do it. And it goes against the expectations and behavior of neighbors.
And sometimes, lawns can be useful for certain sports and games. But there is no reason why we can’t have a spot of lawn for dinners and sports, and the rest as a meadow and/or a multi-story food garden.
So much is like this, these days. What most of us do makes little sense, apart from being convenient and conforming with the way things have been done in recent times. We have very good alternatives that are attractive at many levels. And we just need to shift.
And that shifting requires an avant-garde that experiments and shows that it works and is attractive (happening), and eventually structural changes so it’s easy for others to make the transition (somewhat happening but not quite yet at a larger scale).
During a dark night of the soul, unprocessed psychological material tends to surface.
I often write that it’s so this material can be seen, felt, loved, and healed. And that’s true enough, if we chose to relate to it that way.
But there is another invitation in this process. And that’s to consciously recognize this material as Spirit.
During the illumination phase, there is typically a recognition of all as Spirit. All is and happens within and as consciousness, love, wisdom, and – if depending on what we wish to call it – God, Buddha Mind, Big Mind, Brahman, or just Spirit.
And for some of us, when unprocessed psychological material surfaces, it may take a intentional noticing of this too as Spirit. In my case, I knew that that too is Spirit. I could see and recognize it if I looked. And yet, it took some time and conscious intention for it to sink in more fully. It was and is an ongoing process.
Unprocessed material does, of course, surface at any time in any of our lives. And there is an invitation to see, feel, love, and find healing for it. When it happens following an opening or initial awakening, there is the added invitation to recognize it as Spirit.
Just to clarify: A dark night of the soul, in a more technical sense, tends to happen following an initial opening or awakening (illumination) and a dark night of the senses.
The initial opening or awakening is a glimpse or recognition of all as Spirit. The dark night of the senses is a withdrawing or seeing through of strong identification as a human being. And the dark night of the soul is a deepening and maturing of both.
The dark night of the soul can take many forms, but it seems that loss is a part of it, as well as this processing of previously unprocessed material. As Evelyn Underhill points out, it’s a deeply human process. And it can be very painful and uncomfortable, depending on how much in us resists it.
So much of what I write here is Life 101.
It’s very basic. Simple. Even written so it’s easier to understand.
And yet, it’s not so obvious in the context of our contemporary culture.
Perhaps it will be more obvious and mainstream in the future?
And perhaps it will be included more often in a Life 101 track through school.
It seems as important as the other basics already included in most schools: language, maths, history, sports, religions, and social studies.
Here are some ideas for what could be included in a Life 101 track:
Critical thinking. Rational thinking.
Training of a more stable attention. (Helpful for anything.)
And perhaps, for the especially interested:
Mind-body practices. (Yoga, tai chi, chigong.)
Basic forms of meditation.
Parts work (subpersonalities).
And even, in some schools, basic universal spirituality. (What it’s about, typical process etc.)