The essence of spirituality doesn’t require anything esoteric

 

There are many ideas about spirituality in our culture. Some see it as a refuge or something that will save them. Some see it as escapism, fantasies, and avoidance. Some see reaching the “goals” of spirituality as only for special people. In some situations, and in some ways, there is some truth to each of these.

And yet, the core of spirituality is pragmatic and secular. We don’t need to take anyones word for it. We don’t need to assume anything about the nature of existence. We don’t need to leave it to someone else. We can try it out for ourselves.

So what is this secular and pragmatic core of spirituality?

It takes two forms. One is the many effects of spiritual practices on our human life. The other is finding what we already are.

I have written articles about both so I’ll just give a brief summary here.

Finding what we are

This isn’t dependent on any philosophy or particular worldview. It’s just dependent on noticing what we already are to ourselves.

Even logically, we see that – to ourselves – we must be consciousness.

Consciousness is what’s aware of any experience at all, so that’s what we are to ourselves. Any sense of being something happens within and as this consciousness, any experience of anything at all happens within and as this consciousness. Even the idea of consciousness, the mental images and associations we have about it, happens within and as consciousness.

And we can find this for ourselves. Consciousness can notice itself as, to itself, all there is. We can find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us. We can find ourselves as what the world, as it appears to us, happens within and as.

Our habitual identification is typically with this human self which appears within and as what we are. This is a kind of “trance” as many have pointed out, and is self-perpetuating unless something comes in to help us notice what we already are, or – more accurately – help what we are notice itself.

The most effective approach to notice what we are may be inquiry (headless experiments, Big Mind process). The most effective approach to stabilize this may be a combination of inquiry and basic meditation (notice + allow). The most effective approach to live from this includes heart-centered practices (tonglen, ho’oponopno) and regular emotional healing work. And training a more stable attention helps all of this and our life in general.

Is this the awakening spiritual traditions talks about? Yes, as far as I can tell it is. It’s what we are noticing itself, and noticing itself as all its experiences. It’s oneness. It’s a waking up from the trance of being this one separate self happening within and as what we are. It’s a noticing that what we are is love. After all, oneness noticing itself is expressed as love.

Helping who we are

Traditional spiritual practices, and modern versions of these, can also help us at a human level.

Training a more stable attention supports just about any activity in our life and our general well-being.

Basic meditation – notice and allow what’s here, and notice it’s already noticed and allowed – helps us release out of struggling with what’s here, our experience as it is.

Basic inquiry – finding ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us – also helps release us out of struggling with what is. It brings a lighter touch. It creates a space for us to act a little more from clarity and kindness.

Heart-centered practices helps us reorient in how we relate to ourselves, others, situations, and life in general. It helps shift us out of a struggle orientation to befriending what’s here. And this, in turn, helps our well being and allows us to act more from clarity.

The essence of spirituality doesn’t require anything esoteric

To me, this is the essence of spirituality, and it doesn’t require anything esoteric. It doesn’t require us to believe anything or go outside of our own experience. On the contrary, if we want to take it as far as it goes, it requires us to be ruthlessly honest about our own experience and find what’s already here.

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Aspects of what we are: exploring and using them as medicine

 

There are many aspects to what we are as Big Mind or whatever else we want to call it. And there are many aspects to who we are as this human self. So why not explore it?

Space may be the final frontier, but this is the ultimate frontier and it’s much closer to home. It’s something we can explore here and now, and it just requires some motivation and guidance.

Aspects of what I am

When I look, I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am capacity for any content of experience – this human self, the wider world, any sense of doer or observer, any insights, any noticing, even awareness. Capacity allows it all.

I am also awakeness. Not any special awakeness but this ordinary awakeness that’s here for all of us. The awakeness that’s inherent in awareness, consciousness, and noticing or experiencing anything at all.

As this oneness, what I am is also love. Not the love that is or is dependent on a feeling, but the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

What I am is also all of it. Any content of experience happen within and as what I am. There is no inherent boundary. There is no inherent other.

What I am includes this human self and the wider world as it appears to me.

I can continue to find aspects or flavors of what I am, although this depends a bit on culture and orientation and what we look for. For instance, I can find (what we can call) feminine and masculine aspects, dark and light, and so on.

Aspects of who I am

As who I am, the world mirrors me. Whatever I see out there – in others and the world in general – reflects parts of who I am. My inner world is as rich as the outer.

Identities come in polarities and although we often identify more with one end of any one polarity than the other, we have both in us. Both are already here. And both are here as potentials that can unfold and be further embraced and brought into our life.

Unintentionally identifying with some aspects

We typically unintentionally identify with one or a set of aspects of what and who we are.

Many identify as a particular human being and overlook what they are (capacity, Big Mind) and also all the sides of themselves they see in others but not in themselves. This is the typical human condition and there is nothing wrong with it, but there is a lot more to who and what we are.

After having a glimpse of what we are, and early on in the process of getting to know what we are, some may identify more with some aspect of Big Mind – capacity, awakeness, or something similar. Or as it often is, we identify with some ideas about this. In Zen, they sometimes refer to this as being “stuck in the absolute”. It may feel safer than the scary messiness of being a traumatized human. And it’s also a way to become more familiar with what we are and get used to it. It’s a natural part of the process for many and perhaps most of us.

In the awakening process, there is usually still identifications of different types. We may be identified with ideas about what we are, as mentioned above, and also ideas about who we are as a human in the world. Noticing and exploring this, gradually include more of what and who we are, and find a bit more freedom around this, is an ongoing process. It is the exploration of a lifetime. (And if there are several, then several!)

Intentionally emphasizing aspects as medicine

This is all a part of our exploration of ourselves, or life or the divine exploring itself.

At some point, we may discover that we can intentionally explore and emphasize aspects of who and what we are and this can support our healing, maturing, awakening, and embodiment. We can get more familiar with some aspects and bring them more into our life.

We can use them as medicine for specific conditions.

For instance, if we are used to identifying as this human self, why not exploring finding ourselves as Big Mind?

If we are one-sidedly identified with (ideas about) Big Mind, why not also embrace being a human being in the world?

If we are used identify with (ideas about) what’s closer to the “absolute” – capacity, awakeness, observer – why not also include all that’s happening within and as what we are? (The world as it appears to us.)

If we are used to identify with one particular human identity, why not explore the reverse? Why not find it in ourselves? Why not find how it’s already in our life? Why not embrace it more fully?

This helps us unstick from any particular identifications, and it also helps us explore and embrace more of who and what we are.

How can we intentionally explore aspects of who and what we are?

There are innumerable approaches. I like a combination of dialog and parts work (Big Mind process), inquiry (Headless experiments, Big Mind process, Living Inquiries, The Work), energy work (Vortex Healing), and I also love Process Work (Jungian and shamanic) for these type of explorations.

And, of course, the real work and exploration is in our life today and now.

Organic process and intentional exploration

These shifts into exploring different sides of who and what we are is an organic process. It happens naturally in our human life, and it also happens naturally in an awakening and embodiment process.

An intentional exploration of these sides of us complements this organic process. It can clarify it for us, help us explore things more in detail, and it can give us a map that helps us orient and understand the overall process a little better.

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The role of intellectual honesty in spirituality

 

For me, intellectual honesty seems an intrinsic part of spirituality. After all, spirituality is an exploration of reality, and intellectual honesty guides and supports that process.

This is another large topic perhaps better suited for a book, but I’ll say a few words about it.

Intellectual honesty is intellectual honesty no matter what the topic is. In general, there seems to be some universals to it and some universal findings. And there may also be some universal findings when it comes to spirituality.

How does intellectual honesty look for me in general?

I don’t know anything for certain.

Thoughts are questions about reality.

Thoughts help me orient and function in the world. They can be more or less valid in a conventional sense, and it’s not their function to give any final or absolute truth.

Life is ultimately a mystery, including what we think we understand or know something about.

How does intellectual honesty look for me when applied to psychology?

The world is my mirror.

(a) My mental overlay of the world creates all the maps, separation lines, labels, interpretations and so on that I operate from as a human being in the world. Anything I can put into words or images is just that, my own words and images. It’s not inherent in the world.

(b) Also, what I see “out there” reflects dynamics and characteristics in myself. Whatever I can put into words about someone or something else also applies to me. When I look, I can find specific examples of how it applies to me.

I am my own final authority. I cannot give it away, no matter how much I try.

I operate from a wide range of underlying assumptions. It’s good to bring these to awareness, as far as I can, and question them.

How does intellectual honesty look for me when applied to spirituality?

Awakening can be understood in a small and psychological or big and spiritual way. In both cases, it’s about what we are noticing itself and then living this human life in that context. We are capacity for the world as it appears to us. Any content of experience happens within and as what we are.

In the small interpretation, we say that this is MY or perhaps OUR nature. In the big interpretation, we go one step further and say it’s the nature of EVERYTHING.

What we can say for certain is that it seems to be our nature. And although saying it’s the nature of everything is a leap, there are some hints that this may be the case. (I have written more about this in other articles.)

What are the benefits of intellectual honesty?

It helps us stay honest, on track, and grounded. And it helps us avoid detours created by wishful or fearful thinking. (Although these detours become part of our path and have their own function.) It helps us – individually and collectively – to make better decisions.

Why is intellectual honesty important in spirituality?

I have mentioned a few things about this above.

Spirituality is about reality. It’s about noticing what we already are and living from it. It’s about seeing through our assumptions about ourselves and the world. And in that process, intellectual honesty is invaluable and essential. It keeps us on track. It helps us see through what’s not aligned with reality.

Can intellectual honesty be learned or trained?

Yes, absolutely, although it does require readiness and willingness. We can learn about cognitive bias, logical fallacies, and so on, and learn to recognize them in our own thinking. There is always more work to do in these areas for all of us, and especially in recognizing it in ourselves.

Does intellectual honesty preclude trust, devotion, or poetic expression?

Not at all.

I can trust an approach or a guide, at least for a while and to some extent.

I can engage in devotion and devotional practices towards the divine.

I can enjoy poetic expressions and even engage in my own.

Are the examples above all there is to it?

No, these are just some examples that come to mind. There are a lot more out there and variations and clarifications of these. And probably a lot I am not aware of and won’t be aware of in this lifetime.

Are the examples above examples universal?

They do not represent any final or absolute truth, although it seems that many of these are relatively universal. And it’s always possible to go further with each one of these and other insights and pointers.

The examples I gave above apply to the part of the terrain of reality I am exploring. If we explore other parts of the terrain, there will be some other ones that applies specifically to that terrain. For instance, if we see ourselves as a more conventional Christian, we may chose to “believe” something while also admitting we don’t know.

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Adyashanti: our greatest emphasis should be on our actual spiritual practice

 

Far and away our greatest emphasis should be on our actual spiritual practice – committed time to abiding in the stillness and silence of our being. Nothing can take the place of this.

– Adyashanti

Dedicated time for basic meditation is a kind of laboratory. We get to explore notice and allow, and finding ourselves as capacity for our experiences.

We may notice how attention sometimes gets absorbed into thoughts with a charge on them, making them seem true and important. We may notice that any sense of an I or me or observer or doer happens within and as what we are, as any other experience.

We may notice that our experiences are already noticed by awakeness and what we are, even if our attention is somewhere else. We may notice that our experience is already allowed, even if our attention is caught in thoughts struggling with it.

And this noticing and laboratory work makes it easier to bring this noticing into daily life and daily life activities. It can become a noticing through our activities.

Sometimes, it will go more in the background, especially if our activities requires our attention. Sometimes, it may go more into the foreground. Sometimes, it may even be “forgotten” if our attention gets caught into the drama of our issues.

Through it all is the inherent noticing and allowing as what we are. And our laboratory work allows us to notice that consciously more often.

Any other forms of spiritual explorations are a support for this, whether it’s inquiry, heart-centered practices, body-inclusive practices, or anything else.

As Adyashanti suggests, the most important thing is to notice what we are and keep clarifying this and bringing the noticing into our daily life.

Charities show us where society has failed

 

Charities are mirrors. They shouldn’t exist in a healthy and functioning society.

The amount of charitable and non-profit organizations that are established to serve the underserved is a direct reflection on the brokenness of a society. […]

Find out what local and global legitimate charities exist, and we will know where the current system is failing us. There are other ways the system has to change but we can use charities as one index for what to get on the next ballot for change.

– my friend MB on social media

When I first came to the US, I was shocked to see that charities were trying to pick up the pieces of a failed society. They were doing a job, in a fragmented and piecemeal fashion, that wouldn’t be needed in a well functioning society. And they were trying to do a job that, if needed, should be done by us collectively, through governance and government.

And that’s what we see globally as well. Why do we have charities and NGOs working on poverty, clean water, hunger, basic medical care, animal rights, sustainability, and so on? Because we – collectively – through governance, have failed to take care of it.

Noticing our issues as who and what we are, and a flavor of the divine

 

During the third phase of the awakening phase mention in the previous article, the parts of our human self still operating from separation consciousness come to the surface to join in with the awakening.

Said that way, it perhaps sounds gentle and simple, but it can experienced as anything but. These parts of us often have a lot of pain in them, and when they surface that pain can fill our consciousness for a while.

The essence is to notice, see, feel, listen to, get to know, befriend, and find love for these suffering parts of us. To notice them as part of who we are as a human being. To notice them as what we are – as happening within and as us along with any other experience.

To see that they were created to protect us, often early in life, and came from an impulse to take care of us. To see that they, in that sense, come from and are an expression of love.

One of the pointers I find especially helpful for me right now is to notice it as a flavor of the divine.

There are also many more structured approaches that can help us in this process. They function as training wheels until we get a better hang of it on our own, and they can also help us discover new things at any point in the process.

Tonglen, Ho’oponopono, metta and more help us reorient towards these bubbles of suffering in us.

Living Inquiry and The Work of Byron Katie can help us identify and question painful beliefs and identities, including the more basic ones we may not have been aware of.

The Big Mind process and Voice Dialog can help us dialog with these parts of us, see how they function in relation to us and other parts, and get to know them better.

Headless experiments and the Big Mind process can help us recognize that they too are what we are, and they happen within and as what we are – and even that they are love.

Energy work – like Vortex healing – can help heal our relationship with these parts of us, and invite these parts of us themselves to heal.

And so on.

In addition, it helps to nurture what’s nurturing in our life – a good diet, good sleep, good friendships, nature, being gentle and kind with ourselves and these parts of us, finding others in the same process, finding support from others who have gone through it themselves, and so on.

The One experiencing itself as many

 

Through noticing what’s here in immediacy, we can find a few things….

We may notice that the One experiences itself as many.

No-thing experiences itself as something.

Consciousness experiences itself as matter.

And sometimes….

The One experiences itself as separation.

Love as not-love.

Clarity as confusion.

It can help to use a more structured form of inquiry to notice this, for instance Headless experiments, the Big Mind process, Living Inquiries, or The Work of Byron Katie.

This is all what we can notice for ourselves here and now.

COSMOLOGY

And we can also see it in the universe as a whole. We can make it into a cosmology. (After all, any cosmology mirror us here and now.)

Existence is oneness experiencing itself as many. No-thing as something. Consciousness as matter.

And sometimes – locally and through us and other beings – oneness experiencing itself as separation, love as not-love, clarity as confusion.

MORE DETAIL

There is easily one or several books worth of material here if we want to go into more detail. I’ll just say a few words.

I find that I am capacity for the world as it appears to me – including this human self and any me or I or observer or doer. That’s the oneness. It all happens within and as what the mind may label consciousness. Within this oneness is immense diversity. The world is many. (It’s an overlay of thought that divides the world up in this way, and it’s a very useful function of thought.)

I find that no-thing experiences itself as something. What I am is no-thing full of the world as it appears to me. No-thing full of somethings. (Again, the somethings are separated from each other through an overlay of thought.)

Similarly, consciousness experiences itself as matter. What I am – and I assume what you are to yourself – can be labeled consciousness. The world as it appears to me happens within and as consciousness. And when thoughts label some things in the world matter, and sensations come in to lend a sense of substance to those thoughts, then consciousness experiences itself as matter.

Also, when these dividing lines created by thoughts – often in the form of mental images – are held as true, there is an experience of separation. So the One experiences itself as separate, as an I here and others out there.

When thoughts are held as true, the mind can tell itself that this human has been wronged, is a victim, and so on. And then love – which is another word for oneness – experiences itself as not-love.

And when the mind takes thoughts as true, clarity – which is yet another word for oneness – can experience itself as confusion.

STRUCTURED FORMS OF INQUIRY

We can all (?) find this for ourselves, and structured forms of noticing – AKA inquiry – can help here.

Headless experiments can help us find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us – including anything connected with this human self and any I or me or observer or doer.

The Big Mind process can help us find ourselves as Big Mind (AKA capacity full of the world), Big Heart, and a variety of other aspects of what and who we are.

Living Inquiry – which is based on traditional Buddhist inquiry – can help us explore in detail how thoughts (words and mental images) combine with sensations to create our experience. Specifically, it’s helpful to notice how the mind associates certain sensations with certain thoughts, and these thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations, and the sensation give the thoughts a sense of substance, reality, and even truth.

The Work of Byron Katie is a great help in exploring thoughts we take as true, and in finding what’s more true for us in our own direct experience.

There are many other forms of inquiry out there as well, which may work as well or better for you. These are just the ones I happen to be familiar with.

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Werner Heisenberg: Only a few know, how much one must know to know how little one knows

 

Only a few know, how much one must know to know how little one knows.

– Werner Heisenberg (1901 – 1976)

In one sense, we don’t need to know much to know how little we know.

We just need to know that our thoughts are questions about the world, educated guesses at most. They are practical tools to help us orient and navigate in the world. Their role is not to give us any final or absolute answers to anything.

And yet, to know that, we often need to wade through a great deal of worldly knowledge. We need to know a lot about different things and see that what we know is a tiny drop in the ocean of all there is to know, and also that what we think we know often isn’t as certain or valid as we thought. Even our most basic assumptions are up for question.

At a social level, this is especially clear when we learn about the history of thought, science, and worldviews, and we see how different it is across cultures and how much all of it changes over time. What we take as a given today – about specifics and our worldview as a whole – will be seen as obsolete by future generations.

There is a shortcut to realizing how litte we know, and that is to examine our thoughts more directly. We can see how our mental “field” creates an overlay of images on the world and makes up what we think we know about ourselves, others, and the world. It’s all created in our own mind. None of it is “out there” inherent in anything. It’s all just questions about the world. None of it contains any final or absolute truth.

If we rely on knowing things to feel safe or loved or good about ourselves, then this can seem distressing. But, in reality, this realization and noticing is immensely freeing.

We get to see thoughts more as they are, and we get to see their role and function and what they can do – which is to provide some provisional and practical orientation and guidance, and what they cannot do – which is to provide any truths or final answers.

That goes for what we collective think we know and understand about the world. It applies to our personal lives and what we think we know about others, situations, and ourselves. And it applies to our most basic assumptions about existence.

Ho’oponopono

 

What is ho’oponopono?

Ho’oponopno comes from an ancient healing practice from Hawaii and other south Pacific islands. It’s a powerful practice that can transform and heal our relationship with ourselves, others, and the world.

In its modern version, it consists of four sentences:

I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.

How can I explore it for myself?

Say the four sentences to anything or anyone you wish to heal your relationship with. Visualize them in front of you. Say it out loud or silently.

(This practice is for yourself so if you are doing it for someone in your life, you don’t need to mention to them that you are doing this.)

You can say it during a time set aside for this, before falling asleep or after waking up, or any time during the day. Repeat several times.

Over time, it can become a continuous and mostly wordless prayer.

You can do it for people in your life, both the ones you like and dislike. For yourself as a whole. For parts of you like physical issues, your body, emotions, emotional issues, or a repeating behavior. For challenging situations, whether they are personal or in the wider world. For Earth as a whole and all life. And for anyone suffering.

It may be easier to first do it for someone in your life you easily like and love, and when you are familiar with the process do it for yourself and anything and anyone else. It can be especially powerful and transformative to do it for anyone suffering and for whatever in your world you dislike or have trouble with.

If you wish, take it as an experiment. Try it and see what happens.

What do I do if I notice resistance?

We may notice some resistance when we do this for someone or something we have a troubled relationship with. It’s natural and part of the process. It shows us that healing is needed and – likely – happening as part of doing ho’o for it.

If the resistance is strong, you can shift and do ho’o for this resistance. When you notice your relationship to the resistance has healed a bit and feels softer, you can go back to what you initially did ho’o for.

What’s the effect?

In my experience, it helps me heal my relationship with whatever I do it for. It feels right. There is a sense of peace. It’s easier to have some understanding for myself and/or the other.

I can still take action when and as needed. I can still act to prevent harm. We don’t need to condone any harmful behavior. It’s about me finding more peace with what is and this helps me take more clear and decisive actions.

It helps me, and it also helps the world. I become less of a nuisance. I may show that there is another way of being. I may act in ways helpful to others.

Ho’o is something I do for myself and the world.

How does ho’oponopno work?

It’s mainly about trying it for ourselves and see what happens. So the question of how it works is perhaps less important but I’ll mention a few things.

It helps me shift into forgiveness and love. It opens that possibility. And that, in itself, is healing.

It helps me heal my relationship with whatever I do it for, and that feels right and healing.

As a human being, the world as it appears to me is a mirror of me. So it makes sense to take responsibility for it all and find healing in how I relate to it.

If I find healing for my relationship to someone or something in the wider world, it tends to heal my relationship to whatever is similar in myself. And the other way around.

As capacity for the world, the world – as it appears to me – happens within and as what I am. So it makes sense to ask for forgiveness when I see suffering and let these parts of my world know I love them.

How do you see ho’oponopno in relation to other practices?

Ho’oponopono is one of several heart-practices – similar to tonglen, metta, heart prayer, and more.

For me, these heart practices are central. They can be profoundly transforming, and they support healing, awakening, embodiment, and being a slightly more helpful part of the world.

How do you use it?

I have gone through periods where I use it a lot through the day and other periods where I use it now and then. When I use it a lot, it tends to become an ongoing and often silent prayer. These days, I tend to use it when I notice I have an unease relationship with someone or something.

It doesn’t mean all my relationships are healed. There is always more. And it certainly doesn’t mean I am perfect, whatever that means. But it does mean that I have a tool that can be very helpful in challenging situations. And it means I am working on a lot of what’s coming up in my life.

The banality of evil and our ecological crisis

 

As Hannah Arendt pointed out, in Nazi Germany, most of the atrocities were committed by good family men who followed orders. They just did what was expected of them. And they didn’t take responsibility to change or pull out of the situation.

The same is the case today in our era of ecological destruction. Most of the destruction is done by people just doing what’s expected of them – and that includes me and probably you.

In Nazi Germany, they lived within a Nazi system requiring them to imprison, torture, or kill large numbers of people.

In our society today, we live within a social and economic system that doesn’t take ecological realities into account. A normal life within this system “requires” us to live in a way that’s ecologically destructive.

The banality of evil doesn’t just apply to Nazi Germany. It applies to us today.

So what can we do about it?

To me, it’s important to realize that this is a problem with the system we live within. It’s not only or mainly about “evil” corporations or politicians or any other specific people. Our social and economic system was created in the 1700s and 1800s, at a time where natural resources and the ability of nature of absorb the waste of civilization seemed unlimited. This system doesn’t take ecological realities into account because it didn’t have to.

When we live within this system today, with a much higher population and more effective technologies, it’s predictable that it will have harmful ecological consequences – to the extent that our civilization is at risk.

This is about all of us. We all live within this system whether we like it or not. (Apart from a very few who have radically departed from it by choice or for other reasons.)

So it’s up to all of us to educate ourselves about the real problem – our current system and what the alternatives are, speak up about it, support the alternatives, and vote at elections and with our money to nudge changes in the right direction.

We need to create a new system where what’s easy and attractive to do – for individuals and businesses – is what’s sound ecologically and takes future generations into account. And that’s very possible if we – collectively – decide to do it.

And it starts with you and me. Even small steps in this direction matter a lot.

Beyond ecology and 1800s structures: Power-over mindset

I intentionally focused on the ecological crisis and economic structures from the last two or three hundred years in what I wrote above, just to keep it simple. But that’s a bit misleading since the cultural roots of the ecological crisis goes back much further and those roots are connected to other social issues.

The ecological crisis does come from recent(ish) economic and social structures.

But it also comes from a power-over mindset that came with agriculture and has been prominent in the European and other civilizations. And this power-over mindset not only has harmed nature but women, children, animals, those who fall outside of the mainstream, and really all of us.

When we operate from a power-over mindset, we harm a lot of people, animals, and nature around us. And we also harm ourselves. We apply the same power-over mindset to ourselves – to our body, to parts of ourselves, and to ourselves as a whole. We all suffer from it.

This is part of the banality of evil. It’s the banality of evil we all live from and suffer from when we operate from a power-over mindset. And just about all of us in western culture, and in many other agrarian cultures around the world, live with and partially from this power-over mindset.

Why do I talk about healing, isn’t awakening enough?

 

Yes and no.

Yes, awakening is enough if what we want is to notice what we are, and for what we are notice itself as all there is. For a while, this may seem like all that’s needed, especially if we are in a temporary transcendent state – one where our center of gravity has, for a while, risen “above” our human stuff.

And no, because a transcendent state doesn’t last so we will eventually be plunged back into all the human messiness. That too is the divine. That too want to join in with the awakening. That too wants to heal and awaken.

If we want to live from the awakening in more and more situations and areas of life, we need healing. Healing opens up space for awakening to be lived more fully and in more situations and areas of life.

Also, as a human being in the world, which we also are, it’s generally a much better life if we are more healed. A lot of suffering, confusion, reactivity, and messiness is cleared up as we heal.

So why not focus on both? Why not find approaches that invite in both awakening and healing? Just about all of the tools I write about here do just that, especially if that’s our intention.

In this process of awakening, healing, and learning to live from the awakening, we will also over time develop skills and insights, we tend to mature as human beings, we tend to deeply humanize and become more human, and we may also go through some stages of adult development. All of this may happen mostly as a side-effect of working on ourselves and allowing the awakening to work on ourselves.

And it’s not really about choice or want. Sooner or later in the awakening process, we bump up against unhealed parts of us and we notice that these areas of us suffer. So why not invite in healing and awakening for these parts too? It’s a natural part of the process.

Although it’s not so important, this is also not about “us” choosing or wanting. It’s about life or existence choosing and wanting through and as “us”.

My own story: Before and after initial awakening, and the awakening itself

 

I thought I would write a few words about the initial opening or awakening that happened relatively early on in me – aka this human being’s – life. For context, I have added some short notes on what went on before and after.

First, some background

Before school age, I had flashbacks to the time between lives. It would often happen when sunshine was filtered through moving leaves. It was a memory of a formless world made up of consciousness and golden light and love, and an infinite sense of being home. I had not labels for this. And although this was alive here and now during these moments, I had a longing in my heart through my childhood.

In elementary school, we had one class on Friday about Christianity. This quickly made me into an atheist although I didn’t know anyone else who were. (My parents were and are open-minded agnostics.) I thought Christianity – as presented in those classes – seemed stupid. Why would you believe what other people told you to believe? Why would you believe something you can’t check out for yourself?

During elementary and middle school, I was very interested in parapsychology – ghosts, ESP, UFOs and so on.

Age fifteen, something happened that was deeply puzzling to myself and others. It felt like “I” was removed far from all content of experience, from my human self and the wider world. Later, I realized that the center of gravity of what I seemed to be had moved into observering. This lasted for about a year. Before this happened, I had experienced the not uncommon teenage angst and stress, and also social anxiety.

Then the awakening

Age sixteen, I walked up the dark gravel road to the house under a dark sky full of stars and a wind blowing through it. From one moment to the next, everything opened up. Everything without exception was revealed as God. Any sense of me or I was seen as a local and temporary appearance of God.

Everything – the stars, sky, wind, gravel road, houses, this human self, thoughts, feelings – is awakeness, love, and consciousness. Everything is the play of God. Everything is God even if it looks like something else to most humans.

On the one hand, this was shocking and completely surprising. After all, at my human level I had very little interest in religions or spirituality. On the other hand, this was more familiar to me than anything else. It was like finally coming home after several years of having forgotten it.

Why did it happen at that moment?

Who knows. I suspect the previous year – of having been absorbed into or as the “I” or observer – prepared the ground. And the night sky, the stars, and the wind reminded me of the infinite and that’s what woke up to itself in that moment.

This didn’t go away. It lasted. And in the years since, I have learned to be more familiar with it.

For the next few years, several things happened.

There was a sense of huge energies running through my system. It felt like high voltage running through regular housing wires.

I started seeing energies – first around leaves on a tree against the blue sky and later around everything. I also discovered I could sense what was going on in the system of others and invite in healing for it.

I had a huge amount of insights, often non-stop during the day and when waking up during the night. I filled several notebooks. (Similar to this blog.)

I had a lot of inspiration for music and art. Compositions and art came to me ready-made and I did my best to translate it into something physical.

Since I had nobody in my life even remotely interested in this, I kept it to myself. I wrote. And I looked for others who had discovered the same. I read a lot of books, and saw that some Christian mystics and others seemed to write from the same discovery although often slightly obscured by tradition and perhaps other things.

I did find two who recognized it in me right away – my friend BH and the then-wife of Jes Bertelsen HB. (I just noticed that their initials are reversals of each other.) They recognized it by looking at my energy system, as I tend to recognize it in others.

The intensity mellowed out over the next ten years or so and it all became more familiar and normal.

And then what went on after, what some call the life within God

From age 24 and on, I lived at a Zen center for a few years, then moved and worked with sustainability, and I had some years without much involvement with spirituality (apart from passion for sustainability). Then, the interest came back and along with it a more clear and peaceful shift in the awakening.

This was followed by several challenging years – aka a dark night of the soul – with loss of health, loss of ability to work, loss of marriage (which was very good), loss of house and money, loss of (some) friends, and a lot of old trauma surfacing.

And no, the awakening didn’t clear out all human hangups and emotional issues, and it also didn’t clear out all identifications. I still had and have hangups, emotional issues, and trauma, although I suspect a lot of charge in much of it has been released. There are still identifications here. And yet, all of this is recognized as the divine and expressions of the divine.

The awakening itself as an awakening out of taking ourselves as an I or me or human being, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot left to be cleared up. It’s an ongoing process of clarification, healing, maturing, learning to life from it, and supporting the different parts of me still living from separation consciousness to align with reality.

Am I special to have had this happen? Since it’s the divine waking up to itself as all there is, it’s just what we are and what everything is waking up to itself. It “forgot” itself locally and temporarily and then noticed again. That’s not really special at all. Also, it’s not the human self waking up. It’s reality waking up out of taking itself as exclusively that human self. At the same time, it’s true that it doesn’t happen through all humans but that’s also of the play of the divine. As someone said, it’s the divine playing hide-and-seek with itself. Nothing is wrong. One is not inherently better or worse than the other.

What’s the most baffling thing in all of this? That anything exists at all. That there is an existence – a divine – that can play this game with and within itself.

I rarely talk about the initial awakening so it feels good to finally write it here.

And yes, I still remember the spot I stood on on the gravel road when the initial awakening happened, and the date give or take a few days. (It happened between Christmas and New Year.)

A note on perspective: I chose to write this mostly from the perspective of my human self. I could have written it more from the view of the divine or Big Mind and may do that later.

And a synchronicity: I had written “view” in the previous sentence with quotation marks around it since Big Mind doesn’t really have a view. It has all and no views. I decided to remove the quotation marks to not confuse the reader unnecessarily, and thought to myself “Big Mind doesn’t really have a view”. As I did this, the lyrics of the song I was listening to said:

You know well what I’ve been through
Living there without a view

– from Moonshine by Caravan Palace

Love is all you need – for healing and awakening?

 

When it comes to healing and awakening, love is really all we need. Although it’s love that takes many forms.

Love can take the form of meeting and bringing our presence into an emotional issue. Spending time with it. Allowing it to be as it is. Listening to the painful story behind it. See that it comes from a wish to take care of our human self. See that it comes from love. Gently questioning the painful story and find what’s more true for us. And so on. All of that is love, and all of that can be very healing.

Love can also take the form of noticing and allowing what’s here. Training a more stable attention. Gently inquiring into our most basic beliefs and assumptions. Shifting into love for what is through hearth-centered practices. Bringing attention to our body and its movements. Using pointers to help us notice what we are, and what we are to notice itself. And so on. All of that are forms of love, and it can set the stage for and support awakening.

In both cases, it’s love gently exploring itself and revealing itself as what’s exploring and what’s explored.

Tools for emotional emergencies

 

When we feel overwhelmed, it can be helpful to have some emergency tools to help us deal with it.

We may can feel overwhelmed when a strong emotional issue or trauma is triggered in us. And this can happen from daily life situations. Or it can come up as part of an ongoing healing or awakening process.

I have selected a few tools for this article that I have found helpful for myself.

These are emergency tools. They won’t solve the issue themselves but they can help us relate to them differently and help us through the strongest parts of the storm.

If you are currently overwhelmed, just do something simple that helps you here and now. Ask for help. And if something in this list resonates with you, try it and see if it helps. Don’t force yourself to do anything. Be kind with yourself.

If you are currently in a more calm place, I suggest you try each tool out for yourself, see which one or ones resonate with you, and get comfortable using it so it’s easier to apply when you need it.

AMPLIFY / RELEASE

Make whatever goes on for you stronger for a few seconds. Then release, let it all go, and rest for a few seconds. Notice the difference before and after. Repeat a few times if necessary.

See if you can make the uncomfortable sensations stronger. Make the scary thoughts and images stronger. Do it for perhaps five seconds. Then release. Relax. Let it all go. Do this for a few seconds. Notice the difference before and after and repeat once or a few times if necessary.

Don’t worry if you are unable to actually make the sensations etc. stronger. It’s the intention and engaging in the trying that it’s important.

I love this tool and it can help reduce the strength of what’s going on. I assume it works because our resistance to uncomfortable experiences makes it stronger and tends to hold it in place. Using this tool, we go against this resistance and intentionally try to make it stronger. That helps us release the resistance and it also shows us that the sensations, thoughts and so on are not as scary as they seemed.

BE KIND WITH YOURSELF

Place your hands on your chest and belly. Breathe slowly and intentionally.

Say kind and soothing words to yourself, as you would to a child or a good friend. For instance: I love you. I love you just as you are. This will pass. You are stronger and more resilient than you realize. Everything you are feeling is OK as it is. This is part of the universal human suffering we all sometimes experience.

You can also say to what’s coming up – the pain, fear, panic, loneliness, anger: Thank you for protecting me. You are safe here. I love you. Repeat.

Say: I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you. Repeat several times. Say it to yourself. Or the suffering part of you. Or who or what triggered the reaction in you. (This is a beautiful Hawaiian practice called Ho’oponopno.)

ATTENTION TO PHYSICAL SENSATIONS

Pay attention to the sensations in your body connected with the emotions. See if you can set aside any thoughts and mental images for a little while.

Stay with the physical sensations. Find some curiosity about them. Where do you feel it? Do they have a boundary? If you close your eyes, can you also notice the boundless space they happen within? Can you notice the space and the sensations at the same time? Do the sensations get stronger? Weaker? Do you notice sensations other places in the body?

It can really help to learn to pay attention to the physical sensations and set aside related thoughts and mental images. It helps us ground. It helps us notice that the charge of emotions come from body sensations. And we may notice that it’s often OK to set aside stressful thoughts for a while. We don’t need to actively fuel them.

BREATH

Slow and intentional breathing helps calm our system. There are several ways to explore this.

One is the alternate nostril breathing from yoga. Use a finger to block one nostril and take a relaxed and full in-and-out breath with the other. Switch. Repeat several times. Notice any differences before and after.

Another is to breathe out as much air as you can and allow your lungs to fill up again naturally. Repeat a few times.

And and yet another is to lie down, place one hand on the chest and another on the belly, and breathe slowly and intentionally. This can be combined with breathing as much air out as possible and then allowing the air to fill up the lungs naturally.

NATURE & PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES

Spend time in nature. We belong to and evolved in nature so this can be soothing and nurturing. Walk barefoot if conditions allow.

Walk. Run. Scream. Sing. Jump up and down while landing on your heels. Do strength training. Swim. Do yoga. Shake. Use your body. Take a good bath.

Put your face in cold water or splash cold water on your face. This can help calm down your system.

BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF

Identify your stressful thoughts. Write them down. Be gently and brutally honest with yourself. What’s more true than these stressful thoughts? If your life dependent on being brutally honest with yourself, what would you tell yourself? Finding what’s more true for us is often a relief.

For instance, my mind may tell itself it’s too much, I can’t handle it. Is that true? What’s the reality? The reality is that I am still here. I seem to know how to handle it, somehow.

This one may depend on some practice with inquiry. As with the other tools here, only use it if it works for you.

MORE STRUCTURED APPROACHES

The Work of Byron Katie can be great for dealing with stressful and overwhelming thoughts and corresponding emotions. Look up the free helpline where a facilitator will help you through the process.

Another form of inquiry, the Living Inquiries, can also be of great help although it does require some ability to rest and notice.

Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) helps release tension out of the body through the natural and in-built tremoring mechanism.

And Vortex Healing can help your system relax relatively quickly. This can be done at a distance.

Common for all of these is that you’ll need an experienced practitioner to help you unless you have some experience with it (The Work and TRE) or gone through the training yourself (Living Inquiries, Vortex Healing).

NOTES

There are a lot of other tools out there. Find the ones that work for you and practice when your system is more calm so you get familiar with using them.

You may notice that many of these tools have to do with the body, nature, and our physical world. That’s not coincidence. When we go into overwhelm, it’s usually because we actively fuel stressful thoughts and mental images. This can happen more or less consciously. In either case, it helps to bring attention to something physical and here-and-now.

I have written more in-depth about some of these tools. Follow the tags to find these articles. I also have a small booklet on the back-burner with these and more tools.

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

Being a guru to the parts of us living within separation consciousness

 

At some point in the awakening process – and perhaps for a long time – what we are notices itself in a “global” sense but there are still many parts of us living in separation consciousness. These are formed from and still live within separation consciousness.

It’s then our job to function as a friend – and, in a sense, a guru and therapist – for these parts of us.

They surface. They live in pain. Our habitual response may be to recoil from them or want them to go away. And the invitation is for us to be a friend to these parts of us. And – in a gentle way – be a guru and therapist for them.

To be in their presence. Help them feel seen, felt, loved, understood. Help them heal. Help them awaken to all as love. Help them recognize themselves as love.

They were formed in an attempt to help us as a human being in the world. They are an expression of consciousness and love. And the invitation is for us to help them recognize that.

As Pamela Wilson says, these parts of us are our devotees. They want us to be their friend. They want to be liberated. They – in a very real sense – need us.

This is a part of the awakening process. It’s a process of inviting all the different parts of us to awaken. And it has a nice side-effect. We learn to be a good friend to these parts of us – to be in their presence in patience, listening, recognizing them as love. And that tends to color how we are with other people and the wider world.

Learning to follow our inner guidance

 

We all have a quiet inner voice that gives us pointers and advice. We can also call it inner guidance, or the voice of the heart.

It’s perhaps not so important to know where it comes from. Is it a knowing that goes beyond what I – as a human being – can know? Does it come from experience? Does it come from the wisdom inherent in the body and passed down through the generations?

Is it the whole of who and what we are using any and all sources of information to arrive at a “yes”, a “not now”, a direction, a warning, or an impulse to do something?

What form does our inner guidance take?

As suggested, our inner guidance can take many forms. It can come as a sense. A voice. An image. And I am sure many other ways depending on the person and situation.

It can be a “yes” or “not now”. Or it can give us an idea, a direction, or a message for what to do or where to go.

A simple way to check in with our inner guidance for a yes or no

There is a simple way to check in with our inner guidance. I like it because it’s simple, practical, and can be used in almost any situation.

I say to myself I can if I want, and I want to X, and then check with my body. Is there a relaxation? A relief? Or tension? Contraction?

I then say to myself I can if I want, and I don’t want to X. Again, I check with my body. Is it more relaxed? A sense of relief? Or tension? Contraction?

A relaxation is a yes and tension is a no.

For instance, I say I have been invited to a social event and I am unsure if I want to go.

I ask myself: I can if I want, and I want to go to this gathering. I notice a gentle relaxation and softness in my body.

I then ask: I can if I want, and I don’t want to go to this gathering. This time, I notice a slight tension.

So here, my inner guidance tells me to go.

It’s helpful to practice this in small and daily life situations. That way, we get to know the process and learn to trust it through experience.

A more spontaneous way to follow inner guidance

This can also happen in a more spontaneous way.

Just now, I had the impulse to remove my neck warmer. It was just a brief thought and one that wasn’t consciously generated. I did a quick check and I couldn’t see any reason not to. So I removed it.

I make a point out of following these simple impulses right away, after doing a quick check to see if there is a good reason not to. It’s a way of saying to my own system and life: Yes, I appreciate these messages and take them seriously.

Noticing what stops us from following our inner guidance

Sometimes, my inner guidance is clear and the thought of following it brings up fear in me. I may see that it makes sense. I may recognize that there isn’t a good reason not to follow it. I may see that a sane, healed, and grounded person in the same situation would follow it. And at the same time, the thought of acting on it bumps up against fear in me.

In these situations it’s good to notice the fear and listen to what it has to say. What are the fearful stories behind it? What do I find if I investigate it?

This way, following our guidance brings with it a bonus: Identifying and investigating fears that may prevent us from living a life that feels deeply right to us.

Should I always follow my inner guidance?

In my experience, the inner guidance tends to give accurate information even if it doesn’t make sense at the time.

At the same time, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate what’s inner guidance and what’s inner “noise” from beliefs, fears, wants and so on.

That’s why I tend to listen to the inner voice, see if there is a good reason not to follow it, and then follow it if there is no good reason not to.

Does it give an answer once and for all?

Any no is really a “not now”. It may change, and sometimes it can change within a relatively short time. It’s good to check in with it.

What’s the characteristics of the inner voice?

When it happens spontaneously, it is – in my experience – simple, clear, and quiet. It’s there if I later check in with it on the same issue. (Although it can, of course, change if the situation changes.) It can be temporarily drowned out by fearful feelings and thoughts. And it is, in itself, free from fears and shoulds.

Photo by Samuel Chenard on Unsplash

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Why do spiritual teachers not acknowledge the projection aspect of awakening?

 

To ourselves, and independent of world views, we are consciousness and all our experience happens within and as that consciousness.

This consciousness may temporarily get fascinated by thoughts and stories, hold them as true, and take itself as a particular content of consciousness – an I, a me, an observer, doer, human being, and so on.

And it can notice itself as consciousness and all experiences as happening within and as consciousness. It can learn to notice this more steadily and through different situations. And our human self may reorganize and align within this noticing.

We can honestly say that to us, all is consciousness.

But to say that all of existence in itself is consciousness is a leap.

That’s a projection.

For me, the only thing that’s honest is to say that to me all is consciousness. My world happens within and as consciousness. And although there are signs and hints (synchronicities, ESP etc.) that all of existence is consciousness, I cannot honestly say that that’s how it actually is.

So why do many spiritual teachers and traditions say that all is consciousness? Whether directly or indirectly by calling it Spirit, the Divine, Allah, Brahma, God?

It may be just because it’s tradition and a habit?

It may be to make it simpler for most people?

It may be because they notice but don’t want to speak up because it goes against official and unofficial tradition?

It may be that they don’t have noticed?

And is it important?

Yes and no.

It’s perhaps not so important in a practical sense. But it is important in terms of noticing and honesty.

For me, it would not be intellectually honest to jump to the assumption that all of existence is consciousness – at least not without acknowledging that it’s a leap, an assumption, a projection.

A few notes:

It can take some examination to notice that we are consciousness and all our experience happens within and as this consciousness. As I often write about, there are structured forms of inquiry that can help us discover this more easily – Headless experiments, Big Mind process, Living Inquiries, and so on. And it can take continued examination to notice this through different situations. And the same for allowing our human self to reorganize within this noticing.

Also, the label “consciousness” happens within and as what we are. It’s a thought, an idea, a label. It points to it but isn’t it.

What about oneness and no-self as some talk about? When consciousness notices all its experience as happening within and as itself, it’s all one. And it also notices any ideas of an I, me, observer, doer, human self and so on as happening within and as itself, so there is no final identity in any of it.

On a personal note, I can say that this differentiation is something I noticed in the initial awakening in my – this human’s – teens. I did bring it up to some spiritual teachers but it was dismissed so I learned to not mention it very much. But I am doing it here since it seems important enough.

As mentioned above, the oneness – and recognition of all happening within and as consciousness – is the same whether we make the projection differentiation or not. It’s just a noticing, or an interpretation, or a way of talking about it. For all practical purposes, it’s the same, apart from one being a little more intellectually honest.

What are some of the hints and signs that tells us that perhaps all of existence in itself is consciousness? For me, there are a few things. Synchronicities – and especially the frequent and undeniable ones – suggests that all of existence is one and consciousness. As does ESP – sensing and picking up information at a distance or before something happens. And having prayers in different forms – including distance healing – answered in a relatively systematic way.

When the historical Buddha awoke, according to tradition he said “all of existence woke up with me”. (Paraphrased from bad memory.) That’s a projection. We can say that his world woke up to itself as consciousness, and he jumped to the conclusion that all of existence woke up. Or – equally accurate – it was a poetic expression of his direct experience there and then.

And yes, these questions are – not by accident – similar to what The Matrix is about. In the Matrix, all of people’s experiences happen within and as their own consciousness. The difference is that when they wake up from it, they awaken to a real (maybe!) physical world instead of as consciousness.

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Oneness from a psychological perspective

 

This is one of the recurrent themes for me, but I like revisiting it to see if I can find other aspects to it and simpler and more clear ways to talk about it.

Oneness can be understood from a relatively ordinary psychological perspective.

In our own experience, we are consciousness. We are not a human being. We are not a brain. We are not the way others see us. All of that happens within consciousness. To ourselves, we are consciousness and this human self and the world and all experiences are content of this consciousness.

Another way to say it, which is a little more accurate, is that all our experiences – of this human self and the wider world – happens within and as consciousness.

Perhaps even more accurately, all our experiences happens within and as what we are, and the mind can label this many things including consciousness, awakeness, or Big Mind.

This also means that to us, all is oneness. All is one in that it all happens within and as consciousness.

Looking a little closer, we may also notice that all happens within and as – what we can call – emptiness or void. Nothingness makes something – consciousness and all its experiences – possible. So in a more basic sense, we are this nothingness that something happens within and as.

Also, when we discover ourselves as consciousness and all – as it appears to us – as consciousness, then it makes sense that some would take a leap and assume all of existence inherently is consciousness and call it Spirit, the divine, Brahman, Allah, or God.

I find it helpful to think of what I describe here as the small or psychological interpretation of awakening. We are consciousness to ourselves and all our experiences then happens within and as consciousness. This says something about how we are, but it doesn’t assume anything about how all of existence is.

The leap of faith, assuming all of existence is consciousness and calling it Spirit or the divine, is then the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening.

From the small or psychological interpretation, the big or spiritual interpretation is understandable. It makes sense that people would interpret it that way, even if we ourselves may not go that far.

From a small interpretation, the big interpretation may be seen as a projection and a leap of faith. From a big interpretation, the small interpretation means swimming in a pond that’s a little too small.

And personally for me? I find it helpful to switch between both interpretations. The small interpretation allows our view to stay grounded and it may make a little more sense to more people. And I suspect, for a variety of reasons and personal experiences, that the spiritual interpretation is valid as well. It may say something accurate about all of existence.

The nice thing about this way of looking at it – using both a small and big interpretation – is that the essential experiences of mystics form all traditions makes sense from either one. We can understand it from a small or psychological interpretation, and we can understand it from the big or spiritual interpretation.

Oneness makes sense. The awakening process makes sense. The pitfalls and dark nights make sense. The transformation of the human self in the context of oneness recognizing itself makes sense. Early glimpses make sense. Nature spirituality makes sense. And so on. (I am very aware that I haven’t gone into these here so it’s a bit of a teaser. I have written about it elsewhere on this website, and I may explore it more in further articles.)

Awakening is differentiation

 

Awakening is not just oneness. It’s also differentiation.

Without differentiation, there is no awakening. At least, if we start out from separation consciousness and wish to see what awakening is about. And if we wish to actively support clarification, deepening, and embodiment of the awakening.

So what is it we need to differentiate?

Mainly, the difference between thoughts and reality. Obviously, a thought is as real – or unreal – as anything else. But what it says about reality has varying degrees of truth to it, and even the most accurate thought has no final or ultimate truth to it.

We may know this at a superficial conscious level. We may hear it and tell ourselves I know that. But the reality is often different. At some level, we – our system – takes several thoughts as true even if we consciously may know it isn’t. It requires a much deeper exploration to see this and see through it so the “glue” making these thoughts seem real weakens. (Our mind’s magical truth-glue that makes something that’s not completely true seem true.)

How is this connected to awakening?

When we – at any level – hold a thought as true, there is automatically identification with the thought’s viewpoint. We experience ourselves as the viewpoint of the thought. And that creates a sense of being something within the content of experience – within the world, and an I with the rest of existence as Other.

What the thought is about doesn’t really matter. Taking any thought as ultimately true – somewhere in our system – creates this dynamic. Although some of the core ones are thoughts saying we are a human being, a me, an I, a doer, an observer, and so on.

How can I explore this differentiation?

Through inquiry, whether natural, organic, and unstructured or more structured.

Structured inquiry can be a good way to start, and can help us go deeper wherever we are in the process. And the more natural and unstructured inquiry helps us trust our own wisdom and guidance. (Especially when we already are somewhat familiar with the terrain, perhaps with the help of structured inquiry.)

For me, a combination of Headless experiments (Douglas Harding), the Big Mind process (Genpo Roshi), The Work of Byron Katie, and Living Inquiries (modern version of traditional Buddhist inquiry) has been helpful. But there are many other approaches out there.

What about other forms of differentiation?

Yes, there is the conventional form of differentiation and discernment we need in daily life, to function in the world.

The differentiation I wrote about above is helpful for awakening and also healing for our human self. The daily life differentiation and discernment is essential for us to function in the world.

Just as what and who we are – oneness and this human self – these two forms of differentiation are two sides of the same coin.

It will all be gone

 

All will be gone. This human self. Everyone I know. Everyone who knew me. This culture. Humanity. This planet. This solar system. This universe. Given enough time, it will all be gone.

It can seem tragic. And we may have to grieve taking it in. But it also opens up for a lot. Here is what I notice for myself.

It opens for an immense gratitude for life itself. That this all exists. This amazing universe. This beautiful and complex living planet. Humanity. Civilization. Culture.

It opens for an immense gratitude for what I have. For my experiences as they are in all its richness. For breath. Friends. Family. Nature. Daily life.

I realize even more deeply that I cannot take any of this for granted. Nothing needed to exist at all. None of this needed exist. That any exists at all is a miracle. And that this exists is a miracle.

It helps me let go. When I experience discomfort and distress, it helps me see that this and all will go, and it reminds me of the magic of this existence. If something feels right to me, and a part of me worry what others will think or say, it helps to remember that we will all be gone and everything will be gone.

It helps me appreciate the little things. Even the smallest things in daily life is a miracle. This is only here for a brief moment and will be gone along with everything else.

It helps me notice and allow what’s here in my experience, as it is. It’s amazing it’s here at all. It and everything else will be gone. Its presence is pure magic. So who am I to say it shouldn’t be here?

And if I forget all of this, as I do, that’s OK too. That too is part of this amazing, fleeting, and magical existence.

Why projections are essential

 

In daily life language, projections are sometimes referred to as slightly out of the ordinary and undesirable. You are projecting often means you are seeing something in me / them that’s really in you.

That’s not wrong. But there is a lot more to projections and they are a lot more rich and interesting – and even valuable.

The most basic form of projection is an overlay of thought on the world. We add labels, associations, stories and so on to a lot of things in the world, including ourselves. And that’s a projection. We “project” out the thoughts and ideas onto the world, and that’s essential for us to orient and navigate in the world. We wouldn’t function without it.

Sometimes, we are aware of what’s going on and we hold our projected thoughts and ideas lightly and as questions. (As they are.) And sometimes we mistakenly take our projected thoughts as true and inherent in the world “out there”. (And that creates stress and a lot of other things.)

When I say “overlay of thoughts on the world”, it’s a shortcut since “the world” is part of the overlay. It’s really an overlay of thought on the (other) sense fields – on sensations, sight, sounds, taste, smell, movement, and so on.

The other form of projections is charged projections. This is the one often referred to in daily life and pop culture. I see something “out there” in the wider world and not in myself, or the other way around.

That, in itself, can be without much or any charge. And when there is a charge around it, it’s because it’s part of the dynamic of an emotional issue, belief, or identification. (The charge comes from our mind associating certain sensations with the thought or story. The sensations lend charge and a sense of truth and solidity to the thoughts, and the thoughts give the sensations a sense of meaning.)

Why are charged projections essential?

They are essential to the emotional issue they are connected with. For instance, when we have a belief or identity saying that we are not this or that, then we have to see it in others and the world and not in ourselves. We create a mental filter that sets it up that way. These projections are typically integral parts of beliefs, identifications, and emotional issues.

And they are essential because when we project something out in this way, we can get familiar with it “out there”. We get to see it and explore it as if it’s (only) in another person or in the world somewhere. And in that is an invitation for us to see it in ourselves.

We have something in ourselves – a quality or characteristic – that we are not admitting to. We get to see it out there in others and the world. And though that, and perhaps feedback from others and the world, we have the possibility to get to know it in ourselves.

The projection is a necessary stepping stone and part of the process.

How can we explore our charged projections?

The first step is perhaps to be aware of this dynamic and explore it through specific examples in our own life or what we see in others. (Trump does it frequently and shamelessly so he is perhaps a good example.)

We can also learn to recognize the signs of charged projections. For instance, defensiveness, blame, annoyance, and any time a topic feels charged to us.

And we can use more structured approaches like parts work (subpersonalities), The Work of Byron Katie (very effective), and Living Inquiries (based on traditional Buddhist inquiry).

How can we explore the basic projections?

We can again be aware of the dynamic and see if we can notice it in daily life. For instance, look around where you are now. Close your eyes. Notice the mental images you have of your surroundings. These are created by your mind and are imaginations. Open your eyes again and see if you can notice the difference between the sensory impressions and this mental overlay that organizes and makes sense of your surroundings.

Two of the best structured approaches to explore this that I have found are Living Inquiries and The Work of Byron Katie.

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Describing awakening in a simple and grounded way

 

I like to demystify what can be demystified – including awakening. Why not try to describe it in simple and ordinary ways that others can check out for themselves, and that doesn’t rely on references to what’s outside of most people’s experience?

So what is awakening?

Awakening is what we are awakening to itself.

Independent of our worldview, it makes sense that what we are – to ourselves – is consciousness. Even within a materialistic view, it’s hard to not admit that to ourselves, we are consciousness.

All our content of experience – including the world and ourselves as a human being – happens within and as consciousness.

Typically, we identify with a particular content of our experience. We identify with and as this human self, and as an observer, doer, and so on.

Awakening refers to noticing that we are consciousness that this content of experience happens within and as. The initial noticing can be called an initial opening or awakening.

Sometimes, that’s all it is. And sometimes, the process continues.

We notice. Identification releases somewhat out of content of experience. Consciousness wakes up to itself as all there is. (To itself it’s all there is.) This noticing becomes more ordinary and continues through more and more situations in daily life. Our human life reorients and transforms within this new noticing and context.

Why are not more people interested in it?

We may not have heard about it.

We may not have been exposed to it in a way that makes it seem possible or attractive to us.

It may seem too mysterious, obscure, and distant.

It may seem like it’s for other or special people, not us.

We may not see how it’s useful.

It may seem like something we already know, intellectually.

Why are some people really into it?

We may have had a glimpse or opening and wish to continue to explore it.

We may intuit that there is something and set out to explore it.

We may be drawn in by traditions or teachers speaking about awakening.

We may seek to avoid suffering and have heard it will help.

It may happen out of the blue and stay and we keep exploring this new context for our human life.

What are some of the effects of awakening?

Mainly, our human self reorients and reorganizes within this new context.

This involves a lot of different changes and processes and lasts a lifetime.

It typically involves healing of emotional issues and hangups. Examining old beliefs, assumptions, and identities. And changing how we relate to others, ourselves, and the world in general.

How do we live within oneness? That’s the question, and the transformation of our human self can be more or less thorough within this lifetime.

What about spirituality?

Isn’t awakening about spirituality?

Yes and no. Yes, spirituality is often about awakening. And no, awakening doesn’t requite religion or traditional spirituality.

At the same time, there is a lot of practical and valuable information in spiritual and religious traditions.

Small and big interpretation of awakening

This article is mostly about the small or psychological interpretation of awakening. We talk about it a way that (can!) make sense independent of whatever worldview we have.

There is also the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening. Here, we use the more familiar language of God, Spirit, the Divine, and so on.

We may say that awakening is God (Spirit, the Divine) awakening to itself locally through this human self.

Spirit temporarily and locally took itself to be an ultimately separate being (this human self), and then woke up to itself as all there is.

How can we explore it for ourselves?

Mainly, we need to find one or more approaches that make sense to us. Perhaps they feel intuitively right. Or someone we trust recommends it. Or we happen to have a local awakening-coach and join for a while.

There are some approaches that within minutes can give us a glimpse or taste of what awakening is about. The two I enjoy the most is the Big Mind process and the Headless experiments.

Is there anything I need to be aware of?

Mainly, the usual guidelines for exploring and learning anything applies here too. It helps to have the guidance of someone you trust and who has experience. Trust yourself and what feels right to you. If the approach you use has little or no effect, consider trying something else.

When I said “consciousness” earlier, it was to make it more understandable. The mind may label what we are “consciousness” but that’s just a label. That label and all our ideas about it also happen within and as what we are.

The awakening process, and the approaches we may use on the path, tend to open our heart and mind, and that can open for whatever unprocessed psychological material is in us. If that happens, it can feel confusing, scary, disorienting, and overwhelming. So it’s good to find an awakening-coach who has experience with this, can take some precautions, and knows how to help you through it.

It can help to set aside what you think you know about awakening, especially the myths and ideas from religion and traditional spirituality. Make it simple for yourself. This is about noticing what you already are. There are ways to help you notice it. And there are people who can help you with it. It’s not so different from learning or exploring anything else in life.

Is awakening important?

Yes and no. If it happens, it may be the most important (no-thing) thing in your life since it becomes the context for everything. It can also help transform your human self.

And yet, most human beings live without having a (conscious) taste of this and that’s fine. You can have a very good life without conscious noticing of what you are.

If what you mostly want is a good life, and that’s the case for most of us, another strategy may be more direct. For instance, focus on self-compassion and healing the most obvious emotional issues. Nurture nurturing and important relationships in your life. And, in general, be a good steward of your life. And there is no problem with including this in an exploration of what we are. They work very well together.

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This is part of the human experience

 

In one of the stories about the historical Buddha, a man comes to him overcome with grief over having a lost child. The Buddha said, “bring me a grain of rice from a house in the village where nobody has died”. The man couldn’t find such a house, and the realization that we are all in the same boat – we all experience losses and death – helped him. (This is all paraphrased from memory.)

This helps me too. Whenever I experience something I find difficult, it helps to remind myself that this is part of the human experience.

I am not alone in it. Innumerable people have experienced this and still do. Even if I don’t know of anyone, it’s a good bet that this has been an experience for a lot of people (or, at least, can be). We share it. We are together in it. They found their way through it, and so can I.

There is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with this experience. This too is part of the human experience. This too is what humans experience.

Of course, everything is also unique and fresh. And it may be that there is an emotional issue or trauma I can explore and find healing for in how I relate to it and perhaps for the issue itself. And yet, here it helps to emphasize the commonality and that there – inherently – is nothing wrong with us or anything we experience.

Any pointer is medicine for a specific condition, and this reminder – this is part of human experience – is medicine for feeling alone in what we are going through or that something is wrong. It helps us to see that I am not alone, and nothing is inherently wrong in this. It helps us align with that reality, and reality is healing.

Photo: Man in China Town, San Fransisco, a few years back

Supporting the natural healing and awakening process

 

Most approaches to healing and awakening support the natural processes of healing and awakening that seem inherent to us and life.

What are some of the characteristics of the natural healing and awakening process?

For healing emotional issues, one essential is to be brutally honest about our stressful and emotional-issue creating thoughts. Is it really true? What’s the grain of truth in it? What’s more true than the initial thought? Another is to meet the feelings, allow them, perhaps befriend them, perhaps notice them as physical sensations.

For awakening, the essence is perhaps to notice that all content of experience comes and goes, and yet something doesn’t come and go. What experiences happens within and as doesn’t come and go. Perhaps that’s more what we are than any content of experience – like this human self, or any me or I?

These processes often happen organically, although it can take time and the process can get stuck for a while. That’s why some people have developed more structured ways to support these processes.

If the structured approaches are done with sincerity and under guidance of someone with experience, skills, insights, and experience in working through things on their own, then they often work. (If we try to “push” our system to conform to whatever ideas we have about healing or awakening, it can – in the worst case – create more emotional issues and stronger separation consciousness.)

In general, structural approaches to emotional healing mimic the natural processes of a mind that’s already relatively healed – and one that operates from some sincerity, clarity, insight, and experience – when it relates to and invites in healing for parts of itself.

For awakening, they mimic the processes of an already mostly awake mind to awaken less awake parts of itself.

Here are a few examples:

Emotional healing often involves a shift in how we relate to ourselves and the world. It involves coming to terms with, find peace with, and befriending different aspects of reality. Inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries) helps us see through stressful beliefs and consciously be a little more aligned with reality. Heart-centered practices like all-inclusive gratitude practices helps us reorient and befriend. Therapeutic tremoring (Tension and Trauma Release Exercises) releases tension out of the body which makes befriending a little easier. Inquiry practices (Big Mind process, Headless experiments) that gives us a glimpse of what we are also invites a shift and reorientation in how we relate to the different aspects of reality.

Emotional healing also involves finding healing for specific emotional issues, and much of what I wrote in the previous section also applies here. Emotional issues are held in place by – among other things – beliefs and identifications, and inquiry can help us see through these. Heart-centered practices (tonglen, ho’oponopono) can help us shift out of the fear-based core of many emotional issues. Therapeutic tremoring helps release the tension out of the body that otherwise fuels emotional issues and stress. Noticing what we are (Big Mind, Headless experiments) can support emotional issues in resolving within this new context.

Awakening is a natural process, although one that doesn’t come to conscious fruition in most people’s lives. It’s supported by most of the traditional spiritual practices. Basic meditation (notice + allow) helps us notice what we are, and helps what we are notice itself. Heart-centered approaches helps us reorient in the way we naturally do in the context of awakening. Inquiry helps us see what’s already more true for us and align more consciously with reality. Inquiry practices like the Big Mind process and Headless experiments gives us a taste of what we are, helps what we are notice itself, and help us explore how to live from this context.

Since divine or energy healing is the approach I mostly explore these days, I’ll say a few words about it separately, and focusing on Vortex Healing which I am most familiar with:

Vortex Healing (VH) also supports the natural healing and awakening processes. Although it’s one of the approaches I have found that’s the most versatile and powerful, and I know very well it works from many experiences channeling for others and receiving, I still don’t have a clear sense of exactly how it works apart from the basics. It uses divine energy and consciousness to invite the body and mind to heal, and to remove energetic structures that allows the divine to temporarily and locally take itself to be separate – and this opens for awakening.

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The backward step x2

 

In Zen, the backward step is a shift from being caught up in the content of our experience to that which it all happens within and as.

For me, there are two backward steps. And often, it can be helpful to first take one, and then the other.

The first backward step is from being caught up in reactivity to notice and feel into what’s behind it.

The reactivity is to an uncomfortable experience we have in the moment, and we go into the reactivity to distract from this uncomfortable experience. In my case, and perhaps for others, this underlying experience is often fear. The reactivity itself can take the form of justification, blame, guilt, defense, and even sadness or depression, and it goes along with a contraction of both the mind (defensive etc.) and body (physical tension).

So I notice the symptoms of reactivity, step back from engaging actively in it, find curiosity to what in me – here and now – the reactivity is a response to, and feel into it. Often, I take a shortcut and look for underlying fear.

As long as I am caught in the reactivity, it’s stressful, tense, and a struggle. And as soon as I take this backward step and rest with the underlying fear, there is a relief, softening, and receptivity.

The second backward step is – as described above – from being caught up in the content of our experience to notice what it happens within and as. And when I say “caught up in the content of our experience” it really means caught up in our thoughts.

When I take my thoughts as true, and get caught up in them and engage in them, my attention is automatically caught up in the content of my experience and I experience myself as something or someone within this content of experience. My world becomes small and I become an object in the world.

Taking this backward step is similar. I notice the symptoms of what’s happening, step back from actively engaging in it, and notice what my experience happens within and as.

A verbal pointer may be to notice the field of experience or consciousness or the space it all happens within and as. And – especially in the beginning – we can explore this more effectively through a form of inquiry like the Big Mind process, Headless experiments, or exploring the sense fields through traditional Buddhist inquiry or modern varieties like Living Inquiries.

Eventually, we notice that what we are is what all our experience happens within and as, and this is what notices itself. It temporarily took itself to be something or someone within its own content, and it woke up from that little excursion or dream.

As mentioned earlier, these two backward steps are similar. Before the step, there is contraction and struggle. In the step, there is a release, relief, softening, receptivity, and a sense of returning home. And when we live more from it, we live more from noticing, allowing, receptivity, and from a kind of groundedness.

For most of us, we have an opportunity to take these steps many times throughout the day. We notice we are caught up in something, step back, find the fear behind it, rest with it for a while, and take the other step back and rest with and as that for a while.

In the beginning, it can be easier to take some time out of the situation we are in to take these steps. And as we get more used to it, we can do it more seamlessly in the situation we are in. If I am on my own, I’ll take a few seconds or minutes to do it. And if I am with someone, I’ll do the same – perhaps while the other person is talking.

It’s very simple. It’s not always easy, at least not in the moment. It’s always new and fresh. (It really feels new and fresh each time.) And it’s more rewarding than just about anything else. It’s a very useful life skill. And it helps us return home – in an emotional sense and as what we are.

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Demystifying awakening

 

Many see awakening as something mystical or even mythical, and some ideas about it are not well-grounded in reality: It doesn’t exist. It’s for a few special people. There is no way to understand what it’s about. It’s a state of endless bliss. It will solve all your problems. You need to “renounce the world”. We can’t do research on it because it doesn’t exist, it’s too nebulous, or it has no practical value.

Fortunately, we live in a period of history where awakening is demystified. Why do we see this demystifying?

Many Asian spiritual teachers ended up in California and other densely populated areas of the US in the mid-1900s. It means that some practitioners there have a lifetime of experience, some have become teachers themselves, and the teachings are adapting to the culture. And since the US culture is famously pragmatic, it’s often explored, understood, and spoken about in a pragmatic way.

Since the 90s, there is new ease of global communication. Although awakening happens relatively rarely, large numbers of people around the world are on an awakening path, and these are now able to connect, communicate, and share experiences. In the past, people would have to be in the same place or write letters to communicate, and write or read books in order to share information and thoughts. Now, we just need to go on a forum online, participate in an online conference, class, or sharing group, or connect with friends we have found around the world.

There is also more research on spiritual practices and I imagine this will only continue but grow and become more mainstream. There is even research on awakening, and I imagine this will continue and grow as well.

Secularized forms of traditional spiritual practices are becoming more widespread and used in medical and business settings. It’s not uncommon to have mindfulness classes in hospitals and workplaces. This is not about awakening, but it contributes to normalize the practices and develop a pragmatic language in talking about some of the effects.

As mentioned above, more people are using a pragmatic language to describe and explore awakening. A language stripped of traditional terminology, and one that is more easily accessible and understandable to the western mind. This goes along with what I – in other articles – call a small or psychological interpretation of awakening.

Modern forms of traditional inquiry – like the Big Mind process, Headless experiments, and Living Inquiries – can give just about anyone a taste of what awakening is about within a few minutes. It’s not distant or unapproachable anymore.

A more pragmatic and demystified view on awakening is perhaps not only inevitable but healthy and appropriate for a western culture that’s mainly secular and pragmatic.

I am personally grateful. When the initial awakening happened for me, it was in the pre-internet era and it took a long time for me to find people who understood – first in books (Meister Eckart was the first) and later with people (my friend BH and Jes Bertelsen’s then-wife). And I am grateful for the pragmatic and more secularized language. It helps us see what’s important and perhaps what’s less important (although we need to be open to the possibility that some of what we discard is important and bring it back in again).

If all language around spiritual practice and awakening would go secular and pragmatic, something essential would be lost. But there is little or no danger of that happening anytime soon. Spiritual language and understanding, and secular language and understanding, can very well co-exist and they can feed into and inform each other in a beautiful way. There is a richness in the traditions that can inform the secularized understanding. And there is a pragmatism in the secularized approach that can benefit the traditions.

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Typical aspects and phases of the awakening process

 

What are some of the typical aspects and phases of the awakening process?

I’ll mention a few things here based on my own experience. Not everything is sequential in this process, nor does it all happen or happen within one lifetime. There is also some overlap in this list, and I’ll just briefly touch on each point since other articles here have addressed most of them in more detail.

The following are some of the milestones that may happen in the awakening process.

Relationship with the divine

Our conscious orientation towards or relationship with the divine changes through the awakening process. In general, it goes from perceiving the divine as Other, to a sense of oneness with the divine, to the divine (or what we are) waking up to itself – and out of taking itself as fundamentally a separate being – and realizing it was what it was looking for through it all.

Divine as other

The pre- or early awakening phase often involves viewing and experiencing the divine as Other.

It may start as an interest. Or an intuition or knowing.

There may be glimpses – perhaps of divine beings or all as the divine.

There may even be an early awakening of the divine as all, of oneness with the divine as all.

In all of these cases, the divine is Other even when the apparent division seems more subtle. The divine is beginning to wake up to itself as all there is while retaining some of the identification as a separate being.

When I use the word “divine” here, it can be exchanged with consciousness, awakeness, love, Big Mind, what we are, or other similar labels.

What we are noticing itself

Eventually, what we are – that which all content of our experience happens within and as – wakes up to itself. It wakes up out of the dream of ultimately being a separate being. The human self and anything else happens within and as what we are.

What we are living more consciously from and as itself

Stability

I hinted about this in the previous segment.

In the very early phases of the awakening, the divine may seem like an idea, something others talk about, and something we don’t have any experience with. Although we may have an intuition or knowing or experience a draw towards it.

Then, there may be glimpses of the divine – perhaps of divine beings or all as the divine. These may be infrequent.

The next phase seems to take many different forms. We may gradually sense the divine everywhere, or all as the divine. Or there may be more sudden and stronger glimpses. And this may get more stable either right away or over time.

At some, we may realize that what we are – fundamentally – is the divine, and what we took ourselves to be – this human self – happens within and as the divine, or within and as what we are.

Again, this may first be an intuition or knowing or come through glimpses, and suddenly or over time it becomes more clear. Over time, it continues to clarify and become more stable – including throughout more and more situations in our daily life.

Global to local

An awakening is generally “global”. It happens in a general sense for or as all of what we are. (It may even seem as if all of existence awakened, but that’s largely a projection and another topic.) And it may seem as if it’s inevitably stable.

After a while, we may notice that things in life trigger something in us that takes the system back into separation consciousness. One way to talk about it is to say that parts of our human self (subpersonalities) are still caught up in emotional wounds, trauma, the past, and separation consciousness. They are reliving traumatic past experiences and the separation consciousness they were created from. They are not yet aligned with the reality of all as the divine. They are not yet awake. Life situations – or our response to them – trigger these issues so they can be seen, felt, explored, and eventually awaken, align with reality, and bring the global awakening into more of these still unawake parts of our human self.

In our life, this may take the form of first assuming the awakening is stable. We then notice that life situations trigger old issues in us, and if the issues are strong enough and core enough to who we take ourselves to be, we may get caught up in them and go into and act from separation consciousness. To the extent we acknowledge and own this, and take it seriously, we can intentionally work on how we relate to these unawake parts in us, and even invite them to heal and align more closely to reality – the reality of Oneness.

Maturing in the awakening

There are many aspects to maturing within the awakening.

One is that the awakening – gradually and over time – becomes ordinary. It is both ordinary and extraordinary. We get used to it. Other things become more interesting to us, like how to befriend unawake parts of us, how to help these different parts of our human self to heal and awaken, how to live from the awakening in more and more situations, how to live so we benefit the larger whole, and so on.

During an initial awakening phase, we may emphasize what we are over who we are. This is natural since we are used to who we are and what we are seems more interesting and perhaps fascinating. As we mature within the awakening, this is balanced out and the two are seen more clearly as aspects of the same – or labels highlighting different sides of this lived Oneness.

Maturing may also mean that we simultaneously become more who we are and more ordinary. We live more from authenticity and we realize more deeply how what’s in this human self is universally human.

Early in the awakening process, we may get on a missionary kick and think others “need” awakening or need to hear about it or do meditation, etc. We may also think that more people need to awaken in order for humanity to be saved. Later on, this tends to calm down. We are obviously open to share when others are interested, but the “shoulds” tend to fall away.

As we mature in the awakening, other things tend to happen that I’ll mention elsewhere in this article. For instance, we may realize it’s an ongoing process and there is not a final or end point.

An initial glimpse or awakening may indeed come with certain states – of bliss, ease, joy, being untouched by old hangups, and so on – but these are byproducts of the initial awakening and like all states they come and go. As we mature in it, we realize it’s not about achieving a state but what we are is here through any and all states and experiences, and the noticing gradually becomes more stable through these states and experiences.

We also realize that although the awakening “solves” the most core “problem” of taking ourselves to be something we are not (a separate being), it doesn’t by itself solve any of our human challenges and problems. We still have to deal with them as any other human being, although from within a different context. In a sense, it solves a problem we didn’t even know we had, and it doesn’t really solve anything else or the problems we know we have!

Embodiment

Embodiment means to live more consciously from what we are in more and more situations in daily life. It happens through the global-to-local process of inviting unawake parts of us to heal and align more closely with reality. And it happens as part of the maturing process. As anything else related to awakening – and being a human being in the world – it’s an ongoing process.

Challenges

An awakening process is a shift of what we most fundamentally take ourselves to be. So it naturally comes with some challenges. As you’d expect, these can be experienced as mild or severe, can last for shorter or longer periods of time, and any struggle we experience is our own struggle with what’s happening.

Challenges, crises, and dark nights

Here are a few examples of the challenges, crises, and dark nights we can experience in an awakening process.

We can be disoriented, frightened, or feel overwhelmed. This can happen anytime the process enters a new phase, and it really helps to have a general understanding of the process and the guidance of someone who has gone through it and is familiar with the terrain. (Some that you’d expect to be familiar with it – like official spiritual teachers – may not be, and someone you’d not expect to be familiar with it – like an unassuming regular gal or guy – may be.)

Our energy system can go a bit haywire in an awakening process. It helps with nature, physical activity, reducing mental activity, and perhaps energy work like acupuncture or Vortex Healing. (For the first few years for me, it felt like enormous energies went through my system – as if sending high voltage through regular housing wires.)

As mentioned earlier, anything in our human self that’s not aligned with the awakening will eventually surface to be seen, felt, examined, understood, loved, and eventually recognized as the divine (temporarily taking the form of an emotional issue, hangup, trauma). If we have a good amount of trauma in our system (often developmental trauma), this can be an intense, confusing, overwhelming, and challenging process. Again, it really helps to have the guidance of someone who has gone through this process and – in this case – understand trauma. And it helps to understand that unawake parts of us surface to join the global awakeness.

Another form of spiritual crisis comes in the form of loss. An apparent loss of the divine or the awakening. (This helps us meet our neediness around it and ideas that what we are looking for is somewhere else.) A loss of motivation and drive. (Because it came from separation consciousness and needs to come back within more of a oneness context.) Perhaps a loss of status, relationships, health, or more. (Again, helps us meet whatever in us still holds onto ideas about how it should or must be.)

Some things are common for these challenges. For instance, struggle makes them more difficult and painful. And yet, struggle is also part of the process. We struggle until we learn, at a deep level, that the struggle itself is painful and – eventually – not needed.

These challenges also highlight what in us – in our human self – is not yet aligned with reality (the reality of Oneness). It’s an essential part of the awakening and embodiment process. What surfaces and how we deal with it is universal in that it’s shared by many going through this process. And since the unawake parts of us are somewhat unique to us, what surfaces and how we deal with it also takes on a personal flavor.

Pitfalls

There are many common pitfalls in the awakening process. I’ll highlight a few without going into them in too much detail.

Relationship with teachers: Unquestioned adoration of teachers and gurus. (Upside: Wholehearted devotion. Downside: Being misled, disappointed, give away our authority. Remedy: See them as temporary guides and coaches.)

Relationship with teachings: See them as set in stone, infallible, and final. (Upside: Temporary honeymoon. Downside: Misled, apply guidelines that don’t work for us, disappointed. Remedy: See them as human-made, guidelines, each one medicine for a particular person and condition.)

Relationship with awakening: Assuming it’s a state. (Upside: Carrot. Downside: Chasing a state. Remedy: Recognize that what we are is always here and notice that.) Thinking there is an end, something final. (Upside: Can temporarily function as a carrot. Downside: Chasing an imagined end. Remedy: Recognize it as an ongoing process.)

Relationship with students (if have students): Encourage projections. (Upside: Learn from the consequences. Downside: Misleading the students. Remedy: Make the projections and their problems explicit, actively discourage them.) Take advantage of student’s projections, fears, hopes, and trust. (Upside: Crash and burn and learn from it. Downside: Harms the students in an ordinary human way. Remedy: Be aware of the dynamic, make it explicit, address the wounds and neediness in us it comes from.)

Relationship with our human self: Assuming the awakening will take care of all our human difficulties and challenges. (Upside: Carrot. Downfall: Disappointment. Remedy: Recognize it won’t and address our human challenges more directly.) Emphasizing what we are over our human self and…. (a) Not addressing our human needs and wounds. (Upside: Temporary imagined relief. Downside: Ignore what needs to be taken care of. Remedy: Realize the wounds and needs are here and address them more directly.) (b) Justify unethical and harmful behavior. (Upside: Crash, burn, and learn from it. Downside: Harms ourselves and others in an ordinary human way. Remedy: Notice what’s happening, take it seriously, and address it.)

Relationship with others and the world: Using awakening to fuel a particular image and a sense of separation (e.g. tell ourselves we are better than others, more awake, in order to feel better about ourselves and try to fill a very human hole of not feeling good enough, feeling unloved, etc.). (Upside: Crash, burn, and learn from it. Downside: Is out of alignment with reality, act from instead of taking care of own wounds. Remedy: Recognize what’s happening, address our wounds, hangups, and traumas more directly.)

These pitfalls come from believing stories, and they come from acting on our wounds instead of addressing them more directly. We act on unhealed and unawake parts of us, life responds and rubs up against them, and we get a chance to meet these parts of us and invite in healing, clarity, and a closer alignment with reality and oneness. How long this process is and how much pain it entails depends on our sincerity, receptivity, and willingness to look at what’s going on.

These pitfalls are not inherently wrong. They become part of – and fuel for – the awakening and maturing process. At the same time, it’s important to acknowledge the problems and pain that may come from them, for oneself and others, and speak up with firm kindness as appropriate. That’s part of the process as well.

How we view the process

Ongoing process

As mentioned before, all of this – the awakening, maturing, healing of our human self, embodiment – is an ongoing process.

If we are caught up in unloved and unexamined fearful thoughts, we may want it to finish and we may have ideas about a final endpoint. But, as Adya says, that’s the “dream of the ego”. I find it’s easier and a relief to instead gently assume all of it is an ongoing process. It also makes it more interesting.

Small or big interpretation

As mentioned in other articles, we can use a small or big interpretation of awakening.

In both, awakening is what we are noticing itself. And what we are is what all our content of experience happens within and as. (We can call this consciousness, or Big Mind, or something else, and those labels also happen within and as what we are.)

In the small or psychological interpretation, we acknowledge that this may happen within a world as it is described by current mainstream science. It may be that the awakening “only” happens within the mind of an actual separate physical human being. The benefit of this interpretation is that it may be more acceptable to people coming from a (currently) mainstream view and understanding of the world.

The big or spiritual interpretation is the more traditional one as described by mystics from and outside of all the main spiritual traditions. Here, we take our immediate experience more at face value. Everything is the divine. Everything – all of existence – is as it appears, it is love and consciousness.

Either way, it doesn’t change anything about the awakening itself. It’s still experienced and described in the same way, it goes through the same phases, and it has the same consequences.

Notes

I had the idea of including my own personal experiences more explicitly for each point, but it would make for a longer article and I have addressed much of it in other articles tagged “autobiography”.

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I am not ultimately a separate being: What does it mean?

 

When I sometimes write that what I am is not ultimately a separate being, what do I mean?

As who I am, this human self, I am a being that’s not separate from anything. I am both a somewhat autonomous whole in myself and an intrinsic part of a larger whole. I am a part of the seamless living system called Earth and the even larger seamless system of the universe.

As what I am, I am ultimately not a being and not separate. What I am is what the content of my experience – here and now – happen within and as. (We can call this all sorts of things, and those labels also happen within and as what we are.) This human self happens within and as what I am. Any ideas of separation happen within and as what I am.

So it can be understood in at least two different ways.

As who I am, as this human being, I am a being that is not separate from anything. And as what I am, I am ultimately not a being nor separate… although both of those happen within and as what I am.

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What’s the purpose of trauma?

 

What’s the purpose of trauma?

There are several answers to this question, partly because meaning is something we create and add to life.

Creation & Maintenance of Trauma

What’s the purpose of the creation and maintenance of trauma?

At an individual level, the main purpose of trauma may be protection. The pain of trauma is an incentive to avoid situations similar to the one initially creating the trauma.

At a collective human level, it’s probably the same. Traumas serve a survival function for our species. When a situation is overwhelming and we feel we can’t cope with it, we create trauma and the pain of the trauma helps us avoid similar situations.

Healing from Trauma

What’s the purpose we find through healing from trauma?

At an individual level, we may get a lot out of exploring and finding healing for our traumas. We obviously learn from the process, we learn how to heal from trauma and perhaps emotional issues in general. We may find we are more mature and humanized. We may be more raw and honest with ourselves and others. We may find ourselves as more real, authentic, and perhaps in integrity. We may have reprioritized and found what’s genuinely important in our life. We may discover the universality of human life and that – even with our individual differences – we are all in the same boat. We may have found a different and more meaningful life path. Our life, in general, may be more meaningful to us. We may have found a deep, raw, and real fellowship with others on a healing path. We may have learned to be more vulnerable with ourselves and others. We may have discovered how the path of healing from traumas fuels, leads into, and perhaps is an integral part of an awakening path. We may discover the deep capacity for healing inherent in ourselves, humans, and life in general.

At a collective level, it’s similar only scaled up and with the extra illumination and richness that comes from the interactions of people with different backgrounds, viewpoints, and experiences. Collectively, we learn about and from healing from trauma. We realize the universality of it, and of our profound capacity for healing. We see that healing from trauma is something we do together and not just individually. We discover that much of what we thought were individual traumas are actually more universal and collective traumas. We discover that culture is not only what gives us much of what we love about human life, but the painful unquestioned assumptions inherent in our culture is what creates much if not most of our pain.

Bigger Picture

What’s the purpose of the experience of trauma in the bigger picture?

If we assume there is something like rebirth or reincarnation, then the experience of trauma provides food for our healing, maturing, and eventually awakening. It’s the One locally and temporarily taking itself to be a separate being going through a reincarnation process and through that healing, maturing, and eventually awakening to itself as the One. The One the adventure always happened within and as.

Traumas seems an important part of the dialectical evolutionary process of humanity as a species and – by extension – of Earth as a whole. The aspects mentioned above and much more go into this.

And it’s part of the play of life or the universe or the divine. It’s lila. It’s life exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in always new ways. It’s part of the One temporarily and locally experiencing itself as separate.

Note

When I use the word trauma, I mean the traditional one-time-dramatic-event trauma, and perhaps, more importantly, the developmental trauma that most of have from growing up in slightly – or very – dysfunctional families, communities, and cultures.

In a wider sense, any emotional issue, any painful belief, any identification, is a form of trauma and comes from and creates trauma. It’s the trauma inherent in the One temporarily and locally taking itself to fundamentally be a separate being.

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What is wholeness?

 

What is wholeness?

There are several forms of wholeness, all part of the main form of wholeness.

There is the wholeness of what we are. We are that which the content of our experience happens within and as, whether we call this awakeness, consciousness, or something else. This makes our experience into a seamless whole, whether we notice or not.

As soon as the mind believes its thoughts and latches onto the viewpoints of some of these thoughts, there is an experience of fragmentation and it’s more difficult to notice what we are.

The process of what we are noticing itself is called awakening. And the process of living from this in more situations in our life is called embodiment.

There is also a wholeness of who we are, as this human self. Again, the wholeness is already here. And yet, there is also a sense of fragmentation since we tend to identify with some of who we are and disown or ignore other parts of who we are. The process of finding our wholeness as who we are is what Jung called individuation.

There is also the wholeness of the world and the universe. The Earth is one seamless living and evolving system. The universe is also one seamless evolving system. And we – as human individuals and species with our culture – are an intrinsic part of those systems.

Finally, there is the wholeness of all of existence. Whether we use a small (psychological) or big (spiritual) interpretation of awakening, we can say that all of existence is one. We can also say that everything is existence exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself.

How do we explore these forms of wholeness? I have written many articles on each of them but I’ll say a few words here.

To explore the wholeness of what we are, we can use inquiry (Headless experiments, Big Mind Process, Living Inquiries, etc.), often combined with meditation (basic meditation, quiet prayer, training stable attention), and perhaps mindful movement (yoga, taichi, Breema, etc.).

To explore the wholeness of who we are, we can use psychology (parts work, shadow work, projection work), bodywork, relationship work, and more.

When we explore the wholeness of Earth and the universe, we can use systems views and integral (aqal) maps.

And what about the wholeness of all of existence? It includes all of the above, although we can most directly explore it as we explore what we are.

Note: The examples of approaches above are just the ones I have found useful. What works for you may be different, and what I use in the future will probably also change as I discover other approaches.

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The “I can if I want” test

 

I love Life 101 topics. The ones that are simple, practical, and can change your life.

This is one for when I notice a should. When I feel I should do something and notice tension or stress.


The original thought may be: I should go to the presentation.

Change it: I can go to the presentation if I want.

Check it (a): I can go to the presentation if I want, and I want to. Notice how it feels in the body.

Check it (b): I can go to the presentation if I want, and I don’t want to. Notice how it feels in the body.

Which one allows the body to relax? Which one is true for me?


This is a very good little exercise: It’s simple. It can be done in a few seconds in just about any situation. It shifts our thinking from a should to a can and a want. And we check in with our body to see what’s true for us.

The body relaxes when we find what’s true for us. It can breathe. Release. Let go.

This is a form of inquiry, and I think it’s from cognitive therapy and/or ACT. It’s also similar to the I should -> I want to because inquiry where we list reasons and see if they hold up. They are both useful although I like this one since it makes use of checking in with the body and learning to trust the body. There is a part of our mind that knows what’s true for us and this is reflected in the body.

Knowing how one of the magic tricks of life is done

 

I enjoy watching Fool Us with Penn & Teller and also learning how the tricks may be done. (Often, there are several ways to do each trick.)

One thing I pay attention to is the audience reaction. Sometimes, the strongest audience reaction is to tricks with an amazing effect but disappointing method. (For instance, when the magician surreptitiously instructs an audience member in what to say or do.)

Other times, the method of the trick is as or even more amazing than the effect. These are typically tricks that take years to master like Kostya Kimlat’s third performance and The Evansons. They are both impressive although the first has a simple method and the second a complex method.

Life is full of magic tricks from the big magic trick of anything existing at all to the myriads of smaller magic tricks of how life expresses itself.

One of the magic tricks of our mind is of special interest to us. The effect is the mind creating a temporary experience for itself of ultimately being a small part of the world. And a related effect is the mind believing a thought (taking it as true), identifying with the viewpoint of thoughts, and creating emotional issues, hangups, and traumas. The method is the same for both, and the second creates the first, so it’s really one and the same trick.

We can discover how the mind does this trick. We can learn the theory of it, which is a starting point. And, more importantly, we can explore it in real-time, as it happens, in our own experience.

The best way to do this may be to mentally divide our experience into sense fields and then see how these combine to create our experience. It’s slightly arbitrary how we divide up the sense fields (e.g. taste, smell, sight, sound, sensation, thought), although the two important ones are sensation and thought (mental images and words).

I initially explored this through traditional Buddhist inquiry and more recently through the contemporary version called Living Inquiries.

When we explore this, often over and over, in our own experience, we learn to recognize the magic trick and how it is performed. Our mind gradually becomes less fascinated with the effect and less caught up in it. The charge that made the effect seem real gradually goes out of it.

(This is partly because we recognize that the charge comes from the mind associating certain sensations with certain thoughts, and the sensations lend a sense of reality and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations. When we see that the connection is only an association, it’s easier to recognize sensations as sensations and thoughts as thoughts, and we are no longer so caught up in the effect of the magic trick.)

The effect of this trick is certainly amazing. It’s the One creating an experience for itself of being separate and one among many.

And what about the method? Is it disappointing or amazing? In my experience, it’s both. It can be almost laughably simple when we first discover it. And yet, it’s also impressive in its simplicity, elegance, and effectiveness.

P.S. The Evansons is an amazing act, and – as mentioned above – they use a complex method (system of verbal cues) which requires years of practice in order to appear smooth and effortless. They say they do mentalism, and we can see that as either a tongue-in-cheek white lie that’s part of the performance, as misdirection, or as a mostly innocent bordering-on-unethical form of deception. I am with P&T and prefer when the magicians/mentalists are more transparent and tell the audience what they are doing, or – in this case – what they are not doing, without necessarily revealing the method.

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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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Writing about healing and awakening is like writing a guidebook

 

Writing about healing and awakening is a bit like writing a guidebook. We know there is a lot we don’t know about the place, and there may be others who know more about it in general, or who know more about different parts of it. But we (hopefully!) have been there, we have some experience with it, and the little we know may be helpful to others.

Also, when we write a guidebook, we focus on what we have a particular interest in – whether it’s the history, art, nature, food, or something else. And for someone out there, our approach may be a good fit.

Guidebooks don’t pretend to be complete or the final word about a place. They are incomplete, selective, written from our own interests, experiences, and limitations, and they need to be regularly updated. And that’s also how it is with guidebooks for healing and awakening.

Guidebooks are also typically written by people who know just enough about the place. While many who know as much or more about the place do not write about it. And that too is the same with guidebooks for healing and awakening. It doesn’t mean that guidebooks are not useful. Just that the authors of guidebooks may not be the ones who are most familiar with the place.

People who read guidebooks know the difference between reading about a place and actually going there. Again, that’s the same for healing and awakening. The guidebook is a good initial orientation and can be helpful – for some things and in a limited way – when we go there.

Guidebooks can be very useful and even essential. I usually read one or more before going to a new place, and I sometimes read them for places I am quite familiar with. And when it comes to guidebooks for healing and awakening, it can be helpful to recognize that they are not that different from guidebooks to physical places.

Sincerity on the spiritual path

 

Professor Broom: In medieval stories, there is often a young knight who is inexperienced, but pure of heart.
John Myers: Oh, come on. I am not pure of heart.
Abe Sapien(who’s psychic) Yes, you are.
Professor Broom: Rasputin is back for him. What I’m asking of you is to have the courage to stand by him when I am gone. He was born a demon; we can’t change that. But you will help him, in essence, to become a man.

– from Hellboy (2004), quoted in Wikipedia

One of the most valuable qualities on a healing and spiritual path is sincerity, a pure heart. As Broom says, this is a recurrent theme in some of the traditional legends and perhaps most famously the grail legend (Perceval).

Sincerity allows us to be more honest with ourselves, and that’s essential for emotional healing, awakening, and embodiment.

Is also essential for having a meaningful and juicy relationship with ourselves and others, one that allows for authenticity, growth, and surprises.

If we have some sincerity, it doesn’t matter so much if we are young or inexperienced on the path we are on. Sincerity is gold, and we can always learn tools and we will gain experience.

Is sincerity something we can learn or develop? Perhaps not. But I can notice when I am not sincere and I can then shift into sincerity.

Sometimes, it’s not so easy. We may be caught in fear of a situation or something coming up in us and retreat into defensiveness to try to stay safe. That’s OK. Again, it helps to notice. I can be honest with myself about what happened. And that, in itself, is sincerity.

It also helps to notice what in me takes me away from sincerity. What is the fear about? What is the fearful story? What beliefs do I find? Identifications? And then explore it further, befriend it (find healing for my relationship to it), and perhaps find healing for the issue itself.

As I wrote the second paragraph (“Sincerity allows us….”), I noticed a synchronicity in the lyrics of the song I was listening to:

There are times when a man needs to brave his reflection,
And face what he sees without fear,
It takes a man to accept his mortality,
Or be surprised by the presence of a tear.

– Sting and Rob Mathes, I love her but she loves someone else

Image: The Achievement of the Grail by British Artist Sir Edward Burn-Jones design, William Morris execution and John Henry Dearle flowers and decorations, from the Holy Grail tapestries 1891-94, Museum and Art Gallery of Birmingham, wool and silk on cotton warp.

Adyashanti: Spirituality is simply a way of indicating that we’re plunging beyond the personal

 

Spirituality is simply a way of indicating that we’re plunging beyond the personal consciousness. The depth of our being is just astonishing.

– Adyashanti, Silent Retreat Vol. 70

There are many definitions of spirituality, and the most basic one is perhaps Adya’s definition above. Spirituality suggests that we are going, or intend to go, beyond the personal human being and into something wider. Whether that is our human community, our Earth community (nature and Earth as a whole), the Universe as a whole, or Existence as a whole. And whether it is to connect with this larger whole, take it into account, live as if it matters, expand our sense of “us” to include all there is, or – ultimately – find ourselves as that, and this human being as an expression of it.

Life 101

 

Most of what I write about here is Life 101.

It’s simple, and – for me — essential.

And that’s why I write about it.

I wish to contribute, in a very small way, to a society where (some of) these things are seen as basic and essential.

It may be helpful to some of the people reading it. (For me, it’s always helpful to be reminded of the basics. And I know it’s helpful to me to find others with similar experiences and interests as myself.)

And, in the best case, it’s helpful to me when I write. It allows me to explore, clarify, and remind myself. The more sincere I am, and the closer to immediate experience, the more I benefit and the more likely I am to be surprised by what I discover.

All maps are projections

 

All maps are projections.

They are projections in a few different ways.

First, they are projections of our ideas. They are an overlay of ideas and thoughts that the mind puts on (it’s images of) the world. This helps us orient and function in the world, and is essential for our survival.

Often, they are also projections of our own characteristics and qualities. We can find in ourselves the characteristics we see in the wider world. It may not be as strong or explicit, but it’s here if we look.

And sometimes, our maps are expressions of our unresolved emotional issues. They express our hopes and fears, how we would like the world and ourselves to be, and what we fear it may be.

We have many different maps of ourselves, the world, and our place in the world – whether they are formal or informal; explicit or implicit; about the world, ourselves, or our relationship with the world; and whether we recognize them as maps or not.

Some maps are explicit and what we typically call maps. For instance, political and geographical maps.

Some maps may not be what we think of as maps. For instance, some ways we categorize people (politically, social status, friends or not etc.); our mental timeline of past-present-future; and our general world-view (materialistic, heaven and hell, afterlife, reincarnation, planetary influences, gods, God, nondual), and so on.

Some maps are mostly outside of our conscious awareness – and may even be contrary to our conscious ideas about the world, although they still have a major impact on how we experience the world and ourselves. These are often (somewhat charged) ideas about other people, ourselves, and the world as a whole.

Most of our maps are shared with others in our family, subculture, and culture. Some may be shared with most of humanity. And even the ones that may seem unique to us are probably shared with many others.

It’s often useful to recognize our explicit and implicit maps as maps. It helps us hold them more lightly and not invest so much identity and fears and hopes into them. At least at a conscious level, we know they are used by our mind to make sense of the world. They are questions about the world, leave a lot out, and are not in any way the final word.

Also, recognizing our maps as projections can help us get to know and understand ourselves better. We can use them as pointers for healing for ourselves as individuals and even for us as a society.

Here are some examples.

I have a mental map of past-present-future. And yet, it’s created by my mind and is an idea, and it happens here and now. My map and what I place on the map all happens here and now. This helps me hold my ideas of past, future, and present – and what happened or may happen –more lightly.

I may have mental maps inherited from my culture that rank people based on (relatively superficial) characteristics like gender, ethnicity, politics, religion and so on. It’s helpful to recognize this, question its validity, and find all of it in myself.

I may have religious maps – of heaven and hell, afterlife, reincarnation, divine beings and so on, and myself in relation to it. Again, it helps to see that these are maps. They are projection of ideas into (my image of) the world. This helps me hold it all more lightly. And here too, I can use these maps to find it all already in me and my experience, and perhaps to point to some unresolved issues (fears, hopes) in me.

I may have esoteric maps of planetary influences, divine beings, energies, energy systems and so on. The same goes here for holding it more lightly and finding it all – the images and anything charged about it – in myself.

A map can even be of a situation. I may have a mental map of a situation where I see myself as wronged or a victim, and that map is part of what holds the pain or trauma in place. These are the types of maps is helpful to identify and investigate in a healing process.

I can still use all of these maps. We need maps to orient and function in the world. And yet, it’s helpful to recognize them as maps and sometimes explore them as projections. It helps us hold them more lightly. It helps us question their validity and perhaps replace them with other maps that are more helpful. It helps us find it all – what we see in the world – in ourselves. And it may point to something unresolved in us we can find healing for.

God is primary

 

I personally find it helpful and interesting to sometimes explore my connection with aspects of the divine like angels (frequently), saints (St. Francis and others), avatars (Amma) and so on.

And yet, God is always primary. God is what I always return to, including in my prayers and my gratitude.

Whether we see God as Source, the wholeness of existence, that which allows and is all, as Mother and/or Father, or something else, God is primary.

Even if emphasizing aspects of the divine can be instructional, helpful, and interesting, and sometimes easier, I remember (through grace) that God is primary and I keep returning to God in my prayers and gratitude.

This is another very simple and basic topic, and yet it’s good to remember since the basics are important.

Waking up issues and more

 

I’ll write more about this in other posts, but wanted to make a quick note of it here.

When there is some degree of awakening here, this awakeness can be used to wake up other things, including emotional issues.

In my case, I connect with the awakeness (bring it to awareness), I connect with the lack of awakeness in the emotional issue, and I intend for the emotional issue to wake up. To wake up from its painful dream (the reason it’s an emotional issue is that it still lives in separation consciousness) and to reality (all as the divine and One).

When we wake up emotional issues in this way, it’s deeply healing, and it also helps us to live our awakeness in more areas and situations in life (embodiment). Instead of certain situations triggering the emotional issue, there is now more space to live from awakeness.

We can also wake up parts of the physical body or objects in the same way. The divine becomes more awake to itself as and through these objects.

This is the direct way to wake up issues and other things. And there are also other ways, including through a whole range of healing modalities such as Vortex Healing (after Core Veil is gone), the Big Mind process (shifting into Big Mind/Heart, holding a part of us still not awake, and invite it to wake up and align with reality), and different other forms of inquiry (Living Inquiry, The Work, headless experiments etc.)

A few additional notes:

How, more specifically, do I go about waking up issues? In my case, I notice the awakeness of all of existence – as it appears to me and as it stretches out indefinitely. (Some connect to the awakening in their spiritual heart, a little above the physical heart.) I then bring attention to the emotional issue – where I notice a physical contraction (there is a bodily contraction with every emotional issue), and I get a sense of the (stressful, separation-consciousness created) stories connected with it. Then, I intend for the issue to wake up – for the awakeness that’s already here to infuse the issue so it can wake up to itself as the divine. (And also, so “I” can recognize it more clearly as the divine, temporarily confused, temporarily pretending to believe in stressful stories, temporarily creating a “hook” for identification and so on.) And I stay with it until I notice the shift, and a bit longer so it can deepen and settle.

There can be a “general” and “global” awakening, and yet when we have emotional issues, as we all (?) do, these parts of us still remain in separation consciousness. They were formed from separation consciousness and still operate from separation consciousness. And life “wants” these to awaken, so it’s common that at some point after the general awakening, these confused and unawake parts surface so they can join in the awakening. To the extent we struggle with it and don’t know how to deal with it in a constructive way, it can be distressing and painful, and yet it’s an essential part of awakening and embodiment. And most of us learn, over time, how to better and more consciously dance this dance.

As I sometimes do, I have written this in a more ordinary language. It’s more accurate to say that it’s the divine waking itself up. The divine is (somewhat) awake to itself here, and uses that awakeness to wake up other parts of itself (emotional issues, parts of the body, objects in the world).

I should also add that the dynamic behind waking up issues is also why it can help to be in the presence of someone awake. That local awakeness helps the divine nearby (in the form of other people) to ripen and eventually wake up to itself.

And I want to add a few words about why I am writing about this now. I have naturally done this since the initial awakening in my teens, but it has sometimes taken a back seat since many people recommend and speak about other approaches to healing and embodiment. I have re-found courage to use this more direct approach since it’s used (in a slightly different form) in Vortex Healing, and since new people in my life have spoken about it and use it themselves. Another reason is that I overcooked myself a few months ago from giving myself and receiving a lot of energy healing, and I am unable to do much conventional energy healing right now (Vortex Healing). So what’s left is this more direct approach of awakening the issues. It doesn’t tax or strain my system nearly as much.

Awakening the issues can be very helpful and can create a big transformation. It doesn’t necessarily remove the issue, but it becomes lighter and has less charge, and since it’s more awake to itself as the divine it’s easier to relate to it more intentionally and in a healthier way. And any other healing or inquiry approach can be very helpful in conjunction with waking up the issue.

I assume when we wake up issues in this way, they wake up to the extent the “global” consciousness is awake. At the very least, we can wake up issues to the truth that the person is currently aware of and experiencing.