Thomas Keating: The spiritual journey… is a series of humiliations of the false self

 

The spiritual journey… is a series of humiliations of the false self that become more and more profound.

Thomas Keating?

Yes. This is not the usual sales pitch of spirituality, but it’s real and true. It’s what we realize after a while on the spiritual path. 

What he calls humiliation is what I see as life rubbing up against any thought we hold as true, any belief or identification. These are the ones that create a sense of being a separate being, so these are the ones that gradually go. It’s not a comfortable process. It’s not what many think spirituality or awakening is about. But it’s what happens. It’s what’s needed for life to wake up to itself more as it is, without the filter of identifications and taking itself to be separate in any way, or anything else than all there is living a local life as this human self. 

The truth will set us free

 

and the truth will set you free

New Testament, John 8:32

This is true in many ways. 

It’s true in relationships, in society, and in terms of social justice and sustainability. We need the truth, and to be honest about it, for change to happen. 

It’s also true in healing. And, as Jesus referred to, it’s true in awakening. 

For emotional healing, we need the truth. Truth = reality, and consciously aligning more with reality = emotional healing. 

For awakening, we also need truth. Truth = reality, and awakening means to consciously align with reality. 

And then there is fear of truth. Most of us have a fear of truth to some extent, in some areas of life, for several different reasons. It’s important to honor this fear, and explore it with some gentleness, kindness, and curiosity. 

I have written about each of these more in depth in other articles so I’ll leave this article brief.  

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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. 

Awakening: small vs big interpretation

 

This is something I have found interesting since the initial opening or awakening, and I have written about it a few times before. 

The experience of awakening is, in itself, quite simple. And yet, there are different ways to interpret it.

What do we mean by awakening?  I have found a simple way of talking about it that seems relatively accurate. What we are, which is what any experience happens within and as, wakes up to itself. We can label this consciousness, or love, or Big Mind, or the divine, or many other things, but each of these labels makes it seem that we have pinned it down more than words really are able to. What we are wakes up out of identifications with anything created by words, with any identity.

Thoughts – mental images and words – describe what happens within content of experience. And identities are created by thoughts so also happen within content of experience. They cannot easily point to anything outside of the world of experience. They cannot very easily point to what we are, what awakens to itself. 

Small interpretation. There is a small interpretation of this, and we can also call this the psychological interpretations. I assume this is the interpretation that some within psychology or academia use or will use in the future. We can assume a world much like most people perceive it. There are separate beings. We have a physical world. And the awakening happens because we are, in our own immediate experience and whether we notice it or not, consciousness.

Since we are consciousness, or that’s where the identification “lands” in an awakening, everything appears as consciousness. All of content of experience – all our sense fields including thoughts – happens within and as consciousness. So, to us, the whole world appears as consciousness. It’s a projection. 

Awakening is real, and happens much as it’s described by mystics of all and no traditions. And yet, the world as the mainstream society and academia assumes it is, is just like that. Separate physical beings exist within a physical world, and that’s it. This interpretation makes awakening more palatable to the mainstream society and academia. And the essence of awakening is still as described by mystics from all times and around the world. 

Of course, any thought of the world existing as the mainstream sees it happens within and as what we are. So we just pretend that’s how it is. It’s a strategic choice. A guess. An assumption that makes sense because it makes awakening more understandable to more people. 

Big interpretation. There is also a big interpretation of awakening, and this is the one often found in spiritual traditions. Again, the essence of the awakening is the same as described above. But here, we assume it’s all about the divine. All of existence is the divine, and it wakes up to itself locally and sees through the thoughts of being separate, being a separate being, the world inherently being physical and so on.

In an awakening, the world appears as consciousness and love taking all the forms we see in the world, and that’s exactly how it is. It is all consciousness and love, and we can call it Spirit, Brahman, the divine, or whatever else the different spiritual traditions call it. 

Which one to choose? Which interpretation do we choose? It depends on our situation, background, and inclination. If we want to approach the mainstream world, or work in academia, the small interpretation may make more sense. If we are more free agents or come from a spiritual tradition, the big interpretation may make more sense. 

And there are also some hints that can help us choose. With an awakening, there is often a whole range of side-effects. We may see auras and energies. We may pick up information at a distance. We may experience a great deal of hard-to-dismiss synchronicities. We may sense what will or may happen in the future. All of this, in my view, points to and fits better with the big interpretation of awakening or reality. All happens within and as the divine. Within and as the One. Within and as the nothingness allowing it all. 

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Awakening from a psychological perspective

 

From a conventional view, there is this human being and consciousness is somehow connected with it.

And logically, since it’s the consciousness experiencing we must experience ourselves as this consciousness. Whether we notice or not, we are consciousness.

The next logical step is that we can notice ourselves as this consciousness, and any and all content of experience as happening within and as this consciousness. And that’s awakening. 

It’s really super simple. Almost banal. It certainly doesn’t have to be very esoteric. And yet, I realize it can seem a bit mysterious since that’s often how it has been presented in the past, and if we don’t have a direct experience or taste of it ourselves it can seem a bit abstract.

But in reality, it’s very simple. It’s already our experience, whether we notice it or not. And there are simple ways for us to have an immediate taste of it. 

The essence of what the mystics and spiritual traditions have talked about is also true. It takes time to clarify this and make it our new conscious home. It takes time to get all the different parts of ourselves on board with it. It takes time to learn to live from it more consistently and in more and more situations in life.

And any and all of the different practices from different spiritual traditions can help us with this, whether it’s natural rest, training a more stable focus, prayer, heart-centered practices, inquiry, body-centered practices, a life of service, and so on. 

This is the psychological perspective on awakening. We can still imagine there is a physical body and world, and that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we notice that all of it – all of our current experience of this human self, others, and the world – happens within and as what we are. It happens within and as what we may call consciousness. In our immediate experience, all is one since all happens within and as what we are. 

The difference with the spiritual perspective is that here, we go a step further. We acknowledge all of this, but we may say that the world really is consciousness, and we may call it the divine, or God, or Spirit, or Brahman, or Big Mind. 

And if you are like me, then you’ll find both of those perspectives valid and useful. Which one we use just depends on what seems most helpful for ourselves or others in the situation. 

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Healing and awakening: more ordinary, and more ourselves

 

Over time, with both healing and awakening, we tend to become more ordinary and more ourselves. 

In what ways do we become more ordinary

As we heal as human beings, we tend to feel more ordinary and we have less of a need to appear special. We recognize the fuller range of human qualities in ourselves and others, and we are more OK with it. 

As there is an awakening, what we are recognizes itself as all there is (we can call this consciousness). It recognizes itself over there as itself, and although it’s amazing and extraordinary it also becomes ordinary after a while.  

At the same time, we tend to become more ourselves

As we heal, we are more familiar with the different parts of ourselves and more comfortable with them. We are freer to be who we are in a relaxed way. (And with an eye on what’s appropriate in the situation, what’s kind and wise.) This means that although we may feel ordinary in our own experience, we may or may not be seen as ordinary by others. 

As we awaken, we know ourselves as what we are, as what the content of our experience happens within and as (aka consciousness). As what we are, we notice we are inevitably ourselves. 

So we feel more ordinary and have less need to appear special. We are more at home in our own skin so we can be more ourselves. We recognize all as ordinary (and amazing) expressions of the divine, and we recognize that as what we are we are always ourselves.

And in the middle of the ordinariness and being more ourselves, there are, of course, actual differences in a conventional sense. 

So, in real life, we are aware of both what’s shared and what’s different about ourselves. We recognize all in us as universally human. We recognize all – everyone and the world – as the divine. We recognize our unique human strengths and weaknesses. We recognize that consciousness hasn’t woken up to itself in all human beings. And yet, the differences happens within and as the universal. And, to the extent we are clear, no value judgment about it is taken as real, inherent, or final. It’s all part of the play of life or the divine. 

There is a lot more to be said about this. 

For instance, early on in the healing or awakening processes, we may feel more special for a while. We use what’s discovered to feed our need to be special, OK, and good enough. And if the healing and clarification continues, that tends to fall away. We tend to find the relief in being ordinary and ourselves as we are, and even the amazing beauty of it. 

Although there is a sameness in all of it, the differences are innumerable. We are different in development in many areas of life. We have different levels of healing and maturing in different areas of life. Most of us are free from one set of thoughts and still get caught in some other thoughts (involuntarily identified with). Each species experience the world in a quite different way from other species. And so on. 

Why do we feel more ordinary as we heal more? As said above “We recognize the fuller range of human qualities in ourselves and others, and we are more OK with it”. We see ourselves in others, and others in ourselves. The whole world becomes a mirror for us in this sense. We see a characteristic out there in the world, and recognize it here, and the other way around. And we are more OK with it. We are able to relate to it in ourselves and others more intentionally, and perhaps with more clarity, kindness, and even wisdom. (We are OK with whatever is here, in us and others, being here as it is. And that doesn’t mean we always act on what’s in us, or allow others to get away with acting on whatever.) 

Why did I write “amazing and extraordinary“? When what we are recognizes itself as all there is, there seems to be an ongoing and always new sense of amazement. Everything is ordinary in the sense that everything is consciousness (or Spirit). And everything is also experienced as amazing and astonishing. It’s amazing that something, anything, is at all. It’s amazing it’s Spirit. It’s amazing it’s in the form it is. 

And as I often write, the most accurate way I have found to talk about what we are is to say that we are that which experience happens within and as. It can be called consciousness, or even Spirit or the divine, and that can be useful but it also can make it sound more solid or substantial than it is, and it can make use feel we get it even if we just get the words and don’t notice it in the moment.

When what we are notices itself, no interpretation is needed. Although curious minds will interpret. We can interpret it in a psychological way, assuming that we – as consciousness – operate within a physical human being in a physical world and that the experience of all as consciousness is a projection. Or we can interpret it as they tend to do in spiritual traditions, and assume that everything – the physical world and so on – is consciousness and something we can rightfully call the divine, Spirit, God, or Brahman.

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Is mysticism mysterious?

 

Is mysticism mysterious?

It’s certainly presented that way in popular culture. And perhaps for a couple of reasons. There isn’t a widespread understanding of what it’s about, so it naturally may seem a bit mysterious. And what it’s about isn’t so easy to put into words. 

And yet, it’s not inherently mysterious. Not any more than most things. At least when we have had a taste of it. 

As I like to say, it’s about noticing what we are, which is what our experience happens within and as. We can call this the awakeness (or consciousness) all content of experience happens within and as. And from here, it does seem as if the whole world is this awakeness. It seems that this awakeness is what takes all these forms, and locally may temporarily take itself to be a separate being – even if the ultimate identity of everything is this awakeness.

Most can have an immediate and direct taste of this through, for instance, forms of inquiry such as the Big Mind process or the Headless experiments. (Some also do by using psychoactive substances but I wouldn’t recommend that.) And after this taste, most of us will need to clarify and stabilize and learn to live from it over a long period, usually for the rest of our lives. 

As with most things, we can explore this endlessly. For those who us who have, for whatever reason, a fascination with this, it’s an endless exploration. 


Healing, awakening, and aligning with reality II

 

I thought I would continue the previous post on this topic. 

What do I mean by reality? The larger context is what we are, which is that which any experience happens within and as (aka awakeness, consciousness, even the divine). This is the nature and more basic identity of everyone and everything. It’s all the divine taking temporary forms,  (sometimes) temporarily and locally taking itself to be a separate being, and it’s all the play of the divine. Everything else flows from this.

If we are out of alignment with this as a whole (consciously) or in our parts (they are aligned with ideas reflecting separation), we’ll create psychological issues, stress, discomfort, interpersonal issues, and our attention is sufficiently distracted by all of this so it doesn’t notice what we really and already are. (All of this is part of the play of the divine so there is nothing inherently wrong about it.) So healing and awakening require a realignment with reality. 

Here are some examples of how we can realign consciously and invite our parts to realign as well.

Heart-centered practices invite us to recognize all as the divine, to shift from enemy images of others, the world, or parts of ourselves to befriending it, finding genuine appreciation for it, and see it as a support for healing and awakening. This, in turn, opens up the possibility of recognizing all, without exception, as the divine. 

Inquiry invites us to notice how the mind creates its own experience (connecting sensations with thoughts to give them substance and a sense of reality, connecting thoughts with sensations to give them a sense of meaning), and this invites in both healing and awakening (Living Inquiries). We can also use inquiry to examine beliefs allowing them to unravel (The Work). We can use it to shift into the perspective of different parts of ourselves, including what we are, and explore their relationships to each other (Big Mind process). And we can use inquiry to notice what we are and how who we are happens within and as what we are (all the previous ones and headless experiments). 

Through each of these forms of inquiry, we align more consciously with reality, and we invite parts of us to align more closely with reality as well. 

Energy work, such as Vortex Healing, can invite the energetic structures holding psychological issues in place to unravel, allowing for healing. (Vortex Healing can do the same with the energetic structures holding the separation experience in place, allowing for awakening.) This too allows for a closer alignment with reality. 

I mentioned it briefly in part one of this article: one of the things that can make it difficult to align more thoroughly with reality is a distrust of reality. This is largely cultural, and it seems especially prominent in our Judeo-Christian culture. We distrust nature and reality. Initially, it was rooted in a view of nature and ourselves as sinful. Now, it’s mainly the distrust that remains even if we cannot explain the reason for it very well.

This distrust is one of the possible sources of fear when we enter into inquiry or other practices. Whenever fear comes up, it’s good to acknowledge it and include it in whatever exploration we are doing. In general, see how it is to acknowledge and befriend the fear. Thank it for protecting you. Identify the sensations in your body and notice and allow them and rest with them. Treat the fear with respect, patience, and curiosity. Allow it to have a voice. If it could speak, what would it say? What is the fear about? And if it feels right, explore the fear through inquiry, heart-centered practices, or whatever other approaches you are using. 

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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Awakening, and then projections of this awakening

 

Again a revisited topic:

When awakening happens here, it tends to be projected out.

We see it everywhere. The whole universe seems awake. We see it in other beings, and that it just needs to be more consciously noticed there for a more full awakening to take place.

Projections typically happen in two ways. One is when we legitimately recognize what’s here also out there. In ordinary human interactions, it’s called empathy or understanding. I sometimes get angry, so I recognize when others get angry. The other is when I put my own things on others. I am angry at someone, so I imagine the look she gave me means she is angry at me even if that may not be the case at all.

Which one is it in the case of awakening? It could be either one, although there are hints here and there suggesting the first one – at least in its basic version where the universe is perceived as awakeness and consciousness. Some of these hints are: Synchronicities (in my life, they happen in clusters, in some periods they happen at a ridiculous rate and other times less so). Download of information after an awakening. Seeing auras (which can be checked and confirmed or not with others who also see them, as I did after the awakening). Sensing at a distance (can also be checked with others and reality).

So, yes, we perceive the universe as awakeness and consciousness, and awake to itself. That’s because this awakeness is recognized here. And some clues suggest it may be an accurate perception.

Another version of this, which seems more typical for our modern interconnected age, is a perception that larger parts of humanity are about to wake up or is waking up. This too is a projection, but is it also accurate? I am not so sure about that. It’s easy to get that impression through internet where we can find a good deal of people where awakening is or have taken place. The same is the case if we live on, for instance, the US west coast where the culture (a large subculture) tends to support awakening. Also, more people may be waking up because information and support for inviting in awakening are more readily available. But that doesn’t mean it’s actually taken place.

Note: When we say that existence or the universe is awakeness or consciousness, or even that it’s awake to itself, that doesn’t mean this is consciously recognized in all beings. In most beings, it’s not consciously recognized. And that’s part of lila, the play of the divine. We could say that Spirit has gone to great lenghts to make it so small parts of itself is in the darkness in this sense.

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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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Invitation for healing, maturing, awakening

 

I sometimes use the word invitation. For instance, I may write there is an invitation in this situation to heal, mature, and even awaken. What do I mean by the word invitation here?

There is no actual invitation inherent in life or any situation. But it’s there as a potential. And we can see it as an invitation and make use of it as an invitation.

In this sense, there is an invitation from life to us in any situation. There is an invitation to heal, mature, and awaken. An invitation to explore and learn. An invitation to notice and experience. If we are ready for it, there is also an invitation in any situaiton for us to notice what we are, and all as the divine.

And we can also invite life. We can invite in healing for something in us, or maturing, or even awakening. We can prepare the ground, we can set the stage. And if it happens, then it’s grace.

So there is no actual invitation inherent in life. But we can make use of it as an invitation. And we can invite in certain things by preparing the ground for it, and if it happens, it’s grace.

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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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My experience with Vortex Healing awakening courses

 

I thought I would make a brief note about changes I notice after each of the Vortex Healing awakening courses. It’s by no means complete, just the effects I especially notice or that are surprising to me.

Core Veil, Dec. 2017. A sense of tying up lose ends in terms of the basic awakening. Relief. Something found rest in my heart area. The healing energy seems to engage deeper in the client’s system when using the healing tools. Clearer sensing, including a sense of temporarily becoming whatever is the focus of healing (e.g. an organ or system).

Inner Veil, February 2018. A sense of being space. Of being awake space. More spacious energy system.

 

Healing as a motivation for awakening?

 

People who express a desire for awakening typically have a range of motivations, some of which they are conscious of and some not.

One of these is healing. We wish for healing. It may seem a tall order. So we wish for something as apparently dramatic as awakening to cure us. And, again, this may be conscious or not.

How do we identify our deeper or original reasons for wishing for awakening, or anything else? One is to follow the chain of “what do you hope to get out of X”. What do you hope to get out of awakening? Peace. What do you hope to get out of peace? etc.

And what if healing is a central motivation for wishing for awakening? If we identify that motivation, it can help us reorient in a couple of different ways.

One is to find and use approaches that invite in healing and awakening. I tend to take this approach, which is why I have spent time exploring inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries), heart centered practices (ho’oponopono, tonglen), therapeutic trembling (TRE for healing and embodiment), Breema, training a more stable attention, natural meditation (notice and allow), and more recently Vortex Healing.

If we find that healing is our main motivation, we may change our focus to healing and leave the awakening aside for a while. It may be more likely to give us what we really want, and perhaps the awakening interest returns at some point or not. Either way is fine.

In either case, it’s helpful to clarify our motivations and reorient accordingly. What do we really want? How do we most effectively invite it in? And that’s an ongoing process.

Also, we may find that some of our motivations for awakening come from fear or a sense of lack. If so, we can explore these and invite in healing for these parts of us. In my case, I have used the approaches listed above, but there are many helpful approaches out there.

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Why so passionate about healing and awakening?

 

Why are some of us so passionate about healing and awakening? Why are we, in the words of someone I talked with earlier today, spiritual terriers?

It may be that I need the healing. That I know the liberation on the other side. That I wish for a clear and deepening awakening because it’s like coming home to what I already am. That I see healing or awakening as a way to escape discomfort. That I have developed a compulsion around it because I don’t want to face my pain. Or any number of other reasons.

In reality, I don’t really know. Why do we develop a passion for anything? Why do some of us develop a passion for music, or chess, or a sport, or drawing, or anything at all?

We can say that it makes sense evolutionarily. It helps the survival of our species for some of us to develop passions for skills, understanding, and certain experiences.

We can say that it’s a confluence of innumerable influences, stretching back to beginning of time and the widest extent of the universe, and it’s impossible to account for all of them or even a significant fraction of them.

We can say that it’s the divine passionate about experiencing and exploring aspects of itself.

And although there may be some truth to each of these, we don’t really know. But it is something we can make use of when it’s here. It adds flavor to life. It can give a sense of meaning and purpose. It can sometimes be used to support our own life in terms of making a living. It can be used to support other people, in this case – of passion for our own healing and awakening – in aiding their healing and awakening.

I should add that when it comes to any compulsion, including in spirituality or awakening, it’s good to look at where it comes from. Is there a belief? An unexamined fear? A sense of lack? Those are all helpful to look at and invite healing for. Then we can approach it with a bit more clarity and sanity.

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How awakening is perceived by others

 

How is awakening perceived by others?

Mutual recognition. If there is awakening both places – in both people – it’s often immediately suspected, sensed, or recognized. For instance, for those of us who sense or see energy, it’s relatively easy to see the level of clarity and type of awakening in someone else. (The energy around the person mirrors the awakening – it’s clear, finer, awake, with no apparent end in space.)

To others. If not, it depends. It depends on the level of healing, maturity, and embodiment of the awakening. And it depends on the role the person has in the world. Most often, the person looks quite ordinary and lives an ordinary life. The person may or may not talk about spirituality or awakening, and may or may not have taken the role of a spiritual coach or guide.

If he or she speaks about it, it may appear as an idea or something read in a book. (Since that’s it would be for the recipient.) Or it may appear as coming from direct experience the recipient has been told it’s from direct experience.

My experience. How has this been for me? During childhood, when I had flashbacks and memories of life between lives – and all as the divine – I didn’t talk about it. I just had a sense of nostalgia and a longing for “home”. In my teens, when Spirit as all woke up to itself more fully and clearly, I initially had no words for it and no intellectual context for it. After a while, I did speak my direct experience to a few people but they were either not interested or thought it was just an idea or from a book. Even people I thought would understand and be familiar with it – a few local Buddhist teachers and students – didn’t seem to recognize it and were more interested in traditional teachings.

Eventually, I did meet a couple who immediately recognized it. As me, they saw it in the energy system. One was a spiritual guide (Jes Bertelsen’s wife at the time), and another lived a more anonymous life and became a close friend. And later, I met others who have had a similar path as me and immediately recognizes it. Adyashanty is probably the main one. It felt like communication within awakening, and at a human level as meeting a brother, when I had the opportunity to talk with him for a few hours.

Over time, I also found writings from people who expressed this awakening or at least a view aligned with it.

In my teens, I could see that Jung had an inkling about it although he kept his writing at a human level. Arne Næss was aligned with it, although mostly through recognizing the oneness of Earth. As did Carl Sagan through the oneness of the universe. Fritjof Capra was similarly aligned with it through recognizing how eastern mystics and western science – quantum physics and systems theories – described the same reality. Ken Wilber, through his mapping, had a good understanding of it from an intellectual level and through glimpses. Jes Bertelsen was aligned with it and very important to me in my teens since he was a fellow Scandinavian. Some of the old Daoists expressed it quite clearly and beautifully. Some of the Christian mystics expressed it although filtered through their tradition and a wish to not appear heretical.

Later, in my twenties and thirties, I found others. Genpo Roshi obviously knew what it was about, and his Big Mind process was a good way to help others have a taste of what it’s about. (I was a resident at his Zen center for a few years.) Adyashanti is the one I experience as most clear and aligned with how reality revealed itself to itself in my case. Ramana Maharshi was almost a bit boring to me because it seemed too obvious (!). I really enjoyed Douglas Haring and his clarity, ordinariness, and playful pragmatism. I also enjoyed connecting with Joel Morwood and the other teachers at the Center for Spiritual Sciences which was just down the road from me for several years.

And, more recently, I am grateful for having found Vortex Healing and Ric Weinman. His very detailed descriptions and maps fit nicely into my more general views and experiences. And Vortex Healing has helped me greatly in healing at a physical and human level, and in clearing up and tying up loose ends from earlier awakenings (especially the VH awakening courses).

When I am on the US west coast I regularly meet people who understand and where there is a mutual recognition. But in periods, and mainly when I am in Norway, it’s been more lonely at a human level. I have yet to meet someone here where there is the same easy mutual recognition. Most of the time, it’s OK. But occasionally, I notice some emotional issues around this – and that’s an invitation to meet it with some kindness, patience, and perhaps invite in some healing.

A note about language: As usual, it’s a little hard to find the right words talking about this. An awakening is the One awakening to itself as all there is, and that awakening somehow operates through this human self. So we cannot accurately say that a person awakens, or that someone is awakened. It’s more that the One is awake to itself as all, and that’s expressed and lived through a human being. Our ordinary language doesn’t express that very well or easily. So we have a choice between using ordinary and simple language which is somewhat misleading and inaccurate, or a language that’s more accurate and often more convoluted and awkward, or something in between. I often go for the inbetween option although that too is not always so satisfying.

A note about the One awake to itself as all. I realize that when I write “Spirit / the One awake to itself as all”, it can easily be misunderstood. It’s meant literally. All of existence is awake to itself as Spirit. Even what we experience as matter is consciousness, space, and Spirit. And in this awakening, it’s clearly revealed as that. It’s not an intellectual understanding. It’s an immediate and clear recognition that’s expressed through language.

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At home everywhere

 

The initial awakening or opening was surprising in itself. And there were several surprises that came with it. One of the surprises was that now everywhere was home.

I was at home everywhere because everywhere is God (Spirit, what I am). Spirit as me is visiting Spirit as a place. Anywhere I went was home.

There are a couple of other sides to this.

My very human preferences are still here adding flavor to my experience. So although any place is home, in a more real sense, I still have preferences. I still like the western half of the US over the other half. I still especially like Iceland and the English west country. I still like the Netherlands and Switzerland more than Germany.

And there is also something that happens as we mature and heal as human beings. The more we heal and mature, the more we feel at home in ourselves. So the more we feel at home in the world, just about anywhere.

This is also true for how I experienced people. When I met a person, it was Spirit as me meeting Spirit over there. Me over here met me over there. And as above, this coexists very well with my human preferences. And as I get to know myself more as a human being, and heal and mature, there is also a very human sense of recognition when I meet just about anyone.

So there are several flavors to my experience of places and people. One is of Spirit meeting itself. Another is my human preferences. A third is recognition and feeling at home from healing and maturing as a human being.

And yet another flavor is that in me that still doesn’t quite recognize this. The parts of me that haven’t yet healed or awakened. So when I don’t (notice that I) feel at home somewhere, it can be a pointer to parts of me not yet healed or awake. And when I don’t recognize myself in someone, or see that person as me over there, it’s the same. It’s a pointer to something in me that’s not yet healed or awakened.

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Using practices to get rid of things

 

In healing work, there is a balance between (a) noticing we are that, (b) exploring our relationships with it, and (c) healing it. Whatever “it” is. Whether it’s an emotional issue, physical issue, or situation.

Of course, for some (a) is not so relevant. It’s not where they are at. But for all of us, it’s helpful to explore our relationship to “it” as well as inviting in healing for it.

Here are a few words about each.

(a) Notice we are that. For those interested, any apparently troublesome issue is an invitation for us to notice we are that. It’s “me over there”. Healing our relationship to it is a good start. That, in itself, softens the mind-created boundary. And other forms of inquiry can help us see it more clearly, for instance the Big Mind process, Headless experiments, or The Work or Living Inquiries.

(b) Our relationship to it. If I want something to change, it’s helpful to explore where that comes from. Often, it’s fear and a sense of lack. And, really, that this fear and sense of lack is unloved. So we can explore this in inquiry, and also change our relationship to it, befriend it, find genuine love for it. We can heal our relationship to the troublesome issue. A great deal of distress is created from seeing something as an enemy and something to struggle with. So when we find more peace with it, there is often a relaxation and sense of liberation.

(c) Inviting in healing for it. This is an healing of the issue itself, and in this framework it happens within the context of (b) and (a). It can happen within noticing it’s “me over there”. It can happen within a context of befriending it and what it brings up in me. And the healing of the issue itself can happen through any number of ordinary healing practices, including medicine and psychotherapy.

It’s natural for us to want certain things to go away. We may focus on making it go away and forget about (a) and (b). There is nothing wrong in that. It’s natural and understandable, and for most people, it may even be appropriate.

But if we wish to have a more conscious and intentional relationship to life, and we wish for a deeper healing and awakening, we can’t really avoid (a) and (b). They need to be included.

There needs to be some attention on each so that (b) and (a) becomes the context for (c). A more friendly relationship to the issue, and perhaps noticing it as “me over there”, becomes a context for inviting in healing of the issue itself.

That’s how we invite in deeper healing and awakening. That’s how we align ourselves more consciously with life as it already is.

It’s all already happening within and as Spirit and life. An adverserial relationship doesn’t have real substance to it, and doesn’t make sense in that context. And inviting in healing of issues and situations comes from kindness. It’s what naturally happens when it’s all recognized as Spirit and life.

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A kind universe?

 

The universe is a friendly place.

That’s something Byron Katie says, and it’s sometimes repeated by her followers.

It can be understood in a few different ways.

Life unfolds as we like it. When life unfolds as our personality and human self (conditioning) likes it, it’s easy to see it as kind and feel that the universe – in this case – was friendly.

Life is challenging. When life is challenging, we can see it as an invitation for clarity, healing, maturing, and awakening. Specifically, we can question our stressful – and unkind – beliefs and find what’s already more true – and kind – to us. We discover that when we go deeper, we find more true and kind stories. Here too, we can see how the universe is friendly even when life goes against our very human preferences.

Anything at all. Independent of what happens, it all happens within and as Spirit. When we see this, we see that the universe is inherently kind no matter what happens. The universe is inherently friendly.

The first opens us up to gratitude in an ordinary way. The second is a path to deeper seeing and deeper healing, maturing, awakening, and embodiment. And the third is revealed to the extent the “veils” have gone, the identifications with and as particular content of experience creating a belief in stressful stories (any story is stressful when believed) and sense of being a separate being.

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Why do these approaches work on so many issues?

 

When I talk about the approaches I use to healing and awakening, I am often aware that it sometimes can sound too good to be true. They seem to work on a wide range of issues and work pretty well – at least if used with skill and over some time.

So why do they work on such a wide range of issues? The simple answer is that they tend to address underlying issues and dynamics. They go below the surface, so they work on a wide range of surface manifestations.

And are they too good to be true? Yes and no. As mentioned above, they tend to work well if used with skill and over time. But it does take work. And if an issue is entrenched, it can take time to clear it.

Here are some examples:

TRE – Tension & Trauma Release Exercises. Therapeutic trembling releases tension out of the body and mind, and that has a wide range of effects. It tends to reduce anxiety, depression, and compulsions. It improves sleep. It can give us a different and more healthy experience of ourselves and the world, and improve our relationship to ourselves, others, and the world.

Inquiry. In inquiry, we examine our beliefs and identifications. Since we often have a layer of beliefs and identifications on top of how we perceive ourselves, others, and life, we can address just about any issue with inquiry. Inquiry can help us release whatever charge is there in our experience of anything. And that means that this too can reduce anxiety, depression, compulsions, and more, especially in relation to something specific.

Vortex Healing. Any issue has a consciousness and energy side. Inquiry tends to approach something from the consciousness side and has an effect on the energy side. Vortex Healing approaches it from the energy side and has an effect on the consciousness side. Vortex Healing can work on emotional or physical issues, relationships, and situations. The deeper reason is that Vortex Healing is divine energy guided by divine consciousness, and since everything is already the divine, only the divine can allow for a deep and thorough healing and clearing of something.

Heart approaches. Ho’oponopono, tonglen, heart prayer, and all-inclusive gratitude practices tend to change our relationship with ourselves, others, and the world. This can be deeply healing and also aligns us with awakening.

My inclination is to seek out approaches that are effective and multi-purpose. Approaches that can be used to work on a wide range of issues, and also invite in healing, awakening, and embodiment. The ones I have mentioned above are among the most powerful I have found so far. (TRE tends to work mostly on healing, although it’s an excellent way to support embodiment of whatever awakening is here.)

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Awakening and mainstream psychology

 

Is awakening and mainstream psychology compatible?

I would say yes. At least if we understand awakening in a pragmatic way, use a simple language, and frame awakening so it makes sense from a psychological view. And if there is some generosity and willingness from the psychological world.

Here is an example of how we can talk about it:

(a) Our perception is always of all as consciousness. We don’t perceive objects, people, or the world. We perceive sensory input and imaginations mimicking sensory input, and all that happens within and as consciousness.

Apart from being logical, we can also explore it in immediate experience and find it for ourselves. If something appears real and solid, it’s because mind tells itself this experience is the real world. In reality, it’s a combination of sense experiences and imaginations of these sense experiences.

(b) So awakening is just a shift of our center of gravity, what we take ourselves to be, from content of experience to that which experience happens within and as. It’s a shift from ideas of being a human to the awakeness or consciousness it all happens within and as. Instead of taking ourselves to be content of experience, we find ourselves as context.

I say “just a shift” because it’s simple in theory. It’s easy to grasp as an idea. But the actual shift can take a good amount of work. We may have glimpses and short periods of experiencing this shift, but a more stable and thorough shift typically takes work (and, mostly, grace).

The idea that awakening and mainstream psychology are incompatible comes partly from weird and “mystical” ideas of awakening, and partly from psychology wanting to stay sober and down to earth. Of course, there is already a good deal of interest and research on mindfulness in psychology. And I suspect one of the next steps will be a genuine interest in, and research on, awakening. Using a simple, pragmatic, and sober language when we talk about awakening will support that step.

What may research on awakening look like? Here are some possibilities:

How people who claim a stable and clear awakening function in life? What are the typical characteristics? How do they perceive and operate? What are the brain and other physical characteristics?

The difference between the awakening itself and how it’s lived and embodied. How much of the person is on board or aligned with the awakening. How to support that embodiment.

What’s the process to awakening? What are the paths? What works for whom? What’s the most effective approaches for people in specific situations (personality, inclinations etc.)?

What are the pitfalls on the path? What can go wrong? When is it more likely to go wrong? When is it less likely? What can we do to prevent it? What can we do when something does go wrong? What are the approaches that work best for the different scenarios?

My guess is that we’ll see this type of academic focus and interest more and more in the coming decades.

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No self or other?

 

It’s common – in some circles – to hear people talk about “no self and no other”.

It can sound very cryptic and mysterious if it’s not our immediate experience. And it’s very simple and obvious when it is.

This human self, others, and the world is still here. And yet, it’s all happening within and as awakeness.

When awakeness is identified with or as the human self, it’s really identified with certain thoughts and mental images saying (a) there is a human self and (b) that’s what “I” am.

And that identification happens through thoughts being associated with certain sensations. The sensations lend a sense of solidity, substance, and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations (they mean “I am this human self”).

That makes it appear as if there is an “I” that’s this human self, and there are others who also are “I”s in their own experience, and a world full of objects and things. It seems very real and true. And it is, in a certain sense.

When awakeness is not identified with or as this human self, it’s all revealed as happening within and as awakeness. This human self, other beings, the whole world, happens within and as awakeness. There is no “I” in any of it. It’s all life happening as life.

This release of identification can happen temporarily as a transcendent experience (which will then turn into a memory), or it can happen more stably and thoroughly through a clear seeing through the mental dynamics holding the identification in place, and through a corresponding release of the energetic “veils” holding identification in place. When we explore this, we can work on it from either side – for instance through forms of inquiry (e.g. Living Inquiries, The Work) and energy work (e.g. Vortex Healing).

This is very simple, and it’s also an infinitely rich topic.

Realignment. For instance, as long as there is identification as this human self, it will align itself with the experience of separation, and that can be quite traumatic. So when there is a softening or release of identification, this human self is invited to realign with this “new” context of all as awakeness. And that realignment includes healing, maturing, and embodiment.

Whatever is unhealed is invited to heal (which can be quite challenging when unprocessed psychological material surfaces). Whatever is unloved is invited to be loved. Whatever is unseen is invited to be seen. Whatever is unfelt is invited to be felt.

There is also an invitation for this human self to life from this “new” context more consciously, stably, and in more and more situations. And there is an invitation for it to mature in a very ordinary and human sense, and the healing and embodiment is part of that maturing.

Localized. Awakening is, in a sense, localized. Everything is happening within and as awakeness. And yet, that “everything” is (mostly) sensory information received through this human self. In that sense, the awakening is localized.

Independent of traditions. This is independent of traditions. Spiritual traditions may talk about and offer insights and practices to help us explore this, and perhaps have a taste of it or invite a more thorough and stable awakening. But this is about reality and traditions are human made. They can offer pointers, at most. This is more than and different from any tradition, or anything we can put into words.

Ripening. Any opening or more stable awakening happens through ripening. That ripening can be invited through conscious explorations – through various forms of prayer, inquiry, meditation, body-oriented practices, relationships, social engagement, and more. And it seems that most, and really almost all, of the ripening happens outside of conscious awareness.

The ripening happens for innumerable reasons and with innumerable influences, and we are aware of only a tiny part. We could say that our conscious practices is only a small part of the influences on this ripening. We could also say that our conscious practices is an expression of this ripening that’s already happening.

And this ripening is living its own life and happens on its own schedule. How it looks and how fast it happens is independent of how our minds tells us it should be, and it’s often very different. It can be faster or slower, and is almost always very different in character.

Ongoing. Awareness of and releases of identifications is ongoing. Identifications may be released out of what’s more individual, and shift into something more universal. And that keeps happening. Reality keeps revealing itself to itself.

Different labels. There are different labels for what I here called “awakeness”. We can also call it Spirit, Big Mind, Buddha Mind, Brahman, Life, the Universe, or whatever else resonates with us. None of the labels are very accurate. They are all just pointers.

Lila. Is there a goal of “us” awakening? Is life a “school”? Not really, as far as I can tell. To me, this all seems more like the play of the divine. It’s life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways. Identifications is part of it. As is a desire to awaken. And awakening itself. It’s all part of the play. Any other “reasons” for all of it happens within and as this play.

And any thoughts or ideas we have about it, including anything and everything written here, are all human notions. Reality doesn’t conform to our ideas. It’s more than and different from any of our ideas, however smart or intuitive or traditional or innovative or resonating they may seem.

Very ordinary. What happens to our human life in the world in all of this? There can be disruptions for different reasons (dark nights etc.). But mostly, and in the longer run, our human self continues to live it’s life in the world. And it tends to look very ordinary. It looks like an ordinary life, and ordinary healing, maturing, and whatever measure of clarity and wisdom is there. It’s all very ordinary and human. That may initially seem disappointing. And then, it may seem deeply fascinating, rich, and awe inspiring.

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One type of dark night: From early awakening

 

There are many forms of dark nights.

In general, a dark night happens when life strongly challenges what we hold as true about ourselves and the world. That’s why the term “dark night” is sometimes used about ordinary challenging life situations, and sometimes in a more technical sense about parts of a spiritual path and process.

One type of a spiritual dark night can happen following an initial opening or awakening. With a spiritual opening, there is an opening to all as Spirit, and sometimes also an opening to previously unprocessed psychological material. As Adyashanti says, the lid is taken off and it comes to the surface. And that can be challenging in the best of circumstances.

In this type of dark night, we find ourselves in a difficult combination of (a) unprocessed psychological material coming to the surface, and (b) being unable to consistently see through it, or see it for what it is, since our clarity is not yet thoroughly clear or stable. There can be a great deal of difficult material coming up, from this and perhaps past lives. And since we are still “baby Buddhas” our clarity hasn’t deepened or matured sufficiently for us to clearly see everything for what it is. We still get caught in what comes up, at least at times.

As Evelyn Underhill and others point out, this is a deeply human process. It can be humanizing. Humbling. Painful. And it’s a pretty ordinary part of the process for many people. And we do get through it, whether we fight it (painful) or learn to go along with it (a little easier). It’s what I went through for a few years after the second opening (relative nondual clarity for about six months).

See below for a more detailed initial draft.

 

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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.

The body wakes up

 

What is awakening?

We can answer that question in many different ways.

For instance, it’s what we are – that which our experience happens within and as – waking up to itself. An early awakening is when it notices itself. And a more stable awakening is when the “center of gravity” shifts there, when that’s what it takes itself to be more consistently.

That’s roughly accurate, in my experience.

Another way to say it, which is perhaps a bit more accurate, is that the body wakes up. The consciousness doesn’t need to. It’s what happens within experience – within and as what we are – that wakes up. And that is the body, including the energetic “bodies” (aka etheric, emotional, mental, spiritual etc. bodies).

It’s in these bodies the experience of being a separate self is created. It’s here consciousness is filtered so it creates an experience for itself of being a separate self. And when these filters are either transcended or lost, what it’s able to (effortlessly) notice what’s more real. It’s noticing itself as its whole experience, whether it’s labeled self or world, matter or consciousness, or anything else.

So awakening happens through the body, or – more accurately – through the bodies. It may happen through practices aimed at aligning the bodies (the self) more with reality. It may be boosted by transcendent experiences offering a glimpse of what’s more real than the apparently separate self. It happens through grace, and explorations preparing the ground for grace.

When it happens, there is still a self in the sense of these bodies. They are still here, and they operate much as before. And there is no self, in the sense that the experience of a separate self is revealed as created by the filters. It’s a temporary experience. It’s life exploring itself through the experience of separation, for a while.

The “filters” have an energy and consciousness side. And the thinning and loss of them happens as a process. (Although the loss of each one may happen suddenly, after a time of preparation and ripening.) As there

As there is spiritual practice, often combined with transcendent glimpses and/or loss of the filters, there is a gradual realignment and reorientation of the bodies. They gradually align more with reality. This is a process that typically include some wrinkles and detours, and these are all integral to the process. It’s a process of clarification, healing, maturing, and embodiment – learning to live more from what’s revealed.

And from the outside, from the perspective of the world, this process often looks like someone becoming a bit more sane, grounded, healed, and mature in a very ordinary and human way. It is very ordinary and human. It is a healing and realignment of the human self, of all the bodies.

I should also mention that when the bodies wake up, when the filters are lost, it’s as if the whole world wakes up. The real body is the whole world – the physical world and everything else that exists at different energetic levels. And all of that is revealed as Spirit. It’s all the play of Spirit as all of it, the whole world and all that is.

That is what wakes up to itself, as that, and it wakes up through loss of the (temporary) filters of this (temporary) self that has a physical body and a set of energetic bodies.

That’s why the historical Buddha said “I and the whole world awoke”. And that’s also why it didn’t happen automatically through the other bodies since the filters there were (and are) still in place.

As with anything else here, these words are meant as pointers for own exploration. There is nothing absolute or final about it. It’s just the way of looking at it that makes the most sense to me right now, based on own experience and how I have heard others talk about it. (And these include Buddhism, Ken Wilber, Adyashanti, and – more recently – Ric Weinman and Vortex Healing.)

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Awakening from avoidance

 

Awakening can be described in several ways.

The most common ones may be…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

And a couple that may require some exploration:

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

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

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

And one that seems built into awakening:

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

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

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

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

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Spirituality = ?

 

What is spirituality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Healing, Awakening & Sustainability = aligning with reality

 

Healing, awakening, & sustainability. As shines through what I wrote above, healing, awakening and sustainability are all about aligning with reality. That’s why the three – for me – are inseperable. The seeds of dis-ease, an unawakened experience, and a society out of tune with the larger living world, are all the same. And the basic remedy is the same as well – align with life and reality.

For healing, we can align through inquiry, TRE, Breema, yoga, meditation and more. For awakening, we can align through inquiry, meditation, prayer, and more (whatever helps us ripen). For sustainability, we can align with life through philosophical and economic frameworks that takes ecological realities into account (which none of the current mainstream ones do), and a generally worldview that does the same.

This is from a previous post where I wrote mostly about healing and awakening, and added sustainability as an afterthought. So I thought I would write a briefer post here about the three as equals.

Healing, awakening, and sustainablity all have to do with aligning with reality.

Healing is here healing of the mind, and we do so by questioning stressful and debilitating thoughts and finding what’s more true for us. When we look closely, my experience and the experience of others, is that we find something that’s genuinely more true for us than the initial thought that’s also very healing. (The Work.) Or we may find that thoughts that seemed real and substantial because they had a charge (associated with sensations) now have less or no charge. They are recognized as a thought, and comes with less or no stress. (Living Inquiries.)

Awakening similarly comes from seeing what’s more real than our initial experience and assumptions. Consciousness takes itself as (a) a being (b) that’s separate from everything else, and that comes from a deeply ingrained thought helds as true. When consciousness starts to align more with reality, it recognizes itself as all there is, and the local being as happening within and as itself. The being doesn’t go away, and doesn’t really need to change. The only change is a shift of what consciousness takes itself to be. And just as with healing and maturing, this is an ongoing process.

Sustainability has to do with aligning our worldviews and all our philosophies, frameworks, and systems with ecological realities. To the extent our views and how we organize ourselves – individually and collectively – is aligned with life, we have a sustainable life and society. Right now, we are quite far from this.

Our current mainstream worldviews and frameworks (for economy, industry, transportation, energy, waste etc.) are set up as if our wider ecological systems didn’t exist. This means they are inevitably unsustainable. Even our current mainstream attempts of sustainability are done within this mental and physical framework and are not anywhere close to being really sustainable.

We do have a wide range of good replacements of these views and systems, and real-life examples of how we can organize ourselves collectively and live our lives. We just need to chose to implement them. And that will come. It has to come, at least if we come to our senses and wish for our civilization to continue.

It may seem that our only choice is between real sustainability or collapse of civilization as we know it. But there is also a(n unsatisfactory) middle ground where we have a partial collapse, a loss of a good number of people, and an attempt to build up again from there.

Reality is kind & ruthless. In each of these three areas, reality waits for us and shows us when we are off. It’s kind in that sense. And also ruthless if we don’t get it.

Why not all three? Why do some chose to focus on only one or two of these, when they so obviously are intertwined? I don’t know. It may have to do with personal inclination and interest, or perhaps just wanting to specialize.

Symbiotic. For me, there is a symbiotic relationship between healing, awakening, and sustainability. The seed problems and solutions are the same in each of these areas. There is a great deal of room to explore how patterns in one area is transferable to another, offering new insights and ways of working with it. I assume we’ll see much more of this in the future.