It’s not what we are?

 

In non-duality circles, it’s popular to say that our emotions, thoughts, identities, body etc. is not who we are.

That’s true enough, but also a little simplistic and possibly a bit misleading.

First, there is typically an identification as (some of) our thoughts, emotions, and identities. We have stories that tells us that some of these are what we are, and there are sensations associated with these stories that give them charge and lend them a sense of substance and reality.

Then, we may realize that it’s not what we are. Emotions, thoughts, identities and everything else comes and goes. It lives its own life. It’s not what we are. We are not any content of experience. We are what it happens within.

And then, we may realize that we actually are it. What we are is what any content of experience happens within and as.

The first is identification with thoughts saying we are some emotions, thoughts, and identities. There is a duality where thoughts and sensations tells us we are this particular human being, and not the rest of the world. Looking at how people talk about it, we see that even awareness or consciousness (or “soul”) is seen as others. There are a lot of contradictions in this duality which are pretty easy to point out.

The second is still a duality. We are that which content of experience happens within. And this content is other. This is a more clean and simple duality.

The third is more aligned with reality. We are all of it – awareness and awareness taking the form of its own content of experience, whether we call this content this human being or the rest of the world.

So when nonduality folks say it’s not who (or what) we are, that’s partially correct. It’s a pointer that’s useful in a particular phase of the process. But there is no absolute or final truth to it. It does reflect a duality. And if held too tightly as a truth, it may temporarily prevent us from noticing that we actually are all of it. None of it is wrong at all. It’s all typical parts of the process.

For me, this process has been slightly unusual in some ways and typical in other ways. And that’s typical too (!). When I was 15, center of gravity was pulled out of identification as this human being and into consciousness as the witness. There was a clear and simple duality between what I experienced myself as, which was the observer or witness, and the rest which was this human self and the rest of the world. It was very strong and slightly disturbing. I went to a great number of doctors and specialists to see if they could figure out what was going on. I was convinced something was seriously wrong. (At the time, I was an atheist although I had a long standing interest in parapsychology.)

About a year later, there was a shift into everything being revealed as consciousness (Spirit, God), love, wisdom, and home. Everything without exception, although there was still a thin thread of identification as this human self and there was an awareness of that remaining identification still being there.

I had no interest in spirituality at the time, and although it was very clear that all is consciousness/Spirit/love/wisdom and it was profoundly familiar when it was revealed, it also took some adjusting at a human level. Both shifts were very sudden. The first happened over a few minutes January 1st around noon when I was out in the sun. The second happened at night, walking along a gravel road with the bright stars above me and a big wind blowing through (I think awe of the wind and the stars somehow triggered the shift.)

Since then, I have mostly just tried to learn to navigate and live from it. And over the last several years, there has been a “dark night of the soul” with a lot of unprocessed psychological material surfacing to be seen, felt, loved, recognized as Spirit, and healed.

And that too is a typical phase or part of the process.

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Is nuclear green?

 

As the sun shone on millions of solar panels and unseasonable gusts turned thousands of turbine blades last Sunday, something remarkable happened to Britain’s power grid.

For a brief period, a record 70% of the electricity for the UK’s homes and businesses was low-carbon, as nuclear, solar and wind crowded out coal and even gas power stations. That afternoon was a glimpse into the future, of how energy provision will look in 13 years’ time because of binding carbon targets.

– The Guardian, Record levels of green energy in UK create strange new world for generators (my emphasis)

I find it strange and disorienting when people talk about nuclear (fission) energy as “green”.

It may be that the immediate emissions are minimal. But in the bigger picture, there is a great deal of very dangerous and difficult pollution that’s created. And even worse, this is pollution that’s passed on to a great number of future generations that didn’t agree to it, don’t have a voice in the matter, and don’t even benefit from it.

So is fission energy “green”? Only from the most narrow minded perspective. Taking the full picture into account, it certainly is not.

Fusion energy is more clean so that’s a bit different, but that’s still in the future.

Vortex vs energy healing modalities

 

Most energy healing modalities use vital-level energy to energize or balance the body’s vital energy system. Four fairly well-known examples of this would be Jin Shin Jyutsu, polarity, Reiki, and healing modalities that work with “prana”, which is the Sanskrit word for “life force energy”. One could also include acupuncture, since that works with balancing vital energy, even though it uses needles to accomplish this rather than channeling energy.

Using vital energy, these kinds of practices can do a nice job of harmonizing the outer layers of the energy system, which releases stress, promotes health, and engages people in their issues. But they cannot penetrate deeply into the core of the body’s energy system where the deeper energetic blockages are held, and they cannot work directly in consciousness. You need a different kind of energy for that. You need an energy with a higher frequency, which is divine energy.

Although vital energy is originally divine energy that is ‘slowed down’ so it can function as the livingness of creation, as healing tools these two energies function very differently. Divine energy, being at a much higher frequency, can penetrate into any kind of energetic blockage no matter how deep it is. It is much more intense and compressed, so as it penetrates these blockages, it can break them up.

It’s like the difference between regular sound waves and the kind of sound waves used to break up a kidney stone. Using regular sound waves, talking to a kidney stone, or playing music for it all day will have no impact; but the kind of high-focused sound that is used for this can penetrate the stones and break them up. However, there are certain kinds of health situations where vital energy, if used properly, can have a better impact than divine energy.

– Ric Weinman in VortexHealing

This fits my experience.

Mindfulness to deal with burnout?

 

I usually don’t write about mainstream psychology here since it’s covered well many other places. But the topic of burnout has been on my mind lately as I have helped with a thesis on the topic and it illustrates a more general point.

In the mindfulness world, mindfulness is sometimes promoted as an antidote to burnout. And that’s true enough. It can certainly help individuals to be more resilient and reduce the chances of burnout.

At the same time, mindfulness is an individual solution to a more systemic problem. In most cases of workplace burnout, the problems lies with the structures and the system. It has to do with how the business is organized and operated. It has to do with the owner and management.

And beyond that, it has to do with how we have organized ourselves collectively. It has to do with our current social and economic system, and especially the very obvious downsides to neoliberalism.

Beyond that again, it has to do with our most basic worldview. We currently have a worldview that separates humans from nature, values the material over the immaterial, the human over rest of life, and too often values profit over people.

As individuals we function in a larger social and ecological system, and that’s where most of the causes and solutions to burnout – and a range of other apparently individual problems – lie.

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Spirituality = ?

 

What is spirituality?

It’s a term used to mean many different things, as Ken Wilber has pointed out.

So what does it mean to me? How do I use it here?

To me, spirit = reality, and spirituality = exploring and aligning more consciously with reality.

In a Christian culture, this may seem a bit odd. Christianity came to create a dualistic worldview that sees spirit as mostly separate from this world. And that, in turn, meant that spirituality came to mean something impractical, mysterious, indefineable, and irrelevant to the daily lives of most of us. It became something we encountered briefly and occasionally in church and perhaps at Christmas, Easter, baptisms, weddings, and funerals.

For me, since spirit = reality, it means that spirituality is practical, relevant to daily life, and doesn’t have to be that mysterious. It’s something that can be understood and described in practical terms.

And what is reality? It’s our everyday reality, in addition to the aspects of reality we are not yet familiar with and haven’t explored or described yet (either individually or collectively). Our experience of life or reality is, obviously, very limited. And our interpretations and maps are tentative, only useful as pointers, and have no absolute or final truth in them.

There are many ways to explore reality. Everyday life and science are perhaps the most common ones in our culture. Spirituality is yet another way of exploring life and reality. And the tools of this particular approach happens to include prayer, meditation, body-mind practices, inquiry, energy work, transmissions, and more.

So science and spirituality are two ways to explore life and reality. They compliment each other. And they even use many of the same guidelines and methods. Scientific methods and guidelines very much apply to spiritual explorations.

And how do we use spirituality to consciously align more closely with reality? We do so through an honest exploration of what’s real. For instance, through inquiry I may see that thoughts or images I hold as real and true are not. They are created by my mind. Other thoughts and images about the same are equally or more valid. And none of them hold any final or absolute truth.

This is an ongoing process, and if I am honest with myself and have some basic skills, it will help my view and life gradually align more closely with life and reality.

How does that look? It looks very ordinary. It looks like normal clarity and sanity. It looks like living life as a more mature and sane human being, in a very ordinary sense.

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Purpose of a forum for healers

 

In Buddhism, the three jewels are the Buddha (what we are, Big Mind), dharma (teachings, pointers), and sangha (fellow explorers). And with Vortex Healing, I have sometimes been reminded of the value of sangha.

I recently got frustrated by the lack of focus on a Vortex Healing (VH) forum on Facebook. Out of the ten most recent posts, only two were on VH and the rest were music, quotes, jokes, pseudo-science and even fake news. I voiced my wish for a more narrow focus on VH. After all, that’s what the forum is about and the right constraints allows anyone and anything to thrive.

The feedback from others helped me see it from a slightly different angle.

Of course, some felt a need for it to be more informal to create more of a sense of community.

More interestingly, there is also the intention for it to be allowing of any types of posts – including pseudo-science and fake news – as an educational opportunity. It gives people an opportunity to learn how to give feedback on these types of posts in a respectful and helpful manner, and those posting it to learn discernment and critical thinking.

There is nothing particularly revolutionary or unusual there. But I was impressed that those behind the forum are intentionally allowing of those types of posts for that reason.

I would still prefer the focus to be narrowly on VH. But I now, at least, understand why it is set up as it is.

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Past lives as metaphor

 

This is pretty obvious, but I’ll mention it again since I was reminded of the topic.

Sometimes, images of past lives may come up in a healing session or spontaneously, either from ourselves or someone else who then tells us about it.

And these past lives can be seen as metaphors for something going on in us here and now. We can use them as pointers or questions. Can I find the dynamic here and now, in me or my own life?

The other side to past lives is whether they exist or not. Is there a continuity or thread through a series of lives? This is more a question for science. (Leslie Kean has just written a book about this.)

There is yet another side to this. If there is some continuity through lives, that is a continuity of conditioning and imprints. Said a little too simplisticly, it’s not who or what we are. We are what any content of experience happens within and as, including this life and any past lives.

So past lives can be used as a pointer or metaphor for what’s going on here and now. It can be studied scientifically. And this or past lives are not really what we are.

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I am not useful?

 

Sometimes, we feel we are not useful. Maybe even that the world would be better without us in it.

Inquiry. This comes from thoughts, and it can be good to investigate these thoughts.

The Work. What stressful stories do I have about myself? How others see me? What the world expects from me? How I should be to be useful? What do I find when I examine these thoughts through The Work?

Living Inquiries. What does it say about me that I am not useful? Make a list. Find the statement that has the most charge and examine it. See what thoughts (images, words) and sensations make up this identity. If guided through this process by someone experienced in this form of inquiry, it can help release the stressful charge behind it.

Lila. Also, if it’s real to us, it can be helpful to remember lila. It’s all the play of the divine. The universe and us within it is life – the Universe, the divine – expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself. We are the play of the divine. Our life – as it is right now – is the play of the divine. Nothing is out of order. Nothing is wrong. There is no lessons to be learned. Nothing we are placed here to achieve.

Don’t know. We may discover this through inquiry, or we can remind ourselves, that we don’t really know. All my stressful stories and thoughts about myself and the world are stories and thoughts. They don’t reflect an inherent or absolute truth about myself or life.

The two last reminders – lila and don’t know – can be helpful reminders if they remind us of something that’s real to us. Something discovered through a spiritual opening or awakening, or through inquiry. Otherwise, they may be a pointer, something to explore for ourselves, for instance through inquiry.  Or it may be something not so useful for us right now.

TRE, Breema, Vortex Healing. I should also add that other tools can be helpful if we feel that we are not useful, our lives don’t matter, or that the world is better off without us. TRE can help release the tension, stress, and traumas behind it or created by it. Breema can help us find and experience the wholeness are already are. Vortex Healing can help clear the identities, beliefs, and traumas creating these experiences.

And there are, of course, innumerable other approaches that can help release the charge in the identities and beliefs behind this pattern, and help us (re)find our clarity. The ones I mentioned above are just some of the ones I have found most helpful.

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CFS and how my body puts functions on rotation

 

When the chronic fatigue (CFS) is strong, I find myself mostly resting. And in good periods, I can usually get most things done.

But when it’s medium strong, as it is now, I notice how my abilities seem to cycle.

For instance:

I may have OK mental energy and not so much physical energy, or the other way around. If the mental energy is OK, I can get some paperwork or writing done. If the physical energy is OK, I may be able to do some errands, clean, or go for a good walk.

Some mental functions may work OK but not others. I may be able to read but not write, or edit photos but not have a long conversation, and it may switch the following day.

Some physical functions may work OK but not others. I may be able to clean but not go for walks, and this too may change the next day.

It’s as if my bodymind has put the different functions on rotation. My limited energy is rationed out, and each area of life gets its day. But not all at once the way it was before the CFS. There is a beautiful wisdom in it. It means I am able to do different things on different days without trying to do too much on any one day. So over a few days, I may be able to cover many of the things on my list.

The trick is to go with the flow as much as possible and trust that a day will come when I’ll be able to do what I didn’t or couldn’t do today.

It also depends to some extent on what’s required. If something is strongly called for, and I have a reasonably good day, I may be able to mobilize enough energy to get it done – although it tends to come at a cost.

And if something is scheduled, I am often able to prepare – through rest and taking care of myself – so I am able to do it on that particular day.

I should also say that some things that seem especially daunting is hard to get done even on good days or in good periods. That’s when it’s good to have help from others.

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Pitfalls of meditation

 

As different forms of meditation practice become more popular in the west, there is also a growing awareness of the possible pitfalls of meditation.

Here are a few:

We may be guided – either by ourselves or through a teacher – by misguided ideas. This may lead us to inadvertently practice or reinforce something unhelpful.

We may open up to various transcendent states and experiences and not know how to navigate them.

We may open up a Pandora’s Box of unprocessed psychological material.

In general, we may enter certain areas of the path or landscape without good guidance. Areas that are not fruitful. Or areas that are confusing, disorienting, and sometimes scary or overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to have access to a guide who understands and knows the terrain well from their own experience. Unfortunately, that’s often not

Unfortunately, many teachers – including many who have a formal training within a certain tradition – have a very limited skillset and experience. If anything slightly out of the ordinary happens, they may not know how to guide the student through it.

And fortunately, there are people out there who have this experience and the necessary skillset. What I have seen is that these are often people who are not bound by any one tradition. They may have training and experience from one or more tradition. But they also know and understand that the terrain we are exploring is far wider than any tradition typically covers, and that the pointers and skills needed to navigate is found in many different traditions and also outside of any tradition.

Of course, I am biased. The previous paragraph describes my own path and background, and the background of those who have guided me, so that’s naturally what I am more familiar with and inclined to see as helpful.

Healing, Awakening & Sustainability = aligning with reality

 

Healing, awakening, & sustainability. As shines through what I wrote above, healing, awakening and sustainability are all about aligning with reality. That’s why the three – for me – are inseperable. The seeds of dis-ease, an unawakened experience, and a society out of tune with the larger living world, are all the same. And the basic remedy is the same as well – align with life and reality.

For healing, we can align through inquiry, TRE, Breema, yoga, meditation and more. For awakening, we can align through inquiry, meditation, prayer, and more (whatever helps us ripen). For sustainability, we can align with life through philosophical and economic frameworks that takes ecological realities into account (which none of the current mainstream ones do), and a generally worldview that does the same.

This is from a previous post where I wrote mostly about healing and awakening, and added sustainability as an afterthought. So I thought I would write a briefer post here about the three as equals.

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

Healing is here healing of the mind, and we do so by questioning stressful and debilitating thoughts and finding what’s more true for us. When we look closely, my experience and the experience of others, is that we find something that’s genuinely more true for us than the initial thought that’s also very healing. (The Work.) Or we may find that thoughts that seemed real and substantial because they had a charge (associated with sensations) now have less or no charge. They are recognized as a thought, and comes with less or no stress. (Living Inquiries.)

Awakening similarly comes from seeing what’s more real than our initial experience and assumptions. Consciousness takes itself as (a) a being (b) that’s separate from everything else, and that comes from a deeply ingrained thought helds as true. When consciousness starts to align more with reality, it recognizes itself as all there is, and the local being as happening within and as itself. The being doesn’t go away, and doesn’t really need to change. The only change is a shift of what consciousness takes itself to be. And just as with healing and maturing, this is an ongoing process.

Sustainability has to do with aligning our worldviews and all our philosophies, frameworks, and systems with ecological realities. To the extent our views and how we organize ourselves – individually and collectively – is aligned with life, we have a sustainable life and society. Right now, we are quite far from this.

Our current mainstream worldviews and frameworks (for economy, industry, transportation, energy, waste etc.) are set up as if our wider ecological systems didn’t exist. This means they are inevitably unsustainable. Even our current mainstream attempts of sustainability are done within this mental and physical framework and are not anywhere close to being really sustainable.

We do have a wide range of good replacements of these views and systems, and real-life examples of how we can organize ourselves collectively and live our lives. We just need to chose to implement them. And that will come. It has to come, at least if we come to our senses and wish for our civilization to continue.

It may seem that our only choice is between real sustainability or collapse of civilization as we know it. But there is also a(n unsatisfactory) middle ground where we have a partial collapse, a loss of a good number of people, and an attempt to build up again from there.

Reality is kind & ruthless. In each of these three areas, reality waits for us and shows us when we are off. It’s kind in that sense. And also ruthless if we don’t get it.

Why not all three? Why do some chose to focus on only one or two of these, when they so obviously are intertwined? I don’t know. It may have to do with personal inclination and interest, or perhaps just wanting to specialize.

Symbiotic. For me, there is a symbiotic relationship between healing, awakening, and sustainability. The seed problems and solutions are the same in each of these areas. There is a great deal of room to explore how patterns in one area is transferable to another, offering new insights and ways of working with it. I assume we’ll see much more of this in the future.

Healing & awakening = aligning with reality 

 

Healing and awakening is all about aligning with reality – at all levels of our being.

That’s a tall order. And it’s already what’s here.

In brief:

We are a local part and expression of life. We are already reality so from this perspective, no alignment needs to happen. We can’t align with what we already are.

And yet, as human beings, we are typically out of alignment in many ways. There is room for alignment and this alignment is an ongoing process of exploration and inquiry, healing and maturing as human beings, and embodying our discoveries and realizations.

How did we get out of alignment? We got out of alignment by holding our thoughts as solid, real, and true. We aligned with our thoughts more than being receptive to life as it is. We came to identify and experiencing ourselves as a being separate from the rest of existence. (Consiousness identified in that way, and took itself to be a being within the content of itself.) And this process built on itself so we came to create wounds, trauma, dynamics leading to some physical illnesses, relationship problems, and a culture and society out of tune with the larger living world.

Nothing is wrong. It’s all life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. And yet, it is uncomfortable so at some point, there is a motivation to coming back into alignment with life so we can find a sense of home, being in tune with reality, and being more at ease.

How do we get back into alignment? We do so by noticing what we are. That we already are (this local expression of) life and a whole that always is whole. We do so by healing and maturing as human beings. We do so by an ongoing process of clarifying and embodying.

That’s the short version.

And in more detail:

Already reality. We are, in a sense, already 100% aligned with reality. We are life, this local part of the Universe, all of us is already Spirit. We cannot help being 100% reality. We are more than aligned with reality, we are reality. We are this local thinking, feeling, experiencing part of reality. As what we are, we are already reality.

Room for realignment. And it’s a tall order. It’s an ongoing process. We’ll need to face a great deal that may be uncomfortable to us, mainly because we have habitually pushed it away and seen as scary. As who we are, this human being, there is a lot of room for realignment.

Out of alignment. How did we get out of alignment?

One answer is that we, as human beings, tend to believe our thoughts. We hold some of our thoughts as real and true representations of reality and perceive and live as if that’s the case. That inherently creates a sense of separation and of being a separate being, and temporarily veils what we already are. (Life experiencing itself through this local body and these local thoughts, feelings, and experiences.) This – combined with meeting difficult life situations – is also what creates contractions, wounds, and trauma, and the accumulated effects of different types of contractions.

Another answer is Lila, the play of the divine. It seems that Existence has an inherent drive to experience itself in always new ways. The universe is life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways. And one aspect of that is creating beings and energetic/consciousness veils that create a temporary and local experience of separation. Nothing went wrong. There are no lessons to be learned, no redemption to be earned. It’s just the temporary play of the divine.

Into alignment. So how do we get back into alignment?

We get back into alignment by noticing that we already are life and whole as we are. We already are a wholeness that’s always whole. We can understand that in different ways, and the easiest may be to notice that all happens within and as awakeness or consciousness. And that’s always whole and undivided.

We also get back into alignment through healing and maturing as human beings. And by consciously living from whatever realizations we have about life, what we are, and who we are (aka embodiment).

Both of these are ongoing explorations. As what we are, we keep noticing and clarifying. As who we are, we keep healing, maturing, and embodying. And it’s not at all a linear path.

A few additional notes:

Christianity. I thought I would say a few words about Christianity. In some cultures, the idea of aligning with reality for healing and awakening is natural and comes in from birth. I assume Buddhist cultures, Taoist cultures, and many native cultures are this way.

In other cultures, and specifically Christian and perhaps Abrahamic or theistic cultures in general, it’s different. Here, nature, life, and reality is viewed with some ambivalence and perhaps suspicion.

In Christinanity, there is the idea of original sin which makes us question our own nature, we are suspicious of our natural drives (sex, eating, resting etc.). We may also be trained to be suspicious of nature and life since it can lead us into temptation. In a Christian culture, or one that was Christian for a long time, it can seem odd or questionable to want to align with reality. If we and nature is more or less inherently sinful, why would we align with it?

Maybe it’s better to push it away as much as we can? Or maybe it’s better to transcend? We may try transcending, and find it works for a while, but reality is whole so we are inevitably brought back here and now with what’s already here.

In this case, it’s good to take small steps. Try it out and see what happens. We can explore this through inquiry where we question stressful thougths and find what’s more true for us. We can also explore it through body-centered practices such as Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises where we use the natural and inherent mechanisms of the body to find healing. Through these explorations, we may see that aligning with nature and reality is healing and can give us a sense of coming home.  We gradually build trust.

Healing, awakening, & sustainability. As shines through what I wrote above, healing, awakening and sustainability are all about aligning with reality. That’s why the three – for me – are inseperable. The seeds of dis-ease, an unawakened experience, and a society out of tune with the larger living world, are all the same. And the basic remedy is the same as well – align with life and reality.

For healing, we can align through inquiry, TRE, Breema, yoga, meditation and more. For awakening, we can align through inquiry, meditation, prayer, and more (whatever helps us ripen). For sustainability, we can align with life through philosophical and economic frameworks that takes ecological realities into account (which none of the current mainstream ones do), and a generally worldview that does the same.

Psychotherapy. I intentionally left out psychotherapy from my (brief) list of ways we can find healing. That’s because psychotherapy can be healing or not depending on who’s doing it (the therapist) and the approach they are using. If the therapist’s view is inherently skeptical about life and reality, then any healing won’t go very deep. It may even be traumatizing. If their view and life is more deeply aligned with life and reality, and they have a deep trust in life, then the healing can go quite deep. Process Work is an excellent example of an approach that’s inherently trusting of and aligned with life.

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Match

 

So much is about the match.

The particular match between the person and the art, whatever the art is.

A painting. A movie. Music. Food.

With art, some is inherent in the piece. The skills it’s made with. How universally it tends to speak to people. And yet, what it really comes down to is the match. The match between the person, there and then, and the piece.

Since my teens, I have preferred the rare art critics who speak partly about the skills behind and the universality of a piece, and the type of person the piece may be a good match for. (Most critics tend to generalize from how well the piece matches them personally and try to make it sound universal.)

The match principle can be transfered to other areas of life, incluidng pointers for life or spiritual practice. Here too, the skills and insights its coming from, and how universally it applies to people, plays a role. But it really comes down to the match.

The good guide or teacher will offer pointers that match the person and where he or she is at, as much as possible.

Of course, there are exceptions and extreme cases. Some food may be immediately unhealthy for everyone. Some pointers, if taken literally, may be unhelpful to anyone.

Painting by Mark Rothko.

How to be miserable

 

As the video above, and the book it’s based on, reminds us:

It can be helpful to explore how we create what we want less of in our lives.

If I want to be more miserable, what would I do? Here is my list, right now.

Sleep. Make sure to consistently not get enough sleep, or sleep way too much. Make sure it’s consistenly irregular.

Diet. Eat a good deal of dairy, sugar, wheat. Eat mostly refined and processed foods. If you notice you crave something, then eat lots of it.  (Craving = a sign that your body reacts to it.)

Physical activities. Find ways to move as little as possible. Drive instead of walking. Stay indoors as much as you can. Avoid nature.

Thoughts. Believe stressful thoughts. Indulge in them. Never question them. Treat them as true and unquestionable. Seek out more stressful thoughts. Let them amplify each other.

Social. Spend a lot of time alone, isolated. OR spend time with people who focus on what doesn’t work, who believes and reinforces your own stressful thoughts, who is unable to be present with you, who wants you to change (for their own sake). Set other’s needs before your own. Make those around you miserable. (Complain, be ungrateful.)

Situations. Stay in situations that doesn’t work for you, that feels wrong at a deep level. Grin and bear it or complain instead of doing something to change it.

Attention. Put attention on distractions. Put attention on things that are urgent but not important. On news and drama. Train attention to be scattered.

Activities. Set diffuse goals, and impossible goals. Don’t break goals into doable steps. Always wait until you feel like doing it do actually do it instead of scheduling. Tell yourself that whatever you do isn’t enough or won’t work. Let small setbacks or discomforts mean that you should give it up. Complain instead of making a change.

Why does this exploration work?

It helps me examine what doesn’t work, and how this comes about.

It makes it easier to recognize when I do it.

It makes it more into a “thing” which helps me relate to it more intentionally. These dynamics are seen more as an object and are less identified with.

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Lecturing vs. skillful means

 

We learn as much from what doesn’t work as we do from what works.

When I saw the independent spiritual teacher in Oslo (Vigdis G.) a few years ago, there was a mismatch in several areas. One was that she seemed to lecture and tell me to change certain things, without any pointers for how to actually do so. And these were big issues I have been aware of since my teens and have worked on for years. She basically used the “stop it!” approach.

If I am going to be a bit brutal, that seems to be the approach of those who don’t have access to more skillful means.

It felt very unhelpful. I already knew about the issues. (I was the one telling her about them.) I already work on them. And I already am motivated to work on them. None of what she said seemed to help me other than as a reminder of how not to do it if someone comes for support or guidance.

What I find far more helpful is…. Holding space. Being there with the other. Presence. Listen. Asking simple questions that help the other find their own answers (and what they already know). And perhaps, if they ask, offer suggestions for concrete, doable, and practical things they can do to shift or work on something. (After getting a sense of where they are at and what they may be inclined to do.)

Misunderstanding “living in the moment”

 

There are several valid criticisms of mindfulness:

  • It’s a very broad term and it’s used in many different ways. That means that, in itself, it doesn’t mean much.
  • It’s only one element of any serious self-exploration. It needs to be combined with a range of other forms of exploration. For instance different forms of inquiry, heart-centered practices, body inclusive practices, attention to how we live our life, psychological healing, relationship work including our relationship to ourselves, others, society, our planet, and life, and a study of other people’s experiences.
  • It can open up a pandora’s box of unprocessed materials and disorienting transpersonal experiences, and not all mindfulness teachers are experienced enough to guide their students through whatever terrain is opened up.

One argument against mindfulness that I sometimes encounter, and most recently this morning, is a straw man argument and not valid. It’s when people say: “We can’t just live in the present. We need to plan ahead and learn from the past. That’s our strength as human beings.”

That’s all true. And mindfulness allows us to use that ability with more skill and avoid some of its inherent pitfalls.

Mindfulness helps us change our relationship to thoughts. It helps us see that our thoughts – including thoughts about the future, past, and present – happen here and now. They, in themselves, are not the future, past, or present. And mindfulness combined with a simple form of inquiry helps us see that thoughts are made up of imaginations (words, images) and sensations. They are not what they appear to represent.

And that, in turn, creates room for us to relate to these thoughts more intentionally. It helps us recognize thoughts as thoughts. It helps us be less caught up in them. It helps us avoid taking them as anything more than thoughts. It helps us hold them more lightly and recognize then for what they are….. questions about the world.

We not only are able to “live in the present” while using thoughts as tools. We do so all of the time. The only difference is whether we are caught up in our thoughts and take them as real and infallible assumptions about the world, or recognize them as thoughts and questions about the world.

In either case, thoughts help us learn from the past, explore possibilities about the future, and form working assumptions about the present. Without mindfulness, it’s easy for us to take thoughts to be more than they are. And with, we can use them more skillfully as very helpful and essential tools.

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Evil?

 

Some people like to use the word evil.

It’s easy to understand why.

It’s part of our culture. Christianity likes to do the same. (Even if it initially was to discredit competing religions.)

It makes it simple.

We don’t have to look for complex answers to why people behave the way they do.

We can use simplistic solutions. We can tell ourselves that everything will be good if we just get rid of the evil people.

We can put it on others and keep ourselves safely on the good side.

And yet, it is an overly simplistic term. It robs us of the opportunity to a more real understanding which can help us deal with it in a more constructive way.

And that too seems very obvious, but it apparently isn’t to everyone yet.

So what’s behind what looks like evil?

One answer is trauma. When we are traumatized – whether it’s from social conditions or personal interactions – one way to deal with it is to react to it through dehumanizing others and using verbal or physical violence. And that can certainly appear as “evil”.

So what’s the solution? In some ways, the solution is also simple. It is to create a society where people’s basic needs are taken care of. Where food, shelter, education, and health is taken care of. Where there is less inequality globally and within regions. Where people who suffer receive help to heal and get back on their feet.

This is already in place in some countries, mainly in Northern Europe, although there is always room for improvement. To have this happen globally is a taller order, partly because many are opposed to it.

Some are opposed to it since it benefits some to have a great deal of inequality. The current neoliberal ideology, adopted by many in industrialized countries, ensures continued and perhaps widening inequality.

And ironically, some who are traumatized adopt a strong us vs. them ideology which prevents them from supporting policies benefiting everyone – including themselves. (We see this in the US, including among many current Trump supporters.)

Note: I am not blind to the irony in calling “evil” an overly simple label and then proceed to give a relatively simple answer and solution…

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Not painful to think?

 

Arne Næss, one of my favorite philosophers and human beings, once said:

It’s not painful to think.

And yet, of course, it can be.

Thoughts come with a whole mess of things, including sometimes memories and associations that trigger uncomfortable emotions. It can certainly be very uncomfortable to think.

If we think seriously about something, we may….

See that we don’t know as much as we think, or with much certainty.

Notice discrepancies and inconsistencies in our worldview.

Be reminded of painful situations or aspects of ourselves.

Have to question our beliefs and identities.

And much more. All of which can be quite uncomfortable.

The puzzling thing isn’t that not more of us are thinking more thoroughly. It’s that some do. And why? Most likely because we realize that it’s actually more painful, especially in the long run, to not examine things thoroughly.

Reality is kind, and we are kind to ourselves when we align our views more closely with reality.

Note: I am sure Arne Næss knew this very well. He probably just wanted to make a point. Thinking itself is not painful. It’s what we do with it that sometimes is. It’s how we react to it that can create discomfort.

Note 2: There is a clear difference between examination/inquiry and thinking. I know that this post blurred that distinction a bit.

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Images of God

 

Most of what I write about here is very basic. I often feel it’s just Life 101.

And yet, I keep seeing people speaking and acting as if it’s not, so I am drawn to writing a bit.

When people reject God as depicted in religion, as I did in elementary school, we are often just rejecting certain images of God. They don’t make sense to us, so we – often understandably – reject them.

For instance, if we have an image of God as a man with a gray beard sitting on a cloud, it will be seen as quite childish and ripe for rejection. In modern society, even images of God as a separate entity that helps and/or judges us is often seen as relatively immature and something best rejected.

I have to admit, most of the images of God presented by theistic mainstream religions seem a bit childish. So no wonder many reject these images, and in the process reject religion, God in general, and perhaps even spirituality. (Although in Norway, it seems that most reject religion but are open to spirituality and some ideas of God.)

It seems that the better our lives are in a society, the more likely we are to reject old-fashioned theistic images of God. And in places where there is more inequality and larger portions of us live in poverty and under difficult situations, we are more likely to adopt these images. (And that’s fine. It helps us, and it’s very understandable.)

I have two favorite images of God, both of which seem to work a bit better in modern society, and both of which are non-theistic.

God = reality. God = what is, whatever that may be. This includes our physical universe as described by science and perhaps more. We know only parts of reality so we cannot assume we know God as a whole.

God = Big Mind. The consciousness that everything (universe+) happens within and as, and which makes up this consciousness here that my local experience happens within and as.

A benefit of these two is that we can equally well say it, she, or he about God. I tend to it or she since he has been used so much in our culture. Or I may choose one depending on which aspect of reality we talk about.

Another benefit is that we are free to find the validity, helpfulness, and potential shortcomings of any religion or spiritual tradition. They all have some validity to them. They all may be helpful for some people, in some situations, in some ways. And they all have shortcoming and pitfalls.

So if someone asks me if I believe in God, I may say “yes” or “no” depending on who I talk to. I may explain which images roughly apply in my case. I may mention that it’s not really a “belief” but more a pointer and something to explore. Or I may ask which image of God do you mean?

Note: The painting is by Harmonia Rosales. If God can be depicted – mainly by white men – as an older white guy with a beard, so why not also as a black woman? We tend to create God in our own image.

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Making use of how people already are

 

Human behavior is often irrational. We tend to focus on what’s immediate, dramatic, and emotional. We are drawn to what’s shocking and unusual rather than long-term trends. We are more interested in this morning’s dramatic death than the thousands dying of hunger each day. We are more interested in what Trump tweeted at 5am than increasing social inequality.

The media knows that and plays into it by making news into entertainment and drama. That’s how they get viewers and readers. That’s how they maximize profit. They too act in their short-term interest.

And all of it is from evolution. For our ancestors, it was important to pay attention to anything that stood out and anything dramatic, and they rarely needed to pay attention to the big picture or slow trends. It’s how we, as a species, survived.

In a democracy, we need to get people to pay more attention to the serious and slower trends, and less on shorter term drama and entertainment. And we can do just that by taking evolution and how people really function into account, instead of wishful thinking about how people “should” function.

If we have sufficiently informed political and business leaders, we can set up structures so that what’s easy and attractive is also good in the long term and in the big picture.

And we can speak to people in general in ways that work with the mechanisms put into us by evolution: Tell compelling stories. Make it simple, immediate, and personal. Show how it aligns with the values and identities they already have. Make it genuinely attractive.

There are two more facets to this. Some of us seem wired to look more at the big picture and think about things in a more dispassionate way. That too makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. As a species and community, we generally need many who are drawn to the immediate and a few drawn to the bigger picture.

And there is another reason why many tend to avoid thinking about the big picture: they feel they are unable to do anything about it. So we can add one more element to how to work with how people already function: Show that their actions do make a real difference. And make that too immediate, personal, and emotional.

In darkness we are revealed

 

In darkness we are revealed.

– The Doctor in Extremis, Dr. Who, aired May 2017

This can mean a few different things, and we all find our own meaning. The meaning that means something to us.

Character testing. It can be understood in an ordinary sense. In dark times, we are tested. Our character is revealed. And, as they say, it builds character. For me, this is an invitation for authenticity. For not beating around the bush. For not being dishonest with myself (and also others).

Dark night. I also have to see it in the context of the dark night of the soul. First, there is often a period of illumination, an initial awakening. All is revealed as Spirit and we live within that, buoyed by the initial excitement and revelation. This may last for a short or long time.

Then, there may be a dark night of the soul. What we earlier relied on – the light, guidance, enthusiasm, clarity, esteem, health, intellectual capacity, health, friends, family, money – may be taken away from us. This reveals the darkness in us.

It reveals the “dark” areas of ourselves, the unhealed, unloved, unquestioned. And it comes with an invitation for us to see and feel it, meet it with love (and see it’s already loved), question the beliefs and identities wrapped up in it, and find healing for it.

In this “darkness”, we are also invited to live more deeply the realization that all is Spirit, including that in us, others, and life that our personality and human self don’t like or want. We may have earlier seen that all is Spirit, here it’s put to the test.

In the absence of the obvious light, we are also invited to recognize more deeply that all is emptiness. All is void. Any content of experience happens within and as void.

Dr. Who. In the context of Dr. Who, and knowing that Steven Moffat is the current writer, I assume it means none of these things but something more surprising and appropriate to that universe.

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Finding meaning, and holding it lightly

 

We are conditioned to find meaning in the world, and especially in what happens in our own life. It’s put into us through evolution, and it just makes sense that we do so. It helps us survive and function in the world.

One special case is when something happens that we don’t particularly like. Often, it’s in the form of a loss. We lose someone or something, and the mind tries to find a meaning in it.

The meaning may be that we are a victim, or that we are not good enough, or something similar and painful. And in the best case, we find a meaning that help us learn, heal, mature, and find peace with what happened.

For instance, the meaning may be I have an opportunity to learn about impermanence. I can learn to relate to it in a more helpful way. It may invite me to more fully appreciate what’s here and make use of an opportunity while it’s still here. It may invite me to know it will go away, and find some peace with it even before it happens. It may help me mature as a human being and find and deepen my empathy with others who experience loss. That all makes loss meaningful.

I like to keep these meaning-stories as simple and real as possible. I could add to it. For instance, life “wants” me to learn this, or that the loss was a special set-up just for me. But that doesn’t really make sense. It just adds unnecessary complication and drama to it. Some meaning-stories are inherently stressful.

And, in reality, any and each meaning-story can be stressful if we hold it as too real and too… meaningful. If we take it as absolutely true and real, instead of just as a temporary guide, any story will eventually be stressful.

There is a way to do this that seems the most helpful to me.

Find a meaning that’s practical, simple, and real. A meaning that helps me heal, mature, and function well in the world. Hold it lightly, as you are able.

Leave the rest aside. The meanings that seem overly complicated or makes it into something special. The meanings that are clearly stressful or painful.

Take to inquiry any remaining meaning-stories that seem real and substantial, and especially the stressful ones. Examine them.

For instance, use The Work of Byron Katie to see the consequences of holding it as true, how it may be if you don’t, and the validity in the reversals.

Or use the Living Inquiries to see how the mind creates its own stressful experience, how it attaches sensations to stories to give them charge and a sense of reality and substance, and help the mind soften or release the association between the stories and the charge.

To find a constructive meaning, it can help to talk with someone we trust or use some guidelines or tools found in – for instance – the positive psychology world.

And when it comes to holding any meaning lightly and set the stressful ones aside, some form of inquiry can be very helpful.

Note: When I say “I like to keep these meaning-stories as simple and real as possible” I don’t mean that I hold the meaning itself as real. It just means that I try to find a meaning that makes sense to me. A meaning that’s “real” in the sense of authentic.

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If you see life as a laboratory of your own spiritual evolution

 

If you think life is about getting what you want, then life will seem to be against you.

But if you see life as a laboratory of your own spiritual evolution, then all of creation becomes the supporting cast, and you will always, always feel supported.

Because the Universe just has this uncanny knack for sending us the perfect experiences to “build character”.

– Nathan W. on Facebook

Life is set up that way. We operate on beliefs and identifications, these are out of alignment with reality, and we will inevitably find ourselves in situations where life makes this misalignment very obvious to us.

We experience this misalignment as discomfort and even suffering. Blaming the world for the discomfort tends to amplify it. If we instead use it as a reminder to look at our own beliefs and identifications, it can be a support in our own healing, maturing, and even awakening.

Most of us use a combination of these two approaches, and the more aware we become the pattern of each, the more we tend to naturally use the second.

Born into a religion

 

Many people adopt whatever religion (or lack thereof) they are born into. It’s very understandable and natural. We adopt the religion we are born into because it’s familiar, because there is something of value in it (as there is in just about all of them), and for social reasons (to have a community, to fit in, for support).

And yet, if we say that the religion we happen to be born into is the “only true religion”, then there is some lack of intellectual honesty. How can we know? How can we know unless we seriously explore and experience all of them? How can we know even then?

Of course, if we say it’s the only true one, that’s OK as well. It comes from conditioning. That too is natural and understandable. I do the same in many areas of life, including in ways I am not aware of (yet). And it does come with some inherent discomfort and suffering. It can create discomfort for ourselves since we know – somewhere – we can’t know for sure, and when we see things of value in other traditions. And it can create discomfort and suffering for those around us who do not belong to our particular religion.

I became an atheist in elementary school on my own accord, partly for this reason. It didn’t make any sense to me that people happened to be born into this traditionally Christian culture, adopted that religion without questioning it much, and then saw it as the only true religion and the only path to salvation. To me, even at that age, it smacked of intellectual dishonesty.

I am still an atheist in a conventional sense. I don’t “believe” in any religion, and I don’t “believe in God” in a usual sense.

For me, “God” is a name for reality, life, existence. I don’t pretend I know exactly what that is. I have my own experience, and I am familiar with maps and frameworks that make sense to me based on my own experience and intellectually. And I know very well that those maps are just maps. They are questions about life, myself, and reality. And as maps, they are very much provisional.

I also appreciate the wisdom and guidance offered by the major religions. They often start from real insights and realizations, and individuals through the ages infuse the religions with fresh impulses from their own insights and awakenings.

At the same time, I know that religions…..

  • Are structures that at best initially came from real insights. Have other functions than guiding people to spiritual insights and realizations, and that these are often more important. These may include social regulation, comfort, and a sense of community and fellowship.
  • Have as their main purpose to perpetuate themselves. Although individuals within the traditions may have other priorities, including functioning as experienced spiritual guides for those interested in that approach.
  • Use a “lowest common denominator” approach and at best recommend what tends to work for most people. The suggested practices and paths are often not so much tailored to the individual unless you find a more flexible and experienced guide.

The reality is that few people are interested in a spiritual path, and that’s fine. And that’s also reflected in how most or all religions are set up and function, including Buddhism. There is nothing at all wrong with this.

But it does mean that if we are seriously interested in a spiritual path, we may need to find free spirits within the traditions, or guides who function outside of them.

That’s why I – from the start in my teens – have sought out people like Jes Bertelsen (Danish spiritual teacher), Ken Wilber (for the framework), and later Adyashanti (who does have a solid grounding in one of the traditions).

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Adyashanti: One of the most beautiful things about spiritual maturity

 

One of the most beautiful things about spiritual maturity is that you see the divine in all its guises and you stop arguing about which ones are right.

– Adyashanti, 2017 Mount Madonna Retreat

In a narrow sense, we can take this as Spirit revealing itself to itself as love, wisdom, any and all content of experience, the void everything happens within and as, and so on.

In a slightly wider sense, we see that those expressing awakening realize, notice, and emphasize different aspects of the divine, and use whatever language is available to them through their culture and traditions.

And in an even wider sense, this stopping to arguing which one is right applies to any aspect of life, and is a feature of both spiritual maturity and the ordinary garden variety human maturity.

We get to see that it’s all life playing itself out.

Here are some examples:

Spirit may awaken to itself through some remaining filters of duality, so spirit seems different from (most) content of experience, and the world in general. This is a stepping stone, and with some maturity, we recognize that this is a stepping stone.

Any realization, revelation, and insight is a stepping stone. Awakening continues to open up, clarify, deepen, and find new ways to be expressed through this human life.

Genuine awakenings and revelations may be expressed through a variety of traditions, terminology, and images. Of course, it tends to get mixed up in fantasies and imaginations, and that’s OK too. That’s part of the play.

Any experience is Spirit itself, including those our human self does not like. For me, what I sometimes call the “dark night of the soul” has shown me where I still don’t get this in a more embodied and visceral way.

In short, nothing is wrong. It’s all life living itself out. It’s the play of Spirit. As we continue to realize this, our argument with reality lessens. And life continues to find ways to help us see where we still argue. It’s an ongoing process.

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Talking about the healing modalities I use

 

It can be challenging to talk about healing modalities that are quite different from what most people are familiar with.

Most of the approaches I use fall into this category:

Breema bodywork looks similar to Thai massage or partner yoga, but the experience of and intention behind is markedly different. It’s deeply nourishing and helps us find ourselves as the fullness and wholeness that’s always here and always healthy, even as our body and mind may have ailments.

Inquiry can look similar to cognitive therapy, but it goes far deeper is far more all-inclusive than typical cognitive therapy. Living Inquiries is an exploration of how our mind creates its own experiences, including the stressful and painful ones. We get to explore the basic building blocks (images, words, sensations), and through separating and spending time with each one, it’s difficult for the mind to put it together again in a believable way. We also go back in time to the origins and roots of the issue, and we look at the different branches holding it in place.

Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) involves trembling and shaking, rocking and stretching, and sometimes also sounds. This is something we are all familiar with, but in TRE these all happen spontaneously and are initiated and guided by the body. We are just along for the ride. (Although we can stop it at any time, if we wish.) There is also a deepening, and a deep relaxation and sense of nourishment that happens as we do TRE regularly over time.

Vortex Healing may look similar to energy healing modalities such as Reiki, acupuncture, or chigong. It’s true it’s an energy healing modality, and yet it’s different to most other approaches in that it uses divine energy guided by divine intelligence. This is the intelligence of life or Spirit itself, so it already knows the problems and the way out of them. As a practitioner, I use my intention to support the healing, I partially guide and partially am guided through the healing session, and I allow my system to be used as a channel for the energy needed for the healing. Where other modalities often work more in a general way, Vortex Healing is especially effective when we work on very specific issues – sometimes the more specific and detailed the better. As a practitioner, Vortex Healing also speeds up and guides my own awakening and embodiment process. It’s very much an intimate partnership with the divine.

And, of course, most people are interested in if and how they can be helped, not the specific modalities. The modalities are just tools. While it’s easy to become fascinated with the tools as a practitioner, clients have a different priority. And rightly so. They are interested in what can be done for them. Can you help me with what I need help with?

In my experience, any issue can be helped by using these tools: Physical and mental health. Psychological and behavioral issues. Relationships. Awakening and embodiment. If there is a problem, there is a way out of it. And as usual, the degree we can be helped depends on many factors, mainly the willingness for change and the energy and time put into it.

Initial I Ching experience

 

I was introduced to I Ching by my first mentor (Aake Y.) when I was 17 or 18 years old. It was the Richard Wilhelm translation. My mentor threw the coins when we were on the phone, asking about me in general, and got Chien (Heaven / The Creative) transforming to Wu (The Wanderer). Within a day or two, I got the same book, asked the same question, and got the same two hexagrams in the same sequence.

During this time of my life – in the years following the initial opening or awakening – my life was full of amazing synchronicities, and this was just one of many. I probably needed it to learn to trust, and trust more deeply. It seems that the chances of this happening – both of us getting the same two hexagrams on the same question – is about 8,192 (64 x 64 x 2) to one.

I seem to need “big” experiences, for instance with the initial awakening, the synchronicities, some dreams, and my first experience with Breema and Vortex Healing. Perhaps it’s because I am a bit stubborn.

Besides using I Ching for synchronicity type guidance, I found the content fascinating and read it repeatedly for the following months and years. It reflected what had been revealed in the initial opening or awakening, and the “download” that followed.

I am visiting my parents right now, and they still live where I was born and grew up, so some of these memories come back to me and I may write a few more here.

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