Becoming water

 

Towards the end of a Living Inquiry session this morning, I have the image of becoming water in a creek. I flow as a creek. Nothing is fixed.

It brings up fear and disorientation in me, and I notice how my mind tries to make something me and fixed. My fear is that I won’t know who I am if I can’t find the me that’s fixed. My mind wants to hold onto words and images of myself as fixed.

In reality, we are like water in a creek. Life is water in a creek. Nothing is fixed. We learn, at some point, to try to pretend we are something fixed. And then, some of us try to see through this learning.

Reversal lists

 

This has come up in a couple of conversations recently: The value of creating reversal lists.

When we experience loss of a desirable situation – health, a person, a relationship etc. – it is easy to habitually remind ourselves of what was desirable for us in it. We exaggerate what was good, and overlook what didn’t work so well. And that is a guaranteed way to make ourselves miserable.

So why not do the reverse? Why not make lists of what we didn’t like?

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Teachers as models or annoyance

 

Through a body oriented practice I am doing, I am required to listen to a particular teacher for about 40-50 hours once or twice a year. I find that he is pushing a good number of buttons for me (including about what is “good teaching”) which is uncomfortable for me but also invites me to notice and work with some deeply held beliefs.

Through this, I see more clearly that a teacher can either be a model or an annoyance, and that each has its value. In Zen, I am used to a teacher being precise in words, yet also challenge their students in different ways – often through their behavior.

But here, it goes even further since the words themselves push buttons. (Some of my stories about it: Imprecise, coming from a “should” about needing to shock his students, talking down to his students, pretending the teachings are more profound or unique than they are, being deceptive about the hierarchy of the organization and the history of the practice, and so on).

It is easy to relate to a teacher who is obviously a good model, such as Byron Katie, Adyashanti, Joel, and others. It is comfortable, and also very helpful.

And while it can be tremendously difficult to deal with teachers who show up more as an annoyance, it can also take me even further. I am directly faced with some deeply held beliefs that sometimes remain more hidden when I am with “good teachers”, the teachers who follow my expectations.

These beliefs will of course come up anyway, just through living my life, but in the presence of these types of teachers, they are dredged up more thoroughly and directly. I sit in the fire whether I want to or not, and have to face it. (Including the belief that since life will trigger these beliefs, a teacher don’t have to.)

This particular teacher comes from the Gurdijeff lineage, so I shouldn’t be surprised by this since it is an important element in that particular tradition.

I may not like it. I certainly wouldn’t have sought him out if it wasn’t a requirement for doing the body work (which I love). I may not chose to act in that way myself. But, although I don’t like to admit it, his teaching style is helpful to me. Through pushing so many buttons in me, I have to face them.

I have to reluctantly admit that it works, whether it is intentional from his side or not.

It is even possible that rather than being a “bad” teacher who unintentionally is a “good” teacher, this is all intentional… How would I receive it differently if I knew it was all intentional?

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Teachings as medicine

 

Teachings can be seen as medicine.

We have a fixed position, which creates wounds, immature behavior and a sense of an I-Other. And the teaching is designed to nudge us out of that fixed position, either directly or through offering us a tool which invites the shift when applied.

That is one reason why there are so many – apparently contradictory – teachings. They each are designed to invite us out of a particular fixed position and belief. (There are of course other reasons for teachings, but this is an important one.)

From this, it is easy to see a “good teacher” as someone who is fluid among a wide range of views and positions, and can take any one of them according to what seems most helpful in the situation. And that is certainly true from a conventional viewpoint.

But I also find that teachers who take a somewhat fixed and rigid position can be very helpful. Maybe more helpful, in some ways, because they bring my attention straight to my own hangups.

I may have an expectation of the teacher being fluid, so get to notice and inquire into that belief. I may agree completely with the teacher, which then feels a little stale after a while, so I get to inquire into the stories I agree with. And I may disagree with the teacher, which is stressful, so here too I get to notice and inquire into my fixed positions.

In the first case, the teacher is fluid and models it for me. I get to see my own fixed views in contrast to the fluidity of the teacher, and am inspired and invited to move in the direction of a similar fluidity.

In the second case, the teacher is rigid, which in different ways also brings my attention right to my own fixed positions. And here, I have to do the work myself, which in many ways is more powerful.

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Gender and fluidity

 

An uninformed post on something (see last paragraph) I want to inquire into:

Here’s a great, although brief, post on gender, filtered through the aqal framework, in a way that allows for a wide embrace of and fluidity among many different expressions and experiences of gender.

For me, gender is deeply interesting when there is a wide terrain and fluidity there. And it is difficult for me to be exited about it if the landscape is narrow, the dynamics rigid, and it is made into ideology one way or another. (Exited in terms of the map, and also in terms of how it is experienced and expressed in myself and others.)

This is one of the many ways to use the Big Mind process: Shift into the various expressions and experiences of gender, along different dimensions. Explore how each one contributes to the life of the small self, and to the expressions of Big Mind and Big Heart. See how the small self relates to each of them. Are there some that are disowned? Others that are rigidly identified with? How would it be if each of them are included in a more conscious way? How can there be more of a flow among them, a shifting into one and then another? What does the wider landscape look like?

The Work is also useful here, helping us to investigate our beliefs and identities around gender. Do I think I have to be one way or another? Do I see some modes as safe and other ones as unsafe? What do I think would happen if I brought out modes outside of my usual identities and habits?

For instance, the macho modes that Ken Wilber and some of his followers like to adopt is beautiful if part of a much wider landscape of available expressions and experiences of gender, and happens within a flow among them. And as with anything else, if it becomes an ideology, more rigid, and something to defend, it can quickly look a little weird.

Statement for inquiry: Ken Wilber shouldn’t be stuck in his macho attitudes.

Here is an interesting comment on Deida’s take on the topic:

So for instance David Deida’s sexology is infuriatingly heteronormative and employs some of the worst gender stereotypes I’ve ever seen. His latest book, “The Way of the Superior Man”, has a blurb from Ken Wilber saying something to the effect of how finally there’s a book for the non-castrated male. This is the kind of nonsense that is sure to attract the little-girl types in need of a father figure (cue: I gag), but I just don’t see what any of this has to do with the spiritual path, which requires incredible courage.

Another interesting point from the same comment:

As Adrienne Rich, Kate Millett and others have pointed out in their deconstruction of compulsory heterosexuality, the West’s dichotomy of homosexuality versus heterosexuality boils down to gender politics at the end of the day. Kate Millett brilliantly puts it: “Homosexuality was invented by a straight world dealing with its own bisexuality. But finding this difficult, and preferring not to admit it, it invented a pariah state, a leper colony for the incorrigible whose very existence, when tolerated openly, was admonition to all. We queers keep everyone straight as whores keep matrons virtuous.”

Being right or being at peace

 

That old piece of wisdom that we can be right or be at peace is something I notice almost daily, if I pay attention.

Whenever there is stress, it is because I – at some level – insists on being right about something by taking a story as exclusively true. I take it as absolutely true, and discount and dismiss the truth in its reversals. And this prevents me from seeing the limited truth in all of those versions of the story, and the inherent neutrality in what the story refers to.

So exploring this in more detail, seeing that the original story has only a limited truth to it, and that its reversals have a limited truth to them as well, there is more of a peace with the situation. Releasing identification with one particular story about it, I am not at odds with it anymore. From being identified with and as the story and the particular perspective, I am now that which holds a wider range of stories and perspectives, honoring and recognizing the limited truth in each one.

Being at peace with it sounds a little passive perhaps, but the reality of it is anything but passive. It is a space that allows for a dynamic, juicy and engaged flow among perspectives, including the freedom to use any one of them as a guideline for my actions in the world – while also being free from taking it as an absolute truth.

There are many ways to work with this. We can use Voice Dialog or the Big Mind process to explore the different views and perspectives, getting familiar with each one, and befriending and owning each one. We can investigate our original belief through The Work, seeing the consequences of rigidly clinging to it, the freedom in releasing the grip on it, and the truth in its reversals. We can use different forms of journeying, such as Process Work, exploring and taking on the different roles and perspectives and their relationships. Or we can even simply be with our experience, wholeheartedly, which includes releasing our grip on the initial perspective and story.

For instance, there is/was a tendency for me to be annoyed about noise, for instance when people eat loudly or talk during a performance, movie or talk, or play loud music in the neighborhood. So here, I can be right by holding onto my stories that these people should behave differently, and all the supporting stories of how they are oblivious, disrespectful, loud obnoxious Americans, people are more conscious and respectful where I come from, and so on. And this brings tension and stress. I am at odds with life as it shows up.

Or I can try to be at peace with it, while also being right, which doesn’t work very well.

Or, I can be willing to let go of being right, in the sense of taking my initial stories about it as the final or most true truth, and arrive at a wider – and more juicy, fluid and alive – embrace of the different views, roles and perspectives involved.

I can investigate the beliefs that people should be quiet during a performance, that it is disrespectful to make noises in certain situations, and so on. Is it true? What happens when I hold onto that belief, and if it wasn’t there? What is the truth in its reversals?

I can explore the roles and views involved through Voice Dialog and the Big Mind process. What do they each have to say? How do I habitually relate to and treat each one of them? What are the gifts of each one? How would they like to be treated?

I can allow any experiences that come up for me around it, in a wholehearted and heartfelt way. This inevitably involves releasing my grip on any one role, position or perspective.

I can explore it through Process Work, taking on the role of the noise maker and explore what it has to say, what it wants me to see and wake up to, and what gifts and contributions it has for me. It may tell me loosen up, this is all part of life. When you narrow your focus and exclude these sounds by your shoulds, you exclude life. 

I can find myself and headless or as Big Mind, and see that everything arising is just phenomena, just another experience. It is part of the field of awakeness and form, inherently absent of any I with an Other.

After finding this wider embrace and more free flow among roles, perspectives and views, I find that there is often a shift from stress, to neutrality, to even enjoyment and appreciation of what initially appeared as a disturbance.

And instead of either suppressing my compulsion to either leave or ask people to be quiet, or doing it from annoyance, I can do either or neither from more clarity, and with a sense of connection.

The depth of the shallow

 

I used to be identified with an identity as cultured, which lead me to read a good amount of literature classics, philosophy and art history, watch obscure and sophisticated movies, listen to music such as Arvo Part, Palestrina, Bach, Philip Glass, and so on, and although I genuinely enjoyed it and got a lot out of it, it was also a one-sided life and identification.

During the dark night this identification, as so many others, wore down, and there is now more of an open space for anything… deep and shallow, artsy and popular… it matters less now.

The irony in this shift is that now, finding more fluidity within the wide landscapes of literature, movies and music, I am also more easily able to find the depth in the shallow, and the same dynamics and patterns in all of it. Popular or sophisticated… it is all reflections of the same basic dynamics and patterns of the mind.

There is a depth in the shallow that, although I was aware of it all the time, I held at arm-lengths distance. Now, that it is right here in my life with no distance, I can appreciate it much more.

Conversely, I guess I can say that there is a shallowness in the deep as well, often an identification with a particular identity which sets up boundaries where there really are none, and a self-congratulatory attitude about things that are really not that sophisticated, and sometimes not even that important.

This blog and how to break out

 

For a long time, there has been voices whispering in my ear about this blog… it is too repetitive, too serious, too obsessive, too much about figuring things out which cannot be pinned down, too narrow focus, too much of an isolated island, too much of an attempt to be balanced which also takes the spice out of it…

It is of course what comes up, and I am just the scribe… but now, the impulse to break out of it is coming up stronger.

And since I also want to break out from the island, why not include others? Maybe others want to break out from their islands as well?

Here is an idea that came up in a chat with deepsurface last night:

Set up a blog that is specifically for taking other perspectives than the ones we usually take… it will be an exercise in letting go, in finding valid points in what are usually the opposite views, for some it would be an exploration of different addresses in the aqal model, and could even be a good deal of fun.

Some ideas for guidelines:

  • Take a different view from your usual one (a reversal, or if you want to be more specific, then as defined by the aqal model… decide on a level, line, quadrant and/or type)
  • Find good points, and keep it short (write intelligently and succinctly from the perspective)
  • Have fun, remember it is only a game.

And as a side-discussion, we can talk about our experiences with it, what we discovered, how well we stayed with the chosen perspective, and so on.

Fluid identification

 

Identification goes from rigidity to fluidity, and from present to absent.

The polarity of blind and fluid identifications

At the one end of this polarity is a blind identification, a rigid holding on to a limited and fixed identity. This is bound to give rise to suffering since everything is always in flux. We can try to hold onto something, including a particular identity, but life always moves on, and in the discrepancy of what we want and what is, there is suffering. Holding onto identities is a battle, and the casualty in this battle is our peace.

The other end is a fluid identification, allowing any identification that arises and spontaneously shifts into something else, knowing that none of them are complete, none of them are the full picture. This is a dance allowing anything to arise and exploring that too as I. It becomes an alive exploration process, against the background of all as Spirit, as Big Mind.

The polarity of presence and absence of a sense of I

The rigid form of identification involves a sense of I. There is a sense of I and Other, the I is fleshed out by numerous identities, and there is a rigid holding onto these. It becomes a matter of life and death. And the sense of I and Other is typically strong and seems very real.

The fluid form of identification can go along with a more vague sense of I, fluidly placed on whatever identity arises here and now. There is a sense of basic trust and safety which allows for a deepening into this fluidity.

Or it can happen within realized selflessness, where Big Mind finds itself arising in particular and always new ways, and finds itself as what is arising here now. This is a fluid and temporary identification, realized as simultaneously absent of any separate I and with the I of Big Mind, the I without an Other.