Clarifying the dimensions of being with whatever comes up

 

I realize that when I am with whatever comes up, in a simple, quiet way, there is more going on than what initially came to mind.

Awake emptiness

There is the awake emptiness aspect, allowing whatever comes up to unfold within and as awake emptiness, revealing themselves as nothing other than awake emptiness.

Form

And then there is the form aspect, the dynamic unfolding within form, which in itself has several dimensions.

Being with experiences in itself tends to allow knots to unravel, and this is the simplest one.

Then, there are the insights into the dynamics of form, or more accurately the mind, similar to what happens in insight meditation.

And then there are several variations of following the process unfolding, from traditional Process Work and active imagination, to following the dynamics of the essence, of the soul, of the subtle energies.

Allowing each other

And one allows the other.

Seeing form as nothing other than awake emptiness takes the charge out of it, allowing for a deeper exploration of the form aspect itself.

And gaining insight into the processes of the mind also takes some of the charge and drama out of it, allowing for an easier recognition of whatever arises as nothing other than awake emptiness.

The emptiness and form dimensions of being with whatever comes up

 

Writing the previous post, I was reminded of the two aspects of being with whatever unfolds.

Whatever arises as awake emptiness

There is the emptiness aspect of being with it, of allowing it all to be as it is, including any resistance and stories about it, allowing it to arise and unfold within and as awake emptiness, revealing themselves as nothing other than awake emptiness.

Insight into the dynamics within form

And then there is the form aspect of the process, the content itself, morphing, unfolding, revealing connections, allowing for insights into the dynamics within the form. This can be similar to insight meditation, allowing for insights into the dynamics of the mind, seeing how identities are used to guide resistance, how resistance splits the field in its own experience of itself, and so on. And it can also be similar to Process Work, or active imagination, allowing sequences unfold as a story, allowing insights into more specific dynamics, such as seeing how a sense of separation in childhood brought about the impulse to develop specific identities, and how they were used to give a sense of limited safety. Or it can be more like a dream, unfolding through symbolic images. Or it can function on a subtle energy level, following the same or similar processes unfold there.

Both there at the same time

And both can be there at the same time. They are two aspects of the same process, seeing whatever arises as nothing other than awake emptiness, and also allow the processes unfold allowing for insights into the dynamics within the world of form, maybe specifically the mind.

Sometimes, awake emptiness may be more in the foreground. Other times, the insights into the dynamics of form can be more in the foreground. But they are both there, as two faces of the same coin.

Mutuality

There is also a nice mutuality between the two.

Seeing whatever arises as awake emptiness takes some of the sting out of it, making it easier to simply be with it and also explore its dynamics within form. And exploring the dynamics within form allows knots to untie, which take some of the drama and charge out of it that way, making it easier to also recognize it as awake emptiness.

Both seem necessary, inform each other, invite each other, and allow for a continued deepening into the other.

Sleepless hours as practice

 

Last night, I found a great deal of things surfacing for me before falling asleep, possibly since it was the night of January 1st and the typical time for reviews of the past and projections for the future.

Sometimes, I decide to listen to BBC World Service until I fall asleep, get up and have a cup of hot apple cider, or read something, or even do some self-Breemas.

Other times, including last night, I decide to just be with whatever comes up, to be with what comes up and any resistance that may come up along with it, simply, quietly, without adding any stories to it, a soft docking, and it becomes a powerful spontaneous practice. Shikantaza in bed, just allowing everything surfacing to be, to unfold within and as the seeing of it, allowing knots to untie on their own, contractions to be seen, soften, dissolve, one after another, a string of contractions and knots surfacing, unfolding, morph, unravel, within and as awake emptiness, revealing themselves as nothing other than awake emptiness.

The simplicity of being with and being

 

There is a simplicity in being with, and then just being, whatever arises.

Being with experiences, then just being

Something comes up, I notice a resistance to it, and can then just be with it all – the experience and the resistance to it. It is simple, quiet, without drama or stories. And there is a sense of an energetic shift from confusion to something that is more organized and has an almost crystalline structure, which I also notice when I do sitting meditation.

In just being with experiences, as they are, there is also the being with any resistance coming up. The resistance becomes part of the field. And eventually, the resistance to the field itself is included, allowing the field to arise to itself as it is, as a field with no center, inherently absent of I and Other. There is just being, the same field but now revealed as already absent of I and Other, of someone being with something else.

From second to 1st or zero person

It is a process from a 2nd person relationship, of a sense of I being with experiences, of the seeing being with the seen, to a 1st or zero person relationship, to just the field absent of I and Other, which is no relationship at all of course. It is just the field being with itself, as seeing and seen as one.

It is first person, in that the field as a whole is an I to itself, and it is zero person in that there is an inherent absence of I as any part of the field.

Habit of identifying with resistance

It is so simple. So available. Yet also so difficult sometimes. The habit of identifying with resistance is so ingrained. Resistance arises, there is an identification with it, a sense of I is placed on it, a sensation is associated with this resistance and serves as an anchor in space for this sense of I, what is resisted is made into Other and at another location in space, and from here it is fleshed out with all sorts of additional stories. The stage is set for drama, and it plays itself out very well.

Soft docking, and everything the same yet different

At the same time, just being with it all, simply, quietly, meeting it as and where it is, as a soft docking, changes it all. Everything is the same, as it is, yet also completely different. From a sense of drama and confusion, and the sense of reality of I and Other, the field arises to meet itself as a field, already and inherently absent of I and Other, with its crystalline structure and clarity.

Even the discouragement of seeing habitual patterns coming up, over and over, can be included. That too is OK when it is revealed as just a part of the field, already and always absent of I, just the field of awake emptiness and forms unfolding.

Simple Feedback & The Cycle of Double Avoidance

 

I, as most of us, sometimes eat things that are not good for me. I guess I am fortunate in that my body does not hesitate to make it very clear to me, in the form of spaciness (sugar), fatigue (sugar), sluggishness (dairy), feeling weird – out of touch with the world, unreality (anything refined or artificial, wheat, alcohol), and in other ways.

Being with the experiences, allowing for feedback

I notice that if I take time to be with the symptoms of eating something my body has a reaction to, then that provides valuable feedback and something shifts. If I am with my experiences, simply, clearly, allowing them to unfold on their own, without adding drama to it, the feedback allows something to shift and I find myself less likely to want to eat that food again – or I eat it less frequently and in a lesser amount.

Cycle of double avoidance

I also see that the reason I eat these things is often that I want to avoid another experience.

Something comes up that my personality finds uncomfortable, and instead of taking the time of being with these experiences, I eat ice cream, cheese or something else. Then, I have the reactions from eating dairy and/or sugar, and avoid experiencing these as well by distracting myself in another way.

So there is an initial avoidance, leading to behavior that creates other unpleasant experiences, and there is an avoidance of these experiences as well. This allows the cycle to continue as before, in spite of whatever self-talk I may engage in.

Being with

The solution is to be with my experiences, both the initial ones that may trigger distraction and the symptoms of the food I eat. To be with them, as they are, without adding drama. And if drama is added to it, then just be with that as well.

It is simple. Clear. Peaceful (even if what I am being with may be turmoil).

Being with experiences in this way seems to invite something to shift, in its own time and in its own way. It seems to provide just the right food for the inherent intelligence and wisdom of the mind.

My business is to be with my experiences. That is all. The shift happens on its own.

Two Aspects of Pain *

 

I find physical pain to be one of the most pure things to work with. It is a clean laboratory for exploring how the mind works.

Sensation without story

Byron Katie says that pain is always a story about the past.

Thoughts are always about the past or future, even as they appear to be about the present. They can never catch the Present. Whatever happens is gone before it can be reflected in a thought.

From being a sensation with a story, there is now – in seeing this – just a sensation. This sensation may be the same as before, but without the drama that comes with a story about it.

Sensation changing

In addition to this, I also notice that whenever I am with the experience of the pain – without the drama, the sensation itself tends to change. It takes on a different appearance. It moves from being – yes, painful, to something else.

Two levels

So there seems to be two distinct things happening.

First, the sensation is freed from the story about it, allowing the drama and struggle to fall away leaving the sensation as it is. Far more simple and harmless than the story about it.

Then, there is also the changing appearance of the sensation itself, when it is no longer resisted. It changes into something that – even if I wanted to – cannot really be labeled pain anymore.

Process

Both of these may sometimes happen instantaneously as soon as there is recognition of pain. Especially if we are already familiar with these dynamics, if we are more initimate with this terrain.

If this is a new territory for us, it may take a little longer, and the ride may be more bumpy.

And if the pain is strong, or the belief in the story about the pain is strong, the ride may also be bumpy – even for those somewhat familiar with these dynamics. There is an invitation here to see the dynamics of it even more clearly, to be even more intimate with the terrain. To question and go beyond what we think we know.

Breaking Open vs. Down

 

Another simple little guideline…

If I resist experiences, it creates suffering. And if the experience and resistance both are strong, it may lead to a breakdown of one sort or another.

If I allow whatever is experienced – including any resistance to it, then the intensity leads to a breaking open rather than breaking down. I move to and beyond the current edge. There is a new territory explored. And eventually, it can lead to the breaking open into a realization of no I anywhere.

This is of course a very rough way of talking about it.

When there is an experience, and an identification with a resistance to that experience, it leads to suffering. And this identification to the resistance usually comes when the initial experience is outside of my conscious identity – my view of who I am or at least should be. So when both the initial experience and the resistance are strong, it can lead to some sort of breakdown – form exhaustion to something more dramatic.

When there is an experience, and no or less identification with any resistance to it, then it just unfolds in space as anything else. There is less or no suffering. It is just living its own life. And I find myself as the space holding it all. Any intensity of the content now only serves to help me notice the inherent and natural space and clarity of mind. Intensity now helps me notice the nature of mind more clearly, that which is there independent of any changing content. The Ground and clarity.

When there is an identification with resistance, what is resisted appears as a disturbance and an Other. When there is less or no identification with this resistance, what is resisted just happens – along with everything else. It is just a part of what is passing through.

Befriending

 

The world is my mirror – whether I find myself as human beings and/or as Big Mind.

As a human being, whatever I see out there reflect myself in here.

And as Big Mind, everything arising is me.

Resistance to what is

When I resist this, there is pain. It is the signal that I am excluding in my mind something that is inherently a part of what is and myself.

And resistance comes up when I attach to a thought, as any thought by necessity is different from and more limited than what is.

In other words, when I attach to a thought, I immediately create an exclusive identity, which has to be painful as it conflicts with my nature which is beyond and including any and all polarities.

What is – free from descriptions

What is is – and I am – inherently beyond and including existence and nonexistence, spirit and matter, formless and form, seer and seen, awakened and deluded, living and nonliving, life and death, culture and nature, mind and body, right and wrong, and so on.

What is is – and I am – inherently free from all this. Any name describe me, yet I am free from any name.

Mechanisms of pain

As a human being, the pain comes in many ways.

It comes from a limited repertoire. I am invited to bring out more of my qualities, yet don’t because I am not familiar with them yet or exclude them through holding onto a limited identity.

The pain is also there due to a sense of separation. I see qualities out there and not in here, and the other way around. I see myself as a separate entity. I see myself as variously better and/or worse than what I see out there. I get caught up in seeking something and avoiding other things, in my internal and external life. I get caught up in blind identifications. I get caught up in struggle.

Not seeing in myself what I see out there gives rise to pain in innumerable ways.

At the level of Big Mind, the pain simply comes from separation – from the appearance of I and Other in the field of what is, inherently absent of any I or Other.

Befriending

So no wonder we have found many ways to help ourselves heal this split in our experience of what is, this fictional life bringing about pain.

  • Being with
    The simplest approach is to just be with whatever is happening. I just ask myself Can I be with what I am experiencing right now? I am with whatever is happening, including the impulse to resist and push something away. And in that way, I befriend whatever is happening. The ficitional boundary between this particular form of I and Other dissolve.

  • Welcoming in
    Going a little furhter, I can actively embrace and welcome in whatever is arising. I see them as lost children wanting attention and warmth, and provide it for them.

  • Inquiry
    Then there are the many forms of inquiry, including The Work. Here, I examine attachments to thoughts and allow them to unravel – and the resistance with them. What appeared as an Other and a disturbance (or worse) is now revealed as a friend. What arises may be the same (or not) but the charge went out of it.

  • Process Work
    In Process Work, I unravel the process behind whatever is happening in the external or internal world. I follow the bread crumbs, and find the gift behind it. In this way too, anything happening becomes a friend – an invitation into exploring aspects of the world and myself that is new to me, and allowing boundaries to dissolve.

  • Giving it over to the divine
    And I can give it over to the divine. That is where it is anyway, so I am really just giving over my experience of myself as an individual separate doer. Everything is living its own life anyway, and this is another reminder.

  • Asking for it to resolve
    As a more active version of the previous one, I can ask for resolution in whatever way it needs to resolve.

    I may also ask to see whatever I need to see for it to resolve. I may ask for whatever in me that needs to unravel to unravel. I may ask for harvesting of whatever gifts and nutrients are in it.

    I see that holding an intention in this way – precise and open ended at the same time – creates a sense of a field within which this unraveling can take place.

Spaciness

 

On my way to the dreamwork course with Arny Mindell today, I noticed spaciness. I had a story about it – that it came from a combination of being sleep deprived and eating certain foods. And I also noticed that if I resisted it, if I saw it as an Other, it became a disturbance. It brought about a sense of discomfort, self-consciousness, rigidity, wanting to be on my own, concern about interacting with people, and so on.

If the resistance went away and I welcomed the spaciness as a friend, it took a very different form. Now, it became an invitation to be more free, receptive, flowing, comfortable, dissolving the sense of separate self, and seeing the magic in the world.

During the class, I had an opportunity to work on this further, and saw how it connected with my amnesia dream some weeks back, and many other things that has been coming up for me over the last few weeks and months – both in dreams and waking life.

It is just another reminder of how our lives is one single process (as apparent individuals, and also collectively and as the world of form as a whole). In this case, unfolding the process behind the spaciness touched upon a wide range of “symptoms” from recent months.

It all seems to have to do with (a) generally the difference between resistance (creating an Other and the appearance of a disturbance) and befriending (allowing it to share its gifts), and (b) specifically the gifts in spaciness – the space, freedom, flow, fluidity and nonlinearity of it.

Not surprisingly, working on this symptom of spaciness, my sense of being tired went away and alertness came in instead – still within the spaciness. There can be precision, functionality and linearity alongside with space, fluidity, flow, receptivity and nonlinearity. Right now, it seems that I am invited into bringing both more fully into my life – to explore how it is to live from the larger whole which holds both.

Harvesting the Nutrients

 

In any stressful experience, there is a gift – there are nutrients there, ready to nurture our life if we are available to them.

In my experience, if I just use a regular mindfulness practice – coming to my breath or the movements of the body when I notice getting caught up in a hangup – it works in the short term, giving me some relief and reminding me of who I would be without the story. But it also seems to miss something in the longer run. Until the nutrients are harvested, until the gift is received, it seems to just come up again – over and over. Something wants to be seen, and until it is – it will return.

I am sure there are innumerable very effective ways of harvesting these nutrients. Some that work for me are…

  • The Big Mind process
    Exploring in detail the dynamic behind what is happening, including the polarities (complementary/opposite) voices at a personal level and the transcendent voices.

  • Byron Katie’s inquiries
    Exploring in detail what the belief is behind the stress, what happens when I believe that thought, who I would be without it, and integrating projections and loosening up the belief through exploring the various turnarounds.

  • Process Work
    Allowing the process behind the symptom (in this case stress) to unfold, revealing its message and gift, and absorbing this.

  • Shikantaza (sitting practice)
    Allowing it all to unfold within awareness, living its own life as it does anyway. Allowing resistance to even resistance to fall away. Allowing even the fueling of thoughts to unfold within space as everything else.

  • Can I be with what I am experiencing? (daily life)
    Again, allowing it all to unfold within awareness, living its own life.

Psychology & Spirituality

 

No new insights here either, but it is interesting to see the natural convergence of psychology and spirituality. Of course, in Buddhism and other traditions there was never any split. But there has been a split in the western culture, for the last couple of hundred years, and this is now seen as not needed anymore.

One way of integrating is to acknowledge both realms as legitimate and using different techniques for each. Another is to use approaches which in themselves span both the realm of traditional psychology (the psyche, the body/psyche whole, the human self) and spirituality (transcendent).

The Big Mind process is a good example, allowing for untying knots on a personal level and becoming more familiar with the transcendent realm, all in one process. The Byron Katie inquiries is another, again untying knots at the personal realm, allowing the nature of mind to gradually be unveiled. And then there are forms of contemplative psychotherapy, and for instance the Raphael Cushnir approach of being with what is – getting out of the way for the knots to naturally untie themselves and reveal the nature of mind.

Ways of Being With Experiences

 

One of the common features of most (?) spiritual traditions is guidelines for how to be with experiences. Here are some I am aware of…

Zen

Allow experiences to come and go as guests. This shifts the center of gravity to the witness, and allows for deepening detachment and insight into the general processes and patterns of the content of mind.

Breema

See, accept and move on.

This allows for shifting the center of gravity to the witness, and release clutching of content.

Can I be with it?

A particularly elegant approach is that of Raphael Cushnir. Whenever there are strong experiences coming up, or any other time, ask yourself – can I be with what I am experiencing right now?

This also shifts the center of gravity to the witness (or at least expands it to include the witness), and it allows the processes of the content to unfold and unwind on their own.

Recognition yoga

This is from Waking Down and I don’t remember the steps here… But it is something along the lines of see it, feel it, become it, and live it (and something more I am sure).

Release to the divine

In our deeksha group, we use a process which is very similar to what came up spontaneously for me during the initial awakening. Fully feel it, and fully release it to the divine.

The difference between this approach and many others is the intention. In Zen, they rarely speak about intention. But here, intention is included to offer it to the divine, and allow the divine to take care of and resolve it.

My experience is that this is a remarkably effective process, and one that deepens with time.

Unfolding the process

Yet another approach is that of Process Work. Here, the immense wisdom in every process is acknowledged, and the profound gifts behind any experience – including or maybe especially the difficult ones, are recognized. Through following the bread crumbs, the process behind the symptom (which could be anything within the field of experience, including disturbing and difficult ones) is unraveled, leading to often surprising insights and gifts.

Dimensions

I am not familiar enough with all of these to say much of the various dimensions, or to compare the various approaches in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. Each of them seem to have its place, its own valuable contributions.

Some dimensions which come to mind…

  • Shifting center of gravity to the witness, or expanding it to include the witness.

    There is a subtle difference here, yet maybe important. The first encourages a slightly stronger sense of separation than the second.

  • Emphasizing the release from content, insight into the processes, and/or digging into the content.

    All of these emphasize a certain release from content – either in the present (most of them) or after a certain process (Waking Down, Process Work). Some emphasize insight into the processes and others don’t. Among those focusing on insight, some emphasize a more general insights into the patterns of the content (Zen), and others emphasize insight into the particular process arising in the present (Process Work).

  • No intention apart from the seeing of it, or intention of offering it (back) to the divine and have it more actively resolved.

    Zen is a good example of a tradition where the active use of intention is not much emphasized. The other end of the spectrum is the way we do it in our deeksha group, actively offering the processes to the divine – with the intention of allowing the divine to work on it, allowing it to unravel and find a resolution. Most are somewhere in between these two.

Breaking Down vs. Breaking Open

 

Whenever there is a strong experience, I have two (broad) choices.

I can choose to resist. Or I can be with it – or rather be it.

When I resist, there is suffering. If it goes on for too long, and/or is too strong, I can “break down”.

When I am the experience, there is a current of bliss. And I can allow the experience to open my heart and mind. I can break open. The separations between me and others break down – it opens my heart/mind for the experiences of others, and I see that we are all in the same boat. My own pain is a reminder of the pain that all humans experience. It opens for compassion through seeing myself in the other and the other in myself.