How the mind creates its experience of space, time, solidity

 

Our perception of space, time, solid objects and a sense of reality to them all is central to our human experience.

It can be very interesting to explore this basic perception and how our minds create it, and inquiry – for instance the Living Inquiries – is a good way to do it.

In general, the mind creates its experience of the world through (a) sensory input with (b) an overlay of thoughts (images and words) combined with sensations. And sometimes, just (b). And that’s how it is with its experience of space, time, and solid objects as well.

Space. As I am sitting in this room, there is (what my thoughts label as) sensory input about the – visual, sound, touch. On top of that, my thoughts put mental images and words to make sense of it and make it into a room with floor, walls, ceiling, table, chairs and so on. And physical sensations combine with those thoughts to make it seem more real and substantial. When I close my eyes and see images of the table, and hear the word “table”, sensations – for me now, in the front of my upper body – lend a sense of solidity to those thoughts of table.

Time. Similarly, I have the word “present” overlaid on top of this room as it appears to me now. And I see images of a timeline with past, present, and future, and certain other images and words in certain spots on this timeline. For instance, for the part of the timeline that represents “this evening” I see “6pm SETI talk with Dan Werthimer” and “8pm Tallis Scholars concert” along with “Oakland” and an image of going there with Lyft and a map of San Francisco (where I am right now) and Oakland. Wherever my attention goes, images and words pop up to create content and an impression of past, future, and present, and more generally of “time”, with a range of events placed on it.

Here too, certain sensations are associated with each image and word to lend a sense of substance and reality to them. Sometimes, it’s just enough for my mind to think to itself “this is real”, and sometimes there is more of an emotional charge to it. For instance, I remember first learning to ride my bike as a child, and see an image of my father supporting the bike, letting go, and me cycling for the first time without support. I feel sensations in the forehead and front of the belly that lends a sense of substance and reality to these memories. These sensations, along with some other images and words, tells my mind these memories are “real”, they represent – more or less – what happened.

Substance. I have my laptop on my lap as I sit on the sofa with my legs outstretched. When I close my eyes, I notice sensations on top of my thighs along with an image of my thighs with a laptop resting on top of them. These sensations and images, along with some other ones, creates an experience of “thighs” and “laptop” and thoughts that these are substantial and real. My mind creates an experience for itself of these are real physical objects.

Looking closer. When I look a bit closer, I see it’s all created by thoughts and sensations, and it’s all made up by awakeness. It’s all happening within and as awakeness. As is space and objects in space, time and events in time, and anything else – including any ideas of a body, mind, universe, life, and even Spirit and awakeness.

If we continue to explore this, with some skill and guidance, we come to see our experiences more as just that – as they happen. And that can be quite a relief. The heaviness goes out of it, and the sense of it being “real in itself”.

Notes. As usual, I have taken some shortcuts in writing about this and there is always a great deal more to say about it. Any of the ideas used here are made up in the same way, including the most basic ones and also including “mental images and words” and “sensations”.

Also, when I write about closing my eyes to investigate, it just because it helps me see my own mental images – and other imaginations – more easily. These are here also when my eyes are open, but the visual impressions tend to “override” them so they are easily noticed, at least at first, with the eyes closed.

And the mind uses a wide range of imaginations, not just images and sounds. The mind imagines all the senses and uses all of it to create its own experience of the world. It takes sensory impressions, puts an overlay of imaginations, and combine these with sensations to create a sense of reality and solidity for itself, and sometimes also an emotional charge.

This is all lila – the play of life (or the divine). This is how we can explore lila in immediacy – right here now. This is one layer in how life creates its experience of itself here and now, and it’s the layer it’s most easy for us to notice and explore, and that has the most practical effects when we do so.

There is nothing new here. Individuals from all cultures and times must have been aware of this, in their own way, with their own take on and flavor to it. These are sometimes called mystics, but that makes it sound too special and far away. This is very simple, ordinary, and immediate.

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Chronic fatigue and therapeutic tremoring

 

From my own experience and that of others, it seems that therapeutic tremoring (TRE) can be very helpful for people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Since it releases tension out of the system, it can help improve sleep, reduce anxiety and depression, and lead to more comfort and well being in general.

Equally important, therapeutic trembling may allow energy tied up in tension to release and thus become available to the (other) needs of the system.

Both help with everyday functioning and both may support the system in healing itself.

There are some TRE precautions for people with CFS. Mainly, do the tremoring for only short periods at first, and follow the signals of your system. As your system gets more familiar with it, and you get more familiar with how it responds, you can increase the frequency and length of the tremoring sessions.

Several notes:

I use the word “system” here instead of body, mind, or even bodymind. I could say “bodymind system” since I am referring to the whole of the human being, body, mind, and all. When I use the word “tension” that similarly refer to tension as having body and mind components.

When I say “trembling” or “tremoring” it’s a lot more than just trembling. It can be any kind of movement (autonomous, not created through intention) including “butterflying” of the legs, slow rhythmical movements, shaking, subtle vibrations, stretching, jumping, sounds and more. All ways the bodymind – outside of our conscious awareness and intention – invites tension to release when it’s allowed and invited to do so.

And when I put TRE in parenthesis after “therapeutic trembling” it’s because TRE – Tension and Trauma Release Exercises – is perhaps the simplest way to allow therapeutic trembling to happen for us modern people. Therapeutic trembling is built into us through evolution, but in our modern culture, we have learned to suppress it. We may have learned it’s a sign of weakness, or embarrassing, or that it means we are out of control (and that’s bad), or we don’t understand what it’s for, or we just have a general suspicion of the inherent wisdom of the body, or we simply think there is no inherent wisdom in the body. For whatever reason, we have learned to suppress it, so we need to unlearn and allow the trembling to happen. And TRE is a good tool for just that.

Also, I should say that although it seems that therapeutic trembling can significantly help people with CFS, the extent will vary between people. It does require sticking to it for a long period of time, over months and years (although the progress will be noticeable from early on). And the underlying medical conditions may vary between people since CFS is an exclusion diagnosis.

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Jeff Foster: All that can be lost, will be lost

 

All that can be lost, will be lost.
– Jeff Foster

I like how Jeff Foster makes impermanence immediate and personal here.

On the surface, this may seem discouraging. All that can be lost will be.

And yet, there is a question that may come up for us. If what can be lost will be, is there something that can’t be lost? This is a pointer to what we are: that which all experience happens within and as. That which cannot be lost because it’s not (only) content of experience and because it’s what reality is and what we are.

So we will lose anything within content of experience whether it’s a phase of life, health, friends, family, loved ones, pets, jobs, status, roles, identities, states, and so on. Some will be lost within this life, and all will be lost when we die. Some of these losses will seem like a relief to us, some will be mostly neutral, and some will appear as a tragedy – depending on what stories we have about it, how much is invested in these stories, and how much we have examined the stories. And all of it is a very human experience. All of it is part of being human.

And yet, it all happens as what we are. If we don’t notice it, the losses may hit us hard. And to the extent we do notice it, there is a space holding it all which takes a bit of the edge off it. Our reaction to the loss may not change that much because it’s created by conditioning and unexamined beliefs in us, but it happens in a different context and that makes a good deal of difference. We may notice this context in immediacy, or – sometimes – it’s just a memory or a knowing. In either case, the new context changes how it’s perceived. It makes it easier to be present with it, allow it, notice it. To hold it more lightly. To relate to it with patience, kindness, and perhaps even appreciation.

Adyashanti: Sometimes your deepest shadow comes up after your deepest awakening

 

Sometimes your deepest shadow comes up after your deepest awakening.

– Adyashanti, The Way of Liberating Insight

Why does it come up? We can say that an awakening is an opening to reality, and that reality includes our shadow. Or we can say that bringing the shadow into awareness is required for us to live the awakening in more situations and areas of life.

In any case, long before this happened to me, I thought this and other forms of a dark night sounded noble and a bit heroic. I thought I would be able to continue keeping what surfaced at a safe arm’s length’s distance and remain firmly centered in clarity and presence.

When it happened, it was more experienced as a complete disaster. And for me, that was part of the shadow that surfaced. I was unable to remain clear, centered, and keep it at some distance. And I had to finally admit to myself I was completely and utterly human.

Note: Healing unhealed parts of us is part of the embodiment process. As long as they remain unhealed, they will be triggered by life situations and we tend to live from reactivity to these unhealed parts. To the extent they are allowed and healed, there is space there to instead live from responsiveness, clarity, kindness, and wisdom. The shadow surfacing in the way Adyashanti talks about it is an important part of the embodiment process. It’s not comfortable. It may not be what we think we want. But it’s what’s needed for us to live more fully from the awakening.

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Adyashanti: most people make their greatest leaps in consciousness in the difficult times

 

The irony is that most human beings spend their lives avoiding painful situations. Not that we are successful, but we are always trying to avoid pain. We have an unconscious belief that our greatest growth in consciousness and awareness comes through beautiful moments. We may, indeed, make great leaps in consciousness through beautiful moments, but I’d say that most people make their greatest leaps in consciousness in the difficult times.

– Adyashanti, The End of Your World

Adyashanti: Trying to get out of the illusion is the greatest illusion of all

 

Trying to get out of the illusion is the greatest illusion of all.

– Adyashanti

As any pointer, it’s meant as a helpful nudge. It can help us shift out of a stuck view. It’s medicine for a particular condition.

What condition is this a remedy for? The condition of believing we are absolutely stuck in an illusion and what we seek is somewhere else – instead of already here and already what we are.

And as usual, there is some truth to this and to the reverse.

What’s the truth in the reverse? That, yes, it’s actually worth trying to get out of the illusion. We are indeed caught in an illusion if we believe our thoughts and perceive ourselves as (only or mainly) a separate human being. And although there is great value for life in that illusion (helps life experience itself as limited and separate), it’s locally uncomfortable. So it comes with a wish for a release from this discomfort and the temporary illusion.

The trick is to do this skillfully. At one extreme, we may think that our existence as it is now is a mistake and / or that what we seek is somewhere else and different from this. We may wish for a dramatic shift that solves all our apparent problems. At the other extreme, we may not consider that something else is possible – or we think change is impossible. Either one is, of course, perfectly fine. There is nothing inherently wrong with these views, and both are quite common.

But there is a middle ground. We can recognize that what we are is what all happens within and as, including any temporary illusions created from believing thoughts. And that noticing that is the release we are wishing for. It won’t solve our very human challenges, but it does provide a different context for our human life and experiences. It does offer a certain relief from blind suffering and discomfort.

And there are ways to invite in this shift. One is healing of our human self, which is a relief in itself (and, at one level, often what we really wish for). Another is various forms of inquiry that can give us a glimpse of what we already are (Big Mind process, Headless experiments), or a release of beliefs and identifications creating the temporary illusion (The Work, Living Inquiries). We can also engage in different forms of meditation, including noticing and allowing what’s here, or noticing that we are the still presence all our experience happens within and as. Or, since all of this has a consciousness and energy side, we can invite in or support these shifts from the energy side (Vortex Healing).

So, in a certain context, Adya’s pointer is just the right medicine. It can help us shift out of a stuck view and find curiosity for what may be more true for us. It can help us reorient. And that path of discovery is rich and deep and somewhat unique to each of us.

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Why is the world beautiful?

 

Why do we experience the world as beautiful?

Why do we experience people, animals, plants, landscapes, art, music, science, the Earth as a whole, stars, nebulae – and much more – as beautiful? As intrinsically beautiful?

Could it be because we are it? We are the universe experiencing itself as all of that. We are Earth experiencing itself as landscapes, animals, plants, humans. We are life itself experiencing itself as all of that. We are a product of the evolution of the Universe, Earth, and life on Earth. We experience ourselves. And we find it fascinating, interesting, and beautiful.

And what happens when we find some of it not beautiful? Could it be because we have stressful and unpleasant stories about it, and those stories temporarily shade our experience of its beauty?

In the even bigger picture, we can say that all is Spirit. All is Spirit expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in myriads of forms. So it’s only natural for Spirit to find it beautiful. Spirit – as us – finds Spirit – as the world – beautiful. And Spirit sometimes forget. Spirit – as us – sometimes tells itself parts of itself is not beautiful, and temporarily believes it, and that too is Spirit expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in myriad of ways. That too is Lila… the play of the divine.

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Simplistic assumptions: emotional issues and physical illness

 

Some like to think there is a one-to-one correspondence between certain emotional issues and certain physical illnesses. Or, at the very least, some like to present it that way.

Why are people drawn to it?

It can give a sense of hope and control, and something to do about a serious issue.

Since all emotional issues are on a scale, we can always find any one issue in ourselves if we look.

Sometimes, there may be some truth to the apparent connection.

And, sometimes, someone will work on a specific emotional issue and the apparently corresponding physical issue clears up – for another reason.

What are the potential drawbacks?

We may blame ourselves. For instance for the emotional issue or for being unable to change it.

We may put time and energy into resolving an emotional issue that has little or nothing to do with the physical illness. (This, in itself, is not a bad thing if it doesn’t take away from other approaches.)

In the worst case, we may neglect other approaches that could be more effective.

What seems more accurate?

First, reason and experience suggest that a one-to-one correspondence between specific emotional issues and physical illnesses is overly simplistic. Life is more complex and varied than that.

At the same time, it seems clear the emotional issues can create physical weaknesses and susceptibility to physical illness. For instance, in a general sense, we know that’s true for stress or feeling lonely.

And sometimes, a specific emotional issue may indeed be connected to a physical illness. It may be one piece of the healing process puzzle. Other times, there may be little or no connection.

So what may be a more reasoned approach?

In general, it’s good to take a holistic approach.

What can mainstream medicine do? What can other – perhaps more leading-edge – medical specialists do?

What can we change in diet, environment, or activity to support healing? How can we change our life to support healing, including finding social support, more sense of meaning, and reducing stress?

And, yes, does there seem to be an emotional issue behind the physical illness, and what happens if we find healing for it? (Vortex Healing is the approach I have found that seems to best do both of those.)

As usual, there is most likely some grain of truth to the emotional issue – physical illness correspondence, at least to some extent and in some cases. And it’s good to take a whole picture and more grounded approach.

Note: I know I have taken a devil’s advocate approach here. In reality, most people will look up what books etc. suggest about what emotional issue is behind their physical illness, take it with a grain of salt, check in with themselves to see if it seems likely, do something to find healing for it if yes, and still do whatever else they would do to find healing for their physical illness. It’s just one of many components, and for most people not even the most important one.

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Why do techniques and approaches stop working?

 

Whether we explore awakening or healing, we may find that our trusted techniques and approaches eventually stop working.

Why do they stop working?

Here are some possibilities.

We may need to learn using it with more skill and/or a different intention and attitude.

For instance, I reached a plateau with The Work at some point, and was able to use it with more skill after attending The School for The Work with Byron Katie.

Another example is working on my kidneys with Vortex Healing, noticing that it didn’t seem to go anywhere, checking in with a fellow Vortex healer, and realizing there was an emotional issue connected with the kidneys and I had used VH to clear out whatever was there without having the intention of meeting the issue (all initially outside of awareness).

If we explore something with the main intention of changing or getting rid of it, it may work for a while, and then not. Life may instead invite us to meet it, befriend it, understand it’s perspective, be present with it, be patient with it, respect it as it is, and allow it as it is. And when we are more familiar and comfortable with allowing and being present with it, it may allow change.

We may also have fear of approaching whatever we are about to explore, and that fear may stop us in order to protect us. In that case, we’ll need to meet the fear, listen to it, and see where it goes from there.

Life invites us to explore from additional angles and perspectives. That may allow us to go deeper, discover something new, and have a more rounded experience.

For instance, we may be comfortable with basic meditation or body-centered approaches, but have overlooked inquiry. Or the other way around. So life creates stagnation with an invitation for us to explore the mind more directly and in depth, or explore basic noticing and allowing, or bringing the body in more wholeheartedly. Or we may have left out the heart, and our usual approaches stagnate with an invitation to include heart-centered practices.

In general, it’s helpful to use a well-rounded approach, including restful noticing, inquiry, heart-centered practices, energy work, body-centered practices, and attention to our social relationships and relationship to Earth and life as a whole. If we mainly focus on one of these areas, we may eventually experience stagnation which is an invitation to include and bring attention to other sides of our experience and life.

Any approach is useful for a certain phase and we may be ready for another phase. Another way to say it is that techniques and approaches function as medicine for a certain condition, and we may have moved on so it’s not so helpful anymore.

Some approaches are more phase dependent and some are less so. For instance, the most basic form of meditation – notice and allow what’s here, and notice it’s already allowed – can be helpful throughout our process.

It may be an invitation to go deeper. To question our most basic assumptions about ourselves, the world, and existence, and then find new approaches that match our new discoveries. Or find a way of doing our old approaches with our new orientation.

Eventually, it may be an invitation to step out of techniques and traditions. To take off the training wheels. To stand alone. (And that doesn’t mean that we leave them altogether. Old and new approaches may still be useful, now and then.)

It’s good to be open and curious about this. I tend to assume number one or two first, explore those, and then if it doesn’t go anywhere, explore the third. I also sometimes check in with others – peers or who are more experienced – to get a second opinion.

Note: This article is a bit messy and I plan to rewrite it. I usually start with an outline, and only write when the outline feels clear and as comprehensive as I wish the article to be. This time, I pushed it due to upcoming travelling, and the article feels a bit disorganized and messy.

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Adyashanti: Don’t get mixed up with the “whys”

 

Don’t get mixed up with the “whys”, they won’t help you.

– Adyashanti

I agree that why questions are often not helpful if we look for answers that we take to be inherent in life or the divine. That’s futile.

On the other side, why questions can be helpful if I use them to find what I can make out of a situation. That’s why I personally find why questions very helpful.

And, of course, why questions can be used in an ordinary and practical way. Why, in an ordinary and conventional sense, did something happen.

For instance, I got CFS a few years ago.

Why did it happen, in a practical sense? I have had it earlier, and had it at a low grade for a long time before this happened. It was initially triggered by mononucleosis and this time by severe pneumonia. Life stress may have set the stage for the CFS return. The house I lived in had mold problems. And so on. It’s helpful to explore these since they may give clues for treatment and prevention.

Why did it happen, in the bigger picture? It came with several invitations for me. An invitation to learn to relax. To change my life situation. To be aware of and find freedom from previously strong identities (as productive, active, smart, energetic, on top of everything etc.). To have time for exploring and deepening in healing and awakening.

And if I had a different worldview, I could torment myself with why questions aimed at finding a final or absolute answer inherent in life or the divine itself. Some of these answers may be obviously and inherently stressful (God wanted to punish me). Some may appear helpful but are inherently stressful because I know I cannot know for certain. And I may also torment myself by spinning and trying to find the correct answer while – somewhere in me – knowing I cannot know for certain.

I agree that some why questions can be unhelpful, as Adya says. Although personally I find why questions very helpful. I find the practical why questions helpful. And I find the why questions that help me look for invitations in a situation helpful.

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Article: Ways to help children with the “critical critter”

 

5 Ways to Help Children Silence Negative Self-Talk – Shrinking The ‘Critical Critter’ (by Dr Hazel Harrison)

I am a little ambivalent about this article. On the one hand, it has several good approaches. It does help to see these voices in us as voices or subpersonalities or even beings. It does help to dialog with it.

And yet, in this particular approach, the voice remains a problem, an “other”, or even a subtle enemy. Something to keep at a distance. Something to be vigilant about. Something where we can’t really let down our guard. And that’s tiring and doesn’t lead to any real sense of resolution.

For me, the next step is befriending this part of me. Getting to know it. Listen to what it wishes to tell me. Find it’s deepest wish for me. And through that, perhaps see that it’s on my side. It may be here to protect me. It may be here out of kindness and love. It may wish to help but not really know how.

It just knows the harsh approach, which it may have learned from parents, teachers, and society in general. So through befriending, getting to know it, patience, respect, listening, and dialog, it may learn a different approach. I learn how to relate to it differently. And through that, there is an invitation for it to relate to me differently.

These parts of me want what I want. They want to be met, heard, loved, respected. They want to be understood. They want their deepest and real motivation heard and understood. They want space to be as they are, and change their approach on their own time.

So with children, the five approaches mentioned in the article may be a good start. And then, we can help children to get to know and befriend these part of themselves. They can see them as scared and frightened animals that wishes to be met with kindness, understanding, and love. Animals that over time will learn to relate to us differently, if we relate to them with kindness and patience.

In this way, we move from a kind of zero-sum approach where we learn to passify the voice (which, at best, is a temporary solution), to a win-win approach where we both get what we deep-down really want.

How would we do this practically? I assume we would have to experiment and see what works best, and also find different approaches for different children. Here are some possibilities:

How does the critical critter (cc) look? Can you make a drawing of it?

When the critical critter comes up, where do you feel it in your body? Can you feel those sensations? Rest with them? Let them be there as they are? And if there is fear of doing that, how does that feel?

How would it be if you made friends with it? How would it react? What would it do? Would it change?

What does the cc really want? Perhaps it wants your best but doesn’t know how? Perhaps it wants you to do better? For you to act so your teachers and parents approve?

Can you ask it if what it really wants is for you to do better? For people in your life to approve of you?

Can you ask it what it wants for you? What does it want you to know? If it could speak, what would it say?

Can you ask it how it can help you better? How would it change so it helps you better? Is it willing to try that?

Not having worked with children in this way, I don’t know exactly what would work the best but these are some things to try out.

Note: The next step would be to notice that all content of mind is mind itself (consciousness, awakeness).  I suspect that would be for a few especially interested, although I could be wrong.

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Limitations and going deep

 

I attended my cousin Knut’s funeral yesterday, and it was a reminder of how limitations can help us go deep. He had a strong physical handicap, and – as it seemed to himself and us who knew him – it allowed him to go deep in reflection, being, soulfulness, and spirituality.

He was one of the most genuinely reflected, deep, soulful, and spiritual people I know. At least within the limitations of a relatively mainstream Norwegian culture.

We see that in many areas of life. Limitations – whether imposed by life or chosen – allow us to go deep. Sometimes, that means going far beyond the apparent boundaries imposed by the limitations, and we may surprise even ourselves.

We also see this in the bigger picture. Life or the Universe has imposed limits on itself through densifying itself into matter, a great variety of matter, galaxies, solar systems, living planets (at least one), a great variety of life within these living planets, being, and taking itself to be separate beings.

And, if we are open to it, we can say that this is the divine doing all this within itself. It densifies itself, makes itself into an evolving universe, into a variety of elements and combination of these elements, galaxies, solar systems, beings, and taking itself as a variety of separate beings.

Through these limitations, life and the divine is able to experience and explore itself in always new ways. There is a great richness created from these limitations.

Of course, when life takes itself to be a human being, and especially if this human being happens to live within certain cultures, it may feel that limitations are limiting. They are. And at the same time, they not only allow us to go deep within our life and limitations. In the bigger picture they allow an immense richness of life and even life itself as we know it.

Limitations are not only inherent in life as we know it, it’s what allows for this life.

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Dream: Bob Dylan concert ☑

 

I am in a small town in the US and someone says Bob Dylan has a small, informal concert in a house nearby. I go there and listen to him play. Since I am not a big Bob Dylan fan, I thought to myself “at least I can say I have heard him play”. I wake up, and realize I can’t even say that since it was just a dream.

This is a good example of the interplay between dream and wake consciousness. In the dream, I think “at least I can say I have been to a Bob Dylan concert”. It’s a ticked box on my list of things I have done. When I wake up, I realize I can’t even say that since it was a dream. And it helps me notice this in me. I do this in life, to some extent.

I have a mental list of ticked ✓ boxes of things I have done and experienced. And although it helps to remind me of the richness of my life (any life is rich in this way), it also feels a bit hollow. If I do it for practical memory purposes, that’s fine. But I seem to do it partly for feeling better about myself.

And although that’s fine too, it can be a pointer to something that’s not quite healed in me. A part of me feels not good enough, and uses this list to feel a little better. It’s very human, very universal. And it’s good to explore a bit, and meet that part. Feel the sensations there. Notice the beliefs it’s coming from. Notice, allow, and rest with the sensations and then the thoughts. Find appreciation for it (it’s there to protect me). Thanking it for protecting me. Listening to what it wishes me to hear and know. Investigate the belief. Notice my earliest memory of having it. Invite in healing for this part of me. (These days, I tend to use a combination or inquiry, dialog, and Vortex Healing for this.)

So the dream in itself wasn’t the most helpful. It was the interaction between the dream and waking up. The initial disappointment of not being able to say “I have heard the legend Bob Dylan play live”.

Good friends don’t buy into our stressful stories

 

I am revisiting topics here.

And although I have the thought that I should write on “new” topics I see the value of revisiting. It feels fresh and new to me even if I know I have written about it before. Each time, I am likely to do it from slightly different angles. I may discover something new for myself. And with about 10,000 articles here, it doesn’t hurt to put topics back on top of the list of articles.

So here is an old one going back to my teens: Good friends don’t buy into our stressful stories.

Of course, if we wish to hold onto our stressful stories, then good friends are those who tend to support them. They show their sympathy by listening to and agreeing with our stressful stories.

But if we wish to be more aligned with reality and find freedom from our stressful stories, then good friends are those who don’t buy into them. They still listen and are present with us. They still show sympathy since they know the pain of stressful stories. But they don’t buy into the stories in themselves.

They know, from own experience, that stressful stories mask pain and hurt, and that this pain and hurt wants to feel heard, met, listened to, and allowed. They may know that stressful stories hold no absolute or final truth, and the liberation of clearly seeing this for any specific story that’s here and finding specific examples of the validity in the reversals.

So how to be a good friend to others, especially when they are interested in finding healing for these parts of themselves? Listen. Listen for the fear and pain that often is behind the stressful stories. Ask what they would like from you, and what would be most helpful. After a while, perhaps suggest that this can be explored later on.

In some situations, we may have the experience and skills to guide this exploration, and they may ask us for it. Or we may mention that we are available now or later if they wish to explore it.

We can do this exploring in a range of ways.

It could be asking the triggered part what I want us to know. How it is experiencing the situation. Have a dialog with it. Thank it for (wishing to) protect us. Help it to see what it really wishes for us. Help it to see what happens when it comes up as it tends to do. Invite it to explore different ways of coming up that may be more helpful to us, and more aligned with what it really wants for us (usually, a good life).

We can do it by inviting in a noticing and allowing of what’s here – the sensations, words, and mental images. Notice. Allow. Notice it’s already allowed (by life, space, awakeness, the mind). Rest with what’s here. Notice, allow, and rest with the sensations. Notice and allow the fears that may come up when we initially do this.

We can do it by identifying and investigating the stressful beliefs, for instance through The Work.

Also, after they have expressed what they wish to express, and had some time to rest with it, we could offer a simple mix of these according to what seems most helpful. Invite in noticing and allowing what’s here and rest with it for a while. Invite in noticing and resting with the sensation component. Invite in a noticing that this part of us that’s triggered is here to protect us. Invite in different and potentially liberating perspectives.

Often, it won’t be quite as systematic or formal as described here. But some of this may happen spontaneously according to what seems appropriate and helpful in the situation. And we may notice that something in us is triggered by what they share, do some of this for ourselves, and perhaps mention it.

If we are on a path of discovery, healing, and aligning ourselves more closely with reality, it’s helpful to find friends who are doing the same. They can help us shift out of stressful stories, and perhaps even help us explore them. And we can do the same for them, and for ourselves. We can be a good friend to ourselves in this way. And in each of these three ways, we create a new culture within ourselves as individuals and among ourselves as groups of people with this shared orientation.

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It’s not what I am?

 

It’s popular in non-dual circles to say it’s not what you are, referring to emotions, thoughts, this body, and anything else we take ourselves to be in the changing world of experience.

There is some truth to that, it’s reverse, and also in the more conventional views.

From the view of what we really are, we can say….

It’s not what I am (I). Experiences – including emotions, thoughts, sensations, this body, my experience of the wider world  – come and go, and I seem to be something that doesn’t come and go. I am that which all of this happens within and as. Or, we can say I am the whole, or the awakeness, or even the void all of it is happening within and as.

It is what I am (I). At the same time, we can say that whatever is happening is what I am. Whatever is my current experience – with sensations, emotions, thoughts, this body, the wider world – is what I am. It’s unavoidable. It’s happening within and as what I am.

And we can also look at this from a more conventional view.

It’s not what I am (II). Changing states and experiences are not what I am, in a conventional sense. They may be part of me. But they come and go. As a human being, I am both more than these and something more stable. (Although that more stable, a more stable personality, also changes over time.)

It is what I am (II). In a conventional sense, not negated by the (I)s above, I am this human being. To others, I am this human being in the world. In a pragmatic sense, I am this human self in the world.

We can use any of these as a pointer. The not what I am pointer can be helpful if the mind habitually identifies as content of experience. The I am what’s here pointer can be helpful if we are more identified with or as (our ideas about) awakeness.

The not what I am (II) pointer is helpful if we are not ready or ripe for the first ones, and it speaks to the parts of us functioning within a conventional experience. And the is what I am (II) pointer is equally valid and helps us function in the world.

Using each of these, and additional ones, can help us stay a bit fluid and not get stuck in any one particular view. Or, more accurately, we can use these pointers to see where we tend to reside and see how we can unstick a bit.

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Tonglen

 

When I found tonglen in my teens, it felt deeply right and instantly became a favorite of mine.

There are different ways to do it, depending on our ability to visualize and so on.

Here is, more or less, the official version.

Visualize someone in front of you. It can be a being, a group of beings, Earth as a whole, yourself, or a part of yourself. If you are just getting started, it can be easier to start with individual people and then expand to groups. And also to start with someone you like, they move on to someone you are neutral about, and then someone your mind actively dislike.

Visualize their suffering as black smoke. When you breathe in, breathe in that smoke. The black smoke represent any suffering, pain, stressful beliefs, hangups, wounds, and so on.

Breathe out light and see it filling them. The light represents clarity, kindness, awakeness. (I like to visualize breathing in the black smoke, see it transform into light, which I then breathe out so it fills the recipient and they become light.)

Repeat. Use your natural breath. Keep going for a while. Perhaps until you feel it, notice a shift, and a then a deepening of that shift.

Do it again later, perhaps the next days or a few days later. See how it is to make it a regular practice, at least when you notice your mind starts struggling with others, yourself, or situations.

And here are some things I notice in my own experience.

There is a shift in how I relate to others, myself, the world.

A more open heart. A sense of equality or oness. Relief. Receptivity. Kindness.

If there is a strong dislike, indifference, or liking of the recipient, there is a softening or release of the “glue” or compulsion behind it.

It’s a reminder of the world as a mirror.

I am reminded that what I see out there – in others and the world – is also in here. There may be an interest in finding in myself what I see in others, and find specific examples.

I am reminded that how I relate to something is how I relate to it in myself, others, and the world. My relationship to it is universal, and it can change.

At the very least, it may open for a curiosity about the world as a mirror. A question if this is so. Do I already have in myself what I see in others?

And a few other things:

It’s a reminder that “darkness” can “transform” into “light”. Darkness here is suffering, pain, stressful beliefs, wounds, trauma. And light is clarity, kindness, awakeness, perhaps even recognizing it – as is – as already the divine.

If there is hesitation in breathing in the black smoke, as there may be in the beginning, we can use that as an opportunity to identify scary thoughts about it and inquire into them. Or invite in healing for the wound behind the fear in some other way.

If there is an experience of bliss, as there often is for me when I do tonglen, it’s an opportunity to explore our relationship to bliss. Is there a compulsion to seek it? What’s behind that compulsion? (Often a sense of lack.) What do I find when I explore it (inquiry) or invite in healing for it?

If we are ready for tonglen, do it more or less regularly over some time, and do it mostly wholeheartedly, it can be profoundly transformative. It can deeply transform our relationship to ourselves, others, and the world. It can bring in a deep healing. It can even invite in a recognition of all as the divine.

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, some say it’s the only practice you really need, and I am inclined to agree. It seems it can bring in a deep and comprehensive healing and awakening.

Although, I have to say I personally obviously explore a wide range of different forms of explorations and practices. I can’t really help it. And that seems to be my path.

Note: This post is a bit messy so I may rewrite and simplify it later.

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Changing the past

 

In the A Christmas Carol episode of Doctor Who, the doctor rewrites the past of the Scrooge character, which changes his personality. Different memories, different personality.

That’s how it is with inquiry as well, and perhaps especially The Work. As Byron Katie says (paraphrased), forgiveness is what happens when we see that what we thought happened didn’t.

Through questioning our thoughts about our past, we change ourselves.

Invitation for healing, maturing, awakening

 

I sometimes use the word invitation. For instance, I may write there is an invitation in this situation to heal, mature, and even awaken. What do I mean by the word invitation here?

There is no actual invitation inherent in life or any situation. But it’s there as a potential. And we can see it as an invitation and make use of it as an invitation.

In this sense, there is an invitation from life to us in any situation. There is an invitation to heal, mature, and awaken. An invitation to explore and learn. An invitation to notice and experience. If we are ready for it, there is also an invitation in any situaiton for us to notice what we are, and all as the divine.

And we can also invite life. We can invite in healing for something in us, or maturing, or even awakening. We can prepare the ground, we can set the stage. And if it happens, then it’s grace.

So there is no actual invitation inherent in life. But we can make use of it as an invitation. And we can invite in certain things by preparing the ground for it, and if it happens, it’s grace.

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Fear protecting beliefs, wounds, trauma

 

Our beliefs, identifications, emotional issues, wounds, and trauma are systems. And as all somewhat lasting systems, they have protections in place that keeps them going for a while. Until something happens that invites in a shift to something else, for instance, release, resolution, healing etc.

And within that protection is often fear. And not just any fear, but fear that’s unmet, unfelt, unloved, unallowed, and unquestioned (the story behind it).

This fear can take a few different forms. It can be fear of meeting the issue. It can be fear of what will happen if the issue is no longer there. It can be fear of meeting the fear itself, the fear protecting the issue.

So when we address a belief, emotional issue, or trauma, we’ll need  – at some point – to address this protecting fear. Often, that means to address it right away. That tends to bring some ease into the overall process.

And this also includes finding genuine appreciation for the fear. It’s there for a reason. It’s there to protect the self. It’s from kindness and love. And there is often some wisdom behind it. It’s there so we are less likely to enter traumas – small or large  – without necessary skills and experience.

It doesn’t need to go away. It just there with an invitation to meet it, allow it, find appreciation for it.

Awakening with or without soulfulness

 

I am not sure how universal this is so I haven’t written about it before. But I thought I would share some of my own experiences with this.

The initial awakening was an awakening to and as Big Mind, and within that, there was a strong sense of the soul and soulfulness. Just as the human self happens within and as Big Mind, the soul happens within and as Big Mind. It’s a vehicle for the divine to experiencing itself as an individual self. The human self is physical, and the soul is made up of “soul matter” for lack of a better term. I recognized the soul as similar to the human self. Something that’s here but not ultimately what I am.

The human self, the world, and the soul, are all part of the always changing content of experience.

For me, this soul emphasis took expression through a strong urge to make art and music, and generally diving deep into the arts. It was also expressed through a strong resonance with nature mysticism, ecospirituality, ecopsychology, deep ecology, community, and sustainability.

Gradually, over time, this soul emphasis diminished. There was still Big Mind, but with less of the soul and more just neutral clarity. That’s another way for Big Mind and the divine to experience itself. It’s not better or worse than having the soul more emphasized. And I think it’s natural for these shifts to happen, also because it makes it more clear what’s here independent of any changes in content of experience.

I wouldn’t mind having the soul experience return more strongly but I am not sure if it will. It may have been cleared out. Who knows.

I know that in our culture, soul and soulfulness are highly valued so many would think it’s better if it’s here more strongly. But I really don’t know. I see both as equal.

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Bliss addiction

 

This is another 101 topic I have written about before and thought I would briefly revisit.

We can be addicted to bliss, especially during a certain phase of the spiritual path.

Here is what often happens:

We get a taste of bliss.

We want it again.

We try different strategies to get it again.

We try strategies to get it to stay.

And eventually, we discover that we seek a transitory state and an experience, and that’s ultimately futile.

As far as I can tell, this bliss-seeking compulsion has a few different functions.

It’s a carrot on the path. It keeps us going so our seeking and practices become more established and more of a stable habit. Especially as it tends to happen early on the intentional path.

It can bring a certain healing. It can make us feel loved. It can help us trust life more.

It’s a lesson in the difference between states and what we are. It helps us differentiate the two.

It’s an invitation to explore what in us drives the compulsion and find healing for it.

As experiences come and go, we will eventually notice that what we are is what experiences happen within and as. And that that’s what it really is about, at least as we mature a bit. Seeking and losing and refinding and relosing bliss is a strong invitation to notice this.

And what drives this compulsion to find bliss, or really any compulsion? It’s often a sense of lack, a sense of not being good enough, and wanting to escape uncomfortable identifications and feelings.

So there is nothing wrong in seeking bliss. It’s natural. It’s quite common. It has several functions. And it leads us to a slightly more mature phase of the path.

Note: What strategies do we use to seek and maintain bliss? Most often, it’s a combination of meditation practices, prayer, and yogic or energetic practices. And for some, it’s psychoactive drugs.

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Brief pointers

 

My writing here tends to consist of brief and simple pointers.

Why? I suspect it’s a combination of reasons. Perhaps it’s because that’s what I seem to benefit the most from myself. Perhaps because it requires less effort. Perhaps because it leaves more room for own exploration and discovery.

And for others, and for me at other times, I know that something else may be more interesting and helpful. Perhaps more flowing and personal writing. Or more poetic and heartfelt writing. Or more detailed and comprehensive writing.

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Key interventions | Chin in

 

Sometimes, we find key interventions that reorganizes the whole system towards health.

I have explored different adjustments for my posture. For instance adjusting the angle of my hip rotation (bottom forward), shoulders back, leading with the belly or chest, imagining a string pulling on the top of the head etc. They all help to some extent but each one felt a bit contrived. (My posture is OK but – as anything – it can always improve, and especially through a wide range of daily life situations and circumstances.)

There is a simple pointer that really works for me: bring the chin in. When I bring the chin in, my whole posture adjusts and falls into place. It feels natural, organic, and comfortable. It creates a natural and easy whole systems change. The curve in my neck becomes a bit more shallow. My shoulders go back. My chest out. My belly in. My hips rotate forward at the bottom, allowing my lower back curve to reduce a bit. My stance and walk feel more comfortable. My mind becomes a bit more alert.

And I can use it in any situation, whether I walk, sit, stand, ski, or whatever I may be doing.

This is what seems to work for me right now. Perhaps not in the future. Certainly not for everyone. But for me, right now. And that’s what counts.

It made me reflect on key interventions. Sometimes, it seems we need to work on a range of issues and approach something from many different angles. And other times, we find a key intervention that allows for a relatively easy whole systems change.

And sometimes, the first may lead to the second. We may approach something from many angles and perspectives, and that ripens the system for a key intervention. Or in the process of exploring a range of approaches, we happen to find (what turns out to be) a key intervention.

In this case, the intervention is very simple and just a little nudge. And yet, it leads to relatively large and comprehensive changes through the system.

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Donate to Mystery of Existence

 

Due to a relatively high volume of visitors to this site, combined with having chosen to not put any advertisement here, it does cost more than I expected to host this website.

So, if you find the content here helpful or interesting, or something you would like to see around so others can benefit from it, would you consider making a donation? Any amount is welcome.

Thank you in advance! And, of course, I appreciate you as a visitor either way.

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Embodiment

 

What does embodiment mean?

An awakening can be lived from to different degrees in different situations and areas of life. And embodiment is the process where we learn to live from the awakening in more situations and areas of life.

How do I invite in embodiment?

Healing. I invite in healing for parts of me that need healing. When something in me is unhealed, it tends to operate from reactivity and (unmet) fear. And when it’s healed, it’s more receptive to the awakening and living from awakening. When I say “healing” I mean healing of emotional issues, wounds, and traumas – small and large.

Maturing. Maturing in an ordinary human sense allows for a different and more mature way of embodying the awakening. When we live from awakening, how we live from it partly depends on our ordinary human maturity. And how do we mature? We mature through experience, living life, healing, and receptivity to maturing.

Familiarity. Embodiment also comes from familiarity with living from awakening. As we live from it in different situations and areas of life, we gain familiarity and experience. And that allows us to live from it differently.

Intention. Intention is crucial. An ongoing intention to embody the awakening in more situations and areas of life.

The two most important ones are probably intention and healing. The maturing and familiarity tend to come over time when the two first ones are in place.

I realize I have glossed over what awakening means here. I chose to let it go since it’s addressed in other posts.

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A simple logic

 

The world exists in and as time & space.

Something time- & spaceless must allow for it.

Both make up reality.

And that’s what we are.

It’s a simple logic. It has a mathematical simplicity.

And it’s also something we can explore for ourselves – in immediacy.

The easiest way I have found is through the Headless experiments and the Big Mind Process.

Note: When it’s said so simple, we see that calling it “spirituality” is too much. It’s much simpler than that. Much more immediate. Much more fundamental. And there is also a risk in making it so simple and so logical. The mind can tell itself that since it’s simple and logical, it gets it. But that’s not really getting it. Getting it is to find ourselves as the time- and spaceless that’s full of the world, and is the world. To find it in immediacy.

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