Wanting what’s here

 

I just (re)listened to the audiobook version of On Having No Head by Douglas Harding, mostly because it’s a relief to listen to someone taking such a simple, grounded, sane, and pragmatic approach to awakening (!)

Towards the end, he talks about actively wanting what’s here.

Why would we want what’s here?

We are capacity for what’s here – our human self and the wider world as it appears to us. It happens within and as what we are. It’s us in whatever form it happens to take here and now. So why not welcome it?

What’s here is here. It’s too late to do something about it. So why struggle with it? Struggle only creates suffering. It makes more sense to actively want what’s here. This also frees us up to be engaged and work on changing situations as needed.

The wanting-what’s-here pointer is a touchstone. It shows us how we relate to what’s coming up in us. Is it easy for us to genuinely welcome it? Or is there an impulse in us to avoid it or make it go away? And do we join in with that impulse or do we notice that it too happens within what we are capacity for? Having the pointer in the back of our mind can help us notice when suffering – unawake and unhealed – parts of us are triggered, and also whether we join in with it or notice ourselves as what it happens within and as – just like anything else.

How does it look in practice?

It’s a welcoming of what’s already here because we can’t do anything about it and struggling with it doesn’t help or make any sense. What’s coming up for our human self is already here. The situation our human self is in is already here. So why not join in with it and actively want it? Also, it’s what we already are so why not welcome it as another expression of the creativity of what we are?

It does not mean to be passive or resigned. We can still actively work to change the situation and circumstances we are in – or someone else is in. Often, wanting what’s here frees up our response. Instead of reacting we can respond a little more intentionally. There is access to more kindness, clarity, wisdom, and creativity.

How can we find this active welcoming?

When we notice ourselves as capacity for what’s here, including anything coming up in our human self, it’s easier to notice it all as happening within and as what we are and find a genuine and active welcoming and wanting of what’s here.

Said another way, the welcoming and actively wanting it is already here. It’s what we already are. So when we find ourselves as capacity for what’s here, we also find this welcoming and wanting.

Why don’t we always notice what we are?

Perhaps we haven’t noticed. Or we have noticed but don’t take it seriously. Or we don’t see any practical use of it.

Or we do notice and we take it seriously, and yet sometimes get pulled into old beliefs, emotional issues, and traumas, and “forget” for a while.

How can we notice what we are?

To have an initial glimpse of what we are, and to keep noticing in daily life, it helps to have some pointers. For me, the most effective one has been the Headless Way, Big Mind process (based on Voice Dialog and Zen), and Living Inquiries (a modern version of traditional Buddhist inquiry).

How can we train this noticing even when emotional issues come up?

There are two elements that stands out to me.

One is how we relate to what’s coming up in this human self. Do we get caught in it or do we notice it as happening within and as what we are?

The other is inviting in healing and awakening for any suffering parts of us surfacing, the one still operating from separation consciousness.

These two mutually support each other.

Noticing what we are while bringing presence into the suffering parts helps them relax and feel seen and loved. They receive what they need and want.

And inviting these suffering parts of us to heal and awaken makes it easier to notice what we are even when they are triggered. Some or most of the charge goes out of them.

I have written a lot about this in other articles so won’t go into it here.

What if we notice the shift is close?

If we are in a situation where we notice that the shift into actively welcoming what’s here is close, then a small pointer or question may be helpful. For instance:

How would it be to want what’s here?

Even if there are things coming up in my human self, I can often find this shift. And I can still notice what’s coming up in me and later get to know it better and invite in healing and awakening for it.

How does the overall process look?

Douglas Harding talks about seven stages or phases. I’ll just mention a very simplified version here.

First, there is an initial glimpse or noticing. This is always spontaneous although it can come without any apparent preparation or through inquiry or other spiritual practices.

Then, there is taking this seriously and wishing to continue exploring it and how to live from it in our daily life.

A part of this exploration is to investigate what happens when the mind gets pulled into old separation consciousness. We get more experience in noticing ourselves as capacity through more and more experiences, states, and life situations. And we invite in healing and awakening for the parts of us still stuck in suffering and separation consciousness.

As we keep doing this, the noticing becomes more stable and continues more often even when emotional issues surface.

Is Douglas Harding the only one talking about this?

Not at all, it’s common for mystics from all times and traditions to talk about it. Christian mystics may talk about God’s and my will becoming one. Byron Katie talks about loving what is. And so on.

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The importance of working on strong and apparently isolated issues

 

Sometimes, strong issues – the ones with a lot of charge to them – may seem isolated and triggered only by rare and very specific situations.

That means we may put it further down on our to-do list for what to work on, and we may assume it’s not relevant to issues that may seem more persistent, pervasive, and perhaps central to our life.

In my experience, it can be very helpful to address strong issues even if they seem isolated and rarely triggered. When they are released, our system has more fluidity and freedom in general. And they are sometimes connected to – or support – the more persistent and pervasive issues, even if we at first may not see how. Sometimes, working on one of them is what pulls the foundation out from under the pervasive issue.

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Mind going to the past

 

If you keep going over the past, you’re going to end up with a thousand pasts and no future.

– Ricardo Morales in The Secret in their Eyes / El secreto de sus ojos

Yes, that’s true. If we get obsessed with the past and only repeat and fuel the stressful stories, we get stuck in the past. We get stuck in our stories about the past.

But there is a reason the mind goes to the past. It goes to traumatic or stressful events in order to seek resolution. It seeks healing. And it will keep going back until it finds it. There is nothing inherently wrong in it. It’s part of the healing process.

If the mind goes back to the past, and we use it to reinforce the painful stories, then the healing process goes no further. But if we relate to it with some kindness and skill, it can be an invaluable opportunity for healing.

Relate to the emotions and stories with kindness, as you would a child in pain. Acknowledge the pain that’s there. Feel the sensations of the emotional pain in the body. Allow it as it is. Find a gentle curiosity about the stressful stories. Listen to what those stories are. Write them down. Examine them. If you are gently, brutally, honest with yourself, are they true? What is more true?

How do I know what to work on?

 

How do I chose what emotional issues or identifications to explore?

When it comes to emotional issues, I usually work on whatever is coming up in daily life. Or any issues I can find related to my parents. Or universal human issues. Or whatever I have written down in the past to work on.

When it comes to identifications, apart from emotional issues, I usually explore the most basic ones. For instance, that I am a human, man, a me, an I, a doer, an observer, consciousness, awakeness, what content of experience happens within and as, and other basic assumptions about me and reality. I especially look for the ones I normally wouldn’t question.

One aspect of recovering from trauma: recognizing collective trauma

 

Here is a very brief point about healing from trauma, and specifically the trauma that’s passed on through generations or through society.

When we are caught up in the trauma, it’s not uncommon to feel like a victim and have a me vs them view. For instance, if trauma was passed on in our birth family, we may – secretly or openly – blame our parents. We see ourselves as victim of their behavior and hangups. (This trauma can be developmental trauma which comes from difficult ongoing dynamics in our childhood.)

A turning point in our healing process can be when we understand that our parents too were traumatized. The trauma has, most likely, been passed on through generations. And it may also be a common trauma in our culture shared by many families to different extent. They were traumatized, lived – or lives – from that trauma, and that traumatized us.

There is a shift from they did it to me to we are all in the same boat.

If anyone is a victim, it’s not just me it’s all of us. (And it’s good to question the idea of victim.)

This doesn’t excuse us from responsibility for our own actions. We are all responsible for our actions. But it does reframe how we understand the situation and – to the extent we take it in – this can be an important part of our own healing process.

This reframing supports our own healing, and it’s also often a product of our healing.

It can also be an indicator to see what’s left of our own healing process. Do I genuinely feel that we are all in the same boat? Or do I go into a me vs them view?

This goes for healing any emotional issue, not just obvious trauma. A part of the healing process is seeing that it’s passed on through generations and the culture. It’s not personal. (Although it appears personal to us when we are identified with it.)

Addressing multiple aspects of the same issue

 

When I work on issues, and especially deep seated issues, I find it helpful to approach it from multiple angles. This sometimes means to use different modalities. And it can also mean to differentiate out different aspects of the same overall issue.

Recently, I have explored and worked on an issue around not being authentic. I have looked at the different situations where this has happened in my life, the fear behind it, and how it ties in with family (and cultural) patterns. (For instance, my father taught me to not speak and stand up for myself at some crucial times in my childhood.)

I have also found several aspects or branches of this issue: Not speaking up. Not standing up for myself. Not being authentic. Not being real. Burying my inner warrior. Burying my inner beast. Not following my inner guidance.

These are all angles into the same overall or general issue. And if I want to be thorough in working on it, I need to address each of these. (As I work on one, the others will often be easier or have less charge since they are related.)

I got a clear demonstration of this yesterday when I received a Vortex Healing session. We worked on releasing the choice points for each of these. (Choice points are energetic structures that reflect a divine choice. They are created in crucial situations when “I” chose to not be authentic etc., or – equally accurately – when the divine made this choice to have a certain experience for itself.)

If each of the aspects I identified were really the same issue, there would be just one set of choice points. In this case, each one had its own choice points.

So if I had been satisfied working on just one, I would have missed the others contributing to the overall and more general issue.

Healing: Take full responsibility & understand

 

I had a conversation with a friend the other day, and she brought up how some use psychological insights to excuse their own or another’s behavior.

For me, it’s a reminder that we are all fully responsible for our own behavior, and yet our behavior – including the unkind and confused one – is understandable and has explanations.

To heal, we typically need to address both.

We need to take full responsibility for our own behavior. I made that choice. Nobody and nothing “forced” me to make it. I can’t blame anyone or anything.

And we need to understand some of where it came from. It’s helpful to understand it on the story level in terms of origins, reasons and so on. And it’s very helpful to frame this in a kind way, also because that’s closer to reality. So often, we find that what we regret the most or are most ashamed of is innocent. It was a confused and innocent way to try to deal with our life and pain, although it may have created (triggered) a lot of pain for ourselves and perhaps others.

Taking responsibility without this understanding can be harsh and crushing. And having some of this understanding without taking responsibility is a cop-out and prevents us from changing and healing. We need both.

This also goes for how I relate to others. I can seek to understand some of why they behave the way they do. I can know that if I more fully understood, I would have empathy for them. And I also see and know they are fully responsible for their own actions.

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Central vs peripheral issues

 

I saw someone ask: is this a core issue for me?

What is a core issue?

For me, I think of them as central issues. Issues that are central to who I take myself to be. Issues that have a general impact on my daily life. Issues that are often tied into many other issues – they are networked, have branches, roots and so on. And they are often universal. Shared by many or most humans and ingrained in our culture one way or another.

Some examples of typical core issues in our culture: Fear of rejection. Low self-worth. Define ourselves by our actions and accomplishments.

In contrast, peripheral issues are less central to who I take myself to be. It has less of a general impact on my daily life and tends to be triggered only in specific situations. And they appear more isolated and less tied in with other issues. Although if we explore them, they often lead to more central issues.

Of course, the separation into central and peripheral issues is mind-made and imagined. It’s fuzzy. It’s a matter of definition. It’s there just as a general guide. Sometimes helpful, sometimes less so.

For me, the distinction is mostly helpful in prioritizing what to work on. I’ll generally choose to work on more central issues, although sometimes it’s important to work on the more peripheral ones as well.

I should also mention that if I notice I am reluctant to work on one of my own issues, and it’s difficult for me to do so when I finally get to it, it’s more likely to be a central issue. The peripheral ones are usually easier and more enjoyable to work on. So if it’s a central issue for me, I may get someone else to facilitate me in inquiring into it, or do Vortex Healing for it.

This is also why we often end up working a lot on our peripheral issues and put off working on the central ones. It’s easier to work on what’s less central to who I take myself to be. And that’s another reason why being aware of this (mind-made) difference between central and peripheral issues can be helpful.

Which category do I tend to work on? Perhaps I need to acknowledge my fear of working on the more central issues? Perhaps it will be easier for me if I ask for help to work on them?

So what about the initial question: is this a core issue for me? Only you will know. But if it’s central to who you take yourself to be, colors your daily life, seem tied into other issues, and it’s difficult for you to get to know or work, then it may be a central issue. If so, and you want to explore it, it may be good to ask for assistance.

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Cultural differences in taking about issues

 

After having lived for a while in Oregon and California, I notice cultural differences in how I and others sometimes talk about emotional issues.

For instance, if I share about something triggered in me, I often also share the triggering situation. My intention is to share, clarify it for myself, and sow a seed for continuing to explore and work on it. It’s a confession and it helps my process. (And it can also be a way of connecting with the other, letting that person know what’s going on in me.) Mostly, it’s understood and received that way, and perhaps especially by people from the US west coast since we share this language and orientation.

And sometimes, it’s misunderstood. Sometimes, the other person focuses on the triggering situation and issue and goes off debating it.

Yesterday is an example. I shared how I noticed something in me getting triggered when a Facebook friend posted a snarky (conspiracy-laden, anti-climate change) comments on one of my posts. Instead of listening and acknowledging it, as I hoped for or expected, she went into debating the content of the comment.

I felt hurt because I felt she didn’t see me, and also because the conversation went off in another direction than I wanted, and in a direction irrelevant to why I mentioned it in the first place.

So what to do? It’s good to anticipate that these misunderstandings can happen. And if I suspect there is a chance it may happen, preface my sharing and clarify my intention in sharing. For instance, I may say: I notice I got triggered earlier today. Can I share with you? The situation is not important in itself, but I would like to share so I can see it more clearly and work on it later.

As this keeps happening – and especially in Norway where people have a different way of talking about these things – I want to hone my skills in prefacing and clarifying.

I have written about this topic in earlier articles.

For instance, I sometimes use parts language and talk about subpersonalities, and say I notice a part of me [sees the world this way, feels this way] and assume the other will understand that this is just a part, it’s universal and something we all have in us, and it’s not my conscious view. Most people in my life understand this and we share this language.

And yet, people not familiar with parts language – including psychologists and spiritual teachers – sometimes misunderstand. They assume that what I shared about the part is something I am consciously identified with and how I, as a whole, see the world. And they sometimes appear shocked, start arguing with it, and take the conversation in a very different direction than intended.

I have experienced filling out psychological questionnaires that only ask about the presence of something (an emotion, a set of thoughts) and not the strength, and – being honest – I’ll answer yes to all of it since all of it is in me, even if it’s at a very small level and doesn’t impact my daily life. And it’s taken as if these are in me at a strong level. (I understand that for most people filling out those questionnaires, that’s the case. But I have to be honest and answer truthfully, and I notice these in me even if they are at a tiny level.)

And I have also noticed that some in Norway – including people who I had assumed would know better like psychologists and spiritual teachers – assume that knowing about or understanding an issue at a story level should be enough to resolve it. And they, again, seem shocked (shocked!) that I am aware of issues and dynamics in me that are not (yet) fully resolved.

To me, this is not surprising at all since knowing about something at a story level doesn’t resolve it. We need to go further and deeper for something to resolve more thoroughly.

The answer to all of this is anticipating when this may happen and nip it in the bud by prefacing what I am about to share. And if it’s misunderstood, notice as soon as possible (it sometimes takes a while for me to understand what’s happening), step back from where the other person is taking the conversation, and clarify.

Triggered issues bring us to the past

 

Emotional issues are like bubbles that preserve the past on the inside.

They were created in a specific situation in the past, often in our childhood, and often as a reaction to an ongoing situation.

When they are not triggered, or not triggered strongly, our center of gravity is outside of the bubble. We function more or less as if it’s not there, although the issue will inevitably color our perceptions and life.

When they are triggered, we may find ourself inside of the bubble. The past comes alive for us, we feel we are back in the same situation, it colors our experience of our current situation and the world, and we may even react as if we are back in the original situation.

To others, it may seem we are overreacting, misperceive the current situation, and behave irrationally. To us, we are back in the past. We behave in a way that makes sense for the younger person we were, and in the original situation. The situation we were in that felt scary and overwhelming, and we created the issue in response to, in our innocence and in order to protect ourself.

As we explore the issue and invite the charge to go out of the issue (in my case, through inquiry, Vortex Healing, etc.), the bubble is less strong, we are more aware of what’s happening, and we are less likely to be absorbed into the bubble.

Here is a common progression of what may happen when a strong and deep-seated issue is triggered, and we continue to work on it.

At first, we may still be fully absorbed into it although we recognize what happened after it subsides. We may then recognize it as it’s triggered and we go inside the bubble. We may be able to openly acknowledge it as it happens. We may then find that we have one foot inside and one outside of the issue. And when it’s more released, the issue may be more gently triggered and we recognize it without needing to go inside the bubble.

For issues that are less strong, we may start somewhere closer to the middle of that progression.

As we continue to work on the issue and our relationship to it, strength and charge of the issue lessen, we relate to it more consciously, and the bubble is recognized more for what it is.

Issue work: chopping the top off the mountains

 

Most of us have innumerable emotional issues and too little time to work on all. We basically have everything in ourselves we see in the world. We see it because we recognize it from ourselves. And we have them in us since we are a genetic and cultural child of humanity.

So a practical approach is to find the central issues and work on them more thoroughly, and take the bite out of the rest, unless they keep cropping up and obviously interfere with my life.

This is a guideline that applies for whatever approach we use.

For me, it’s especially clear when I use Vortex Healing.

With core issues, I want to take them through the whole protocol even if it takes many hours. I sometimes ask someone else to do it for me since that’s easier for me than working on my own core issues. (I am more identified with them so it may be difficult to get started, or stay focused, or wanting to go through the full protocol thoroughly.)

With the rest, I often just do the main and most impactful parts of the protocol. This reduces the charge of the issue and makes it easier to relate to it consciously and it interferes less with my daily life. That may be enough, at least for the moment. If the issue keeps coming up in daily life, if it obviously interferes with my life, or if I am drawn to it, I can always do more.

How do I know if something is a core issue? It’s more likely to be a central issue for me if it’s been with me since early childhood, if I see it in my parents, if it’s a thread through my daily life, or if it’s a charged projection (if I keep seeing it in others and am bothered by it). Universal issues are also, almost by definition, more likely to be a central issue for me.

So the efficient approach is to be thorough with central issues and do just enough to take the edge off the rest. And if an issue keeps cropping up, treat it as a central issue.

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Simplistic assumptions: emotional issues and physical illness

 
Some like to think there is a one-to-one correspondence between certain emotional issues and certain physical illnesses. Or, at the very least, some like to present it that way. Why are people drawn to it?

It can give a sense of hope and control, and something to do about a serious issue.

Since all emotional issues are on a scale, we can always find any one issue in ourselves if we look.

Sometimes, there may be some truth to the apparent connection.

And, sometimes, someone will work on a specific emotional issue and the apparently corresponding physical issue clears up – for another reason.

What are the potential drawbacks?

We may blame ourselves. For instance for the emotional issue or for being unable to change it.

We may put time and energy into resolving an emotional issue that has little or nothing to do with the physical illness. (This, in itself, is not a bad thing if it doesn’t take away from other approaches.)

In the worst case, we may neglect other approaches that could be more effective.

What seems more accurate?

First, reason and experience suggest that a one-to-one correspondence between specific emotional issues and physical illnesses is overly simplistic. Life is more complex and varied than that.

At the same time, it seems clear the emotional issues can create physical weaknesses and susceptibility to physical illness. For instance, in a general sense, we know that’s true for stress or feeling lonely.

And sometimes, a specific emotional issue may indeed be connected to a physical illness. It may be one piece of the healing process puzzle. Other times, there may be little or no connection.

So what may be a more reasoned approach?

In general, it’s good to take a holistic approach.

What can mainstream medicine do? What can other – perhaps more leading-edge – medical specialists do?

What can we change in diet, environment, or activity to support healing? How can we change our life to support healing, including finding social support, more sense of meaning, and reducing stress?

And, yes, does there seem to be an emotional issue behind the physical illness, and what happens if we find healing for it? (Vortex Healing is the approach I have found that seems to best do both of those.)

As usual, there is most likely some grain of truth to the emotional issue – physical illness correspondence, at least to some extent and in some cases. And it’s good to take a whole picture and more grounded approach. Note: I know I have taken a devil’s advocate approach here. In reality, most people will look up what books etc. suggest about what emotional issue is behind their physical illness, take it with a grain of salt, check in with themselves to see if it seems likely, do something to find healing for it if yes, and still do whatever else they would do to find healing for their physical illness. It’s just one of many components, and for most people not even the most important one. Read More