When we truly hate what’s happening, our instinct is to flee from it like a house on fire. But if we can learn to turn around and enter that fire, to let it burn all our resistance away, then we find ourselves arising from the ashes with a new sense of power and freedom.
– Rapahel Cusnir in Unconditional Bliss
When I notice something – an emotion, story, sensation etc. – there is a softening or release of identification with it. I find myself as what notices, and less as what is noticed.
It is very simple, yet with a lot of complexity as well.
For instance, I may notice an emotion – allow it as it is, be with it. Yet, if that emotion is triggered by a story – as they often are – and I don’t notice that story, it means I am still identified with the story.
So whenever I notice an emotion, I can first allow that emotion as it is, with heart and kindness. And when look for the story behind it. Which story do I – somewhere – take as true, which triggers that emotion? Is that story true? What happens when I take it as true? Who am I without it? What is the validity in its reversals?
Another aspect of emotions….
Some emotions are reactive and created by beliefs. They come about through friction between a belief and reality, or more accurately through friction between our stories of what should be and what is or may be. In this case they come with some of the other symptoms of being caught up in beliefs, such as tension, stress, unease, sense of separation, sense of having to protect a viewpoint or identity, sense of precariousness, and more.
I listened to a CSS talk yesterday and a questioner brought up the topic of comfort. By looking at her own choices and actions in daily life, she could see that her main priority is comfort. (We can find our priorities by looking at our actual choices in daily life and where we spend our time and energy.)
Is it an obstacle? Yes, it can be, in all the obvious ways. By seeking comfort we may engage in mindless entertainment instead of practice, distractions instead of allowing experience and inquiring into beliefs, and so on.
But it can also be a gateway, an invitation for inquiry.
When something happens I don’t have a ready explanation for, it is a good opportunity to see my need-to-know mind.
As usual, it is easier to first see this in others. And right now, I can see it in the scramble to figure out what happened to Air France flight 447 where media and bloggers elaborate on a wide range of theories in the absence of any data.
This desire to know is partly very practical. Knowing what happened can help us prevent similar accidents in the future, and that is good. But when I compulsively spin stories in the absence of data, it points to being caught up in beliefs.
From here, I can work with it in several different ways.
How do I relate to the emotions and experiences that comes up for me around it? Do I resist these? What happens when I resist? Can I instead be with these emotions and experiences? Can I allow it, as it is, as if it would never change, with kindness and heart?
I just watched episode eight of NRK’s Vendepunkt (Turning Point), a TV series about quality of life. It is hosted by a psychologist (a particularly wise one), and the topics are exemplified through interviews with people who made a choice of leaving a stressful life for a simpler and more rewarding and deeply satisfying one. It is well worth watching if you understand Norwegian….!
Inner peace was mentioned several times. What does it mean?
It can be a state, found through being in nature, connecting with good friends, through meditation and so on. But as any state it is precarious. At any moment, something can shift it into a different state. It doesn’t last. I may try to hold onto the peaceful state and push away incompatible states, but right away, I find that this activity in itself disturbs the peace. This form of peace is ephemeral.
There is also a different form of inner peache, one that is found through simply allowing experience, as it is. As if it would never change. Wholehearted. With kindness. Independent of the content of experience. (And if I find I can’t allow a particular experience, I can allow that as it is.)
When I am caught up in holding onto or pushing away experiences, there is stress and a sense of being off balance. And when I find myself as that which allows experience – as it is, independent of its content, and including the impulses to hold onto and push away experience – there is a different peace. One that is independent of states.
Here, there is stillness, even in the midst of a great deal of activity.
Knots happen whenever a story is taken as true, and they include the effects of taking a story as true such as reactive emotions, and also whatever actions come out of both.
Knots tighten when I fuel stories as true, and also resist experience and take it as “other”.
And knots loosen when there is receptivity, curiosity and allowing experience as is. When there is a shift into don’t know. Curiosity about the stories and the truth in their reversals. And allowing experience as is, with heart and kindness.
Whenever any story is taken as true, it creates a sense of a separate I and creates this core knot. And at the same time, these stories flesh out the viewpoints and identities of this separate I.
So taking any story as true tightens the core knot of taking a separate I as true. Meeting it with an attitude of receptivity, curiosity and kindness makes it possible for it to loosen. And inquiring into it to find what is more true for me may untie the knot entirely, to the point where it cannot so easily form again.
I am visiting back at Kanzeon in Salt Lake City. The center seems different each time I visit. This time, they have several large buildings, as before, but many more people. I arrive during lunch, and there must be more than a hundred people there eating together. Some outside, as me, and some inside in the buildings around. The meal is fresh, nourishing and made with care. It is a very diverse group, including many homeless or others who cannot afford regular and healthy meals, and who may also be hungry for the type of connection found here.
How are beliefs and reactive emotions connected?
It seems that it all starts with a belief.
There is identification with the story being a separate I, and then a me with a fleshed out and particular identity.
All this creates a series of shoulds. I should stay alive. My life should be supported. I should be or remain this and not that.
And when my stories of what is and what should be clashes, reactive emotions come up.
Some ways of relating to thoughts independent of their source (myself or others) or their content…
I can believe it. Take it as true. Identify with it. Create an identity from it. Prop it up. Defend it. Deny the truth in its reversals. Deny its own limited truth.
I can explore it in the sense fields. How does it appear in the sense fields? How does a mental field overlay combine with the other sense fields to create a gestalt? What happens when it is taken as true? What happens when it is noticed as a gestalt? (I often find that it appears as solid and real when it is taken as true, and that I notice it as emptiness/awakeness itself when it is recognized as a gestalt, but that can change next time I look.)
I can explore it as a question. What happens if I take the story as an innocent question about the world? What happens if I take it as a statement, or as a true view?
I can turn it around to the speaker, and then myself. Any advice is (also) for ourselves. When others speak, and I recognize it as advice for him/herself, it becomes more congruent. And when I turn it around to myself, I find it here too.
I can notice the belief and inquire into it. Do I know it is true? What happens when I take it as true? Who would I be if it was not taken as true? What are the truths in its reversals? What is more true for me than the initial belief?
I can notice the fear behind it and meet that fear. Can I find fear behind the impulse to make a story into a belief? What happens when I meet it? Welcome it, as it is?
And to the extent identification is released out of a story, it is recognized as a tool. It becomes a tool for my human self to orient and function in the world. A story can appear more or less appropriate for any one situation. And as any tool, any story has some things it is good at. (If only to deflate the appearance of absolute truth in its reversal.)
Another exploration I find interesting right now…
Notice a belief. A story that seems true. A fixed position. An emotional attachment.
What is the experience of that belief?
Where do I find it in the body? What are the sensations?
Quietly meet those sensations. Welcome them as they are. Allow them to be here, with a friendly interest and curiosity.
Is there a fear behind the belief or emotional attachment?
If so, quietly meet that fear. Welcome it as it is. Allow it to be here with a gentle interest and curiosity.
What happens to the impulse to create a belief or go into an emotional attachment? Does it stay? Fade? Fall Away? Whatever happens is OK. Just notice and stay with that too.
I am enjoying a simple exploration these days…
Notice a sense of a doer – in whatever form it takes here now. (Observer, thinker, chooser, explorer.)
Where is it in the body? What are the sensations?
Quietly meet the sensations. Welcome them as they are. Stay with it. Explore with a gentle curiosity. Friendly interest. An appreciation for these dynamics as they are, and the mystery behind it. The beauty of it.
Notice if it shifts. Then stay with that.
A couple of weeks ago, I set the intention for whatever has not been seen/felt/loved yet to surface. (Knots, beliefs, emotional attachments.) Whenever I do so, I get a few weeks of amazing intensity – usually involved many nights with hardly any sleep.
It is good. And I also see the intelligence inherent in the process. It backs off a little when daily life requires my attention, and turns up the volume when space opens up – mostly at night! And if I ask for the volume to be turned down for a few days, that happens as well.
It is a beautiful process, although certainly not always pleasant. Even in the midst of recognizing all as awakeness itself, as the play of the infinite, there is a great deal of intensity and sometimes contraction. As always, to the extent it is resisted – and that happens at times, it is uncomfortable.
But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”
Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.
And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.
Ezekiel 2:8 – 3:2
Bible verses can of course be interpreted to (appear to) support just about any point. For me, reading these verses in isolation, I see a beautiful description of what happens when we “eat” our lament and mourning and woe.
I start out rebellious. I argue against reality. I resist experience. I want things to be different from what they are. (According to my story of it.)
I am invited to eat my lament and mourning and woe. (Meet it. Be with it. Feel it. Welcome it.)
And when I do, I find – to my surprise – that it tastes as sweet as honey in my mouth.
I find that it is not what it appeared to be when I resisted it. It appeared horrifying as long as I resisted meeting, feeling and welcoming it. But when I do, there is a sweetness, comfort, receptivity and nurturing fullness there.
A simple way of combining allowing experience and a felt-sense inquiry:
What am I experiencing now? (Feel it instead of going to a story.)
Where do I feel it in the body?
Can I meet the feeling? Welcome it, as it is? (Take some time here.)
Are there any images or stories associated with it?
Can I find a belief? (A belief about what I am experiencing, or triggering it.)
Is it true? (Feel what happens when the questions is asked. Allow the question to sink in. No need to look for an answer within thought.)
What I find – right now at least – when I ask is it true? is a felt-sense of not knowing. Spaciousness. Open in all directions. Curiosity. Nothing to protect. No fixed positions.
By doing The Work, it is often quite clear how any belief – any attachment to a story as true – comes from fear. It comes from fear, and fuels fear. And is really just another expression of (confused) love.
Right now, exploring meeting experience with a focus on how it feels in the body, I find something quite similar. Behind the body-sense feeling of a belief and emotional attachment is the feeling of fear. A low grade fear in the background, which – when resisted – moves into becoming a belief and an emotional attachment. It is a protection. A way to feel safe. And a way to avoid feeling and welcoming the fear.
When this fear is felt and welcomed, there is a sense of quiet release. Spaciousness. No need or impulse to move into beliefs and emotional attachments.
And it is all happening within feeling, which helps it sink into the body and make it “real” at that level.
When there is an awakening – either as a stable and clear Ground awakening or just a glimpse or thinner veils – it wants to go everywhere in our human life.
To put it another way: within this context of awakening, anything that is not aligned with awakening sticks out like a sore thumb and attention is drawn to it.
There is an invitation to be with and welcome any experience, to see/feel/love it as it is within form, and as emptiness itself. And there is an invitation to inquire into any story and see its limited truth within the context of stories, and that too as awakeness itself.
And as usual, to the extent this is resisted there is discomfort.
I find it fascinating to explore the different flavors of allowing experience: Shifting into Big Mind or headlessness. Choiceless awareness. Asking myself can I be with what I am experiencing right now? Shifting into gently and quietly meeting experience as it is. Bringing in a sense of kindness and the heart. And so on.
When I shift into allowing experience, I see, feel and love it as it is, for its sake. And the emphasis on each shifts between and within each form of allowing.
In Big Mind, headlessness and choiceless awareness, it seems that the seeing of experience is in the foreground, with feeling it anywhere between background to foreground, and the possibility of loving it is there are well – coming and going.
When I intentionally bring in the heart, the love for experience as it is comes into the foreground.
And there is also a way of being with experience where the felt sense is in the foreground. The sensations are invited in center stage, and welcomed there as they are.
Each one has its own flavor, and each one can be a helpful and valuable exploration. What happens when experience is resisted? What happens when it is allowed and welcomed? What happens when the seeing of it is in the foreground? The felt sense? Love and kindness?
In each case, a shift from (being caught up in) resistance to allowing is a shift from a sense of separation to that field which holds it all. When the felt sense is brought in, I “get it” with the body. I feel the difference. When love comes in, there is a sense of appreciation and gratitude for experience, as it is and for its sake.
And in terms of healing and maturing as who I am, this human self, that seems to be invited in when the felt sense and kindness is in the foreground.
There are many flavors and slight variations in shifting into allowing experience.
One is a gentle and simple meeting of what is here, with the bodily sensations in the foreground.
What do I experience now? Where do I experience it in the body? What sensations are there? What happens if I meet it? Welcome it? Notice if it changes. Can I meet and welcome that too?
As with any of these explorations, it can sometimes be helpful to have someone else provide the container and ask the questions.
What does this exploration do? Well, if there is a habit here – even a slight one – of resisting experience, this is an antidote. It is a help to try something different, gently meeting experience as it is and see what happens. To feel what happens when there is resistance (caught up in resistance), and what happens when experience is met, as it is.
And when the felt sense is in the foreground, I feel the difference between resistance and allowing. I “get it” with the body. It sinks in a little deeper.
I keep noticing how each way of allowing experience has a different quality and flavor, and how the luminous black is what I am invited to explore more now. Dropping into the luminous black, and from there see, feel and love whatever content of experience is here, as it is, as if it would never go away, and with a special emphasis on feeling.
It is difficult to describe the luminous black… although the energy drawings give a hint. It is experienced literally as luminous black, no metaphors there. (Apart from what is inherent in any word.) It is velvety soft. It seems to be an aspect of emptiness, moving slightly into the form side. It is inside of any form, and that which all forms are. (In addition to emptiness/awareness.) In the body, it is centered in the belly, and it invites emotions to reorganize from reactivity to a sense of nurturing fullness.
It is an allowing of experience that has the feeling aspect as its focal point, inviting in and deepeing a belly awakening – a felt sense of all as God.
When strong experiences come up, and my personality doesn’t like it, at least two things can happen.
I can resist these experiences. Try to make them go away. Distract myself. And what I try to push away only wears me down. It requires a great deal of energy, and it tends to break down identifications as well – slowly and uncomfortably.
Or I can welcome them. Allow them. Be with them, as they are, as if they would never go away, with kind attention. The experiences work on me here too, but now in a way that seems more nurturing and healing. There is more receptivity. An open heart. Even gratitude.
So strong experiences work in me no matter what. If I resist them, they tend to break or wear me down. If I welcome them, there is an invitation of healing and maturing of my human self.
This is most easily noticed with strong experiences, but really happens all the time – even with (apparently) slight shifts into resistance or allowing.
It is always fascinating to me to hear what others are facilitated by, and then find it in myself. We went to a potluck tonight, and the topic – for a while – were different doomsday scenarios. Economic collapse. Collapse of the US empire. Ecological collapse. And so on.
How likely is it that disaster will strike at a collective level? What are the ways it may happen? What are the dynamics leading up to it? How may it unfold? How serious may it be? What can we do? How will it impact us? How can we prepare?
The first thing I find when I look at this for myself is that any emotional fascination (draw, attachment) I may have towards doomsday scenarios is proportional to the extent I resist certain emotions in daily life. If I resist experiencing fear, terror, dread, anger and so on in daily life, there is an emotional component to imagining and exploring doomsday scenarios, and also an emotional fascination with it – whether I seek it out or try to avoid it, or do both.
Likewise, if I allow, welcome and am with those emotions, in a kindhearted way, there is a release of the charge around them. They are welcomed, as they are, for what they are, even if they would stay forever. They are seen. Felt. Loved. And as the charge around them is released, the emotional draw and fascination with doomsday scenarios goes out as well.
What is left is more clarity. A choice to explore these scenarios or not, depending on what seems appropriate and useful in the situation. And a very practical approach if I chose to explore them. It boils down to what can I do, and how? And stays at the practical.
The question what is not OK about this can be used to find underlying beliefs for inquiry.
Another way to use that question is in daily life, whenever I notice even the slightest tendency to resist experience. I can ask myself what is not OK about this? What is not OK about what I am experiencing now? Or, if I see that there is something specific that is resisted, I can ask myself what is not OK about …?
In most cases, I find no reason and this invites in a shift of allowing experience as it is. Including resistance or whatever else may be there.
And if a reason comes up, I can ask the same question – what is not OK about …? And I can also investigate it more thoroughly through inquiry.
A natural process that each of us can explore through own experience…
We want to avoid discomfort. This makes sense in an evolutionary perspective since discomfort – or pain – often is associated with something that is harmful to our human self.
We try out different approaches to avoid discomfort, including through avoiding certain situations and also resist experience. Sometimes, we also – accidentally or not – allow experience.
Through noticing, over time, the effects of resisting and allowing experience, we notice that resistance=discomfort and allowing=release of discomfort.
Even a slight resistance to experience brings discomfort, while allowing experience, wholeheartedly and in a heartfelt way, as it is, as if it would never change, brings a release of identification out of content of experience. It is all allowed, and even welcomed and appreciated, including the resistance itself. And here, there is often a sense of a nurturing fullness, independent of what the content of experience may be.
We explore this in daily life, and possibly through certain practices such as shikantaza, headlessness, Big Mind process and more. We may notice that allowing experience also invites in a healing and maturing of our human self, and makes it easier for what we are to notice itself. (The healing comes from a falling away of the drama and struggle, and also from being with experience with receptivity and heart. The maturing from allowing any experience, including resistance. The noticing of what we are from releasing identification out of content of experience.)
We naturally and quite appropriately have a certain aim for allowing experience, such as releasing discomfort or inviting in healing/maturing and awakening. This aim serves as a very useful reminder for allowing experience. Yet within that allowing, the aim too is allowed as it is. There is a release of identification out of that particular content of experience as well.
And as there is more familiarity with allowing content of experience, it feeds back to how content of experience – including intentions – appear in general. Recognized as always free from an “I”.
It is all an innocent and natural process, and unfolds – it seems – through an ongoing sincerity and curiosity in exploring the dynamics as they show up here and now.
One of the precepts from the Center for Sacred Sciences is to not overindulge in escapist entertainments. It is a very helpful precept since it brings our attention to when we do just that, and also invites in the question of why and what the dynamics are around it.
What am I trying to escape? What happens when I try to escape in this way? What happens if I meet what I am trying to escape, and more wholeheartedly allow the experience of it as it is?
And some other questions I have found useful for myself…
Is it true that what I am seeking is not already here? (From Adyashanti.)
What is/are the belief(s) behind the impulse to escape? And then take these to inquiry: What happens when I hold onto that belief? Who am I without it, here and now? How would I live my life differently without that belief? What are the truths in its turnarounds? (From Byron Katie.)
And also, while I am indulging in escapist entertainment, allow experience and notice beliefs.
I can notice whatever experiences and emotions comes up from what I am reading/watching/listening to, and see what happens when I resist them (even subtly), and what happens when I am with them and allow them more wholeheartedly.
And I can notice beliefs coming up about what I am watching/reading/listening to, and take these to inquiry later.
In this way, escapist entertainment can become a full fledged practice in itself. Still as entertaining, and maybe more juicy.
Trigger: This article on BBC.
Here is one of those “open secrets” which I notice through the day, and which any number of practices – and life itself – invites me to notice.
Whenever I allow an experience – independent of its content – it invites in healing and maturing, and also makes it easier to notice what I am.
And whenever I resist experience – independent of its content – it invites in the opposite. Wounding. Immaturity. A deepening sense of I-Other split.
It is really just Life 101, and something we all know somewhere, but also a remarkable practice when it is made more conscious. And it is also something that seems to happen only when all content of experience is allowed, whatever it is, including resistance itself.
I notice that my attention naturally goes to knots. To beliefs and their consequences (drama, tension, a sense of separation, supporting stories and so on).
And I also see that I can work against or with this natural tendency.
In some specific situations, it seems appropriate to work against it. For instance, when I do a stable attention practice, I can work against that tendency by noticing when attention goes away from its practice object (breath or something else), and gently bring it back.
But in most situations, it seems to make more sense to work with it. To notice that attention naturally goes to knots, and take this as an opportunity to find the belief behind the knot (creating the knot), inquire into this belief, and also allow and be with whatever experiences are associated with the knot (mostly emotions).
If I get stuck in seeing distractions as a problem, I continue to battle with it, and also miss out of the valuable guidance in the wanderings of attention, naturally going to knots.
If I take the wanderings of attention as a valuable guidance, I am led to knots and have an opportunity to work with the beliefs creating them.
If I am free to do both, in different situations, it may be even more valuable. I get to practice a stable attention, gently notice and bringing it back whenever it wanders. And, at other times, I get to use attention as a guide.