Effects of beliefs and their shadow

 

From a previous post…

As soon as their is a belief in an idea… a thought, image, identity, perspective, view, framework… there is automatically a shadow. I want this to be true, not that. I want to be identified with this, not that.

My mind closes down, not interested in, or willing or able to, see the grain of truth in the other perspectives, or the limits to the truth and validity of my own. And my heart closes down, seeing them as Other, not able to recognize myself in them, not able to find our shared humanity, not seeing how we are in the same boat.

More specifically…

  • The mind closes (as above) and may appear irrational to detached observers
  • The heart closes (as above)
  • The emotions are reactive, overly sensitive, on guard, and easily in turmoil
  • The body is tense, rigid, armor, breath is often shallow
  • Behavior is more immature, reactive, irrational
  • Psychologically, there is a sense of separation, alienation, an identity to defend, precariousness, denial.

All of this becomes very clear when I explore my beliefs through The Work. And although each inquiry is new, fresh and surprising, there are also certain general patterns that emerge over time, outlined above.

Three relationships with beliefs

 

I see how I cycle among three relationships with beliefs.

One is happily oblivious, until the world comes up against my beliefs and there is stress (nigredo in alchemy.)

The other is noticing that there is a belief there, and the stress it causes, but not being willing or apparently able to do anything about it. Maybe I am too much in the grips of it. Or it doesn’t seem to be the right circumstances. Or I can’t identity the belief. Or I investigate it but am still not quite ready to allow it to go. (Still nigredo.)

And the third is exploring it from the emptiness and form sides. From emptiness, I can find myself as awake emptiness (headless, Big Mind) and be OK with it, even embrace it as it is. From the form side, I can explore the belief in different ways, such as The Work… Do I know it is true? What happens when I hold onto the belief, and the world comes up against it? Who or What would I be without it, in the same situation? What are the grains of truth in the many reversals of the initial belief? (Albedo in alchemy, the work, the differentiation, sorting out, clarifying.)

Lebensborn

 

This is one of those heart wrenching stories that shows us what blindness to the shadow in ourselves, and not standing up against it when expressed in others, can bring about (there are of course many other aspects to this issue besides projections.)

Living hell of Norway’s ‘Nazi’ children (BBC)

We all have our ideas of what it would be good to teach and learn in schools, and a top candidate on my list – along with interpersonal skills and learning about group dynamics and facilitation – is projections. How do we recognize, and then work with, our projections, and in particular our shadow? And how do we deal with others, as individuals or groups, when they are in the grips of their shadow?

Some of the warning signs of being in the grips of the shadow are…

  • A strong sense of separation between I/us and you/them
  • Seeing us as good/right and them as wrong/evil/bad (or reversed, in unusual cases)
  • Strong emotions of fear or hatred, and variations of those (disgust, unease, etc.), and seeing “them” as triggering or even causing it
  • A certainty of being right
  • A dehumanization of the “other”
  • A lack of empathy with the “other”
  • An inability to recognize our common humanity, seeing in myself what I see in them, and the other way around
  • Reacting in a stronger way than what the situation seems to warrant (as seen by others who are not in the grips of a similar shadow)
  • Scapegoating
  • Overgeneralizing and broadening the group of “other” to include people who rationally do not have anything to do with what triggered our fear/hatred in the first place (such as the children of German soldiers in Norway)
  • A fear/hatred, combined with dehumanization, which – in its extreme expression – can go to the point of wanting to eliminate the “other”, or at least make their lives miserable

We all do this of course, although rarely in its extreme form. But the difference is (a) whether we recognize what is going on or not, (b) how we express it (we always do, even when we try not to), and (c) how we work with it if at all.

I have heard people talk about working with projections in general, including through processes such as The Work, as impractical – just an interesting philosophy. Fun to explore superficially, but nothing of real value. But if it is engaged with wholeheartedly and with sincerity, there are few things as practical and impactful in our lives, and for those we are in relationship with.

It goes to the core of what it means to be human and how we live our life. It can even prevent or soften the impact of the horrors the “Nazi children” in Norway, and in other European countries, went through… and others go through daily around the world.

When we sincerely work on our shadow, it is a practical act of compassion, not only for ourselves but for others as well. It helps us act on our own shadow less blindly, and deal with it more effectively – and with more clarity – when those around us are in the grips of their own shadow.

What I don’t want to hear

 

In our local The Work group last night, we explored our least favorite things to be told by someone else – what are they, where can I find it in myself or my life, can I also find their opposites, and what are their gifts?

For me, the list can easily be quite long. Here are some that come to mind…

  • You are weird
  • You are incompetent
  • I don’t like you
  • You are a liar
  • You are selfish and self-centered
  • You are a loser
  • You are oblivious

Funny how these all seem to bring up least-favorite childhood memories…!

So let’s see if I can find these in myself, their opposites (finding myself as big enough to contain both), and also find the genuine gifts in each.

You are weird

Yes, I can see that I am weird in many different ways. I have some unusual interests (including in whatever I write about in this blog). I like unusual music. I don’t do much of what many do, such as going to bars on weekends. I prefer more quiet conversations with friends to big parties. I don’t always join in conversations on topics others find interesting, preferring to listen. I am sure my look can be seen as somewhat weird in different ways and different contexts (I especially noticed that when I was in rural Nepal!) A specific instance: I felt weird at times during the Breema retreat at Breitenbush this weekend, preferring to sleep and go on walks on my own rather than socializing (apart from meals.)

And at the same time, I am normal. My life is a human life, with all it means to be human. Nothing I have ever experienced or thought is something that I haven’t found expressed by someone else. My fears and insecurities seem to be quite ordinary, even common. A specific instance: last night during our local The Work meeting, where I saw that anything coming up for me – including the things I was most embarrassed about – was shared by others, sometimes all, in the group.

What are the gifts of being weird? Well, I am part of expanding what is allowed and expressed in human experience, maybe allowing others to be more comfortable with it as well. Others seeing it (and especially if I am comfortable with it) can help them be more comfortable with themselves and what they go through, maybe even enjoying it! I also get to explore areas of human experience where some others don’t go, filling out the map a little.

To be continued…

Alchemy: the metals of the world in the process of becoming gold

 

In an alchemical text (don’t remember which one), it apparently says that all metals in the world are in the process of becoming gold. Translated, it means that everything in us is already in a process of awakening, although it is a very slow process which can be speeded up by various alchemical processes – mainly by bringing the prima materia, the stuff of our lives, into awareness, and then explore, differentiate, and bring it into a more conscious wholeness.

The big picture: awakening to who and what we are

This journey which each part goes through is an aspect of the overall process from unconscious and undifferentiated wholeness, through a split and partial consciousness, through active work and exploration of each aspect and their relationships, to a conscious and differentiated whole.

There is always and already the whole of what we are, and this is eventually noticed in awakening to ourselves as Big Mind. And then there is a conscious and differentiated whole of who we are, as individual human beings and soul, which only comes about through active exploration, by digging into it, living it, working through it, engaging actively in it – gradually healing, developing and maturing as individuals.

Awakening as what we are can happen at any point, and is independent of content, including of how or who we are. But awakening as who we are is a long, gradual process.

At our human level, it is one of individualization, of differentiating and exploring each pole in each polarity, and then the polarity as a whole, of developing and maturing as a human being. At our soul level, it is a process of becoming familiar with ourselves as soul, as alive presence, in all its many facets, and how this influences and transforms who we are as human beings.

Impulses for awakening to who and what we are

It seems that for those who actively explore this process, there is an experience – or realization? – of everything inside and outside of us being an invitation, or an impulse, to awaken more to who and what we are.

Some simple examples of this is active imagination, where any dream or fantasy is a path to bringing aspects of us into awareness, and becoming more familiar with and embracing a polarity in ourselves and our life and not only its separate poles. The same is the case with Process Work, although in a more comprehensive and extended way, where we find that anything in our life, no matter how apparently insignificant, is an impulse towards awakening more to who and what we are. And the same is the case with The Work, where any stress in our life is an invitation to awaken to who (whole process) and what (question #4) we are.

I also notice this when I am just curious about what arises in me, and explore it – allowing it to unfold a little bit.

Example: impulse to death and rebirth

For instance, if this personality has a great deal of resistance to being with a particular experience, I notice an impulse towards death (sounds more dramatic than it necessarily is.) And this impulse can of course be interpreted in different ways by the personality, for instance of wanting the situation (the trigger) to change or go away, or of me to change or go away, or of how I relate to it to change or go away. I want to remove the trigger (by doing something in the world), myself (for instance by distracting myself or going unconscious), or how I relate to it (through working on myself.)

The basic impulse is an impulse towards death, and it can be interpreted in all of these forms, some of which works better than other, and some effects which are more superficial and temporary than others. In this context of anything being an invitation to awakening more to who and what we are, the essence of the impulse is an invitation to allow our limited, and limiting, beliefs and identifications to die.

The stress comes from a discrepancy between our stories of what is and how it should be (all coming from beliefs and identities), so the stress is an invitation to notice this, actively explore our beliefs and identities – through the many ways available – until they soften or fall away on their own.

Of course, this impulse can equally well be seen as an impulse towards life. Any fixed belief and identity limits a sense of aliveness, and when it falls away, there is a sense of liberation and more life.

For me, if there is a great deal of resistance and I get caught up in it, it seems – initially, before working on it, as an impulse to death. And as there is more space and clarity around it, or if there is this space and clarity around it from the beginning, it seems more an impulse to life. They are two aspects of the same process of death (of beliefs and identities) and rebirth (more free from these beliefs and identities.)

The path of untying knots

 

Broadly speaking, there seems to be two paths of awakening to who (individual) and what (Spirit) we are. One is of focusing on – and noticing or invoking – what we are seeking, the other is of focusing – and working – on what is blocking what we are seeking. And most paths of course include both, in different ways, and with different emphasis.

Only noticing or invoking who and what we are

If we only do the first – going for noticing or invoking what we are seeking – the pitfalls seems to include missing out of, or ignoring, some knots that needs to be untied and some healing that needs to occur. It can for instance lead to a (partial or more full) awakening to what we are (awake emptiness and form absent of a separate I), functioning through an individual that still has a lot to work through, and who may not be aware of everything that needs to be worked through.

Some forms of self-inquiry fall into this category, such as noticing that we are not the content of awareness but awareness itself (and that the content is no other than awareness), and also the headless experiments.

Only untying knots

If we only do the second – untying knots – we may miss out of noticing who we are at a soul level, and what we are at a Spirit level. We may pass right through it, because we don’t know what we are looking for.

Together

Using both together, we reap the benefits of working through knots and stuck places, which naturally reveal who and what we are, and also noticing who and what we are when it is revealed, and then deepening into it.

The Work is a great example of an approach that includes both the untying of knots (the whole process), and noticing who and what we are behind the clouds created by the knots (question #4 and turnarounds.) And the same is the case with the Big Mind process, allowing knots to unravel at our human level, revealing what we are as Spirit (Big Mind.)

Untying knots works at all levels

One of the great benefits of the second approach, of working with knots, is that it helps us at all levels. It unties knots at our individual human level, allowing for a healing and maturing there, and for less stress and discomfort. And it reveals (more of) who we are, in our evolving wholeness as a human individual, who we are as soul (alive presence), and what we are as Spirit (this field of awake emptiness and form absent of center.)

We don’t have to choose among developing as individuals or awakening as Spirit, and we don’t need to deny the importance or validity of either. Both are an integral part of the process, and the path benefits and works on both areas equally.

Source of tension and how we deal with it

 

I went to our local The Work group Monday evening, for the first time for several weeks, and was reminded of the tension that arises when we hold onto stories of how it should be, how it is, and how they two should align. (Of course, without the third it would be fine, but the third is there as long as the first is there, and even as long as the second is there.)

It is the basic tension in our life, showing up as physical and psychological tension, and also as tension between ourselves and others and the wider world.

Ways of dealing with the tension of what is and what should be

In general, there seems to be four broad ways we deal with the tension.

The first is by trying to not notice, by ignoring it, denying it, distracting ourselves.

The second is by changing our stories, or adding stories that modify the initial ones. We can change our stories about what is, about how it should be, and about the meaning of what is.

The third is to change the situation. (This is also another strategy for changing our story of what is, by changing the situation, we then can tell ourselves a story about it that conforms more with the story of how it should be.)

And the fourth is to inquire into the stories themselves. Are they true? Can I know for sure they are true? What are the consequences of holding onto these stories? Who or what would I be, in the same situation, without them? What are the grain of truth in the reversals of the stories?

When we act in the world, and are still caught up in our stories about how it is and should be and the tension between the two, we often act from reactivity and lack of clarity. When we bring the stories into awareness and inquire into them, finding what is already more true for us, there is naturally access to more clarity, receptivity and responsiveness, which comes out in our actions.

The tension between what already is more true and the beliefs

This reminds of another level of tension, besides the one between stories of how it is and should be: the tension between what is already more true for us, and what we tell ourselves through the stories.

The simplest aspect of what is already more true for us, is the grain of truth in all the reverse stories. (To believe the initial stories we deny the truth in the reverse stories, so the reversal truths naturally tends to be obscured. There is a sense of rigidity, of a fixed view and identity, and of tension between “my” position and the other positions, and between what is already more true for me and the story I hold onto as the one truth. When these other truths are brought into awareness, there is a sense of more fluidity and release of tension.)

Another aspect of what is already more true for me, is the difference between the contracted state of believing in stories (or working hard at believing them), and of who/what I am without those beliefs.

When this is clear, and without the stories, I find myself as Big Mind awakened to itself. And when it is somewhat clear, I find in myself, or myself as, some of the qualities of Big Mind awakened to itself, such as peace, ease, clarity, receptiveness, being home, sense of less or no separation. It is a foretaste of a more clear awakening, a whisper of something still slightly over the horizon. Just enough of a carrot to keep me going.

The Work and alchemy II

 

Some more details about The Work and alchemy.

In short, The Work is to identify a stressful belief, and inquire into it. Is it true? What happens when I hold onto that belief? What happens if I let go of it? What is the grain of truth in each of the turnarounds of the initial statement?

The alchemical vessel is the noticing of something being off, and then a willingness to take a look at our part of it through self-inquiry, to follow the simple guidelines, and to stay with the questions until a genuine answer surfaces.

The three phases: nigredo, albedo and rubedo

The nigredo is the initial stress (misery, sadness, grief, anger, despair) that comes up when the world does not conform with our beliefs, nudging us to the inquiry.

The albedo, clarification, is throughout the process, from identifying the belief to the turnarounds and the living of the turnarounds in our daily life.

And the rubedo is the fruits of the process, the release from the initial belief, and occurs to some extent throughout the process, but especially during the two last questions and following the process.

Additional aspects

The calcinatio is the fire throughout the process. If the person is distracted, or go off in secondary stories, the fire is on the weak side. If there is too much pressure to “get it right”, the fire is too hot. And if the simple guidelines are followed, then the fire from simply being with the questions is just right.

The solutio is the softening of attitudes, of attachment to particular thoughts and ideas, a receptivity to the answers that surface on their own, and the fluidity of a shift in view… or rather a shift out of any particular and fixed view.

The coagulatio is the identification of the initial statement (the belief), the structure of the questions, and also the exploration of what happens of the belief is solidified, held onto tight, in questions number two.

The sublimatio is the whole process of clarification, of seeing what is already more true than the initial statement.

The separatio is the process of discernment throughout the inquiry. It is a sorting out at each phase, from identifying the belief, to exploring if it is true, to what happens when it is held onto tightly, to what I would be without the belief, to the grain of truth in the turnarounds, to the disidentification with the initial statement – a relaxation or letting go of the belief.

The conjunctio is the union of opposites, and occurs at the third question, and even more clearly at the turnarounds. It is a recognition of the union that is already there, within ourselves, and between ourselves as individuals and the wider world. (By finding the grain of truth in each of the turnarounds, I find in myself what I see in others, and in others what I see in myself. The attachment to a fixed point of view, which created the sense of separation in the first place, is relaxed or falls away, allowing for a recognition of the union that has always been there.)

Alchemical vessel, three phases, and The Work

 

A simple way of illustrating the three alchemical phases, and how they can unfold within a limited scope and over a short timespan, is The Work.

In the context of The Work, the nigredo is the misery of the situation, prompting us to explore it through the four questions and the turnaround.

The albedo, the purification, is the process of genuine inquiry. We clarify the situation by seeing what is already more true for us than what initially appeared to be true, simply because we held onto a particular belief.

And the rubedo is the release, and what we emerge into, at the end. This includes embracing the polarities of the initial statement (the one we believed in and subsequently brought up stress) and all of its turnarounds, finding the grain of truth in each of them, and so being released from blindly believing any one of them to the exclusion of the others. In this process, there is also a recognition and integration of the shadow (I find in myself what I initially only saw in the others, and in them what I initially only saw in myself.)

The alchemical vessel is the willingness to admit that something is not working, and to sincerely explore it through a process of self-inquiry. And there are other aspects of the vessel, such as the obvious ones of being conscious and well-functioning enough to do the process, and also of having access to (knowing about) the process. Especially in the beginning, a part of a good vessel may also include being facilitated by someone familiar with the process.

Nada Yoga

 

I went to the first evening of a nada yoga class last night. Apart from the obvious benefit of opening the voice, and also connecting with the chakras, releasing into spaciousness, and so on, it was interesting to notice parallels with other practices.

In koan practice, any tendency to being self-conscious and censoring oneself comes up and is seen, yet the direction of presenting the koan is in doing it wholeheartedly, and that was certainly the case here as well. In Breema, we use the principles of body comfortable, no extra, no force, and full participation, and all of those seem aligned with the nada yoga approach to using the voice: allowing the voice to rise fully and naturally, free from the force of holding back and pushing.

Earlier in the evening, I went to a kundalini yoga class where we practiced shunya listening, listening from emptiness, which – in a way – is a shortcut to what we arrive at through The Work. By allowing beliefs to unravel through inquiry, the natural spaciousness and clarity is revealed, free from attachment to any one particular idea and perspective and free to play with any idea and perspective.

Content of Beliefs, and Believing Itself, Brings a Sense of Something Being Off

 

When I believe in a thought, there is a sense of something is wrong.

Content of beliefs making something right and wrong

I believe that I should be wealthy, I am not as wealthy as I should be, so that is wrong. I believe I should be good looking, I am not that good looking, so again that is wrong. I believe my neighbor should be more quiet, he is not, and that is wrong.

Whenever I belive in a thought, then somewhere, sometimes, the world is wrong. It is inherent in beliefs that something is made to appear right and something else wrong.

The content of beliefs automatically splits the world into right and wrong.

Believing itself experienced as off

At the same time, I see that this sense of something being off is a projection. And as any projection, it is a projection of what is happening right here now, it is a projection of experience.

When I believe in a thought, there is an inherent sense of it being off, right there, even before going to the content of the thought. There is a sense of something wrong, just in the process of believing a thought itself.

And this sense of something being off, something being wrong, is projected out. It is added to the appearance of right and wrong inherent in the content of the belief.

Example

The content of any belief splits the world into right and wrong. And the process of believing any thought brings a sense of something being off, which is added to the other source of the world appearing as right and wrong.

I did my (mostly daily) round robin phone call for The Work today, and inquired into foods should make my body sick.

Towards the end, I saw how my story creates a sense of something is wrong. And how this sense of something being wrong, or something being off, is not only inherent in the content of any belief, but also in the process of believing in any thought.

Turnarounds and Relative Truths *

 

Absolute truth is only revealed when the Ground awakens to its own nature, when Big Mind awakens to itself, when Buddha Mind awakens to itself, when Spirit awakens to itself. When the Ground of all phenomena awakens to its own nature of no I anywhere.

As soon as any of this is reflected in ideas, as soon as it is formulated, made into a statement, made into a map, then it becomes by necessity a relative truth. And relative truths are always limited, incomplete, provisional, of temporary and limited usefulness only, subject to revision, modification, replacement.

Absolute truth is immediate, beyond and including any and all polarities. Relative truth is considered and thought out, using ideas, symbols or words that split the world. It can never touch absolute truth, only be the finger that points to it, helping people get a taste of it in their own experience.

In formulated, expressed and relative truth, there are always opposite statements that each also reflect a relative truth. That is why they are all relative truths.

Turnarounds

And this is exactly what happens through the turnarounds in The Work.

We take the initial statement, for instance she shouldn’t lie, and turn it around any way possible. She should lie: that is the reality of it, according to my story. I shouldn’t lie: I shouldn’t lie to myself about her, as I do when I tell myself that she shouldn’t lie and she does. I should lie: well, I do, that too is the reality of it. Whatever I say is really a lie, because it is only a story.

We get to see that in the realm of ideas, abstractions and words, every statement has a number of opposite statements that each contains some truth. They are all different perspectives on the same topic, and each one has some validity.

By seeing this, there is a natural release from attachment to any one of these views, perspectives and statements. We find ourselves as the space that can hold each one of them, genuinely seeing how each one has validity, yet is not an absolute truth.

In our human life, we become a little easier to get along with.

And there is also a closer alignment with what is, beyond and including all polarities.

Finer Detail

 

Even when the Ground awakens to its own nature, and is functionally connected to a particular human self, the way this human self talks about and expresses it varies a good deal. The particulars of the vehicle determines how it comes out. This means that the descriptions of the awakening and the awakened realization comes out with varying degrees of precision and clarity.

Various forms of inquiry, including the The Work and the Big Mind process are powerful tools here, allowing for finer and finer levels of exploration and insights.

The strength of The Work is in its uncovering of (a) what happens when there is a belief in a thought, (b) the contrast to who/what we are without the belief, and (c) exploring the (relative) truths in all the turnarounds of the initial statement, allowing for different perspectives and insights we may not otherwise have noticed.

The strength of the Big Mind process lies in exploring all the various ways the mind functions, on personal and transpersonal levels, all the various dynamics and interactions, just about only limited by the imagination.

Having these tools available means that people not operating from a full awakening can have far more clarity and insight around certain issues than those operating from an awakening. This is not surprising. Our levels of knowledge and skills are independent of awakening, and so is – to some extent – our insights into how the mind operates on personal and even transcendent levels. It is very democratic that way.

Finding peace with the disturbance, even if it never changes

 

In different situations in daily life, including when I do inquiry, I sometimes find it helpful to ask myself…

Am I willing to find peace with this situation even if it would never change?

Who would I be if I knew that the situation would never change?

What would have to change in me for me to find peace with it, even if it never changes?

If I have a personality trait I don’t particularly like, can I find peace with it even if it will be around forever? If I have a disease, can I find peace with it even if it never changes? If I have an annoying colleague, what in me would have to change for me to find peace with him or her, even if his or her behavior never changes?

This helps me take more responsibility for how I relate to a disturbance, right now, instead of waiting for it to change, or wishing for it to go away.

Inquiry so the disturbance will change

Sometimes when I do inquiry, I see that I do it with the motivation of wanting the disturbance to go away. I use inquiry as a strategy for changing the disturbance itself.

For instance, I do inquiry in the hope that the annoying parts of my personality will change. I do inquiry in the hope that I will change, and then my partner will change and become more easy for me to deal with.

It can be subtle. My conscious motivation may be to find peace with the situation, but somewhere in the background is the thought that this may be the key for having the disturbance go away.

In seeing inquiry as a strategy for having a disturbance go away, the answers are filtered and sensored. Something arises, and right away there is the question – is this the right key? Should I bring it out and explore it futher, or hold it back? This is one way of muddling the process.

Not really a disturbance, but…

Of course, in doing inquiry for a while, I see that what appears as a disturbance is only a disturbance because of my beliefs around it. In itself, it is innocent. And in seeing the situation more clearly, there is peace with it. It changes from a problem to just a situation.

Still, especially at the beginning of an exploration, there may still be the wish and hope that the situation itself will change.

Going beyond wanting the disturbance to go away

Some statements for inquiry around this…

Inquiry makes problems go away.

I shouldn’t do inquiry to make problems go away.

Problems should go away.

I am more happy if there are no problems.

And as I mentioned at the beginning, I also find that briefly asking myself the question who would I be to find peace with it, even if it will never change helps me go beyond using inquiry as a strategy for making a disturbance go away.

Meditation in Action *

 

There is no doubt that it can be very helpful to take time out of the day for regular meditation/practice sessions, and also to take several days out of one’s schedule for a retreat.

And then there is meditation in action, practice distributed throughout our daily life. To me, this form of practice is more interesting right now, especially as it does not necessarily require any time beyond what I am already doing (in a way, it is practice for lazy and impatient people, for those of us who may be reluctant to set aside a lot of time every day, and especially don’t want to wait for these periods).

Some practices that I find very helpful in daily life, first those that do not take any extra time at all…

Headlessness

Douglas Harding’s headless experiments can be included and explored throughout daily life, during any activity. I work on the computer, I am on my bike, I eat, I am in a meeting, I watch a movie, I do Breema, and I can easily explore headlessness – notice that I am already headless in my own immediate experience. I am capacity for the world, that within and as which the world of phenomena – including this human self, happens. This shifts the center of gravity from the human self to seeing and beyond, into a taste of selflessness.

Labeling

Another practice that can be seamlessly integrated in daily life is labeling. I note sensations, tastes/smells, sights, sounds and thoughts. And sometimes just sensations and thoughts, allowing each to live their own life. And sometimes just personality. That is the personality reacting, with its likes and dislikes, its habitual tendencies.

Seeing sensations as sensations, and thoughts as thoughts, allow each to live their own life. They don’t conglomerate into something else. And when they do, for instance into personality, then that can be labeled as well, at its own level.

All of this shifts the center of gravity from the human self to the seeing of it. It gives a sense of more space, of liberation from being blindly caught up in it.

Can I be with it?

Yet another practice which can be included seamlessly in daily life is asking myself can I be with what I am experiencing right now? I experience something that could be labeled pain, or sleep deprivation, or hunger, or stress, or confusion, or spaciness, or joy, or excitement – can I be with what I am experiencing right now?

Again, this shifts the center of gravity into the seeing, allowing the content to life its own life, to unfold in its own way. The experience is one of getting out of the way of the content.

Coming to the body

This shift also occurs through simply bringing attention to the body. To noticing the weight, movement or breath of the body, as it happens right now.

Of course, for each of these practices – headlessness, labeling, being with whatever is experienced and coming to the body, it does help to set aside some time in the beginning to become familiar with the process, and even to do so at any point where there is a break in the day.

Then there are practices that very much use the content of our daily life as fuel, and do require some time set aside, although often not much.

The Work

The inquiry practice from Byron Katie is one of these. Whatever happens during my daily life is fuel for finding clarity. The whole world is my mirror, in a very real and practical way.

Big Mind Process

The Big Mind process similarly uses our daily life and everyday mind as material for insights, for seeing what is already alive right here now, and how it is all manifestations of the Buddha Mind, Buddha Mind at work.

Not Even in My Own Business

 

Byron Katie talks about three kinds of business: Yours, mine and God’s. If I am in yours business (what you do with your life) or God’s business (war, health, etc.), I experience stress. Or as BK says, I am insane, because I cannot control it and believing I can only creates suffering for myself.

She also says that she saw how much her family appreciated her not being in their business, so she decided to give herself the same favor – by not being in her own business.

Realizing selflessness

In the context or realizing selflessness, what staying out of my own business means is pretty clear (and simple). Awakening to selflessness, this human self arises as everything else – within the seamless field of phenomena. It is just part of the landscape of what is happening in the present. It operates on its own. Whatever it does just happens, as everything else. There is doing, as much as before (and much as before), yet no doer anywhere. Watching the human self do things on its own, live its own life, is similar to watching someone doing things in a movie. It all just happens, and there is no “I” there appearing to do it. (And there is no subject or object either, so that is where the movie analogy is not so accurate.)

When this happened last fall, for a few weeks, there were two things that stood out. One was how completely unremarkable it is, and how obvious it seems. The other was the amusing quality of watching this human self go about life as before, and seeing that everything this human self does is just happening. It is living its own life. There really is no “I” anywhere there. Clouds live their own life. Sounds live their own life. Everything lives its own life, absent of any I, including this human self.

So this is one way of staying out of one’s own business: awakening to selflessness, and seeing that there never was “my own business”. It was just the temporary appearance of it, coming from an identification with this human self. Or rather from the belief in the thought “I” placed on something, usually this human self.

While still believing in thoughts

But how do we stay out of our own business if we are still believing in thoughts? (Any thought, to any extent.)

One way is to talk about this human self as “it” or by its name, at least in our internal talk. This gives a sense of distance, and of our human self living its own life. It does anyway, so why not have a taste of it this way.

Or, it can be so simple as telling myself “that is his business”, and notice the release and relief that comes with seeing this.

Different, Same, Same

 

This is another realization that seems to come up over and over when I do inquiry

When believe in thoughts, different

When I believe in thoughts – in any thought, it creates a sense of an “I” set apart from something else. There is an I different from Other, in myriad of ways.

I get it, as opposed to those people who don’t get it. I don’t get it, as opposed to those people who seem to get it. I am human, not a rock, not a bird, not a star, not the lake, not the computer. I am alive, not dead or inanimate. I am a man, not woman. I am European, not Asian or African or anything else. I am adult, not child. I am progressive, not conservative or libertarian. I am on the side of the underdogs, not the powerful. I am smart, not stupid. I am stupid, not smart. I am deluded, not awake. I am awake, not deluded. And so on.

Question no. 3 in The Work allows me to explore the ways I (mentally) set myself apart when I believe in a thought. How I alienate myself from others, myself, life.

More precisely, it allows an exploration of how the story of I creates a sense of a separate I, and the drama that unfolds from there.

As one believing in thoughts, same

I also see that in believing in thoughts, the same happens here as seem to happen whenever thoughts are believed in. There is no difference. Believe in a thought, or a set of thoughts, and there are certain inevitable consequences. None of us is any different here. In believing in thoughts, I am the same as anyone else believing in thoughts.

Question no. 3 in brings this also to the surface. I get to see what happens when I believe in a specific thought, and how this is similar to what happens for others when they believe in similar thoughts. We are not so different there.

Again, more precisely, there is the seeing of the drama created from believing in thoughts, and how this appears universal. If there are creatures other places in the universe, and they have a biology that allows for abstractions, the same dynamics may well play themselves out there as well.

Without the beliefs, same

And without the beliefs, there is also no difference. A belief sets up the experience of a boundary, and without the boundaries we just are. There may be differentiation, but even here no difference. The difference falls away.

Question no. 4 brings this to the surface.

Fifth Peak Buddhism

 

I came across this interesting article on Buddhism and The Work of Byron Katie: Fifth Peak Buddhism, by Kevin Maher.

In it, Maher explores – as so many others, how this form of inquiry is similar to Buddhist practices, and leads to similar or identical (?) insights, realizations and transformations. The title, Fifth Peak Buddhism, refers to the four historical peaks of Buddhism (initial teachings, Mahayana, Tantric, and Tibetan and Japanese versions) and the fifth peak, which may occur in the west, may or may not be called Buddhism, and may or may not have any historical links with Buddhism.

The Big Mind process can be seen as one example of fifth peak Buddhism, one with obvious historical links and connections with Buddhist tradition (coming out of the Maezumi Roshi and Soto/Rinzai Zen lineages).

As the author says, The Work can certainly be seen as another expression of fifth peak Buddhism, this one with no historical connections to Buddhism. And that may be very good. It makes it open for those who has no connections with Buddhism (and wouldn’t want any connections with Buddhism), and those who do. Also, it is a clean slate, free of historical baggage. It is just what it is – four questions and a turnaround, allowing each individual to explore what is true for them, and find liberation there.

Pretending *

 

It seems that the lens of inquiry leads to some shared insights…

  • Thoughts leads to emotions
  • Discrepancy between beliefs and what is leads to stress
  • or – Discrepancy between what is already true for me and my beliefs lead to stress
  • The world is my mirror
  • The world is my teacher
  • Even beliefs that almost everyone agree upon fall away when questioned, such as I am a human being, I am, I

And maybe most surprisingly for many, the whole human drama appears as simply pretending.

There is the pretending of believing in thoughts. The pretending of taking the consequences of beliefs as real, including the emotions, confusion and actions that come out of it.

What is, distinct from any stories about it, is already alive in immediate experience – just temporarily and apparently covered up by beliefs in thoughts. And since this is already alive here now, there is simply just the pretending of believing in thoughts. There is the attempt to believe in thoughts, and a great deal of energy goes into this attempt.

What is, distinct from any stories of it, is alive in awareness right here now. Yet, there may not be awareness of this awareness. The pretending is alive here now, and in the same way there may not be awareness of this awareness. That is the mechanism that allows the pretending to go on for a little longer, until there is the inevitable (?) waking up.

Inquiry Aspects

 

Some aspects of the Byron Katie inquiry…

Using pen and paper, or being facilitated by someone else, provides the container for the inquiry. It provides some stability and focus. It has a similar function as shamata in Buddhist meditation.

Question no. 1 and 2 – can I know it is true, can I absolutely know it is true – allows for a beginning detachment from the story, it opens the door for allowing attachment to it to fall away.

Question no. 3 – how do I react when I believe that thought – is similar to catharsis (allowing it all out) and allows for simple and clear seeing of it.

Question no. 4 – who would I be without the thought – is similar to shikantaza, just finding myself as clarity and whatever happens, without being caught up in stories.

The turnarounds is similar to projection and shadow work, and also allow for more fluidity of mind. From the prison of believing one perspective and rejecting other perspectives, there is more fluidity and freedom, allowing thoughts to function more as what they are – innocent questions.

And each of these, and all together, is a form of insight meditation – providing insight into the dynamics (content) and nature (ground) of mind.

Perfection

 

Whenever I believe in a thought, I become a perfectionist. I make up an ideal of how the world is and/or should be, and experience stress when reality don’t match up to it.

In the release of these beliefs, another perfection is revealed. The first perfection is the conventional one, needing its opposite for its existence. It is the world divided into perfect and imperfect, good and bad. The second perfection is what is, revealed when beliefs in stories about it falls away.

Living Without the Drama

 

I see over and over that inquiry is to live without the drama, and for those tired of the drama.

There is nothing wrong with drama, but at some point there is enough familiarity with it for us to want to move beyond. Drama is interesting for a while, then the interest moves to that which is beyond drama. To the ease and clarity on the other side of drama. To living an ordinary human life with less and eventually absence of attachment to stories, which are really all just the stories of I.

Projections **

 

I often experience a particular insight as fresh and immediate. And then make a story out of it, compare it with memories of other stories, and note with some surprise that it seems “old”. This story is similar to an old story, yet the experience of what the stories point to is fresh and new.

Insights pointing to exactly where I am stuck

As soon as there is any belief in the label “insight” or the story this label refers to, that is of course exactly where I am stuck.

That is where I create a sense of identity, of I and other. That is where I split the world up in right and wrong, clarity and confusion. That is where I lose myself, where there is a sense of alienation, something to hold onto, something to protect, a weapon to make others wrong.

Projections as immediate

One of these insights is of projections as immediate.

A quality arises and is noticed. A story is added to it, apparently placing the quality “out there” – in the past, future, on others. And I can notice this, and find the quality alive right here.

It is very simple. Very immediate. Releasing the whole confusion that comes with blind projections.

And again, the story I put on this is apparently as the old story of projections, the one I have hold onto since my teens – when I got heavily into Jung and anything having to do with projections.

Yet the experience of it is different, far more immediate and fresh. Without any fancy tools or techniques. Just unfolding immediately and simply, allowing the temporary confusion to unravel.
And even this story of it being an “old” insight is a projection. The insight is alive right here. And I add a story on it appearing to place it (partly) in the past.

What is alive right now is all there is. There is no past, apart from stories about it. And these stories unfold right now.

Already alive here now

The world may agree with my stories about the past, or not, but they are still only stories – unfolding right now.

And the content of the stories, what they refer to, is also (only and already) alive right now, right here. It is all already alive right here now, right in the midst of the stories about them.

It is already noticed right here now, and all I need to do is noticing exactly that.

Betrayal of Suffering

 

Folks doing The Work over some time seems to arrived at shared insights and experiences, as is probably the case with most practices.

I see over and over that beliefs in thoughts – and the following contractions, function as…

  • Atonement
    See, I also get that this is wrong. I’ll make myself miserable so it is clear to the world that I know that what I did was wrong, or that what happened to me was wrong.
  • Blackmail
    See what you did to me? I’ll make myself miserable so it is clear to you how much I was hurt by what you did. And unless it changes, I’ll continue to make myself miserable.

  • A tantrum
    If I don’t get what I want, I’ll make myself miserable. I’ll get sad, depressed, angry, upset, confused, alone, alienated.

And when this pattern is released, first in some areas of life and then more and more in general, there may initially be a sense of betrayal of suffering. These patterns are ancient, and it feels odd to allow them to disintegrate and fall away. Shouldn’t I suffer now? This is another topic for inquiry, and something that also erodes and falls away over time. We see that there is no reason to hold onto the suffering. We function from more clarity and effectiveness without it.

Losing the Moon

 

This blog is on summer vacation, although here is a brief break in the silence.

I walked up to the street just now to put out the recycling, and saw the moon against the pale blue sky and framed by clouds lit up by the setting sun. For a while, there was just pure perception.

The moon was lost – or more accurately any stories about the moon was lost, and what remained was just pure awareness, the moon arising within and as awareness, with no I or Other.

Byron Katie asked are you ready to lose the moon?

And what is lost is only the stories about the moon, the mythology of it, the overlay I place on it: it is a planet, it is romantic, it is up in the sky, it circles the Earth, it has phases, I remember when I watched the moon with my girlfriend by the coast that one time, it is beautiful, humans have traveled there and walked on it (the first time in July 1969), it looks larger closer to the horizon…

What is lost is being caught up in any of these stories about the moon, the attachment to any of them, believing in any of them.

What remains is just the pure awareness. The moon arising within and as clarity, within and as awareness.

And if there is not even the story of I, then that is all. There is the moon arising within and as clarity and awareness. That is all. And not even that.

There is just what is, arising within and as clarity and awareness.

Emotions, Needs & Stories

 

For a while, I have been curious about the relationship between Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and The Work.

I went to a workshop with Marshall Rosenberg a while back, and also did a NVC class, and found it intriguing and quite useful – especially the distinction between needs and strategies to meet those needs.

What I didn’t want to see for a while is that there may not be any relationship between NVC and The Work. The Work seems to undercut everything that NVC is about.

Doing inquiry for a while, it becomes clear that emotions is a story, and needs is a story as well. There is no substance in either.

I am hurt. I need love. I feel angry. I need food. I am sad. I need appreciation.

They are all stories, and so obviously so.

I may not have food, and may die from the lack of it, but I still don’t need food. It is impossible for me to need anything.

I may not receive appreciation (according to my story about it), but I still don’t need it.

There may be sensations and then a label on it – hurt, anger, sadness, exhilaration, but those are only stories too. There is a sensation, and that is all. It is impossible for me to know what it is about. And staying with a sensation without the story, it changes to the point where it is impossible to place any label on it even if I wanted to.

It is so simple. So clear. So much ease.

Making Good Use of Samsara **

 

Writing down some of these Process Work processes, I am reminded of what Byron Katie said somewhere: As long as we think there is I and Others, we may as well make good use of it (paraphrased).

One way of making good use of it is The Work. Another is Process Work. And then there is the Big Mind process and other approaches as well.

Before awakening to selflessness, they help us align more with this awakening and prepare the ground for it and for living from it.

And after the awakening, they may still be useful and helpful in exploring the dynamics of the Relative world in general, and this bodymind in particular. As long as we have this vehicle we may as well get to know it better and fine tune its functioning in the world of phenomena.

Gateways

 

Whenever I do Process Work, Big Mind, Inquiry or Breema, I notice that each of them is a gateway into the same deeper process and dynamics, and also particular commonalities among them.

This is not surprising, but it does give a nice sense of triangulation – or a certain cross-training as they talk about in integral practice (although areas like diet, water, energies, social/ecological engagement and so on are left out of that particular list).

The Work and Process Work

For instance, I noticed today how question number 1,2,3 and 4 in The Work is similar to exploring the edge between primary and secondary processes in Process Work (our conscious identity and that which is there and not yet conscious yet).

And the turnarounds in The Work is similar to exploring the secondary process itself, that which was over the edge from our conscious identity.

And in both, there is an emphasis on living the turnarounds/secondary process, to bring it into our daily life, even if it is just a drop of for now.

I & Identity

 

The sense of I seems to come from a belief in the idea of I.

And our sense of identity comes from all our other beliefs.

Belief in the idea of I

First, there is the simple belief in the idea of I – creating a sense of I and Other, of subject and object, of seer and seen. And as on of the job of thoughts and emotions is to make beliefs appear true, it takes on a very convincing appearance.

Without beliefs, thoughts are revealed as completely innocent – just an aid to explore and navigate in the world of phenomena. When a thought is believed in, it becomes the source of drama and struggle. And when a thought is believed in, it becomes the job of many of the other thoughts to make the belief appear real.

Identity

Our sense of identity, used to fill in and flesh out the initial simple sense of I and Other, comes from all our other beliefs.

From the simple I, there is the more refined and complex I am (…), I believe (…) and so on. We split existence into I and Other, I am this and not that. I am a human. I am alive. I am white. I am male. I am liberal. I like fish’n chips. I don’t like conservatives. I believe democracy is good. I believe people shouldn’t talk during a movie. Ad infinitum.

Unraveling beliefs

There are many ways to unravel beliefs. The Work seems to be one of the most straightforward and direct ways, and there are also many other forms of inquiry which does the job. Sitting practice is another, repeatedly getting dipped into something which does not match our initial and conventional beliefs, and gradually allows them to erode and fall away.

In the absence of beliefs, there is only Ground manifesting as the myriad phenomena, emptiness dancing. It is just what is – often the same content as before – although absent of any inherent I and Other, subject and object, seer and seen.

Nurturing Development

 

There is really no inherent reason to want to develop faster through the SD spiral, or move beyond an attachment to ideas in general and to the idea of I in particular, or include more of Other into I and us.

Yet, it is painful to experience the world through the filter of I and Other. It is painful to experience the split that comes from that filter, because it is not aligned with what is. So we are naturally motivated to move through the spiral, move up the levels, to allow what is to awaken to its own nature (of I everywhere and nowhere) while still functionally connected to this human self.

Since this motivation is as natural as anything else, we have developed a large number of strategies to either temporarily avoid the pain of the apparent split (entertainment, romance, sex, money, vacations, food) or to move towards a more radical solution (awakening to what is with no I inherent anywhere).

And if integrating projections is a big part of this process, then The Work may be one of the faster ways of nurturing development (along with more traditional approaches and other new ones such as the Big Mind process).