Carl Sagan: I like a universe where much is unknown

 

I like a universe where much is unknown and, at the same time, much is knowable. A universe in which everything is known would be static and dull.

– Carl Sagan

In a conventional sense, we know some things about the world and the universe and there is a lot we don’t know. We don’t even know how much we don’t know. There may even be many things we don’t know that would turn our whole worldview inside-out and upside-down if we knew them.

Looking a little closer, we see that we don’t know anything for certain. Our brain constructs our perception of the world from our senses and with an overlay of mental images and other thoughts to make sense of it. It’s all constructed. Our perceptions and ideas about the world are not the final word on anything. It’s all created to help us orient and navigate in the world. It has nothing to do with any final truth.

So in a conventional sense, we know a little and we know there is a lot we don’t know. And looking closer, we see that we cannot know anything for certain. Not even that which seems most basic, obvious, and what we take the most for granted.

Lucid dreaming and waking life: all happening within and as consciousness

 

A friend of mine (JL) mentioned that he wants to explore lucid dreaming. Although I understand it can be fun, I have to admit I don’t quite see the usefulness of it.

When I was little – perhaps 7-10 years old (?) – I decided to try lucid dreaming for myself. Before falling asleep, I set the intention to realize I was dreaming while dreaming. It happened and was mildly interesting (I became aware of it as a dream while being chased by peasants with pitchforks!), and I haven’t explored it since.

Of course, there is one side to lucid dreaming that is interesting and somewhat useful. Both in a dream and in waking life, all of our experiences happen within and as consciousness. Perhaps for some, it’s easier to first recognize this within a dream and then notice it in waking life.

For me, noticing all as consciousness happened spontaneously when I was sixteen so I haven’t felt the need to explore this through lucid dreaming. It may be a useful approach to some. Although it may also be a detour from the more direct approach of noticing it in waking life, for instance assisted by inquiry.

Note: I intentionally kept the language more conventional when I said “noticing all as consciousness”. It’s more accurate to say that consciousness notices all as itself. And even that is not so accurate since “consciousness” is a label and something the mind easily can understand as a thing or object, and it’s not a thing or object. The most accurate way I have found to talk about it is that what we are – that which all experience happens within and as – notices or wakes up to itself. And even that is just a pointer. A temporary guide or springboard to finding it for ourselves. The words themselves are not worth anything apart from as a pointer.

The difference between causes of illness and what helps it turn around

 

Words are important. And the words a therapist, doctor, or healer use with their clients or patients are especially important.

It seems obvious but most of us are sometimes sloppy, don’t think about how our words may be perceived, and we may even be – knowingly or unknowingly – intellectually dishonest.

This came up for me when I asked a top level energy healer about my chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and specifically a crash following over-exertion (PEM).

His reply was “the tiredness has emotional causes”.

I am very open to work on any emotional issues that may maintain the CFS and prevent healing. After all, the body is a seamless whole, CFS is a complex and chronic condition without a single known cause or remedy, and working on any part of my system and environment can support my body in healing. Emotional issues are already on top of my list of things to address, along with strengthening my energy system, diet, and aiming to live in a warmer and dryer climate.

And yet, his reply seems a bit careless.

First, CFS isn’t just or even primarily about “tiredness”. The symptoms are typically a combination of fatigue, brain fog, digestive problems, sleep problems, post-exertion worsening (PEM), temperature dysregulation, and much more. To reduce it to “tiredness” makes it sound like it’s just a worse or more lasting form of regular tiredness which is far from reality.

Second, CFS has several known non-emotional factors. For instance, it often follows an infection like mononucleosis (as in my case). The Epstein-Barr virus seems to play a role. The tendency to crash following exertion (PEM) is a core symptom and isn’t related to emotions in any obvious way. Diet is an important factor in stabilizing the condition and perhaps the healing. Nutrients the same. And climate often plays a big role for people with CFS. (I get worse in cold and wet climates and sometimes remarkably much better in warm and dry climates.)

Emotional issues definitely plays a role in well-being and in reducing stress (which can support the body in stabilizing and perhaps even healing itself). It may even be one of several factors in the onset and maintenance of the illness – although we don’t know enough about that yet.

But to say that “the tiredness has emotional causes” reveals a lack of understanding of CFS and a lack of humility when faces with a complex and relatively poorly understood illness.

Also, there is a difference between factors that cause, maintain, and support healing from an illness. Sometimes, these are different from each other. And especially when it comes to chronic, complex, and poorly understood conditions, some or all of the healing factors may be different from the initial causes and even the maintaining factors.

It may be the healer had a sense or intuition that it can help me to address some emotional issues and that’s my sense too. If he had that sense and still expressed it as “the tiredness has emotional causes”, then it seems he made a big, unnecessary, and potentially misleading assumption.

If I took what he said seriously and literally, as some would, it would close the door to other approaches. Including approaches that may be equally or more important in supporting my system in its healing process.

For several reasons, it would have been much better for him to say “it may help your system to work on emotional issues – try it and see what happens”. It would be closer to his reality. It would be more intellectually honest. It wouldn’t conflate causes, maintaining factors, and healing factors. And it would support the client – in this case me – to follow his pointer while also staying more open to other possibilities.

In summary: I see there is a grain of truth in what he said and working on emotional issues is already on top of my priorities. (I have been working on it for a while.) And yet, I see his response as careless, potentially misleading, and even intellectually dishonest.

In the worst case, it can close the door on addressing other factors that can support the healing as much or more.

Setting all of this aside, which emotional issues are on my to-do list? I am especially interested in working on any possible issues that may have stressed my system at the onset of the illness when I was fifteen, any fears of staying sick, and even any fears of being healthy and fully involved in the world again.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XVIII

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include a few short personal notes as well.

Greed? I keep seeing people talking about “greed” as the cause of the problems today. (I even heard it from a professor in biology with interest in sustainability!) I have never quite understood it because people act according to the system they are in, and our current system rewards behavior that’s unintentionally harmful for the Earth, humanity, and future generations.

Why does it reward that type of clearly harmful behavior? Not because the people who created it were “bad” people but because they lived in a world where they didn’t have to take ecological realities into account. They lived in a world with relatively few people and relatively simple technology, so limits – to natural resources and nature’s capacity to deal with vaste – was not an issue apart from in some cases and very locally.

What’s the solution? To create a system – in all areas of society and culture – that takes ecological realities into account. A system where what’s easy and attractive is also what benefits society, Earth, and future generations. It’s fully possible to create this type of system. It won’t be perfect, but it’s something we can work on and refine as our situation changes and as we better understand how to live with Earth with our populations numbers and more powerful technology.

How do we get there? Perhaps through a small group of people realizing what needs to change and how (already happening), implementing examples (as many do), and then larger numbers of people supporting implementing it at a larger scale. There will be a backlash from those immeshed in our current system, as we see today with Trump and others. And it may well be that it will get worse before it gets better. Many may need the crisis close enough to home before they support the change needed.

The US obsession with the individual. I just watched the new Terminator movie and enjoyed it a lot. It had a good story and I loved the characters and the self-referencing humor (mostly from Schwarzenegger).

There was one thing that slightly brought me out of the Terminator-world. Why is a single person so important for the resistance? Typically, when the leader of a resistance is removed other come in and takes their place. I understand that some are more skilled and/or charismatic than others, but it seems that there is always someone who steps in and fills the gap.

It’s part of the slightly weird US obsession with the individual. We see it in the superhero stories (although it’s more common for them to team up now which is a nice change). And more disturbingly, we see it in the idea that anyone can succeed in the US if they only work hard enough. Anyone can escape poverty if they only want and work for it. That’s obviously not true. The system tends to keep those born into wealth wealthy (just look at Trump) and those born into poverty poor. This “upward mobility” idea tends to keep people from looking at the system, wanting to change the system, and actively working for changing the system.

Also, why can’t the machines send a lot of terminators back to make sure the job is done? I guess there is an answer within the Terminator-world I don’t remember or was never aware of.

December 3, 2019

Power-over vs. power-with. In a conversation, someone said that many or most of the problems in the world today comes from patriarchy. I partly agree but for me it’s much broader. Many or most of the problems come from power-over rather than power with. Power over nature. Power over women. Power over non-whites. Power over the poor. Power over animals. Power over our own body. And so on. It’s all part of the same mindset and orientation towards ourselves and the world. And it doesn’t work anymore. The problems created by it are too big and too global.

We cannot anymore use a power-over mindset the way we have. It damages the Earth, society, and ourselves too much.

December 5, 2019

Egypt and the afterlife. I read everything I could by Jung in my teens and early twenties. Somewhere – I don’t remember where – he mentions that he noticed that his clients often developed a fascination with old Egypt and old Egyptian mythology as they grew older and closer to the end of life. It’s perhaps natural that we wonder – explicitly or less consciously – about afterlife when we reach that age, and old Egypt is a prime example of a culture fascinated with the afterlife. I see this in my own parents. When I was little, they had little to no Egyptian things or imagery in the house and now – as they are closer to the end – that’s very different.

December 9, 2019

Sustainability as a financial opportunity. Some still (!) like to portray sustainability as a cost rather than as an enormous financial opportunity. I have never quite understood it, although I do understand that industries that has to make major changes – like the petroleum industry – benefits from that particular narrative. For the rest of society, sustainability is a once-in-several-centuries opportunity for the development of new industries and businesses. If we want it and allow it to be, sustainability can bring an economic boom and flowering. And that’s already happening to some extent.

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Vortex Healing experience: birds at night

 

Since Vortex Healing is the modality I explore the most these days, I thought I would share a few everyday snippets of experience related to Vortex Healing.

When I took the my first Vortex Healing class (Foundational) in April 2016, I was in Rancho Mirage in Southern California. The night before traveling to the class, a large flock of birds settled in a bush right outside my open French doors and – loudly and enthusiastically – sang and chirped in the middle of the night. It started perhaps at 2am and went on for a long time. It was very unusual – I have not experienced anything like it before or since – and it seemed like a kind of synchronicity.

Starting on the Vortex Healing path was a new chapter in my life and the remarkable experience with the singing and chirping birds in the night seemed to mark the beginning of this new chapter.

Since February that year, I received several VH sessions from a senior Vortex healer. And for about a month before this first class, I very clearly noticed the VH energy working on me. Mostly when I was already quiet and resting, mostly in my head, and especially in my temples and the third eye/sixth chakra area. It seemed that the divine energy worked on me in preparation for the class and this is a not uncommon experience for Vortex students.

We create our own reality?

 

Some folks in the New Age circles say we create our own reality.

Is that true?

As usual, to me the answer seems to be yes, no, it depends, and don’t know.

Yes, we do create our own reality in the conventional sense and in two distinct although related ways.

Our perception and interpretations determines how the world appears to us – from the most basic to the most elaborate. The mind creates sensory impressions based on input from the senses. And our mind makes sense of these impressions through an overlay of mental images and words. We – quite literally – construct our own reality.

Most of this is shared by most humans and are determined by biology and culture, and some of it is more culturally dependent and individual. We can explore and work with both categories to create other ways to perceive and interpret the world that works better for us. (The second category is more the realm of psychology and the first category involves deeper inquiry and even spirituality.)

Our perceptions and interpretations obviously influence and determine our choices, actions, and responses, and this shape the situations we find ourselves in.

In another way, we do not create our reality. Everything that happens is not a direct expression of our wishes, hangups, hidden desires, or whatever it may be.

What’s happening locally is an expression of the movements within existence as a whole. Everything has innumerable causes stretching back to beginning of time and out to the widest extent of space. It’s dependent on far more than just what’s going on in our own psyche.

At the same time, we can make use of whatever happens. We can use it to notice what’s triggered in us and befriend it and invite in healing for it. We can make use of what’s happening to heal, mature, wake up, and live more authentically and more aligned with our values.

We can even ask ourselves “what if I created this, what would be the reason and what would I like to learn from it?” and use that as a gentle exploration, hold the question very gently, and use the answers as a temporary guide.

As what we are – that which our experience happens within and as – it depends. We can answer the question in a few different ways.

We can say that everything – every experience and the whole world as it appears to us – happens within and as we are.

And from here we could say that “we” – as what our experience happens within and as – creates our experience. That’s true in the most basic sense that we construct our own experience of the world.

I am careful with saying that “we” create our own reality in this context. It makes more sense to say that it’s just happening and it is life or existence itself creating our world and reality and our experience of it.

As what we are, it’s most reasonable to say that everything happens. “We” – as this human self – do not create it.

And really, it’s a mystery. We don’t know anything for certain. We can have ideas about our experiences in the world – whether the ideas are about genetics, culture, psychology or anything else – and some of those ideas can be useful for a while. The only thing we know is that no ideas can capture reality. They are, at most, helpful as a temporary and pragmatic guideline to help us orient and function in the world.

So as who we are – as this human self – we create our reality in a conventional and well-known sense. We do not create our reality in the simplistic and naive sense that whatever happens is a direct reflection of our own desires or hangups. We can also say that our reality is created within and as what we are, although it happens more on its own. And ultimately it’s all – every single bit of it – a mystery that cannot be captured by our understanding and even less by our words.

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Some ways to avoid burnout when working as a therapist

 

I’ll briefly mention a few different things that – in my experience – helps with avoiding burnout when working as a therapist.

The obvious one is to reduce the number of clients to a manageable level, and perhaps outsource the non-therapy parts of the process.

Another important factor is which modalities we use. Staying at the story-level tends to create burnout and may also not be the best approach for trauma clients. (I realize that, in some settings, the modalities we use is not a choice.)

It helps to keep the story-level interactions to a minimum and focus on approaches that work on other levels. For instance, dismantling how the mind creates its own experience of the trauma or emotional issue (inquiry, cognitive therapy), somatic work (releasing trauma from the body), energy work (Vortex Healing, Craniosacral etc.), or even heart-centered practices (ho’oponopno, tonglen). Forms of mindfulness can also be helpful if done in a trauma-informed way.

Burnout typically means we are burnt out from having our own emotional issues and struggles with the world (clients and their stories) triggered. This means it’s important for us to notice what’s triggered in us, take it seriously, and address it. Often, there are some recurrent issues which means that taking of these can help us a lot. And it often helps to have someone else facilitating us in identifying and working on these issues.

What type of issues may be triggered in us? It may be unresolved issues brought alive by similar issues in our clients, being overly invested with a helper role and wanting to “fix” the client, not feeling good enough or up to the task, having guilt, sadness, or anxiety come up, or feeling traumatized through exposure to the trauma of the clients (usually because it triggers existing issues in us).

In all of these cases, our own stressful beliefs and emotional issues are triggered by working with clients, the clients do us a favor by helping us see what’s left in us to work on, and the situation requires us to go deeper and address our own issues so we don’t burn out.

One recipe for burnout is to have way too many clients, do everything ourselves, stay at a (stressful) story level with the clients, and not address the issues triggered in ourselves. And a recipe for avoiding burnout is to do the reverse.

There is obviously something else that’s important when it comes to burnout, and that’s our work situation and social and economic factors. If we work for someone else, we may not be able to reduce the number of clients or schedule in enough breaks. We may also not be able to chose which modalities we use (which may mean we are stuck with talk therapy). And if we work independently, the way society is set up and functions may require us to have more clients than we feel is appropriate for financial reasons.

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The role of states in the awakening process

 

Awakening means what we are noticing itself as that which our content of experience happens within and as. And a more stable awakening happens when this noticing goes through changing states and is independent of any particular state. (Although we can say that this noticing is a state of noticing.)

So what is the role of states in the awakening process?

Some states may function as a preview of awakening – as a taste, or a guide. There can be a taste of oneness, or all as the divine or God, and this can function as a preview or direction for us for a while until the awakening is more clear, stable, deep, and mature.

These preview states can also function as a carrot, as can any state we see as spiritual (bliss etc.). They can keep us going. In an awakening process, it’s common to have previews and then chase these previews or states, and although it’s ultimately misguided it can serve an important function of keeping us interested, fascinated, motivated, and consciously on the path. (Although we are on the path no matter what.)

Some states highlight aspects of what we are – it can be Big Mind, Big Heart, the divine feminine, bliss and so on. These then become an invitation for us to keep noticing this aspect of what we are through the changing states, including when these more dialed-up states are gone.

And in general, changing states – which we experience all the time – is an invitation to notice what we are. It’s an invitation for what we are – that which all our experiences happens within and as – to notice itself. This invitation is always here.

So although awakening is not ultimately about any particular state (apart from the state of noticing), states of all types can serve an important role in the awakening process. Some function as pointers and guides. Some as carrots. Some as an invitation to notice aspects of what we are through changing states. And all of them – spiritual or not – function as an invitation for us to notice what we are.

What’s my experience with this? The initial awakening was a oneness awakening with a lot of side-effects (bliss, stable focus and so on). And I did chase some of these states for a while. It was one of the motivations for doing hours of prayer, meditation, and body-centered practices each day for several years. It felt really good to do it because it amplified the oneness and these blissful states. It functioned as a carrot for me, and although I could see what was going on, I was also compelled to dial up some of these states. (Probably to fill a hole in me, to try to make up for a sense of lack.)

It took some years with little or no spiritual practice and a dark night of the soul for a shift to happen out of the slightly obsessive chasing of states. I am still doing it to some extent as most of us do – even if it’s just in very ordinary everyday ways – but it feels more relaxed and less essential.

Why did I leave my spiritual practice? And what was the dark night of the soul? It’s a story better suited for a longer article. In short, I made a major life decision against my inner knowing, and this made it hard for me to continue my spiritual practice.

Each time I sat down for meditation or prayer, I was connected with the still inner voice guiding me to something that was very difficult for me, which was painful, so I ended up avoiding it. This lead to several years where I was more engaged in the world and didn’t do much spiritual practice. It was also the beginning of a dark night of the soul that has gone through several phases. It was mild for several years and took the form of feeling deeply off track, and then got much stronger and brought up a lot of old trauma.

Somehow, in the process, the state-chasing got softer and less relevant.

The prayer I mentioned was Christ meditation (visualize Christ in front, back, on each side, over the head, under me, and in the heart), and heart prayer (Jesus prayer). The meditation was basic meditation for training a more stable attention, and basic meditation for noticing and allowing whatever is here. And the body-centered practices were tai chi, chi gong, inner Taoist practices (Mantak Chia and similar), and some yoga.

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Adyashanti: Our minds aren’t conditioned to recognize the clearly obvious

 

Our minds aren’t conditioned to recognize the clearly obvious.

– Adyashanti

What are some of the obvious things Adya may refer to?

One is what we are. We are that which our experience happens within and as. It’s obvious. It can’t be any other way. It’s part of our daily experience. And yet, for most of us, our mind doesn’t recognize it. Or if it does, it dismisses it as not important – as something weird, outside of how society tells us it is, and perhaps not practical. (It may be a bit weird and outside of how others tells us it is, but recognizing it and taking it seriously can profoundly transform our perception, life, and how we relate to ourselves and the world.)

Another obvious thing is that our thoughts don’t tell us the truth. They are questions about the world. They may be practically useful as a guide. And yet, they do not hold any final or absolute or complete truth. Reality is always different from and more than our thoughts about it. And that goes for our “big” thoughts about who we are and how the world is (“I am ultimately a human being in the world”), and the “smaller” thoughts in daily life (“she doesn’t like me”, “he shouldn’t have cut me off in traffic”).

Accelerated awakening?

 

If we seek awakening, we can take the traditional slow and steady approach, or we can try to accelerate it or take shortcuts. The slow approach may be “safer” than the apparent shortcuts although one is not inherently better than the other. And in either case, it’s good to look at our motivation.

Ways to accelerate awakening

We can have glimpses of what we are. Sometimes, this happens spontaneously without any apparent preparation, intention, or wish. We can also invite in these glimpses as a way to give us a taste of what awakening is. Some forms of inquiry, like the Big Mind process and the Headless Experiments, can give us a glimpse in a relatively short time and usually in a grounded way without the bells and whistles, and this can also give us more time to explore the different facets and dynamics around it.

Some also use psychoactive drugs, ideally under supervision of someone familiar with how to do it. Since this can come with side-effects, depending on the drug, I can’t recommend it and haven’t been drawn to try it for myself.

These glimpses can give us a taste of awakening and what we are, they can serve as a temporary guide (although can also be a bit misleading, especially as we add ideas to it), and they can – in that sense – accelerate awakening. As we dip into tastes of awakening through inquiry, we also get more familiar with what we are and it’s easier to notice it in daily life. And some forms of inquiry, like Living Inquiries, can help remove identifications and beliefs that typically prevent us from noticing what we are.

There is also the classic slow and steady approach to awakening. Here, we spend time with spiritual practices, with others on the path, and under guidance of someone familiar with the process. We spend time in prayer, meditation, body-centered practiced, and whatever other practices are available to us, and this provides a steady and gentle nurturing to the awakening process.

This more traditional approach is often seen as safer as it provides a lot of support and preparation work for the awakening which, in theory, makes it easier to function within the awakening if or when it happens. If done right, it also gives us a lot of benefits on the way in terms of grounding, healing, support, community, and so on. Of course, this all depends on the tradition, the community, the guide, and our fit with it and the fit with where we are in the process.

There is also the transmission or shaktipat approach. This may give a temporary spiritual opening or glimpse of awakening. Adyashanti describes this happening with retreat participants when he first started holding retreats (he stopped doing it since he found it less useful). This approach may also force the process and come with serious side-effects and challenges – sometimes because it happened a little too fast, and sometimes as the energy bangs up against blocks in our system. In some cases, energy transmissions may accelerate the process in a more balanced and integrated way.

And there is personal energy work, for instance through different forms of yoga. This can be a good way to nurture awakening, especially if combined with meditation and inquiry. As with the other approaches, it’s important to have good and experienced guidance.

These are all traditional approaches to awakening. Some cultures use psychoactive plants to offer glimpses or reality or shifts into it. Some traditions – especially in Asia but also other places – use shaktipat, inquiry, and/or personal energy work. And just about all traditions emphasize the more slow and steady approach, either on its own or in combination with the other approaches.

Personally, I have experience with all of these approaches with the exception of drugs. I have been mostly drawn to inquiry and the slow and steady classic approach. When it comes to energy transmissions, I have so far found only one that seems to be effective, predictable, and balanced, and that’s the awakening path built into being a Vortex Healing student.

Accelerated awakening and spiritual crises

An awakening process comes with different forms of challenges and sometimes spiritual crises. It’s tempting to say that the more accelerated paths come with more risk although I don’t really know. Challenges and spiritual crises seem to happen no matter which approach we take and whether our approach is slow and steady or more accelerated.

What I can say is that an accelerated path may also accelerate the crises (they may happen sooner rather than later). And a more slow and steady approach may allow us to prepare – in our mind, body, and energy system – for the different phases of the awakening process, which may make it a slightly smoother ride.

Mainly, there are no guarantees and we do what we are drawn to anyway.

Our motivation in wanting to accelerate awakening

Whether we seek awakening in the more traditional, slow, and steady way, or we seek a more accelerated path or shortcuts, it’s good to look at our motivation.

Typically, some of our motivations come from a sense of neediness, lack, and wanting to avoid suffering. There is nothing inherently wrong in this type of motivation. It can give us a drive that can be helpful for a while. At the same time, this type of motivation is inherently stressful and can drive us to make compulsive choices we otherwise wouldn’t have made.

Addressing the issues behind this slightly compulsive surface motivation – often some variation of neediness or lack – can reveal a deeper layer of motivation.

It may reveal a deeper, quiet and steady motivation that comes from – somewhere – knowing what we are.

Assumptions and context

I should mention that this view on awakening and ways to accelerate the process is based on an assumption that awakening is a natural, organic, and built-in process in all of us and – in the bigger picture – all beings. Everyone is on this path. For some, it may be far in the future and for others, it may happen now.

When it happens, there is a gradual preparation and build-up to it. It follows a similar process to a seed growing into a sapling, maturing into a tree, growing flowers, the flowers turn into a fruit, the fruit matures and eventually ripes and falls off the tree. In this analogy, the flowers may be early spiritual interests and perhaps practices, and the fruit is the awakening that ripes and matures over time.

We can support the ripening through practices and embodying it as best we can. As mentioned above, there are also other ways to accelerate this process. If we wish to accelerate this natural and organic process, it may be good to ask ourselves where that wish comes from and examine it. And it’s good to be aware that trying to accelerate, or even force, the process comes with some risks.

Finally, I want to mention that the awakening process tends to spontaneously accelerate at different parts of the process. It seems to have natural cycles of apparently slow phases and accelerated phases.

The bigger picture

Awakening is a natural and organic process. It’s what we are seeking itself, finding itself, noticing itself as all there is, and learning to live from and as it through this human being in the world.

What this looks like is a process of exploration or even a play, and many have called it the play of life, existence, or the divine – Lila.

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Hercule Poirot: There is nothing in the world so damaged

 

There is nothing in the world so damaged that it cannot be repaired by the hand of the almighty God.

– Agatha Christie, spoken by Hercule Poirot in Appointment with Death

This is a beautiful and unusually personal and heartfelt statement from Poirot. It’s not beautiful primarily because it’s hopeful. It’s beautiful because there is a lot of truth to it.

At a personal level, there is nothing in our world that’s so damaged it cannot be repaired by the almighty hand of God. When oneness – AKA God – finds itself, that in itself is profound. We realize that what we are was never harmed. It was never damaged. No matter how damaged our human self is, what we are – that which our experience and the apparent damage happens within and as – is never damaged.

There is another side to this. When what we are notices itself – and especially when it happens more clearly and through situations and experiences – it provides a new context for who we are which allows this to reorient and heal within oneness. Some of this can happen in the initial awakening process, and much of it happens over time, gradually, and through intentional explorations and work.

From a larger view, and using a Spiritual interpretation of awakening, we can say that everything – all of existence – happens within and as the divine, Spirit, God. No matter how much destruction and apparent damage happens within the world or the universe, it all happens within and as Oneness.

Although we as humans may be called to do what we can to prevent and repair damage to people and the world – and this is vitally important – nothing is fundamentally in need of repair because it’s all already the divine.

Adyashanti: Enlightenment is being able to simultaneously experience unity and individuality

 

Enlightenment is being able to simultaneously experience unity and individuality without experiencing any conflict.

– Adyashanti, Mt. Madonna Silent Retreat February 2019

Yes, this fits my experience as well. I notice I balk a bit at the word enlightenment because of it’s baggage and the associations some have about it. But it is appropriate in some situations and it’s also appropriate in that there is a sense of illumination – metaphorically because reality is illuminated and literally since the energy system tends to light up within an awakening and experiencing light may be a side-effect of the initial awakening.

And there are many ways to talk about the unity and individuality. When oneness notices itself, it also notices itself as this unique individual human being functioning in the world. It notices this human self as local and temporary part of itself.

When there is no experience of conflict between oneness and who we are, it’s because there are – generally speaking – no identifications as one or the other preventing the mind from fluidly noticing itself as both and both as one. It may be that there actually are identifications here but they are more in the background or dormant, or it may be that they have been seen through or have worn out.

I suspect I know why Adya felt he needed to address this topic. Sometimes, we can experience a conflict between the two, between who and what we are. And that always comes from identifications as one or the other, and ideas that they are somehow separate or in conflict with each other. That too can be part of the process. The wrestling helps us get more familiar with the dynamics of being both oneness and a human being in the world.

Although I have rarely experienced a conflict between what and who I am, I have gone through a few phases in this dynamic of being oneness and a human being in the world.

In the initial awakening phase – which didn’t feel like an awakening at all – “I” was absorbed into a witness. I was fifteen and what I experienced myself to be was absorbed into witnessing – witnessing all content of experience equally, whether it was the outer world or this human self or what happened within this human self. This happened without any forewarning and felt like something had gone terribly wrong. I visited several doctors and specialists to try to figure out what was going on. The whole world, including this human self, felt very far away.

After a year in this weird state, a more full blown oneness revealed itself. Again, it happened suddenly and without any forewarning. All without exception was revealed as God. This human self was revealed as a local part of God and any identification as this human self was revealed as the play of God. The ultimate and real identity of everything, including this guy here, was the divine. Everything is part of the oneness.

There was a long honeymoon phase, followed by a phase where my attention went mostly to sustainability and social justice work (informed by oneness), and the last several years have been a process of deeper work for aligning more parts of my human self more consciously with the oneness. Parts of me that were still living in separation consciousness have come to the surface so they can realign, wake up in their own way, and be included in my human self and the oneness more consciously.

When I look back, I see that each of these phases have lasted about a decade. I sometimes feel my process is very slow, but it’s all not only guided by the divine, but it is part of the divine, and it is the divine.

Note: It’s sometimes fun to write about something from different angles. When I say “it’s guided by the divine” it’s the divine as second or third person. When I say it’s “part of the divine” it’s closer to oneness and it highlights that the divine is far more than this speck of a human self. And when I say it IS the divine, that’s accurate as well. Each one gives a slightly different angle to it and together they create a more rich and full image.

Self-improvement and what to take care of first(ish)

 

I have noticed that self-improvement sometimes gets a bad name, perhaps especially from nondualists and some psychologists.

To me, self-improvement is – in its essence – a healthy impulse. It’s a wish to better one’s own world and the world in general, and that’s far more constructive than a lot of other activities and projects we sometimes put our time and energy into.

Where does the impulse come from?

It’s good to see where the self-improvement impulse comes from and look at that early on in the self-improvement process. Does it come from neediness? Wanting to fill a hole? Wanting to escape something? Not feeling good enough? Not feeling loved or lovable? A sense of lack? If so, it’s a good idea to put those on or near the top of issues to take care of as part of the self-improvement process.

Similarly, if I notice I am engaging in self-improvement in order to please others (be acceptable to others), that too is good to put near the top of the list of what to take care of.

The impulse can also come from a wish to be more comfortable in one’s own skin, more authentic, more alive, less restricted by painful beliefs and identities, and live a life better for oneself and those around us. These are deeper and more relaxed motivations.

When we take care of the neediness behind the self-improvement impulse, we can hold it all more lightly, and we can come more from the deeper and more relaxed impulses in us for self-exploration, self-befriending, and self-improvement.

Small and big self

Self can mean little self – our human self, who we are, and it can mean big Self – Big Mind or what we are. And it’s also helpful if we can notice that the little-self improvement happens within the big Self. That too helps us hold it all more lightly and see it more as a play and exploration.

What do we mean by self-improvement?

Last but not least, it’s good to look at what we mean by self-improvement. Do I have a constructive idea of what it means? Can I adjust it a bit so it’s more helpful? When I hear the word, I tend to think of learning communication skills, relationship skills, living a life that’s meaningful to me, living more from authenticity, finding receptivity, befriending more of the world and myself, and sometimes resolving emotional issues that prevent me from living a healthy and meaningful life in the world.

This comes last in this list but first if we want to explore self-improvement.

Note: I don’t think I have used the term self-improvement here before. It’s not a term I find terribly useful or necessary but some people use it so I thought I would say a few words about it.

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The backward step x2

 

In Zen, the backward step is a shift from being caught up in the content of our experience to that which it all happens within and as.

For me, there are two backward steps. And often, it can be helpful to first take one, and then the other.

The first backward step is from being caught up in reactivity to notice and feel into what’s behind it.

The reactivity is to an uncomfortable experience we have in the moment, and we go into the reactivity to distract from this uncomfortable experience. In my case, and perhaps for others, this underlying experience is often fear. The reactivity itself can take the form of justification, blame, guilt, defense, and even sadness or depression, and it goes along with a contraction of both the mind (defensive etc.) and body (physical tension).

So I notice the symptoms of reactivity, step back from engaging actively in it, find curiosity to what in me – here and now – the reactivity is a response to, and feel into it. Often, I take a shortcut and look for underlying fear.

As long as I am caught in the reactivity, it’s stressful, tense, and a struggle. And as soon as I take this backward step and rest with the underlying fear, there is a relief, softening, and receptivity.

The second backward step is – as described above – from being caught up in the content of our experience to notice what it happens within and as. And when I say “caught up in the content of our experience” it really means caught up in our thoughts.

When I take my thoughts as true, and get caught up in them and engage in them, my attention is automatically caught up in the content of my experience and I experience myself as something or someone within this content of experience. My world becomes small and I become an object in the world.

Taking this backward step is similar. I notice the symptoms of what’s happening, step back from actively engaging in it, and notice what my experience happens within and as.

A verbal pointer may be to notice the field of experience or consciousness or the space it all happens within and as. And – especially in the beginning – we can explore this more effectively through a form of inquiry like the Big Mind process, Headless experiments, or exploring the sense fields through traditional Buddhist inquiry or modern varieties like Living Inquiries.

Eventually, we notice that what we are is what all our experience happens within and as, and this is what notices itself. It temporarily took itself to be something or someone within its own content, and it woke up from that little excursion or dream.

As mentioned earlier, these two backward steps are similar. Before the step, there is contraction and struggle. In the step, there is a release, relief, softening, receptivity, and a sense of returning home. And when we live more from it, we live more from noticing, allowing, receptivity, and from a kind of groundedness.

For most of us, we have an opportunity to take these steps many times throughout the day. We notice we are caught up in something, step back, find the fear behind it, rest with it for a while, and take the other step back and rest with and as that for a while.

In the beginning, it can be easier to take some time out of the situation we are in to take these steps. And as we get more used to it, we can do it more seamlessly in the situation we are in. If I am on my own, I’ll take a few seconds or minutes to do it. And if I am with someone, I’ll do the same – perhaps while the other person is talking.

It’s very simple. It’s not always easy, at least not in the moment. It’s always new and fresh. (It really feels new and fresh each time.) And it’s more rewarding than just about anything else. It’s a very useful life skill. And it helps us return home – in an emotional sense and as what we are.

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Pamela Wilson: When you see your body and thought as your devotees, you have a completely different relationship with them

 

Ramana used to say, “I would follow a devotee into hell if need be.” So when hell or agitation arises in the body, it’s luring the satguru out of the heart. Everything is an invitation for the Buddha to awaken and bring peace, even to the body. It calls for the laying on of hands, the welcoming and soothing. Even doubt is asking for your love. Doubt is talking to you, saying, “Master, is this true?”

When you see your body and thought as your devotees, you have a completely different relationship with them. Where else are they going to go for truth?

– Pamela Wilson

What’s surfacing in me of old wounds, traumas, and emotional issues are surfacing to be seen, felt, understood, loved, and met with kindness. As Pamela says, they are like devotees seeking the guru, and the guru is me and the kindness, understanding, and awakening that is here.

These parts of me were created from separation consciousness, and they seek a consciousness that’s a little less separate so they can be welcomed, included, and perhaps join in this less-separate consciousness.

It may not be “perfect”. I may know of others who can do this from more kindness, wisdom, understanding, insight, and awakening. And yet, whatever is here is enough. It’s enough for these parts that were created, mostly, a long time ago and from a much stronger and denser separation-consciousness. They live in a stronger contraction than my current global consciousness.

As long as I meet them with some receptivity, curiosity, and wish to relate to them as devotees – or perhaps scared children or animals – that’s more than enough. That, in itself, is healing. That, in itself, is transforming.

This is the beginning of self-compassion, and it’s a beautiful and transformative journey. And I am doing it not only for myself but also for my ancestors (who may not have been able to do it for the patterns that were passed down through the generations), for future generations, and for humanity and Earth. Even a little drop has ripples that may go out further than I know.

This not only transforms our relationship to ourselves and the pained parts of us – it also changes our relationship to our body, animals, nature, and other people. We also transform our culture, even if it’s only the culture we carry with us, and that tends to ripple out too.

Adyashanti: As soon as you move out of truth

 

As soon as you move out of truth, you feel it, kinesthetically; you feel it in your body when you’ve disconnected.

– Adyashanti, Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic, chapter 6

One of my current favorite ways of exploring this is the “I can if I want” test.

I can […] if I want, and I want. I can […[ if I want, and I don’t want.

Say each one to yourself and see how your body responds. Does it tense? Does it relax? (Tension is a “no”, relaxation and relief is a “yes”.)

In the last few days, I have had a slight dilemma on whether to use antibiotics or not. I try to avoid it as much as possible, but I have had an infection over several days that didn’t get better. So I said to myself I can take antibiotics if I want, and I want and noticed how my body responded, and then checked I can take antibiotics if I want, and I don’t want. The first one felt like a relief in my body, and the second tension and stress. So I went with my body, got the antibiotics, took it and it felt like a relief. (Of course, my doctor’s advice is primary in this case, but he had left it open for me to decide so I did.)

This is obviously a much bigger topic. It’s not just about everyday or life decisions. It’s also – and perhaps mainly – about the stories we tell ourselves and how we take them. Whenever we tell ourselves an untrue story – a stressful or painful story – our body tenses up. And when we find what’s truer for us, our body relaxes and it’s a relief.

And yes, I know that can sound a bit naive. Most of us would say that some true stories are stressful. And yet, this is what I have found over and over through – for instance – inquiry. The more true stories and interpretations feel like a relief. Something falls into place. My body can relax.

I have written a lot about this in other articles so I won’t go into it much here. But I’ll say that one relief-giving insight is that no story reflects an absolute or final truth. I can hold all of them lightly, as a question. And there is always some validity in the reversals of any story, and seeing that is also a relief. And we have to discover this for ourselves, by examining one specific stressful story at a time.

Why does the body respond in this way? My take on it is that somewhere, we always know when we tell ourselves something not (entirely) true, and when we take it as more true and final than it is, and that is reflected in the body. Our mind tenses up, and so does the body.

We know what we tell ourselves is not true in the way we tell it to ourselves, the seamless whole of our mind-body tenses up, and that’s a sign we are telling an untruth to ourselves and an invitation to find what’s genuinely more true for us.

Projections in the context of awakening

 

How do projections look in the context of awakening?

On a spiritual or awakening path, projections are important for awakening and healing in the usual way – with perhaps a couple of extra layers to them to explore.

Specific to the spiritual path may be projections onto spiritual teachers, teachings, and concepts related to awakening. The process of projecting itself is the usual one. We see something out there – in teachers, teachings, awakening, etc. – that’s already in here, in us. And it’s projected in two ways. One is that the qualities and dynamics we see out there is also in here. The other is that what we see out there is an overlay of imagination from our own mind. (What we see out there may fit consensus reality and what others agree is there, or not, that doesn’t matter so much here.)

So we see something that’s in ourselves – as a potential or already here more strongly – out in the world. We get familiar with it there. In the best case, that helps us find it in ourselves and what we are. And it’s the role of spiritual teachers and teachings to help us recognize what’s happening and find it in ourselves. (Of course, they don’t always do it for whatever reason – they may not recognize what’s happening or they have a vested interest in not helping students recognize and find in themselves what they project out.)

Layers of the projections

There are different aspects and layers of the projections.

We have what most people think of when they hear the word. We can call these “blind” projections. We see something in the world – in other people, situations, anything at all – that’s in ourselves, but we are mostly or only aware of it out there. These projections are mostly of qualities, characteristics, and dynamics. And the reason they are “blind” – that we only see it in others and not in ourselves, at least in the moment – has to do with emotional issues, beliefs, and identifications.

Then we have more conscious projections. We see something out in the world and are aware of it also in ourselves. This awareness can be a general awareness or more finely grained. We can always find more examples of what we see out there also in ourselves – in our own thoughts, actions, and how we live our life.

We can also be aware of the more basic dynamics and elements of the projections. We can notice the overlay of thought – of mental images and words – our mind puts on the world. With some experience, we can notice it as it happens. This helps us to recognize the projections, and it also helps us hold our mental overlay more lightly. (And not automatically assume it’s “true”.)

There is yet another layer. Projections – blind, conscious, and the mental overlay – happen within and as what we are. They are part of the creativity of the mind. If we are so inclined, we can even say it’s part of Lila, the play of life, the Universe, and the divine.

In general, projections can be a temporary apparent hindrance – or detour or distraction or pitfall – if they are blind. And they can be a great support for awakening and healing if we work with them more consciously and with some skills and sincerity. It’s helpful before awakening and within awakening.

Examples

This is all distilled and abstract so I’ll go into a few more details and give some examples.

A regular blind projection happens anytime I see something in someone else that I don’t acknowledge in myself. It’s often accompanied by emotional charge, defensiveness, righteousness, blame, and so on. And it can also be accompanied by admiration, longing, and a wish to have what we project it out onto in our life. Whether it’s one or the other or a mix depends on how our mind judges what we project.

Trump is an example for me. For a while after he was elected, my mind dehumanized him. I saw him as a liar, bigot, con man, and so on, and I felt upset and angry that people could elect someone like him. I was aware that this was a projection but I hadn’t taken the time to explore it as a projection. It functioned more like a “blind” projection, at least at an emotional level.

As I took time to explore it more, I could find the qualities I saw in him also in myself. I could – and can – find it in how I see him and his followers. (I am bigoted, a liar, a con man, etc. in how I see him and his followers, especially when I don’t acknowledge I have those qualities too.) And I can find examples in my life when I have done all of those things. I may not have done it in exactly the same way he does it, or to the same extent, but I can find examples – even if some are smaller and apparently more “innocent”.

Going through this process, I am more at peace with Trump and his followers. I see myself in them. We are in the same boat, in that sense. I don’t agree with most of his policies. I still think he operates mostly as a con man. I still see many of his followers as ill-informed and acting on misinformation. If I was in a position where it was reasonable for me to actively speak up about it and promote other solutions, I would do that. (Right now, I live in Europe and my energy goes to finding healing for myself.) And yet, the emotional charge around it for me is much less. I have more empathy and understanding. I am seeing the situation less as us vs. them and more as a larger us.

I have also experienced the other form of blind projections many times in my life. I admire and am fascinated by a woman (usually a partner). I see some people as awake – or perhaps unusually mature, insightful, and kind – and admire them and wish the same for myself. And so on. Again, it’s a process of allowing the projection, notice it, and find the qualities and characteristics I see in the other also in myself. Phrasing the projection and finding specific examples help a lot.

Conscious projections also happen all the time. I see someone as kind, and find it in myself. I see beautiful nature, and find that in myself. I see (imagine) the boundless nature of outer space and find that as what I am.

There is some fluidity between blind and conscious projections. It’s rare a projection is completely blind. And in daily life, we are often aware of a quality more in others or more in ourselves, depending on where our attention is. Bringing awareness to projections, and finding in ourselves what we see out in the world, is also an ongoing process. We can always find more examples. We can always expand our conscious identity to include more.

How do we get more aware of the basic dynamics and elements of projections? Working with projections in a conventional way brings some awareness into this. And we can also explore it more explicitly through some forms of inquiry, like traditional Buddhist inquiry or their modern versions. We typically need to explore this over and over – and bring it into daily life – before this noticing becomes a habit and second nature.

If I used Living Inquiries to explore how I see Trump (which I haven’t, at least not as a longer and formal inquiry), I would probably find some clues to why my relationship to him is charged (emotional issues) and how my mind creates its experience of him in general. I may find how my mind creates an image of Trump and this image is associated with sensations (tension) in my body. I may find that my mind has a lot of associations with this image and the connected sensations, going back to specific (traumatic) situations in my life and childhood. I may find how my mind creates beliefs and identifications in order to protect itself against him, people like him, and what he stands for. And so on. I get to see the emotional component and how it connects to my own experiences. I get to see how my mind creates blind projections in order to protect itself. I get to see how beliefs and identities are part of this projection. I get to meet and get to know the fears behind all of it.

When it comes to noticing how all of this happens within and as what I am, there are some modern forms of inquiry that can give us a taste. Big Mind process and Headless experiments may be most direct, and Living Inquiries gives us a taste through most regular inquiries into more emotional issues.

As usual, each of these points can be elaborated almost endlessly so I have given just give a few pointers here based on my own experience.

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Demystifying awakening

 

Many see awakening as something mystical or even mythical, and some ideas about it are not well-grounded in reality: It doesn’t exist. It’s for a few special people. There is no way to understand what it’s about. It’s a state of endless bliss. It will solve all your problems. You need to “renounce the world”. We can’t do research on it because it doesn’t exist, it’s too nebulous, or it has no practical value.

Fortunately, we live in a period of history where awakening is demystified. Why do we see this demystifying?

Many Asian spiritual teachers ended up in California and other densely populated areas of the US in the mid-1900s. It means that some practitioners there have a lifetime of experience, some have become teachers themselves, and the teachings are adapting to the culture. And since the US culture is famously pragmatic, it’s often explored, understood, and spoken about in a pragmatic way.

Since the 90s, there is new ease of global communication. Although awakening happens relatively rarely, large numbers of people around the world are on an awakening path, and these are now able to connect, communicate, and share experiences. In the past, people would have to be in the same place or write letters to communicate, and write or read books in order to share information and thoughts. Now, we just need to go on a forum online, participate in an online conference, class, or sharing group, or connect with friends we have found around the world.

There is also more research on spiritual practices and I imagine this will only continue but grow and become more mainstream. There is even research on awakening, and I imagine this will continue and grow as well.

Secularized forms of traditional spiritual practices are becoming more widespread and used in medical and business settings. It’s not uncommon to have mindfulness classes in hospitals and workplaces. This is not about awakening, but it contributes to normalize the practices and develop a pragmatic language in talking about some of the effects.

As mentioned above, more people are using a pragmatic language to describe and explore awakening. A language stripped of traditional terminology, and one that is more easily accessible and understandable to the western mind. This goes along with what I – in other articles – call a small or psychological interpretation of awakening.

Modern forms of traditional inquiry – like the Big Mind process, Headless experiments, and Living Inquiries – can give just about anyone a taste of what awakening is about within a few minutes. It’s not distant or unapproachable anymore.

A more pragmatic and demystified view on awakening is perhaps not only inevitable but healthy and appropriate for a western culture that’s mainly secular and pragmatic.

I am personally grateful. When the initial awakening happened for me, it was in the pre-internet era and it took a long time for me to find people who understood – first in books (Meister Eckart was the first) and later with people (my friend BH and Jes Bertelsen’s then-wife). And I am grateful for the pragmatic and more secularized language. It helps us see what’s important and perhaps what’s less important (although we need to be open to the possibility that some of what we discard is important and bring it back in again).

If all language around spiritual practice and awakening would go secular and pragmatic, something essential would be lost. But there is little or no danger of that happening anytime soon. Spiritual language and understanding, and secular language and understanding, can very well co-exist and they can feed into and inform each other in a beautiful way. There is a richness in the traditions that can inform the secularized understanding. And there is a pragmatism in the secularized approach that can benefit the traditions.

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Awakening solves a problem we didn’t know we had, and not the ones we know we have

 

Awakening solves a problem we didn’t know we had, and not the ones we know we have.

It’s a bit facetious but there is some truth to it.

The problem awakening solves is misidentification. We take ourselves to be something we are not (a separate being) and don’t notice what we are and always have been. When we set out on a spiritual path, we may think that our problem is suffering and we imagine that awakening allows us to still take ourselves to be this separate being, only now free of suffering. In reality, the awakening solves the misidentification problem and not the problems we imagine we have.

Is it true we didn’t know we had the misidentification problem? Perhaps in a literal sense. But many of us on a spiritual path know something is off even if we don’t consciously know exactly what it is.

And while it is true that awakening in itself doesn’t solve our regular human problems, it does provide some support – and a new context – for solving these problems. Mainly, it helps us reorient in how we relate to ourselves and the world (befriend). And it helps us invite in healing for our wounds and traumas. Most if not all of our suffering is created from struggling with ourselves and the world, and from unhealed wounds, hangups, and traumas in ourselves.

How does awakening support healing? The awakening process can bring up unhealed issues in us so they can be seen, examined, befriended, loved, and eventually recognized as the divine (temporarily taking that form). It can also help us meet the issues since we know it’s all happening within and as what we are. And it helps us invite these parts of us to shift out of their painful separation consciousness and into more close alignment with reality (Oneness).

Awakening can make it a bit easier, but working with core emotional issues and trauma is always challenging and require skills, patience, sincerity, and recognizing that the emotional issues and trauma are here to protect us (the mind creates them in order to protect us), and they are – as anything else – expressions of what we are or the divine.

Dowsing & how I dowse

 

I have used dowsing in periods in my life – and also these days – so I thought I would say a few words about it.

My background

As a kid, I learned to dowse for water from my father. We used the classic stick approach, holding sticks of woods and noticing where they would turn and cross each other. I remember it seemed to work and we got the same results when we explored different areas of the garden. (I think we did blind tests.)

Later, when I lived at the Zen center in Salt Lake City, my friend Danny from London gave me a pendulum (I still have and use it) and we did some similar blind experiments and tests. One of us would check something first, and then the other, and we would compare notes. We checked ground energies, food intolerances, and I think even relationship possibilities (!), and we consistently got the same results.

Guidelines

Here are some of the guidelines I use for myself when I dowse, and I suspect much of it is pretty universal for people who use dowsing.

For me, dowsing is a way to amplify my intuition or inner knowing and make it more visible. This means I often don’t need to dowse in order to sense what my inner knowing tells me, but it can also be helpful. It helps me trust my inner knowing a bit more.

The information I get from dowsing is just one piece of information I use when I make decisions. Depending on what the topic is, I use a variety of other sources, most of them the typical sources anyone would use (experience, information, advice from others, etc.).

Although I take the results I get from dowsing seriously, I also hold it very lightly.

When I dowse with a pendulum, I typically use a semi-circle that goes from 0 (bottom left) through 5 (top) to 10 (bottom right). I ask a simple question, move the pendulum, get a sense of which direction(s) there is resistance and which direction there is no resistance, and make a note of the number. (Some chose to wait until the pendulum moves “on its own”. I like to “test-move” it in different directions to see which place on the scale it points to with no resistance, or where it “wants” to move.)

The answers are not more clear than the questions, so it’s important to find clear and unambiguous questions. If the pendulum seems hesitant or confused, it usually means the question I asked is not the right or best question. Perhaps it’s too general and can be split up into two or more questions, or perhaps there is an underlying question that’s more important, or perhaps my real question is slightly different from what I initially asked.

It’s always good to check with someone else and to do it blind (without the second person knowing the first person’s results).

When I dowse, it’s usually for practical things where I am not too invested in a particular answer. (If I am too invested, I don’t trust the answer and I may choose to not dowse or I ask someone else to see what they get.)

These days, I typically dowse on questions relating to my health. For instance, which herbal medicines seem helpful if any, and in what dose. Which supplements? What to prioritize in my diet? Which parts of my energy system is it most helpful to work on? Which emotional issues? And so on.

Again, it’s important to be clear in the questions so I typically ask what would help my health and healing the most, go through a list I have already made, and make a note of the number I get for each. If I am uncertain about some of the results, I often re-check the next day.

Accessing inner knowing

There are many ways to access our inner knowing, and dowsing is just one of them. Another I am enjoying these days is the I can if I want test.

I can do X if I want, and I want. I can do X if I want, and I don’t want to. Try each one and see how the body responds. Does it get more tense or dense? Does it relax and feel lighter? Relax and lighter is a “yes” from the part of the mind connected with the body (or the part of the mind that is the body).

Image from Cosmographia by Sebastian Münster printed in 1550.

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Typical aspects and phases of the awakening process

 

What are some of the typical aspects and phases of the awakening process?

I’ll mention a few things here based on my own experience. Not everything is sequential in this process, nor does it all happen or happen within one lifetime. There is also some overlap in this list, and I’ll just briefly touch on each point since other articles here have addressed most of them in more detail.

The following are some of the milestones that may happen in the awakening process.

Relationship with the divine

Our conscious orientation towards or relationship with the divine changes through the awakening process. In general, it goes from perceiving the divine as Other, to a sense of oneness with the divine, to the divine (or what we are) waking up to itself – and out of taking itself as fundamentally a separate being – and realizing it was what it was looking for through it all.

Divine as other

The pre- or early awakening phase often involves viewing and experiencing the divine as Other.

It may start as an interest. Or an intuition or knowing.

There may be glimpses – perhaps of divine beings or all as the divine.

There may even be an early awakening of the divine as all, of oneness with the divine as all.

In all of these cases, the divine is Other even when the apparent division seems more subtle. The divine is beginning to wake up to itself as all there is while retaining some of the identification as a separate being.

When I use the word “divine” here, it can be exchanged with consciousness, awakeness, love, Big Mind, what we are, or other similar labels.

What we are noticing itself

Eventually, what we are – that which all content of our experience happens within and as – wakes up to itself. It wakes up out of the dream of ultimately being a separate being. The human self and anything else happens within and as what we are.

What we are living more consciously from and as itself

Stability

I hinted about this in the previous segment.

In the very early phases of the awakening, the divine may seem like an idea, something others talk about, and something we don’t have any experience with. Although we may have an intuition or knowing or experience a draw towards it.

Then, there may be glimpses of the divine – perhaps of divine beings or all as the divine. These may be infrequent.

The next phase seems to take many different forms. We may gradually sense the divine everywhere, or all as the divine. Or there may be more sudden and stronger glimpses. And this may get more stable either right away or over time.

At some, we may realize that what we are – fundamentally – is the divine, and what we took ourselves to be – this human self – happens within and as the divine, or within and as what we are.

Again, this may first be an intuition or knowing or come through glimpses, and suddenly or over time it becomes more clear. Over time, it continues to clarify and become more stable – including throughout more and more situations in our daily life.

Global to local

An awakening is generally “global”. It happens in a general sense for or as all of what we are. (It may even seem as if all of existence awakened, but that’s largely a projection and another topic.) And it may seem as if it’s inevitably stable.

After a while, we may notice that things in life trigger something in us that takes the system back into separation consciousness. One way to talk about it is to say that parts of our human self (subpersonalities) are still caught up in emotional wounds, trauma, the past, and separation consciousness. They are reliving traumatic past experiences and the separation consciousness they were created from. They are not yet aligned with the reality of all as the divine. They are not yet awake. Life situations – or our response to them – trigger these issues so they can be seen, felt, explored, and eventually awaken, align with reality, and bring the global awakening into more of these still unawake parts of our human self.

In our life, this may take the form of first assuming the awakening is stable. We then notice that life situations trigger old issues in us, and if the issues are strong enough and core enough to who we take ourselves to be, we may get caught up in them and go into and act from separation consciousness. To the extent we acknowledge and own this, and take it seriously, we can intentionally work on how we relate to these unawake parts in us, and even invite them to heal and align more closely to reality – the reality of Oneness.

Maturing in the awakening

There are many aspects to maturing within the awakening.

One is that the awakening – gradually and over time – becomes ordinary. It is both ordinary and extraordinary. We get used to it. Other things become more interesting to us, like how to befriend unawake parts of us, how to help these different parts of our human self to heal and awaken, how to live from the awakening in more and more situations, how to live so we benefit the larger whole, and so on.

During an initial awakening phase, we may emphasize what we are over who we are. This is natural since we are used to who we are and what we are seems more interesting and perhaps fascinating. As we mature within the awakening, this is balanced out and the two are seen more clearly as aspects of the same – or labels highlighting different sides of this lived Oneness.

Maturing may also mean that we simultaneously become more who we are and more ordinary. We live more from authenticity and we realize more deeply how what’s in this human self is universally human.

Early in the awakening process, we may get on a missionary kick and think others “need” awakening or need to hear about it or do meditation, etc. We may also think that more people need to awaken in order for humanity to be saved. Later on, this tends to calm down. We are obviously open to share when others are interested, but the “shoulds” tend to fall away.

As we mature in the awakening, other things tend to happen that I’ll mention elsewhere in this article. For instance, we may realize it’s an ongoing process and there is not a final or end point.

An initial glimpse or awakening may indeed come with certain states – of bliss, ease, joy, being untouched by old hangups, and so on – but these are byproducts of the initial awakening and like all states they come and go. As we mature in it, we realize it’s not about achieving a state but what we are is here through any and all states and experiences, and the noticing gradually becomes more stable through these states and experiences.

We also realize that although the awakening “solves” the most core “problem” of taking ourselves to be something we are not (a separate being), it doesn’t by itself solve any of our human challenges and problems. We still have to deal with them as any other human being, although from within a different context. In a sense, it solves a problem we didn’t even know we had, and it doesn’t really solve anything else or the problems we know we have!

Embodiment

Embodiment means to live more consciously from what we are in more and more situations in daily life. It happens through the global-to-local process of inviting unawake parts of us to heal and align more closely with reality. And it happens as part of the maturing process. As anything else related to awakening – and being a human being in the world – it’s an ongoing process.

Challenges

An awakening process is a shift of what we most fundamentally take ourselves to be. So it naturally comes with some challenges. As you’d expect, these can be experienced as mild or severe, can last for shorter or longer periods of time, and any struggle we experience is our own struggle with what’s happening.

Challenges, crises, and dark nights

Here are a few examples of the challenges, crises, and dark nights we can experience in an awakening process.

We can be disoriented, frightened, or feel overwhelmed. This can happen anytime the process enters a new phase, and it really helps to have a general understanding of the process and the guidance of someone who has gone through it and is familiar with the terrain. (Some that you’d expect to be familiar with it – like official spiritual teachers – may not be, and someone you’d not expect to be familiar with it – like an unassuming regular gal or guy – may be.)

Our energy system can go a bit haywire in an awakening process. It helps with nature, physical activity, reducing mental activity, and perhaps energy work like acupuncture or Vortex Healing. (For the first few years for me, it felt like enormous energies went through my system – as if sending high voltage through regular housing wires.)

As mentioned earlier, anything in our human self that’s not aligned with the awakening will eventually surface to be seen, felt, examined, understood, loved, and eventually recognized as the divine (temporarily taking the form of an emotional issue, hangup, trauma). If we have a good amount of trauma in our system (often developmental trauma), this can be an intense, confusing, overwhelming, and challenging process. Again, it really helps to have the guidance of someone who has gone through this process and – in this case – understand trauma. And it helps to understand that unawake parts of us surface to join the global awakeness.

Another form of spiritual crisis comes in the form of loss. An apparent loss of the divine or the awakening. (This helps us meet our neediness around it and ideas that what we are looking for is somewhere else.) A loss of motivation and drive. (Because it came from separation consciousness and needs to come back within more of a oneness context.) Perhaps a loss of status, relationships, health, or more. (Again, helps us meet whatever in us still holds onto ideas about how it should or must be.)

Some things are common for these challenges. For instance, struggle makes them more difficult and painful. And yet, struggle is also part of the process. We struggle until we learn, at a deep level, that the struggle itself is painful and – eventually – not needed.

These challenges also highlight what in us – in our human self – is not yet aligned with reality (the reality of Oneness). It’s an essential part of the awakening and embodiment process. What surfaces and how we deal with it is universal in that it’s shared by many going through this process. And since the unawake parts of us are somewhat unique to us, what surfaces and how we deal with it also takes on a personal flavor.

Pitfalls

There are many common pitfalls in the awakening process. I’ll highlight a few without going into them in too much detail.

Relationship with teachers: Unquestioned adoration of teachers and gurus. (Upside: Wholehearted devotion. Downside: Being misled, disappointed, give away our authority. Remedy: See them as temporary guides and coaches.)

Relationship with teachings: See them as set in stone, infallible, and final. (Upside: Temporary honeymoon. Downside: Misled, apply guidelines that don’t work for us, disappointed. Remedy: See them as human-made, guidelines, each one medicine for a particular person and condition.)

Relationship with awakening: Assuming it’s a state. (Upside: Carrot. Downside: Chasing a state. Remedy: Recognize that what we are is always here and notice that.) Thinking there is an end, something final. (Upside: Can temporarily function as a carrot. Downside: Chasing an imagined end. Remedy: Recognize it as an ongoing process.)

Relationship with students (if have students): Encourage projections. (Upside: Learn from the consequences. Downside: Misleading the students. Remedy: Make the projections and their problems explicit, actively discourage them.) Take advantage of student’s projections, fears, hopes, and trust. (Upside: Crash and burn and learn from it. Downside: Harms the students in an ordinary human way. Remedy: Be aware of the dynamic, make it explicit, address the wounds and neediness in us it comes from.)

Relationship with our human self: Assuming the awakening will take care of all our human difficulties and challenges. (Upside: Carrot. Downfall: Disappointment. Remedy: Recognize it won’t and address our human challenges more directly.) Emphasizing what we are over our human self and…. (a) Not addressing our human needs and wounds. (Upside: Temporary imagined relief. Downside: Ignore what needs to be taken care of. Remedy: Realize the wounds and needs are here and address them more directly.) (b) Justify unethical and harmful behavior. (Upside: Crash, burn, and learn from it. Downside: Harms ourselves and others in an ordinary human way. Remedy: Notice what’s happening, take it seriously, and address it.)

Relationship with others and the world: Using awakening to fuel a particular image and a sense of separation (e.g. tell ourselves we are better than others, more awake, in order to feel better about ourselves and try to fill a very human hole of not feeling good enough, feeling unloved, etc.). (Upside: Crash, burn, and learn from it. Downside: Is out of alignment with reality, act from instead of taking care of own wounds. Remedy: Recognize what’s happening, address our wounds, hangups, and traumas more directly.)

These pitfalls come from believing stories, and they come from acting on our wounds instead of addressing them more directly. We act on unhealed and unawake parts of us, life responds and rubs up against them, and we get a chance to meet these parts of us and invite in healing, clarity, and a closer alignment with reality and oneness. How long this process is and how much pain it entails depends on our sincerity, receptivity, and willingness to look at what’s going on.

These pitfalls are not inherently wrong. They become part of – and fuel for – the awakening and maturing process. At the same time, it’s important to acknowledge the problems and pain that may come from them, for oneself and others, and speak up with firm kindness as appropriate. That’s part of the process as well.

How we view the process

Ongoing process

As mentioned before, all of this – the awakening, maturing, healing of our human self, embodiment – is an ongoing process.

If we are caught up in unloved and unexamined fearful thoughts, we may want it to finish and we may have ideas about a final endpoint. But, as Adya says, that’s the “dream of the ego”. I find it’s easier and a relief to instead gently assume all of it is an ongoing process. It also makes it more interesting.

Small or big interpretation

As mentioned in other articles, we can use a small or big interpretation of awakening.

In both, awakening is what we are noticing itself. And what we are is what all our content of experience happens within and as. (We can call this consciousness, or Big Mind, or something else, and those labels also happen within and as what we are.)

In the small or psychological interpretation, we acknowledge that this may happen within a world as it is described by current mainstream science. It may be that the awakening “only” happens within the mind of an actual separate physical human being. The benefit of this interpretation is that it may be more acceptable to people coming from a (currently) mainstream view and understanding of the world.

The big or spiritual interpretation is the more traditional one as described by mystics from and outside of all the main spiritual traditions. Here, we take our immediate experience more at face value. Everything is the divine. Everything – all of existence – is as it appears, it is love and consciousness.

Either way, it doesn’t change anything about the awakening itself. It’s still experienced and described in the same way, it goes through the same phases, and it has the same consequences.

Notes

I had the idea of including my own personal experiences more explicitly for each point, but it would make for a longer article and I have addressed much of it in other articles tagged “autobiography”.

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Luke Skywalker: Confronting fear is the destiny of the Jedi

 

Confronting fear is the destiny of the Jedi

– Luke Skywalked in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

It’s also the destiny of anyone on an awakening path. And it’s the destiny of anyone on a path of emotional healing, finding wholeness as a human being, and anyone on a path of love, authenticity, and sincerity.

The awakening process itself can be scary and requires us to meet our fear, examine it, befriend and find love for it, and eventually recognize it as consciousness or the divine itself. The awakening process also involves deep healing of our human self – so the awakening can be lived more clearly through more and more situations in daily life – and that too requires us to meet, examine, and befriend the fear that’s the gatekeeper of all emotional issues, and meet it with kindness, see it is innocent comes from a desire to protect this human self, and recognize it in immediacy as the divine.

It’s the same if we wish to find wholeness or live more from love, sincerity, or authenticity. And it’s the same if we wish to pursue our dreams or our calling. The gatekeeper is fear.

There is nothing wrong with fear. It’s not our enemy. It’s here to protect us. And through befriending and getting to know it, and seeing that it’s already who and what we are, we can relate to it more intentionally, listen to it, silently thank it for its desire to protect us and for its wisdom, and decide how to act independently of it.

We are more free to take in what it has to say and especially the grains of wisdom that may be there, while following our own best judgment based on whatever experience, wisdom, kindness, and inner knowing is here.

Healing work: differentiating factors that initiate, maintain, and support healing from the illness

 

When we work on healing, it can be helpful to differentiate factors that initiate the illness, maintains it, and supports healing from the illness.

These three groups of factors sometimes overlap and sometimes are different from each other. For instance, if we identify healing factors, it doesn’t mean those are the same as the ones initiating or maintaining the illness (although they may be).

Simple vs complex illnesses

When the illness is simple, acute, and relatively well understood, the three types of factors may be more or less the same. I get an infection. It’s maintained by the bacteria. And the healing comes from eliminating the bacteria – either through allowing the body to take care of it or using antibiotics.

When the illness is more complex, chronic, or less well-understood, differentiating the three may be helpful. The maintaining factors may be different from the initiating factors, and we may need to address both. Also, we’ll often need to take a holistic approach and focus on supporting our body in its healing process in any way possible, independent of the specific initiating and maintaining factors.

Not jumping to conclusions

I sometimes see people working in alternative healing modalities confuse these. For instance, with a complex and chronic condition, it can be helpful to work on any emotional issues that create stress and this is one component in supporting the body in healing itself. That, of course, doesn’t mean that any one emotional issue created the illness or was even a (major) component in the onset of the illness. It may be, but it also may not be. We often don’t know, and for healing purposes, we may not need to know.

Similarly, if we know what caused a chronic illness, it doesn’t mean that addressing other things isn’t helpful for the healing. Often, we need to take a holistic approach in supporting the system in healing itself.

My own experience

I am perhaps especially aware of the importance of differentiate these three types of factors because of the chronic fatigue (CFS) I have had at varying levels since my teens.

In my case, the initiating factors may be a combination of genetics, mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr virus), teenage stress (social anxiety), and possibly mold (I lived in a basement apartment). When the CFS returned strongly some years ago, it was likely triggered by another infection (pneumonia) combined with mold and possibly stress.

I am not sure what the maintaining factors are although stress, an overactive flight/fight/freeze (FFF) system, diet, and climate are likely to each play a role.

When it comes to the factors supporting healing, some address possible maintaining factors and some support the body in healing itself.

In the first category, a priority is to remove any Epstein-Barr virus still in the system, reducing stress and supporting the FFF system in normalizing, changing the diet to (mostly) avoid processed foods and foods I have an intolerance to, and – as much as possible – spend time in a sunny, dry, and warm climate.

In the second category, I have found the following helpful: herbal medicine (mostly large doses adaptogens), get plenty of rest and sleep, learn to listen to and take seriously the signals from the body, supporting and strengthening my energy system, and working on any emotional issues creating stress and possibly preventing healing. One of the things I haven’t wholeheartedly focused on yet is detoxing.

How it works: Awakening

 

I know the title is a little presumptuous! Although it’s also good to demystify awakening to the extent it’s possible.

First, what is awakening?

It’s what we are noticing itself.

What we are is what our experience happens within and as. (We can put may labels on it, like consciousness or awakeness, and those labels also happen within and as what we are.)

Usually, what we are does not notice itself. Our mind takes itself to be something within the content of its experience, and that something is generally this human self. How that happens can be described from different angles. At one level, it happens when the mind takes any story as true and identifies with the viewpoint of the story. That shifts our experience of being what we are and into something that happens within the content of our experience. We experience ourselves as an object in the world and a particular viewpoint. What this is shifts with the story our mind happens to engage with at the moment. And, as a general container, we take ourselves to be this human self. That’s not wrong, but it’s just a small part of what we are.

What’s the process of awakening?

What we are can notice itself in glimpses. More or less clearly. Out of the blue or from intentional exploration. And it can also notice itself more stably through different states and situations in daily life.

For most of us, what we are comes into the foreground in daily life without us really noticing. It can happen through flow experiences, or any time we “forget” or “lose” ourselves in what’s happening. Why don’t we notice? Perhaps because it’s so ordinary. Or not so strong. Or that we think we know what we are – this human self – and this is not that.

It can happen out of the blue without any obvious precursor. And it can also happen gradually or more suddenly as a(n apparent) consequence of intentional exploration. I’ll say more about this below.

Initially, what we are may more easily notice itself in certain situations (which is where the intentional exploration comes in). And over time, it can notice itself through changing states and also in more and more situations in daily life. It can clarify and become more stable, and this process of living from it in more situations in daily life is called embodiment.

Also initially, we may still take ourselves to fundamentally be a separate being although one that’s ONE with everything. This tends to clarify and we realize that we were never this apparently separate being. What we are just started noticing itself more clearly. In a popular phrase: it woke up of the dream of being a separate being.

What we are noticing itself is often a bit fluid and changing throughout the day. It can be more or less in the foreground and more or less obvious or clear. It’s often a gentle context for our daily life. After a while, it becomes ordinary while also somewhat extraordinary.

As a human being, we are much the same even when what we are notices itself. It doesn’t magically and all of a sudden transform us. (Although that can happen.) This means we tend to have the same emotional issues, hangups, and traumas before and within awakening.

When these emotional issues are triggered, it tends to hijack our attention and we temporarily take ourselves to be separate. What we are noticing itself goes into the background and is overshadowed by our old patterns. This is why healing of emotional issues is vital for embodiment, for living more from what we are in more daily life situations.

What’s the consequence of awakening?

The only certain one is that the context of our life changes. What we are notices itself and our human life happens within that. Our human life, in itself, doesn’t have to change that much.

In practice, our human life does tend to change. We tend to live more from the experience of oneness, which means a little more open mind and heart and from a bit more compassion and empathy and concern for the far-reaching and long-term consequences of our actions.

It also seems that awakening often starts a process of healing emotional issues. These may come to the surface to be seen, felt, loved, and more consciously included in the oneness. One way to talk about this is that the initial awakening is a global awakening, and this healing process allows more parts of us – the ones still stuck in painful separation consciousness – to awaken and align with the global awakening. As mentioned above, this is also vital for the embodiment process.

How can we understand awakening?

In my mind, there are two ways of understanding or interpreting awakening.

In the small or psychological interpretation, we can say that in our own experience, we are consciousness, and this is what wakes up to itself. Whether there is an actual human being here or an actual physical world, or whether we fundamentally are separate or not, doesn’t really matter. What matters is what we are in our own immediate experience and the pragmatics of this noticing itself and what it does for our life.

In the big or spiritual interpretation, what we are is the same as what all of existence is. All is One, or Spirit, or God, or the Divine, or Brahman, or Big Mind, or Allah. The label is not important.

The small interpretation is helpful because it can make this more approachable for people within a more conventional mindset or setting. The big interpretation is perhaps more inspiring. And both seem to fit (most of!) the data of awakening equally well.

Why are there so many myths about awakening?

There are many myths about awakening: It’s reserved for special people. It’s something unusual. It’s something very different from our ordinary experience. It will solve all our problems. We become a saint. There is something we can call a final or full awakening.

I don’t know why there are so many myths about it. I suspect it’s because it used to be the domain of certain spiritual traditions and they partly obscured it based on misunderstandings and partly had vested interests in making it appear special.

Why is it important?

It’s not for most people and that’s OK. For some of us, it’s important because it’s part of human experience. It says something about who and what we are. It does help us live in a way that’s more conscious of the whole which can help society, humanity, and the Earth.

What are some methods for inviting what we are to notice itself?

These are the traditional spiritual practices and the newer variations on these.

It can help to know the words and the theory, but this is just a starting point and initial pointer. The words are, in themselves, not important.

Training a more stable attention supports this exploration – and anything we do in life – so it’s more than worthwhile to include in our daily life. Even just a few minutes makes a difference.

Basic meditation is to notice and allow. Notice what happens in the sense fields. Allow it all to be as is. This tends to shift identification out of the observed (content of experience) and it makes it easier for what we are to notice itself. (Initially, we may take ourselves to be the observer, and then notice that this too happens within the content of experience.)

Inquiry is a great support. We can get a glimpse of what we are through forms of inquiry like the Big Mind process and the Headless experiments, and also Living Inquiries. Through The Work, we may – over time – find how our thoughts are not true which allows space for what we are to notice itself. And through Living Inquiries, we explore how the mind creates its own experience – including taking itself to be a separate being, this body, the observer, consciousness, etc. This too tends to allow space for what we are to notice itself.

Guidelines for behavior is important to reduce drama and distractions in our life, and they tend to (roughly!) mimic how we naturally live when what we are notices itself and this is more embodied.

Prayer – at least the contemplative and heartfelt variety – helps shift our identification out of the content of our experience, it shifts our attention to a much larger whole, and it creates space for what we are to notice itself.

Heart-centered practices help us reorient. They help us shift from an us-vs-them orientation to befriending the world and our own experience. Again, this creates space for what we are to notice itself, and it mimics how we naturally live when what we are notices itself through daily life.

Body-centered practices can help us train more stable attention. It can also give us an experience of our body-mind wholeness which makes it easier for what we are to notice itself.

Some forms of energy work can also support awakening. I am most familiar with the awakening process supported when we go through the higher levels of Vortex Healing training.

As mentioned above, inviting in healing for emotional issues makes it easier to live from the noticing in more situations in daily life. It supports embodiment.

Note: Apologies for this slightly disorganized article. I chose to write this without outlining or editing too much, not because that’s better but because I felt a little overwhelmed by the thought of organizing and editing it!

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David Orr: the planet does not need more successful people

 

The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.

– David Orr, Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World

I am not ultimately a separate being: What does it mean?

 

When I sometimes write that what I am is not ultimately a separate being, what do I mean?

As who I am, this human self, I am a being that’s not separate from anything. I am both a somewhat autonomous whole in myself and an intrinsic part of a larger whole. I am a part of the seamless living system called Earth and the even larger seamless system of the universe.

As what I am, I am ultimately not a being and not separate. What I am is what the content of my experience – here and now – happen within and as. (We can call this all sorts of things, and those labels also happen within and as what we are.) This human self happens within and as what I am. Any ideas of separation happen within and as what I am.

So it can be understood in at least two different ways.

As who I am, as this human being, I am a being that is not separate from anything. And as what I am, I am ultimately not a being nor separate… although both of those happen within and as what I am.

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What’s the purpose of trauma?

 

What’s the purpose of trauma?

There are several answers to this question, partly because meaning is something we create and add to life.

Creation & Maintenance of Trauma

What’s the purpose of the creation and maintenance of trauma?

At an individual level, the main purpose of trauma may be protection. The pain of trauma is an incentive to avoid situations similar to the one initially creating the trauma.

At a collective human level, it’s probably the same. Traumas serve a survival function for our species. When a situation is overwhelming and we feel we can’t cope with it, we create trauma and the pain of the trauma helps us avoid similar situations.

Healing from Trauma

What’s the purpose we find through healing from trauma?

At an individual level, we may get a lot out of exploring and finding healing for our traumas. We obviously learn from the process, we learn how to heal from trauma and perhaps emotional issues in general. We may find we are more mature and humanized. We may be more raw and honest with ourselves and others. We may find ourselves as more real, authentic, and perhaps in integrity. We may have reprioritized and found what’s genuinely important in our life. We may discover the universality of human life and that – even with our individual differences – we are all in the same boat. We may have found a different and more meaningful life path. Our life, in general, may be more meaningful to us. We may have found a deep, raw, and real fellowship with others on a healing path. We may have learned to be more vulnerable with ourselves and others. We may have discovered how the path of healing from traumas fuels, leads into, and perhaps is an integral part of an awakening path. We may discover the deep capacity for healing inherent in ourselves, humans, and life in general.

At a collective level, it’s similar only scaled up and with the extra illumination and richness that comes from the interactions of people with different backgrounds, viewpoints, and experiences. Collectively, we learn about and from healing from trauma. We realize the universality of it, and of our profound capacity for healing. We see that healing from trauma is something we do together and not just individually. We discover that much of what we thought were individual traumas are actually more universal and collective traumas. We discover that culture is not only what gives us much of what we love about human life, but the painful unquestioned assumptions inherent in our culture is what creates much if not most of our pain.

Bigger Picture

What’s the purpose of the experience of trauma in the bigger picture?

If we assume there is something like rebirth or reincarnation, then the experience of trauma provides food for our healing, maturing, and eventually awakening. It’s the One locally and temporarily taking itself to be a separate being going through a reincarnation process and through that healing, maturing, and eventually awakening to itself as the One. The One the adventure always happened within and as.

Traumas seems an important part of the dialectical evolutionary process of humanity as a species and – by extension – of Earth as a whole. The aspects mentioned above and much more go into this.

And it’s part of the play of life or the universe or the divine. It’s lila. It’s life exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in always new ways. It’s part of the One temporarily and locally experiencing itself as separate.

Note

When I use the word trauma, I mean the traditional one-time-dramatic-event trauma, and perhaps, more importantly, the developmental trauma that most of have from growing up in slightly – or very – dysfunctional families, communities, and cultures.

In a wider sense, any emotional issue, any painful belief, any identification, is a form of trauma and comes from and creates trauma. It’s the trauma inherent in the One temporarily and locally taking itself to fundamentally be a separate being.

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Bessel van der Kolk: To overcome trauma you need to wake up your body again

 

To overcome trauma you need to wake up your body again. So that you can really take pleasure in the small things of life, and learn again to pay attention to yourself.

All over the world, except in [North-]America and Europe, are people singing and moving and dancing together in response to trauma, to re-establish a sense of harmony.

– Bessel van der Kolk, Cumulative Effect of Trauma from the Collective Trauma Summit

Do we live within a virtual reality? And the one thing we can trust

 

Do we live within a Matrix-like simulation?

We cannot really know. Even if a Morpheus comes to rescue us, we cannot know that that world is the real one.

And we do know that our perception of the world is filtered through our very limited senses, is pieced together by our brain, and is strongly colored by and filtered through our conscious and less conscious assumptions about ourselves and the world. In a very real sense, we are – collectively and individually – living within our own virtual simulation.

In short, we cannot trust any of the content of our experience. We cannot trust our senses. We cannot trust our interpretations, thoughts, and views about it.

So is there anything we can know for certain? Yes, fortunately. We can trust what we are. We can trust what the content of our experience happens within and as.

We can have fun with how we phrase this:

The content of our experience is unreliable and cannot be trusted. We can only trust what we are.

We can also say that who we are, and the world this character lives within, is notoriously unreliable and cannot be trusted. We can only trust what we are.

Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse: Many gurus claim they are straight shooters

 

Many gurus claim they are straight shooters: they say what they think without inhibition or filters. But if they dish it out, they should be able to take it. They should embody tolerance.

But most of the time, critical gurus don’t tolerate criticism very well. One way to check is to watch how the guru handles bad publicity. Check the Internet to see whether he or she has ever been met with scandal, and if so, how did he or she react?

How a person handles praise and criticism, gain and loss, fame and insignificance, happiness and suffering is all very telling.

Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, The Guru Drinks Bourbon?

Dream: Slight sense of hopelessness

 

I am in Oslo with a group of friends, and there are many activities – buying a house, swimming, art and so on. Through it all, I notice a slight sense of hopelessness or even mild depression. It’s as if the future is a fog, and I don’t have the zest I like to have.

This is close to the top of my list of issues to explore. A slight sense of hopelessness. A mild depression. A lack of zest.

It’s understandable considering my health challenges, the old traumas that surfaced over the last years, and leaving my inner guidance on a major life decision some years before that. And yet, it’s an issue that can be explored and it’s good to do just that.

When I say explore, I mean different things: Get to know, find some origins of (in my timeline and in terms of underlying issues), befriend, allow, change my relationship to, explore my fears around, and – over time – invite to heal.

I may have had this dream this morning since I have hoped to work on this slight background depression and lack of zest this weekend, including receiving a Vortex Healing session on its divine choice points (the divine decisions for this part of the divine – me – to have this experience for a while).

The dream was quite beautiful, rich, and interesting, and with this slight cloud of listlessness over my experience. It highlights an aspect of my daily life experience these days.

What is wholeness?

 

What is wholeness?

There are several forms of wholeness, all part of the main form of wholeness.

There is the wholeness of what we are. We are that which the content of our experience happens within and as, whether we call this awakeness, consciousness, or something else. This makes our experience into a seamless whole, whether we notice or not.

As soon as the mind believes its thoughts and latches onto the viewpoints of some of these thoughts, there is an experience of fragmentation and it’s more difficult to notice what we are.

The process of what we are noticing itself is called awakening. And the process of living from this in more situations in our life is called embodiment.

There is also a wholeness of who we are, as this human self. Again, the wholeness is already here. And yet, there is also a sense of fragmentation since we tend to identify with some of who we are and disown or ignore other parts of who we are. The process of finding our wholeness as who we are is what Jung called individuation.

There is also the wholeness of the world and the universe. The Earth is one seamless living and evolving system. The universe is also one seamless evolving system. And we – as human individuals and species with our culture – are an intrinsic part of those systems.

Finally, there is the wholeness of all of existence. Whether we use a small (psychological) or big (spiritual) interpretation of awakening, we can say that all of existence is one. We can also say that everything is existence exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself.

How do we explore these forms of wholeness? I have written many articles on each of them but I’ll say a few words here.

To explore the wholeness of what we are, we can use inquiry (Headless experiments, Big Mind Process, Living Inquiries, etc.), often combined with meditation (basic meditation, quiet prayer, training stable attention), and perhaps mindful movement (yoga, taichi, Breema, etc.).

To explore the wholeness of who we are, we can use psychology (parts work, shadow work, projection work), bodywork, relationship work, and more.

When we explore the wholeness of Earth and the universe, we can use systems views and integral (aqal) maps.

And what about the wholeness of all of existence? It includes all of the above, although we can most directly explore it as we explore what we are.

Note: The examples of approaches above are just the ones I have found useful. What works for you may be different, and what I use in the future will probably also change as I discover other approaches.

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Healing: Take full responsibility & understand

 

I had a conversation with a friend the other day, and she brought up how some use psychological insights to excuse their own or another’s behavior.

For me, it’s a reminder that we are all fully responsible for our own behavior, and yet our behavior – including the unkind and confused one – is understandable and has explanations.

To heal, we typically need to address both.

We need to take full responsibility for our own behavior. I made that choice. Nobody and nothing “forced” me to make it. I can’t blame anyone or anything.

And we need to understand some of where it came from. It’s helpful to understand it on the story level in terms of origins, reasons and so on. And it’s very helpful to frame this in a kind way, also because that’s closer to reality. So often, we find that what we regret the most or are most ashamed of is innocent. It was a confused and innocent way to try to deal with our life and pain, although it may have created (triggered) a lot of pain for ourselves and perhaps others.

Taking responsibility without this understanding can be harsh and crushing. And having some of this understanding without taking responsibility is a cop-out and prevents us from changing and healing. We need both.

This also goes for how I relate to others. I can seek to understand some of why they behave the way they do. I can know that if I more fully understood, I would have empathy for them. And I also see and know they are fully responsible for their own actions.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XVII

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include a few short personal notes as well.

Positive self-talk? The Norwegian Crown Prince happened to mention that learning positive self-talk can be helpful for young people, and now psychologists are competing in informing the public how “naive” and “dangerous” it is to recommend positive self-talk. And while there are different forms of positive self-talk, and some are more helpful than others, I generally agree with the Crown Prince.

Many of us have internalized “negative” or painful ways of dialoging and talking with ourselves, perhaps from painful experiences with family and friends, and what we see in our culture. We talk ourselves down. Noticing this, and learning more constructive self-talk is not only helpful but essential for a good life.

How would I talk with myself if I was a beloved friend or family member? What would a constructive and kind friend say?

This form of self-talk can be very simple, and it’s important to keep it realistic. For instance, if I have a test or job interview, I can tell myself “do your best, that’s enough” and “the worst that can happen is that you’ll repeat the test / find another job”.

If I notice that an emotional issue is triggered in me, and it’s telling me scary things, I can tell myself “this is an issue in me talking, it’s coming from reactivity and fear and it’s not realistic or telling me the truth”.

Another name for positive self-talk is re-parenting. We may not have internalized an optimal form of self-talk when we grew up, but as adults, we can re-parent ourselves. We can learn a more constructive, kind, and even wise form of self-talk. We can learn to more consistently be on our own side.

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Nausicaä & Teto

 

In Nausicaä of The Valley of the Wind, Nausicaaä meets a vicious fox-squirrel. It jumps on her shoulder and bites into her finger. She remains calm and says “there is nothing to fear”. The fox-squirrel calms down and eventually becomes her friend. She says “you were just a little scared, weren’t you”. (About 12:25 into the movie.)

This is similar to befriending scared parts of ourselves. They can seem vicious, reactive, and fearsome. Our tendency may be to recoil and pull back – or to struggle with them in another way. And that tends to reinforce the reactivity dynamic and the cycle repeats.

If we instead – as Nausicaä – relate to these parts of us with some understanding, kindness, and curiosity, we may shift out of the old cycle. These parts of us may feel more understood and safe, allowing them to relax a bit. We may get to know them a little better. We may even befriend them. And the whole dynamic changes.

The main key is our orientation. Our understanding that fear is behind both the scary parts of us and how we have habitually reacted to them, and when it was initially formed it came from an intention to protect us. Despite surface appearances, it comes from a kind intention. This understanding allows us to meet it with some kindness, curiosity, and patience.

Another key is to notice and allow. Notice what’s here – what’s surfacing and how I react to it. Allow it as it is. And, depending on my experience and practice, explore the different components of what’s happening and see how they work together.

This topic is also a reminder of something else: How I relate to nature and other beings reflect how I relate to myself. As I find more kindness towards myself and the different parts of me, it tends to shift how I relate to nature as a whole and other beings in general.

P.S. Nausicaä of The Valley of the Wind is an early Hayao Miyazaki movie. While the animation is a little rough and the music at times terrible, the story is powerful.

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The “I can if I want” test

 

I love Life 101 topics. The ones that are simple, practical, and can change your life.

This is one for when I notice a should. When I feel I should do something and notice tension or stress.


The original thought may be: I should go to the presentation.

Change it: I can go to the presentation if I want.

Check it (a): I can go to the presentation if I want, and I want to. Notice how it feels in the body.

Check it (b): I can go to the presentation if I want, and I don’t want to. Notice how it feels in the body.

Which one allows the body to relax? Which one is true for me?


This is a very good little exercise: It’s simple. It can be done in a few seconds in just about any situation. It shifts our thinking from a should to a can and a want. And we check in with our body to see what’s true for us.

The body relaxes when we find what’s true for us. It can breathe. Release. Let go.

This is a form of inquiry, and I think it’s from cognitive therapy and/or ACT. It’s also similar to the I should -> I want to because inquiry where we list reasons and see if they hold up. They are both useful although I like this one since it makes use of checking in with the body and learning to trust the body. There is a part of our mind that knows what’s true for us and this is reflected in the body.

Knowing how one of the magic tricks of life is done

 

I enjoy watching Fool Us with Penn & Teller and also learning how the tricks may be done. (Often, there are several ways to do each trick.)

One thing I pay attention to is the audience reaction. Sometimes, the strongest audience reaction is to tricks with an amazing effect but disappointing method. (For instance, when the magician surreptitiously instructs an audience member in what to say or do.)

Other times, the method of the trick is as or even more amazing than the effect. These are typically tricks that take years to master like Kostya Kimlat’s third performance and The Evansons. They are both impressive although the first has a simple method and the second a complex method.

Life is full of magic tricks from the big magic trick of anything existing at all to the myriads of smaller magic tricks of how life expresses itself.

One of the magic tricks of our mind is of special interest to us. The effect is the mind creating a temporary experience for itself of ultimately being a small part of the world. And a related effect is the mind believing a thought (taking it as true), identifying with the viewpoint of thoughts, and creating emotional issues, hangups, and traumas. The method is the same for both, and the second creates the first, so it’s really one and the same trick.

We can discover how the mind does this trick. We can learn the theory of it, which is a starting point. And, more importantly, we can explore it in real-time, as it happens, in our own experience.

The best way to do this may be to mentally divide our experience into sense fields and then see how these combine to create our experience. It’s slightly arbitrary how we divide up the sense fields (e.g. taste, smell, sight, sound, sensation, thought), although the two important ones are sensation and thought (mental images and words).

I initially explored this through traditional Buddhist inquiry and more recently through the contemporary version called Living Inquiries.

When we explore this, often over and over, in our own experience, we learn to recognize the magic trick and how it is performed. Our mind gradually becomes less fascinated with the effect and less caught up in it. The charge that made the effect seem real gradually goes out of it.

(This is partly because we recognize that the charge comes from the mind associating certain sensations with certain thoughts, and the sensations lend a sense of reality and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations. When we see that the connection is only an association, it’s easier to recognize sensations as sensations and thoughts as thoughts, and we are no longer so caught up in the effect of the magic trick.)

The effect of this trick is certainly amazing. It’s the One creating an experience for itself of being separate and one among many.

And what about the method? Is it disappointing or amazing? In my experience, it’s both. It can be almost laughably simple when we first discover it. And yet, it’s also impressive in its simplicity, elegance, and effectiveness.

P.S. The Evansons is an amazing act, and – as mentioned above – they use a complex method (system of verbal cues) which requires years of practice in order to appear smooth and effortless. They say they do mentalism, and we can see that as either a tongue-in-cheek white lie that’s part of the performance, as misdirection, or as a mostly innocent bordering-on-unethical form of deception. I am with P&T and prefer when the magicians/mentalists are more transparent and tell the audience what they are doing, or – in this case – what they are not doing, without necessarily revealing the method.

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