My friend and all-around good guy Daniel Tapsell is invited to become a Zen teacher. It costs quite a bit of money. If you want to support this good cause, please go to his gofundme page.
See more information there or below.
Sometimes, people compulsively seek awakening.
How does it look? One end of the spectrum is a rash “I need awakening now!” urge. The other end may be people who are a bit more mature, skilled in how they go about it, and are in it for the long haul.
What’s the upside of this? It may actually work. It may bring about healing, awakening, and needed disillusionment (not necessarily in that order). A strong effort – especially combined with some insight, skill, and persistence – can, ultimately, lead to healing and awakening, often through a series of disillusionments.
What’s the downside? If we are compulsively seeking anything, it often means we are chasing an image or a state, and that we are compulsively trying to escape or avoid something. We may overlook what it’s actually about for ourselves. And we may successfully avoid, for a while, what we wish to avoid, which is something in us that needs attention and healing.
What’s a good way to make use of this urge?
Be smart about it. Find an experienced guide or coach that seems sane, mature, and grounded. Learn the skills and apply them. Explore different approaches. Combine the ones that work best. Stay with what works.
Explore the urge itself. Investigate the beliefs behind it and find what’s more true for you. Investigate your ideas about awakening and what it gives you (for instance, through how these ideas appear in the sense fields). Find healing for the parts of you creating the urge for awakening. (The pain you may want to avoid, the reactions to the pain saying awakening is the way).
Use approaches that invite in healing and awakening. Most likely, an urge for awakening is a combination of a genuine pull towards awakening and a reaction against our own pain. A genuine pull towards awakening is, in itself, quiet and persistent. (At least, in my experience.) And a compulsion that comes from our reaction to our own pain can be more loud, stressful, and more of a drama queen. Most of the approaches I write about here, in these articles, do both.
Explore approaches that give a first hand taste of what awakening is about. This will give a guideline and also some grounding to your exploration, and it’s part of the disillusionment mentioned above. (The Big Mind process and Headless experiments work well for some people.)
It does seem that compulsively seeking awakening is a phase of the process for many people, whether it’s more rash or seasoned, or more fanciful or skilled.
In any case, it’s the divine wishing to wake up to itself. It has temporarily experienced itself as what it inherently isn’t – separate, isolated, prone to believing thoughts and so on – and wishing for awakening is another phase in its ongoing exploration of itself. The awakening itself – with its ongoing clarification, maturing, and learning to live from it – is yet another phase.
Here are a few basic forms of meditation. All of them are reasonably universal and they are – in their essential form – found in several different traditions. As with any skill, it’s helpful to be guided by someone who are experienced, and our own skills and understanding will develop with experience.
Training a more stable attention. This is helpful for just about anything in life, whether it’s work, studying, hobbies, relationships, or any inner or spiritual practice. It helps us bring our attention to something in a more stable way and for as long as we wish. It makes our attention a more useful and pliable tool for us. As a bonus, a more stable attention tends to bring in a sense of well being and grounding.
The easiest way of training this is to bring attention to the sensations of the breath (chest, nose, tip of nose), notice when it goes to something else, and then gently bring it back to the sensations. We can also use other objects: sounds, imagined or visual imagery etc.
This practice also gives us some insights into how the mind works. We notice that attention tends to go somewhere else, almost always to thoughts that have a charge, and it seems to go there on its own. We can also notice which thoughts attention tends to go to, notice the charge and that there may be something unresolved around it, and then explore it through inquiry or a healing approach, perhaps allowing it to resolve and the charge goes out of it. In a small way, this may give a greater sense of well being, allow us to function better in life, and make it easier for attention to stably rest on whatever we intend.
Notice and allow. The basic form is to notice and allow. Notice what’s here in the sense fields (sight, sound, sensations, smell, taste, thoughts). Allow it to be as it is.
Again, this can give us some simple insights. We may notice that what’s here is already allowed – by life, mind, space – to be here as is, and that it’s more restful to notice this. As before, we may notice attention going to thoughts with a charge. We can also explore noticing the space it all happens within and as.
We may notice the effects of this noticing and allowing. We may notice that it creates a sense of space around whatever happens. Attention may not be immediately caught up and drawn into thoughts with a charge. And that this becomes easier and more of a habit the more we do it.
As with training a more stable attention, we may also find that this noticing and allowing helps us in everyday life and that it brings with it a sense of well-being and grounding. (When attention is less caught up in charged thoughts, there is often a sense of well being and grounding.)
Insights. Insights can come as a byproduct of any of these explorations. When we over time notice how we function, insights are almost inevitable. Insights can also come through inquiry, and especially through more structured forms of inquiry such as The Work, Living Inquiries, or just noticing what’s happening in the sense fields (including thoughts).
These structured forms of inquiry are like training wheels, and although we may never outgrow them (or wish to do so), becoming familiar with them tends to lead to more spontaneous helpful noticing and simple forms on inquiry in everyday situations.
The main insights we may get from these inquiries is how thoughts combine with sensations, so sensations lend a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations. This is how thoughts get a charge, and how beliefs, identifications, reactivity, compulsions, and more are created.
Heart-centered. Heart-centered practices help us change our relationship to ourselves, others, the world, life, situations, and parts of ourselves. They help us shift from seeing (some of) them as a problem, mistake, or something that needs to go away, to genuinely befriending them. As with the explorations above, this tends to bring in a greater sense of well-being, ease, and grounding. And as my old Zen teacher used to say, we tend to become less of a nuisance to others….!
Some of my favorites here are tonglen (from Tibetan Buddhism), ho’oponopono (Hawaii), and all-inclusive gratitude practices. (See other articles for more on these.)
Continuous prayer. I’ll add this since it’s found in many traditions and can be a powerful and transformative practice. Say a brief prayer along with the in- and out-breath and the heart beats. Do it as often as you remember, and set aside time to do this exclusively. Over time, this will become a continuous prayer. You will even have a sense of it happening while you sleep.
The Christian version is the Jesus prayer or heart prayer: Lord Jesus Christ (on in-breath), have mercy on me (on outbreath). And synchronize the words with the heart beat (for instance, one heart beat for the three first words, then another, then one on “have mercy”, another for “on”, and then one on “me”).
Body-centered. These are the familiar ones, including yoga, chi gong, tai chi, Breema, and many others. Ordinary forms of physical activity can also be included here, if we bring our noticing and allowing to the sensations and movements of the body.
I won’t say too much about these since they are reasonably well known in our society today. We bring our noticing to the sensations and movements of the body, and what’s described above under training attention and noticing applies here too. And these explorations too tend to bring in a deeper sense of well-being and grounding, and we may also experience ourselves – at a human level – more as a whole.
These are all practical approaches to exploring ourselves and our relationship with ourselves and the world. They tend to bring in a sense of well being, ease, and grounding, perhaps first as we engage in these and then more stably in our life in general. They tend to invite in healing and a noticing of what we really are.
An important aspect of any spiritual practice is what it may bring up in us that needs meeting, clarity, or healing.
At times, these practices may rub up against our beliefs, identifications, and habits. So we notice these, and can take them to inquiry, heart practices, or whatever healing work we are doing. This is an important aspect of any spiritual practice, at least if we wish to be thorough.
Healing work in general is an important complement to any of these practices. We will, inevitably, encounter parts of us that needs healing, so it’s helpful we are are familiar with effective forms of healing work, or can go to someone who are.
These practices may also bring up old wounds and trauma. Any good guide or coach will inform about this in advance, keep an eye on our practice to minimize the chances of it happening in a traumatic way, and offer guidance through it should it happen.
The last part is, unfortunately, often overlooked or not mentioned by people offering these practices to the public. I assume there will be a greater understanding of and transparency about it with time as it is an aspect of spiritual practice it’s important to be aware of.
As we mature and heal as human beings, we tend to more and more experience the sameness of all of us while also discerning differences. And the same tends to happen as we continue to clarify and mature in recognizing all as the divine.
We all have blind projections, and the more is unhealed and unawake in us, the more blind projections we tend to have and the stronger they may be. We see something – qualities, characteristics, dynamics – out there in others and the world and not in ourselves, and the other way around. These projections inevitably have a charge, and that charge often comes in the form of emotions and value judgments that feel solid, true, and perhaps even final.
At a human level, as we recognize in ourselves what we see in others and the world and “own” it, the charge tends to lessen or go out completely. We see something in others, know it from ourselves, and although it’s useful and valuable information, it comes with less or no charge, and any value judgments (from habit) tend to not feel very solid or inherently true or absolute.
And the same happens as we deepen in our experience of all as Spirit. Here too, there is discernment and differentiation as it helps us function and orient as human beings in the world. But any value judgments tend to seem less true and solid. We recognize them as coming from our human conditioning. And they tend to weaken and perhaps fall away over time, as we mature as humans and as Spirit recognizing itself as all there is.
Note: When I talk about value judgments, I mean any sense of something or someone being inherently better or worse – in a solid, final, and absolute sense – than something or someone else. These judgments may still come up for us, but as we integrate and become more familiar with our projections, and as we deepen in recognizing all as Spirit, they now seem less solid, less about any final or absolute truth, and more as just human conditioning. It adds to the richness of our human experience while less and less holding any inherent truth for us.
I should also mention that experiencing the sameness of all of us goes for all of us as humans, and all of us as beings – whatever type of beings that may be. There is a deep sense of the fellowship of all life, and beyond that, of all of Existence. And this only deepens as we heal and mature as human beings, and deepen in recognizing all as Spirit.
Another revisited topic:
Are hell, heaven, and purgatory real?
Yes, we can definitely say they are…. if we see them as reflecting states and process of the mind.
Hell reflects a hellish state of mind. The mind experiences something and tells itself it’s hell. It may be caught in beliefs about a situation, state, or emotion. And it gets caught in blind reactivity to it which is experienced as hellish and may look like getting caught in anger, despair, grief, vengefulness, justification, self-pity, and much more.
Heaven can reflect two different things. One is similar to hell. The mind experiences a pleasant state and tells itself it’s good, it’s so good it’s heaven. It’s heavenly. Another is when the mind is able to notice and allow what’s here, whatever it is. It’s a certain equanimity or contentment, independent of the particular content of experience.
Purgatory is any time an unloved or unquestioned part of ourselves is met in a way that allows for healing. It can happen through noticing and allowing it as is. Or, for instance, inquiring into it. It may be uncomfortable. It can feel like torment. It can feel overwhelming. And yet, because of how it’s met – with some noticing, allowing, respect, and patience – it’s ultimately healing. It’s purifying and can bring us to heaven.
So if someone asks me if I believe in heaven, hell, or purgatory, I’ll say yes. But it’s a heaven, hell, and purgatory that’s right here and we can explore for ourselves right now. We don’t need to wait until we die.
What we call grace is really the universe or life coming together a certain way locally. Sometimes, we may see just some things (the ones our mind tells us are good) as grace. Sometimes, we may see everything as grace (because it is).
– from a previous post
Grace is the universe or existence coming together locally in a certain way.
We can call what’s unexpected, improbable, and appreciated as grace, and exclude the rest.
In this more conventional view on grace, we can invite it in. For instance, we can invite in healing and awakening through doing the work, preparing the ground, setting the intention for it to happen, pray for it, ask for it. And if it happens, we call it grace.
We can also perceive everything as grace. Any situation, any experience, anything the mind likes and doesn’t like. This is closer to a more absolute or final view on grace. After all, if all is Spirit, all is – almost by defition – grace.
What are some other reasons we would see all of existence as grace? It’s all precious and improbable. It’s all a blessing, although sometimes – to us – a blessing in disguise. It’s all part of the divine play, lila.
So we can see some things as grace, or we can see everything as grace. And if we chose the latter, we can notice when we resist seeing something in particular as grace, and take that as opportunity for exploration. What’s the fear and belief in us? What may be more true? How is it to meet it with respect, patience, and curiosity? How would it be to see this in us and the situation triggering it as grace?
In my experience, I can find healing in three ways.
I can find healing for the issue itself, whether it’s physical, emotional, a relationship, or something else. This is the conventional approach and obviously an important one.
I can change my relationship to it. From seeing it as a problem and an enemy, I can befriend it and what it triggers in me. This, in itself, changes a great deal and is often experienced as a great relief.
I can find that which is already whole beyond the issue. This may be my wholeness as a human being, which is always here and goes far beyond any issues. It can be being part of the wholeness of the Earth or the Universe or all life. It can be being what I am, that which any experience happens within and as.
How do I go about finding these forms of healing?
Since the first is the conventional approach, the world is full of advice and opportunities for this one. I have written about my own experiences in healing from CFS and Lyme, and also in finding healing emotionally and for parts of me (using inquiry, heart-centered approaches, TRE, Vortex Healing, and other approaches).
I can change my relationship to anything that seems problematic through, for instance, inquiry or heart-centered practices. Inquiry for me is often The Work, Living Inquiries, Big Mind process, parts/subpersonality work, and dialogue with a part or actual person. Heart-centered approaches may be ho’oponopno, tonglen, prayer, gratitude explorations, or whatever else works for us.
Finding what’s already whole depends on what level of wholeness we wish to explore. In periods when I have done meditation and yoga daily, I have found an amazing sense of my wholeness as a mind-body whole. I have also found it, slightly differently, through receiving and giving Breema and especially when I have been immersed in the atmosphere through an intensive or when I gave daily sessions. The connection with (or as) the wholeness of the Earth and Universe can come through being in nature or any number of practices, for instance, the Practices to Reconnect. Finding myself as that which already allows and is any experience can happen through meditation, inquiry, heart-centered practices, and many other ways.
And really, it all depends on grace.
Getting to the point where we are able to have issues and discomfort is grace. It required this amazing universe and Earth and us as temporary parts of it. That’s an amazing grace if there ever was one.
Getting to get to the point where we are interested in finding healing, in any of these forms, is grace.
Having a glimpse of the possibility of these forms of healing is grace.
Inviting it in, through intention and exploration, is grace.
When it happens, it’s grace.
What we call grace is really just the universe or life coming together a certain way locally. Sometimes, we may see just some things (the ones our mind tells us are good) as grace. Sometimes, we may see everything as grace (because it is).
Note: In the “finding wholeness beyond the issue” section, I lumped together things I normally would keep in separate categories. Finding mind-body wholeness is quite different from finding the Earth/Universe wholeness, and those are again quite different from finding what I am, that which allows and is any experience. But that’s OK. In this context, and especially in a brief article like this, it seemed OK to group them together. And it’s a reminder that this should really be a book rather than just a set of brief articles.
I am listening to Arvo Pärt’s Miserere and inevitably had memories of the time after the initial awakening in my teens and early twenties.
An initial awakening often comes with a certain feeling, and the mind then associates the feeling with the awakening. For me, this feeling would be enhanced by certain music which I listened to at the time: Arvo Pärt (Miserere, Tabula Rasa, Passio), Philip Glass (Akhenaten), Palestrina, Victoria, Rachmaninov’s Vesper and more.
The downside of this is that we may focus more on the feeling than the essence of awakening. We may end up chasing a feeling instead of noticing that which allows and is any experience – including any feelings and moods – and that we and everything are.
The upside is that it may hook us into continuing our exploration of spirituality and the awakening, and it comes with an invitation to differentiate any content of experience from the essence of awakening.
After a while, the feeling may subside. If we have learned to differentiate feelings from what the awakening is really about, this is no problem. It may even be a relief. If we haven’t, we may think and feel that we have lost something important. The mind may even tell itself it has lost the awakening…! This can lead to a type of dark night, and this too comes with an invitation to learn to differentiate any experience from what the essence of awakening.
I went through the sense of loss and then the noticing came back independent of any feeling. When I listen to this music now, I still appreciate it but it doesn’t evoke the feeling it used to, and that’s a relief and nice freedom. There is no need or wish for it to evoke the same or any particular mood.
By turning my attention around 180° I find that I am not a thing /person /Douglas at all but pure awake capacity in which the world is happening. This insight is not remarkable or world-shattering , no pillars of light break from the heavens , no “peak experience” overtakes me. It is all very ordinary, OBVIOUS – and immediately accessible.
– Douglas Harding
For more information on the wonderfully simple headless experiments, check out the Headless Way website. They work very well for some of us. (For me, some work better than others although they all have a different angle which is helpful.)
A spiritual path or an awakening process can have a number of odd features. One of these is the experience of a higher self, and then perhaps the falling away of this.
Here is my story:
When the initial awakening happened in my mid-teens, it was the most basic one where all was revealed as Spirit, any apparently separate beings were local expressions of Spirit, and the basic identity of everyone and everything is Spirit. There are no separate beings or selves that, in an absolute or final sense, are separate or even a being or a self. It’s all the divine taking on these temporary masks.
At the same time, in the first couple of years following this, there was a clear sense of a “higher self”. A non-physical self that seemed located a few meters above my human self. As mentioned above, it was clear there was no final or absolute self there. It was more of an intermediate self, one that somehow, in a certain way, seemed to mediate (guidance, information?) between Spirit as all there is and this local expression of Spirit.
After a while, this fell away.
The upside of this sense of a higher self may that it serves as a lure or hook for continued spiritual exploration. And it may also point to something real. Perhaps there is something there at a more subtle energetic level? Perhaps it does mediate some types of information? I am not sure. Also, as usual, it comes with an invitation to discern the essence of awakening (all as Spirit) from temporary manifestations, including temporary manifestations of Spirit such different temporary selves.
The drawback is the usual one. We can become overly fascinated with it and it may distract us from the essence of the awakening, healing as human beings, and living from whatever clarity, wisdom, and kindness is here. This is part of the awakening process, and it’s part of the play of the divine (lila), so it’s only a drawback in a very limited sense.
In any case, since there is nothing ultimate or final about this higher self, it does probably fall away at some point. And before, then the interest in or fascination with it may fall away. (As it did for me within a couple of years.)
Note 1: I was reminded of this since it fits something they talk about in Vortex Healing. There is a set of energetic structures that allows the divine to experience itself as a finite and separate being, going from very subtle to more coarse. And some of the intermediate ones can be experienced as a “higher self” and located from immediately to a few meters above the head. At some point in the awakening process, these energetic structures fall away. All of that fits my experience.
Note 2: I may abandon calling it an “initial awakening”. In some ways, it was, since it was the first time in this lifetime the divine revealed itself to itself as all there is – in an unambigious, strong and clear way – and it happened when this human self was more mature and could reflect more on it. At the same time, the essence of what was revealed wasn’t really new. It was something that had been with me in early childhood, and – if flashbacks and memories are accurate – before this particular incarnation.
Anything you want to ask a teacher, ask yourself, and wait for the answer in silence.
– Byron Katie
For me, this feels like planting a seed. Set the intention for something to emerge around a question. Let it go and live life. And an answer comes within a few days or more. Even if I do ask someone more experienced than me, I tend to do this first. Then I get my own answer, and their answer may come from a different angle and be helpful for that reason. And practical pointers from others are always welcome.
I found this mini-documentary cute and funny, and also a sad and encouraging comment on the current “toxic masculinity” discussion. Even at that age, boys have learned to express toxic masculinity.
It’s a feature of the US culture more than the Norwegian, and I sometimes wonder if toxic masculinity and that type of harshness is an occupational hazard of an empire. Dehumanization seems to be an inherent feature of an empire, and we see it in both English and US culture. I imagine the US culture got it first from the English, and then continued to developed their own brand. And it hurts the people living within the empire as much as anyone else, whether they are women or men, wealthy or not, privileged or not.
The Norwegian culture has some of these features although to a lesser extent. Women and men are more equal and – in my experience – generally relate to each other as equals and with respect and appreciation.
Note: I would normally put this entry in one of the ongoing series of Society and Politics post but WordPress has a glitch so the video disappears whenever I save the post. So I created a separate post instead.
I have enjoyed reading When Spirit Leaps by Bonnie Greenwell, published this summer. I have known her for a while, from when we were fellow Oregonians.
I can recommend this book for anyone who would like a general overview of the awakening process. The book is written in a deceptively simple style, and there is a lot of wisdom and experience reflected in each sentence. She goes through the different phases of the process, and I especially appreciate that she addresses some of the challenges in the awakening process and ways to navigate them.
Another revisited basic topic:
If there is no separate self, what reincarnates?
There is clearly a human self here, and although we have a human identity, that’s not our most basic identity. We are that which any experience – including that of our human self and of being a human self – happens within and as.
So even if something carries on between lives, whatever we want to call it (e.g. incarnating being), that too is a temporary identity. It’s not what we really are. It’s not our most basic identity.
At one level, we are this human self. At another, we may be a being that keeps on incarnating for a while. And at a more basic level, we are that which all of this, and any temporary experience, happens within and as.
This may sound a bit abstract, or far-fetched, or mystical. But it’s something we can discover and explore here and now. The quickest ways to have a taste may be through the headless experiments (for some), or the Big Mind process (seems to work more consistently and for more people).
I tend to be drawn to practices that invite in healing and awakening. It seems a more efficient approach since my time and energy is limited. And the two go hand in hand, one supports the other.
I also tend to be drawn to practices that are all-inclusive in different ways.
Here are some examples:
All-inclusive gratitude practice. Write a (daily) list of things in your life you are easily grateful for, or not, and start each sentence with: I am grateful for… This opens the mind for that possibility, and there is a natural curiosity for what there may be to be grateful for in situations we don’t particularly like or enjoy. (See the book “Make Miracles in Forty Days”.)
Ho’oponopono and tonglen. Helps me change my relationship to myself, others, situations, and life in general. It helps me befriend reality and life. Nothing is left out.
Notice and allow. Notice what’s here in experience, whatever it is (sensations, thoughts, sounds, smells, taste), allow it as it is, notice it’s already allowed as is, and rest with it. (Natural rest, shikantaza, just sitting.)
Inquire into anything. Any stressful belief or identity. Anything you are curious about. Anything that seems real. Anything that seems solid and substantial. (I tend to use The Work, Living Inquiries, or the Big Mind process.)
And a couple of other approaches that also have their way of being all-inclusive
Vortex Healing can be used for emotional issues, identifications, physical issues, relationships, situations, and places. As a practitioner, it works for healing and awakening. (And is the most effective approach to both I have found so far, although I still value and use the other approaches mentioned here and some more.)
Therapeutic tremoring (TRE) can be used to release any tension and trauma out of the body. Over time, this can have profound effects for our well-being and healing.
Why am I drawn to these all-inclusive practices? Mainly because reality is one. So it makes sense to find some gratitude to all experiences, or shift my relationship to everything (befriending), or inquire into any stressful belief, or question anything that seems real and true, or notice and rest with whatever experience is here whatever it may be.
Note: See other articles on this site for more detailed descriptions of these practices, or do an online search.
This is something I think most of us have noticed: Any experience is food for our development.
Whether we make use of it at the time or not, any experience is potentially food for our development. and when we are ready, we can take in and digest the experience and it becomes food for our deepening, humanizing, maturing, insights, or deepening love and gratitude.
And as we continue to mature, the same experience may become food for further development.
This happens within our human lifespan. And if something carries on and keeps incarnating, then any experience is likely indefinetely food for future development, waiting for us to ripen enough to make use of it.
In this sense, nothing is wasted. Not what we see as the biggest disasters in our lives, nor – at the other end of the scale – when we rest or coast along in life.
There is a nice symmetry in life: The infinite wants to experience itself as finite, and the finite wants to experience itself as infinite.
Spirit wants to experience itself as all the things it isn’t: finite, separate, vulnerable and so on.
And humans want to experience themselves as what they (think they) are not: infinite, one, invulnerable and so on.
The divine has gone to great lengths to set up and evolve into a universe where parts of itself take itself as a separate being that is born and will die. And some humans go to great lengths to escape just that, whether it’s through ordinary human activities (to forget, feel alive) or spiritual practices.
And this symmetry is all part of lila, the play of the divine, Spirit expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in a myriad of ways.
Note: We cannot really say that Spirit or the divine “wants” to experience itself as finite. I am just using that word for the sake of symmetry. A want sounds too much like human wants and it’s not like that. I imagine it’s more of a pull, a movement, to explore itself in as many ways as possible, including temporarily as finite. On the other hand, any human experience is the divine’s experience so the divine does (locally) want, feel, think, long, suffer and so on through and as humans and other beings.
If all is awakeness or consciousness, why do we experience a sense of solidity? (We can also use modern science as a reference here since it tells us that even the most solid-appearing things are mostly space with some energy appearing in it here and there.)
This is something we can explore through different forms of inquiry. It can, for instance, be the traditional forms of Buddhist inquiry (exploring the sense fields) or modern versions such as the Living Inquiries.
When I have explored this for myself, I have taken something that seems quite solid to me. It can be my body or a part of the body, or something I am touching such as the floor or a cup. It can also be something I remember and imagine as solid, such as a car or a rock. I look at the mental images. Is that where I find the sense of solidity? Is that the thing itself? What about the words associated with it? Or the sensations? Or the imagination or memories of sensations? Or images of a past situation? Or any other associations? Can I find the sense of solidity anywhere in any of these?
Through this, I get to see how my mind creates a sense of solidity for itself. It’s created through a combination of imagination (images, words, memories of sensory experiences), perhaps some sensory experiences, and sensations in my body. In general, these sensations lend a sense of solidity to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend meaning to the sensations.
And more specifically, certain sensations in my body are associated with my memory of a rock, or my image of the floor my feet are resting on, or even how I sense my body. These sensations create a sense of solidity to my ideas about a rock or the floor or my body. They make them all seem solid, substantial, and real in a physical sense. And these sensations may be anywhere in the body. For me, right now, I notice them mostly in the mouth and head area.
After these explorations, the mind may say to itself “yes, I didn’t find the solidity there but I know it’s there”. So then we can explore that knowing. Is there a sensations that tells us we know the solidity is there? Where is it? Is that sensation the solidity we are looking for?
This doesn’t mean that the physical world doesn’t exist. It clearly does, in a conventional sense. We need to live our lives as if it does exist as it appears. At the same time, exploring how our minds create a sense of solidity can be very helpful. It opens it up. It gives us a different context for our physical lives in a physical world. It allows us to hold it all a little lighter.
Talk therapy can be helpful in some situations, depending on the client, issue, therapist, and timing. In the best case, it can give us some sense of being seen and understood. That what we experience is normal. And it can give us some helpful insights and pointers.
For me, I generally find other approaches far more helpful.
In my case, it’s the ones I tend to write about here: Ho’oponopno to change my relationship to myself, others, a situation, or the world. Tonglen for the same. Inquiry for releasing beliefs (The Work) or charges out of an issue (Living Inquiries). Therapeutic trembling to release tension and trauma out of the body, and even out of specific issues (TRE). Vortex Healing for a current situation, emotional issues or identifications, and even for physical issues. All supported by training a more stable attention (samatha), and also noticing and allowing what’s here (Natural Rest, Shikantaza).
And for me, all of that supported by nature. A relatively healthy diet. Some physical activity. Nurturing of nurturing relationships and activities. And whatever else seems helpful.
Again a revisited topic:
When awakening happens here, it tends to be projected out.
We see it everywhere. The whole universe seems awake. We see it in other beings, and that it just needs to be more consciously noticed there for a more full awakening to take place.
Projections typically happen in two ways. One is when we legitimately recognize what’s here also out there. In ordinary human interactions, it’s called empathy or understanding. I sometimes get angry, so I recognize when others get angry. The other is when I put my own things on others. I am angry at someone, so I imagine the look she gave me means she is angry at me even if that may not be the case at all.
Which one is it in the case of awakening? It could be either one, although there are hints here and there suggesting the first one – at least in its basic version where the universe is perceived as awakeness and consciousness. Some of these hints are: Synchronicities (in my life, they happen in clusters, in some periods they happen at a ridiculous rate and other times less so). Download of information after an awakening. Seeing auras (which can be checked and confirmed or not with others who also see them, as I did after the awakening). Sensing at a distance (can also be checked with others and reality).
So, yes, we perceive the universe as awakeness and consciousness, and awake to itself. That’s because this awakeness is recognized here. And some clues suggest it may be an accurate perception.
Another version of this, which seems more typical for our modern interconnected age, is a perception that larger parts of humanity are about to wake up or is waking up. This too is a projection, but is it also accurate? I am not so sure about that. It’s easy to get that impression through internet where we can find a good deal of people where awakening is or have taken place. The same is the case if we live on, for instance, the US west coast where the culture (a large subculture) tends to support awakening. Also, more people may be waking up because information and support for inviting in awakening are more readily available. But that doesn’t mean it’s actually taken place.
Note: When we say that existence or the universe is awakeness or consciousness, or even that it’s awake to itself, that doesn’t mean this is consciously recognized in all beings. In most beings, it’s not consciously recognized. And that’s part of lila, the play of the divine. We could say that Spirit has gone to great lenghts to make it so small parts of itself is in the darkness in this sense.
What does it mean when we say there is “no separate self”?
Obviously, there is a human self here. A human being walking around talking, thinking, feeling and so on. That doesn’t change. (At least not until we die.)
Our surface identity may be with or as this human self with its labels and roles in the world. That identity is accurate and helpful. But it’s not our final or fundamental identity.
Our more fundamental identity is as what this human self, and any experience, happens within or as. Some call it awakeness or consciousness since that’s what it can be experienced as.
Since this is what all our experience happens within and as – including this human self, others, and the world as we experience it – there is a sense of oneness here. It all happens within and as what we are. And that’s how it is for others as well, whether they notice or not.
And since there is oneness, we can call it love. What we are, and what everything is, is love. It’s not necessarily a felt love, in a conventional sense, although that could happen. It’s more the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. It’s the love that’s reflected in views and actions because it’s all one.
Also, since there is oneness, we can call it bliss. Although I hesitate a bit to use that word. Again, it’s not bliss in a conventional sense, although that can happen too. It’s a quiet bliss inherent in existence. It’s the quiet bliss that comes from all as one, all as consciousness, all as love. It’s a quiet bliss underlying any of our usual varied human experiences and states.
And although we can say that all is consciousness, or love, or even this quiet bliss, that’s not quite accurate either. All of this happens within and as what we are. Some call this void, or even the Godhead (Christian mystics). But words don’t quite reach it.
So, in a sense, it’s not very mystical or magical. It’s quite simple, direct, and here and now. And yet, it can be difficult to notice. The mind is trained to focus on its own content – thoughts and sensory experiences – so it easily misses what it all happens within and as.
That’s one of the tricks life uses to be able to temporarily experience itself as an apparently separate being, and not just one but many of them…! That’s part of the play of existence. That’s the infinite experiencing itself as finite. That’s existence exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in a myriad of different ways. That’s lila as some call it.
There has to be a ripeness to notice it, whether it’s subtle or a spiritual opening or awakening. And when there is interest, that usually reflect a ripeness.
Note: When I say “obviously there is a human self here”, that’s meant to show that our human self continues much as before when what I write about here is noticed. Our lives don’t neccesarily change that much. It’s more the context we are consciously aware of that changes. We could also say that what we call this human self also happens within and as what we are, and doesn’t exist as anything separate or inherently substantial. (Although in a conventional sense, we could say it is both separate and substantial, and that’s true as well.)
I tend to revisit topics here.
Most of the articles are one in an informal series of articles on a similar theme. Why? It helps me explore topics from what’s alive in me in the moment, and I may use a slightly different angle or add something I left out in previous articles. And since any topic is fresh for me in the moment, it comes with an impulse to write a few words even if I know I have written about it before.
And it goes back further, to a time this website didn’t exist. I am revisiting topics I wrote about in my paper journals in my teens and early twenties. The essence is much the same, although the wording and how I write about it has changed a bit. There has been an inevitable maturing and I refer more to different approaches and sometimes traditions.
Going even further back, I am revisiting the essence of what was alive for me as a child. The flashbacks and memories of between lives: oneness, all as consciousness, all as love, any being an expression of this oneness. That essence hasn’t changed.
I am briefly revisiting this topic:
When we explore identities, it’s helpful to explore both ends of the polarity.
For instance, if we have chronic and bothersome issues in our lives, we may also have a victim identity connected with it. It’s helpful to explore this identity and perhaps find healing for it. At the same time, we have a victimizer part in us. We couldn’t have a victim part without the victimizer part. They depend on each other to exist, and they hold each other in place. If we only address the victim part, we only do half (or less) of the work and the release will be partial.
An example from my own life is the victim identity connected with the chronic fatigue (CFS). Yes, there is a victim identity and it’s helpful to inquire into it and invite healing and release for it (through inquiry, TRE, Vortex Healing etc.). But that’s less than half the picture. The rest is the internal victimizer that creates and holds the victim-identity in place. This one may be more difficult to notice since we tend to see it mostly “out there” in life, circumstances, or others. But it’s equally, or really, in here, in me. And that’s where I need to explore it if I wish to find more freedom around the whole victim-victimizer dynamic.
The freedom and relief that comes from this work makes it worth it in itself. And, who knows, it may even impact my physical health. The release may support my body in healing itself better. So it’s definitely worth the time and investment required to find some healing around this and many other identity-sets.
Note: When I have worked on my own internal victimizer using Vortex Healing, I have found it helpful to approach it from slightly different angles. For instance, intending to work on the victimizer, the bully, the self-cruelty, and more, one at a time.
Also, when I say that working on just one of the pair of parts or subpersonalities, it’s because there is the other half, and there is also the awareness and exploration of the dynamic within the pair. So if we work on just one of a pair, it’s less than half of what we need to explore to find a fuller release.
Physical discomfort has obvious upsides and evolutionary reasons for being here. It motivates us to make changes that helps our body, whether it’s standing up to walk when we have sat for a long period, drinking water when thirsty, or seeking out a doctor when we have a persistent physical pain or problem.
It’s the same with mind discomfort. That too has evolutionary reasons for being here. That too motivates us to create change and get things done.
And, for those weird like me, it also points to what’s left. It helps us notice remaining beliefs, identifications, hangups, wounds, and trauma. And it motivates us to do something about it – to find healing in how we relate to it and the world, to examine and find clarity around beliefs and identifications, to invite release for our wounds and traumas.
In the bigger picture, discomfort motivates us – in the best case – to align more consciously with reality.
Continued from previous posts…. These posts started out about Trump but have morphed into brief notes about society and politics in general. For this one, I added nature as a theme.
Nature & Norway. Nature is an important part of Norwegian culture, and there is a certain culture about how to be in and relate to nature. In terms of sustainability, Norway isn’t that much different from or better than other industrialized countries (think of the oil industry etc.). But I do very much resonate with and appreciate the traditional Norwegian culture of how to be in nature.
My parents passed it on to me, and their parents passed it on to them, and as it must have been passed on through generations. They took me out skiing, hiking, berry picking, swimming and more throughout my childhood.
And almost invisibly, certain norms were passed on to me: Leave no traces. Use only dead wood for fires. Be quiet in nature. (To not disturb the animals, so you are more likely to see animals, and to not disrupt the peace for other people.) Take time. (There is usually no need to get somewhere quickly.) Be respectful. (To nature, animals, plants, other people.) Enjoy. (There is a deep enjoyment in being in nature – the sounds, sights, smells, sensations, and there is a profound enjoyment and nourishment in experiencing ourselves as part of nature, as not separate at all… whether we are in nature or in urban areas.) Maintain good spirits. (Set stressful thoughts aside and focus on the privilege and enjoyment of being in nature.)
Although not many would put it this way, nature is – in many ways – the cathedral for Norwegians. It’s the sacred place. The place where we are reminded of who and what we are, and our intimate connection to the larger natural world.
Loss of insects. When I started spending more time in Norway again, about ten years ago, one of the first things I noticed was the loss of insects. It seemed that my parent’s garden, which I remember as brimming with insects and life in general as a kid, now is mostly barren with just the occasional bumblebee or other winged creature. I considered that it could be because of the usual quirks of memory, but realized it must be something more. For instance, as a kid, I often saw crickets of all sizes in the yard, and now I haven’t seen any – not a single one – for years. Similarly, some types of birds seem completely gone. If that’s not a wake-up call close to home, I don’t know what is.
I was at a social gathering yesterday where the topic of burnout came up, and a therapist talked about the importance of mindfulness and staying focused and so on.
I understand it’s tempting to look to individual changes for solutions. It’s part of our culture: we tend to see individuals as autonomous units rather than as seamless parts of a larger whole. We are trained to look to changes in the individual for solutions. And individual changes can sometimes seem more controllable than the situation.
Although in my experience, if I want to change a behavior or avoid something like burnout, it’s often more effective to change the situation. We exist within social and physical settings, and these significantly influence how we are, perhaps more than we often are aware of.
It’s not an either-or situation, but, if possible, changing the environment is a good start.
Struggling with procrastination? Get a work-buddy that you can work side-by-side with and who can hold you accountable. Or work at a cafe. Or hire a personal assistant if that’s something that works for the task. Try out different approaches and find the one(s) that work for you.
Over-eating unhealthy foods? Remove processed foods and sugars from the house. Shop from a shopping list and don’t add more to it when you are in the store. Make delicious low-on-the-food-chain meals ahead of time so they are readily available. Have plenty of tasty fruits, vegetables, and nuts on hand. Make sure you feel satisfied and nourished before you leave the house so you are less tempted to have fast food. And so on.
Want to prevent burnout? The solutions here depend on the work and personal situations. For instance, my doctor in Norway cut his patient list in half last year so he could have more time with each patient, enjoy his work more, and prevent burnout. My doctor in Oregon switched from working for a hospital to private practice, and similarly intentionally have a small patient list. At a personal level, it can help to limit activities, pay for assistance with practical things, and so on. And at a larger level, it has to do with business, political, and social norms, expectations, values, and policies. (Perhaps not so easy for us as individuals to change, but good to be aware of and perhaps be a small part of the solution for.)
And in some areas, we already know and make use of the importance of the environment. For instance, want to learn something? Join a training program or school for just that. Want awakening? Traditionally, we would become a nun or monk, and now we may join the regular practice program of a local spiritual community or do retreats or workshops. I don’t always agree with the way this is done, but these are areas where we traditionally use the change-the-situation-first approach.
With a client (or myself as a client), I tend to focus first on changing the situation, especially the low-hanging fruits, the things it’s relatively easy to change that has the most impact. And then on what in us prevents behavior change, for instance, what are the emotional issues? (And address those through inquiry, TRE, Vortex Healing, or something else.)
Note: I know that the therapist probably knows this too, and most likely includes this in his sessions with clients. I was just struck by how he immediately went to individual-focused solutions.
When I work with issues with a charge, whether it’s for myself or a client, I notice I often use three overarching guidelines. And when I talk about issues with a charge, I mean any issues with a charge, whether it’s an identification, a belief, a compulsion, or something else.
Here are the three guidelines or reminders.
Allowing. The context is allowing. Reality already allows what’s here so it makes sense for us to do the same. And resting with, feeling, and seeing what we have avoided is an important part of healing.
Intention to clear. When I have an intention to clear an issue, it helps me be more diligent, honest, and more thorough.
Reduce charge. In a pragmatic everyday sense, I am happy if the charge of an issue is reduced. It helps us relate to it differently, with more intention, clarity, and kindness.
During a session, I tend to adjust whether I emphasize the allowing or the clearing. If I am working on an issue that the person (I or a client) has avoided, it’s good to emphasize allowing and resting with it, especially initially and when we hit new aspects of it. If I notice the issue is relatively easy to rest with, and it doesn’t seem to move much, it can be helpful to emphasize the clearing as a guide to be more thorough and complete.
Judge God, and find freedom.
– Byron Katie
This is one of the statements aimed at (a) generating curiosity about The Work, and (b) serve as a reminder or pointer for those already familiar with it.
Judge God and find freedom: Write down your judgments about God, AKA life, the world, situations and circumstances, other people. Honestly inquire into those judgments and find what’s more true for you. And find freedom. Find freedom from your own stressful beliefs. It does work.
I haven’t written much here for the last few weeks.
Anything in life has its ebbs and flows, and so it is with this writing it seems. I did write daily for several years (often averaging three posts a day!) but more recently I have had more of the slower periods. It may be because of traveling and also feeling I need more intentional rest. It may also be because I find I am boring myself a bit when I write.
And that’s an invitation to go a bit deeper. To find ways to be more authentic in the writing. To write for me and not primarily for an audience. (Which, ironically, may make it more helpful to others.) To find a way for the writing to come more alive for me. To surprise myself. To dig a bit deeper.
Also, I find it easier to write in response to questions. So if you have any questions, please feel free to send them to me. There is a contact link on the top right.
Note: I have had this intention before, to dig a bit deeper when I write. One problem is that I then tend to end up with outlines that seem more for a book than a short article…! So we’ll see how it goes this time. If I ask my mind to dig deeper while keeping it short, it may be different. Often, it helps to plant little seeds of intention.
Update June 13, 2018: After writing this, it’s more clear to me that although I would like to go deeper in the writings (which doesn’t mean more complex or longer…!), that may not be what’s going on. My head seems about as clear (or not) as before, so it’s not that either. I am able to write down notes and ideas for posts and do it almost daily. And I could probably easily write posts similar to what I have already written because the content and form is familiar.
But something stops me from writing out articles right now. If I try, it feels like pulling teeth or wading through molasses, and I am not very happy with the result. My sense is that something is changing and reorienting in me, and just needs time. It’s happened before, and will probably happen again. And it just means the writing here slows down for a while, and then – most likely – picks up again.
I am reminded of the analogy of a seed. It’s best left alone, apart from providing some nourishment in form of air, water, soil, and sun. And so it feels with what’s reorganizing in me now. I don’t know what’s going on, really, or where it’s going, but it does feel like a maturing or perhaps also healing.