Mona W: when I started my practice of intentionally finding things to LIKE

 

Years ago when I started my practice of intentionally finding things to LIKE no matter where I was, who I was with, or what I was doing, the unexpected benefit was that my anxiety decreased. I felt safer and calmer because I realized I was surrounded by wonderful things that I liked and there was nothing to be afraid of or worry about.

– Mona W. on Facebook

It’s often the simplest intentional noticing and activities that helps the most. They may seem so simple that the thoughts says it’s too simple, it’s what a child may do, and that’s a good reminder to give it a go.

Katie: Would you like to know the secret to happiness?

 

Would you like to know the secret to happiness? Kindness and Gratitude. Nothing else is required.

– Byron Katie

Yes, and that includes kindness and gratitude towards everything in our experience. The whole field of experience. Any image. Any word. Any sensation.

Since most of us are trained to not do this, at least not consistently or universally, it can take time. We are retraining ourselves. We are forming a new habit. A large oil tanker needs time to slow down and turn, and that’s how it often is with us too. But with intention and dedication, it is possible. It can be done.

Thank you

 

I realized I don’t often mention here something close to my heart.

It’s a very simple mantra or expression of gratitude.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I sometimes say it before falling asleep, or after waking up, or during the day while walking or doing things around the house.

And I sometimes bring to mind things in my life while saying thank you. These may be things it’s easy for my surface self to feel gratitude for, and also things I initially don’t like so much.

There is a shift while doing this. I may find genuine gratitude and thankfulness for it. And I also get to see the parts of me that don’t like it, and can say thank you for those parts too. They too are here. They are welcome.

Why me?

 

I watched The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies last night.

After Laketown has been laid waste by Smaug, there is a scene where Alfrid crawls onto shore among hundreds of other exiled Laketown residents. They are all in the same situation, and yet Alfrid says why me?

It’s not very subtle, but it’s a good illustration of what many of us sometimes does, including me.

We experience what’s universally human. What millions or billions of people have experienced before us, and what billions may experience after us. And yet, we feel we have been singled out. Somehow, life is especially unfair to me.

There are several reasons for this experience.

One is that most people show the lighter and more glossy side of their life to others, even without intending it. Most of us dress nicely, put on a smile, and are selective with whom we share the most difficult things in our lives. So it’s easy to see the lives of others as easier and better than our own, especially since we are – sometimes painfully – aware of the disappointments and challenges in our own life. As Steven Furtick said, the reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.

Also, since there is identification as a self, including as one or more deficient selves, this self is naturally in the center of our awareness. We overlook or “forget” that others experience many or all of the same things as we do. My life is not necessarily more difficult than that of most others, even if it can seem that way at times.

What is the remedy?

One is to share these things with others, which allows them to share with us. We get to see that our experience is not unique.

Another is to find gratitude for it all, perhaps through an all-inclusive gratitude practice.

We can inquire into identifications and beliefs. And perhaps do ho’oponopono, or tonglen, or loving kindness practice.

We can also pray or ask for these experiences to help us find compassion, humility, gratitude, and a life of service.

And we can live a life of service. Knowing that others experience this too, we can dedicate our life to serve life. This can look like a very ordinary life. And yet it can make a big difference, for ourselves and others.

 

What if this is the best that could possibly happen?

 

In the initial awakening – which came “out of the blue” in my teens – it was abundantly clear that whatever happened was the best that could possibly happen. The universe is love and consciousness. What’s happening is love, infinite wisdom, and consciousness.

Then, during the dark night of the soul, this knowing went into the background, and seemed to become just a memory. My mind told itself that something had gone terribly wrong. I was in the wrong place in the wrong situation. I had left my guidance. I continued to leave my guidance. It felt wrong at a deep level. And there was a knowing there too, in the background, that this also is from and is love and consciousness, and perhaps the best that could happen.

Both are valid, in their own way. All is love and consciousness. What’s happening is and expression of – and is – that love and consciousness. And, when I leave my guidance as I did then, things do go “wrong” in an ordinary human sense. And that too is OK. It’s an invitation to notice. To see that it’s misguided to think I can put myself in a situation that goes against my guidance and heart, and think it will be fine at a human level. It won’t. In my case, I needed to learn that through experience.

The initial realization of “the best that could possibly happen” was given with little or no cost. It just came. This time, it seems I have to refind it more intentionally and through some work.

For instance, what if this – this situation, and what happened – is the best that could possibly have happened? How would it be if my mind intentionally shifts and takes on this view? Can I find specific examples for how it’s valid? What are the genuine gifts in what happened? How does my view on my situation, and what happened over the last years, change? How do I live my life?

Another way to explore this is through an all-inclusive gratitude practice. What happens if I thank life, or God, for all that has happened? What happens if I thank for even that which was the most painful? What happens if I write lists each day, saying “I am grateful for…..”, and include anything that comes to mind whether my impulse is to like or dislike it?

These practices will, most likely, bring up (unloved/unquestioned) fears, identifications, and beliefs. So how is it to sit with these in presence? With love? With gentle curiosity? Is it OK?

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Stepping stones to what’s more natural

 

Many practices I have explored seem to function as stepping stones to what’s more natural. They take me from a disconnected and fragmented state to what’s simpler and more natural. And that includes meditation, yoga (tai chi, chi gong, Breema), inquiry, prayer, loving kindness, gratitude, precepts and shaking (TRE, spontaneous movement, dance), and a variety of other practices.

The mental body is the newest in our human evolution, so it is perhaps natural that it’s been emphasized during the last few thousand years at least. This has led to a temporary over-emphasizing of role of the mental faculties (they are important, but function best in service to the heart), the appearance of our thoughts as more real and solid than they are, and identification with and as thought. So many or most of the practices developed over this time period are aimed at remedy and balance this. They are medicines for a temporary over-emphasis of the mental body. They are a bridge from this to seeing what’s already here, and a simpler and more natural way of being and living.

Some examples:

Precepts highlight what in us – usually fears, shoulds and beliefs – that prevent us from living with a natural and simple kindness towards ourselves and others. As with the other practices, it can feel a bit artificial at first, and then it shifts into a more natural and free living from kindness.

Natural meditation (Shikantaza) is what’s already here, although attention may be drawn to the complexities and drama of the mental and emotional bodies. It’s also how the mind naturally is when it’s less identified.

Yoga helps us connect more consciously with the body and movement, and allows us to experience ourselves as the body-mind whole. The whole is already here, although it’s not always noticed. And an experience of it can be cultivated through various movement practices.

Prayer is a giving of ourselves to God, an offering of our human self to Spirit. Again, it’s already that way, and this helps us notice it. It’s also how we naturally live when mind is less identified.

Loving kindness is again what’s here when mind is less identified. There is a natural and simple love and kindness for whatever is here in myself, others and the world. It’s what I am and life is.

Gratitude is similar. It’s what’s naturally here when mind is less identified. This may be a gratitude for what it’s easy to find gratitude for (friends, family, health, shelter, good food), and also for life itself as it shows up, with warts and calamities and all.

Inquiry is an examination of our thoughts and how it relates to emotions, sensations and our lives. Again, when mind is less identified it is naturally curious and attentive of these dynamics.

Shaking is what any mammal does to relieve stress and tension. It allows the body and mind to restore itself to a more healthy state.

With all of these, it can feel a bit artificial at first. We learn a form and a method, apply it, and it can feel clumsy. It also brings up what’s in us that prevents us from living it in a natural and simple form, it brings us face to face with identifications, wounds, fears, shoulds and more. And over time, as these soften, are held in love, and are seen through, the natural way of living this is gradually revealed. Form gives way to a very natural and simple way of living. These practices is a bridge from a temporary over-emphasizing of the mental body, with accompanying identifications, to a more simple and less identified way of being and living. (more…)

All inclusive gratitude, prayer, inquiry

 

I notice how helpful I find all-inclusive practices.

An all-inclusive gratitude practice helps me shift out of a split perception. I write or say I am grateful for….. [anything in my life, what I initially like and don’t like]. It helps me open up for the grace in it all. It invites me to gently and quietly question my assumptions about what went right and wrong, what’s good and bad fortune. It invites me to find the gold in whatever is here.

An all-inclusive prayer helps me find love for my enemies, whether these are things I at first don’t like in myself or the wider world. I pray for the health and well-being of myself, suffering parts of me, others, all beings in the three times, and the Earth, and especially those I have closed down my heart to. This helps me open my heart to all of me and all of life. It helps me open my heart to my whole field of experience, finding love for it. Loving kindness (metta), tonglen, ho’oponopono, Heart Prayer, placing myself and others in the heart flame, and other practices can also be very helpful here.

An all-inclusive inquiry practice helps me leave no stone unturned. I examine even my most basic and cherished assumptions about myself, the world, life and reality. I can use The Work to question any stressful story in my life. I can use the Living Inquiries to question anything that seems real and solid to me. And there are many other forms of inquiry as well.

The reason these practices can be helpful and powerful is that they reflect reality. Reality is one. It’s Spirit. It’s love. It’s aliveness. It’s life. And all-inclusive practices, such as these, invite this seamless whole that we are to recognize itself more fully. It helps shed assumptions about reality, especially about separation, and notice what’s already here and what we already are.

Note: Whatever these practices brings up of wounds, fear, apparent resistance etc. can be brought into the practice. If a wound or fear comes up during the gratitude practice, include it. If it comes up during prayer, pray for that too. If it comes up during inquiry, look at what it is.

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All-inclusive gratitude practice

 

I have taken up my all-inclusive gratitude practice again, and it feels good. In a sense, it feels like coming home.

A conventional gratitude practice is – I assume – more accessible to more people, and it can be very helpful. It helps us find love and a sense of abundance. And yet, it also has a limitation, as all practices do. When I filter and separate out what I am grateful for from the rest of my life, I reinforce my ideas of what’s good and bad, and what I can or should be grateful for. It reinforces a split perception of the world.

An all-inclusive gratitude practice also opens up for love and a sense of abundance. In addition, it helps me soften and question my habitual ideas of good and bad, desirable and undesirable, fortunate and unfortunate. It opens me up for gratitude for all of it, and finding the gifts in it. It invites me to meet all that is with love, and perhaps notice it’s all already love.

An all-inclusive gratitude practice will also flush out “what’s left” in me. It helps me see the fears, hopes and beliefs I have about life. I can include these too in the gratitude list, and I can meet it with love and gently explore it in inquiry.

As with any all-inclusive practices or views, it opens up another “layer” for in how we perceive the world. I’ll still – hopefully – be a good steward of my own life. I’ll still aim at acting with kindness to myself, others and the world. I’ll still be engaged. Although now from a slightly different place.

To put it metaphorically, the layer of my human self is much the same. There is still a human self here living as best as he can, and from kindness and clarity when possible. And there is another layer here, a layer that softens the split perception and recognizes all as already grace and love, and perhaps even Spirit.

An example of a conventional gratitude list:

I am grateful for food, clothing and shelter. I am grateful for family and friends. I am grateful for living in a country in peace. I am grateful for being able to rest.

And an all-inclusive gratitude list:

I am grateful for food, clothing and shelter. I am grateful for family and friends. I am grateful for living in a country in peace. I am grateful for being able to rest. I am grateful for brain fog. I am grateful for fatigue. I am grateful for fears about the future. I am grateful for discomfort. I am grateful for the contraction in my throat. I am grateful for wishing I was further ahead.

These lists often include more specific items too.

Purgatory and love

 

A dark night is a form of purgatory, a cleansing out.

And it’s as much or more about love.

What’s surfacing seeks to be recognized as love, and met with love. It seeks a loving presence.

It seeks to be seen, felt and loved.

It seeks for the believed stories that created it and maintains it to be seen through.

It seeks to be felt as is, and for it’s sensation component to be felt as sensations.

It seeks to be recognized as love, coming from confused love and a wish to protect the apparent separate self, and to be met with love.

It seeks it’s own liberation.

What’s triggering these wounded parts of us also seeks love.

Any situation in the world bringing these parts up in us also seeks love. It seeks to be recognized as love, and met with love.

Any person bringing this up in me comes with an invitation to be met with love.

Any perceived challenging situation is a potential purgatory, in this sense. It comes with an invitation for us to see through our stories about it, feel it, and find love for it.

It comes with an invitation for me to see through any of my stories about it. (Head center.) Recognize it as love, and find love for it. (Heart center.) And feel it. (Belly center.)

And for the heart facet of this, simple practices can be very helpful.

Prayer. Prayer for guidance. Prayer for the well being of myself and others. Prayer for love for me, suffering parts of me, and others. Prayer for receptivity. Prayer for support in meeting what’s here with love.

A simple loving kindness practice. I wish you love. I wish you ease. Said to myself or parts of me (my heart, pain), and others.

Tonglen. Ho’oponopono. (With me, parts of me, others.)

All-inclusive gratitude practice. I am grateful for….. (anything, what’s its easy to be grateful for, and especially what it’s less easy to find gratitude for.)

Seeing myself in the heart flame. Seeing others, and the world, in the heart flame. (Fanning the heart flame with my attention and devotion. Then seeing myself – body and mind – inside of it, allowing it to burn away anything not like itself, anything not real, anything not like clarity and love.)

Christ meditation, visualizing Christ in my heart, above and below me, in front and behind me, and on either side of me.

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All-inclusive gratitude practice

 

I have returned to my more formal all-inclusive gratitude practice.

A conventional gratitude practice, where I say or write down a list of what I am easily grateful for, such as friends, good health, food, shelter and so on. Here, I may inadvertently reinforce my ideas of good and bad, desirable and undesirable. I make these ideas seem more solid and real to myself.

In contrast, an all-inclusive gratitude practice is where I include anything in my life – including my fears and worries and what I wish wasn’t there. In this, there is an invitation to soften these ideas, and to gently question them to see what already may be more true for me. Is it true that I know what’s good and bad? Is it true I know what’s best for me and the world? Is it true I cannot trust life and Spirit?

Here is an example of items from my all-inclusive gratitude list for today:

I am grateful for friends. I am grateful for food and shelter. I am grateful for the Living Inquiry training. I am grateful for being in nature yesterday. I am grateful for fears of the future. I am grateful for fatigue. I am grateful for brain fog. I am grateful for wishing the fatigue and brain fog wasn’t here. I am grateful for family. I am grateful for living in a peaceful country. I am grateful for fresh air. I am grateful for regrets about situations in my past. [I am normally more specific here….!] I am grateful for a good breakfast. I am grateful for time for rest, inquiry, reading, walks in nature, prayer. I am grateful for my (sometimes) inability to meet emotional pain in a sane way. I am grateful for sometimes acting in an immature way, when the pain is here. I am grateful for wishing I was through the dark night. I am grateful for wishing for an active life. I am grateful for wishing for a life in service. I am grateful for fear that I am unable to surrender (surrender my identifications). I am grateful for wishing my life was more like my twenties (active, engaged, passion). I am grateful for resisting rest. I am grateful for fears of what others may think of me. I am grateful for wishing to meet what’s here with love (including pain, anger, sadness, grief, confusion). I am grateful for wishing for deep healing (of the emotional body, and how I relate to the wounds and pain).

I notice that this practice does shift how I view and experience these things. And I get the sense that it’s an offering of it all over to the divine, as well as a gentle nudge to recognize it all as the divine.

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New Age as stepping stone

 

We are all drawn to what we need in the moment, and it’s all stepping stones – phases of a continuing process of unfolding.

As so many, I went through an early New Age phase where I was into Shirley Maclaine (!), Shakti Gawain and some others. It was important to me as it opened up my world and gave me permission to be “weird”. The phase didn’t last for very long, but I am grateful for it. I even re-watched Out on a Limb again last year as it made an impression when I first saw it at the beginning of my own exploration (this time it was mildly entertaining).

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All-inclusive gratitude practice

 

An all-inclusive gratitude practice can be powerful, whether it is saying thank you as a prayer or mantra, writing and sharing all-inclusive gratitude lists, or just allowing experience as is – in appreciation.

This helps me notice resistance and beliefs, and inquire into these. I get to see where I take positions at odds with reality, their consequences, and what’s more true for me.

It is a question. What happens if I find gratitude for this?

It’s a reminder that I can shift into different perspectives, and experience the world from that perspective.

It helps my view, feelings and actions to reorganize and align more with what is.

And it’s an invitation for what I am to notice itself.

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Gratitude update

 

I have now done the all-inclusive gratitude lists for 32 days, so here is a brief update.

These lists include whatever comes up for me – situations, my own reactions (thoughts, emotions), and what appears as either desirable or undesirable. And while the format is I am grateful for…. it is really a question – how would it be to be grateful for….? How would it be to find an attitude of gratitude for this too?

The main thing I notice is a shift into an easier and more inclusive self-acceptance. I make a point of including situations, thoughts, emotions and impulses I feel some embarrassment about, and by putting it down on paper and asking myself how it would be to find gratitude for it, there is a gradual shift into self-acceptance. Melody Beattie talks about miracles, and self-acceptance is perhaps the greatest miracle.

This practice is also good for finding where I hesitate and what’s still taboo for me, which helps me find and then inquire into the belief(s) behind it.

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Make Miracles in Forty Days: Turning What You Have Into What You Want

 

I am grateful for having found Make Miracles in Forty Days: Turning What You Have Into What You Want by Melody Beattie.

It outlines a simple practice: Write a daily gratitude list which includes situations, experiences and emotions you have the most difficulty finding gratitude for. And if you want, find a partner to share this with.

The format is Today, I am grateful for…. which is really a question. How would it be to be thankful for….?

This is a variation of the traditional practice found in many traditions of thankfulness for everything that happens, whether we judge it as good or bad. What this variation highlights, and what I find especially helpful, is specificity. When I write the list, I find specific examples of what to be thankful for, including that which I don’t (yet) feel thankful for.

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Gratitude for all

 

Gratitude and appreciation is a practice, and it is also a natural expression of who we are when less clouded over by beliefs.

It’s rewarding and helpful to find gratitude for what’s obviously good in my life. It helps me shift attention from my complaints to what is pretty good in life.

And it is even more powerful to include all without exception, including and especially that which I at first don’t appreciate. This helps me find the ground below likes and dislikes, and a softening of identification with my own familiar beliefs about what’s good and bad.

The simplest form of gratitude practice is to repeat thank you – to life, God, the Universe.

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Taking care of own desires, and happy for the happiness of others

 

When I take care of my own needs, it is easy to find happiness for the happiness of others.

I take care of my own needs, and this brings a sense of satisfaction, alignment and of coming home. Whatever resentment and poverty mentality may be here from previously not taking care of my own needs, is released. And instead, there is a natural and spontaneous sense of gratitude and generosity. One of the ways this gratitude and generosity finds expression is as an satisfaction in and desire for the happiness and good fortune of others.

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Gratitude

 

I spent an interesting night at the ER with kidney stones on the move. (Not out yet.)

And what comes up the most is gratitude… for modern medicine, hospitals, friendly and skilled staff, and being able to get there in just a few minutes from where I live. Very appropriate, since yesterday was Thanksgiving and I had explored what I have to be thankful for. 

I also noticed, and find an easy gratitude for, the pressure valves of pain… When it gets too intensive, the experience of it shifts. It becomes something else. And there are also the temporary and very welcome distractions through movement and sounds. 

And then finding myself with one foot in the world of what I am, and one foot in who I am. It all happened within clarity and a quiet joy. A clarity inherent in what is, independent of its content. A quiet joy inherent in any experience, independent of its content. And then the human self doing its thing, in excellent fashion, including twisting, grunting and moaning in pain. (And discovering that the child’s pose helps alleviate the pain, as does a hot water bottle on the painful area.)

I also got to notice what thought does with this. Coming home, I looked up kidney stones online (Wikipedia, Mayo Clinic, etc.) and realized that I do not fit the profile at all for having kidney stones. I drink lots of water daily. I use my body. There is no history of it in my near family. I have a low protein diet. I do not drink coke or other soft drinks. I am younger than what is typical. 

Up until reading this, I was fine with having kidney stones. It was just another adventure. But after reading it, the thought came up that I shouldn’t have them! Why me? I am doing everything “right” so why did I still get them? 

And then seeing the silliness of it, and a release. Kidney stones are guests, as anything else. Temporary. Inviting me to just experience, and also notice what is happening. 

Finally, the slight hesitation or apprehension coming up. The stone or stones are not out yet, so it is quite possible that I will experience that pain again as they move through or want to move through. And then appreciation for that too, because it is just the human self taking care of itself. It experienced something unpleasant, it may return, so it naturally is apprehensive. And that has a function. In this case, it helps me take the pain medication even if I currently don’t experience much pain.

Appreciation and differentiation

 

When I differentiate, it can happen within the context of appreciation or not.

If I differentiate – using thought to sort things out – within appreciation, I find that it tends to invite in curiosity and receptivity. I am more free to explore different views and takes on the topic, find the validity in each, and ways these views may fit together into a larger picture. If I am engaging with someone else, there tends to also be more of a sense of us and a recognition of myself in the other. A sense of exploration and partnership, whether the other person is open to that or not.

If I differentiate and it is not within a context of appreciation, it can be quite neutral. But the stage is also set for more easily going in the direction of a rigid view and a closed heart. Instead of a more open exploration, I may go into justifying or defending a particular view. I may go into polarization. I may experience separation to others and the views they happen to use as a guideline.

Either one is of course fine. And the differentiation without appreciation may be an effective tool in some specific situations. (Tough love, but there can be appreciation even there, just not expressed so directly.)

But in general, differentiation within the context of appreciation seems to be more helpful. When the heart comes in and supports the mind, there is more receptivity and curiosity there, and a willingness to explore the validity in a wider range of views. In some ways, there is a certain intelligence that comes from the heart supporting the mind.

Even when the differentiation comes up with the same in both cases, it is at least more enjoyable to do it within the context of appreciation and a deeper sense of us.

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Thank you

 

I taught a bodywork class tonight, and was about to say a heartfelt thank you to the students when it struck me – in an immediate way – how nothing can be left out.

A thank you to the ones in the room includes a thank you to all of existence.

It is a thank you to everyone in the room, including myself. To the host and her work to make the space available. To those who built the house. To the ones who made and those who imported the rugs. To the food we ate today and those who brought it to us. To the ones who developed this form of bodywork. To the air we breathe. To all our ancestors. To all the ancestors of everyone who contributed to us being here now, even in small and distant ways. To all the plants and animals we have eaten, to whatever they themselves have eaten, and to the ancestors of all of these plants and animals. To the soil, water, air and rocks that has made all of that life possible. To the earth as a whole, as it is now and in its past. To the universe as a whole. To the existence as a whole.

It is a thank you to all of this, exactly as it is right now, and exactly as it has been throughout the evolution of this universe and planet. (Including whatever my personality likes or dislikes.)

Nothing is left out.

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Guest practice: gratitude, impermanence and disidentification

 

During our solo practice day, I spent an hour or so (in between the choiceless awareness practice) on a guest practice that has surfaced for me… one of those practices that arises and do themselves, or in this case wants to be done more actively by me.

There is a seeing of any phenomena, of all content, as guests. Living their own life, coming and going on their own, following their own schedule.

First, as a parade of things in my life, past and present. Friends, family, relationships, situations, this human self, this body, this personality with its particular likes and dislikes. They are all temporary guests, living their own life, coming and going on their own schedule. So I thank each one for visiting my life, and send them on.

Then, the larger whole… the culture, civilization, humanity, animal life, ecosystem, the earth, this solar system, this galaxy, this universe, the whole world of form… all temporary guests, living their own life, coming and going on their own. Thanking each one, and sending them on.

Then, experiences and states… the initial awakening, bliss, joy, energy, clarity, memories of happiness in childhood, memories of dread from childhood, dullness, times of fear, times of sadness, times of feeling on and off track, insights, clarifications, confusion… specific times and experiences… all guests, living their own life, coming and going on their own, following their own schedule. Thanks to each one, and sending it on.

(Exactly how this is done can be polished up… maybe first past and present people, relationships, things, and situations… then thoughts, insights, stories, personality, the likes and dislikes of the personality, this body, and this human self… then the larger world of art, music, buildings, places, culture, civilization, ecosystems, earth, solar system, galaxy, universe… all the time keeping it specific, bringing attention to specific people, relationships, and so on.)

And then, as I go about my daily life, noticing particular situations and experiences… seeing how they are all guests, living their own life. Thanking them, and sending them on.

I find it to be a very helpful practice in several different ways…

Gratitude, for anything and everything in my life, including those things the personality is not particularly fond of.

Impermanence, seeing how all content comes and goes, as temporary guests. The leaving is inherent in the arriving.

Disidentification, seeing how all content… all situations, experiences, thoughts, personality, even this human self… live their own life, coming and going on their own, following their own schedule. They do not belong to “me”, and there is not even any “me” left that they can belong to. It all gets swallowed up as what comes and goes, living its own life.

Happiness and appreciation

 

I have enjoyed reading some of the posts on happiness over at William Harryman’s blog.

As with so much else, it can be look at from a few different perspectives and levels.

Happiness at the belief level

All the ancient wisdom on happiness, now gradually rediscovered in modern psychology, are of course valid. They work… at least for some people some of the time. But it works because the practices themselves work with our belief systems.

For instance, creating a list of things we are genuinely grateful for does, usually, bring a sense of happiness. And it does so because is brings attention to things in our life that makes up happy. Or rather, we have beliefs about what we want and what would make us happy, so when the existence of those things are brought into the foreground, it tends to trigger happiness. Or even more bluntly, gratitude inventories trigger stories which in turn triggers a sense of contentment and happiness.

I believe friendship, reasonable health, shelter, good food, free time, and opportunity to pursue interests, is what I want and would make me happy, so when I bring attention to the presence of all of these, it triggers happiness.

Similarly, acting kindly triggers happiness, at least partly because it gives us a sense of intimacy, connection and supporting life. We believe intimacy and connection would make us happy, our actions bring up a sense of intimacy and connection, so happiness is triggered.

This all works at the level of beliefs.

What this practice, and similar ones, do not do, is help us question the beliefs themselves.

The limits of conventional happiness practice

As useful as conventional happiness practice, as promoted by Seligman and others, can be, it also has its limits. The most obvious one is that it is dependent on circumstances, on content of awareness… and so, is precarious. It also functions at the level of the personality, so is dependent on the personality being happy (which sometimes is a tall order…!)

Happiness beyond beliefs, as appreciation for life as it is

It may sound radical, even cold, when put this way. But there is a far more rich happiness to be found if we question the beliefs themselves. A quiet happiness, an appreciation for life as it is, not dependent on circumstances.

So far, the most effective tool I have found for this is The Work

It releases beliefs from stories, even the most ingrained ones such as happiness depends on…, revealing a free mind receptive to what is, appreciating what is… loving what is, independent of the content of what is, including independent of what the personality is up to.

It reveals the current of quiet bliss that is always there, and some times covered up by dust kicked up by beliefs.

Together

In real life, it is of course good to do both. The gratitude inventory and other tools are great for allowing happiness to surface when we are still caught up in beliefs. And the exploration of the beliefs themselves reveals what is there behind the dust from wrestling with life and stories… the quiet current of bliss, joy, appreciation… the bliss of simply being… experiencing… of life, exactly as it is, independent of circumstances, independent of content…

Neutrality and appreciation

 

When beliefs are gone, the inherent neutrality in any situation is revealed.

From the emptiness side, we see that it is just emptiness dancing, the play of God.

From the form side, we see that any story about it, and all its reversals, all have a grain of truth in them.

Both reveal the inherent neutrality in the situation.

But what happens when all situations are revealed as inherently neutral?

What happens, at least in my experience, is a deep appreciation for life, for existence, for the world of form, for the play of God, and for this particular life. A deep gratitude and appreciation for it, as it is, independent of its particulars.

Beyond appreciation, there is also a quiet and deep joy in the freedom of the play of life and God, as revealed here and now. And beyond this, a joy in the freedom of the play of stories and their reversals, all revealing some relative truth.