Remembering heaven and being atheist

 

I rarely write or talk about this, but I thought I would share something since it’s part of my life, and it may be similar to what others have experienced.

As a child, I remembered how it was before this life. I remembered in flashes now and then, especially when outside with the sunlight filtering through the moving leaves. And in those moments, it was like being back. Then, I never spoke about it. Perhaps I knew people wouldn’t understand, and I didn’t have the words for it. Now, I may find some words.

All of existence was infinite love, consciousness, wisdom, light. There were beings – including me – that also were this infinite light, consciousness, and wisdom, and had no bodies. There was a profound sense of being home.

When I started school, these flashes were less frequent and then went away. What remained was a longing. A deep longing for this profound sense of being home. I would sometimes wake up with this deep longing, and do all the things I enjoyed the most to see if I could find what I was looking for. I would read comics (Carl Barks) and books (Jules Verne, adventure books), eat sandwiches with butter and strawberry jam, drink hot chocolate, go to my parents, go outside to play, play with friends. Nothing worked.

I didn’t consciously connect it with God or heaven. I had no framework for it. And when people did talk about God or heaven, it seemed to have no connection with my experience. I wonder if that’s why I, at a young age (in elementary school), decided to identify as an atheist. Religions made no sense to me. They seemed to be just made up by people. If there was some reality or truth to it, it was covered up by what was man-made.

When the initial spiritual awakening happened at age 15, I realized that this was it. All without exception was revealed as Spirit. As consciousness. As infinite love and wisdom. Any experience of a separate self was just that, an experience with no actual reality to it. It’s all – all of existence without exception – Spirit expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. This is what I had flashbacks to as a child. And this knowing is why I had dismissed religions since they couldn’t begin to touch it.

I don’t really think of it as heaven but I see how that word can be used. And that heaven is here. We never left. We “just” need to notice. All of existence already is heaven. And it can appear as mundane or hell through our perceptual filters. Through our beliefs and identifications. That’s part of the play of the divine. That’s part of the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. That’s part of the divine playing hide and seek with itself, as some have put it.

Civilization and its discontents

 

A friend of mine’s profile picture on Facebook is of her snuggling with her cat. It’s very cute. And, knowing something about her background, it also reminded me of our human situation.

We have created a civilization that harms us and the Earth in some significant ways. It harms all life. And because of it, we seek comfort and healing in myriad of ways. My friend does it, partly, through reconnecting with nature and animals.

There is a lot more to say about this topic. But the main thing that struck me was just the image of her snuggling with her cat. And how that, in some ways, is such a good image of the trauma we have created for ourselves through our civilization and how we all seek comfort and healing from it in different ways.

Our civilization is partly built on an imagined disconnect from nature. That hurts us and all life. And we try to compensate for that hurt in so many ways, including seeking love, acceptance, money, power, healing, awakening, connection, and a great deal more that we see all around us and in ourselves. From our experience of disconnection comes a sense of lack and something missing, and we try to fill that hole in many different ways.

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Either the most amazing healing system or complete lunacy

 

Vortex Healing is either the most amazing healing system I have encountered or complete lunacy.

I read this on the Vortex Healing Facebook group and thought I would share it here. (It was apparently said by someone who had read about Vortex Healing but wasn’t immersed in it as a student.)

For me, it’s all true. It is the most amazing healing system I have encountered. And it is, from a certain perspective, complete lunacy.

It’s amazing powerful since it’s divine energy and consciousness guided by the divine, and everything is already the divine so only the divine can allow for deep healing and awakening. (I know there is a lot in that statement many wouldn’t relate to but I’ll let that go.)

And it is, from a conventional point of view, complete lunacy. From a modern western view, it doesn’t make sense to talk about energy healing or anything guided by the divine.

I can relate to both. In my experience – as a receiver of Vortex Healing, a Vortex Healing student, and through giving Vortex Healing – I know how profound and powerful it is. And as a person living in a modern western society, I can certainly relate to the lunacy part (while also knowing it works).

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TRE helped me go from back pain to a healthy back

 

I have had scoliosis in my lower back since my teens. And I used to have periods of very strong back pain. I would typically wake up in the morning, perhaps every few months, and be unable to move for the rest of the day.

Some years ago, I discovered therapeutic tremoring. It’s the tremoring that our body initiates on it’s own, and most of us are familiar with it through seeing it in other mammals. For instance, dogs may tremble after stress. They shake out the stress after the stressful situation is over. It’s something that all mammals do and it’s built into us through evolution.

The reason most of us humans do not do it, especially in our modern culture, is that we have learned – from an early age – to stop it whenever it is about to start. We don’t understand it, or think it’s a sign of weakness. So we have learned to prevent it from happening.

Therapeutic trembling one of the greatest gifts given to us by evolution and our ancestors. It’s a mechanism that releases both physical and mental stress and tension. And it gives us a chance to get back to a healthy and balanced state, both in our body and mind.

Since we have learned to stop it, we need and initial structure to allow the body to tremble again. And TRE – Tension and Trauma Release Exercises – provides just such a structure. It’s a set of simple exercises which initiates and allows the therapeutic trembling.

When I started with TRE some years ago, my back was initially very sore. All the tense muscles there received a good massage and I experienced it as soreness for a while. Then, as much of the tension was released and the muscles (and fascia) returned to a more healthy state, the soreness went away and so did the recurrent back pain. Now, my lower back feels amazingly healthy and supple.

As with anything else I write about here, please contact me for more information – including who to contact if you would like to try these approaches out for yourself.

Dark forces or something much simpler?

 

Our stories about ourselves and the world has a big impact on us and our life.

When I shared something about the “dark night” phase I seem to have gone through, and how it has been a period of repeated losses and things going “wrong”, a psychic friend of mine said that “dark forces” want to prevent me from living my potential. It was meant well, and it was also a reminder of the power of stories.

At least on the surface, the “dark forces” story puts the responsibility “out there” in the world, into something mysterious and intangible, and it makes the person – in this case, me – into a victim. It’s a story that easily can trigger passivity and hopelessness.

I prefer stories that are closer to what’s here, that are about something I can check from my own experience and that trigger engagement.

The story that makes more sense to me, at least right now, is that I went against my clear inner knowing and guidance on a major and lasting life decision. It brought a sense of getting off track in life. It led into a “dark night” phase that gradually got stronger.

And although I wish I had been clear and healed enough to follow my guidance rather than my fears back then, I also see the tremendous and very real gifts in what happened. The “dark night” phase has brought what’s left in me to the surface. It has brought up remaining beliefs and identifications, and unhealed parts of me, and made it very visible to me. It has given me an opportunity for deep healing.

I created it. There is a valuable and real gift in it.

No “dark force” story is needed to explain what happened.

Although if I wanted to include the “dark forces” story, how would it look in this context? It may look like this: If there are “dark forces” at play, the reason they are at play is because they mirror what’s already in me. They mirror unhealed parts of me, and perhaps enhance dynamics already created by these unhealed parts of me. If anything, they are – really – part of the gift.

I should also mention that the content of the story has an impact on our life. And equally much, or perhaps even more so, does the extent we see through it. If we have examined the story, and it has lost much or all of its charge, the story is a much more useful tool for us. We hold it lightly and use it to the extent and in the situations it seems practically useful.

That often takes some work and investigation. For me, what seems most effective is a combination of inquiry (Living Inquiries, The Work) and Vortex Healing, approaching the story and how I hold it from the consciousness and energy sides.

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Always coming back to here

 

I have noticed a slight disappointment recently. I have done and experienced a great deal, but always return here – to what’s here. It’s as if it all didn’t happen.

As Adyashanti points out, there may be a reason it’s like this. There may be a few different reasons, depending on how we see it.

What’s here, this, is the one constant. What any experience happens within and as – aka consciousness, awakeness, presence etc. – is the one constant. It’s what’s here independent of any particular experience or state. It’s what we are and everything is. It’s also what has the potential to create identification as as something within it’s content, for instance this human self.

Any past experiences or accomplishments are gone. They are here only as a memory. An image or thought, sometimes connected with a sensation. They are truly gone.

Any identity, anything we see ourselves as, similarly only exists as a mental image or thought sometimes connected with a sensation. We may have built up identities and roles through past experiences, but they don’t exist as anything more solid or substantial than a mental image or words associated with certain sensations.

If we take “here” as a more neutral state, as it has shown up for me in the moments mentioned above, then this more neutral state has gifts. It allows me to notice that just about any state is already here. It’s here as a potential, and also – often – as a trace. Also, a more neutral state makes it easier for me to notice what’s here in terms of what “I” already am – what these experiences and states happen within and as. There may be a reason why, for most of us, this more neutral state is the “default” state and what life tends to return us to. It gives us an opportunity to notice what’s here – in terms of traces and what we are – without the distractions of stronger experiences.

So there are many reasons why I return to “here”. It’s all there is. It’s what’s left and here when I notice the past as an image, and identities and roles as images. If it’s a more neutral state, it’s what allows me to notice what’s already here.

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Vortex Healing story: Weight regulation

 

My partner has wanted to lose some weight, and this spring received a Vortex Healing session for it from another Vortex healer. It helped her regulate her appetite and reduce her weight. This fall, she had a period where she found herself again struggling with her diet and weight, and I gave her a Vortex Healing session to help her regulate her appetite and weight. It seems to have worked quite well. She says she is able to keep her calorie intake down relatively effortlessly and she is loosing weight by the day.

I am on the other side of this coin. I have tried to put on weight off and on for several years without much success. Strength training combined with increased calorie intake hasn’t done much for me. (I have never been underweight in a medical sense, but have wanted to put on a few more kilos.) It seems that my body has had a set point that’s a little lower than I would like. This spring, I did a couple of Vortex Healing sessions for myself to change the set-point and be able to put on a few kilos. And I found myself effortlessly putting on kilos this summer and fall. I am now, for the first time in my life, at a weight that feels much more comfortable to me. There is a bit of padding that seems to help my bodymind relax more deeply.

In both cases, Vortex Healing seemed very helpful in setting a new set-point for the body’s weight and in helping with weight management.

Vortex Healing story: Fear of dark

 

I thought I would share some Vortex Healing examples and stories.

Here is one from my own life: As a kid, I had some fear of the dark and especially when I was at the cabin. It’s by a lake, in the woods, far from the city, and without electricity. It’s a natural and common fear to have as a kid. (The tendency to be afraid of the dark is built into us through evolution.)

As an adult, I have noticed traces of this fear of the dark, and most noticeably at the cabin. If I went out in the dark at night, I would notice – and remember – the fear.

While at the cabin his summer, I did a few minutes of Vortex Healing for myself on this fear. Afterwards, I noticed it felt more neutral to go outside in the dark. That wasn’t in itself surprising. It’s what I would expect based on my experience with Vortex Healing. (It was a relatively isolated and not so strong fear, so it didn’t take long to clear.)

What was surprising happened on my next visit to the cabin. I went outside in the dark to go to the outhouse and noticed a whole new experience. Not only was the fear gone. But in its place, I experienced the animals and plants around me, and a deep sense of being part of the natural community. I was a natural part of life.

I assume this experience may have been there the whole time. I do often experience it in nature. But it had been covered up by the fear. With the fear gone, attention was available to notice this deeper sense of connection and aliveness.

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The social and cultural benefits of genetic ancestry testing

 

I received my 23andme results a few weeks back and it has reminded me of a few things about genetic testing. Depending on how it’s used, it can definitely have some drawbacks. But it can also have many personal and social / cultural benefits.

Here are some of the possible social and cultural benefits that come to mind.

We are reminded that we are all overwhelmingly alike. Only about 0.5% of our genetic material has to do with our particular geographic or ethnic history. We are overwhelmingly alike as human beings, and as Earthlings we are also overwhelmingly alike. As human beings, we share almost all our history and ancestors, and as Earthlings we share a great deal of our history and ancestors.

Many of us, and especially in North America, have a far more mixed ancestry than we may expect. For instance, some who identify as “white” may have Asian, North-American, or African ancestry mixed in.

Same or similar genetic sequence-patterns are found in most or all human populations. So when the different companies assign an ethnic group based on particular patterns, they do it based on statistics and probably. Any particular pattern may be more prevalent in some groups but are found in other groups as well. So the analysis is not always accurate. Again, it’s a reminder of how similar we are.

Our official family history isn’t always the same as the genetic one. We have an official set of ancestors. We have a genetic set of ancestors. And the two are not always the same. This may help us hold our identity more lightly. We can (learn to) embrace and appreciate both.

This all makes it more difficult to justify or hold onto racism. (Although I am sure some will be able to if they really want to.) We are all Africans. We share almost all of our DNA. Many of us are more mixed than we think. Any differences are, in the big picture, very superficial.

As genetic testing becomes more common and our understanding improves, it may well have an impact on culture. And, if we want, it may help us see how closely we all are related. It may widen and deepen our sense of “us” as human beings and even as part of the Earth community.

As mentioned, there are also possible drawbacks. For instance, it’s easy to misinterpret or hold certain interpretations as more solid than they are. And some may get stressed out by certain interpretations of their health or ancestry data. They may realize one or both of their parents (or grandparents) are not the ones they thought they were. Or they may mistakenly think that’s the case based on misguided interpretation of the data. Or they may think that a slight statistical increase in likelihood of a certain illness means they are actually likely to get it (which may not be the case at all). And I guess there is some risk that employees or governments can use certain data in unfortunate ways. (I don’t think it’s happening much or at all now, but there is always the risk.)

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Why do these approaches work on so many issues?

 

When I talk about the approaches I use to healing and awakening, I am often aware that it sometimes can sound too good to be true. They seem to work on a wide range of issues and work pretty well – at least if used with skill and over some time.

So why do they work on such a wide range of issues? The simple answer is that they tend to address underlying issues and dynamics. They go below the surface, so they work on a wide range of surface manifestations.

And are they too good to be true? Yes and no. As mentioned above, they tend to work well if used with skill and over time. But it does take work. And if an issue is entrenched, it can take time to clear it.

Here are some examples:

TRE – Tension & Trauma Release Exercises. Therapeutic trembling releases tension out of the body and mind, and that has a wide range of effects. It tends to reduce anxiety, depression, and compulsions. It improves sleep. It can give us a different and more healthy experience of ourselves and the world, and improve our relationship to ourselves, others, and the world.

Inquiry. In inquiry, we examine our beliefs and identifications. Since we often have a layer of beliefs and identifications on top of how we perceive ourselves, others, and life, we can address just about any issue with inquiry. Inquiry can help us release whatever charge is there in our experience of anything. And that means that this too can reduce anxiety, depression, compulsions, and more, especially in relation to something specific.

Vortex Healing. Any issue has a consciousness and energy side. Inquiry tends to approach something from the consciousness side and has an effect on the energy side. Vortex Healing approaches it from the energy side and has an effect on the consciousness side. Vortex Healing can work on emotional or physical issues, relationships, and situations. The deeper reason is that Vortex Healing is divine energy guided by divine consciousness, and since everything is already the divine, only the divine can allow for a deep and thorough healing and clearing of something.

Heart approaches. Ho’oponopono, tonglen, heart prayer, and all-inclusive gratitude practices tend to change our relationship with ourselves, others, and the world. This can be deeply healing and also aligns us with awakening.

My inclination is to seek out approaches that are effective and multi-purpose. Approaches that can be used to work on a wide range of issues, and also invite in healing, awakening, and embodiment. The ones I have mentioned above are among the most powerful I have found so far. (TRE tends to work mostly on healing, although it’s an excellent way to support embodiment of whatever awakening is here.)

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Tree metaphor for healing and awakening work

 

In many types of healing work, we work with branches, trunks, and roots of issues.

We may start with an everyday issue as it’s presented. One that makes sense from our conventional experience of the world. We then refine it into a central issue which is the metaphorical trunk. We find the underlying beliefs and identities, the roots. And then, whatever beliefs and identities that branch out from the central issue.

That’s the simplified version, and it leaves out some important parts: protection, supporting beliefs, deeper and additional roots, and additional trunks coming from the roots.

Fear and protection. There is often fear around approaching and releasing any cherished beliefs or identity, and we’ll often need to acknowledge and meet this fear. It may be good to start here, and do so with respect, patience, receptivity, and understanding that the fear has a purpose, is there to protect the self, and comes from a visceral sense of care and kindness.

Supporting beliefs. There are also related beliefs and identities that support the initial belief and the underlying beliefs. If we want to be thorough, we’ll identify and explore these.

Deeper and additional roots. And we can go deeper and broader in identifying underlying assumptions. What other underlying assumptions are there?

Additional trunks. We can also look at what other beliefs and identities come out of the root, which ones are fed by the underlying and more assumptions.

All this can take time, but with central emotional issues it’s worth it. And the release will often be felt broader in life than in just the initial issue.

Here is a simple example:

Presented issue: Feeling socially awkward at school. Unease.

Central issue: Feeling isolated and judged in school.

Underlying assumptions: I am unpopular. They don’t like me. I don’t have good friends.

Branches: I need to stay quiet in social settings. I need to hide away.

Fear in approaching: It’s painful. It’s overwhelming. I’ll get to see it’s true.

Supporting beliefs: I don’t have good social skills. It’s important to be popular.

Additional underlying beliefs: There is something wrong with me. I am unloved. Life is difficult. Life is a dangerous place.

Additional trunks from the roots: My life won’t go well. I need to stay safe. I shouldn’t take risks.

Of course, we’ll often discover branches, roots etc. naturally in the course of a session. And the issues don’t always fit so neatly into this outline. But sometimes, it can be good to keep this map in mind to see if we have overlooked something.

In theory, and if we are thorough enough, we can start anywhere and eventually get to just about any issue. And, in reality, we’ll be moderately thorough and then keep exploring issues as they show up in daily life.

In my case, I use this general approach mostly in inquiry (Living Inquiries, The Work) and with Vortex Healing.

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Awakening and mainstream psychology

 

Is awakening and mainstream psychology compatible?

I would say yes. At least if we understand awakening in a pragmatic way, use a simple language, and frame awakening so it makes sense from a psychological view. And if there is some generosity and willingness from the psychological world.

Here is an example of how we can talk about it:

(a) Our perception is always of all as consciousness. We don’t perceive objects, people, or the world. We perceive sensory input and imaginations mimicking sensory input, and all that happens within and as consciousness.

Apart from being logical, we can also explore it in immediate experience and find it for ourselves. If something appears real and solid, it’s because mind tells itself this experience is the real world. In reality, it’s a combination of sense experiences and imaginations of these sense experiences.

(b) So awakening is just a shift of our center of gravity, what we take ourselves to be, from content of experience to that which experience happens within and as. It’s a shift from ideas of being a human to the awakeness or consciousness it all happens within and as. Instead of taking ourselves to be content of experience, we find ourselves as context.

I say “just a shift” because it’s simple in theory. It’s easy to grasp as an idea. But the actual shift can take a good amount of work. We may have glimpses and short periods of experiencing this shift, but a more stable and thorough shift typically takes work (and, mostly, grace).

The idea that awakening and mainstream psychology are incompatible comes partly from weird and “mystical” ideas of awakening, and partly from psychology wanting to stay sober and down to earth. Of course, there is already a good deal of interest and research on mindfulness in psychology. And I suspect one of the next steps will be a genuine interest in, and research on, awakening. Using a simple, pragmatic, and sober language when we talk about awakening will support that step.

What may research on awakening look like? Here are some possibilities:

How people who claim a stable and clear awakening function in life? What are the typical characteristics? How do they perceive and operate? What are the brain and other physical characteristics?

The difference between the awakening itself and how it’s lived and embodied. How much of the person is on board or aligned with the awakening. How to support that embodiment.

What’s the process to awakening? What are the paths? What works for whom? What’s the most effective approaches for people in specific situations (personality, inclinations etc.)?

What are the pitfalls on the path? What can go wrong? When is it more likely to go wrong? When is it less likely? What can we do to prevent it? What can we do when something does go wrong? What are the approaches that work best for the different scenarios?

My guess is that we’ll see this type of academic focus and interest more and more in the coming decades.

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All inclusive practices

 

I tend to be drawn to all-inclusive practices. For instance, ho’oponopono or tonglen where we open the heart to everyone and everything, gratitude practices where nothing is left out, or inquiry where we “leave no stone unturned”.

It makes sense for two reasons. First, all is Spirit. And second, it allows for a more thorough healing, awakening, and embodiment.

Of course, it’s more an orientation than something we can completely do. But it does seem to be a helpful orientation and guideline.

The fear behind spiritual practices

 

For many of us engaged in spiritual practices, or any form of healing work, there is an element of fear in our motivation. That’s usually not the whole story, and sometimes not a very large part of the story, but there may still be an element of fear there.

As usual, it’s normal, very understandable, and there is nothing inherently wrong with it. The downside is that it can be stressful, and it can

It’s good to notice and be honest about any fears so we can relate to them more intentionally.

One way to explore the fear is to ask ourselves: What do I fear if I don’t do these spiritual practices? If I don’t heal? If I don’t awaken? What’s the worst that can happen?

Meet the fear with some kindness and love. With gentle curiosity. And inquire into those fears and whatever identities are threatened. How does the mind creates its own experience of the fears? What’s associated with them? How does the mind relate to it? (Living Inquiries.) What are the beliefs? And what do I find when I examine them? (The Work.)

Unless we are mainly driven by fear, this type of examination won’t remove our motivation for engaging in these practices or healing work. We’ll still do it. We’ll just experience a bit more ease in how we relate to it.

Equally important, we may be more aware of the deeper, kinder, and more genuine motivations behind it.

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Shifting center of gravity into more universal identities

 

In some ways, any challenging life situation is an invitation to release identification with more superficial identities (roles, work, gender, preferences etc.) and shift the center of gravity into more universal ones.

– from a previous post

This is a part of healing and awakening, and – to some extent- sustainability and creating a society that works better for all, including future generations and ecosystems.

We all have a mix of different identities. Some set us apart and some are more universal. Some are conscious and some are less so. Some have strong identifications and some not so much. And they come from culture, family, and personal experience (sometimes reactivity).

Life tends to challenge the identities that set us apart, and the more strongly we are identified with them the more stressful and dramatic we may experience those challenges. For instance, we may be identified with being young but we inevitably get older. We may be identified with being healthy, strong, and active, but get sick. We are identified with a political orientation but realize something else makes more sense. And so on. The identities that set us apart typically have to do with roles we play in life, whether it’s relationships, work, age, gender, or different political, religious, or other orientations.

There is nothing wrong with these identities. They all serve a function. We couldn’t live without them. But when life challenges them, as it tends to do, it is painful to have invested them with too much energy.

And that’s an invitation to notice and question these identities, and perhaps shift our center of gravity into more universal identities. These more universal identities include being human, part of life, part of the Universe, being awareness, that which all happens within and as, and so on.

As usual with these type of things, we cannot consciously shift the center of gravity into more universal ones. Any shift requires a ripening that largely operates outside of our conscious awareness and largely comes from influences far outside of us as individuals. And yet, we can invite it to happen through various practices or explorations.

We can identify and question identities through inquiry (Living Inquiry, The Work). We can engage in practices that come from and help us shift into more universal orientations such as heart centered practices (ho’o, jesus prayer, all-inclusive gratitude practice). We can help more universal identities come alive for us through Epic of Evolution type experiences and practices (Practices to Reconnect). We can do energy work that tends to, over time, shift identifications into more universal ones (yoga, tai chi, chi gong, Vortex Healing etc.). And there is a great number of other approaches that similarly helps us shift our center of gravity to more universal identities.

Note: When I say “influences far outside of us as individuals” I mean influences from the past and from the wider social and ecological wholes. Anything that happens has innumerable causes, and these stretch back to beginning of time and out to the furthest reaches of the universe. And that includes any ripening that happens in us and any shifts in identifications.

No self or other?

 

It’s common – in some circles – to hear people talk about “no self and no other”.

It can sound very cryptic and mysterious if it’s not our immediate experience. And it’s very simple and obvious when it is.

This human self, others, and the world is still here. And yet, it’s all happening within and as awakeness.

When awakeness is identified with or as the human self, it’s really identified with certain thoughts and mental images saying (a) there is a human self and (b) that’s what “I” am.

And that identification happens through thoughts being associated with certain sensations. The sensations lend a sense of solidity, substance, and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations (they mean “I am this human self”).

That makes it appear as if there is an “I” that’s this human self, and there are others who also are “I”s in their own experience, and a world full of objects and things. It seems very real and true. And it is, in a certain sense.

When awakeness is not identified with or as this human self, it’s all revealed as happening within and as awakeness. This human self, other beings, the whole world, happens within and as awakeness. There is no “I” in any of it. It’s all life happening as life.

This release of identification can happen temporarily as a transcendent experience (which will then turn into a memory), or it can happen more stably and thoroughly through a clear seeing through the mental dynamics holding the identification in place, and through a corresponding release of the energetic “veils” holding identification in place. When we explore this, we can work on it from either side – for instance through forms of inquiry (e.g. Living Inquiries, The Work) and energy work (e.g. Vortex Healing).

This is very simple, and it’s also an infinitely rich topic.

Realignment. For instance, as long as there is identification as this human self, it will align itself with the experience of separation, and that can be quite traumatic. So when there is a softening or release of identification, this human self is invited to realign with this “new” context of all as awakeness. And that realignment includes healing, maturing, and embodiment.

Whatever is unhealed is invited to heal (which can be quite challenging when unprocessed psychological material surfaces). Whatever is unloved is invited to be loved. Whatever is unseen is invited to be seen. Whatever is unfelt is invited to be felt.

There is also an invitation for this human self to life from this “new” context more consciously, stably, and in more and more situations. And there is an invitation for it to mature in a very ordinary and human sense, and the healing and embodiment is part of that maturing.

Localized. Awakening is, in a sense, localized. Everything is happening within and as awakeness. And yet, that “everything” is (mostly) sensory information received through this human self. In that sense, the awakening is localized.

Independent of traditions. This is independent of traditions. Spiritual traditions may talk about and offer insights and practices to help us explore this, and perhaps have a taste of it or invite a more thorough and stable awakening. But this is about reality and traditions are human made. They can offer pointers, at most. This is more than and different from any tradition, or anything we can put into words.

Ripening. Any opening or more stable awakening happens through ripening. That ripening can be invited through conscious explorations – through various forms of prayer, inquiry, meditation, body-oriented practices, relationships, social engagement, and more. And it seems that most, and really almost all, of the ripening happens outside of conscious awareness.

The ripening happens for innumerable reasons and with innumerable influences, and we are aware of only a tiny part. We could say that our conscious practices is only a small part of the influences on this ripening. We could also say that our conscious practices is an expression of this ripening that’s already happening.

And this ripening is living its own life and happens on its own schedule. How it looks and how fast it happens is independent of how our minds tells us it should be, and it’s often very different. It can be faster or slower, and is almost always very different in character.

Ongoing. Awareness of and releases of identifications is ongoing. Identifications may be released out of what’s more individual, and shift into something more universal. And that keeps happening. Reality keeps revealing itself to itself.

Different labels. There are different labels for what I here called “awakeness”. We can also call it Spirit, Big Mind, Buddha Mind, Brahman, Life, the Universe, or whatever else resonates with us. None of the labels are very accurate. They are all just pointers.

Lila. Is there a goal of “us” awakening? Is life a “school”? Not really, as far as I can tell. To me, this all seems more like the play of the divine. It’s life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways. Identifications is part of it. As is a desire to awaken. And awakening itself. It’s all part of the play. Any other “reasons” for all of it happens within and as this play.

And any thoughts or ideas we have about it, including anything and everything written here, are all human notions. Reality doesn’t conform to our ideas. It’s more than and different from any of our ideas, however smart or intuitive or traditional or innovative or resonating they may seem.

Very ordinary. What happens to our human life in the world in all of this? There can be disruptions for different reasons (dark nights etc.). But mostly, and in the longer run, our human self continues to live it’s life in the world. And it tends to look very ordinary. It looks like an ordinary life, and ordinary healing, maturing, and whatever measure of clarity and wisdom is there. It’s all very ordinary and human. That may initially seem disappointing. And then, it may seem deeply fascinating, rich, and awe inspiring.

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Fear as the gatekeeper

 

Fear is often the gatekeeper to what needs to be healed or awakened.

It’s there for a reason. If we enter these areas of ourselves with insufficient skill, we risk retraumatizing and stir up things without much effective healing.

So if we trust we have sufficient skills, or work with someone who has, or we use an approach that’s less likely to retraumatize, then it’s good to address the gatekeeper along with what it protects.

If the fear is strong, we may start with the fear. We can meet it with kindness, respect, and patience.  Allow it to be there. See that it does have an important function. We can explore how it shows up in the different sense fields and see what’s associated with it (Living Inquiries). We may find a belief or identity behind it, and inquire into it (The Work). We may dialogue with it (Big Mind process).

And then we can explore what it protects, if that feels right.

This is a much gentler approach than diving right into the trauma or the emotional issue. If done well, it will feel – and be – much safer. We ease into it. We address the – genuine, understandable – fears first.

And we can do this no matter what approach we use. For me, it’s typically inquiry, subpersonality work, or energy work such as Vortex Healing. For someone else, it will probably be something else.

The more experience, skill, and understanding we have, the easier it is to approach the fear with respect, kindness, patience – and presence. It comes naturally the more we have done our own work, and the more insights we have into the dynamics. We see that the fear has a genuine and important function. We know it from ourselves. We know it comes from kindness, care for the self, and love. And that brings up a natural patience, respect, and kindness. It also tends to bring up a natural curiosity and wish to listen to it.

Note: When I write “what needs to be healed or awakened” I am aware it’s not very accurate. Another phrasing is probably better, such as “what we wish to invite in healing and awakening for”. Nothing “needs” to be healed or awakened. And we cannot “will” anything to heal or awaken. We can just invite it. We can create a situation where it’s easier for a part of us to heal and awaken. Also, when I say “healed or awakened” it’s because healing or awakening for any part of us means that it aligns more with reality. When it aligns more with reality, it tends to heal and – to the extent it aligns – awaken.

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Not knowing what we’ll find

 

A part of Life 101 is having an open mind.

We don’t know what we’ll find in any exploration of life, whether it’s through science, psychological or spiritual explorations, or just through living our daily lives.

We honestly don’t know, apart from that it – most likely – will be different from what we think, expect, envision, hope, or fear. And when we admit to ourselves, and remind ourselves, that we don’t know, it helps us stay honest with ourselves and the process and notice what’s actually here.

It’s easier said than done. Our minds are typically experts at getting themselves caught up in hopes, fears, and expectations. Our hopes and fears have a charge, and that charge makes them irresistible to the mind. (Of course, the mind creates all this itself, but that’s for other posts.)

What can we do? We can notice. Allow. See it’s the play of the mind. Notice the specific fears and hopes. Meet them with kindness and respect. Inquire into the fears and hopes and see what we find. All of that helps the mind soften and release it’s tendency to get caught in its own creations of hopes and fears.

It can also help to see that this is universal. It’s an universal human experience. And it’s here for a good reason. Having hopes and fears, giving them a charge, and even for the mind getting caught in them, all helped our ancestors survive. We wouldn’t be here without it. At the same time, it’s not conducive to more rational big picture or long-term decisions on behalf of ourselves and humanity, or even for our individual contentment (if that’s what we seek).

Note: I mentioned charge above, and have written about it in other posts. The charge comes from thoughts – mental words and images, being associated with bodily sensations. Sensations lend a sense of reality and solidity to the thoughts and make them seem true, and thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations. For instance, a set of sensation is taken by the mind to mean that I am this body, and that same idea is given a sense of substance and truth by the same sensations.

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One type of dark night: From early awakening

 

There are many forms of dark nights.

In general, a dark night happens when life strongly challenges what we hold as true about ourselves and the world. That’s why the term “dark night” is sometimes used about ordinary challenging life situations, and sometimes in a more technical sense about parts of a spiritual path and process.

One type of a spiritual dark night can happen following an initial opening or awakening. With a spiritual opening, there is an opening to all as Spirit, and sometimes also an opening to previously unprocessed psychological material. As Adyashanti says, the lid is taken off and it comes to the surface. And that can be challenging in the best of circumstances.

In this type of dark night, we find ourselves in a difficult combination of (a) unprocessed psychological material coming to the surface, and (b) being unable to consistently see through it, or see it for what it is, since our clarity is not yet thoroughly clear or stable. There can be a great deal of difficult material coming up, from this and perhaps past lives. And since we are still “baby Buddhas” our clarity hasn’t deepened or matured sufficiently for us to clearly see everything for what it is. We still get caught in what comes up, at least at times.

As Evelyn Underhill and others point out, this is a deeply human process. It can be humanizing. Humbling. Painful. And it’s a pretty ordinary part of the process for many people. And we do get through it, whether we fight it (painful) or learn to go along with it (a little easier). It’s what I went through for a few years after the second opening (relative nondual clarity for about six months).

See below for a more detailed initial draft.

 

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If a story is stressful, go deeper

 

If a story is stressful, go deeper.

We sometimes have initial stories about ourselves, others, or the world, that are stressful. And that’s a reminder to go deeper. To look again. To find an interpretation that’s as or more true, and more kind.

If we have a difficult time finding such a story, there is always inquiry. The Work of Byron Katie may be the best approach for this.

It’s interesting that in our culture, we tend to have a suspicious view of reality. We think it’s perhaps not kind. But by exploring this, over and over, we may get to see that the kind stories we find are as or more true as the unkind. In other words, to us, reality becomes kind.

I wrote a much longer initial draft on this topic which can be found below.

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The world becomes transparent

 

When there is a spiritual opening, a more thorough awakening, or just an in-depth exploration of the mind, it’s as if the world becomes transparent.

Spirit. One way the world can appear transparent is when all is revealed as Spirit. Spirit reveals itself to itself as all there is, including the world of matter, this human self, and anything else. All is revealed as Spirit, including what this is revealed to, so there is a sense of anything else – any appearances and labels – are transparent. They are ephemeral and “thin” compared to all as Spirit.

Exploration. Another way the world can appear transparent is through exploration. Specifically, an exploration of how the mind creates it’s own experience of the world and itself. As we become more familiar with these dynamics – for instance how thoughts and sensations combine to create identification and the appearance of something real – it’s as if the world becomes more transparent.

More about all as Spirit. When Spirit reveals itself to itself as all there is, it may happen in different ways. In a spiritual opening, Spirit may reveal itself as all there is as a glimpse which stays for a while and then fades. It won’t be forgotten, but the immediacy of it may fade. Often, it becomes a guide and inspiration for further exploration and awakening.  That may lead to Spirit recognizing itself as all there is in a more stable way. And that happens partly through embodiment. The different parts of us become more aligned with this reality of all as Spirit, and we live from it with more ease in more and more situations.

When there is identification with ideas about ourselves and the world, there is a “forgetting” of all as Spirit. And that impacts and shapes our psyche including through additional identifications, wounds, and trauma. These parts of us are no longer aligned with the reality of all as Spirit. So when Spirit reveals itself to itself, these parts are invited to heal and realign. They are invited to more closely align with all as Spirit. And this looks like quite ordinary healing, maturing, and kindness.

I should also mention that when Spirit reveals itself as all there is, that includes anything that can be labelled me or I. Nothing is excluded. This human self is still here. A soul may still be here. And so on. And it’s all Spirit. There is no actual separate me or I anywhere in it.

More about exploration. I have written about this form of exploration in other posts on this blog. See, for instance, any posts tagged inquiry, living inquiries, the work, or identification.

Spoilers?

 

Many seem concerned with wanting to avoid “spoilers” for movies, and that’s fine.

In my case, I notice that the more I know about a movie in advance, the deeper and richer my experience is. I don’t care about being surprised. I want a richer experience.

So perhaps those who enjoy the surprise prefer to avoid “spoilers”, and those who want a richer experience don’t mind advance knowledge?

Either approach is fine, of course, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s connected with personality traits. And it’s clearly influenced by culture and sub-cultures.

Life is set up so it’s a mix of likely spoilers while inherently being spoiler-free. We may have ideas about what’s likely to happen but what actually happens is a surprise – either in the details or even the main plots.

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Pastafarians

 

When I first encountered the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster several years ago, I thought it was a brilliant satire over religions. Through their own obviously absurd beliefs and rituals, they highlight the often equally absurd beliefs and rituals in different religions. And they also highlight how society often silently agrees to not point out the absurdity.

And yes, I know that religions serve many functions. They give people a community and sense of belonging. They serve to regulate behavior. They give power to small groups of people. They instill fear and/or hope in people. They create problems (f.ex. original sin) and solutions to these problems.

Some of these functions may be partially helpful and some certainly are not (apart from for the small groups of people benefiting from it in a limited way).

People sometimes complain that Pastafarians mock religion. But that’s their whole reason for being. And religions, let’s face it, often deserve to be mocked – or, at least, have their inconsistencies pointed out.

As with most things, I think religions are mostly OK and that it’s not a problem to belong to one. (I have variously been involved with Unitarians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Zen.) But it is a problem if we are not honest about what’s really going on, at least to ourselves.

For instance, if we are honest we may admit that we chose a particular religion because we were born into it. That the beliefs are just something we (try to) hold as true because we are told to. That we don’t really know. That we are involved for social reasons or emotional comfort. That parts of religions reflect a particular culture at a particular time more than any universal truth. That the purpose of any religion perhaps is to perpetuate itself more than anything else. That we are involved only to explore certain practices and their effects and don’t care about the rest (as was the case for me with Buddhism). And so on.

Avoid, present with, or resolve

 

How do we relate to uncomfortable thoughts and sensations?

We can avoid them. Be present with them. Or invite them to resolve.

Each one has its place.

Avoiding can be useful in the short run. But nothing is resolved, the discomfort tends to return, and avoidance in itself can create problems in life.

Being present with the images, words, and sensations can be helpful. It tends to help the mind calm down. We may notice what’s there, some of the dynamics of the mind, and perhaps have some insights. But in itself, this too won’t neccesarily resolve anything.

So how do we resolve it? It can be resolved through the consciousness side or the energy side, and really through both. I’ll just mention the few approaches I am familiar with, out of the innumerable ones available.

We can identify and examine the stressful beliefs, and find what’s more true to us (The Work). We can notice and rest with the mental images, words, and sensations creating the stressful experience, allowing the mental connection between the thoughts and sensations to dissolve (Living Inquiries). We can dissolve it from the energy side while inviting in insights to support the new patterns (Vortex Healing). We can change our relationship to it through heart centered practices (tonglen, ho’o, metta).

In general, we can meet it with presence, patience, respect, kindness, and curiosity. And that curiosity is a kind of inquiry supported by certain pointers, guidelines, and perhaps practices aimed at helping us see what’s already there. The truth is kind, and it will set us free.

Another meta-skill is important for something to resolve and that’s intention. Intention for it to resolve and clear. Intention for us and the process to keep moving, to find and explore associated and underlying beliefs and identifications.

It also helps to notice that all of it – any movements and any content of experience, including the stressful beliefs and how we relate to and explore it – happens within and as presence. That’s the context for it all. And it helps us notice identfications with wanting something to change, and then notice that too as happening within and as presence. It gives it all more space and freedom to be.

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CFS and bodymind

 

The body-mind is a seamless system, as is the individual and the larger social and ecological wholes. It’s all a seamless system.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and other mystery illnesses function as a reminder of this. To understand it, manage it, and treat it, we need to take a broad and inclusive approach. At least, unless they find one simple solution to curing it (which may happen).

For now, it seems that different approaches work for different people in terms of managing it and sometimes healing from it. Activity management is a universally helpful approach to managing CFS, perhaps since we all do it anyway. It’s part of human life. And some have healed themselves through yoga, or some form of cognitive therapy, or herbal medicine, or eating more, or through other approaches.

In my case, what preceded the CFS, the symptoms, and what helps, is not original. The initial onset was preceded by mononucleosis, perhaps combined with typical teen stress which put an extra load on the system. I got much better after a few years, mostly because I found myself in a situation where I could manage my schedule more freely. When there was a relapse of the severe CFS many years later, it was after severe pneumonia that I wasn’t able to completely recover from.

It’s also clear that it’s connected with food intolerances (which makes the symptoms worse). And it may be connected to mold since I lived in a basement when it first happened, and I lived in a house in Oregon with mold problems when I had the relapse.

My approach to managing and healing from CFS includes:

Avoiding foods my body reacts to. (Dairy, wheat, sugar.)

Regulating my activities. Rest when needed. Do a little less than I feel I can (to avoid crashes).

Herbal medicine. Right now: siberian ginseng (energy), echinacea (immune system), kapikacchu (energy).

Natural rest, inquiry, heart centered practices. This helps me change my relationship to the CFS symptoms and it’s impact on my life, and also explore any issues that may in any way contribute to it.

Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE). TRE releases tension out of the muscles, which in turn frees up energy.

Eating enough. It seems that this is a peace of recovery for many. Making sure the body has enough calories and nutrients to have a good metabolism. (Also, recently adding a small layer of fat to my body has helped me avoid energy crashes.)

Vortex Healing. This has helped me greatly although it’s also a slow(ish) process. I have used it to clear the mono-virus that was still in my body when I started with VH, clearing and optimizing my energy system, and also working on emotional issues impacting my physical health and energy levels.

The Vortex Healing approach to CFS and similar health issues is a reminder of what I mentioned above. It’s best to take a broad and inclusive approach and leave no stone unturned. Prioritize and explore.

Note: I was motivated to write this by a somewhat odd discussion in a Norwegian CFS Facebook group. Some seem to take the view that cognitive therapy approaches can heal CFS (which it can for some but not others), some that it’s a purely physical illness (it certainly has that component, and that’s where a “magic bullet” cure may be found eventually), and some take a more inclusive view. As I mentioned above, with any mystery illness it makes sense to take a broad and inclusive approach and leave no stone unturned.

Lessons from losing a bag

 

I left my Timbuk2 messenger bag on the train a couple of days ago, and have not had it returned. It contained several things important to me and some that are difficult (or impossible) to replace.

Here are some things I have noticed:

I did experience some shock right away. It seemed unreal, especially since I have never lost anything important in this way before.

It’s helpful to be kind to my own experiences – the shock, sadness, frustration. They are like creatures that just want some presence, kindness, and respect.

I reminded myself that most or all can be replaced in different ways. And that they are just things. I can get by without any of the specific things I lost.

It’s a reminder that everyone and everything comes and goes. In a few decades, everyone alive now will be dead. In a few decades or centuries, everything I have will be gone. In a few millenia, everything humans have now will be gone.

I don’t “own” any of it. I don’t even “own” my own body. It’s all here temporarily. At most, I am a steward of this life and these physical things. And it seems that now, that particular bag with it’s content has passed on to someone else. Just as they came into my stewardship, they are now in someone else’s stewardship.

I get to notice some beliefs and identifications coming up from this situation. Life is rubbing up against them, so I get to notice them more clearly. I don’t consciously believe any of them, but somewhere in me they are believed. Here is a selection:

I am a victim. I am unlucky. Things go wrong for me.

I deserve to have it back. I always return what I find. Life should be fair.

I own those things. They are mine.

It’s hard to live in a world where people are so crude and lack empathy.

It shook me up and gave me a boost to get certain things in my life more in order.

Whenever life goes against our shoulds, we can use it to fuel stressful and painful beliefs. Or we can use it to open to our experience and meet it with some kindness, notice and examine our painful beliefs, and see that we are all in the same boat.

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Fear expressed as anger

 

I have mentioned this as an aside in other posts.

Fear can take the form of anger.

Or, rather, one response to fear is anger. And for some, anger can be a habitual response to fear.

Conversely, we can say that behind anger, is – most likely – fear.

It’s good to keep this in mind when we do any kind of exploration of anger or fear. If there is anger, is there fear behind or within it? If there is fear, does it sometimes take the form of anger?

Also, anger can take different forms besides what we, in our society, usually think of as anger. It can take the form of frustration. Blame. Harsh judgments (of self and others). Reactivity. Defense. And much more. And all of it may trace back to fear.

And fear can take a great number of forms besides anger and obvious fear. To me, it seems that a reaction to fear is behind most stressful experiences and dynamics, including going into beliefs and identifications. Our reaction to fear tends to create a wide range of different stressful experiences.

As always, these are questions. Starting points for exploration. Whatever we find is what we find, whether it fits our expectations or what’s suggested in pointers or not.

Note: I should mention that when we find the fear behind anger, identifications, etc. it often feels quite vulnerable, and as a confession. A hidden secret that we finally admit to. The anger, identifications, or whatever it may be often serve as a protection against facing this fear. So it can be helpful to explore and befriend the fear of meeting the fear.

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Are religious people delusional?

 

Are religious people delusional? That’s a question addressed by a recent article in The Guardian.

It’s a complex question and, as usual, it depends. Here are a few angles.

In general, what’s common and shared in a culture is not seen as unusual or a problem. (Although people from another background and culture may well see it differently.) Common religious beliefs and behaviors won’t be seen as delusional, even by people who disagree or have another view. And since most human cultures accept religions, we tend to give religions and religious people more leeway than we do in other cases.

If religious views or behaviors seem too much out of the ordinary we are more likely to wonder what’s going on. The views may be stronger than usual. Their views or behavior may be out of the ordinary. Their identity may be seen as unusual. And that may be considered a disorder or delusional.

Mystical experience is a subset of what I just mentioned. Some religious traditions and cultures accept mystical experiences (Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism), and some see it as more unusual  (Protestant Christianity). In the latter, mystical experiences may be viewed with more suspicion although it depends on how the person interpret their own experiences.

In general, from a mainstream psychological view, it depends on how the person views their own beliefs and experiences. If they have a reasonably rational and mature relationship to it, and their interpretations are not too much out of the ordinary, they are likely to be seen as sane. If they seem to have unusually strong beliefs, or very unusual interpretations, they are more likely to be seen as delusional.

I understand this approach. As social and group creatures, we absorb the views and norms of our culture. And whatever is ordinary is also normal and generally seen as sane. And yet, it’s possible to take a more dispassionate view. We can take a step back and imagine we see it from the outside.

From a more dispassionate view, I would say religious beliefs are delusional. If we adopt views and beliefs (a) unsupported by our own experience and solid data, (b) just because someone else holds them, that is – in a strict sense – delusional. It may be understandable and ordinary but also delusional. It makes about as much sense as believing in Santa Claus.

So why don’t psychologists see religious beliefs as delusional? There are many reasons. Mainly, the beliefs are understandable and ordinary and they want to give people some leeway. Also, they don’t want to antagonize large groups of people. And if religious beliefs are seen as delusional, then any belief will have to be seen as delusional.

And, of course, that’s actually true. When we hold our own imagination – which our thoughts are – as representing reality in any final or absolute sense, then we are delusional. Any belief is, in a strict sense, delusional. That’s why it’s also stressful. It’s out of alignment with reality.

Fortunately, there is a way out. And that way may include many forms of explorations including various forms of meditation, heart-centered practices, body-inclusive practices, and inquiry.

Perhaps in the future or in some society somewhere else in the universe, the norm is to take thoughts for what they are. As imagination only helpful in a practical sense to help us orient and navigate in the world. And not as a pointer to any final or absolute truth or reality. In such a society, religious belief – as any other belief – may be seen as delusional. Understandable but delusional.

Just to make it clear: I am talking about religious belief here. Not necessarily spirituality. Spirituality – as anything else – can and does get mixed in with beliefs. But it can also be a more open and pragmatic exploration. It can be a reporting on direct experiences, in an as honest way as possible. It can be a practical exploration through using pointers and practices to see what we find. It can be an exploration of reality, just as (other forms of) science. And that can be done outside of or (sometimes) within a religious context.

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