When there is still a sense of a separate I, and the content of experience gets very quiet, for instance in sitting practice, it can seem pretty boring. Not much is happening. It feels sort of dry. It is not very juicy.
So the tendency then, coming from pure innocence, is to go to a thought for juice. If it is not there in what is happening, I can at least find it in the inside of a thought.
And the shift is to just stay with it. Allow it. Be curious about the dryness. Invite in peace with it.
After a while, we may notice that we are this awakeness that not much is happening within, and that is actually quite juicy. There is an aliveness there. Presence. It is enough in itself, without a lot of excitement happening in the content.
Our identification shifts from taking ourselves as a part of content of awareness, which can be pretty boring when the content is quiet, to that which this content happens within, to and as, and the quitet joy and bliss in just noticing what we already are.
There are of course stage specific tools, both teachings and practices, and these have practical value.
But at the same time, I can’t help noticing that the tools I am currently using are not stage specific. They can be used by anyone, from novices to people familiar with the terrain, from those firmly in grips of a great deal of beliefs to those verging on the border of selfless realization.
The Big Mind process can be helpful at any stage of the path, inviting our human self to function better in the world, refining our insights into dynamics, finding ourselves as Big Mind/Heart, and bringing it more fully into the life of this human self.
The Work can be used by anyone, including children, those with few beliefs apart from a subtle one of being a separate I, and also those from whom awakeness is awake to itself, helping them gain a more detailed insight into the dynamics of stories and their effects.
Allowing experience can be used by anyone, at any time. Can I be with what I am experiencing right now? Can I fully allow it, wholeheartedly, in a heartfelt way, as if it would never go away? Can I allow it all, including resistance and what is resisted? This invites a release of identification with resistance, and a release of identification out of content of experience in general. It also helps us notice how content of experience appears one way when resisted, and often a quite different way when allowed.
Headless experiments can be used by anyone, and most of them can be used any time and any situation. We find ourselves as headless, as the no-thing that things arise within, to and as. And we explore how this is lived through our human self.
Exploring the sense fields can be done by anyone, at least after a short period of inviting in a more stable attention. It helps us explore impermanence, notice thoughts as just thoughts, noticing the difference between attention absorbed into the inside of thoughts and not, exploring how thoughts form gestalts with the other sense fields that may seem very substantial and real, and much more.
Each of these are tools available to anyone, with just some basic pointers. Most of them are largely self-regulating, having built-in feedback mechanisms to guide us. All of them can be used by novices and those more familiar with the terrain, up to selfless realization and beyond.
Attachment to anything – situations, people, things, roles – is what causes suffering. Our stories about what should be and what is clash. Which is fine. It is just part of the human condition. But after a while, and if we act from kindness towards ourselves, we may want to explore this further. What is really going on? Is there another way?
One of the first things we may notice is that any attachment is really an attachment to a story. The story of I with an Other, and then all the other stories that flesh out the identity of this separate I.
I am an object in the world, so want what supports this object and do not want what does not support it. I am alive, so don’t want to be dead. I believe in fairness, so want to see fairness in how I and others are treated.
We may also notice that an attachment to a story is really an identification with this story. We have a story of an I with an Other, and take ourselves to be this separate I. We have a story of being a particular gender, age, of a particular ethnicity, having certain values, and take ourselves to be all of that.
Another thing we may notice is that it is all completely innocent. We are all dealing with this life as best as we can, and often from lack of clarity.
And then, that behind all of it is fear. Fear for what may happen to this human self. We attach to stories to deal with this fear, and try to avoid what we are afraid may happen to it.
And that behind this fear is love. A love for this human self and whatever is within its circle of concern. All attachments to stories come from love. From wanting the best for what we take as I and us.
So how do we explore attachments, or identifications with stories?
A simple and direct way is to investigate the beliefs themselves, and find what is already more true for us. I can use a sense of discomfort as a guide to discover when my stories of what is and should be clash, and then investigate one or both of these. Is it true? What happens when I believe that thought? Who would I be without it? What is the truth in its turnarounds?
Another is to investigate impermanence in the five sense fields, to see impermanence directly here and now. This helps us reorganize and find stories more aligned with this impermanence. And it also helps us see that no story is absolutely true, which invites a release of identification with these stories.
We can also include each of the three centers: head, heart and belly.
We can find ourselves as that which is already free from identification with stories, for instance through the headless experiments, the Big Mind process, and finding ourselves as what does not change in the midst of the constantly changing content of awareness.
We can invite our heart to open through various heart centered practices, or just a focus on the heart and its qualities.
And we can invite in a deep body sense of trust and nurturing fullness through various body and hara centered practices, such as Breema.
Each of these tends to invite in an opening in the two other centers, especially if we bring attention to it. An open heart invites in an open mind and a nurturing fullness. An open mind invites in an open heart and a felt-sense of trust. A body feeling of trust and nurturing fullness invites in an open heart and mind.
We may also discover that resisting experience tends to close each of the centers. That this happens only when there is an identification with this resistance.
And that fully allowing experience, independent of what it is, tends to invite in a receptivity and opening of each center. And that this is also an allowing of the resistance, which is a release of identification with it and the content of experience in general.
It seems that just about any experience has three components, or at least has the potential for each three.
I find that any experience, even those that on the surface seems distressing and unpleasant, have a stream of quiet joy running through. There is a quiet bliss in just experiencing. In awareness itself. This thread of quiet bliss is revealed more clearly when the experience is more fully allowed, and the rest of the content of experience tends to be revealed as a form of nurturing bliss as well.
Also, any experience, no matter how joyful on the surface, has an element of discomfort as long as it is resisted. And any experience is resisted to some extent as long as we take ourselves to be an I with an Other. At the very least, we resist knowing that an experience will pass, no matter how much we enjoy it and try to hold onto it.
Any experience is also inherently neutral. As awakeness, any experience is neutral, it is awakeness itself. It is not inherently good or bad, just experience. Just awakeness temporarily being its own content. Any stories of good and bad, desirable and undesirable, right and wrong, are just stories, it all only exists on the inside of a story.
So in one sense, our life consists of good, bad and neutral situations. And in another sense, it is all happening here now, independent of the particulars of the experience.
I had an opportunity to explore ways to work with body symptoms last week, this time mainly just by fully allowing the experience, exploring the sense fields, and also resting attention on certain sensations.
Here are some ways of working with body symptoms…
Allowing the experience, in a wholehearted and heartfelt way, as they are, as if they would never change. Can I be with what I am experiencing right now? Bringing in the heart at times.
Resting attention on sensations, gently, stably, over some time. This is using body symptoms as an object for stability practice.
Exploring the sense fields, what is happening in each, and the gestalts that appear when they are combined. What is happening in sound, sensation, smell, taste and thought? How do thought combine with the other sense fields, such as sensations, to create certain appearances and gestalts? What happens when these appear solid, substantial and real? What happens when I notice how a thought combine with other sense fields to create those appearances?
Noticing the beliefs I have around body symptoms, health, disease, life, death, and inquire into them, finding what is already more true for me. (The Work.)
Finding myself as headless through the headless experiments. Am I the content of my experiences, or that which these experiences happens within and as?
Being curious about the process behind the symptoms, allowing it to unfold. What is left out of my conscious awareness that wants to be seen and included? (Process Work.)
Explore the voices that come up, such as the body, pain, illness, health, and so on. What do they have to say? How does the personality relate to them? How do they relate to each other? How does each one contribute to and help the human self? How can they do this in a simpler and more straight forward way? (Big Mind process.)
Deepening into empathy for myself and others. What I am experiencing now is universally human. Shared by all living creatures. We are all in this together. It is not (only) about me, but about us.
And then all the conventional ways of dealing with the symptoms or illness… going to the doctor, taking pills, changing diet, get more sleep, exercise, getting surgery, going to an acupuncturist, and so on depending on the situation.
As with anything else in life….
We can work with the content of it in a conventional way. In this case, going to the doctor, getting acupuncture, changing our health habits, and so on.
We can explore how we relate to it. Do I resist the experience? What happens if I more fully allow and stay with the experience? What happens if I bring attention to the symptoms in a stable and gentle way?
We can explore what is already more true for us about it. What are my beliefs around it? Are they true? What happens when I believe that? Who would I be without that belief? What is true in the reversals of my initial story?
We can allow it to work on us. When I fully allow experience, sincerely investigate beliefs, find myself as headless and so on, I can invite it to work on me, placing myself under it.
And we can use it as an invitation to notice what we already are. Am I the content of my experiences? These sensations, sounds, smells, tastes, thoughts that all live their own life, coming and going on their own time? Or am I that which these come and go within and as?
I went to the CSS practitioner’s group tonight, and it brings up a lot of stuff for me. Lots of opportunity to see my own attachment to stories and stuck places. Mostly, there is some discomfort in a social situation, which then triggers other identities and beliefs.
After a while of listening to people speak, arrogance came up, a sense of being right, of seeing things more clearly, of not wanting my clarity to be muddled by their confusion, of not being in the right place, and so on. From being caught up in it and identified with it, I shifted into fully allowing the experience…. of arrogance, the jitteriness, discomfort, restlessness, tension, all the sensations happening.
And this shifted into an opening of the heart, a sense of intimacy, recognizing myself in the others, of belonging, being in the right place, empathy for myself and the others in our shared human experiences, a sense of us.
So here too, there is an example of what is revealed behind a resisted experience.
First, there is a belief in stories and attachment to identities, which brings up experiences which in turn are resisted. These experiences then take on a certain appearance… of arrogance, discomfort and tension. When there is a shift into allowing these experiences, wholeheartedly and in a heartfelt way, there is a shift… into an open heart, a sense of connection, a calm in the midst of whatever activity is there, an interest in what is happening, a sense of us.
The discernment part of the arrogance may well stay the same, or at least retain some of its elements. I can still see that I may have more experience about some of the things people talk about. But the main shift is from a sense of being right and separation to a sense of neutrality of it all and all of us being in the same boat.
The discernment goes from being the basis of seeing myself as better than them, to just neutral information which may or may not have any practical value.
In terms of the three centers, there is also the usual shift.
My view goes from rigidly holding onto a particular story and identity to releasing its grip and being interested in alternative perspectives. I become interested in where people are coming from, and the truth in whatever they are saying.
My heart goes from being closed to opening up… to myself and others, and all of us in our shared humanity.
My emotions go from reactivity to a sense of sweet nurturing fullness.
And in general, there is a shift from resistance and reactivity to allowing and receptivity. And a shift from a sense of separation, discomfort and physical tension, to a sense of us, of belonging, and release and relaxation of the body.
Experiences usually appear one way when resisted, even subtly, and is revealed as something else when fully allowed.
In the first case, there is some discomfort, even if the experience is desirable to our human self. And in the second case, there is not.
As we begin to discover and explore this, there is a tendency to want the shift, to use allowing as a way to make the experience shift out of discomfort. But this is just another way of identifying with resistance. In wanting a shift, I am caught up in resistance to the experience.
(There may still be a shift, even if we are identified to some extent with resistance, but it is not full, so there will be some dissatisfaction there, and this is the feedback needed to discover a more full release.)
After a while, we may learn to more fully allowing the content of experience, as it is, including resistance and resisted, as if it would never change. In this way, identification with content is more fully released.
And as part of this, we begin to see, feel and love experience as it is, independent of its content. There is a taste of the equality of all experience. It is all just content of awareness, and it is all awakeness itself. It is awakeness forming itself into its own content.
As this happens, there is a shift into fully allowing experience because it is awakeness itself. There is no need for it to change.
I had an opportunity to explore being with body symptoms yesterday, as headaches and nausea peaked from something that has been brewing for a couple of days.
As long as the symptoms were mild and moderate, I was able to do other things, including distracting myself by watching movies as it got a little worse. At some point, when it went over the “moderate” threshold, I had no choice but to turn off the light and just be with the symptoms.
If attention wandered, the discomfort increased to feel almost unbearable. But when attention stayed on the body symptoms, it was OK. It was a great laboratory to be with and fully allow whatever happened, and a great feedback mechanism for attention to stay with it in a stable way without wandering.
After a while, there was a shift into a sense of clarity and soft expansion. I feel asleep for a few minutes, and woke up to a sense of clarity, a sweet nurturing fullness, a quiet bliss, and a sense of purification. The body symptoms had shifted into all of these, although I had to lie still for the physical aspects of the nausea to not kick in again. (Meaning: puking.)
So in fully allowing body symptoms, they too are revealed as something else, as any experience. They appear one way when – even subtly – resisted, and another way when wholeheartedly allowed, as they are, as if they would never change.
It is also interesting to notice that this happened on its own during my initial awakening. Whenever I got physically sick, there was a tremendous sense of clarity, bliss, nurturing fullness, and purification. During the dark night phase, I got sick the more usual way without any of this. And now, with some intention, it seems that the shift happens again.
During the initial awakening, the physical illnesses were usually quick and intense, during the dark night longer and lower intensity, and yesterday, quick and intense again.
Emotions or sensations tend to appear very different when resisted and when allowed.
For instance, I notice when arrogance or resentment comes up, and is fully allowed, they shift into an open heart, empathy, care, compassion.
And really, all experiences seem to shift into the same… a sweet nurturing fullness, an open heart, a receptive view. The particular quality of the initial resisted experience may carry through or not, and if it does, flavoring the way it is revealed when fully allowed.
Arrogance includes a discernment which may carry through. When resisted, it is combined with a sense of being right, and when allowed, combined with an open heart and a sense of us. And this discernment can be more in the foreground or background following the shift, depending on where the interest is and what the situation calls for.
Anger has a dynamic energy and clarity which may carry through. Sadness a quited stability. Physical pain a stable fiery clarity.
And resentment shift into an open heart and a sense of intimacy, a recognition of myself in the other, a sense of us.
Reactive emotions maintain their appearance through resistance to experience, and reveal themselves as something quite different when fully allowed.
Some connections between resisting and allowing experience, and the three centers…
When there is resistance to experience…
The view becomes rigid. There is a closer identification with a particular perspective and identity, and a stronger disowning of the truth in their reversals. This identification is also why an experience is resisted in the first place, so there is a mutuality here, a feedback loop which holds the dynamic in place as long as there is identification with the story and the resistance.
The heart closes down, or at least is ambivalent, trying to be open to some things and closed to something else.
The emotions are reactive. There is identification with fear, and whatever reactive emotions come up from that.
And when an experience is allowed, when there is a being with of the experience…
The view becomes more fluid. There is a release of identification out of a particular story and perspective, which makes it easier to explore the validity of its reversals. This also allows for more of a fluidity among perspectives, and an ability to use one or another as the situation seems to call for it. A generosity of view.
The heart opens. There is empathy and compassion. A recognition of oneself in the other. A generosity of heart.
At the belly center, there is a nurturing fullness. A trust in in life and whatever happens.
As usual, there is a mutuality among all of these… resisting or allowing experience, a fixed or fluid view, a closed or open heart, reactive emotions or nurturing fullness. A shift in one tends to invite a shift in the others, and they also stabilize and help deepen each other.
So when working on this, we can start at any point… allowing experience, inquire into stories, opening our heart, inviting in the nurturing fullness of the belly center.
We can ask ourselves, can I be with what I am experiencing right now?Â We can use The Work to investigate our beliefs. We can use heart centered practices, such as the Christian heart prayer or the Buddhist tong-len, to open our heart. We can use any belly and body centered practice, such as Breema, to invite in the nurturing fullness and the sense of trust that comes with it.
A great little video of Adyashanti talking about the difference between resisting and fully allowing experience. (Thanks to Sean for mentioning it to me!)
In my experience too, there is a big difference between almost and fully allowing an experience.
If it is allowed 98%, there is still some identification with resistance, pushing it away, escaping, wanting it to go away. So there is a sense of getting closer to it, which makes it more intense, yet resistance which makes it very uncomfortable. In a conventional sense, it only makes it worse.
But if it is fully allowed, as it is, as if it would never go away, there is a shift, a release out of the whole dynamic of resisting and resisted, of a split within form where I am identified with a should and something else is what shouldn’t be there.
And this goes not only for what our personality usually does not like, such as pain, sadness, anger, frustration and so on. It equally much goes for what our personality tends to like, such as joy, bliss and passion.
In both cases, there is an identification with a should, and in both cases there is drama and discomfort in the impermanence of it, either when something that should be there goes away or doesn’t come at all, or something that should not be there comes or stays. And in both cases, our identification is firmly with stories and within form.
When our experience is fully allowed, there is a release out of the drama and the struggle with it. And this release also helps us notice the quiet bliss that is always there within any experience. The bliss of existence itself, of awareness, of this awakeness which is inherently free from everything so allowing it all.
It seems that the shift can happen a few different ways.
The pain, grief, joy and so on stays more or less the same, but there is a release out of the drama, and a noticing of the quiet sweet bliss that is inherent in experiencing itself.
Or the content shifts more dramatically, from pain, grief, anger, or whatever it may be, to a sense of a nurturing fullness (with slightly different flavors depending on what it shifted from) along with the quiet bliss of existence itself.
For me, the first can happen if I am out and about and don’t have the time or opportunity to fully bring attention to it. And the second happens if I have a few minutes for myself and can be with it more fully. (Also, the first happens if the process has further to go, in which case there is the co-existence of a lot of different emotions and feelings as Adyashanti talks about.)
It almost seems that the initial surface experience, which we can label pain, sadness, anger, or something else, appears that way due to the resistance. When there is a release out of the resistance, it is revealed as something quite different. As a sweet nurturing fullness, with a particular flavor coming from its surface starting point. Anger becomes clarity and alertness. Sadness becomes a stable and quiet attention. Pain becomes a sense of clarity and aliveness.
There are a lot of wrinkles and intricacies here too, as with anything else. And as with most other things, we become familiar with the terrain through experience.
One of the big shifts that may happen over time is the shift from habitually identifying with wanting an experience to be different, to realizing that it is really, truly, OK as it is. This makes it much easier to be with it, fully allowing it as it is, as if it would never go away, in a wholehearted and heartfelt way.
Bringing in the heart certainly also helps, being with the experience as you would quietly be with a wounded animal or a hurt child.
An aspect of just about any practice is to allow it to work on me.
And what is this it?
It can be just about anything.
It can be Big Mind, when it awakens to itself, or even just glimpses or intuits itself, found through the Big Mind process, headless experiments, meditation, or happening out of thin air.
It can be this alive presence, in and around the body, personal and universal at the same time, substantial and transparent to the void, infinitely loving and wise, and found through prayer, Breema and (other) soul level practices.
It can be the tangible sense of body-mind wholeness, which I find through body-oriented or -inclusive practices.
It can be an open and alive heart, found through heart centered practices.
And finally, it can be any experience whatsoever, when it is fully allowed.
When an experience is resisted, independent of the content of the experience, it only reinforces the tendency to resist, the sense of I and Other, and patterns of rigidity and reactivity.
But when it is fully allowed, in a wholehearted and heartfelt way, as it is, as if it would never change, it all shifts.Â Then, there is an invitation to a fluidity of view, a nurturing fullness, and an open heart. There is a realignment and reorganization of this human self. A softening of the rigid patterns created from resistance. An opening into receptivity and fluidity.
And this is how all of these… Big Mind, alive presence, alive heart and more… works on the human self.
The view is invited to be more fluid and inclusive.
The heart becomes more alive and open.
There is less emotional reactivity, and more of a sense of nurturing fullness.
So when any of these (Big Mind, alive heart, allowing experience and so on) are alive and present, it is a reminder and invitation for this human self to soak in it, allow it to seep through, soften, reorganize and realign this human self.
I keep coming back to the most basic dynamics, so I guess there must be more in it for me. In any case, it is something I notice throughout the day so it is somewhat familiar territory.
One of these life 101 dynamics is being with experiences.
When I resist, there is a sense of struggle and discomfort.
When experiences are fully allowed, there is a release.
In the first case, there is identification with resistance, with a belief saying something that is should not be, with a region of content of awareness, with an I that has an Other. From there, there is a sense of drama, struggle, discomfort and so on.
When it is all allowed, in a wholehearted and heartfelt way, it all shifts. The identification is released from resistance, and from content in general. It is released out of the whole I-Other dynamic, so there is a sense of release from the struggle and drama around it as well. If the basic sense of I-Other is also allowed, there is a release from that one too, so awakeness notices itself and its own content as itself. (The basic sense of -Other comes from resistance to the Ground, to Big Mind, to awakeness noticing itself and its content as itself.)
It helps me at my human level, making it easier to deal with whatever is triggered. It helps me find myself as Big Mind. When both of those are there, it helps me find myself as Big Heart. (Which comes when I find myself as Big Mind, and bring focus on the human.)
And it is very simple. The most simple.
It is just noticing when there is identification with resistance, with any movement “away” from something or pushing something away, and then fully allowing it as it is, as if it would never change, in a wholehearted and heartfelt way. Right there, identification is released out of it. It is all still there, living its own life, but now not taken as an “I” that has an Other.
And in this, there is a lot more to notice as well.
I noticed sadness come up today, in a surprising situation. (Although I could also see what triggered it.)
And then the shift from a slight resistance and discomfort to fully allowing and a sense of sweet nurturing fullness. The same “substance” which initially appeared as sadness, discomfort, a disturbance, something I wanted to go away, shifted into this sweet fullness.
There is nothing new here, but it helped me see that any disturbance is its own antidote, in a certain way. Whenever I feel sadness, anger, pain or whatever else it may be, the “antidote” is in the same substance when the experience is fully allowed.
What I want when I resist an experience is exactly that sense of nurturing rich fullness that comes when it is fully allowed.
This is just one of many examples of the alignment of what my human self really wants, and noticing what I am as awakeness. Fully allowing experiences, including any resistance that may be there, gives my human self what it really wants, and it helps what I am to notice itself more easily since identification is released (somewhat at least) from content.
Love the fears that you hold in your hand more than anything you have ever loved before.
Think about all the hours you have spent trying to deny, avoid, and get rid of these fears, and thank them for always bringing you into the presence of the limited human mind.
Thank them for sending you out to look for ways to get rid of them. Think of all you’ve discovered during your search!
Thank them for making you look at your life.
Thank them for this community, for your fears are probably what got you here…reading this right now.
Thank your fears for reminding you that you have a small child inside that is in desperate need of your love and attention.
Thank your soul for dispensing these fears to you, to help you find your way back home to God – the energy of pure love, the energy that trumps fear.
Love your fears like you have loved no other part of you – bless them, honor them, and use them as the holy reminders that they are…reminding you always to come home to your whole self.
Other ways to explore fear…
Fully allowing and being with the experience of it… as it is, as if it would never change, in a wholehearted and heartfelt way. Inclusive of all content of awareness… the fear, the resistance to it, the battle. In my experience, when this shift happens the change is immediate, from night to day, from discomfort and battle to a sense of nurturing fullness.
How does the self/personality relate to fear? Shift into fear, and look at the self from that perspective. What has fear to say? What does it want to tell the self? How does it contribute? (The list from Debbie Ford is a great starting point.) What would happen if it wasn’t there?
What are the gifts of not befriending fear? What are the gifts of the battle? What changes if we allow not being ok with fear? If we allow fear itself?
Inquire into beliefs around fear, such as “I shouldn’t experience fear”, “fear creates problems for me”, and other ones shared by many in our culture.
There is a beautiful complementarity between allowing and owning whatever arises.
As awakeness itself, we already and always allow whatever arises. Shifting into finding ourselves as awakeness, there is a release of identification with whatever resistance there is to it. We can now hold whatever arises and the resistance to it, without blindly taking ourselves as either one. There is a passive allowing of it all. It is just a noticing of what is already and always here. (Although the shift into noticing it is often active.)
Yet at our human side, it is also important to actively own whatever arises. To actively become familiar with it, see that it is part of me, widen my conscious identity to include it, explore how it already shows up in my life, explore what it asks of me, discover how it supports the life of this human self, bring it into the active repertoire of how this human self lives in the world. This includes noticing a part of this human self that was already around, actively bringing it into my conscious identity at my human level, and actively exploring it in and bringing it into my daily life.
And as so often, there is a mutuality between the two. One supports the other.
Allowing whatever arises helps me more easily actively own it. I can release identification from any beliefs and identities that stopped me from seeing it as part of my human self, and I can now more wholeheartedly embrace it and find its gifts.
And actively own it helps me release identification with old beliefs and identities that previously kept it as “other”, which in turn makes it easier for me to find myself as awakeness itself, already allowing it all.
The allowing is the enlightenment part, finding myself as awakeness and everything arising to and within awakeness as no other than this awakeness itself. And the owning is the self-realization part, the healing, maturing and development of this human self.
Or we can say that the first is the Self-realization, and the other is the self-realization. It is the realization of the Self, as Big Mind, Brahman, the divine mind, or whatever fancy name we have for it. And it is the realization of the self, of the wholeness of who this individual self is and can be.
There are as many examples of this as there are experiences.
Since I was a child, I have tended to get into arguments with my uncle, repeating the same patterns over and over. (With him and few or no others.) Most recently, when I last visited my family which lives on another continent, it was over the topic of wolves. Our country has ten or fifteen wolves or so, and he is adamant that they should be shot. The conversation went along these lines…
Me: Why should they be shot? Don’t they have as much right to life as anyone else? They were probably here long before us humans, so we are the invaders. And there are lots of us, and very few of them, so if anything they are the ones needing protection. (The usual Spiral Dynamics Green arguments.)
Uncle: They are a danger to people. Would you like your child to be eaten by wolves on their way to school?
Me: If you are concerned about that, why don’t you work for traffic safety, or even eradicating all the wasps? Traffic and wasps kills quite a few people every year, while there is no recorded instance of a wolf ever killing a human being.
And so it goes, with both of us deliberately pushing each other’s buttons, getting more caught up in emotions, and more entrenched in our particular and increasingly fixed views. (Even writing this, I notice some jitteriness and emotions coming up.)
It is an example of both of us getting caught up in habitual patterns, even as we see it happening, and even as we both (most likely) see that we both agree below the surface of particular strategies, and that we both have valid and good points. Even as we see it, we can’t help getting caught up in it…
We both have the same deep wish, which is to support life. For him, it takes the form of wanting to protect people. For me, wanting to protect a species that is almost eradicated. Our wish is the same, although our emphasis, perspective and surface strategies are different, at least as they come out in an entrenched conversation like that.
And I also see how we both take perspectives that comes out of the conditions of our lives.
He (and my father) grew up on a farm, hunting for much of their food, and during difficult economical and social times (including war), so they needed to actively take care of humans and fend off threats from nature. Their lives were precarious, and a deliberate and active protection of their family and community was appropriate in those circumstances. Humans obviously, and appropriately, went before animals.
I grew up under quite different circumstances, in a country now peaceful, safe, prosperous and social democratic, where everyone were taken care of. For me, seeing that humans were generally safe and well of, it was natural to expand my circle of concern to include animals and the natural world. For me and my generation, taking care of other species was a luxury that we could easily afford.
Seeing all this, a space opens up that includes both of us…
There is an understanding of where we each are coming from, and how we defend perspectives based on our own background and circumstances. There is a recognition of how we both have the same wish, to support life, although it is sometimes expressed in different ways. There is a recognition of the validity of both of our perspectives, and a willingness to find strategies addressing the concerns of both. And there is an empathy for both of us, a heartfelt allowing and holding of each of us where we are.
The more I sincerely explore it and what is true for me around all of this, the more there is a release from being blindly identified and caught up in these patterns. From a sense of separation, there is a sense of intimacy with himself, myself and the situation. From frustration, a new appreciation. From truly believing the perspective I promote, a recognition of the validity of both perspectives.
Even if we go into the same old patterns again, there is a new appreciation of both of us, even in the midst of our stuckness. And that makes even the stuckness worth it.
There is awareness allowing its content, which is always and already here. Awareness already allows any and all of its content. It is built open. It is the unmanifest allowing the manifest.
Then there is the allowing which is experienced as more conscious and intentional, This one involves a release from being caught up in resistance, and also any beliefs and identities which does not allow particular content. This one is not always around, and is actually not fully here until there is a release from beliefs altogether.Â It is the manifest allowing the manifest.
We can relatively easily notice both here and now.
First, can I find any place where awareness resists its content? I can find resistance, but this resistance too is content and awareness allows even resistance.
Then, what happens if I ask myself can I be with what I am experiencing right now? How is that different from when I actively resist experiences, when I identify with resistance and the beliefs and identities which fuels resistance? When there is an active resistance, what happens when I simply notice that awareness already allows?
Also, when there is an active resistance of experiences, can I see the difference between the inherent allowing of awareness, and the active resistance within content? What happens when there is a more conscious allowing, and the allowing of awareness is reflected in an allowing within its content? How do I experience each of those two, and the transition from one to the other?
To continue the exploration of the difference between allowing and actively embrace…
When there is a disidentification with stories and identities, there is also an allowing of what is, as it is. So if there is a disidentification with all stories and identities, there is also a full allowing of anything happening here and now, including this human self and the wider world. It is all recognized as awakeness manifesting as form. And this is the traditional awakening, it is Big Mind awakening to itself.
Beyond this, it is possible for this human self to actively explore itself and embrace itself in its evolving fullness. It can actively explore and own its different voices and subpersonalities, become familiar with and live from a wider repertoire of qualities and ways of being in the world, and find a new fluidity among a wide and unlimited range of identities and roles in the world. All of this allows this human self to heal, mature and develop in a more active way, beyond what it would do (or not) if there was not this active exploration and familiarization.
It is a different way of participating in the development of this human self, and through this and in a small way to actively participate in the evolution of our culture and the even wider whole.
And it is also a way to develop skillful means. If Big Mind is awake to itself, then the human self it functions through is its main – and really only – skillful means. So actively engage in its healing, maturing and development only makes sense.
For a few days, there has been no impulse to do any form of practice (apart from The Work last night, and then only because I went to a group doing it together).
So then, there is always just being with what is, as it is. Allowing it, as it is, for its own sake.
And this being with allows for quite detailed explorations of resistance.
Seeing how identification with resistance (taking it as an I) creates a sense of I and Other, a center in space, something substantial at this center, drama and struggle, something to protect, separation and alienation, physical tension, being self-conscious (conscious of a particular image presented to the world), and so on.
And then seeing what happens when identification with resistance is lightened up on, released even to some extent… a reduced sense of split between I and Other, of a center, of something substantial at the center, of alienation and separation. And instead, a sense of ease, clarity, a wide open field with less or no boundaries.
And finally, in exploring the effects of resistance and absence of resistance, seeing that resistance achieves nothing apart from a sense of drama. It is a spinning of the wheels. And that the clarity that comes when identification is released from resistance is fertile ground for actions in the world.
It may seem that we need resistance and drama to act, and action may indeed happen in the midst of resistance and drama, but it often has a sense of contraction and drivenness about it, a lack of receptivity and clarity. Without the resistance, the same actions may happen, but now from more receptivity and clarity.
And of course, if there is not even this being with, that is fine as well. If attention gets caught up into the insides of stories, and there is identification with resistance, that too is OK. That too is the temporary play of the awake void. That too is a part of the landscape.
Sometimes the guests that come through are pretty ragged… (Guests here meaning any content of experience, including emotions, reactivity, wounds, etc.) And if we try to push them away, ignore them, call the police, pretend they are not there, or end up wailing or running frantically around with them, they stay ragged.
The other option is to be with them in an heartfelt way, to allow whatever comes up from them, listen to it, feel into it, and even love it. That is how people in our life often can heal, and that is often how these guests can heal as well.
Again, nothing new here. We know it from our own life… seeing it in the world of humans and other beings, and the inner world of emotions, reactivity, wounds, and so on. At our human level, the outer and the inner mirror each other.
We can explore it quite simply in this way… just being with what comes up, in an heartfelt way. And we can also explore it more in detail through for instance voice dialog or the Big Mind process. Listening to disowned voices, the ones that are hurt in different ways, allowing them as they are, not needing them to change, not using them as something to manipulate or as a gateway into something else. Being interested in who they are, their history, being receptive to them, respecting them as they are, seeing and allowing them, feeling into what they say, and even loving them as they are. Even shifting into Big Heart and embracing them from Big Heart.
In terms of the three centers, there is receptivity at the head center (seeing), belly center (feeling, felt-sense), and heart center (love)… in short, a heartfelt seeing.
When we resist them (identify with the resistance), we not only rehearse the (apparent) split between I and Other but the guests also stay as they are, in misery, coming back later wanting to be let in.
Compassion includes guests in any form and shape, whether they show up in flesh and blood or in the form of emotions, reactivity, frustration, grief, sadness, anger, irritability, restlessness, wanting to be somewhere else.
This is something that is (I assume) clear to folks who have done some meditation practice, and (apparently) can be confusing to those outside looking in.
I just read an anthology of essays by and interviews with the Norwegian philosopher Arne NÃ¦ss, where an interviewer refer to Zen as a philosophy of no-doing, which he (strangely enough) took to mean never getting involved in any sort of social action, and also watched a movie involving the French resistance, and the combination of the two brought it up.
When there is a reference to allowing in a meditation context, it means allowing experience… not resisting experience (including the resistance itself!) This is very different from allowing and not resisting circumstances in the world, such as social injustice and violence against living beings.
The two go perfectly well together. The Germans invade France, maybe kill or torture friends and family, and great sadness and anger may come up, and I can fully allow those experiences. To resist these experiences creates drama and suffering. To not resist them allows for clarity and a sense of ease, even in the midst of the intensity of the experiences and the situation.
What arises may also involve active resistance to the situation that is going on, including actively resisting the German invasion in different ways. In fact, not resisting experience is likely to allow strong empathy to emerge, within more clarity and less drama, which in turn translates to more effective actions in the world.
So there is a big difference between resistance to experience, which only creates suffering for myself, and active resistance to and engagement with circumstances, which may arise from compassion and clarity.
I have just picked up The Book of Job, translated and with an introduction by Stephen Mitchell. Before I get too far into it, I want to explore what comes up for me around the topic of suffering now:
Life happens. Everything is living its own life, and comes and goes in our lives as guests. This is true for the physical world, and also for our experiences. Even our experiences… everything we may take as ourselves such as our thoughts, choices, impulses, actions… even all of those are guests, living their own life, coming and going on their own, and on their own time.
An experience of suffering comes from the clash between life + a belief. Life is one way and it should be another way, according to my stories about it, so there is a sense of something being off. If the clash is mild, there is stress, and if the clash is stronger, there is suffering.
Suffering can be seen as an invitation…
To deepen into who and what we are. To deepen into our shared humanity, to allow edges to round off, to see that we are all in this together, we are all in the same boat, to find in myself what I see in others and recognize in others what I know from myself, specifically, to recognize the suffering of others as my own, allowing for a receptive heart which invites action.
To allow and be with our experiences, as they are… allowing the resistance to them to fall away, seeing that it is the resistance, or rather the identification with this resistance, that creates the experience of suffering.
To see what is already more true for us. To investigate our beliefs, see if they are true, what happens when I hold onto it and if it wasn’t there, and explore the truths in all of its reversals. And seeing that the truths of its reversals, all together, is what is already more true for us, and also reveals the inherent neutrality of the situation.
And then finally, to find a genuine appreciation for what is, as it is…. not as an invitation for anything, not as something that will get us something else, not as something to manipulate… but for its own sake. To appreciate, and even love, what is, as it is. As life… as God expressing and experiencing itself.
In alchemy, this is also the three phases from nigredo (the misery) through albedo (working through, clarification, differentiation) to rubedo (the fruits of the work), and then back to nigredo again to explore a new facet of it.
To continue the guests analogy, and combine it with my experiences with the group yesterday…
We can see experiences as guests, coming and going on their own, living their own life.
And we can explore how we relate to these guests.
The ultimate hospitality is that of Ground, which already and always allows any experience. It is the nature of awareness to allow any content, and it already and always does that. There is no way for it to do anything else. Awareness inherently allows any guests, and their coming and going on their own time.
But when this host takes itself to be a guest, it forgets about itself as the ultimate host. There is now a sense of a separate I, an I with an Other, and there is inevitably a struggle with some or all of the guests, in different ways and with different intensities. We try to invite some and discourage others. When they arrive, we try to encourage some to stay and others to leave.
And we can also try to manipulate guests in different ways.
We can see them as stepping stones to something else, a tool for achieving a particular goal, something to transform into something else, something to transcend, something to dress up to make appear as different than what it is. In short, we don’t appreciate them for what they are, as they are. We want them to be different, or to be a tool for us to achieve something.
In our external life, manipulating guests this way seems cynical and even neurotic. And it is no less cynical and neurotic when we relate to our experiences this way.
It is all being caught up in manipulating what is, being caught up in the apparent solidity of I and Other, of seeing as solid the wanting of things to be different.
A simple example is suffering (life + a belief that it shouldn’t be that way). We can try to discourage it from entering. When it is there, we try to ignore it or make it go away. Or, if we see ourselves as a little more sophisticated (although we are not really), we can try to manipulate it in different ways. We can use it to develop compassion, to find peace with it, to allow beliefs and identities to fall away, to deepen into our humanity. We may not (overtly) try to make it go away, but we may also not be quite happy with it as it is. There is still a lack of appreciation for it as it is, for its own sake.
That appreciation for it as it is, for its own sake, comes when Ground notices itself as Ground. There is a recognition that this appreciation for any guest, for any content of experience independent of its particulars, is already and always there. It is only clouded up by the surface drama sometimes, created by a mistaken identification and a sense of I and Other.
Seeing experiences as guest can be a useful (and rich) analogy.
Any experience is a guest, which lives its own life and comes and goes on its own.
We can of course invite certain guests, and discourage others, but that only works to a limited extent. We can invite happiness, through gratitude inventories, rejoicing in other’s happiness, acts of kindness and so on, but happiness still lives its own life… it comes and goes on its own, on its own time. No guest stays around permanently. We can discourage pain, yet pain also lives its own life, coming and going on its own and on its own time.
When guests are around, we can also be different types of hosts. We can cling to some guests, trying to convince them to stay around longer. We can be nasty to other guests, trying to get them to leave. But again, that has only limited effect, and is also quite stressful. As before, the guests live their own life, they come and go on their own time.
We can also be a courteous host, allowing the guests to come and go on their own, as they do anyway. We can find peace with them arriving, hanging around, and leaving, on their own time. We can even find appreciation for them, and their coming and going.
The ultimate hospitality is that of Ground which inherently allows any and all experiences to live their own life and come and go on their own. Mimicking this hospitality, we may even eventually discover ourselves to (already and always) be that Ground… this awake void allowing any forms which are not other than the awake emptiness itself.
In a relative sense, it is stressful and creates a lot of drama when we act as less than hospital hosts… it goes for our external life in the world, and also for our experiences. When we act with more hospitality, allowing the presence of the guests and recognizing that they live their own life, there is more peace and even appreciation for them. And it may even invite Ground to notice itself as Ground, as ultimate hospitality.
Happiness, as commonly defined, is dependent on external circumstances. I have stories about what I need and want and what would make me happy, so when life aligns with those stories I experience happiness. But it doesn’t last. It is the peak of waves that also have valleys. It is a guest, that lives its own life. We can do things to invite it in, of course, but it still comes and goes on its own, and on its own time.
Appreciation is a little different, and can happen from who and what we are. From who we are, as individuals, it comes from a wide embrace of life, and a deeply seen and felt realization that everything that happens here in my life is universally human. No matter what happens, I can appreciate it for that. From what we are, as spirit, it comes from the joy of experiencing itself, independent of its content.
And then there are related aims, such as finding peace with what is (which invites appreciation), and being with what is (which invites finding peace with it). And the being with includes being with anything that arises, including resistance and whatever else may be going on. It is a being with any visitor, independent of who or what they are. It is the ultimate hospitality, which mirrors (and allows us to recognize ourselves as) the Ground of awake emptiness which already and always allows any content.
The process of deepening into who we are, and awakening to what we are, involves an ongoing process of differentiation.
One of the most basic (and common-sense) differentiations is between ways of allowing.
Allowing as a practice
The basic way of allowing, as a practice, is to allow the content of our experiences, as they are. To allow everything, including any resistance to content and to allowing certain content.
Not allowing certain content is suffering, and creates a great deal of struggle and drama. It comes from an identification with a region of content, creating the appearance of other regions of content as other. It comes from an identification with beliefs, thoughts, ideas and identities.
Allowing it releases our identification with content, and allows the ground of this content to come more into the foreground – this ground of awake emptiness that already allows it all, that has no inherent boundaries and no inherent separate self anywhere.
This is the practice we do for ourselves, to reduce suffering, burn through habitual patterns of identification, find clarity, and find ourselves as what we already are.
We allow a full experience of what is, independent of its particulars.
Allowing (or not) in the world
The other form of allowing (or not) relates to our live as an individual in the world. Here, it is just common sense. If someone inflicts suffering on someone else, and I am in a position to change it, I will. I am not going to allow it, if I can prevent it.
Allowing experiences, but not allowing whatever to happen to myself or others
So there is a full allowing of any content of awareness, of any experiences. This brings a reduction of a sense of struggle and drama, and of the confusion that goes along with the struggle and drama. Instead, there is a sense of the stillness, quietness and clarity inherent in the ground.
At the same time, I am not going to allow certain things to happen to myself or others if I can prevent it. And independent of what unfolds, I can fully be with my experiences of it – as it is.
Any sense of a separate self comes from resistance to experience.
Through resistance to experience, we identify with an aspect of the content of awareness, and we split the content into I and Other, which in turns creates a sense of struggle, drama, and wanting something else than what is.
When we realize this, it is easy to start resist the sense of a separate self, of wanting that one to go away, of hoping for something better just on the other side of this. And this is just another way to identify with an aspect of content of awareness and pitting it against other aspects of the content. There is an identification with wanting the content to be different from what it is.
(In this case, an identification with wanting of this sense of a separate self to go away, an identification with the corresponding belief that it would be better if it wasn’t there, and an identification as someone who wants it to go away – all of which places our identification firmly within one part of the content of awareness, pitted against other parts of the content.)
The trick here is to allow it all: the sense of a separate self, any resistance to it, any wanting of it to be different, any strategies to change it, and anything else. To allow it, embrace, see it, feel it, and then to love it, as it is. This shifts the identification out of content and into its ground of awake emptiness.
In this, there is indeed a release from being caught up in any sense of a separate self – even when it is there.
We find ourselves as the ground allowing it all, as it already does.
As long as there is identification with particular content of awareness, there is a split and we don’t notice this ground, or ourselves as this ground. We find ourselves as a region of the content, pitted against other regions of the content, and in the ensuing drama the ground is not noticed. As soon as there is a being with what arises, a full allowing of it, identification goes out of content and we find this ground of awake emptiness allowing it all.
In watching movies, I cannot help being curious about what processes they may reflect, both within each of us and among us. Often, it is quite simple and basic such as with the Vulcans in Star Trek (I have been watching some of the original episodes for the first time).
The Vulcans have learned to suppress and control feelings and emotions, and rely on cool intelligence. And this reflects the common view in our culture, at least in the 60s: we either have to act on our feelings and emotions, or we have to suppress them.
Either way, we do battle with them. They are an Other that either controls or is controlled by us. There is a space where I am here and emotions there, and when they get strong, they either flood and overpower me, or I am able to erect and maintain a wall that keeps them in check.
The skill of the Vulcans is to be able to very effectively erect and maintain these walls, although they do break down sometimes (sometimes with scary results, and other times to the glee of Kirk and Bones.)
Trapped in this mode, the sense is that if I allow myself to fully experience something, it will take over, it will overpower me, I will loose control. And this fear is the motivation to keep holding it at bay, whatever it is – grief, sadness, anger, rage, pain, joy, pleasure, love, bliss.
But this is only one option. The other is to allow ourselves to fully experience whatever we experience, to be with it, to allow resistance to the content of our experience to fall away.
Here, there is a sense of spaciousness, of holding and allowing any content. And there is a sense of release, and we realize that the pressure that we thought we were erecting a wall and fighting against, was created by the wall and the fighting itself. Without the wall and the resistance, there is no pressure. There is just whatever is experiences, unfolding within and as awareness and space, and that is it.
There is no sense of being overpowered, because the whole sense of I and Other becomes more transparent and spacious. They are revealed as part of the same space.
Intense experiences may be unfolding, but unfolding within a much larger (actually infinite) space. There is only pressure when the space is walled in. Without walls, no pressure.
And without pressure, any experience is revealed as bliss itself. For me right now, giving a sense of blissful smooth expansive quiet fullness,.