Happiness

 

Some forms and flavors of happiness….

Pleasure and enjoyment. Pleasure in sun, beauty, food, friendship, touch, etc. This has obvious evolutionary roots. We need food to survive, so find pleasure in good food. We need friendship and social connections to survive and thrive, so find pleasure in friendships. And so on. This is also a form of happiness in meeting goals, in having life align with simple shoulds, hopes, and expectations. The sense of happiness tends to be immediate and fleeting, although still very enjoyable and an important part of our everyday life.

Meaning and engagement. We can find a sense of meaning in many ways, perhaps most often through a sense of connection with something larger than ourselves. We can have a sense of meaning and purpose in existence itself, and in our own existence. A sense of belonging, of connection with a larger social, ecological, and cosmic whole. And a sense of meaning and purpose in our personal life through relationships, activities, work, study, engagement, and more.

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Ripple effects

 

We usually have an idea of some effects of some of our actions, mostly on those in our daily life. But we rarely know the ripple effects, including the indirect ones on people we have never met. To be honest, I probably don’t know most of the effects on people in my daily life.

Just as anything I do seem to have infinite causes, anything I do have infinite effects. And I am only aware of a tiny fraction of both.

I occasionally hear from people who changed something in their life because of something I said or did, and it is always touching to me. Sometimes, it is small. And sometimes, it is something bigger. (I recently met someone, by chance, who I had talked with briefly a few years back and had made a major life decision based on it, completely unexpectedly from my side.)

We never know the effects of what we do, which is why it is so important to engage in life even with small contributions. Maybe just a friendly interaction, or a sharing of information or something that has worked in our own life.

As Gandhi said, whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.

Of course, we never know the effects of what we do, and can never control it. Something well meaning can have undesirable effects, in a conventional view, and something that comes from reactivity and confusion may turn out to be of great benefit.

If that was the whole story, it wouldn’t matter what we did.

But even from a conventional view, it matters. Well intentioned actions are certainly more likely to benefit than those which are not.

And looking a little deeper, we see that the way we relate to the wider world reflects how we relate to ourselves. When my heart is open and my life engaged, it is so towards others and myself. Whatever the effects of my actions on the wider world, these actions benefit and nurture me in that – very important – way.

So I can realize that I will never know most of the effects of my actions. That each action has infinite causes, so there is nothing personal there in that sense. That acting with an open heart is more likely to benefit others in a conventional way. That no matter what the effects, I don’t know what the outcome really is, even in a conventional way. (As the Chinese story of the man and the horse illustrates.) That acting from an open heart benefits myself in an immediate way. And that I can always learn from my experiences and feedback from the world on my actions.

It all goes together, and I can explore each one more in depth, making it more alive for me.

Wisdom

 

There are many ways to define or talk about wisdom, each one revealing our own personal bias on what is important in our human life.

One way to define it is that wisdom happens when head (view, insight), belly (felt-sensed nurturing fullness), heart (love), and action (skillful means) come together.

Or said another way, it happens when there is receptivity and engagement at each center.

At the head center, there is receptivity to the truth in the reversals of any view and perspective, there is engagement in actively exploring these, and the freedom to use any one of these more actively in a situation.

At the belly center, there is a receptivity which allows for a sense of nurturing fullness. The emotional level goes from reactivity to a stable sense of nurturing fullness, and of trust.

At the heart center, there is receptivity to all of existence, however it shows up. Our heart stays open, or at least can be invited to open.

And our actions reflect skillful means, from experience and brought forth by the receptivity at the three centers, engagement in situations, and the freedom to stay engaged without getting blindly caught up in whatever happens.

Of course, this all gets hopelessly abstract to the point of being pretty useless. But there is a real experience behind all of it, and each of these points can be explored in more detail so they come more alive for us. We can find it in our own life, even if it is only a tendency and not caricatured and full-blown as described here.

When I look at my view, I can find many times there were rigidity there, and with a rigidity of view – attaching to one particular view as true and denying the truth in its reversals – there is not much wisdom. If my view is more fluid, and I actively explore the grain of truth in each reversal, there is sometimes a sense of wisdom, especially if the heart is included, and even more so if there is a sense of nurturing fullness, and it all is reflected in actions.

Looking at my heart, again I see that when my heart is closed, there is not much wisdom available to me. I act from habits at best, and more likely also from reactivity. But if my heart is open to life – to myself and others involved – there is sometimes a sense of wisdom there, especially if the view is included, and even more so if the nurturing fullness and actions are there as well.

In terms of the emotions, I find that when there is reactivity there, there is most often reactivity in view as well, and my heart is closed off. None of those allows much wisdom to be present. But if there is a stable nurturing fullness there, this fullness and the sense of trust that comes with it allows for receptivity at the other centers. My view can be more fluid, my heart more open, my actions more receptive to and engaged with the situation.

The same with my actions as these reflect what is going on at the three centers. If my view is receptive and fluid, my heart open, my emotions nurturing, and this comes out through actions informed by experience and whatever skillful means available to me, there may be some wisdom reflected there as well.

Of course, wisdom is relative to where we are at in terms of insight, receptivity of heart, nurturing fullness, and experience. It reflects how healed, mature, and developed this human self is. Sometimes, we act from less wisdom than what is available to us, and other times – when these centers are more receptive and engaged – we can act more from whatever wisdom is available to us, wherever we are in terms of healing, maturing and development.

We can always go further. Whatever we do, there is always room for improvement. And I guess that is another aspect of wisdom: acknowledging that we are acting from a limited insight and set of experiences, and looking out for feedback to learn from. Here too, in terms of learning from our actions, there is receptivity, engagement and freedom of the three centers.

Difference between allowing and actively embrace

 

To continue the exploration of the difference between allowing and actively embrace…

When there is a disidentification with stories and identities, there is also an allowing of what is, as it is. So if there is a disidentification with all stories and identities, there is also a full allowing of anything happening here and now, including this human self and the wider world. It is all recognized as awakeness manifesting as form. And this is the traditional awakening, it is Big Mind awakening to itself.

Beyond this, it is possible for this human self to actively explore itself and embrace itself in its evolving fullness. It can actively explore and own its different voices and subpersonalities, become familiar with and live from a wider repertoire of qualities and ways of being in the world, and find a new fluidity among a wide and unlimited range of identities and roles in the world. All of this allows this human self to heal, mature and develop in a more active way, beyond what it would do (or not) if there was not this active exploration and familiarization.

It is a different way of participating in the development of this human self, and through this and in a small way to actively participate in the evolution of our culture and the even wider whole.

And it is also a way to develop skillful means. If Big Mind is awake to itself, then the human self it functions through is its main – and really only – skillful means. So actively engage in its healing, maturing and development only makes sense.

Disidentification from beliefs, fully allowing it all, and actively embrace the fullness of our human self

 

Whenever I use the word disidentification there is a part of me that cringe, because I know it can sound very different from how it is meant.

It can easily sound aloof, distant, transcendent, and all the other words that -rightly so – have associations of escape.

But the reality of it is very different.

The reality of it is that identification – with beliefs, identities, this human self and anything else – automatically creates resistance and ambivalence. We identify with certain beliefs and identities, and anything that does not fit this, whether it happens in this human self or the wider world, is resisted. We cannot help it. There is a great deal of ambivalence about our human self and the wider world, which creates drama, stress, escape, clinging, and resistance. We are part of it, yet also don’t want to be. We appreciate some of it, and want something else to go away. We disown parts of our self and what it means to be a human, and we build cases for how life should be different.

And a disidentification with this – with beliefs and identities and all that comes with it – is an allowing of it all. It is a wide embrace of who we are as a human being, and this life, and the world as it shows up. This is what automatically happens through disidentification.

Beyond this full allowing of it all, there is also an invitation for our human self to actively embrace all of what it is, to actively explore and own all its different parts and voices and subpersonalities. To actively live and become familiar with itself as it is mirrored in everyone else and everything in the wider world. To find a fluidity among a wide range of identities without getting caught up in blind identification with any of them. To engage with a much wider repertoire of ways of being in the world.

Far from being aloof, distant, unengaged, one-dimensional, or living up to any shoulds or identities, a disidentification with beliefs and identities allows and invites for an active embrace and living of all of what this human self is and matures into.

This does not automatically happen, but the invitation is there. And whether or not this invitation is taken depends on the interest and impulses of this human self, and it is really OK either way.

Although I have to say, emphasizing the active embrace of our human self is a juicy addition. Without it, there is just the automatic and passive allowing of whatever happens to manifest. With it, there is an active engagement, exploration and living of always more of the wholeness of this human self, and its unfolding development.

It is more fun. And just in terms of skillful means, it also makes sense. In our culture, the juicy engagement and embrace of all of what we are is more attractive to many of us than the traditional emphasis on transcending and escape. Why escape? This life may be messy, but it is what is here so why not actively embrace it beyond a passive allowing?

Emptying out

 

I notice that there is more emptying out going on… and it is all an emptying out of identifications with thoughts. And in the process, for a while, there is very little engagement with those thoughts, which is reflected here in very little references to what other writes about, the aqal framework, Buddhist philosophy and so on. What is left is only what is alive here now, and the thoughts needed to reflect them.

It is just one phase, and in general, if it all empties out, then it fills up again, and where there was an attachment to and identification with thought, there is now a free play with and explorations of these thoughts. There is a freedom to explore them without identification. (But what happens in this case is of course still in the future, and itself only a thought.)

It is a funny thing, how the process of disidentification with a story sometimes goes along with a temporary reduced engagement with the story itself and maybe even the object of the story. I guess stepping away from the story, and sometimes its object, allows for an easier disidentification with it. And when it has been released, there is the freedom of engagement again.

For me, one of the stories that is being let go of is exactly this: that a process of letting go of identifications with stories does not need to involve letting go of the stories or the object of the stories. That too is just a belief, a temporary preference of this personality. Sometimes, that letting go of the stories themselves, and even the objects of them, seems to happen whether my personality wants it or not.

Differentiating resistance: to experiene, and the French

 

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This is something that is (I assume) clear to folks who have done some meditation practice, and (apparently) can be confusing to those outside looking in.

I just read an anthology of essays by and interviews with the Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss, where an interviewer refer to Zen as a philosophy of no-doing, which he (strangely enough) took to mean never getting involved in any sort of social action, and also watched a movie involving the French resistance, and the combination of the two brought it up.

When there is a reference to allowing in a meditation context, it means allowing experience… not resisting experience (including the resistance itself!) This is very different from allowing and not resisting circumstances in the world, such as social injustice and violence against living beings.

The two go perfectly well together. The Germans invade France, maybe kill or torture friends and family, and great sadness and anger may come up, and I can fully allow those experiences. To resist these experiences creates drama and suffering. To not resist them allows for clarity and a sense of ease, even in the midst of the intensity of the experiences and the situation.

What arises may also involve active resistance to the situation that is going on, including actively resisting the German invasion in different ways. In fact, not resisting experience is likely to allow strong empathy to emerge, within more clarity and less drama, which in turn translates to more effective actions in the world.

So there is a big difference between resistance to experience, which only creates suffering for myself, and active resistance to and engagement with circumstances, which may arise from compassion and clarity.

The two aspects and three centers of One Taste

 

The two main aspects of One Taste, and the three centers…

Awake emptiness and form

The ultimate one is Spirit awakening to itself. The field of awake emptiness and form, awakening to itself as a field, absent of I anywhere, with a center nowhere and everywhere. Everything arises as Spirit, as awake emptiness and form, as Big Mind, Brahman, The One.

There is typically an intuition of this, maybe a taste or a glimpse, a deepening intuition and sense of it, more tastes and glimpses, all of it allowing our human self to reorganize to this new context, and then it eventually pops and stabilizes.

And as with the other forms of One Taste, described below, this one too seems to have three centers: seeing, feeling and heart. There is a seeing of it all as Spirit, centered in the head, a feeling of it all as Spirit, centered in the belly, and a loving of it all as Spirit, centered in the heart.

The seeing allows the view and cognition of our human self to reorganize to all as Spirit, the feeling allows its emotions to reorganize to all as Spirit, the loving allows the heart to reorganize to all as Spirit. It is Spirit seeing itself, feeling itself, and loving itself.

The world as a mirror for our human self

The other aspect of One Taste is the world as a mirror for our human self.

Whatever I see in the wider world, is also here in this human self, and the other way around, whatever I see in this human self is also out there in the wider world, somewhere, at least as a potential. Any quality, any characteristic, any skills.

As with One Taste of all as Spirit, this one has three centers.

There is the seeing, feeling and loving of what is out there as also right here, and the other way around.

And this one too involves a deepening into it, an increased familiarity with it, an active engagement with it. Specifically, it involves making the qualities seen out there known, intimately familiar, as a lived reality in this human self. It is not only something seen out there and merely recognized in here, but it is a lived reality right here, something that is actively explored, known, lived, in always deeper and richer ways. It becomes part of the active repertoire of this human self.

Other aspects and examples of One Taste

Then there are some other aspects and examples of One Taste.

One, which is implicit in the two other ones, is the heart. The One Taste of the heart, open to all of the infinite forms of Spirit. It is a whole heart, wholeheartedly embracing whatever arises. It is all loved as Spirit, independent of its particular form. It is Spirit loving itself.

And then there are other ones, such as the ones found in Buddhism where we remind ourselves that all beings seek happiness and release from suffering. We are not different there. We are in the same boat. And the practice of refuge in Tibetan Buddhism, where we visualize all beings taking refuge in the Buddha Mind, as we ourselves do.

Free Will II – a difference between realizing and believing in ideas

 

There is of course a big difference between realizing and believing in the complementarity of the freedom of awake emptiness, and the absence of I and free will in the world of form – in our case, as a human being.

Realizing absence of freedom

Realizing it is Spirit awakening to itself as awake emptiness and form, inherently absent of I anywhere – and as a whole as an I. This is liberation. It is a liberation from an exclusive identity as a segment of this field, it is a liberation from seeing this human self and its actions as an I, it is a liberation for this human self from having a sense of I placed on top of it.

Believing in absence of freedom

Believing in it, just attaching to ideas about it, is quite different. This happens when there is still very much a sense of I there, placed on the local causality of this human self such as thoughts, decisions and actions. It is still taken and experienced as an I, yet there is a belief in infinite causes, in an absence of free will in this human self, maybe in an absence of I.

And this can take different forms.

Believing, yet still acting as if there is free will

One, and the more healthy variation, is to take it as a spur to practice, to explore this, is it really true? Can I find it in my own experience? Are there really infinite causes to anything I think, do, and experience? Is there an absence of I in this human self?

In exploring this, we take our experience seriously in two ways.

First, we take our findings seriously. We explore seriously, in detail, over and over, and take what we find seriously. We explore the implications of what we find, we feel into what it would mean to live more fully from it.

And, equally important, we take our current experience seriously in the context of our daily life. If there is still a sense of an I here in daily life, then I live from that as before. I take responsibility for my actions. I sincerely try to make the most informed and compassionate choices. I live as if I have a free will, because it seems I do.

Even if we don’t explore it further, it is a good thing to act as if we have free will. It does help in making our lives easier on us and others.

Yet, this too, this acting as if we have free will, is the local expressions of the movements of the whole. This too has infinite causes. This too is inherently absent of an I and free will. It may be good to realize that, but also keep it in the background. Acting as if there is free will is in the foreground, realizing that this too is absent of free will, that this too is grace, can go in the background.

Believing, and making wrong conclusions

The other, less healthy, way, is to take a nihilistic approach and abandon any sense of responsibility. Of course, what we are really doing here is to first attach to a belief of an absence of free will, and then attach to an idea that this means nihilism and abandoning responsibility. This is miles away from what happens in a real awakening, when there is a real realization.

How it unfolds when realized

In a real realization, this human self continues to operate much as before. It still explores options and alternatives. It still tries to make informed and compassionate decisions. It is still very much active and engaged in the world. If anything, there is more of an incentive to making informed decisions, to live from compassion, and to be engaged in the world.

The only difference is that now, there is no sense of an I there anymore. There are thoughts, choices and actions, yet no I there anywhere. It is just an expression of awake emptiness and form, as anything else happening.

There is very much doing, but no doer anymore.

Grace, and also planting seeds

All of this, believing naively there is free will, taking on a nihilistic attitude, Spirit awakening to itself, all of this is also absent of any I or free will. It is the local expressions of the movements of the whole, it is Spirit expressing, exploring and experiencing itself in various ways. It is all God’s will. It is all Grace.

At the same time, there is a planting of seeds in the world of form that allows these things to happen and unfold. There is a planting of a seed that spurs someone to explore for themselves, and some guidelines for how to do it. There is a set-up that brings someone into cynicism and nihilism when they read something like this. There is the infinite causes coming together so that someone still acts as if there is free will, even if he realizes, to some extent, that it cannot be.

Anything happening in and through us has infinite causes, and we can plant seeds for ourselves and others. We can plant seeds for happiness, release from suffering and awakening. And we can plant seeds for misery. We do both.

And both are themselves the fruits of infinite causes.

But here too, it is a good idea to act as if there is free will.

And around and around it goes, until Spirit awakens to itself.

The mutuality of emptiness and form

 

This came up again when I read a quote by Jnaneshvar:

Unity becomes strengthened by the expansion of diversity.

The more emptiness is realized, the more we can wholeheartedly engage in form, and the more we wholeheartedly engage in form, the more we need and are invited to realize emptiness.

Emptiness is the awake emptiness that is here now, reading these words. Timeless. Unchangeable. Unstained. Always already. Distinct from form, yet also arising as form.

And form is the world of form, and in our case, specifically this human self and its wider world.

Identified as this human self, and resistance

When this field of seeing and seen, of awake emptiness and form, takes itself as a segment of itself, there is immediately resistance.

It identifies as this human self, there is a sense of I and Other, there is a sense of an exclusive and comprehensive identity, and there is something to push away and something to hold onto.

There are experiences, people, places and situations to hold onto, and there are experiences, people, places and situations to push away. In short, there is resistance – to what is, to what may be.

There is drama, confusion, and resistance.

And with resistance, there is a holding back, or a pushing forward.

I hold back from engaging, from experiencing. I try to distract myself, change the situation, modify my experience. I am ambivalent. Half-hearted.

Or I push forward, I push into situation, into experiences, into the world. Which is just another way of resisting.

Field awakening to itself, realizing emptiness and allowing engagement in form

If this field of emptiness, awakeness and form awakens to itself as this field, absent of I anywhere, it all changes.

Now, there is a realization of being awake emptiness, inherently free from the world of form, unharmed by it. Always here, timeless.

There is also the realization of being form, not just this human self but all form, this whole seamless field of form. Anything arising is this field itself. It is just another expression of this same field.

And there is the realization that awake emptiness arises as this field of form. Form arises within, to and as this awake emptiness. They are not two, although they can be discerned as two.

So in that sense, there is full engagement in the world of form since the field realizies it is not separate from form. It is awake emptiness and form. It is beyond full engagement. It is it.

At the same time, and more interesting here, is what happens for this human self. It is realized as having no inherent I. It is just an aspect of this field of awake emptiness and form, which has no I in it anywhere (or we could say it as a whole is an I).

This means that there is no longer anything to resist. With the absence of I and Other, there is also absence of resistance. It falls away.

And this allows for a more wholehearted engagement in the world of form for this human self. It can more wholeheartedly engage with its experiences, and it can more wholeheartedly engage with the wider world.

With no resistance, a more full and wholehearted engagement, all around.

Mutuality of emptiness and form

So the more fully emptiness is realized, the more wholehearted our engagement in the world of form can be. And a more wholehearted engagement requires and invites a more full realization of emptiness.

Engagement without realizing emptiness is painful. The only solution is realizing emptiness, and when emptiness is first tasted, a more full engagement – and the tastes of pain that comes from not fully realizing form as also emptiness, invites and encourages us to more fully realize emptiness, and form as emptiness.

The two go hand in hand. They are two sides of the same coin. They mutually invite and encourage each other.

Heart Centered Practice: Fullness, engagement and embodiment

 

I used to focus on heart centered practices – mainly the heart prayer, Christ meditation (visualizing Christ in the heart and about 5 feet away in all six directions), and gratitude (for everything happening, through for instance repeating the word “thanks” as a mantra) – and it seems that they are slowly coming back. There is a quite different embodiment that comes from heart-centered practices, a different sense of engagement in the world.

There are many ways of talking about this, and I am only scratching the surface here as with everything else (and am obviously far behind many others who have explored this).

Where inquiry and basic sitting practice gives insight and clarity, heart-centeredness gives engagement. The first is a zero/first person relationship with God, and the second a second person relationship with God. One gives the context, the other the content. One gives clarity and space, the other fullness and richness. One gives equanimity, the other joy, gratitude and compassion.

And both seem needed, at least in my case.

There is a continuing deepening into the heart and living from the heart possible, before and after a nondual awakening.