Intellectual honesty on the spiritual path

 

For me, spirituality is about being consciously aligned with reality, and deepen in clarifying and living from it. 

That means that intellectual honesty is an important component. So how does that look? At least for me? 

Here are some examples: 

In immediacy, content of experience – input from all the sense fields including thought – happens within and as what I am. I can say that it’s all happening within and as consciousness, or awake space. The whole universe appears as happening within and as what I am.

It appears as consciousness (aka love, wisdom, the divine, Spirit, God). And I can go one step further and tell myself the whole universe and all of existence is consciousness. That fits how it all appears to me, but I also know it’s an assumption. It’s going one step further than what I can be more certain about. 

And the same goes for a whole range of other things. I may have direct experiences of something. Someone – great spiritual masters – tells me it is a certain way. It may fit some research. It may make complete sense to me. I may wish it to be true. All of these may align. And yet, I don’t know for certain. All I know is that some stories, some overlays of thoughts, make sense and seem helpful to me in orienting and functioning in the world. They are not the final word, and there is no absolute truth to them. 

That’s how it is with ideas about God, life beyond death, reincarnation, divine beings, angels, distance healing, awakening, ESP, and anything else. At best, they are ideas that seem to fit the data, make sense, and help us orient and function in the world. And that’s about it. That’s all I can say about it.

This is as honest as I can be about these things now. It’s as aligned with reality as I can make it for now. It’s as aligned with the divine – if I see reality as the divine – as I can make it. And there is a great freedom here. I don’t need to defend anything.

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Aldous Huxley: The best advice I can give is to be a little kinder

 

It’s a little embarrassing that after 45 years of research and study, the best advice I can give people is to be a little kinder to each other.

Aldous Huxley

I think this is what it boils down to for most of us, perhaps especially as we get more life experience. Sometimes, the question is how, and that’s really what this website is about. 

11,111 items

 

A little while ago, I reached 11,111 posts on this blog…! Not all of them have been published (some never got beyond the draft stage and some are still in process) but it’s still a large number. I have had this blog since 2002 so that explains it to some extent.

The rest is explained by writing almost every day for most of the time. So that brings up the question, why is that? Why the slight compulsion? Why the urge to write here? 

I think there are several answers. The immediate answer is that I notice something or something comes to mind, and I feel an impulse to write it down.

I also notice a few other things: There is a fear in me to let it go without recording it. (It seems valuable so I don’t want to “lose it” or forget it.) I typically don’t have that many around me I can talk about and explore these things with. (When I do, I write less here.) I may find a use for some of it later. And some of it may be useful for a reader.  

The first and second ones are definitely something for me to notice and perhaps explore further. 

In any case, thanks for visiting this collection of (at one point) 11,111 articles!  

Thinking about someone with love

 

I have had several instances of people asking if I did healing for them when in reality I had just (often briefly) thought about them with love, and perhaps a quiet wish for their healing and well being. Interesting how that works.

People sometimes report feeling the energies and other times they report the actual healing. 

I assume this is universal. If we have someone in mind with love, it may well have an effect. In some ways, it’s expected since it’s one local aspect of the divine wishing another well. 

And yes, I know this doesn’t fit our modern worldview. But it does fit some research, and it has a (metaphorical?) parallel in quantum entanglement, and it’s something that can and probably will be studied more in the future. 

I was reminded of this when I talked with my mother after a recent Vortex Healing class (Jewel in London). The first she said was “did you do healing for me on Thursday? I feel much better!” I didn’t do healing for her, but I had thought about both of my parents with deep gratitude and love around that time. 

We are not separate beings?

 

In neo-Advaita circles, people sometimes say you are not a separate being

That’s true enough since our more final identity is as what it all happens within and as. 

And as with any pointers, it can be misleading if taken too literally. 

In my experience, I am both and more. 

I am a separate being as this human self in the world. I walk around. Do things. Am vulnerable. Was born and will die. I am dependent on the kindness of those close to me and society as a whole. I am dependent on a functioning ecosystem. I am dependent on this living planet. 

I am part of society, ecosystems, this living planet, and the universe as a whole. I am a local expression of all of this. 

And I am, in my immediate experience, that which all of this – the sensory inputs and my ideas about it – happens within and as. 

All of this is valid in its own way. All of it contributes to the richness of what I am and this local expression of life itself. 

And all of it is an overlay of ideas. Ideas that right now seem helpful. Ideas that serve as a pointer. Ideas that have temporary value at most.

The seed of this article came from how I ended the previous:

I wanted to say a few words about these parts of us operating from separation consciousness. They are formed at a time when we operated from separation consciousness, typically in our childhood. They reflect this idea that we are (only) a separate being and view and act as if that’s the case. And they are formed from, and form, a wound or trauma, even if this wound or trauma is very gentle. These parts of us can also be called beliefs (in the The Work sense) or identification (with and as the viewpoint of a thought).

It’s not wrong that we as human beings develop within the context of taking ourselves as a separate being. We are, in a conventional sense. We need to live partly as if we are, and the different parts of us need to develop within that recognition. But it’s not all of what we are. And when we notice what we are (as that which content of experience happens within and as), that serves as another context that can allow us to heal more deeply. 

We live within multiple contexts: As a separate human being. As parts of larger social and ecological wholes. As an expression of life and the universe. And as that which our sense fields – sensations, taste, smell, sound, sight, and thoughts – happen within and as. 

Trancendence vs reorientation

 

The word awakening is used in different ways. 

Sometimes, it refers to a temporary release of identification as a whole. This is also called transcendence since our center of gravity temporarily shifts from human to Big Mind.

Sometimes, it refers to a stable release of identification as a whole. A more stable resting in and as Big Mind, and a fluid shifting between Big Mind and human perspectives. 

And there are a couple of more wrinkles to this.

Our conscious center of gravity can be as Big Mind, but some of our human parts are not quite on board with this yet. They are still stuck in separation consciousness. (They were formed within separation consciousness so they are aligned with this experience of the world.) These parts may be transcended most of the time (inactive, dormant), and sometimes they are activated and take over so our center of gravity shifts back into separation consciousness. It may also be that we mostly operate from Big Mind but in areas of our life operate from some of these parts and their separation consciousness. 

Another way of talking about this is what Byron Katie says. We are awake to a thought or not. We can be awake to the thought that’s here, or not. If we are, we recognize it as a thought and are free to act in a more kind and wise way. If we are not, we are caught in the belief that the thought it true so we perceive and act as if it is.

Almost all of us are enlightened to some thoughts and not others, we are only aware of a fraction of the thoughts we are not awake to, and some of these are more or less permanently activated and partly run our lives. (Similar to Freud’s unconscious.) 

We can also talk about this in terms of wounds or trauma. The parts of us aligned with separation consciousness are, in a sense, wounded or traumatized. So we can invite in healing for these, one at a time, as they surface in daily life and we get to know them. 

And another aspect of this is how we relate to these parts of ourselves. To the extent we see them as a problem (or bad, embarrassing, wrong, not fitting our image), we’ll tend to get caught in identification as soon as they are activated. We’ll get caught in the view of these parts, or in the parts reacting to them.

To the extent we have befriended them and recognize them as innocent (and even beautiful, humanizing, and an invitation for continued healing, maturing, and clarification), we tend be less caught in identification when they are activated. 

This means that our awakening continues to stabilize, clarify, and deepen as more and more parts of us are aligned with Big Mind. It means that our healing and maturing as human beings is ongoing.

And it means that the mix that’s what (Big Mind/Heart) and who (our human self) we are as a whole is not only an ongoing and continues process of exploration, clarification, healing, and maturing. But also of failing and messing things up in a very human way and sometimes even learning from it. There is no end point. In a sense, the exploration itself is the point. 

A couple of quick notes: In this context, there isn’t any failure since it’s all part of the overall process. I am just using the word in an everyday conventional way. 

I also wanted to say a few words about these parts of us operating from separation consciousness. They are formed at a time when we operated from separation consciousness, typically in our childhood. They reflect this idea that we are (only) a separate being and view and act as if that’s the case. And they are formed from, and form, a wound or trauma, even if this wound or trauma is very gentle. These parts of us can also be called beliefs (in the The Work sense) or identification (with and as the viewpoint of a thought). 

Non-religious, or pan-religious?

 

It’s popular these days to say I am spiritual but not religious.

That partly fits me too. I don’t belong to any particular religion but I am interested in spirituality. (Of course, the word spirituality is something that means different things to different people.) 

Something else fits me as well, and that’s pan-religious. I am interested in insights, pointers, and practices of any religion. I have explored quite a few religions and their pointers and practices over time and found something beneficial in each one. 

Just to keep it fluid, I can keep going (!). 

I very much resonate with atheism. I was a self-professed atheist in elementary school since it seemed that the Christians I saw (a) believed something just because they wanted to or were told it was so, and often (b) did it for social reasons or for comfort. And although I understand the appeal, neither made much sense to me. 

I resonate with the recognition we can find in the more mature versions of any religion or spiritual tradition: Our images of God or the divine are our images. They are not what they (mean to) point to. 

And I see the value in staying within one religion or spiritual tradition over time and perhaps for life. There is a beauty in the deepening that can offer. It just happened to not be my path in this life. 

Projecting sensations into space

 

I had a low-grade sense of sinking heaviness for a couple of days and decided to explore it in a Living Inquiry session yesterday. 

I started with resting with the sensation of slowly sinking heaviness filling my experience and going indefinitely far out in space in all directions.

Then, I rested with the sensations in my body that created this experience. It was a slightly vibrating sensation on my skin in the face, head, and upper body. After resting with this for a while, I brought attention to the image(s) of something sinking, and of something spread out infinitely out into space in all directions. 

As I have noticed before, when a feeling feels like its outside of the body, it’s created by a combination of bodily sensations and one or more images placing the sensations outside of the body. 

And as with any experience with a charge, it can only hold itself together and seem real as long as it’s uninvestigated. As soon as it is investigated, and we have taken time to rest with each of the components, the illusion falls apart.

In this case, the sensations are still here (although less) but they are recognized as sensations in particular places in the body, and the associated images are recognized as images. The magic trick cannot anymore be experienced as I initially experienced it.  

I also explored some of the associations with this slowly sinking all-encompassing heaviness, what triggered it a couple of days earlier, and some of the underlying issues (back to childhood). I won’t go into details here since I mainly wanted to share how sensations can be projected into space, and seem to fill our whole experience even if they are actually quite localized. 

Since I noticed some identification as someone sitting here (mostly with the head area), I took some time to rest with the sensations making up this experience, and also the images making it up. That allowed this identification to similarly fall apart as a convincing magic trick. 

Finding meaning, and freedom from meaning

 

We need a sense of meaning in our lives, and especially when we find ourselves in challenging life situations. 

We can find meaning in many different ways depending on the situation and what works for us. We can make a situation meaningful to us even if we at a very human level don’t like it. 

And if we want to take the next step, we can investigate meaning itself. Meaning is created by our own thoughts, and especially when we invest them with energy and hold them as at least partially true. This meaning typically tells us something we like or don’t like. In either case, it can be freeing to investigate these thoughts creating a sense of meaning. 

The word meaning is here used in two slightly different ways.

In the second paragraph, it refers to a sense of meaning in our lives or for a situation we find ourselves in. We can make our life or a situation meaningful to ourselves.

And meaning is also something that’s in any thought as long as it makes sense to us. We can invest a thought and meaning with energy, hold it as true, and identify with its viewpoint. And we can also examine this meaning and how our mind creates it for itself. 

The first sense of meaning gives us a meaningful way of viewing and approaching a situation. And investigating meaning itself, the ideas of meaning we have about the same situation, gives us freedom from these ideas. In my experience, both are valuable and helpful. 

How do we investigate meaning? The easiest is perhaps to take an example from my own life. With my current health problems (CFS) comes thoughts and ideas about how terrible it is and also in what ways I can make it meaningful (or life makes it meaningful for me).

So I can identify these thoughts, and then explore them in inquiry (for me, The Work + Living Inquiries). In The Work, I can identify some of these thoughts through the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet, and other beliefs tend to come up in the inquiry process. In Living Inquiries, some are found in the initial exploration and most through the process. 

As I mentioned earlier, I find both of these approaches valuable and helpful. It helps me to find meaning in a life situation. And it helps me investigate any thought that gives me a sense of meaning – whether I like it or not – about the same life situation.

One helps me orient towards the life situation and find a productive approach. The other lightens the weight of any thought offering me an opinion about it. 

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The sweetness of being with what’s here

 

This morning, a strong sadness came up. I don’t know exactly where it is from or what it is about (although I do remember it from childhood mixed with a longing), and I don’t really need to know. 

My initial impulse was to wish it wasn’t there. It was uncomfortable. It brought up uncomfortable thoughts.

And then there was a kind of surrender into it. It’s here so I may as well be with it. There isn’t really much else to do. And I know from experience that initially uncomfortable experiences reveal something else if I can meet it and relate to it more intentionally. 

Notice the sadness-sensations in the body. Notice the mental images and words. Notice the (very human) reactions to it. Notice it’s all already allowed. (It’s already allowed by space, mind, life.) 

Rest attention with the sensations in the body. Notice the space around it, and it all happening within and as space. Notice it’s already allowed. Rest with it, as it is. 

I know from earlier experiences that this is the way through it, and a part of me wanted through it.

At the same time, another part just wanted to be with it. Feel it. Allow it. This is a part of me, of life. It’s visiting. It’s life meeting life.

Yet another part knows that this – the sadness and being with it – works on me. There is a deepening. Something happens and is processed, and although I don’t know exactly what it is or what’s happening, it’s welcome and feels deeply right. 

Now, a few hours later, there is a spaciousness and sweetness mixing in with the sadness. A warm fullness. Earthiness. Receptivity. A deeply felt sense of the resilience, fragility, and immense beauty of all life. 

I often don’t write about this. It’s wordless so finding the right words are difficult. At the same time, I know it’s valuable to share so I’ll do it even if it falls a bit short. 

Mystery of existence

 

In a conventional view, we may see some things as known (building a car, the function of the heart) and others things as unknown (dark matter, the fate of the universe). Some things are known, other things are a mystery. 

But really, all is a mystery. Our understanding is provisional at best. A guide to help us orient and function in the world. As I often say, there is no final or absolute truth in our ideas and understanding. They are not the final word about anything. 

In an ordinary sense, we can always learn more, we can see things in a new context or within a new worldview or paradigm, we can see it from new perspectives. 

And in a very real sense, it’s all a mystery. It can’t be touched by thought or our human understanding. This is the context of our human life and that’s why I decided to call this website Mystery of Existence. 

The title of this website is a reminder that our understanding is provisional. A question about the world. It opens the door to humility rooted in reality. 

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Enemy images and the divine

 

Almost all of us create enemy images in our minds. It can be of ourselves, parts of ourselves, others, situations, life, God, and just about anything.  

We invest these with energy so they seem more real and true, and we identify with the viewpoint of these enemy ideas. We view the world through them. 

This creates stress, discomfort, and inner and outer conflict. So there is a built-in motivation for us to eventually, when we have had enough, find another way. 

That’s the simple and down-to-earth way of talking about it.

The other side is that if all is God, then these enemy images are part of the play of the divine, they come with the built-in mechanism mentioned above, and that eventually leads to the divine recognizing itself as the divine and all there is.

It’s all part of the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways, including by temporarily and locally taking itself as a separate being that creates enemy images of parts of the world, invests these with energy, perceives and lives as if they are true, notices the discomfort inherent in it, and explores ways to resolve the enemy-image situation, and eventually recognizes itself as the divine again and as all there is. 

How can we explore enemy images, find a different way or relating to them, and perhaps even invite them to resolve? 

In general, we do it one image at a time. We notice an enemy image and notice the effects it has in our life. We can reorient towards what the enemy image is about through heart-centered practices. We can investigate the enemy image through inquiry. We can find healing for the emotional issue(s) behind it. These are the approaches I find most helpful right now, although there are a lot of other ways to explore enemy images. 

Here are a few more details about enemy images: 

If we can form an image of something, we can make it into an enemy image.
It can be ourselves (not good enough, unlovable etc.), a part of ourselves (too easily angered), someone else (she insulted me), a group (Republicans are cynical and uncaring), an illness, a type of food, a species (cats are weird), life (life is cruel and too hard), or God (God fucked up my life). 

We believe our own stories telling us something is bad, wrong, a problem, and should be avoided or go away. We perceive and act as if it’s true. We experience discomfort and conflict because of it.

At a more elemental level, our minds associate enemy-thoughts with certain sensations in the body where the sensations give a sense of reality and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts give meaning to the sensations. Our mind can also create more chronic body contractions so these sensations are more readily available, stronger, and seem more solid. 

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Compulsions: two levels of what we escape

 

When we have a compulsion, there are usually two levels to what we try to escape. 

The compulsion could be any activity – eating, using alcohol or drugs, internet, work, upholding an image of ourselves, certain thought patterns, or just about anything else. Behind compulsions is a wish to avoid certain uncomfortable sensations and thoughts.

And those uncomfortable sensations and thoughts come in two layers

First are the immediate sensations in our body we wish to avoid. They seem frightening to us, so we use our compulsion as a strategy to avoid them. Sometimes, we may be conscious of uncomfortable or frightening thoughts associated with these sensations, but not always.

Then, there is a whole undergrowth of uncomfortable and frightening thoughts and additional sensations often in the form of chronic contractions. These can be quite entrenched, seem very real to us, and can stretch back to childhood experiences. 

Often, we would do almost anything to avoid consciously entering and meeting these. Including escaping into our compulsions, even if these come with their own unpleasant consequences. 

Several things may prevent us from consciously entering what we try to escape from. Mainly, it seems scary and frightening. We have our own beliefs telling us it’s scary and dangerous. Our society, at least traditionally, has told us these parts of us are dark and hide something terrifying. Our society makes it easy to escape through various addictions and compulsions. (We see others do it, and escape routes are easily available partly because some of them are profitable.) We may, wisely, think we would get lost if we enter these parts of ourselves, we may rock the boat, and we may take the lid off something we won’t know how to handle. (This may be true if we don’t have the right support, guidance, and skills.) 

The answer is to do exactly what we have avoided, do so with support and guidance, and eventually learn how to do it safely for ourselves. We need to meet and befriend these areas of ourselves. Become familiar with them, see the innocence behind it all, and perhaps invite these parts of us to heal. 

Over time, we get to see that it’s actually not so scary to enter these areas after all. It may be uncomfortable at first, but as we rest with the sensations and thoughts, and investigate what’s there, it tends to shift into an experience of relief and even of returning home. We are returning home to parts of ourselves we have shunned. 

It’s important to do this befriending in a skillful way, and that often means to initially be facilitated by someone experienced. These parts of ourselves are best met and explored in a way that’s respectful, patient, allows these parts to be as they are, see the innocence behind and in them, and invites them to heal in their own time. 

For me, the most helpful ways I have found of doing this include natural rest (notice, allow, rest with), inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries, Big Mind process), heart-centered practices (ho’oponopono, tonglen – towards these parts of ourselves), and releasing associated body contractions (TRE, massaging the contractions etc.). I won’t go into the details here since I have written about it in other articles. 

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Awakening from a psychological perspective

 

From a conventional view, there is this human being and consciousness is somehow connected with it.

And logically, since it’s the consciousness experiencing we must experience ourselves as this consciousness. Whether we notice or not, we are consciousness.

The next logical step is that we can notice ourselves as this consciousness, and any and all content of experience as happening within and as this consciousness. And that’s awakening. 

It’s really super simple. Almost banal. It certainly doesn’t have to be very esoteric. And yet, I realize it can seem a bit mysterious since that’s often how it has been presented in the past, and if we don’t have a direct experience or taste of it ourselves it can seem a bit abstract.

But in reality, it’s very simple. It’s already our experience, whether we notice it or not. And there are simple ways for us to have an immediate taste of it. 

The essence of what the mystics and spiritual traditions have talked about is also true. It takes time to clarify this and make it our new conscious home. It takes time to get all the different parts of ourselves on board with it. It takes time to learn to live from it more consistently and in more and more situations in life.

And any and all of the different practices from different spiritual traditions can help us with this, whether it’s natural rest, training a more stable focus, prayer, heart-centered practices, inquiry, body-centered practices, a life of service, and so on. 

This is the psychological perspective on awakening. We can still imagine there is a physical body and world, and that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we notice that all of it – all of our current experience of this human self, others, and the world – happens within and as what we are. It happens within and as what we may call consciousness. In our immediate experience, all is one since all happens within and as what we are. 

The difference with the spiritual perspective is that here, we go a step further. We acknowledge all of this, but we may say that the world really is consciousness, and we may call it the divine, or God, or Spirit, or Brahman, or Big Mind. 

And if you are like me, then you’ll find both of those perspectives valid and useful. Which one we use just depends on what seems most helpful for ourselves or others in the situation. 

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Healing and awakening: more ordinary, and more ourselves

 

Over time, with both healing and awakening, we tend to become more ordinary and more ourselves. 

In what ways do we become more ordinary

As we heal as human beings, we tend to feel more ordinary and we have less of a need to appear special. We recognize the fuller range of human qualities in ourselves and others, and we are more OK with it. 

As there is an awakening, what we are recognizes itself as all there is (we can call this consciousness). It recognizes itself over there as itself, and although it’s amazing and extraordinary it also becomes ordinary after a while.  

At the same time, we tend to become more ourselves

As we heal, we are more familiar with the different parts of ourselves and more comfortable with them. We are freer to be who we are in a relaxed way. (And with an eye on what’s appropriate in the situation, what’s kind and wise.) This means that although we may feel ordinary in our own experience, we may or may not be seen as ordinary by others. 

As we awaken, we know ourselves as what we are, as what the content of our experience happens within and as (aka consciousness). As what we are, we notice we are inevitably ourselves. 

So we feel more ordinary and have less need to appear special. We are more at home in our own skin so we can be more ourselves. We recognize all as ordinary (and amazing) expressions of the divine, and we recognize that as what we are we are always ourselves.

And in the middle of the ordinariness and being more ourselves, there are, of course, actual differences in a conventional sense. 

So, in real life, we are aware of both what’s shared and what’s different about ourselves. We recognize all in us as universally human. We recognize all – everyone and the world – as the divine. We recognize our unique human strengths and weaknesses. We recognize that consciousness hasn’t woken up to itself in all human beings. And yet, the differences happens within and as the universal. And, to the extent we are clear, no value judgment about it is taken as real, inherent, or final. It’s all part of the play of life or the divine. 

There is a lot more to be said about this. 

For instance, early on in the healing or awakening processes, we may feel more special for a while. We use what’s discovered to feed our need to be special, OK, and good enough. And if the healing and clarification continues, that tends to fall away. We tend to find the relief in being ordinary and ourselves as we are, and even the amazing beauty of it. 

Although there is a sameness in all of it, the differences are innumerable. We are different in development in many areas of life. We have different levels of healing and maturing in different areas of life. Most of us are free from one set of thoughts and still get caught in some other thoughts (involuntarily identified with). Each species experience the world in a quite different way from other species. And so on. 

Why do we feel more ordinary as we heal more? As said above “We recognize the fuller range of human qualities in ourselves and others, and we are more OK with it”. We see ourselves in others, and others in ourselves. The whole world becomes a mirror for us in this sense. We see a characteristic out there in the world, and recognize it here, and the other way around. And we are more OK with it. We are able to relate to it in ourselves and others more intentionally, and perhaps with more clarity, kindness, and even wisdom. (We are OK with whatever is here, in us and others, being here as it is. And that doesn’t mean we always act on what’s in us, or allow others to get away with acting on whatever.) 

Why did I write “amazing and extraordinary“? When what we are recognizes itself as all there is, there seems to be an ongoing and always new sense of amazement. Everything is ordinary in the sense that everything is consciousness (or Spirit). And everything is also experienced as amazing and astonishing. It’s amazing that something, anything, is at all. It’s amazing it’s Spirit. It’s amazing it’s in the form it is. 

And as I often write, the most accurate way I have found to talk about what we are is to say that we are that which experience happens within and as. It can be called consciousness, or even Spirit or the divine, and that can be useful but it also can make it sound more solid or substantial than it is, and it can make use feel we get it even if we just get the words and don’t notice it in the moment.

When what we are notices itself, no interpretation is needed. Although curious minds will interpret. We can interpret it in a psychological way, assuming that we – as consciousness – operate within a physical human being in a physical world and that the experience of all as consciousness is a projection. Or we can interpret it as they tend to do in spiritual traditions, and assume that everything – the physical world and so on – is consciousness and something we can rightfully call the divine, Spirit, God, or Brahman.

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Is mysticism mysterious?

 

Is mysticism mysterious?

It’s certainly presented that way in popular culture. And perhaps for a couple of reasons. There isn’t a widespread understanding of what it’s about, so it naturally may seem a bit mysterious. And what it’s about isn’t so easy to put into words. 

And yet, it’s not inherently mysterious. Not any more than most things. At least when we have had a taste of it. 

As I like to say, it’s about noticing what we are, which is what our experience happens within and as. We can call this the awakeness (or consciousness) all content of experience happens within and as. And from here, it does seem as if the whole world is this awakeness. It seems that this awakeness is what takes all these forms, and locally may temporarily take itself to be a separate being – even if the ultimate identity of everything is this awakeness.

Most can have an immediate and direct taste of this through, for instance, forms of inquiry such as the Big Mind process or the Headless experiments. (Some also do by using psychoactive substances but I wouldn’t recommend that.) And after this taste, most of us will need to clarify and stabilize and learn to live from it over a long period, usually for the rest of our lives. 

As with most things, we can explore this endlessly. For those who us who have, for whatever reason, a fascination with this, it’s an endless exploration. 


How do I experience chronic faituge?

 

How do I experience chronic fatigue (CFS)? A few friends have asked me lately and I thought I would share my answer here as well. 

The simplest way I have found to explain it is that it’s like having a flu without the fever, runny nose, or sore throat. It makes it hard to do much, exertion deepens the fatigue, and the brain is foggy. Sometimes, it’s like having a severe flu, sometimes it’s a little lighter. But it never goes away. 

I experience the brain fog partly as a “cotton in the head” feeling and partly as a cognitive fatigue. It’s hard to take in complex information, and I get tired quickly when using the brain / mind. 

There are additional symptoms, some of which are a bit weird. For instance, light and sound sensitivity. Temperature dysregulation (too hot or cold, or hot and cold at the same time, or cold sweat). Muscle tension and pain. Sleep problems (not anymore for me). Digestion problems and food sensitivities. Crashes if too much exertion, especially if combined with heat and/or lack of proper food. Feeling better in some climates (for me, warm and dry). 

My best guess is that my CFS was triggered by a combination of a virus infection (Epstein-Barr), exposure to toxic mold, psychological stress, and perhaps more. When I initially got it, it was in my teens following mononucleosis a few months earlier, when I lived in a basement (mold), and had the usual teenage stress and angst.  I got much better after high school when I was able to set my own schedule, make my own food, and engage in activities deeply meaningful to me. And then the CFS came back severely a few months after a pneumonia I never really recovered from, while again living in a moldy environment (Oregon), and stress from my life situation at the time. 

It makes sense to approach it from a multitude of angles and to support and strengthen my system as much as possible. I have found a few things very helpful: Herbal medicine (mostly adaptogens), Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE), Breema bodywork, diet changes (minimize dairy, yeast, wheat, refined sugars, processed foods), mindfulness practices (natural rest, inquiry, heart-centered practices), spending time in nature, resting (do half of what I feel I can do), and energy work (Vortex Healing).

Childish Gambino: Feels like summer

 

Every day gets hotter than the one before
Running out of water,
it’s about to go down
Go down
Air that kill
the bees that we depend upon
Birds were made for singing,
wakin’ up to no sound
No sound

Childish Gambino / Donald Glover

Another beautiful song from Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) inviting us to take a closer look at serious issues. This time, ecological destruction.

Just as the dancing in the This is America video showed how entertainment distracts us from serious issues impacting us all, here the video can distract us from the actual content of the song. I imagine the mindless activities of the celebrities in the video is a poke at them and their lack of engagement.  

Of course, most of us are aware of what’s going on. We just need ways we can engage that are relatively easy and attractive. We need structural change. We need to live within systems where what’s easy and attractive to do, for individuals and organizations, is also what supports and enhances life. And how do we get that? It’s hard to say.

Awareness is a good first step. Focusing on practical solutions is another. As is emphasizing the attractive sides to this change. And voting with our money and voting for political change. We have the solutions, we just need to implement them. Most likely, serious change won’t happen until we really get that we have to. It may not happen until things get bad enough close to home that we’ll have to change.

Healing, awakening, and aligning with reality II

 

I thought I would continue the previous post on this topic. 

What do I mean by reality? The larger context is what we are, which is that which any experience happens within and as (aka awakeness, consciousness, even the divine). This is the nature and more basic identity of everyone and everything. It’s all the divine taking temporary forms,  (sometimes) temporarily and locally taking itself to be a separate being, and it’s all the play of the divine. Everything else flows from this.

If we are out of alignment with this as a whole (consciously) or in our parts (they are aligned with ideas reflecting separation), we’ll create psychological issues, stress, discomfort, interpersonal issues, and our attention is sufficiently distracted by all of this so it doesn’t notice what we really and already are. (All of this is part of the play of the divine so there is nothing inherently wrong about it.) So healing and awakening require a realignment with reality. 

Here are some examples of how we can realign consciously and invite our parts to realign as well.

Heart-centered practices invite us to recognize all as the divine, to shift from enemy images of others, the world, or parts of ourselves to befriending it, finding genuine appreciation for it, and see it as a support for healing and awakening. This, in turn, opens up the possibility of recognizing all, without exception, as the divine. 

Inquiry invites us to notice how the mind creates its own experience (connecting sensations with thoughts to give them substance and a sense of reality, connecting thoughts with sensations to give them a sense of meaning), and this invites in both healing and awakening (Living Inquiries). We can also use inquiry to examine beliefs allowing them to unravel (The Work). We can use it to shift into the perspective of different parts of ourselves, including what we are, and explore their relationships to each other (Big Mind process). And we can use inquiry to notice what we are and how who we are happens within and as what we are (all the previous ones and headless experiments). 

Through each of these forms of inquiry, we align more consciously with reality, and we invite parts of us to align more closely with reality as well. 

Energy work, such as Vortex Healing, can invite the energetic structures holding psychological issues in place to unravel, allowing for healing. (Vortex Healing can do the same with the energetic structures holding the separation experience in place, allowing for awakening.) This too allows for a closer alignment with reality. 

I mentioned it briefly in part one of this article: one of the things that can make it difficult to align more thoroughly with reality is a distrust of reality. This is largely cultural, and it seems especially prominent in our Judeo-Christian culture. We distrust nature and reality. Initially, it was rooted in a view of nature and ourselves as sinful. Now, it’s mainly the distrust that remains even if we cannot explain the reason for it very well.

This distrust is one of the possible sources of fear when we enter into inquiry or other practices. Whenever fear comes up, it’s good to acknowledge it and include it in whatever exploration we are doing. In general, see how it is to acknowledge and befriend the fear. Thank it for protecting you. Identify the sensations in your body and notice and allow them and rest with them. Treat the fear with respect, patience, and curiosity. Allow it to have a voice. If it could speak, what would it say? What is the fear about? And if it feels right, explore the fear through inquiry, heart-centered practices, or whatever other approaches you are using. 

Befriending struggle

 

I have found it very helpful to befriend struggle. 

As most human beings, I often find myself struggling or wrestling with situations and issues. It can be very gentle, as a pondering or curiosity, or more obvious. 

The more I recognize this wrestling as natural and having a very good evolutionary purpose, as kind and here to help and protect this human self, and as useful, the more I see it as a friend. And the more I recognize it as a friend, the lighter I can hold it. And the lighter I hold it, the more I find appreciation for it.

Another side of this is that it makes it easier to recognize that it happens within and as what I am. It’s an expression of the creativity of the mind, or – if we want to put it into a more highfalutin language – even the creativity of the divine. The divine can recognize itself as this too. The divine can wake up to itself as this too. 

Healing, awakening, and aligning with reality

 

Healing, awakening, maturing, and embodiment all have to do with aligning with reality. 

Of course, everything is reality so everything is already aligned with reality. But sometimes, we are consciously and less consciously aligned with our ideas about reality rather than reality itself, and these ideas can be a bit weird. So our alignment is a bit weird. Which means we create stress for ourselves (and others), and life situations will rub up against this conscious alignment which is an invitation to notice and realign.

Misalignment creates emotional wounds, hangups, and trauma. And more simply, it creates and comes from identifications, and these identifications create both stress and emotional wounds, and distractions so the mind doesn’t notice what it already is. Identification here means that the mind identifies with, and becomes in its own experience, the viewpoint of certain thoughts. This creates a sense of being a separate self. 

A few things make a thorough realignment a bit difficult. The misalignment goes through all of us (mind, body, energies) and is a living system, and as any living system, it adjusts to preserve itself. It also makes it difficult to know what reality is, or what’s more real, so we may not have a good internal guide. (Unless there is a spiritual opening which can provide such a guide.) We may have been taught to mistrust reality. (Especially in our Judeo-Christian culture.) And unless life rubs up against our misalignment quite strongly, we may not be motivated to invite in changes. (Life may invite it in anyway although it can take time.) 

I have written about the details of this misalignment in other articles, and also how we can invite in alignment in the form of healing and awakening. I have written less about maturing and embodiment since those tend to come over time and from experience, although I may write more about them in future articles. 

See part II of this article

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Admitting to not knowing

 

There are a couple of different types of not knowing.

One is that we don’t know anything for certain. Any thought is tentative and inherently a question about the world. It can be a practical guide to help us orient and function in the world. But it has no finality to it. It’s not the last word. Most or all of our collective and individual knowledge will eventually seem outmoded and belonging to a certain phase of our life and development. We can still act on our tentative knowledge while realizing it is tentative. That opens for receptivity and curiosity. 

Another is not knowing in a conventional sense. We may miss information or knowledge, or just don’t know what to do in a certain situation. 

It’s common for us to realize this in a general way while not realizing it thoroughly in all areas of our life. Often, some parts of us believe we know something in a certain area of life.

For instance, I notice I am not always 100% comfortable with my health situation or general life situation, and that shows me that some parts of me believe thoughts about it. Some parts of me don’t realize that these thoughts, that come from culture, parents, friends and more, are tentative. They are questions. They are not the final word.

The examples here are innumerable. Most of us have some ingrained beliefs about ourselves, others, or the world. They can take the form of rigid views and assumptions, wounds, trauma, and hangups. And they can also take the form of believing we ultimately are a separate being and that the physical world is something more substantial than awakeness itself. 

This is where inquiries like The Work or the Living Inquiries come in and can be very helpful. They help us identify and question these thoughts that some parts of us hold as an absolute truth. 

I want to mention another special case of not knowing. When a facilitator or therapist works with a client, it’s normal to sometimes not know what to do next or how to best approach an issue. One way to deal with this is to be transparent, say it out loud, and invite both of you to sit in silence for a while to see what happens. Maybe something will show itself. Maybe not. 

As a footnote, I can mention that when it comes to the reverse, knowing, we cannot know anything for certain in the sense mentioned above. But there is another form of knowing, and that’s knowing what we are. This is a wordless knowing and a resting in and as what we are (that which any content of experience happens within and as). 

Reflections on society, politics, and nature XII

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature.

One essential way Trump is no different.

But it wasn’t sane before. Obama was not sane; he was led by the same interests that put the corporate business ahead of people, with bread buttered by Goldman Sachs, only now, it is more brash” Sadier said. “For centuries the political class has been fucking poor people off.

Laetitia Sadier in Laetitia Sadier on Stereolab and finding her voice This is a view I often hear from regular people, including most of my friends. But I don’t see it much from mainstream politicians, journalists, or social commentators. Of course, the job of the mainstream is to maintain the status quo, even if it benefits the few in the short term rather than the many in the long term. (Or perhaps just for that reason.)

Most politicians and political parties support neo-liberal capitalism, which in turn is designed to maximize profit for multi-national corporations at the expense of nearly everyone else, including nature and future generations. In this sense, Trump is no different from most other politicians, including Obama and both Clintons. He is just less subtle about it.

September 6, 2018

Strawman arguments
. This seems so obvious I haven’t mentioned it before but I wanted to say a few words. When American football players protest during the anthem, they are not disrespecting the US, they are highlighting a very real issue of racism and inequality. And when people criticize or disagree with Israeli policies, they are not anti-semitic. To say they respectively “disrespect the US” and are “anti-semitic” are strawman arguments and it’s transparent and childish. It’s an attempt to shame people into silence and deflect from the real issue by attacking the person. 

The golden rule in politics. Why should we treat others as we would like to be treated, even in politics? For me, it has to do with a couple of things. First, self-respect. If I treat others with respect, I can have respect for myself. The other is for strategic reasons. When I act and speak with respect, I invest in norms I would like myself and others to follow. I strengthen them. Also, if I don’t treat others with respect, I cannot expect others to do the same towards me (or politicians I support) and I am not in a position to ask them to do so. 

This came up for me today since the New York Times has an article about the resistance to Trump’s policies from within the administration. Some liberals seem to applaud this. And I understand the impulse to want to curtail some of Trump’s worst actions. But he is legally elected and the resistance described in the NYT article is actually a subversion of democracy. It sets a very dangerous precedence. And it’s definitely not something I would approve of if it happened in an administration I happened to personally support.

On the topic of the NYT article: The other side is that these unhappy civil servants would do better quitting and speaking out openly about their concerns, or try to get Trump removed if they think he is a danger to the country. It does seem a bit spineless, as Trump said, to anonymously complain in this way.

Politically correct? I don’t use this term unless I discuss it specifically. It seems to mean different things to different people so using it often means talking about different things while it appears, on the surface, we are talking about the same.

Some use the term to discredit people who talk about ordinary decency, inclusiveness and treating others with respect. Some use it to refer to nice sounding words meant to distract from different types of actions. And I am sure people understand the term in other ways as well. 

In the first sense, I am happy to be politically correct. I am happy to stand up for treating people with respect, inclusiveness (of people of all types of orientations and backgrounds), and actions and policies that come from ordinary human care and compassion for fellow human beings. 

Not normal? I see that some people in social media still use the “this is not normal” label on Trump’s behavior. I understand some of the reasoning behind it. For instance, it isn’t normal for a leader of a western democratic country to consistently erode democratic norms and undermine democratic institutions. It’s something that may do lasting damage. 

Apart from that, the “not normal” label misses something essential. Much of what’s normal isn’t that great. And there are some very questionable ways he is normal. He is normal in that he is in line with most of the Republican’s policies. (Apart from leaving international free trade agreements and starting a trade war). And more importantly, he is normal and in line with nearly all US politicians in that he promotes policies aimed at making the wealthy wealthier at the cost of nearly everyone else.

For the most part, the real scandal is in the ways he is normal.

September 7, 2018

What will Trump be remembered for? A few generations from now, how will people see Trump? Here is what I imagine: 

He came out of the tea party culture within or connected with the Republican party, so in that sense, there was little surprising or even new about him. In a larger historical context, we have also seen many leaders like him. 

He was in line with the rest of the Republicans on most issues and policies. (Apart from international trade.) He served as a tool for the Republican party for them to get their policies through. 

In an essential way, he followed the norm for US presidents and western or western-oriented mainstream politicians of that era. He supported policies benefiting multinational corporations and the wealthy while often harming the rest of the population, ecosystems, and future generations. 

He was a turning point OR blip in one sense. He was a democratically elected leader who intentionally set out to confuse and erode democratic norms and undermine democratic institutions. (I don’t know if this will turn out to be a turning point or a blip. I imagine he has done some lasting damage in this area.)

As a footnote, we can also mention that his presidency did to some extent mobilize people on the other end of the policy spectrums (diversity, equality, sustainability etc.) 

He represents the failure of political leaders and people in general of that era (late 1900s and early- to mid-2000s) to deal with ecological issues. He ignored climate change and rolled back environmental regulations. He was the norm in that he didn’t take the issues seriously enough, he didn’t implement sufficient measures, and he didn’t do what was needed in terms of restructuring all of society and all institutions to create a society aligned with ecological realities.

In hindsight, knowing that this restructuring could have benefited them in all areas of society and life (science, research, technology, economics, well being and more), it seems bizarre that they didn’t. Although it’s also understandable since it did require a massive restructuring and realignment, and they did operate and view the world from within the old paradigm.

September 10, 2018

Native American DNA & Synchronicity. About a year ago, I received my ancestry and health information from 23andme. Most of the results were expected (mostly Norwegian / Northern European with some British, French, and German).

But one result was surprising: a small amount of my DNA was assigned to Native American ancestry. I am not aware of any Native American ancestry, or even any pathways explaining how it could have happened. So although I was intrigued, I thought it was probably a mistake. 

I still do, but it’s interesting to me in a few different ways. I have always experienced a deep resonance with Native American cultures. As a child, I always wanted to be the “Indian” when we played cowboys and Indians. When I first came to North America (Utah) to study, I felt I arrived at a sacred land and felt deeply at home. When I first went down to southern Utah and slept out alone under the night sky, I felt more profoundly at home than I have felt anywhere else before or after. When I read books written by Native Americans (especially shamans / holy men), there is a deep sense of familiarity, resonance, and coming home. 

Two things are especially interesting to me. One is that this can be seen as a synchronicity. I have (at a deeper level) wanted to have this ancestry, was certain it wasn’t in me, and yet it shows up in my DNA ancestry report.

Another is that the DNA patterns used to identify ancestry groups are found in most or all populations in the world. It’s just that some patterns are more commonly found among certain groups. So it may be that I have DNA patterns most commonly found among Native Americans, even if I don’t have that particular ancestry. I guess that’s another form of synchronicity. 

Data collection and sharing. It’s well known that social media platforms, search engines, and apps and websites in general collect and sometimes share user data for marketing purposes, and also that this data can say a lot more about us than we may initially think. I feel I am relatively updated on and aware of this, but even I sometimes get surprised to the apparent extent of it. Over the last couple of days, I have had two telling experiences:

Two days ago, I searched for an obscure Japanese movie from the 50s on Netflix on my phone (which they didn’t have since they have a terrible collection of international classics), and when I then opened YouTube to look for it there, a clip from the movie came up as the first recommended video (before I had searched for it). Unless it was a remarkable coincidence, it means that data from my iPhone Netflix app searches somehow gets sent to YouTube (Google). 

Yesterday, I listened to the audiobook of Michael Palin’s Around the World in 80 days, which is based on the 80s BBC TV series. The 5-minute segment I listened to was from crossing the Arabian sea, and specifically about using a treacherous outboard toilet. When I later that day opened YouTube, the first recommended clip was exactly that segment from the original TV series. Again, it was a remarkable coincidence (even more remarkable considering how obscure and specific it was), or my audiobook listening data is somehow conveyed to Google and YouTube. This one went even beyond what I thought they were up to. And I have certainly not knowingly given anyone permission to gather and share this type of data. 

September 11, 2018

International Criminal Court. In the latest barrage of news from the Trump administration, I see they are threatening the ICC and will probably do what they can to delegitimize, weaken, and withdraw from it. It’s partly because they won’t acknowledge any international institutions above their own. (Which is out of step with a globally interconnected world with global problems that require global solutions and institutions.) And, as so much of what this administration does, it may be a step in preventing their own legal trouble. 

Trump’s second term? Will Trump have a second term? I wouldn’t be surprised since he likely will last his first term (unlikely to be ousted or resign), his pride will probably tell him to run again, his base (around 40%) seems unshaken by anything he says or does, after the election in November (if the Democrats get a house majority) the Republicans can blame the Democrats for everything that went wrong, and Trump serves the Republicans well in terms of getting policies through while distracting through his behavior. There is a small chance he won’t run again, and an even tinier chance he will be ousted from office. If he runs again, there is, of course, a chance – perhaps even a good chance – the Democrats will do well. In any case, this is all a blip on the arc of history, as Obama said, and it’s good to keep an eye more on the real and far more important issues. 
 
September 29, 2018

Catholic Church abuse. I see that the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church keeps unfolding. It’s a complex situation, although also quite simple. Two of the main problems are celibacy and the absence of female priests. Celibacy prevents any legitimate and open way to live out ones sexuality. And the lack of female priests removes that very needed correction in a male and patriarchal culture. By holding onto outdated rules for the priesthood, the church itself has set the stage for these problems.

Another and related problem is, of course, the lack of transparency and the desire of people higher up in the hierarchy to hush down these very serious problems. 

US Supreme Court. After the Kavanaugh hearings, it’s abundantly clear that the US supreme court is anything but a neutral institution. It’s thoroughly politicized. That makes it even more unfortunate that the judges are there for life. It’s yet another aspect of the US political system that, in its present form, is out of step with how a real democracy works. 

The internal problems of empire. As I see it, many of the current problems in the US are internal problems of being an empire. Any empire is dependent on a large military which depletes its economy and leaves less for their own citizens (lack of good education, healthcare, social safety nets etc.). And it’s also dependent on authoritarianism, suppression, distraction, and avoiding being a well-functioning democracy. All of which are hallmarks of the US today. Although not everyone would agree, I see the toxic masculinity of US culture is one of many symptoms inherent in being an empire. 

Of course, Trump and others are doing their best to dismantle the US as an empire and it’s likely to crumble within one or two decades. (Meaning that the US as an international power will fade, not that the US as a country will fall apart.) 

Buying into chaos and drama. When I worked at a center in southern California, I was repeatedly surprised and dismayed when my two bosses would buy into the chaos and drama created by some clients (mostly young male drug addicts). These clients would say something they knew was inflammatory, or they would spread lies about others with the intent to create conflict, and the two managers so often bought into it and fueled the drama with their own emotions. The pattern seemed so obvious, and it seemed so clear and transparent what the clients intended to do, and yet the managers bought into it. (This was partly a center for addiction recovery and partly a center for spirituality.) 

The same seems to be happening in the US today. Russia has explicitly set out to create chaos, drama, and internal strife within the US (and other western countries), and the politicians and others in the US seem to wholeheartedly buy into it. They fell right into the trap.  

Let Your will be done

 

One of the more central and traditional forms of Christian prayers is let Your will be done

It’s an acknowledgment that we, as human beings, cannot absolutely control anything. Life has the final word. 

Also, it helps us reorient to this reality. As we engage in this prayer, it works on us. Life’s will is already being done. That’s just how it is. And by engaging in this prayer, we can allow it to work on us. We allow our conscious view and the views of all our human parts to realign with this reality.

And that makes it easier when things don’t seem to go “our way” as we see it as human beings. There is a little more receptivity. A little more curiosity. A little more opening to find the genuine gifts in what’s happening, even if we don’t initially like it very much. 

A companion prayer is I give it all up to You. I give all of what’s happening with me as a human being up to life (or God, Spirit). I give it all up to the larger wisdom and love. I give it up as compost for whatever can come out of it – clarity, insights, receptivity, or something else.  

These two prayers form a context for my life. Let Your will be done. I give it all up to You. And within that, I live my life much as before. I am still active and engaged. I still have hopes, wishes, and plans. I still try to be a good steward of my own life. I still try to fulfill my roles as best I can. 

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How do heart-centered practices work?

 

How do heart-centered practices work?

It depends on the particular practice, but here are some general things I have noticed.

They help me reorient. To shift from seeing something as a problem (an enemy, wrong, bad) or neutral, to befriending it, finding kindness towards it, and seeing it as a support. And this goes for anything from a situation, to another person, to myself and parts of myself, to life in general, and God.

My energy systems comes more alive and brightens.

It’s experienced as an opening of the heart. And with that comes an opening of the mind. There is more receptivity, sincerity, curiosity, and interest. (And less rigid, defensive, and fixed views.)

It helps me notice what in me is not quite on board. It helps me notice parts of me where there is still wounding, trauma, identifications, and unfelt feelings, unloved lovables, and unexamined beliefs. I can meet these, allow, rest with. Relate to them with respect, patience, and light curiosity. If it feels right, I can do the heart-centered practice for these scared and unloved parts of me. Or I can explore them through inquiry. Or invite in healing through whatever healing practices are available to me.

These shifts are naturally reflected in my life. I notice when and how this happens. And if it doesn’t, that’s OK and also an invitation to see what’s going on. Something in me may be triggered that temporarily clouds over a more clear and kind way of being.

What are some examples of heart-centered practices? The ones I am most familiar with are ho’oponopno (Hawaii), tonglen (Tibet), heart or Jesus prayer (Christianity), and perhaps also the Christ meditation. (See other articles for descriptions of these.) And there are many more from many different traditions. Heart-centered practices can be profoundly transformative, and that’s something people from all cultures and times have paid attention to.

And what’s the main reason heart-centered practices are so transformative, healing, and central to most spiritual traditions? It’s because they help us align with reality. If all is the divine, then holding onto enemy images brings us out of alignment with that reality. It creates discomfort, stress, and suffering at an individual level, and also social and even ecological problems. Reorienting helps us align with reality, which brings a sense of peace, clarity, kindness, aliveness, and a natural engagement.

Note: I have deliberately used a more conventional language some places here. For instance, everything described here is part of the divine play. It’s the divine temporarily and locally taking itself to be a separate being, and a being that sees parts of the world as an enemy (a problem, bad, wrong etc.). There is nothing inherently wrong in it, but it does create distress and suffering. And that’s the call back to a more conscious alignment with all as the divine.

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Everything that happens has a meaning?

 

Does everything that happens have a meaning?

When something apparently unfortunate happens in our life, does it have a meaning?

Yes. We can give it a meaning. We can use it to learn, grown, mature, be of service and so on.

No. Nothing has an inherent meaning in a conventional sense. Any meaning comes from an overlay of thoughts. (And a felt sense of meaning comes when these thoughts are associated with certain sensations in the body.)

Yes. If everything is the play of the divine, then that’s the underlying meaning of everything. The play itself is the meaning. The divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

So we can give what happens a meaning for us. We can notice that it’s inherently free from meaning since any meaning comes from an overlay of thought, sometimes connected with certain body sensations that make it a felt sense of meaning. And, in some ways, the meaning of anything is that it’s the play of the divine.

The first helps us orient. The second helps us hold any ideas of meaning lightly. The third is something we may find for ourselves through our own exploration and it can give us a sense of the underlying OKness of what’s happening.

Note: The third one can be talked about in two different ways. One is that everything happens within and as what we are. It’s the play of awakeness as form. The other is what I wrote above, that this can be seen as the play of the divine.

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How does The Work work?

 

How does The Work of Byron Katie work?

As with anything else in life, it’s ultimately a mystery. But we can also say a few things about it.

Here is some things I have noticed:

It’s a confession, and we are seen by another without (or with less) judgment. And that, in itself, is somewhat healing.

And then there are some elements nearly explicit in the process itself.

We get to identify our stressful beliefs about a situation, someone else, life, or ourselves. We get to pinpoint the close (proximal) cause of our stress and suffering.

We get to see that our thoughts about it may not be as true as we initially thought. Our mind opens a bit to other possibilities, and to hold it a bit lighter.

We get to see what happens when we hold onto the thought as true. We get to see the stress and suffering it creates for ourselves, and what it does to our life and our relationship to others.

We get to imagine how it would be if we didn’t hold onto it as true. We get to imagine feeling it.

We get to consider and see the validity in the reversals of the thought, and that the initial thought, as well as its reversals, all have some limited validity to them. This also helps soften our grip on the initial thought.

We get to pick one reversal and see how it is to bring it into our life and how it is to live from it in daily life.

So we get to identify and question our initial stressful thought. Our mind is invited to soften its grip on it, and consider the validity in the reversals. And, as mentioned above, we – in the best case, if we work with an experienced facilitator – feel seen, met, understood, and not judged by another human being, and that in itself is healing, and shows us that we can do the same towards ourselves.

Another way The Work works is that it can give us clarity to act on something in our life that requires our action, and to do so with more clarity, kindness, and hopefully wisdom.

Mindfulness for relaxation?

 

As the modern exploration of practices from various spiritual traditions matures, so does our awareness of the upsides and downsides of these practices, and useful precautions.

For instance, it’s a bit naive to promote mindfulness for relaxation. These practices were evolved for awakening, not relaxation. Relaxation may be an initial pleasant side-effect. But mindfulness practices are liable to eventually take the lid off unprocessed psychological material, and that can be surprising (if nobody told us), frightening, and overwhelming (especially if we don’t have guidance from someone familiar with the process).

This can happen early on, in rare cases even in our initial experience with meditation. And it’s reasonably likely to happen, to some extent and at some point, if we stick with a mindfulness practice over time. This depends a bit on what type of mindfulness practice we engage in, but it can happen with even the most watered-down versions.

So what are some precautions? Participants in mindfulness courses should be informed about what may happen. (“Mindfulness” here can mean yoga, tai chi, chi gong, and various types of meditation.) The instructor should be trained in recognizing it when it happens and either know how to help people through it or send the person to someone qualified to guide them through it. And if someone has a history of trauma, including developmental trauma, they need to know that it’s more likely to happen in their case, they should be encouraged to get help to heal from the trauma, and if they still want to continue with the mindfulness practice, to take it slowly.

Why does it tend to happen? One way to see it is that mindfulness (or awakening) practices aim at opening the mind to what we are, and that tends to also open the mind to whatever in us is not yet processed. Also, mindfulness tends to invite in a healing of the mind, and that includes meeting what in us is previously unmet. Awakening tends to go into unawakening when a wounded part of us is triggered, and bringing these to the surface gives them a chance to be healed. And an intrinsic part of the awakening path is embodiment, and embodiment – living from whatever clarity, kindness, and wisdom is here – can only take place to the extent we are healed psychologically.

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Does God evolve?

 

Does God evolve?

If all is God, and the universe evolves, the answer clearly is yes.

It seems obvious from this view. (We could call it a panentheistic or even nondual view informed by modern science.) And yet, I realize it’s perhaps not so obvious if we are used to a theistic view that sees God as somehow separate from creation.

What doesn’t evolve is the basic – and useful although thought-created – distinction between who and what we are. As who we are, we develop and change and we are an intrinsic part of an evolving living planet and an evolving universe. And we find that who we are and the world we experience, as any content of experience, happens within and as what we are. No matter how much or in what ways creation evolves, it still happens within and as what we are.

And what does evolve is anything in form, the whole universe, and even the world of subtle energies if that’s part of our worldview. This means that the way we come into awakening may slightly change and evolve over historic time. (As is a common view in some forms of modern spirituality.) The content of awakening, meaning what’s noticed and lived from, may also slightly change.

And yet, the essence of awakening remains the same and is timeless. It’s still the divine awakening to itself as all there is and all of it as the play of the divine. The divine expresses, explores, and experiences itself as all of existence including this evolving universe, this living planet, and each and all apparently separate beings. Sometimes, it temporarily and locally takes itself to be a separate being. And sometimes, it wakes up to itself as what all of this happens within and as.

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