What I exclude from oneness

 

I may generally notice and realize that all is the divine, and yet I sometimes exclude something from it.

That points to an unresolved issue in me, something in me that I can invite in healing and awakening for.

Not surprisingly, when it happens, it’s sometimes more visible to others than it is to myself. It sometimes takes someone to point it out to me before I take it seriously. (And I may, at first, feel a bit defensive when it’s pointed out to me. Although I secretly know it’s true and I am grateful.)

I exclude something from oneness in my view and in my behavior. I perceive or act as if something or someone is not part of oneness. As if it’s somehow excluded from the divine.

It’s very natural, it’s very ordinary, and it’s probably a part of any awakening process.

It reminds me to keep going with the awakening, healing, and embodiment. It’s a reminder to include more and more parts of me in the awakening and healing.

How does it look? Here are some examples:

I see someone inn the world my conditioning doesn’t like, reject and condemn them, and “forget” that this person is also an expression of the divine. (When I recognize the oneness also here, I can still condemn an behavior and take appropriate steps to prevent the person from harming others. But I don’t need to condemn or reject the person, and I don’t need to forget that this person too is the divine.)

I reject something in myself. I avoid feeling it. I may not (like to) acknowledge it’s here. I see it as a problem. I may ignore it or try to get rid of it. I ignore my knowing that this too is the divine, and (mostl likely) do so to avoid pain.

I made a bad decision at a crossroads in life. I even went against my clear inner guidance. And I tell myself I went against what life or the divine wanted me to do. I am caught in regret and self-blame. And I am unable to see that this too was and is the divine. That this too was, in a sense, divine will. I may also overlook that this experience can helps me to go deeper – in healing, humanizing, maturing, awakening, and embodiment.

When I remind myself that “this too is the divine”, notice it, and allow it to sink in, it’s the context that changes. And this shift allows me to relate to it differently. Often with less reactivity and with a little more sanity and kindness.

Recognizing these people, parts of me, and situations as the divine doesn’t rule out sane and decisive action. On the contrary, it helps me be more clear and grounded in how I relate to it and in my actions.

Awakening and experiencing the world as insubstantial

 

This is a common experience in the awakening process:

The world seems insubstantial. And this human self, that we perhaps previously took ourselves to exclusively be, seems insubstantial along with it.

It’s completely natural. It’s part of the process. It’s part of what we are waking up to itself. 

Here is my experience with it and some ways of looking at it.

The world seems insubstantial. All matter seems insubstantial as if I could put my hand through it. It’s as if it’s in a dream.

Why is it that way? Because it’s all consciousness. It’s all happening within and as consciousness.

In a spiritual interpretation, I can say it’s all Spirit, it’s all the divine. In a smaller or psychological interpretation, I could say it’s all consciousness to me since I am – even if there is a separate being here – consciousness. To me, I am the consciousness it’s all happening within and as.

Why am I writing about this? Mostly to reassure others who may be on a spiritual path (with or without knowing it), experience this for themselves, and perhaps feel disturbed by it.

It’s normal. Nothing is wrong. It’s part of the process. It’s a part of waking up to reality, and reality waking up to itself.

For me, this shift happened when I was fifteen and found myself shifted into or as the “observer”. I found myself as what observes the world, including this human self. At the time, it was disturbing and I thought something was wrong. (It happened after the onset of CFS although I didn’t know about CFS either at the time.) A year later, this opened up into a more full-blown opening or early awakening. Here, everything without exception was revealed as the divine. Any sense of being a separate being was revealed as the divine temporarily and locally experiencing itself that way, as part of the play of the divine. The world still seemed insubstantial but it wasn’t disturbing anymore. And it’s still that way.

This experience of the world as insubstantial can happen spontaneously and out of the blue (as it did for me), it can happen from certain drugs or plants (I don’t recommend it), and it can (seem to) happen from spiritual practice. It can also happen suddenly (as in my case) or more gradually over time.

The easiest way of having a direct experience of it may be through inquiry, for instance, Living Inquiries, the Big Mind process, or Headless experiments. The Living Inquiries gives us the most detailed look of what’s happening “behind the curtain”, and we get to see how the mind creates its own experience of a substantial material world.

I’ll say a few words about what’s going on behind the curtains:

The mind creates its experience of the world through a mental overlay on the other sense fields. And this is enhanced when mental images and words are associated with sensations in the body. The sensations lend a sense of substance and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations. When this happens “behind the curtain”, it all seems real, solid, and self-evidently so. When we take a closer look, it all starts to appear more as it is – and this includes experiencing the world, as it appears to us, as insubstantial. As consciousness. As awakeness.

For it to sink in, we typically need to discover it for ourselves, over and over again.

So, does this mean that nothing is “real”? Not really. In a sense, the world is real as it appears to us conventionally (with individuals, food to eat, bills to pay, people to treat with respect and so on), and the sane and kind approach is to live and function as if it’s real.

On the other hand, the word does appear a certain way to us because of this mental overlay, and we do well to investigate this overlay and how it creates a certain world for us.

When we see through it, it doesn’t mean that the conventional world goes away. We still operate and function within it. We just hold it all more lightly. We (more) know what we are.

In the words of a man who (possibly) lived a long time ago:

We are in the world but not of it.

Waking up issues and more

 

I’ll write more about this in other posts, but wanted to make a quick note of it here.

When there is some degree of awakening here, this awakeness can be used to wake up other things, including emotional issues.

In my case, I connect with the awakeness (bring it to awareness), I connect with the lack of awakeness in the emotional issue, and I intend for the emotional issue to wake up. To wake up from its painful dream (the reason it’s an emotional issue is that it still lives in separation consciousness) and to reality (all as the divine and One).

When we wake up emotional issues in this way, it’s deeply healing, and it also helps us to live our awakeness in more areas and situations in life (embodiment). Instead of certain situations triggering the emotional issue, there is now more space to live from awakeness.

We can also wake up parts of the physical body or objects in the same way. The divine becomes more awake to itself as and through these objects.

This is the direct way to wake up issues and other things. And there are also other ways, including through a whole range of healing modalities such as Vortex Healing (after Core Veil is gone), the Big Mind process (shifting into Big Mind/Heart, holding a part of us still not awake, and invite it to wake up and align with reality), and different other forms of inquiry (Living Inquiry, The Work, headless experiments etc.)

A few additional notes:

How, more specifically, do I go about waking up issues? In my case, I notice the awakeness of all of existence – as it appears to me and as it stretches out indefinitely. (Some connect to the awakening in their spiritual heart, a little above the physical heart.) I then bring attention to the emotional issue – where I notice a physical contraction (there is a bodily contraction with every emotional issue), and I get a sense of the (stressful, separation-consciousness created) stories connected with it. Then, I intend for the issue to wake up – for the awakeness that’s already here to infuse the issue so it can wake up to itself as the divine. (And also, so “I” can recognize it more clearly as the divine, temporarily confused, temporarily pretending to believe in stressful stories, temporarily creating a “hook” for identification and so on.) And I stay with it until I notice the shift, and a bit longer so it can deepen and settle.

There can be a “general” and “global” awakening, and yet when we have emotional issues, as we all (?) do, these parts of us still remain in separation consciousness. They were formed from separation consciousness and still operate from separation consciousness. And life “wants” these to awaken, so it’s common that at some point after the general awakening, these confused and unawake parts surface so they can join in the awakening. To the extent we struggle with it and don’t know how to deal with it in a constructive way, it can be distressing and painful, and yet it’s an essential part of awakening and embodiment. And most of us learn, over time, how to better and more consciously dance this dance.

As I sometimes do, I have written this in a more ordinary language. It’s more accurate to say that it’s the divine waking itself up. The divine is (somewhat) awake to itself here, and uses that awakeness to wake up other parts of itself (emotional issues, parts of the body, objects in the world).

I should also add that the dynamic behind waking up issues is also why it can help to be in the presence of someone awake. That local awakeness helps the divine nearby (in the form of other people) to ripen and eventually wake up to itself.

And I want to add a few words about why I am writing about this now. I have naturally done this since the initial awakening in my teens, but it has sometimes taken a back seat since many people recommend and speak about other approaches to healing and embodiment. I have re-found courage to use this more direct approach since it’s used (in a slightly different form) in Vortex Healing, and since new people in my life have spoken about it and use it themselves. Another reason is that I overcooked myself a few months ago from giving myself and receiving a lot of energy healing, and I am unable to do much conventional energy healing right now (Vortex Healing). So what’s left is this more direct approach of awakening the issues. It doesn’t tax or strain my system nearly as much.

Awakening the issues can be very helpful and can create a big transformation. It doesn’t necessarily remove the issue, but it becomes lighter and has less charge, and since it’s more awake to itself as the divine it’s easier to relate to it more intentionally and in a healthier way. And any other healing or inquiry approach can be very helpful in conjunction with waking up the issue.

I assume when we wake up issues in this way, they wake up to the extent the “global” consciousness is awake. At the very least, we can wake up issues to the truth that the person is currently aware of and experiencing.

Awakening = befriending life

 

What is awakening about? There are many ways to answer that question, and one way is to say it’s about befriending life.

Befriending life can be as simple (and difficult!) as befriending our experience as it is in immediacy. And especially the experiences that my human self doesn’t like and tend to recoil from. How is it to befriend it? What happens? What fears does it bring up in me? How does it feel to befriend it, or to make small steps towards befriending it?

We can also befriend parts of us (subpersonalities), for instance through dialogue. We listen to what it wants to tell us. Get to know it. Relate to it as a good friend, as much as we can. That, and other forms of inquiry, helps us befriend our experience.

Befriending life in this way is an aspect of awakening, and it can prepare the ground for awakening, but in itself it’s not really awakening.

Awakening is when what we are – that which all experience happens within and as – notices itself. It’s when the divine recognizes all – including that which our personality likes the least – as itself. This can happen all at once, but usually happens more gradually and in steps.

For instance, the divine may take itself to be a separate self while it intuitively senses what it is or experiences it in glimpses. And then it gradually recognizes that it is the divine recognizing itself as all there is. The “center of gravity” of what it takes itself to be shifts from a separate being and more into the wholeness of what it is. As part of this, it may also find itself as capacity for all there is. And it may keep on discovering and experiencing new aspects of itself.

We can say that this too is befriending life. It’s life befriending itself as all there is. It’s life noticing itself as life. It’s life shifting its identification from taking itself as a part of itself (this human self) and into itself as a whole, and as that which content of experience happens within and as.

There are also other sides to awakening. For instance, allowing our human self (psyche, subpersonalities) to heal and align within this “new” context of all as the divine. To live from what we are noticing itself, and explore and discover how to live from it. To mature within it. All of that is also life befriending itself.

So in all of these ways, we can say that awakening is life – or reality, or the divine, or the One – befriending itself.

See Why befriending life? for more on this topic, including why (perhaps) we life in a universe where this befriending isn’t the default for us.

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Interpreting ordinary human experiences as part of awakening process

 

Seems that constantly being challenged is part of the awakening process

Someone commenting in a Facebook group

Yes, and it’s also how humans in general experience life. It’s universal. It’s part of life.

It’s tempting to interpret anything as being part of my awakening process. It makes it feel more significant and special. It gives it an extra spark.

And yet, so often, what happens in our life is just ordinarily human. We get sick as all do. We have challenges as we all do. We experience synchronicities, as all humans do now and then.

It’s helpful to be honest about this. What happens in our life is mostly ordinarily human. Even the awakening process and everything part of it is ordinary and universal. It happens to a lot and – most likely – eventually all beings, and the content of process itself is quite universal.

There is an upside to seeing anything happening in our life as part of an awakening process. It may help us make use of it in a more constructive way and see it in a more constructive context.

There is also a downside to it. If we see it in contrast to how most people live their life, we use a story to make our own life seem more special and different. In our mind, we may set us aside from others while we, in reality, are not so different. And we may do it avoid feeling and encountering certain feelings and thoughts in ourselves. That’s OK for a while, but at some point it’s easier and more helpful to meet and befriend it, and recognize that too – the uncomfortable feelings and thoughts – as local expressions of the divine. It’s all happening within the One.

As the awakening process matures and becomes more ordinary, it’s all recognized as the divine. And it’s all recognized as a miracle and ordinary.

It’s a miracle that anything exists at all, and all the amazing ways it exists. It’s ordinary in that it’s all the divine. And it’s ordinary in that all our experiences are ordinarily human, and ordinary parts of an awakening process.

The miracle gives it all a spark. The ordinariness allows us to relax trying to be different, special, and better or worse than others.

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A common-sense approach to awakening

 

Here is what I see as a common-sense approach to awakening. One that may even work for people who have a relatively conventional wordview but also curiosity and an interest in what’s true in their immediate experience.

In our immediate experience, we are consciousness and any experience we have happens within and as this consciousness.

This is the case whether we notice it or not. (If we don’t notice it, we tend to take ourselves to be this human being that happens within our content of experience, but that’s only until we have investigated it.)

And this is the case independent of what wordview we tell ourselves we have, whether it’s a religious or spiritual one, or atheist, or materialistic, or whatever it may be.

When we notice this, we have a choice. Should I still keep it uninvestigated and take myself to primarily be this human self that happens within my experience, or do I want to investigate it and see what happens? Do I want to see for myself what I find, and what transformations it may bring?

Either choice is perfectly OK. The second option is – at least so far in our culture – mostly just for especially interested people. Those who have an inexplicable draw or calling to investigate it.

If we wish to explore it, we again have a choice. Do I want to follow a more traditional spiritual path and take it as a spiritual adventure, or do I wish to explore it more as a scientist without the extras (the spiritual add-ons)?

Again, either one is perfectly OK. And we can also combine both, as I have. Use insights, pointers, and practices from a range of spiritual traditions, and approaching it more as a scientist.

When we chose to explore it, it’s all about what we find in our own immediate experience, what’s true for us in our immediate experience. It’s typically a process of….

  • Noticing what we are. (Aka consciousness.)
  • Notice that any content of experience happens within and as what we are.
  • Inviting our “center of gravity” to shift (a) out of taking ourselves to primarily be something within content of experience and (b) into that which allows and is all of it. (This tends to happen in glimpses at first, and then gradually more stably over time.)
  • Inviting all our human parts to align with this new context. This typically involves healing of these parts of us and how we relate to them. (Healing, maturing, embodiment.)
  • Live from this new context. (Embodiment.)

All of this is a process. It’s an ongoing exploration, clarification, healing, maturing, and embodiment.

I won’t go into how we can do this since most of my articles are on aspects of that topic.

But I will say that there are two ways of seeing this process.

The essence is the same in either case: Notice what we already are, notice all experience happens within and as this, invite the center of gravity of what we take ourselves to be to shift into this, invite our human parts to realign with this new context, and bring it into daily life and explore how to live from it.

We can stay close to our experience and leave it at that. In immediacy, I am what all my experience happens within and as. I am capacity for it all. Since this is what I can call consciousness, it seems that all – the whole world, all beings, the universe – is consciousness. I can even call it love, or bliss, since that’s as true as the word consciousness. (A quiet love and bliss – through and as all of what we are – is a natural side-effect of noticing what we are.)

And yet, if I am honest I know it seems that way because of what I am. I am what we can call consciousness, so everything seems like consciousness to me. That’s about all I can say. And, of course, any ideas of an I in a world, and projections and anything else, happens within and as what I am.

If we are so inclined, we can take it one step further and say that all of existence IS consciousness (and love, bliss, Spirit, the divine). This is the more poetic approach and the approach of most traditional mystics. The benefit is that it has a rich tradition, and it does fit our immediate experience. The drawback may be that it can seem less attractive to many in the modern world.

Personally, I switch between these two since both have value and richness to them. The first is a little more honest. The second a bit more juicy.

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Spiritual awakening: urgent or not?

 

Some experience an urgency about spiritual awakening. There is a sense that we have to find ways to make it happen as soon as possible.

When that happens, I suspect it’s to find peace, contentment, and a sense of arriving. And that a component of it is a wish to escape discomfort, a belief that awakening will give that, and that it needs to happen quickly because this discomfort is unpeasant and/or unbearable.

The upside of this is that it’s a “golden chain”. It can help us go more wholeheartedly into an awakening-exploration and we can gain a lot of valuable experiences and insights from that process.

The downside is that if it distracts us from our own healing, we may miss out of a path (the healing path) that will give us enough of what we want to satisfy us for a while. Often, healing is a quicker and more effective path to find a measure of peace, contentment, and a sense of arriving. Also, since it’s a compulsion, it comes from one or more beliefs, and it doesn’t work in the long run. Sooner or later, we’ll need to question the beliefs creating the awakening-compulsion in us and explore the emotional wounds in us that it comes from.

There are no easy answers in how to navigate this. Yes, the awakening compulsion comes from neediness, beliefs, and emotional issues. Yes, we can find a lot of what we are looking for through healing. Yes, we can learn a lot from a more compulsive awakening path, at least for a while. Yes, the compulsion eventually will have to go. And how we navigate all of this is up to us. We have to find our own path through it. And it does help to have experienced, wise, and balanced guidance.

At the same time, perhaps there is an easy and mostly helpful guideline. What I do is to choose approaches to awakening that also includes healing. Heart-centered practices often heal and prepare the ground for awakening (tonglen, ho’oponopno). Some types of inquiry invite healing as well as awakening (Living Inquiries, The Work). Some types of energy work do the same (Vortex Healing, although the awakening component comes in more when you are a student). Basic meditation (AKA natural rest, shikantaza) sets the stage for awakening and supports healing (although other approaches are often needed for deeper and more thorough healing). Training a more stable attention supports any activity, whether it’s exploring awakening or healing or anything else (and it does tend to bring in a measure of contentment).

So it makes sense to combine an awakening path with a healing path. The two support each other. And we tend to find what we really want through a combination of the two. And, perhaps more importantly, a release from thinking it’s what we really want and that we need it.

And is awakening an urgent matter? The dull (?) answer is that it is for us if we experience it as urgent. There is nothing wrong with this urgency. And it’s not needed. As far as I can tell, awakening isn’t inherently an urgent matter. If it was, life would have awakened through most or all beings already. It seems that for life, the path is the goal. (Lila.)

And there is a small (?) caveat here in that humanity is at a crossroads and a crisis point and the more life has healed itself and awakened to itself through a certain number of people, and the more the better, the more likely we are to get through this with some grace and with less massive collective suffering. (The crisis, if it isn’t obvious, is our current ecological crisis which requires an overhaul of our collective worldviews and systems, and also a reduction in local and global inequality in terms of resources and opportunities.)

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What if healing and awakening is endless?

 

The truth will set you free in any area of life. And so also with healing and awakening. Not only is truth what allows for healing of emotional issues and awakening, but the reality about healing and awakening is also freeing.

As far as I can tell, one of these “truths” is that healing and awakening both are endless. There is always one more issue to heal. There is always another layer of what we think we are that falls away. For all practical purposes, it’s endless.

If I think there is an end to healing and awakening, I’ll likely try to get to that end. I have a goal in mind. I get impatient. I may set aside other sides of my life so I can get the healing and awakening done with, and then I can address the others sides of my life again. I may get frustrated. Disappointed. Having the idea that there is an end to healing and awakening creates a lot of additional stress and struggle.

If I see healing and awakening as endless, it frees me up. It allows me to weave it into daily life as one of many strands. It becomes normal. It becomes one part of my life among many. There is less urgency and compulsion around it. There is more balance between healing and awakening and the rest of my life. (And everything – any activity, experience and situation – can still be food for healing and awakening.)

It’s perhaps obvious. I assume most of us already see healing and awakening as endless. But somewhere in us, there may be an idea of a goal or endpoint. I know I have had both the knowing of it as endless, and parts of me wanting an endpoint. It can be one of those hidden or unspoken beliefs in us. As with so much, it’s good to notice. And if we are drawn to it, we can explore it further through inquiry or other approaches.

A benefit of seeing healing and awakening as endless is that we know there is always one more step, and one more. We are less likely to think we have “arrived” and less likely to see ourselves as inherently better (or worse) than others because of it, or to go stale because we think there is nothing more to explore or discover.

Another benefit of seeing it as endless is that we all are in the same boat. We may be at different places on the path on all the different strands of development, healing, awakening, and maturing, but we are all on the path. There is always further to go. Always one more step, for all of us.

And it’s not a problem at all that it’s endless. It just means the exploration continues. What’s revealed is fresh and new. We see more and different patterns and connections. We find more underlying patterns and dynamics. As humans, we continue to heal, mature, develop. As this local expression of life, we continue to see more about ourselves and what we are.

Of course, that it’s endless is an idea, it’s my imagination. I don’t really know. It’s just what seems most likely within my current horizon. And it’s the view that seems most helpful to me now.

When I said “truth” in the first paragraph, it’s not meant in the sense of any absolute or final truth. It’s just what seems most real and accurate for me right now, and also most helpful in a practical sense. It may well change.

A cosmology footnote: To me, it seems likely that this universe will expand and then contract, and the energy will form another universe. A “heat death” as current science sees as most likely wouldn’t allow for a continued dynamic exploration, so it seems more likely that the universe is inherently pulsing. Of course, I don’t know. This too is an imagination. And again, it’s one that seems helpful to the extent any overarching abstract idea like that is helpful and relevant to anything.

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Am I awake?

 

Am I awake? 

Not the right question. First, as nondual sticklers will happily tell you, it is – in a way – the wrong question. What we are awakens to itself, not the apparently separate self that we may think we are. This is the smart-alecy answer, and there is something to it. It can be a helpful pointer. 

The question answers itself. If there is an awakening, the question falls away. It’s not important. So if we have the question and it seems vital and important, then the answer may be not yet. Keep looking. 

Yes and no and it depends. I can say it’s yes and no and perhaps depending on the definition. It’s not hard for me to recognize that all is happening within and as consciousness. It’s all one field. And all of that is happening within and as void or capacity for it all. At the same time, my mind does sometimes identify with thoughts. So there is usually a mix of what I am noticing itself and within that the mind partly identifying with some old identities and thoughts. And the tendency for the mind to identify with a wide range of old thoughts and identities is latent in my system, ready to be triggered by life situations. Is that awake? It’s not as awake as it’s possible to be, but it’s also not completely unawake.  

As Byron Katie says, we are awake to the thought that’s here or not. 

Love is what I really want. Also, it’s not terribly important. What’s more important for me is to meet what’s here – my experience – with kindness. To meet it with love. That’s what I really want, more than awakening. That’s what I am craving, and what the different parts of me crave. And, of course, the two go hand in hand. The more I meet my experience with kindness, the easier it is for what I am to notice itself. And the other way around. 

It’s a rich topic and there is a lot more to say about it. 

For instance, we tend to project a whole lot of things on awakening. We project what’s already here, both the awakeness that’s already here, and our hopes and fears and hangups at a very human level. Whatever I see in awakening, can I find it right here and now? (The answer is most likely yes, if I look.) 

There is already awakeness here, and “we” can notice it (it notices itself while still taking itself to be separate from it), and it can also notice itself as all there is (more clear). The Big Mind process can give some people a glimpse of this, as can the Headless experiments. 

The awakening is both a process and sometimes involves sudden shifts, and it’s not as black and white (at least as it looks to me) as it’s sometimes depicted. Yes, we can have openings and phases where everything seems very clear and awake and unobscured by any identifications. The shifts may be very clear and sudden. And yet, over time, there tends to be a mix of the awakening and remaining tendencies of the mind to identify with thoughts.

These identifications can be gentle and recognized as identifications while awakeness recognizes itself as all there is, including these dynamics of the mind. Sometimes, the identifications may take over for shorter periods of time while we in the back of the mind know what’s going on.

And in some cases, the mind may consistently tell itself that a particular identification is absolutely true, in which case the awakening is obscured in that area of the mind and life. For instance, there are classic cases of what seems like a relatively clear awakening obscured by persistent racism. This is an example of clarity obscured by cultural beliefs, and I guess that may happen quite frequently including among contemporary teachers. It’s just harder for us to notice if it happens within our own culture. (And it will be easier to notice for those outside of our culture, probably including future generations.) 

So am I awake? Well, it depends. Yes, in some ways. No, in some ways. And there is also a middle ground of maybes that I feel quite familiar with. 

And I am very open to this changing for me – the way I tell a story about awakening. I would be disappointed if it didn’t. Perhaps in a day, or month, or decade, I would write about this very differently. 

I am also very aware that this way of talking about awakening can be frustrating to some. If our mind tells us awakening is vital and essential, and there is an internal pressure to “have it”, then it may want more certainty. Our mind may want it to be more black and white. I imagine some nondual folks reading this and their minds telling itself “no, he is completely wrong, awakening is this and it’s either here or it’s not, there is no middle ground and no maybes. I know that because this teacher said it, and this other teacher said it too, and my experience tells it to me. What an idiot…!”. And that’s OK. 

Mountains are mountains

 

Thirty years ago, before I began the study of Zen, I said, ‘Mountains are mountains, waters are waters.’ After I got an insight into the truth of Zen through the instruction of a good master, I said, ‘Mountains are not mountains, waters are not waters.’ But after having attained the abode of final rest [that is, Awakening], I say, ‘Mountains are really mountains, waters are really waters.’

And then he asks, ‘Do you think these three understandings are the same or different?

Abe Masao, Zen and Western Thought

First, mountains are mountains. We experience the world as most do, as physical, as made up of separate beings and things, as existing in itself and we just happen to perceive it. 

Then, mountains are not mountains. The illusion is revealed. We may realize all as consciousness. As One. As the divine. We may realize that an overlay of thought creates the experience of separation and of physicality. It’s all the divine locally and teporarily taking itself as a separate being through holding certain thoughts as true. We are like Neo seeing the Matrix as a matrix and created by code. 

At this point, when we are relatively new to it, several things can go a bit haywire for us. We may feel we are going crazy, or we may blame and judge others for not seeing it, or we may go into nihilism and tell ourselves nothing matter and we can do what we want since it’s all illusion anyway. We can fall into some common pitfalls. We can contract some baby Buddha diseases. There is often some arrogance in this phase. (For me, it was that I could deal with anything. I got into and stayed in a bad situation because I told me I could deal with anything.) 

Then, mountains are mountains again. We have matured a bit in our realization. We have lived out some of our youthful follies in the awakening and embodiment process. Our lives now often seem very ordinary and ordinarily human, although also lived from wisdom and kindness. We are happy to follow convention apart from in the few situations where our heart, guidance, wisdom, and kindness says otherwise. 

We know our actions have consequences and may pay more attention to our actions and life in the world than ever before. If we have gone through some type of dark night, we have been more deeply and thoroughly humanized. All the while realizing even more clearly it’s all the divine and the play of the divine. 

Trancendence vs reorientation

 

The word awakening is used in different ways. 

Sometimes, it refers to a temporary release of identification as a whole. This is also called transcendence since our center of gravity temporarily shifts from human to Big Mind.

Sometimes, it refers to a stable release of identification as a whole. A more stable resting in and as Big Mind, and a fluid shifting between Big Mind and human perspectives. 

And there are a couple of more wrinkles to this.

Our conscious center of gravity can be as Big Mind, but some of our human parts are not quite on board with this yet. They are still stuck in separation consciousness. (They were formed within separation consciousness so they are aligned with this experience of the world.) These parts may be transcended most of the time (inactive, dormant), and sometimes they are activated and take over so our center of gravity shifts back into separation consciousness. It may also be that we mostly operate from Big Mind but in areas of our life operate from some of these parts and their separation consciousness. 

Another way of talking about this is what Byron Katie says. We are awake to a thought or not. We can be awake to the thought that’s here, or not. If we are, we recognize it as a thought and are free to act in a more kind and wise way. If we are not, we are caught in the belief that the thought it true so we perceive and act as if it is.

Almost all of us are enlightened to some thoughts and not others, we are only aware of a fraction of the thoughts we are not awake to, and some of these are more or less permanently activated and partly run our lives. (Similar to Freud’s unconscious.) 

We can also talk about this in terms of wounds or trauma. The parts of us aligned with separation consciousness are, in a sense, wounded or traumatized. So we can invite in healing for these, one at a time, as they surface in daily life and we get to know them. 

And another aspect of this is how we relate to these parts of ourselves. To the extent we see them as a problem (or bad, embarrassing, wrong, not fitting our image), we’ll tend to get caught in identification as soon as they are activated. We’ll get caught in the view of these parts, or in the parts reacting to them.

To the extent we have befriended them and recognize them as innocent (and even beautiful, humanizing, and an invitation for continued healing, maturing, and clarification), we tend be less caught in identification when they are activated. 

This means that our awakening continues to stabilize, clarify, and deepen as more and more parts of us are aligned with Big Mind. It means that our healing and maturing as human beings is ongoing.

And it means that the mix that’s what (Big Mind/Heart) and who (our human self) we are as a whole is not only an ongoing and continues process of exploration, clarification, healing, and maturing. But also of failing and messing things up in a very human way and sometimes even learning from it. There is no end point. In a sense, the exploration itself is the point. 

A couple of quick notes: In this context, there isn’t any failure since it’s all part of the overall process. I am just using the word in an everyday conventional way. 

I also wanted to say a few words about these parts of us operating from separation consciousness. They are formed at a time when we operated from separation consciousness, typically in our childhood. They reflect this idea that we are (only) a separate being and view and act as if that’s the case. And they are formed from, and form, a wound or trauma, even if this wound or trauma is very gentle. These parts of us can also be called beliefs (in the The Work sense) or identification (with and as the viewpoint of a thought). 

Trauma-related dark nights

 

Dark nights or challenging phases of a spiritual path come in many different forms.

What’s common is that life rubs up against our remaining identifications with some of our identities and beliefs. Often quite central ones, and sometimes previously un-noticed ones.

One type of these dark nights is the trauma-related dark nights. As Adyashanti says, the lid is taken off some of our remaining traumas. Our mind opens to the divine as all, or as the One, and that sometimes means it also opens to what’s unhealed in us.

Another side of this is that it happens so these parts of us can be met, seen, felt, loved, and healed to some extent. And that’s required so the awakening – whatever clarity is here – can be lived more fully in more situations in our everyday life.

As long as traumas are left, they’ll be triggered by life situations and we’ll tend to react to these traumas rather than responding from whatever clarity and love we have access to.

So there is love behind this dark night, as there is love behind any dark night. It comes with an invitation to clarify, heal, mature, and live more fully what’s realized so far.

It doesn’t mean it’s easy or painless. It often feels unbearable. It can seem like it will never end. Our minds may even tell itself that it has “lost” God or the awakening, or that something has gone terribly wrong. This may especially happen if we don’t have a guide who has gone through it on their own, or if we don’t have a community around us who understand what’s happening and support our process. And if we don’t, that becomes part of our process and comes with its own gifts.

As others have pointed out, it’s a very human process. It doesn’t feel “spiritual” at all. And it’s deeply humbling and, if we allow it, humanizing.

I am writing about this in a more general way here, but it comes from own experience. I have gone through this for the last ten years or so. First, there was an initial awakening or opening. Then, a honeymoon phase. Then, another form of awakening. And then health challenges and a trauma-related dark night (what some may call a dark night of the soul).

It has gradually become easier but I am still not quite out of the woods. Life wants more in me to be seen, felt, met, loved, explored, allowed, and perhaps healed. At the very least, there is an invitation for me to heal my relationship to it, and that’s as or more important than the healing of the issues themselves.

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What do I do if I am interested in awakening but have had no success so far?

 

What do we do if we have an interested in spirituality and awakening but have had no success so far? Perhaps more to the point, what do we do if that weighs us down and we feel hopeless about it?

Here are some possibilities:

Explore forms of inquiry that can give you an immediate taste of what it’s about. Some I have found effective are the Big Mind process, Headless experiments, and – to some extent – Living Inquiries. This taste can give you a pointer for what it’s about, it can help you see that what you are seeking is already here, and it can serve as a needed disillusionment for the ideas you may have about what awakening entails. (Sometimes, people get an actual taste but dismiss it since it seems too simple and ordinary, and they continue to seek something more highfalutin and with more bells and whistles, and the disillusionment comes later.)

Inquire into beliefs you have about awakening and what not having it says about you. For instance, fill out these sentences and inquiry into them using The Work: Awakening is…. If I awaken, it will… Not being awakening means…. What I fear the most about not being awakened is…. Or use Living Inquiries to see if you can find the one who is unawakened, or awakening itself, or the drive to awakening, or anything else related to awakening and you in relation to awakening.

Along the same lines, clarify your motivation for awakening. What do you hope to get out of it? And what do you hope to get out of that? Continue until you find something very basic – and typically, universal – that you hope to get out of it. This, in itself, can be helpful, and it can also help you find other strategies to meet that need. As with any inquiry, take time with the question. Stay with it. Let it percolate. Allow the answer to surface on its own time.

Often, parts of our motivation for awakening is really a wish for healing. Identify what in you need healing, and may drive the desire for awakening, and invite in healing for those parts of you. Use whatever approach you are drawn to and that works for you.

If you have engaged in a particular spiritual path and don’t notice much results, consider revising your approach. Look at revising both your orientation and the tools and approaches you use. (a) Clarify your motivation for awakening. Inquire into your beliefs and identities connected with awakening and spirituality. Find healing for the parts of you that need healing and (partly) drive your wish for awakening. All of this can help you find a more helpful orientation to spirituality and awakening. (b) And you may consider trying out approaches or tools that may be more effective for you. If something doesn’t work in other areas of life, wouldn’t you try a different approach? So why not also when it comes to spirituality?

Awakening has a consciousness side and an energy side, and – for me – Vortex Healing is the most effective way to work with the energy side of awakening. Energetic structures hold consciousness in certain patterns and progressively undoing these will open for awakening. This won’t be the bells and whistles type of awakening some look for, but it will open a window to authentic awakening.

The approaches and tools I mention here are particular to me and what I am familiar with and have found especially helpful. As with anything I write here, this list is mostly meant as inspiration and to give some ideas for how to approach it. You’ll have to find what works for you. You have to make it your own.

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Compulsively seeking awakening?

 

Sometimes, people compulsively seek awakening.

How does it look? One end of the spectrum is a rash “I need awakening now!” urge. The other end may be people who are a bit more mature, skilled in how they go about it, and are in it for the long haul.

What’s the upside of this? It may actually work. It may bring about healing, awakening, and needed disillusionment (not necessarily in that order). A strong effort – especially combined with some insight, skill, and persistence – can, ultimately, lead to healing and awakening, often through a series of disillusionments.

What’s the downside? If we are compulsively seeking anything, it often means we are chasing an image or a state, and that we are compulsively trying to escape or avoid something. We may overlook what it’s actually about for ourselves. And we may successfully avoid, for a while, what we wish to avoid, which is something in us that needs attention and healing.

What’s a good way to make use of this urge?

Be smart about it. Find an experienced guide or coach that seems sane, mature, and grounded. Learn the skills and apply them. Explore different approaches. Combine the ones that work best. Stay with what works.

Explore the urge itself. Investigate the beliefs behind it and find what’s more true for you. Investigate your ideas about awakening and what it gives you (for instance, through how these ideas appear in the sense fields). Find healing for the parts of you creating the urge for awakening. (The pain you may want to avoid, the reactions to the pain saying awakening is the way).

Use approaches that invite in healing and awakening. Most likely, an urge for awakening is a combination of a genuine pull towards awakening and a reaction against our own pain. A genuine pull towards awakening is, in itself, quiet and persistent. (At least, in my experience.) And a compulsion that comes from our reaction to our own pain can be more loud, stressful, and more of a drama queen. Most of the approaches I write about here, in these articles, do both.

Explore approaches that give a first hand taste of what awakening is about. This will give a guideline and also some grounding to your exploration, and it’s part of the disillusionment mentioned above. (The Big Mind process and Headless experiments work well for some people.)

It does seem that compulsively seeking awakening is a phase of the process for many people, whether it’s more rash or seasoned, or more fanciful or skilled.

In any case, it’s the divine wishing to wake up to itself. It has temporarily experienced itself as what it inherently isn’t – separate, isolated, prone to believing thoughts and so on – and wishing for awakening is another phase in its ongoing exploration of itself. The awakening itself – with its ongoing clarification, maturing, and learning to live from it – is yet another phase.

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Hooked on a feeling: a byproduct of awakening

 

I am listening to Arvo Pärt’s Miserere and inevitably had memories of the time after the initial awakening in my teens and early twenties.

An initial awakening often comes with a certain feeling, and the mind then associates the feeling with the awakening. For me, this feeling would be enhanced by certain music which I listened to at the time: Arvo Pärt (Miserere, Tabula Rasa, Passio), Philip Glass (Akhenaten), Palestrina, Victoria, Rachmaninov’s Vesper and more.

The downside of this is that we may focus more on the feeling than the essence of awakening. We may end up chasing a feeling instead of noticing that which allows and is any experience – including any feelings and moods – and that we and everything are.

The upside is that it may hook us into continuing our exploration of spirituality and the awakening, and it comes with an invitation to differentiate any content of experience from the essence of awakening.

After a while, the feeling may subside. If we have learned to differentiate feelings from what the awakening is really about, this is no problem. It may even be a relief. If we haven’t, we may think and feel that we have lost something important. The mind may even tell itself it has lost the awakening…! This can lead to a type of dark night, and this too comes with an invitation to learn to differentiate any experience from what the essence of awakening.

I went through the sense of loss and then the noticing came back independent of any feeling. When I listen to this music now, I still appreciate it but it doesn’t evoke the feeling it used to, and that’s a relief and nice freedom. There is no need or wish for it to evoke the same or any particular mood.

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A higher self?

 

A spiritual path or an awakening process can have a number of odd features. One of these is the experience of a higher self, and then perhaps the falling away of this.

Here is my story:

When the initial awakening happened in my mid-teens, it was the most basic one where all was revealed as Spirit, any apparently separate beings were local expressions of Spirit, and the basic identity of everyone and everything is Spirit. There are no separate beings or selves that, in an absolute or final sense, are separate or even a being or a self. It’s all the divine taking on these temporary masks.

At the same time, in the first couple of years following this, there was a clear sense of a “higher self”. A non-physical self that seemed located a few meters above my human self. As mentioned above, it was clear there was no final or absolute self there. It was more of an intermediate self, one that somehow, in a certain way, seemed to mediate (guidance, information?) between Spirit as all there is and this local expression of Spirit.

After a while, this fell away.

The upside of this sense of a higher self may that it serves as a lure or hook for continued spiritual exploration. And it may also point to something real. Perhaps there is something there at a more subtle energetic level? Perhaps it does mediate some types of information? I am not sure. Also, as usual, it comes with an invitation to discern the essence of awakening (all as Spirit) from temporary manifestations, including temporary manifestations of Spirit such different temporary selves.

The drawback is the usual one. We can become overly fascinated with it and it may distract us from the essence of the awakening, healing as human beings, and living from whatever clarity, wisdom, and kindness is here. This is part of the awakening process, and it’s part of the play of the divine (lila), so it’s only a drawback in a very limited sense.

In any case, since there is nothing ultimate or final about this higher self, it does probably fall away at some point. And before, then the interest in or fascination with it may fall away. (As it did for me within a couple of years.)

Note 1: I was reminded of this since it fits something they talk about in Vortex Healing. There is a set of energetic structures that allows the divine to experience itself as a finite and separate being, going from very subtle to more coarse. And some of the intermediate ones can be experienced as a “higher self” and located from immediately to a few meters above the head. At some point in the awakening process, these energetic structures fall away. All of that fits my experience.

Note 2: I may abandon calling it an “initial awakening”. In some ways, it was, since it was the first time in this lifetime the divine revealed itself to itself as all there is – in an unambigious, strong and clear way – and it happened when this human self was more mature and could reflect more on it. At the same time, the essence of what was revealed wasn’t really new. It was something that had been with me in early childhood, and – if flashbacks and memories are accurate – before this particular incarnation.

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Bonnie Greenwell: When Spirit Leaps

 

I have enjoyed reading When Spirit Leaps by Bonnie Greenwell, published this summer. I have known her for a while, from when we were fellow Oregonians.

I can recommend this book for anyone who would like a general overview of the awakening process. The book is written in a deceptively simple style, and there is a lot of wisdom and experience reflected in each sentence. She goes through the different phases of the process, and I especially appreciate that she addresses some of the challenges in the awakening process and ways to navigate them.

Adyashanti: Sometimes your deepest shadow comes up after your deepest awakening

 

Sometimes your deepest shadow comes up after your deepest awakening.

– Adyashanti, The Way of Liberating Insight

Why does it come up? We can say that an awakening is an opening to reality, and that reality includes our shadow. Or we can say that bringing the shadow into awareness is required for us to live the awakening in more situations and areas of life.

In any case, long before this happened to me, I thought this and other forms of a dark night sounded noble and a bit heroic. I thought I would be able to continue keeping what surfaced at a safe arm’s length’s distance and remain firmly centered in clarity and presence.

When it happened, it was more experienced as a complete disaster. And for me, that was part of the shadow that surfaced. I was unable to remain clear, centered, and keep it at some distance. And I had to finally admit to myself I was completely and utterly human.

Note: Healing unhealed parts of us is part of the embodiment process. As long as they remain unhealed, they will be triggered by life situations and we tend to live from reactivity to these unhealed parts. To the extent they are allowed and healed, there is space there to instead live from responsiveness, clarity, kindness, and wisdom. The shadow surfacing in the way Adyashanti talks about it is an important part of the embodiment process. It’s not comfortable. It may not be what we think we want. But it’s what’s needed for us to live more fully from the awakening.

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Shadow material surfacing in an awakening process

 

It’s common – or perhaps inevitable – for shadow material to surface in an awakening process.

What’s shadow material? Anything in us that’s unhealed, unmet, unloved, unrecognized as the divine. Anything in us we are unaware of, or deny, or see in others and not in ourselves. Anything in us we live from and react to without openly recognizing that’s what’s happening.

Why does it surface?

The mind’s ability to push it down is weakened or gone. In an awakening, the mind opens to all as the divine. And that opening is also an opening to whatever in us is still unseen, unprocessed, and unhealed.

It surfaces with an invitation for us to recognize that too – the most painful and unwanted parts of us and our experiences – as the divine and what we are. That is another piece of the puzzle. Another phase of the awakening and embodiment process.

It comes to be seen, felt, met, healed, and loved, allowing for a fuller embodiment of the awakening. It allows the awakening to be lived in more situations in our life. When life triggers something unhealed or unprocessed in us, we may respond by reacting to it. When that’s healed, we are more free to respond from clarity and kindness.

And what about the role of identification? The more identified our mind is with how it reacts to the surfacing shadow material, the more it tends to struggle and suffer. But it can’t just decide to not identify. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. What we can do is notice what it all happens within and as. We can invite our center to shift somewhat in that direction. And although it may not make it any easier in the moment, we can remind ourselves that the cycles of identifications are part of the process. It’s part of what allows the mind’s tendency to identify to gradually burn out.

What can we do when we are in a phase of surfacing shadow material? Here are some thing’s that’s been helpful for me, at different times.

Go for walks. Spend time in nature.

Notice and allow. Rest with the noticing. Notice the space it’s happening within.

Invite it – and my reactivity to it – to heal through whatever approach works for me. In my case, inquiry, dialogue (kind, respectful), ho’oponopono, TRE, Vortex Healing etc.

See if I can find a way to meet it – and my reactivity to it – with kindness, respect, patience, allowing. Befriend it. Ho’oponopno, dialogue, and tonglen can be helpful here.

Find and talk with people who have gone through it themselves. People who understand and shows us we can get through it.

It can be a very painful process. It can feel unbearable and overwhelming. It can feel like it will never end. And yet, it does. At least the intense phase does, in my experience. And as more shadow material is seen, felt, healed, and loved, it does create more space and opening in our system for living from the awakening in more situations in life.

Note: I added the “dark night” tag to this post since an intense phase of shadow material surfacing is one form of dark night. It’s one of the things that can happen in an awakening process that the mind doesn’t immediately like so much.

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Dread & Terror – befriending & inviting to heal

 

At some point in the dark night phase, I asked to the shown what’s left. And within a week, an overwhelming dread and terror surfaced. It lasted for about 9 months and then gradually subsided over the following years.

Of course, emotions or experiences are not a problem in themselves. They are expressions of life. They are put into us by evolution and have a function. They are expressions of – and are – Spirit, of what we actually are beyond our human appearance. They help us survive as human beings and point us to healing, maturing, and awakening.

And yet, we often struggle with our experiences and perhaps especially so with dread and terror.

The context: How we relate to our experiences. How we relate to our experiences depends on how we experience them. It seems obvious, and yet it’s easy to forget. If we struggle with them, the struggle itself will create discomfort. And if we befriend them, we have an opportunity to relate to our experiences with more clarity and kindness.

Since the dread and terror was with me for months (strongly) and years (in the background and in the heart), I have had ample opportunity to explore my relationship with it. My mind saw it as an enemy, as a problem, as something to get rid of, and created more suffering for itself that way. (And still does, now and then, with other experiences.) So I set out to explore other ways of relating to it.

I reminded myself that the dread and terror, too, is the divine. I found it when I looked.

I explored it and how I relate to it through dialogue. I found how it’s there out of a wish to protect me, out of kindness, and really as an expression of love. (Big Mind process etc.)

I investigated beliefs and identifications in me fearing and struggling with it. (The Work, Living Inquiries.)

I used heart-centered practices to see how it is to shift my relationship to the dread and terror. (Ho’oponopono, tonglen.)

And gradually, my relationship with it shifted. It seemed less an enemy, and more myself, life, and Spirit.

How I relate to my experience is the context. And by exploring it, I may befriend it and see it as myself, as life, as Spirit, and even as love. As something that’s OK as is. Something in me relaxes in relation to it.

The content: Inviting in healing. Within that, out of kindness, I can invite healing. Here are some approaches I found helpful with the dread and terror.

Therapeutic trembling. TRE (Tension and Trauma Release Exercises) has been very helpful for me. It has helped release tension and trauma underlying the dread & terror. It has helped my system relax as a whole. It takes time, and TRE works best if it’s ongoing and regular, and it has worked very well for me.

Notice and allow. Notice the sensations and images / words making up the experience of dread & terror. Notice. Allow. Give it space. Notice the space around and within it. Notice it’s already allowed. The mind – and space, life – already allows it. Rest with it, as is. Also notice and allow any reactions to the dread & terror. Notice and allow the fear, the wish for it to be different. Include that too. Rest with it, as is.

Separate out sensations. Notice the sensations making up the experience of the dread & terror. Rest with the noticing of the sensations. Notice, allow, and rest with the sensations making up any reactions to it as well. Include all sensation. Notice. Allow. Rest with the (noticing of the) sensations.

Inquiry. Identify stressful beliefs around the dread & terror. Inquire into them and find what’s more true for me. (The Work.) Explore how my mind creates its experience of the dread and terror and reactions to it. (Living Inquiries.)

Heart-centered. Explore how it is to change my relationship to the dread & terror and my reactions to it. How is it to befriend it? (Ho’oponopono, tonglen.)

Vortex Healing. More recently, I have used Vortex Healing for these issues. For instance: Do puja 5 min/ day for a while to help it shift. Hold it in the grid. Denetwork any emotional issues behind and related to it. Bring it to the issue awareness room, issue transformation room, meet your pain room etc. Use the main tools to clear conditioning. And so on.

So we have the context, which in this case is how we hold the whole situation. Do I see it as a problem, an enemy, something that really needs to change? Or can I befriend it, see it as myself, as an expression of protection + kindness + love, as life and Spirit? Something that’s OK as is?

And we have the content which, in this case, is a natural wish – out of kindness – for healing. Inviting in healing in whatever ways we are drawn to and have available to us.

The dread & terror was an invitation for healing, maturing, and awakening, as anything in our lives is. I learned about working with these types of emotional issues. I learned about how these things can happen in an awakening process. I learned how the dread & terror came up to be recognized (as Spirit), met with understanding + patience + love, and with a wish to heal. I invited in healing for those parts of me. I got to see and clear some beliefs and identifications around it.

So although it was immensely and overwhelmingly painful at times, it was also – overall – an amazing opportunity for healing, maturing, and awakening. It has genuinely been a precious gift.

As a human, I would probably not have chosen it. But life chose it for me. And in the big picture, it’s a very good thing.

There is another side to this: we rarely if ever make full use of these opportunities. There is always something left to explore, find healing for, and awake to. And that’s OK. There is always more to explore, find healing for, and awaken to. Noticing that is also a gift.

Note: I should mention that in my case, a non-dual opening/awakening that lasted for about half a year may have “taken the lid off” of old trauma. That, in addition to my “dangerous prayer”, is most likely what brought up this dread & terror. And the dread & terror, most likely, came from many larger and smaller traumas from this and past lives. If any particular issue was at the root of it, it was perhaps a raw and primal survivial fear.

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The world becomes transparent

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Awakening in Vortex Healing and in other contexts

 

Vortex Healing is a path of healing and awakening.

When I first encountered Vortex Healing (VH), I was curious about how awakening within the Vortex Healing context is similar to and differs from other traditions I am more familiar with. I still have that curiosity, and here is some of how it looks to me now.

Similarities 

Same awakening. What’s described as awakening in the VH context is the same as how it’s described in the many spiritual traditions of the world. It’s Spirit awakening to itself and out of its temporary identification as a separate being. (Spirit = consciousness, awakeness, empty awakeness etc.)

Gradual. Awakening is a gradual path. There is a continuing clarifying and deepening. There is an awakening out of identifications, and as the fullness of existence beyond and including all polarities.

Sudden. Basic awakening is sometimes sudden. It can happens in a flash.

Embodiment. Awakening requires embodiment. It requires our human self to realign with this new reality. It requires healing, maturing, and realignment.

Ripening. Awakening requires a readiness and ripening. And we can set the stage for and support this readiness and ripening. There are certain things we can do to invite it in.

Work. Awakening requires work. Ripening, clarfying, and embodiment requires attention, sincerity, and work. That’s the same for all paths I am aware of. (The type of work can be somewhat different, although much is similar.)

Differences

Reliable and consistent ripening. Ripening happens in a relatively predictable way through any serious path, but it does seem to happen in a more reliable and consistent way through VH than what I have seen from other paths.

In VH, the ripening happens thorugh the courses we take as VH students, and it happens in a predictable way so all have basic awakening after a certain number of courses. I am very aware that this sounds like a naive assumption, and I was extremely skeptical for a while. Now, I have seen and experienced enough to say that it seems accurate.

Basic awakening happens at a certain predictable phase of the process, and it happens for everyone who makes it that far. (And it’s not even that far into the process. It can easily happen within two years.)

Unique paths. Each unique path brings something unique. The practices we engage in builds a certain set of skills, insights, and experiences. And we bring those with us into and within the awakening. For instance, in VH, we practice attention, intention, sensing, surrender, being guided, and transformative magic. (I know the word “magic” can be off putting. It was for me in the beginning, and I still rarely use the word. I guess I am getting somewhat used to it, and I also see that it’s a pretty accurate way of describing what’s happening.)

I should also say that in VH, the basic awakening is very precise and limited to releasing the core sense of self or an I. In other traditions, a sudden awakening may clear out a good deal more in the process. In VH, that clearing tends to happen more gradually through taking the courses and receiving healing sessions from oneself and others.

One of the things I find very helpful about VH is the gradual ripening and healing. It’s a gentle process, for the most part. I feel in safe hands. And it’s helped me heal things that went a bit haywire from earlier openings and awakenings.

I know that this can be a bit upsetting to some who have invested a great deal of time in traditional spiritual practices. There is another path where they can have basic awakening within two years? And it’s easy to dismiss it, as I did at first. It seems to easy. And yet, it’s not really. To be attracted to the VH path, we have to be pretty ripe already. Other traditions have a great deal of gifts in them. And it’s not one or the other. Most people combine other paths and practices with VH in their lives.

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Awakening & deep, primal and visceral fear

 

There is a quite common pattern of (a) an opening or awakening, and (b) a deep primal fear happening in connection with each other. Some experience the deep, primal and visceral fear first, and others the opening or awakening first.

For me, there was an initial awakening without the fear, then a second one followed by that primal fear that was more a dread and terror. It was very strong for about nine months and has surfaced now and then – or stayed relatively stable at a lower level – for some years after.

I see it as related to trauma, and a very primal survival fear, and the two go hand in hand and are really the same. Some say it comes up since the imagined self fears for its life. It goes when there is a more clear awakening so it naturally fears for its life. (There isn’t any “it” there to fear for its life, but the mind makes it seem and feel that way through velcro and beliefs.) That may be true enough. The other reason, which makes as much or more sense to me, is that for the human self to deeply heal, that deep primal survival trauma needs to surface and find healing. This allows that part of the human self to realign more consciously with reality, with this new context of all as presence, love, Spirit, or the Divine.

Having this primal fear surfacing has been among the most challenging experiences of my life. It feels like every fiber in me resists it, and yet I know that what’s called for is meeting it in presence, feeling the sensations, and look at the imaginations connected with it. It’s been a long and difficult process for me.

It does feel like something just needs to run its course. Even as I also work with what comes up in a more intentional way.

This primal fear calls for a few different things, and what it is may be different for each of us and at different times in our process. For instance, it may be meeting it with presence, kindness, and patience. Exploring the associated mental images and words. (As mentioned above.) Recognizing it as coming up to protect the imagined self and coming from love. And the presence and love recognizing itself as this fear and trauma, surfacing in that form right now.

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Byproducts of awakening vs its essence

 

This is something I have been exploring and that many talk about.

There is a difference between the byproducts of an awakening or opening and its essence.

The byproducts can be quite varied. It can be a mix of bliss, love for everyone and everything, a deep gratitude, new abilities such as being able to see auras or do healing, download of information, and inspiration to write or make art. I experienced all of these and more during the initial opening or awakening.

The essence is something we have to find for ourselves and it often clarifies with time. We are invited to use the opening or awakening as a pointer to find its essence, to find what it has revealed that remains through the  shifting states and experiences.

Many or all of the byproducts and experiences associated with an awakening fade and go away with time, and it’s easy for the mind to freak out and think that something essential has been lost. But that’s not the case. It’s the non-essential that has been lost so that the essential can be revealed and recognized more clearly.

And what is it that’s essential. What does the awakening, and the coming and going of its byproducts, point to? What remains through the different states and experiences? What’s still here from the awakening, even when the byproducts are all gone?

For me, it’s a recognition of any state and experience as what everything was revealed as in the initial opening or awakening. As presence, love, Spirit, void, or whatever the mind calls it. That’s really all. It sounds very simple, and it is. And it can be quite difficult to remember and notice when the mind creates temporary identifications and beliefs and stirs itself up.

What supports this recognition is meeting shunned parts of my experience with presence, kindness, and patience. To invite it to heal and align more with reality. These parts were formed in a different context, in a much more painful one, and they still exist within that reality, so meeting them in this way when they come up invites them to heal and realign with the reality discovered through the awakening.

As a mentor of mine once said, the initial awakening was free, and the continued clarification requires work.

I should also mention that there is a dark night connection here. If the mind holds onto the byproducts of the awakening as something essential, it can easily create a dark night for itself when they inevitably go away. The mind can go into despair, struggle, and even depression. That’s why it can be helpful to be aware of this before it happens. And it can also be helpful to practice recognizing the essence of the awakening through different states and experiences while it’s still relatively easy. That may not prevent the despair and struggle that sometimes happens when the byproducts go away, but it can at least provide a pointer and a direction for how to relate to and make use of that transition.

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Adyashanti: That may sound easy, but when it’s actually happening it’s more gritty and real than the description suggests

 

As we go through our trials and tribulations, outer circumstances seem to be exquisitely put together specifically to test each part of our realization. These trials and tribulations will also occur from the inside. Your unconscious at some point will start to reveal itself. In the unawakened person, the unconscious never fully comes into conscious awareness, but with awakening our means of suppression and denial are either torn apart completely or wounded so severely that we can’t repress as much.

The unconscious elements of our mind come into conscious awareness, and that is another kind of trial. What’s being asked of you is to meet all of that inner material from the standpoint of divine being, from the standpoint of eternity – to meet it, to understand it, to resolve it. That may sound quite easy, but when it’s actually happening it’s a little more gritty and real than the description suggests.

You could think of these inward and outward trials as a form of purification. You’re purifying the vehicle: body and mind, the same body and mind that you woke up out of when you awakened. Now this vehicle has to undergo its own purification so spirit can fully embody your humanity. And this is where the story of Jesus again provides a powerful mirror, because Jesus is someone who embodied in his humanity the divine impulse, divine being.

– Adyashanti, Resurrecting Jesus

This very much fits my experience.

Awakening includes rude awakening

 

If you have a rude awakening, you have a severe shock when you discover the truth of a situation.

– from The Free Dictionary

An awakening process can be a rude awakening.

Some parts of the awakening process is what our personality likes. It aligns with what our personality likes and wants. For instance, an early and temporary transcendence gives us a taste of freedom from trauma, pain, and hurt.

Other parts may be more difficult for our personality. They can challenge or clash with habitual patterns our mind initially created to stay safe. These include but are not limited to:

Disillusionment. Awakening includes disillusionment and especially disillusionment about what awakening is and what “we” get out of it. We may hope for a state of eternal peace and bliss, and what it’s really about is awakening to and as that which already allows any experience and state, including sadness, anger, and pain.

Awakening to the shadow. Awakening means awakening to everything, including our own very human pain, trauma, and hurt. At some point, this comes to the surface with an invitation to question the unquestioned stories holding the hurt in place, feel the unfelt feelings and emotions, and love all of it as it is including any reactions we have towards it.

Most people have a lot of misconceptions about awakening or enlightenment. This is partly inevitable since awakening is a change of the context of our experience rather than a change within our experience, and most of us are only familiar with the latter until there is an initial opening or awakening. These misconceptions are also partly encouraged and perpetuated by some spiritual traditions and teachers, either for strategic reasons (which I happen to not agree with) or because they don’t know better.

It’s difficult to know in advance how much of the trauma is healed or cleared up by the initial awakening, or any practices we engage with before or after the initial awakening. It’s also difficult to know how much is there in the first place. A lot of it is “collective” trauma passed on through the generations and by our culture, and some may also be due to epigenetics. I was certainly surprised by the amount of pain and trauma that surfaced for me.

What do I mean when I say that awakening is a shift in the context of our experience? It’s because an awakening is an awakening to – and then as – what experience happens within and as. This is sometimes labeled awareness, presence, Spirit or something similar, although any label will make it seem more discrete and like an object than it is. Content of experience doesn’t have to change at all, although it often does as a side effect of this shift in context.

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What does awakening mean?

 

Awakening can refer to three slightly different things:

It can mean an initial awakening or opening. An initial recognition of what we are of itself, as all there is.

It can mean the ongoing awakening process, which includes an ongoing clarification and more stable recognition, and an ongoing reorganization of our human self within this (new) recognition.

It can also refer to how we are when the awakening process is a bit more mature, and there is more clarity and stable recognition, and our human self is more aligned with it.

I usually use awakening in the first sense. If I talk about the awakening process, I usually call it “awakening process”. And I mostly don’t use the word awakening in the third sense, since it’s really an ongoing process. There isn’t an end point for this process, at least not until we die. It seems misleading to suggest otherwise.

This is taken from the previous post on Myths About Awakening.

PS. I am aware that the word “awakening” is sometimes used in other ways. In this post, I focused on what it means for me and how I use it.

Myths about awakening

 

There are a lot of myths about awakening in our culture, and perhaps other cultures too. I suspect most of them come from wishful thinking. They are what we – when there is less clarity – wish for and dream for. They are a “dream of the ego”.

Of course, many have done what they can to dispel these myths, and it seems that these days, most teachers do. In all of us, there is something that value what’s real and practical more than dreams and fantasies.

First, a brief description of what awakening is, in my experience:

What we are – that which our whole field of experience happens within and as – recognizes itself, independent of any content of experience. And this may be described as presence, awareness, love. (A presence, awareness, love, which recognizes itself as this content of experience, as it is here now.)

An awakening can happen easily and quickly. It’s what we are recognizing itself. The awakening process can be longer and ongoing. It’s a clarifying and stabilizing of this recognition, and a reorganization and realigning of our human self within this new context.

Awakening can be used in three different ways. (Sorry.) (a) It means an initial awakening or opening. An initial recognition of what we are of itself, as all there is. (b) It also means the ongoing awakening process, which includes an ongoing clarification and more stable recognition, and an ongoing reorganization of our human self. (c) It can also refer to how we are when the awakening process is a bit more mature, and there is more clarity and stable recognition, and our human self is more aligned with it. (I usually don’t use it in this sense, since this part for me is also ongoing. There isn’t an end point for this, at least not until we die.)

The myths about awakening seem to fall into two general categories:

What it is.

What it means for our human self.

And here are some more specific myths, and what seems more real to me:

What it is.

Not already here. Is it true that what I am seeking is not already here? Is it true the peace is not already here? The love? (Even if it seems very faint?)

A state. It’s not a state of experience, where our content of experience somehow is fixed. It’s more of a state of recognition. What we are – that which our whole field of experience happens within and as – recognizes itself, independent of any content of experience. There is a recognition of the peace, love, and joy that’s always here, even if it’s more faint, and the rest of our field of experience shifts and changes are before, including sometimes going through the full range of emotions, pain, and more.

Either/or. It’s not so much a binary shift, although it can certainly be experienced that way – especially in the beginning. What we are is always here, and we do often notice it, often without recognizing its significance. And even when the recognition is more clear and stable, there may be times when attention is absorbed into thought (or when there is identification with a thought and a viewpoint) and that recognition goes in the background or is temporarily “forgotten”. There is a big middle zone here, in my experience. And I suspect that there will often be some shifts, even if the recognition is much more established.

An end point. It’s an “end point” in the sense that what we are recognizes itself. It’s not an end point, since what we are keeps revealing itself to itself. It’s also certainly not an end point in how we live from it, or how our human self can transform within this recognition in terms of healing, maturing, and more. Life keeps on going.

Difficult. It’s not really that difficult for what we are to recognize itself. It can happen quite simply and quickly through following pointers, for instance from the headless experiments, the Big Mind process, the Living Inquiries, and more. It may indeed take time for this recognition to clarify and stabilize, and for the rest of us – our human self – to reorganize and align with this. That seems to be an ongoing process. And parts of this process may be experienced as quite challenging.

Pleasant. An awakening and awakening process can be relatively simple and easy. And it can also involve a lot of struggle, pain, and even suffering. It seems very individual, and each phase can also be quite different. For me, the initial phase was somewhat challenging although not hugely. The second phase was generally quite pleasant. And the third phase, the dark night of the soul, has been very challenging and at times painful.

What it means for our human self.

No problems. The “dream of the ego” is that awakening means no more problems. Reality is often different. The awakening process itself can be quite challenging, and bring up a lot of previously unloved and unquestioned trauma, wounds, pain, and more. (As our human self reorganizes and realigns.) And our human life will tend to have the universal human challenges, including what comes up in relationships, work, money, health, and more. We continue to live very human, and sometimes messy, lives. Just look at what happened to Jesus, and any number of other saints and teachers. Their lives were often not easy.

Perfect health. This is another “dream of the ego”. When we are less clear, perfect health seems like an ideal and a dream. Most of us will naturally have that preference which is perfectly fine and even healthy. And yet, illness and physical problems is part of being an ordinary human, and an awakening very much means being an ordinary human being. For some, or perhaps all, of us, illness in in our human experience. It helps remind us we are very human, just like anyone else. It can even be a part of an awakening process. For instance, a kundalini process will sometimes include periods of poor health and physical problems. And just being human means illness sometimes comes our way. The difference is that we see it’s OK. If it’s here, we may even find the gifts in it.

Perfect wisdom, love, insight, teachings etc. This is very similar to what I mentioned above. We are still very much human. We have our preferences, wounds, hangups, blind spots, perhaps even trauma. What we are is, in a way, perfect love and wisdom, and this gets “filtered” through our human self, with all its idiosyncrasies and shortcomings. (I don’t like that way of talking about it since it sets up a duality that isn’t really there. I think I wrote it more because it’s similar to what I have heard others say. And that’s a good example of a very human shortcoming!)

No pain, sadness, anger, grief etc. Again, as above. As humans, we will have the full range of emotions. These may come up during the awakening process, as a reaction to what’s happening, or as part of the reorganization of our human self. And they come up just because we are human. There is nothing wrong in this. And most of us, if we are honest, wouldn’t have it any other way. What’s different is that when there is some recognition of what we are, these experiences can flow through with less resistance, and we may even recognize them as what we are – as presence, love – and be perfectly OK with them as they are here. They are honored guests.

And an additional one:

Living in the present. This is often misunderstood. Awakening does indeed mean to “live in the present”. And that’s because we recognize that “the present” is all there is for us. Everything happens here, including any thoughts and feelings about the past or future. (It doesn’t at all mean to try to avoid or suppress any thoughts about past or present. That would be stupidity, to put it bluntly.)

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Things to keep an eye out for in the awakening

 

Early on in an awakening, and even much later, there may be several things that are a bit “off”, and that’s part of the process too. It seems that most or all (?) of it is from (a) holding certain ideas as true, and (b) projections. Here are some of these:

I am here to save people, the world. They need me to save them. They need to be saved. (Don’t recognize that no-one really needs to be “saved”, and that a simpler way is to make myself available to support when asked.)

I need to share my insights. I need to tell others about it. I need them to “get it” too. (An attempt to hold onto and solidify any insights and seeing that’s here. Fear of losing it.)

I am awake, they are not. (Don’t recognize it’s all already awakeness, and that awake is an idea.)

Humanity is on the verge of mass awakening. (Projection of what’s here. A projection of the awakening here onto “the world out there”.)

I am special, chosen. They are not. (Don’t recognize how we are all chosen, in a sense.)

Other people bore me. They are caught in delusion. I don’t find them interesting. (Projection of delusion on others.)

There is only emptiness. Only awareness. (Holding ideas of emptiness, awareness etc. as solid and true. “Stuck in the absolute”.)

Life will take care of me. I don’t need to take care of my own life the way society tells me to. (Don’t recognize that we are still invited to be a good steward for our own life.)

This is “it”. I have arrived. This is a full awakening. There is nothing more. (The mind is trying to find a sense of security and safety in these stories of “permanence” and having “arrived”. Don’t recognize that (a) we don’t know, and (b) the unfolding – of reality revealing itself to itself – seems to be ongoing.)

It’s possible, and even quite common, for there to be a mix of awakening (reality awake to itself, to some extent) and beliefs, wounds and deficiency stories. These wounds, beliefs and deficiency stories seek the light, they seek to be loved, felt, and seen through. Note: I listened to an online satsang, and saw a few of these from both the main person and the people calling in. It’s all happening within my own world of images. It’s all reflecting me as a human being. It’s all for me to look at here, and in my own life. Read More