Overly idealized vs more real, honest, and down to earth

 

Like a butterfly emerging from it’s cocoon,
I have been transformed inside,
All parts of myself now aligned in Truth,
I have nothing left to hide.

from mysticmamma

A friend of mine posted this quote on Facebook.

I understand that this is meant as as inspiration, or as a guide or a direction. And that can be very helpful.

There are also possible drawbacks to statements like this one that seem a bit absolute and overly idealized.

Some may see it as unachievable and give up without even trying, even if what it talks about sounds desirable to them.

Some may see it as undesirable since it may seem too sterile and in the unhealthy perfection-striving category.

Some may create a goal out of arriving at a certain state and then be done. Reality is often far more messy, and it seems more of an ongoing process of clarifying, deepening, and embodying. Also, awakening isn’t about a state – apart from perhaps a state of recognition. (What any experience happens within and as recognizing itself as that). And by setting a goal, it may be seen as out there in others and possibly in the future, and they may miss out of being more fully present, engaged with, and allowing of what’s here and now.

People can take it to mean that something is wrong. They know that their own process is messy and far from finished, so at best they are not “there” yet, and at worst they think there is something wrong with them or their process.

In some case, and especially following an opening or initial awakening, people may use these statements to tell themselves they have “arrived”. They may use it as a denial of what’s left, or to avoid what’s left.

To me, these idealized and absolute statements seem more like the “dream of the ego”, and they appeal to the dreams of the ego. They promise a future without any pain or problems, and where everything is fixed and aligned with truth.

These types of statements also seem a bit old fashioned to me. I know they are common in certain spiritual traditions. But today, it seems that a more nuansed, real, and honest description is often more helpful. And that’s a trend we see with teachers such as Adyashanti, Pema Chodron, Jeff Foster, and Matt Licata.

I should also mention that none of the “pitfalls” mentioned above are “wrong”. The mind goes to these types of ideas and ideals to find protection, and that is very natural and understandable. We all do it in our own ways. And it’s an inherently self-correcting process through the interplay between our assumptions and life, our dreams and reality. When there is a mismatch, it’s stressful and that’s uncomfortable, so we are invited to align more closely with reality.

For most of us, these types of wrinkles are part of the process. It’s part of the process of clarifying, deepening, embodying, and becoming more deeply human.

And in the bigger picture, it’s all part of the play of life.

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Thoughts, charge, identification

 

Finding clarity often has to do with differentiation. And here is a very basic one.

There is a difference between thoughts, bodily sensations, and identifications.

Thoughts are mental imitations of the senses – whether they are images, sounds, taste, smell, movement, sensations, or something else. When we talk about thoughts, we usually mean images and words, and words are typically a combination of mental images (of the words) and sounds.

Sensations are bodily sensations. When the mind associates certain thoughts with certain sensations, the sensations tend to lend a sense of charge (reality, substance, solidity) to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations.

When there is identifications with a thought, it seems true. The mind identifies with the viewpoint of the thought. Thoughts that are not identified with pass through and are recognized as just thoughts. They are seen as questions about the world. Temporary guides for orientation and action in the world, at most. It’s clear that they don’t reflect any final or absolute truth. Thoughts that are identified with tend to seem true and real. And the mechanism for identification with thoughts is for the mind to associate sensations with thoughts, as described above.

When it comes to tools for exploring these, they each seem to work on certain aspects of this thought, charge, and identification dynamic. They each use a slightly different angle to invite a release of the charge out of the thoughts, and soften the identification with these.

For instance, Living Inquiries tend to release the association between thoughts and sensations. Thoughts are then more easily recognized as thoughts, and the previous associated sensations may still be there but now with less or no particular meaning. The Work helps us recognize that previously believed thoughts are not inherently or absolutely true, and that other angles are as or more valid. Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) tends to release the charge from the body which is associated with stressful thoughts and trauma, and the thoughts behind the stress and trauma tends to seem less charged and less true, and there may be less identification with them. Vortex Healing seems to work from both the bodily charge and consciousness side of this dynamic.

A footnote about mainstream psychology: I have for a long time noticed that mainstream psychologists sometimes don’t differentiate between these. For instance, many psychological questionnaires ask about thoughts but not how much charge they hold, or how identified the person is with these. And that’s one of many ways questionnaires can be interpreted in a misleading way.

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Spiritual openings as an antidote to depression

 

It’s well known that certain psychedelics, like magic mushrooms and LSD, can be used to treat depression.

For some, it seems to work through giving the user a form of spiritual opening, a taste of oneness. And that, in turn, gives them a new context for life and everything, and a deeper sense of meaning and belonging. They see themselves and their relationship to the rest of life differently.

For me, this has happened spontaneously. And I do notice that depressions don’t seem to stick or take much hold. There can be a range of emotions, including despair and emotional pain, but depression doesn’t seem to make so much sense in the context of all as the divine. And that’s what I hear from others as well, including people going through a dark night of the soul. (Although I am sure there are exceptions.)

I have never used any psychedelics and don’t feel drawn to trying any. But I do know that if used appropriately, in the right setting and with the right guidance, it seems to help some people. I still wouldn’t recommend it if anyone asked since things can go a bit weird, and there are alternatives. There are alternatives for dealing with depression. And there are alternatives to having a taste of oneness. (more…)

If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person

 

Oxygen and the air pressure are always being monitored. In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.

This is the classic analogy, but it’s still very appropriate.

Take care of your own basic needs first, and then you’ll be in a much better position to assist others.

On the one hand, this is a dynamic balance. Sometimes, it’s appropriat to focus on taking care of our own needs. Other times, we are in a position to focus more on the needs of others. And this often changes with the roles we play over the course of a day and a lifetime.

On the other hand, they are two sides of the same coin. We may spend time taking care of our own needs, for instance when we need healing or to get basic needs taken care of, and that benefits others in the moment or later. Or we may find ways to assist others in ways that are deeply nurturing and meaningful to us, and also takes care of our own material needs.

Several things may help us find and live these solutions that simultaneously benefit and nurture ourselves and the wider world (even if it’s in apparently small ways).

It helps when we hold the bigger picture in mind. When we seek solutions good for all, including future generations. And when we are open to solutions outside of what we expect or are familiar with.

It helps when we take care of our beliefs and identifications around either being a self-sacrificing martyr or selfish. The solutions present themselves easier the less we are identified with these, and the more we are free from them.

It helps the less substantial we take the imagined boundary between ourselves and the larger whole to be. The more we experience it as just a temporarily imagined boundary, the easier it is to act in ways good for ourselves and the wider whole.

And it helps the more healed we are as human beings. Wounds often make us act in reactive ways, including from reactive and narrow-minded self-preservation. The more healed and whole we are, the more natural it is to wish to act in a way that’s kind and informed by larger picture concerns.

And working on these is, in itself, an example of a solution that benefit ourselves and the larger whole.

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No smoke without fire?

 

No smoke without fire.

This saying is an example of projection.

We hear a rumor about someone. We imagine it. This imagination combines with sensations giving it a charge so we feel it may be true. And we say no smoke without fire.

The saying is obviously not true in reality. There is often smoke without fire. False rumors with no basis in reality. (Apart from the universal that we are all capable of just about anything, and that we can always find examples of something in us if we look closely enough.)

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Life of Brian

 

I rewatched parts of the documentary The Secret Life of Brian about Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

And I was reminded that the controversy wasn’t about the movie making fun of Jesus (which it didn’t) but that it made fun of religious people and Christians in particular (which it very much did).

It’s interesting how both the makers and those offended seemed to buy into the “offended on behalf of Jesus” line while something else is really going on.

Those who were offended were offended because the movie made fun of them – of the flaws and misguided views and actions of many religious people – and they couldn’t take it. Most likely, it hit home too closely. And that was something they couldn’t admit.

Just to mention it: I love Jesus as he is depicted in the New Testament (whether he existed as a historical person or not), but I don’t have much fondness for much of what Christianity evolved into. I guess that’s why I, and many others, like the movie.

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My larger body

 

Some statements are often seen as poetic or romantic, but in this case, it’s a literal reality.

My larger body is nature and society. My larger body is this planet. My larger body is this solar system and universe.

My existence as a human being depends 100% on this larger body for its existence and survival. The only boundaries between this human self and the larger whole is imagined, and invested with reality only by our minds.

This is very real from a ordinary material and scientific point of view.

And going beyond that, as what I am – what all experience happens within and as – it’s all what I am.

It may seem a romantic or hippyish notion, but it has very real consequences for how we live our lives.

If I see myself as a human being mostly separate from the larger whole, I’ll act accordingly. I’ll act as if the health and well being the larger social and ecological systems matters little for my own health and well being. I’ll tend to act from a short term and narrow perspective. I’ll tend to act in a way that’s – intentionally or not – harmful for the larger whole. And we create our societies, social systems, and worlviews to reflect this. We’ll use economic models that assume that the health and well being of the larger whole doesn’t really matter. We’ll create transportation systems, production systems, food systems, water systems, energy systems, and more that reflect this world view. And we’ll reap the consequences individually and collective. That’s what we see today with a growing awareness of the consequences of toxins in our air, land, and water, diminishing ecosystems, and climate change.

If I see the larger social and ecological systems as my larger body, my view and actions will be different. I’ll act from a longer term and larger perspective. I’ll seek solutions that benefits myself as well as the whole. And we’ll collective use worldviews and systems that reflect this reality and this desire to support life at all levels.

If I see the solar systema and universe as my larger body, I’ll tend to experience a deep and profound sense of belonging and meaning. As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into conscious awareness.

Of course, this has to be a lived reality for us. It may become a living reality through natural adult maturation and development. It may happen if we live in a society or group where this is a mainstream view. And it can happen through education and experiences such as the Practices to Reconnect by Joanna Macy.

I am aware that I am using the word “reality” here and it’s not really that. It’s a perception. An experience. A worldview. But “reality” works as a shorthand even if it’s not that precise.

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Unedited photos are more honest and genuine?

 

A couple of times, I have taken photos of someone, edited the photos for color balance and light levels, and they have asked for and used the unedited photos instead. Even if these photos sometimes are off in their color balance and light levels. (I often underexpose my photos to capture all the details in the lighter areas, and then bring up the exposure afterwards to make it look more like it did to the eye.)

It may be that they just like these dark and underexposed images more. But more likely, they have the idea that unedited photos are more pure, honest, and genuine.

That’s a noble idea, but misguided.

All photos are inevitably edited, even long before the shutter button is pressed.

They are always strongly influenced by technology and technological strengths and limitations, settings, and more. Just to take some examples:

Our cameras are designed to reflect our particular human perception of light. Other species perceive other regions of the light spectrum and would make cameras reflecting their own perception. (Of course, since the photos are meant to be seen by humans, this doesn’t matter. But it does show that the photos are strongly edited before they are even captured.)

Before color film, photos were “edited” by technological limitations filtering out color, and converting different wavelengths differently into black and white. That’s the case today as well, in other aspects of the image. (For instance, most cameras have a far lower dynamic range – the span between black and white – than human vision due to technological limitations.)

There are many decisions and assumptions built into the cameras from the manufacturer’s side. Other decisions and assumptions would make the images look different, and sometimes very different.

The settings from the user’s side also heavily influence how the image looks. The image may be set so it will be under- or over-exposed. On digital cameras, the colors may be set to be more or less vibrant, or to emphasize different wavelenghts. The depth-of-field may be short or long, determining how much of the image is in focus. The grain level may be set to be high or low. (And that, in turn, influences degree of motion blur.)

When it comes to basic aspects of the image, such as color balance, exposure levels, depth-of-field, and grain levels, the idea of a pure or unedited image is misguided. The image that comes directly out of the camera is directly and heavily influenced by technology and decisions and preferences from the manufacturer and user. It’s strongly edited before the image is even captured on the memory disk.

It’s, of course, different when it comes to photoshopping to delete or include elements that are not in the original image. In that case, the original may be more honest.

In my case, it’s been slightly frustrating when the recipient choses to use the “unedited” photos since they are often far too dark. The edited version is often much closer to how the scene looked to the eye. But I also realize that it pleases the recipient, for one reason or another, and that matters more. That makes it OK.

I have also noticed that only people less experienced with photography seem to prefer the unedited photos, so maybe some education is in order. That’s partly why I chose to write this article.

And just to have said it: The photo above is – more or less – correctly exposed. It’s one I took a couple of years ago at the cabin in Norway.

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Dream factory

 

I saw the Hollywood Costume exhibit in LA a couple of years ago.

It was fun. And it also made the dream factory aspect of Hollywood very obvious. They are explicitly and openly in the business of (a) producing compelling dreams that (b) people will invest with emotional energy so it (c) seems real, substantial, charged, fascinating, and attractive to them, and they (d) seek it out and are willing to pay money for the experience.

It’s a manipulative business. But since it’s so explicit it’s also honest. We know what’s going on, and we – to a large part – chose to which degree we wish to participate. (The other side of this is that we get to vicariously experience a great deal we otherwise wouldn’t, which enriches our lives and – in the best case – help us learn and grow.)

Since the dream factory function of Hollywood is so obvious and excaggerated, it’s easy to see and explore there. And that can help us see similar dynamics in other areas of human life.

The dream factory side of the entertainment industry in general is pretty clear. But it’s also there in most or all businesses. Most or all organizations. And also in all religions.

All are in the business of creating dreams that people invest with emotional energy, draw themselves into, and are willing to invest time, energy, and sometimes money to experience more of.

There is nothing inherently wrong in this. But it’s good to be aware of.

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Dream: Gentleman and radical fool

 

I am in England and go for a walk with the father of a friend on mine (AH). He has the appearance and demeanor of the perfect older English gentleman. It turns out we have a great deal in common and we have a long and very interesting conversation. (We talk about topics relating to transpersonal psychology, spirituality, nature spirits, Jung, Ken Wilber and more.)

This older gentleman is the perfect gentleman and a radical fool. He is, in some ways, my ideal as it has been since my teens. On the outside, he is what society expects of a respectable person and good citizen. On the inside, radical and completely nonconforming. It’s what I was on solid course to become, and the dark night of the soul put a (temporary?) stop to. I am still respectable in my appearance and demeanor, but some mainstream identities were shot down due to illness.

The dream is a reminder that this image – of respectability combined with a radical orientation – is still very much alive in me. It may be good for me to look more at it. And if I move more fully in that direction again, to do so with more freedom and ease around it.

Day residue: I recently came back from London which may be why the English theme came up.

Note: When I call him a radical fool, it’s in the best possible sense. It’s just weird in terms of mainstream views. Not according to what many perceive as more real. The phrase came to mind also since it’s in the Starlight Scence lyrics by Yello.

Dark Night in Psychological vs Spiritual Context

 

The term dark night, or dark night of the soul, can be used in a psychological or spiritual context.

In a psychological context, it’s often used about anything psychologically shattering – trauma, loss, burnout or similar.

In a spiritual context, a dark night of the soul it’s what typically comes after an initial opening or awakening, and a period of “illumination” (as Evelyn Underhill calls it). It can take the form of a loss of conscious connection with the divine, a great deal of unprocessed psychological material surfacing, loss of health and other losses in life, and more. It’s a humbling and very human process, and the “darkness” comes largely from our reaction to it. Our minds don’t like it and perceive it as dark, even if it is the next natural step in our maturation and development.

They are quite similar. In both cases, we may have a great deal of unprocessed psychological material surfacing with an invitation to find kindness, understanding, and healing for it. We come up against our beliefs and identifications with certain identities and are invited to examine them and allow the hold on them to soften. In both cases, it’s an opportunity for great healing, maturing, humanizing, and reorientation.

In the bigger picture, both can be seen as a spiritual process. An invitation for healing, maturing, and even awakening out of our old beliefs and identifications.

There is also a difference, and that’s the conscious context of the one going through it. In a spiritual dark night of the soul, there is already a knowing of all as Spirit – even what’s happening in this part of the process. And that makes a great deal of difference. That helps us go through it, even if it’s just a background knowing.

What helps us move through a dark night, whether the context is psychological or spiritual?

Here are some possibilities: Taking care of ourselves. Understanding people around us. Therapy – body-oriented, mind-oriented, or both. Nature. Food that’s nourishing. Time. A willingness to face what’s coming up and move through it. Inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries etc.). Heart-centered practices (Tonglen, Ho’oponopono, loving kindness etc.) Body-inclusive practices (yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema etc.)

For me, support of someone who understands the process, finding helpful tools and approaches, and the willingness to face what’s here and move through it, have been especially helpful.

What tools and approaches have worked for me? The ones mentioned above, and more recently Vortex Healing.

Note: In a spiritual context, there are several dark nights of the soul. I simplified it here and just mentioned the dark night of the soul. The essence of having to face beliefs and identifications is the same for all of them, at least the ones I am aware of so far.

Note: In any dark night, and any life experience, our distress is created by how we relate to and perceive what’s happening. That’s why inquiry can be very helpful. There is an invitation there to find more clarity and consciously align more closely with reality.

The photo is one I took at the edge of Princetown on Dartmoor some years back.

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Awakening from avoidance

 

Awakening can be described in several ways.

The most common ones may be…..

Awakening out of identifications, and typically a set of underlying identifications that we gradually become aware of. (Human self, observer, doer, I, oneness, awakeness, etc.)

And awakening to what we are. Which we may, very inadequately, label consciousness, awakeness, love, intelligence, emptiness, mystery.

Awakening is also, in a sense, awakening from avoidance.

It allows us to more easily be with what’s here. And that’s for several reasons.

We recognize all as what we are. All as Spirit, the divine, consciousness, awakeness, or whatever label we put on it. So it doesn’t make sense to avoid something, because it’s what we are.

We recognize all not only as Spirit or the divine, but also love and intelligence.

And a couple that may require some exploration:

We recognize the wisdom and love behind all our experiences from an evolutionary and human persepctive, including the most uncomfortable experiences. They come from and are kindness and care for this human self. For instance, fear has helped our ancestors and us to survive, and there is wisdom in it. The same with pain, anger, sadness, and any human experience.

We know from experience, most likely, that avoidance = suffering and being present with = healing and resolution.

We may see that we cannot really avoid our experience. It’s already here. Trying to avoid it is the mind trying to run from itself. It’s doesn’t really work.

And one that seems built into awakening:

Our ability to avoid may be seriously weakened. An awakening or opening often involves “taking the lid off” anything we have avoided in the past so it comes to the surface. And it typically involves an inability to effectively avoid our current experience, whatever it may be.

The “dream of the ego” may be that awakening will allow us to avoid even better. And reality is that it’s an awakening from avoidance, from perceiving avoidance as neccesary or even doable.

The “dream of the ego” is a catchy phrase, but it’s also a bit misleading. It’s more what’s created when there is identification with thoughts. We perceive ourselves as this human self. We wish to avoid certain experiences since they are uncomfortable and seem scary. So we get in the habit of avoiding them. It seems to work to some extent, but it doesn’t really work and especially not in the long run.

At some point, it makes more sense to intentionally be present with what’s here, with some skill so it keeps moving and we keep moving into more clarity and deeper.

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How difficult things look from the perspective of awakening

 

How do difficult things look from the perspective of awakening?

How do tragedies look? Loss of all kinds, whether personal or collective?

It depends, of course. It depends on the level of clarity. It depends on how embodied and lived that clarity is. It depends on conditioning, tradition, and culture, both in how it’s perceived and expressed.

Here are a few things from my own experience.

It’s lila. The play of the divine. It’s all the divine – or life, the Universe – exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself.

It’s all Spirit. It’s happening within and as what we are and everything is. It’s happening within and as (what we may call) awakeness, consciousness, love, wisdom.

It’s not what it looks like. Partly because of lila. Partly because the way it looks, in a conventional sense, is filtered and created by believing stories and being identified with identities and stories. And many of these stories, especially when it comes to loss, are stressful.

When we examine these stressful stories, we may find that reality is kind. (As Byron Katie often points out.) And we can find this for ourselves, even in small ways, through inquiries such as The Work.

When it happens to someone else, there is empathy. We know very well how painful and distressing human experiences can be. We know from our own experience. We wish to be present with others going through it. We wish to be human with others. If appropriate and possible, we wish to alleviate the suffering. That’s all very natural.

And when something diffcult happens in our own life, we wish the same. To be present with what’s here as it is. To recognize the suffering as very natural. Recognize it as the play of the divine, and as Spirit. And if appropriate and possible, to alleviate the suffering. (In our own case, through presence, inquiry, love, and more.)

Mainly, it looks very human. In the best case, it looks like clarity and maturity in a very human way.

In other cases, our own wounds – areas in us not yet healed or on board with the clarity – are triggered and we act from these wounds and lack of clarity.

Often, there is a mix. There is clarity and lack of clarity. And that too is very human.

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Ken Wilber

 

I discovered No Boundaries by Ken Wilber when I was 17 or 18 and loved it. He described exactly what was revealed to me in the initial opening or awakening. He felt like someone who understood – at least at an intellectual level which was something.

I have since then devoured most of his books, and love them and what he has contributed to the world.

And yet, there is another side to it. It’s perhaps not as significant but still important to mention. When I got to see more of him and his community through online interactions, some of what I encountered was a turnoff for me: Arrogance. Reactivity. Unneccesarily idealizing second-tier. Unneccesarily villifying the Green level.

Also, when I read what he wrote about topics I am familiar with, I would sometimes notice significant inaccuracies and even misrepresentations. Some of it was probably from carelessness. Some from a very human inability to be thoroughly familiar with everything he writes about. And some of it was certainly a straw man argumentation, whether intentional or unintentional.

This has led to a certain disenchantement with Ken Wilber as a person, which is healthy. And I still respect and admire most of his writing and find it very useful. The caveat is that I now know very well that his descriptions of the different approaches and traditions not neccesarily are accurate, and I need to look into it for myself if I wish to have a more accurate picture. And that’s how to do it anyway.

Rise and fall of Ken Wilber is a short and good article about Ken Wilber and the mix of respect, admiration, and disenchantment many have experienced.

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If you can’t explain something in simple terms, you don’t understand it

 

If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t really understand it.

attributed to Richard Feynman or Albert Einstein

I try to write very simply here, and it’s for a couple of different reasons:

It’s easier to read and understand.

Why not make it as easy to understand as possible? If I want what I write to be useful for the recipient, I want it to be as clear, simple, and understandable as possible.

It shows me how well I understand it.

If I start a post and it doesn’t flow or is easily written, I usually set it aside, let it simmer somewhere in me (without paying much or any attention to it), and return to it another day. Most often, it is then much easier to write and it flows better.

There is another reason why I chose to use a simple language. It’s because I have seen others, especially in academia, who use an overly complicated and fancy-sounding language. And more often than not, they do it – either intentionally or unintentionally – to mask a lack of clarity and poor understanding from their side. Some also do it to appear more impressive and mask a lack of self-esteem. I don’t want to play that game.

I want to understand and come from some clarity. And I want to use the writing process to find a bit more clarity.

Lawn vs meadow or food garden

 

Here is another topic that’s relatively insignificant in itself but points to a larger issue.

Lawns.

Why do so many of us have lawns when other options make more sense?

Lawns require a lot of work. Most people use noisy machines to maintain them and this bothers neighbors and is stressful. And they create a desert-like mono-culture that is not good for most insects and animals.

The alternatives make so much more sense. A meadow is beautiful, low maintenance (just need to mow and remove the plant matter in the fall), and creates habitat for a great number of insects and animals that sorely need it. An intelligently designed food garden (using permaculture principles) can be created to be multi-level, low maintenance, and produce wonderful fruits, berries, and nuts.

The answer to the why question is, of course, conformity and convenience.  It takes time and effort to create something else, especially when most people don’t know how to do it. And it goes against the expectations and behavior of neighbors.

And sometimes, lawns can be useful for certain sports and games. But there is no reason why we can’t have a spot of lawn for dinners and sports, and the rest as a meadow and/or a multi-story food garden.

So much is like this, these days. What most of us do makes little sense, apart from being convenient and conforming with the way things have been done in recent times. We have very good alternatives that are attractive at many levels. And we just need to shift.

And that shifting requires an avant-garde that experiments and shows that it works and is attractive (happening), and eventually structural changes so it’s easy for others to make the transition (somewhat happening but not quite yet at a larger scale).

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Dark night and recognizing what’s surfacing as Spirit

 

During a dark night of the soul, unprocessed psychological material tends to surface.

I often write that it’s so this material can be seen, felt, loved, and healed. And that’s true enough, if we chose to relate to it that way.

But there is another invitation in this process. And that’s to consciously recognize this material as Spirit.

During the illumination phase, there is typically a recognition of all as Spirit. All is and happens within and as consciousness, love, wisdom, and – if depending on what we wish to call it – God, Buddha Mind, Big Mind, Brahman, or just Spirit.

And for some of us, when unprocessed psychological material surfaces, it may take a intentional noticing of this too as Spirit. In my case, I knew that that too is Spirit. I could see and recognize it if I looked. And yet, it took some time and conscious intention for it to sink in more fully. It was and is an ongoing process.

Unprocessed material does, of course, surface at any time in any of our lives. And there is an invitation to see, feel, love, and find healing for it. When it happens following an opening or initial awakening, there is the added invitation to recognize it as Spirit.

Just to clarify: A dark night of the soul, in a more technical sense, tends to happen following an initial opening or awakening (illumination) and a dark night of the senses.

The initial opening or awakening is a glimpse or recognition of all as Spirit. The dark night of the senses is a withdrawing or seeing through of strong identification as a human being. And the dark night of the soul is a deepening and maturing of both.

The dark night of the soul can take many forms, but it seems that loss is a part of it, as well as this processing of previously unprocessed material. As Evelyn Underhill points out, it’s a deeply human process. And it can be very painful and uncomfortable, depending on how much in us resists it.

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Life 101

 

So much of what I write here is Life 101.

It’s very basic. Simple. Even written so it’s easier to understand.

And yet, it’s not so obvious in the context of our contemporary culture.

Perhaps it will be more obvious and mainstream in the future?

And perhaps it will be included more often in a Life 101 track through school.

It seems as important as the other basics already included in most schools: language, maths, history, sports, religions, and social studies.

Here are some ideas for what could be included in a Life 101 track:

Communication skills.

Relationship skills.

Media literacy.

Critical thinking. Rational thinking.

Training of a more stable attention. (Helpful for anything.)

And perhaps, for the especially interested:

Mind-body practices. (Yoga, tai chi, chigong.)

Basic forms of meditation.

Basic inquiry.

Parts work (subpersonalities).

And even, in some schools, basic universal spirituality. (What it’s about, typical process etc.)

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It’s not what we are?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is nuclear green?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vortex vs energy healing modalities

 

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

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

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

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

– Ric Weinman in VortexHealing

This fits my experience.

Mindfulness to deal with burnout?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spirituality = ?

 

What is spirituality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Purpose of a forum for healers

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Past lives as metaphor

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I am not useful?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chronic fatigue as a modern form of monasticism

 

Some years ago, I talked to a therapist in England who referred to chronic fatigue (CFS) as a modern form of monasticism.

I can see how that fits.

CFS requires a withdrawal from any distractions. It creates a situation where we come face to face with ourselves, including what we have avoided in the past. We are invited to question identities and beliefs and find what’s more true for us and helpful. We are invited to go deeper with any spiritual practices we may have engaged in.

CFS may also be connected to feeling off track in life, so this is a chance to notice and return.

Any illness tends to rub up against our identifications, beliefs, fears, and hopes. A lot is stripped away, including a great deal we found comfort and took pride in. Who am I without all that? In what way is my life still of value?

We can also ask, what are the genuine gifts in this situation? If this is the best that could have happened, why would that be? How am I invited to relate to this, my life, and the world?

And if we have a spiritual orientation, it’s perhaps an invitation to go deeper in inquiry, surrender, prayer, heart practices, and whatever else we are drawn to. For instance, for me, it’s helped me find a more restful and basic form of meditation. (Being present with what’s already here. Notice.  Allow. Notice it’s already allowed.)

So in all of these ways, and probably several more, CFS can be seen as a modern form of monasticism, or at least a retreat. It can serve some of the same functions, if we let it.

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