A deeply human process

 

The Dark Night, then, is really a deeply human process, in which the self which thought itself so spiritual, so firmly established upon the supersensual plane, is forced to turn back, to leave the Light, and pick up those qualities which it had left behind. Only thus, by the transmutation of the whole man, not by a careful and departmental cultivation of that which we like to call his “spiritual” side, can Divine Humanity be formed: and the formation of Divine Humanity—the remaking of man “according to the pattern showed him in the mount”—is the mystic’s only certain ladder to the Real. “My humanity,” said the Eternal Wisdom to Suso, “is the road which all must tread who would come to that which thou seekest.”  [….] The self in its first purgation has cleansed the mirror of perception; hence, in its illuminated life, has seen Reality. In so doing it has transcended the normal perceptive powers of “natural” man, immersed in the illusions of sense. Now, it has got to be reality: a very different thing.
– Evelyn Underhill, from the Dark Night chapter in Mysticism.

As I have mentioned here a few times, the process Evelyn Underhill outlines in Mysticism fits closely what’s happened for me. (1) First, a dark night of the senses (I was an atheist at the time so didn’t have a prior phase of interest/seeking). (2) Then, a longer unitive phase with the typical characteristics: All as God, yet happening to an “I”. Passion. Energy. Luminosity. Inspiration. Insights. A sense of everything “on track”. And then (3) a dark night of the soul which, in many ways, is a reversal of the previous phase. (Unity falls away. The ability to meditate/pray is reduced. Confusion reigns. Illness. Loss of friends. Projects and plans fail. Emotional turmoil. Anxiety. Depression. Regret. Despair. Fatigue. Loss of inner guidance. Darkness.)

As Evelyn Underhill writes, the second dark night is a process of inviting more of my human self to reorganize and align with reality. It’s a process of stirring up wounds, what’s very young in me, and shadow material in general. It brings me face to face with my most basic beliefs. It’s a shift from recognizing and seeing reality, to being it. A shift from an “I” recognizing reality, to reality recognizing itself. It’s a significant and all-encompassing shift that can be a bloody mess (Adya) and a monumental train wreck (Barry), as I have noticed. And yet, it’s also just a small adjustment. What’s not true, what never was true, surfaces so it can be recognized.

 

Dismembered vs. dissolved

 

During the initial dark night, there was an experience of being dismembered, taken apart and put together differently, along with bliss, high energies, and inpouring of insights, inspiration.

Now, during the second dark night, there is an experience of dissolving, along with surfacing of deep wounds and shadow material, and rawness and vulnerability.

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Core wound

 

As a kid, I had several instances where I remembered how it was before incarnation. I was outside with the sun filtering through the leaves and a light breeze, and suddenly there is a flash back to how it was. Infinite love and wisdom. Luminosity. A complete sense of being home.

I also remember my family moving to another house in the same small town when I was four or five months old, and seeing it all from above. I have images of my parents walk up to the new house with me in a stroller, something large square and white is in front of the house, the wall paper has a certain pattern and color and the walls are soon after painted white. All of this was confirmed by my parents when I asked them about it in my late teens. I realize I really didn’t want to incarnate, to embody, until I had to when this body started moving and talking more consciously.

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Rewiring of the heart

 

Over this last week, there has been a great deal of sadness and also a physical sensation of a rewiring of the heart.

The sadness has surfaced from memories of close and intimate relationships where I held back love, where I didn’t allow myself to feel and express how much I loved the other person, and from seeing how much pain it caused myself and the other.  So there has been a great deal of pain, sadness, grief and regret surfacing, along with that sense of a rewiring of the heart, and a sweetness in it all.

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Dark night reversals

 

In my case, what was most prominent during the initial awakening went away or swung into it’s reversals during the dark night of the soul.

I “lost” what I relief the most on, and what I – emotionally at least – associated with awakening or God.

Clarity was replaced with confusion. Stability with turmoil. Insights with dullness. Passion with blandness. Bliss with neutrality. A sense of being on track with a sense of being off track. A stable focus with fragmented focus. Energy with fatigue. Living from integrity with being out of integrity. An open heart with a  numb heart. Health with illness. A sense of intimacy with alienation. Close and rewarding friendships with loss of friendships. An exiting future with no future.

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Dark nights

 

I was going to write about the difference between dark nights and depression, but realize I am not really qualified to write about that topic.

So instead, I’ll write about some of the characteristics of the dark nights from own experience, and for my own benefit.

Initial one

The initial dark night (the dark night of the senses) happened in my mid-teens.

It started with identification as what witnesses and the world seemed to retreat and appeared far away. It lasted for almost exactly a year, and more must have happened but I cannot remember exactly what. I and the doctors were convinced I had an illness, but even with extensive tests they couldn’t figure out what.

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Losing what I relied the most on

 

I listened to the dark night of the soul chapter in Evelyn Underhill‘s Mysticism again today, and was reminded of one of it’s characteristics: Losing what we relied on during the initial awakening.

During that phase, which she calls illumination and I tend to call oneness, reality is revealed although it often includes flashy side-effects of awakening and identification as an “I”. It’s easy to form beliefs about these side effects and states. For instance, I may believe that I need it and that’s understandable since they tend to be very pleasant and feel like a compensation for the smallness and drabness of my previous perceptions. It’s also common to mistake states for the real thing, even if there may also be a recognition that God allows any and all states and experiences.

For me, all of that happened. I had beliefs that I needed the side effects of the initial awakening, and I mistook states for the real thing – even if it was also clear that God allows and appears as any state.

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Cannonball sprouting

 

From a session with Barry:

The image and feel of a cannonball surfaces. It’s resistance, personal will. It’s what’s resisting what’s happening, resisting life. I see how I fight it, and it doesn’t work.

It’s in the forehead, head, throat. Then it falls, it sinks down into the belly.

I stay with the image and feel of the cannonball in the belly. The cannonball sprouts, green soft sprouts emerge out of it. The cannonball softens, becomes soil, nutrients for these sprouts.

I stay with the cannonball, the soil, the sprouts. A tree emerges from the cannonball and the sprouts.

Then my whole body sprouts. My whole body becomes soil, nutrients for these sprouts. All of me becomes soil, nutrients.

A while passes. Then the whole Earth sprouts. The whole earth becomes soil and nutrients for the sprouts and trees.

The cannonball, my body, the whole Earth are soil, nutrients for the sprouts.

I am gone. All of me is gone. All of me is soil. All of me is nutrients for the sprouts. It’s all one field of soil, nutrients and sprouts.

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Oneness and its discontent

 

There is an inherent discomfort in oneness.

All is recognized as the divine (God, awareness), yet there is still a sense of an “I” it’s happening to – even as that sense of an “I” is also recognized as the play of the awareness.

This is inherently uncomfortable simply because of the appearance of a relationship, and this relationship comes with everything relationships come with – drama, ups and downs, holding onto states and so on.

Eventually, the appearance of a relationship wears out and reveals something much simpler. When identification drains out of the “I”, it leaves reality awake to itself. There is no longer any relationship apart from the appearance of relationships recognized as appearance, as the play of awareness.

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Coming home

 

Why am I exploring these things? What is my deepest motivation, desire, longing?

Is it for the sake of truth or love? Healing, maturing, awakening? Intimacy with existence? Freeing myself up to follow my inner guidance/knowing?

There is some truth to each of those, but they don’t quite do it.

For me, it’s about coming home, and there is a relief in seeing and admitting it.

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Dreams: Contrasting states

 

Dream 1: I am in a support group of some sort, and a man tells me I am the most passive person he has seen there. I justify it by referring to the cf, but it feels hollow and false.

Dream 2: I am at the Zen center in SLC, notice how dull and fatigued I feel, and remember the clarity and energy I used to have when I lived there. I notice how far I have allowed myself to go into dullness.

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How have I been spared? Why is it wonderful?

 

When things don’t go according to plans, I can ask myself:

How have I been spared?

How may this be a more wise choice?

Why is it better? How is it wonderful for myself, others, and the world?

For each of these questions, I can find genuine and specific examples. Even if they are small, they help open the mind to new possibilities, and it gets easier to find other examples. If I can find one, I can find two, and then three, and then one more. I find that when it seems difficult to think of another genuine example, that’s when it pays off staying with it and waiting for another genuine example to surface. That’s when I can find something I hadn’t recognized before.

It is often good to do this at the end of or after a more full inquiry, and not skip ahead too far. And it is fine to select just one or two of these questions.

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Mystical experiences vs recognizing reality

 

Mystical states can help us recognize the truth.

And the trick is to continue recognizing the truth as the states change.

Mystical states and experiences are certainly not necessary for recognizing reality, but they can offer us a window into reality. They can be stepping stones for recognizing what is.

A oneness experience shows us all as God, although there is still a sense of it happening to an I. The I is recognized as God too, as an appearance of God, but there is still some identification with it.

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Values in Action

 

Values in Action (VIA) comes from positive psychology, and is a way to rank our individual character strengths. What is important to me? What am I good at? How can make use of it in everyday life? What ranks lower for me? How can I strengthen those?

The VIA test can be taken at the Institute for Character website, or at Authentic Happiness which has a wide range of tests.

Here is my current Values in Action score. I have guesses how it relates to NEO PI in parenthesis.

Your Top Strength

Creativity, ingenuity, and originality (may be similar to high in Openness to Experience in the NEO PI)
Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.

Your Second Strength

Love of learning (related to high in Openness and Conscientiousness)
You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.

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NEO PI (ii)

 

I took the brief online NEO PI test again.

My energy level fluctuates some due to the chronic fatigue, which is reflected in some of these results. When I feel better, as I do now, my level of extraversion goes up slightly, and my level of neuroticism goes down. I also suspect my conscientiousness, agreeableness,  openness to experience goes up. With more rest, as I have had the last several days, I feel a bit more energetic, am more able to get things done, feel more friendly towards others and myself, and am more interested in life in general.

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NEO PI

 

I came across the NEO PI personality test online – see below for my results from the short version.

My answers to some questions would be somewhat different at other times of my life, but, overall, the result seems pretty accurate for me now.

Here is the short version of the results: Average extraversion, high agreeableness, high conscientiousness, low neuroticism, high openness to experience.

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13.7 billion years

 

My birthday is coming up, and a couple of people have asked how old I am.

In the context of birthdays the answer is simple. It is the age of this human organism after it emerged from the womb.

But there are many other ways of answering the question. Each one equally valid and meaningful, and sometimes even more meaningful.

This organism was born a certain number of years ago, although the dynamics and shape of this organism has changed dramatically since then. The only thing that tells me it is the same organism are stories of different types – name, memories, photographs etc.

My subjective age is different. I experience myself as infinitely old, very young, as about 20 years old, when I am reminded of it – about the age of this organism, and as having no age at all.

This organism was conceived and developed for about 9 months prior to its birth and becoming visible to others, so that is a more accurate age than years from birth.

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Biographies

 

I went into a bookstore a couple of days ago and found copies of Sarah Palin’s autobiography prominently displayed in the fiction section. It may have been a staff person who deliberately placed them there, or a customer with a sense of humor. For a book with so many obvious distortions and factual errors, it is perhaps a good placement.

But all biographies and autobiographies are in a very real sense fictional. They are heavily filtered through interpretations and whatever information is available – itself just a selection and heavily interpreted.

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Healing

 

When I was 17 or so, I remember sitting outside one summer day reading a book, looking up at the leaves against the light blue sky, and noticing a light band around the leaves. I took it to be an optical illusion. In the following days and weeks, I notice a similar light band around animals, inanimate objects and also humans. And it was slightly different in each case. Around plants, a vitality and also quite uniform. Around animals, a little more alive and varied further out. Around inanimate object, very simple and clear. Around humans, even more varied further out.

This difference around different types of objects suggested that it was something more than an optical illusion, and I soon realized that what I was seeing was more of a property of the object I saw it around. One or two years later I met someone who was much more familiar with this and helped me be more comfortable with it, partly through looking at the field around people and recognizing that we saw the same thing, or at least something so similar that the differences were not noticeable in language.

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Remembrance

 

Another brief biographical nugget. (This one also shared with many.)

When I was a child, younger than school age, I had several flashes of memories from before I was born. There was a sense of golden luminosity, an infinite love and wisdom, and of being home. There was also a sene of communication taking place, possibly about this particular life.

These flashes would happen most frequently when I was outside in the garden during the summer, seeing the light filtering through the leaves of the trees.

Looking back, it is funny – although very understandable – how I didn’t make any connection between this and religion as a kid. The only forms of religion I had been exposed to had a distant and abstract cardboard-feel to it, and this memory was vivid, alive and rich. And not even just a memory, but also alive and present in the timeless now.

Longing

 

A small biographical tidbit which illustrates a more universal dynamic.

As a child, I would often wake up in the morning with a deep longing. And I would get up and eat a strawberry jam sandwich (my favorite), be with my parents, read Donald Duck comics, and do other things to try to still or satisfy the longing, but nothing worked.

Then, as there was the initial (Ground+soul level) awakening in my mid-teens, I realized that this was what I had longed for. I knew – somewhere in the background – that this is what I am, and longed intensely for it. I was finally home, and finally, I knew what home was.