It’s not easy to believe a thought

 

It’s not easy to believe a thought.

It takes a lot of effort.

It’s stressful.

It needs to be maintained here and now.

And more than that….

 It needs to be elaborated upon. If it’s true, other stories follow from it, and these needs to be taken as true as well, and maintained as true.

It’s underlying assumptions must be reaffirmed and supported.

We need to filter our experience of the world through it.

We need to defend the truth of the story, since it is or will be out of alignment with aspects of reality. We need to defend it against other stories which may invalidate it.

We need to contract muscles to create persistent sensations which can support taking the thought as true, through lending the thought charge, and a sense of solidity and reality.

That’s why there is often a deep sense of relief when any particular belief is seen through and – even in temporarily – falls away. And it’s why there is even more of a deep relief when beliefs in general fall away, even if temporarily and in a glimpse or for a period of time.

From this perspective, the primary question isn’t why is it so difficult to awaken? (Although that’s a valid question.) It’s more, how come we go through all this effort to stay in our own dream world, specially considering it’s often painful? 

I don’t really have the answers to that. Although I suspect part of the answer is a combination of two quite simple things.

We do it because that’s what those around us do. As babies, we look to the adults in our life for cues about how to live here, so we follow them. In Rome, do as Romans do. It’s very innocent and understandable.

Also, intentional thought is a relatively new tool in our evolution. We are still grappling with how to use it effectively. We still stumble in how we use it. We take our own thoughts as real and true, even if they are simply thoughts and are better used as practical tools for navigating the world. This too is innocent and understandable.

Here and now, and from the past

 

Velcro, identifications, and trauma are here and now, and from the past.

They are here and now, and cannot be found in the past or future. We cannot even find past, future or present outside of what’s created by images, words and sensations.

At the same time, velcro, identifications, and trauma were initially created and formed at some point in the past, often in early childhood. And it can be very helpful to look at that, question the painful stories, and find love for what was unloved. One way to find these early events is to ask when did you first have that thought?, or when do you remember first having that feeling?

It’s frequently said, and it seems to be true enough, that childhood trauma is behind a great deal of what we struggle with as adults.

So which one is it? Are these things here and now? Or found in the past? It’s both, as so often. It’s all happening here and now, and within that we can find painful stories of events from early in our life. And it’s important to look at these, and find some resolution and healing.

It’s also neither. At some point, it can be helpful to look for velcro, identifications, and trauma themselves. Can I find these outside of my images, words, and sensations that create an experience of these?

And unfindable doesn’t mean doesn’t exist or that they are not helpful stories or pointers in some situations. They can be, for instance, in finding healing.

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How do the living inquiries work?

 

How do the Living Inquiries work?

Put simply:

Through looking at associated images, words, and sensations, feeling the sensations, and asking simple questions to see what’s actually there, there is a reprogramming of the mind. And this allows us to see the images as images, words as words, and sensations as sensations, and also more easily stay with and feel the sensations.

When sensations, images and words seem “stuck together”, the sensations lends a charge and sense of reality and solidity to the stories created by the images and words.

Through resting, looking, and feeling the sensations, this stickiness softens or release.

I also wonder if not feeling the sensations, and especially noticing and feeling them as sensations, allows something to discharge and release. The tension and “stuckness” that the initial stickiness created may be allowed to release, at least over time.

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Shame as a pointer

 

Shame is an excellent pointer to something in me that’s still unloved and unquestioned.

The only reason, it seems, that something feels shameful, is that it’s still unloved and unquestioned. The stories creating the beliefs around it are unquestioned, and perhaps as yet unseen.

Shame is just one of many pointers: stress, discomfort, unease, guilt, depression, reactivity, compulsions, trauma, “sticky” sadness, anger, and fear, and body contractions.

Taking stories as true, and bodily contractions

 

When I believe a story, it seems to come with a bodily contraction.

There are good reasons for this.

To believe a story, it seems that it has to be attached to sensations. Sensations associated with images and words gives them a charge, and lends them a sense of reality, solidity and truth. It seems that it may not be possible (?) to believe a story unless it’s attached to a sensation in this way.

And to create sensations, we need to tense up muscles. In other words, create a contraction.

As usual, there are different ways to explore this.

Rest with the sensations and any images and words that come up. Notice and allow.

Inquire into the associated images and words. See what’s there. See if they are a threat. See if they are X. (A deficient self or whatever the contraction seems connected with.)

Perhaps also meet it with kindness. See it’s there to protect, it comes from caring, from love.

Neurogenic tremors (TRE) can also be helpful, releasing the tension out of the body. (Of course, this tends to come back unless the stories creating the tension have been examined and perhaps loved.)

These contractions – and really the beliefs creating them – seem to fuel reactivity, anxiety, depression, compulsions, addictions and more. That’s why it can be very helpful to not only explore this from the belief (velcro, identification) side, but also the physical side.

What’s the mechanism that leads from beliefs to bodily contractions? One way to look at it is that beliefs often come from and create (unloved) fear, and that’s why the muscles tense up – in order to prepare us to flee or fight.

Leaving no stone unturned

 

There is an important difference between mainstream psychology and inquiry: Mainstream psychology leaves many underlying assumptions unloved and unquestioned, and inquiry leaves no stone unturned.

Of course, it depends on the practitioner. I know psychologists who addresses even the most basic underlying assumptions and identities, and I am sure there are people using inquiry who don’t.

I assume that as inquiry and Buddhist practices keeps influencing psychology, there will be a change in how mainstream psychology operates. They may soon recognize the importance of identifying and questioning our more basic assumptions and identities.

What are some of these basic assumptions and identities?

I am X. (My name. Gender. Nationality. Occupation etc.)

I am X. (Personality traits.)

I am X. (Thoughts. Emotions. Awareness. Love.)

I am X. (A body.)

X is as I perceive it. X is findable. (The world. People. Objects.)

X is as I perceive it. X is findable. (Thoughts. Emotions. Sensations. Awareness. Love.)

X is as I perceive it. X is findable. (Space. Time. Past. Future. Present.)

There is a findable threat. There is a findable compulsion.

And more. Whatever we can name, which we usually don’t question.

Why is it important to leave no stone unturned? To leave no assumption unloved and unquestioned, even the most basic ones? It’s because these too are stressful beliefs and identifications. These too are limiting. These too are out of alignment with reality. These basic and underlying assumptions are what most or all of the other (stressful) assumptions and identities rest on.

Identification = belief = velcro = ego

 

Identification = belief = velcro = ego.

At least roughly.

Identification is when mind takes on the viewpoint of a story, and holds it as true and real. Mind identifies with the view of the story, filters experience through it, and even acts as if it’s true.

A belief is when mind holds a story as true, and perceives and acts as if it’s true, at least to some extent. (Often, it’s not a 100%.)

Velcro is when sensations seem “stuck” on associated images and words, giving them a charge, and lending them a sense of reality, solidity, and truth. The images and words feel true, because of the associated sensations.

Ego can be used in a psychological and “spiritual” sense. In a psychological sense, it’s just the operating system that allows this human being to function in the world, and we want it to be healthy and keep maturing. In a “spiritual” sense, the “ego” refers to identification and what comes out of identification. (Or a belief or velcro, and what comes out of these.)

These are all words describing roughly the same. It’s all referring to the mind identifying with a story, and what that brings with it.

What does it bring with it? Here are some possible consequences: Filtering perception through that story, acting as if it’s true, perhaps wanting to defend the story, dismissing what doesn’t fit, perhaps discomfort or suffering when life goes against the story, finding people who agree and support our story, and more.

Spiritual ideas: helpful and not

 

There are many “spiritual” ideas floating around these days, including the following ones.

We are here to learn, mature, awaken.

We chose this life in order to have the experiences we need to mature, grow, learn, awaken.

We chose these people to be in our life, these situations, these experiences.

It’s all happening for a reason. It’s part of the plan.

These ideas can be helpful. They can help us reframe what’s happened in our life and see it in a different perspective. They can offer some comfort. And they can help us look for ways to learn, grow and mature from our experiences.

Any idea can also be limiting, and so also these. They can be used more compulsively as a comfort, as an escape, and can be pacifying. We can use them as a “should” and as yet another way we are not getting it and not measuring up. They can limit how we look at life, and make us reject other views that can be as or more helpful.

We can investigate these ideas:

Is it true? Can I know for certain?

What would I have to feel if I didn’t have these ideas? If I couldn’t think them? (Then feel that.)

What do I fear would happen if it wasn’t true? What do I fear would happen if I didn’t have these ideas? (Then look for the threat.)

Can I find X or someone who is or isn’t X? Can I find a plan? Learning? Maturing? Someone whose life is planned? Someone who needs to learn?

This is not about taking away something that works for us, or having us “face reality” in a cruel and heartless way. It’s about finding a deeper reality and peace. There can be a great relief through inquiring into these types of ideas, if we have held them as real and true.

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The dark night of the soul: helpful information, and something the mind can try to find safety in

 

When we are in a dark night of the soul, or what seems like it, it can be helpful to have some information about the dark night of the soul.

It’s easy to think that something went wrong, so information about the dark night of the soul may help us see that it’s OK. I didn’t do something wrong. Life didn’t go wrong. It’s a natural phase of the process, for some of us. Others have gone through it and are going through it. I am not alone. This reframing what’s going on with us can be a relief. And we may also get practical pointers for how to relate to it.

Feel sensations as sensations, as much as possible. Notice and inquire into associated images and words, to make it easier to feel sensations as sensations.

Inquire into any stressful beliefs and limiting identities.

Find kindness for what’s here. Find kindness for the emotions, distress, sensations, wounds, trauma, suffering. Find love for it.

Rest with what’s here. Notice. Allow. See it’s already allowed.

Rest in a conventional sense. Take time to rest.

Be in nature. Go for walks. Garden.

Eat well. Drink plenty of water.

Nurture nurturing relationships and activities.

Find guidance from someone who has gone through it.

These pointers are helpful for anyone going through something challenging, or who is just living an ordinary human life. They are quite universal.

At the same time, it’s possible to create another (limiting) identity out of being in the dark night of the soul. It’s possible to make the dark night of the soul into a “thing”, something that seems real, solid, and “out there”. I may also identify myself as someone going through a dark night of the soul, and make that into something apparently real and solid. (It may be another inflated self, compensating for the deflated self this phase of the process tends to trigger.) I may get invested in it ending at some point in the future, and expect something to happen when it ends. (Awakening. Light where the darkness now is. A stable nondual realization.)

All of this is understandable. The mind wants to understand and conclude, in order to find safety. At the same time, it can be yet another way we limit ourselves and life. It comes with some drawbacks. It can even create more stress and suffering.

I can inquire into these dark night thoughts and identities as well:

What do I hope to get out of it?

What do I fear it means (about me) if this is not a dark night?

Is it true it will end? Is it true I need it to end?

Is it true [….] will happen when it ends? Can I know for sure?

I can see if I can find some of these things as something real and solid:

Can I find the “dark night of the soul”? Can I find “my process”? Can I find an end to it? Can I find [what I imagine is there when it ends]? Can I find me, someone in a dark night?

Can I find a threat? (In the dark night. In it not being a dark night. In it not leading where I hope it will.)

I can also rest with all of this. Meet it with kindness. Hold it in kindness.

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Identifications are tiring

 

Identifications are tiring.

When a story is believed and held as true, it tends to create struggle. And that’s tiring.

It takes a lot of energy. It can be draining. It can even impact our health in quite obvious ways.

If it’s that way with just one identification, imagine how tiring it is to have a whole bundle of them, as most of us do. We are, in some ways, bundles of identifications, and that’s tiring.

That’s one of the things we see when we are relieved of identifications and struggle, even if it’s only temporary.

We may be “lifted out” of identifications and glimpse the ease and simplicity of life without. (And the richness and fullness of life without identifications.)  We may examine a particular hangup or identification, and find release from it.

We may also discover it through resting with what’s here. Shift from thinking to noticing. Finding ourselves as a whole. Shift from resisting to allowing. Shift from rejecting to holding experience in kind experience. Inquire into beliefs and see that what we thought was happening isn’t. Look for and being unable to find the threat, or deficient self, or command, that initially seemed so real and solid.

I imagine that the struggle from identifications is one of the things that creates old age as our culture often thinks of it. It has little to do with a biological inevitability, and more to do with the effects of accumulated struggles over a lifetime.

Why is there ambivalence in identifications?

 

Why is there often ambivalence in how we relate to our identifications?

Identification here means identification with a story. The story is held as real and true. And we identify with its view on ourselves and the world. When it’s activated, we take it as who and what we are.

From my own experience, it seems that identifications are held in place in two ways. There is a perceived threat (a) in not holding onto it, and (b) in holding onto it. We fear what may happen if it’s not there, and are also uncomfortable with what happens when it’s there.

There is a perceived benefit in having it, and also a threat in not having it. And when the identification is here, it’s often apparently enjoyable since it fulfills those needs. And it’s also uncomfortable, since identifications are inherently stressful and at odds with reality.

That ambivalence is partly what distracts us so we don’t see what’s really going on.

That’s why it’s good to look at both sides to how we relate to our identifications. To slow it down, and look more systematically at first one side, then the other.

As mentioned in a previous post, I (may) feel compelled to eat sugar, and also feel ashamed about it. I feel I am unlovable, and experience a threat in not having that identity while it’s also painful when it’s here. I want recognition and approval by many, while also experiencing it as a threat. I identify with a story of the world as a threat, and it’s also threatening to imagine that belief not being here.

Looking at both sides of whatever has charge

 

It can be helpful to look at both sides of whatever has a charge for us.

I may fear not having what I want, and also fear having it.

I may hold onto a deficiency story, and also want it to go away.

I may be compelled to do something, and also feel ashamed about it.

I may experience a threat, and also being someone who is threatened.

Whenever there is an identification, there seems to be an ambivalence about it. I want to hold onto it, and also have it go away. I fear what may happen if it’s not there, and I am uncomfortable with what happens when it’s there.

So why not look at both sides?

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AH Almaas: To be an instrument of the absolute is to be its absolute servant

 

To be an instrument of the absolute is to be its absolute servant, which is the same as being a complete, thoroughly ripened, and mature human adult. This is human happiness and fulfillment. This is the station of realization of the freedom vehicle, which is the reason we frequently refer to it as the body of service. We develop a new subtle body, which inherently recognizes its function as servicing the truth of Reality. It is a precise, clear, totally objective wisdom, completely free from subjective bias or reaction. This functioning may appear as a limitation when compared with the station of abiding in the absolute, and students tend to react to it in this manner, yet it is actually a deeper and higher realization. For in this station there is no preference at all; there is no need at all for any state or condition, not even for that of the absolute.

A.H. Almaas from The Inner Journey Home: Soul’s Realization of the Unity of Reality, ch. 23, p. 458

I agree with the general gist of it, from my own experience and understanding. (Which is limited, as it is for all of us.) And I hesitate when I see people using absolutist language.

He uses words such as “totally objective wisdom”, and “no preference at all”. On the surface of it, it seems suspect. Is it really that black and white?

Is there anything that’s totally objective? Are we even in a position to know?

Aren’t we all programmed by our culture and traditions? Even if all identifications were gone, I assume there would still be this filter.

A.H. Almaas may say that something is objective. It may indeed appear that way, to him and perhaps others. And a person in another culture or 200 years from now would perhaps see how it’s not objective at all, but reflects the age and culture he lives in, and the limitations inherent in any culture and tradition. I imagine that for a (hypothetical) being from another solar system or galaxy, with an entirely different biology, psychology, culture, and traditions, and embedded in a very different ecology, that may be even more clear. (Those categories may not even apply to such a being.)

Also, isn’t there a difference between preferences and identifications? It seems that preferences are just part of our human self. I like strawberry ice cream more than chocolate ice cream. I like Baroque music over rap. There is no problem there. And if there is little or no identification with it (velcro), I am free to follow what seems wise and kind in the moment, whether it follows or goes against my personal and very human preferences. There is no need for the preferences to be gone.

And similar to above, can we really know if there are absolutely no preferences? Are we ever in a position to know for certain?

Of course, it may be that A.H. Almaas is aware of something I am not here. That is very possible.

It’s also possible that he went a bit overboard in his language use. That he let excitement take his language further than what’s warranted.

Just to be clear: I admire AH Almaas very much, and feel a great deal of resonance with his descriptions and pointers. This is just nit-picking. And yet, it’s important to be aware of and question these things.

Feels true and know it isn’t

 

At some point, we may see quite clearly that stories are not true. Images don’t inherently mean anything. Words don’t inherently mean anything. Sensations don’t inherently mean anything.

When sensations seem “stuck on” images and words (velcro, conglomerates), they may appear to mean something but they don’t inherently mean anything.

Following this, we may have beliefs come up (velcro, identifications), and while they feel true we may also know that they are not true.

This is a relief. It’s a shift. We know that it’s not true, and also (if we know inquiry) that there is a way to work with it.

We can examine and see more clearly what’s already there. We can befriend it.

We can help it to find it’s own liberation. We can help it find liberation from being held as solid and true.

Through examination, we may arrive at seeing that the images, words, and sensations that came up don’t inherently mean anything. We may arrive at recognizing images as images, words as images, and sensations as sensations.

We can arrive at a place where what’s here is OK. It doesn’t need to go away.

First, the identifications may feel very real and solid. We don’t question it, and we don’t know any way to even work with it.

Then, we may learn ways to work with it. (Natural rest, loving kindness, inquiry.) We may also arrive at a place where we see more clearly that images, words, and sensations in themselves don’t mean anything, and that meaning comes from how they combine into conglomerates (velcro).

That brings us to a place where identifications (velcro, beliefs, hangups, wounds) still come up, while we know that they are created by the mind and are not inherently true. We also know ways to work with it, and we do. I assume this is ongoing. (And if there is a wish for it to end, I can look at that too. I can rest with that too, and examine it through inquiry.)

More personal thoughts

 

It’s warm today. I have to call my parents. I will take a shower before going outside. I need a new pair of summer shorts.

Some thoughts seem less personal, like these. (At least to me, now.)

And some thoughts seem more personal.

I am not getting enough sleep. Why did they paint the house with high-VOC paint? Don’t they realize how toxic it is, and that there are good alternatives? Why is the air conditioning on at night, when it only makes the air stuffy and humid, while the outdoor air is fresh and cool? Where am I going to stay the next few days or weeks? Life is unfair. I don’t belong among Americans.

I should be over this. I am embarrassed I still have a charge around it. I am not looking at the situation as clearly as I can. I am afraid I’ll mess it up. That I’ll get caught in reactivity, and regret it later.

The difference is that the latter thoughts have a charge around them. There is (some) identification with their viewpoint. They feel more true. They feel more real. There is more “velcro” there. (Words and images seem stuck on sensations, and these sensations gives the words and images charge, and a sense of reality, and that that’s “my viewpoint”.)

That’s why they seem more personal. That’s why they seem more true.

That’s why it’s easier to get caught up in identifying with their viewpoint and stories, and not even notice what they are – words, images, sensations.

These are the ones that can go “under the radar”, at least for a time. Often, it’s easier to recognize what they are later. And sometimes even as there is identification and charge around it

Some call these “secondary thoughts” or “commenting thoughts” but that doesn’t seem accurate to me. All thoughts are commenting on something, and they are all – really – commenting other thoughts. Thoughts comment on each other. That’s why they are all also secondary thoughts. They come after and depend on prior thoughts.

The difference, to me, is that some thoughts have more identification and velcro and seem more true, and other thoughts have less or (apparently) none of this. The latter are easier to recognize as what they are. The former can be a little more difficult to recognize.

That’s why it’s good to slow it all down, through resting with it, and perhaps asking some simple questions to clarify what’s there.

Making myself more stupid than I am 

 

Whenever I believe a story, I make myself more stupid than I am.

I go into the victim role. I see the world – myself, others, the situation – in black and white. I polarize. I feel hopeless. I am blinded by frustration.

I perceive and live as if my belief is true. If that’s how it is, and that’s it.

Reality is different. Reality is that any number of ways of looking at the situation have validity. Reality is that it’s happening within and as what I am.

As Buddhists say, I am the sky and this experience is a passing cloud.

Earlier today, I went into some hurt and had a mental conversation with someone where I said “you are making yourself more stupid than you are”. That may be true, and it’s not for me to know. What’s for me is to find how I am doing it, also in that situation.

Finding love for identification

 

Mind sometimes identifies with a viewpoint, or a collection of viewpoints. It takes itself to be that viewpoint, and the identity created from the viewpoint. There is some fluidity in what viewpoints are in the foreground, although there also tends to be some recurrent ones.

The dynamics of identifications is also what sometimes, perhaps a bit misleading, is called “ego”.

This is what tends to create stress and suffering, at least if it’s not seen, felt, and loved.

And that’s perhaps the key to this. Identification itself is not a problem. It’s innocent. It comes from worried love. (And is also what creates this worried love.)

The suffering comes more from not seeing this, and not meeting it with understanding, respect, and love. That creates a rightness around the whole dynamic.

So why not explore this. What happens when I believe a certain (any) thought? What’s more true for me? How is it to meet this – the identification, the stress, the reactions to identification – with love? How is it to rest with the images, word, and sensations that are here, making up identification and the reaction to it?

It’s understandable if the first reaction to seeing the results of identification is to see it as “bad” or undesirable, or something we need to get rid of.

So why not include that too – in the rest and inquiry. Why not see that too as worried love? Why not meet that too with love?

That tends to soften the whole dynamic. By resting with it, it rests. By recognizing it as love, it’s easier to find love for it. By finding love for it, it tends to soften and relax.

This is written in a more general and abstract way. In practice, I can take whatever concrete identification that’s here – any stressful thought or reaction – and explore it in this way.

For instance, I now have a wound triggered around: (a) not sharing essential information about my situation and wishes when that would have been the most kind. (b) Following the advice of someone I trusted even if it was based on incomplete information and went against my own common sense and guidance. And (c) feeling misunderstood and not seen when I tried to clear this up. There is also (d) a victim identity triggered from this. I feel a victim of others or life, even if I was the one who withheld essential information, and choose to follow advice I strongly suspected want not good for me.

Another way of saying this is that I sometimes feel hurt when others make (incorrect) assumptions about me or what I want, don’t say anything to correct it, and then feel resentful about it – especially if have acted on their advice. There is a victim mentality behind this, and also a deep wound.

This comes from and has triggered a deep childhood wound, and it feels very young. I also see a reaction to it, a fear from seeing the hurt, the youngness of it, what happens when I act or speak from it.

So I can see the innocence in what’s here. That it’s worried love. I can rest with the sensations, and the words and images connected with it. I can meet it with love.

Identification = worried love

 

Why is there suffering?

That’s an old questions for us humans. (I realize that the real question, the one behind this one, is what can we do about it? That’s a topic for other posts.)

One answer is perhaps equally old: Suffering comes from beliefs. Identification with certain thoughts. Velcro. Mistaken identity.

These point to the same thing: Mind takes certain thoughts, certain images and thoughts, as real and true. It identifies with these thoughts. It takes their viewpoint. It sees the world from their perspective, and holds onto it as true. And it does that through associating these images and words with certain sensations (often different depending on the thought), and these sensations seem – to the mind – to lend solidity and reality to the thoughts.

Why does the mind do this?

It may be because we observe those around us doing it, as kids and later as adults. It seems to be what people do here. So we do it too. And we pass it on.

It may have an evolutionary function. Perhaps the stress created an extra urgency that somehow has offered a survival advantage for our ancestors. An advantage that outweighed the drawbacks of stress, struggle, and conflict.

It may also be a quirk of evolution. We evolved that way, to be inclined to identify with thoughts rather than recognizing them as thoughts, through a coincidence. Perhaps it could have gone a different direction. (I am not so sure about that, but it’s possible.)

It may also be that since thoughts – abstract representations using words and images – is a relatively new phenomenon in our evolution, we still haven’t quite figured out how to relate to it well. We are still novices when it comes to using this tool called thought. So we stumble. It’s still messy. And perhaps sometime in the future, we as a species will relate to it with more clarity.

In any case, it’s innocent.

And it’s Lila. The universe expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. The dance of life. Divine play.

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In service

 

We are always in service to something.

Sometimes, it’s beliefs, identifications, and unquestioned/unloved fears.

Sometimes, it’s love, life, and reality.

And often, it’s a combination.

It will also change over time. In my late teens and twenties, I lived a life of service to community and ecosystems. My circle of concern was my community, all life, and Earth as a whole. Then, during the dark night phase, my circle of concern got much smaller. I lived in service of this one life, mostly just trying to survive from day to day. This was a period of quite serious health problems, and a great deal of unprocessed material surfacing, so it made sense to focus on myself during this phase. (Not that I really had a choice.) Now, my circle is gradually expanding again, while including myself more than I did in my twenties.

Not surprisingly, for me too there has been – and is – a mix of being in service to life and identifications.

Being in service to life can look many different ways. Sometimes, it means caring for myself and those close to me. Other times, it means focusing on the wider social and ecological circles.

Even being in service to identifications is, in a way, being in service to life. It’s love. Worried love, in service to life in the way it best knows how. It’s how service to life looks when filtered through unquestioned and unloved fears and identifications.

As I become more aware of this, service to life can include meeting these fears and identifications with presence, love, and curiosity.

However we live, we live in service of life, since it’s life living itself. And we can live more consciously and intentionally in service of life. We can meet our own fears, beliefs and identifications with love and curiosity. We can, as best as we can, live a life that’s in support of the wider social and ecological systems, and future generations.

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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.

 

I am unlovable, unloved

 

One of the main themes, and core beliefs, in my life so far is I am unlovable, I am unloved.

This caused me to chose a life situation that didn’t feel right, and made me feel off track for several years, and also lose several opportunities.

Several years ago, I faced a choice of getting married and staying in a relationship, or letting it go and move back to my own country. Partly because of these beliefs, I decided to marry. And partly because of these beliefs, I chose to let go of a great deal that was very important to me to stay in the marriage. I compromised far more than I would have without these beliefs.

Any thoughts about this are thoughts, and not inherent in reality. It’s not right or wrong in reality, or fortunate or unfortunate.

It has helped me get more familiar with this dynamic in my own life, and see that I am not different from many or most others in this. (The acting-on-a-belief/wound dynamic.)

There is an invitation here for me to love and investigate this in me, and find more clarity.

It did get me on a course where I got many experiences I enjoyed and wanted.

And at the same time, it has been unfortunate for me at a very human level. I have lived in places that didn’t feel right for me. Worked in jobs that didn’t feel right. Left a community that felt deeply right for me. Missed out of opportunities I otherwise would have had.

All of these, and more, are valid in their own way.

Pitfalls

 

Here is a selection of possible pitfalls in an unfolding awakening.

The “bad news” is that some of these happen for many. It can trigger identifications and wounds, which can be uncomfortable, stressful or painful. And we can put ourselves in difficult or uncomfortable situations in life.

The “good news” is that whatever happens is part of the process. It shows us our identifications, hangups and wounds. It’s an invitation for us to be a good steward for our life, live with more authenticity, and meet what’s coming up in us with love and curiosity. It’s the play of life, Spirit, or the Divine (lila). It’s life expressing, exploring and experiencing itself in always new ways. Whatever happens – including what appears as a separate self, choices, actions, reactivity and more – is a temporary play of life. In these ways, they are not really pitfalls. And the idea of pitfall is an idea, not inherent in reality (outside of the reality we create for ourselves).

In general, these pitfalls comes from identification with images and words. Believing stories – about others, ourselves, the world, life. Velcro – sensations apparently “stuck on” words and images. It’s all variations on this theme.

In an unfolding awakening, there may be different pitfalls during different phases, or relating to different facets of the process.

I’ll describe some possible beliefs that can be triggered during different phases (or by certain facets) of the process. Each of these are an attempt for the mind to “land” somewhere, and find a sense of safety and security. Each of these are, at one point or another, stressful. They are stressful because they are out of alignment with reality. And they out of alignment with reality for (at least) two reasons: (i) Although there is often a grain of truth in any story, it’s also out of alignment with reality, and painfully so if we hold it too tightly. Reality is always different from, and more than, any story. (ii) Also, we don’t know. We don’t know anything for certain.

Initial interest.

(a) The more weird, the more spiritual. Spirituality is about what’s weird and unusual. (Spirituality is becoming familiar with what’s here in immediate experience, and as who and what we are. It’s very ordinary, and the label “spirituality” falls away after a while.)

(b) I need to dismiss my human side, or ordinary life. (Our human side is part of who and what we are. That too is part of life and Spirit. Our human side and ordinary life is no more or less “spiritual” than anything else. It’s all about discovery of what’s already here.)

(c) Spirituality is about getting somewhere that’s not here. (It’s about discovering and becoming more familiar with what’s already here, and often obviously so.)

Initial awakening.

(a) This is it. This is as far as it goes. (Ignoring that insights are infinite. Life is an ongoing unfolding. And discoveries about who and what we are also seems to be continuing and ongoing.)

(b) I have made it. I am better than others. I did it. (Taking credit for what is given, a gift. Attaching it to an imagined me. Ignoring that everything and everyone already is this awakeness. Overlooking that any story I have about someone else also applies to me, and the other way around.)

(c) They don’t get it. I need to show them how it is. (Again, overlooking that any story about someone else also applies to me, and the other way around. And that it doesn’t work to preach. The most we can do is offer our own experience, if asked.)

(d) I need to move forward. I need to stabilize it. I need to clarify my insights and mature further. (Pushing it, trying to stabilize it. Not trusting that it’s a natural process of unfolding and maturing, with it’s own tempo. It’s also not aligned with our wishes or dreams, so trying to make the process conform to these is stressful.) *

Honeymoon. Same as above. Also….

(a) I can do whatever, since there is no-one here (or there) to be hurt. Nothing is really happening anyway. (Ignoring the human side of our lives, where people – including ourselves – get the consequences.)

(b) I can deal with anything. It’s OK for me to ignore my guidance, because I can deal with any situation. (Over-confidence. Ignoring the importance of learning to follow my guidance, and find love for and question any fears – beliefs – that stops me from doing so. Not realizing how eroding not following my guidance can be, at all human levels.) **

Dark night of the soul.

(a) I have done something wrong. I made a mistake. (Ideas of wrong and mistake are created in our own mind. We can also find the truth in the reversals, with concrete examples.) **

(b) This will never end. It will always be like this. (Again, these are ideas created by the mind, and held as real and true. It’s easy to project our idea of what’s here into our idea of the future. Nothing lasts forever, even if it seems that way.) **

(c) This is too much. I can’t take it. (Is it true? What’s the reality here and now?)  **

And in general.

(a) I should trust this teacher or guide more than my own guidance. I need to set aside my own guidance. (A good teacher or guide will encourage you to follow your own guidance.) *

(b) I don’t need a teacher or guide. I can do it all myself. (Someone who is experienced with the terrain may offer valuable pointers and guidance. He or she may also see something about our situation that we miss, or see and don’t trust.)

(c) All is Spirit. All is God’s will. There is no-one here. So I don’t have to take into account the human consequences. (Ignoring our human side, and being ordinarily kind to the human side of ourselves and others.)

None of these types of beliefs are unique to what’s happening in an awakening process. They are, often in different flavors and expressions, universally human.

Also, each of the beliefs mentioned above have a grain of truth in them. Holding them as true, for a while, can certainly give valuable experiences and insights. And they can also be quite stressful and uncomfortable, since they are out of alignment with, or go against, reality.

I have marked the ones that played a clear role in my own path with one or two asterisks (*).

To be updated if something more comes to me, and I think of adding it here.

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Byron Katie: Welcome to the movie of who you think you are

 

Welcome to the movie of who you think you are. Pass the popcorn.

– Byron Katie

It’s a commonly used analogy: our life is like a movie.

It has a main character (me). It has drama. It has ups and downs. It has other characters that come and go, some more central than others. It has challenges. It has joys. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. The story has an arc. It’s messy at times. It’s at times fascinating, scary, amusing, funny, tragic, suspenseful, surprising, exciting, predictable, boring and more.

The difference is in identification. Movies are entertaining because we are only mildly identified with the main characters. In contrast, our life can be experiences as a life-and-death matter, and hold onto very tightly, if we are strongly identified with the main character(s). And it can be entertaining and amusing if there is a softer identification.

Also, we can say that just like a movie is projected on a screen, our life – and it’s word – is “projected on awareness”. Or, rather, it happens within and as awareness itself. And just as a movie projected on the screen doesn’t impact the screen, the content of awareness doesn’t impact awareness itself. It doesn’t impact what we more basically are.

Hardening vs softening

 

One way of exploring what’s here is through noticing hardening and softening.

When there is a hardening – of body, emotions, thoughts – there is a fueling of identification. It tightens. And it is often accompanied by putting blame “out there” on life, others, God, circumstances. Muscles tighten, velcro solidifies (the “glue” that holds certain images, words and sensations together), identification strengthens, fear is rejected. These are all symptoms of the same hardening or tightening.

When there is a softening, there is a softening of body, emotions, thoughts, and identification. What’s here is allowed, or noticed as already allowed. What’s here, including what may have hardened, is allowed, noticed as already allowed, and met with kindness and love. Words are seen more easily as words. Images as images. Sensations are felt more easily as sensations. Fear is allowed, met with kindness, softened into, felt as sensations. There is a “coming home” through allowing what’s here, and seeing and feeling what’s here.

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What keeps identification in place?

 

Why does mind go into contraction and belief? Why does it identify with thought? How is identification maintained? What keeps it in place?

A few things that come to mind:

As infants, we learn it from our parents and those around us. It’s what we do here. Mind receives sensory input through the infant, it learns to identify as the infant, it learns about fears, shoulds, identities, norms, expectations and so on. And it innocently and from love identifies with much or all of this.

As soon as there is an imagined self, and identification as this imagined self, there is fear. Further identifications come in to protect this imagined self. These identifications are with a wide range of identities, viewpoints, fears, hopes, shoulds, expectations and more.

As soon as these are in place, we think (and feel, perceive) that we are getting something out of it. It feels safe. It’s a way to protect this imagined self. There is fear of what would happen if we didn’t have the identification.

We haven’t thoroughly examined the identification. We haven’t examined……

(a) How it’s created. How it’s made up of words, images and sensations.

(b) The consequences of the identification for how we perceive and live our lives.

(c) If it’s true, and what may be more true to us.

(d) If what we think is here is actually here, whether it’s (i) a physical object or being, (ii) a concept (love, delusion, clarity, awareness), (iii) a threat and someone threatened, or (iv) a need, must or compulsion.

It’s all innocent, and from confused love. And it all seems very real as long as it’s unexamined and not seen through.

One way through is to welcome the identification that’s here, and notice it’s already welcomed. Find love for it, and recognize it as love. Examine it, and see through it. And to do so with whatever contraction and identification presents itself here and now.

How do I recognize an identification? By it’s consequences, and these can include stress, tension, contraction, a sense of separation, a sense of something to defend or maintain.

Note: As I write this, I am aware it’s not an easy read. I really wish there was a way for me to write simple, clearly and precisely about this. Sometimes, there seems to be a tradeoff between using an ordinary and conventional language which is easily read, and being more precise. That’s because an everyday language has a lot of assumptions built into it, and the topics I write about here tend to go beyond those assumptions. An accurate and precise language tends to sound awkward and overly technical. And yet, ome people do manage to talk or write simply and precisely, so it is possible.

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Can land on any idea

 

The mind can use any thought as a refuge, as a place to land in an attempt to find sense of safety.

It can land on any idea to avoid fear, and avoid feeling what’s here.

The content of the idea doesn’t matter. The mind can just use whatever is available and seems most fool proof.

And that means that it can also use “spiritual” ideas as a landing place, including ideas of awareness, emptiness, and so on.

And there is nothing wrong in this. It’s all innocent and from confused love.

Identification as love

 

I am listening to the livestream of Love Your Enemies: Robert Thurman, Sharon Salzberg and Uma Thurman, and it reminds me of how identification is love.

Mind identifies with an image or thought, and it shows up as fear, anger, sadness, and also what a thought may call greed, egotism etc.

It does so to protect the image of a me. And that comes from and is love. It’s worried love.

And I can explore this through inquiry and holding satsang with what’s here.

First, love appears as identification, the effects of identification is resisted because it’s uncomfortable, and that too is love. It’s all worried love. Love not recognizing itself as love.

So when love does recognize itself as love, there is a relaxation. Love meets itself.

Love as identification is recognized as love, and met by love.

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Identification = love

 

I keep seeing how identification – to any particular image or thought – is love.

It’s there to protect the imagined me. It’s devoted to this me. It comes from love of this me. It is love.

Seeing this – over and over, with particular identifications and in particular situations – I find a deepening gratitude and love for identification. It’s not an enemy. It’s not an “other”.

It’s what a thought may call awakeness, what a thought may call love, and what a thought may call protection of an imagined me.

If I believe that identification (aka “ego”) is a problem, other, or enemy, mind will fight itself and this easily leads to a sense of stalemate.

When I see that identification is love, and identification recognizes itself as love and awakeness, there is a softening. It can allow itself to relax.

There is an easier recognition that mind may be identified with an image or a thought, and not identified with it, at the same time.

Jesus: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle

 

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

– Matthew 19:24, The New Testament (NIV)

As with all quotes, this one can be understood in many different ways, and each one may have value as a pointer.

The most obvious way for me to understand this is in terms of – not surprisingly! – identifications.

If my mind is rich in identifications – images and stories taken as true, beliefs – it’s not easy for me to enter the kingdom of God. It’s not easy for me to see it’s already here, that what’s here is already the kingdom of God.

As these identifications are either suspended for a while, or seen through in a more thorough way (both grace), the kingdom of God is revealed. In a sense, the kingdom of God reveals itself to itself. Awakeness notices itself as awakeness, and all experience as itself. We can also say that love notices itself as all there is. And that presence notices itself as all there is. (A though may say these reflect respectively the head center, the love/heart facet, and the soul facet.)

At first, this noticing (recognition, realizing) may be associated (by thoughts) with the side effects of this noticing, such as a quiet joy, a sense of ease and flow, a sense of guidance, a felt sense of love etc. Then, as it matures, this noticing may happen within any particular content of experience. A though may label an experience joy, and awakeness/love/presence notices itself as that. A though may label an experience fear, and awakeness/love/presence notices itself as that. A though may label an experience physical pain, and awakeness/love/presence notices itself as that, as it happens. In a very real sense, the joy, fear and pain notices itself as awakeness/love/presence, and awakeness/love/presence notices itself as joy, fear and pain.

Although I am not sure, I suspect the dark night of the senses leads to and clarifies the first phase of this noticing, and the dark night of the soul may lead to and clarify the second. And how that looks will probably vary a great deal from person to person.

Aligning with reality

 

Reality is what awakens to itself.

And reality already allows – and shows up as – what’s here, whatever it is: these emotions, these thoughts, this experience, this world.

So I can explore this a few different ways.

(a) To explore if reality already allows what’s here, I can ask myself:

It is true this – this emotion, thought, resistance, pain, experience – is not already allowed? 

Is it true it’s not already awareness?

(b) And I can identify resistant thoughts, write them down, and take them to inquiry.

What are my fears and thoughts about what’s here? 

What do I complain about? Wish was different? Hope for? 

The first is an exploration of God’s will, what’s already here. The second is an exploration of my will. And my will – thoughts taken as true – may then be revealed as God’s will along with everything else.

I may first notice that reality already allows what’s here, and then find myself as it – that which already allows what’s here, including images of me and I, identifying with these images or not, and anything else.

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Reversals, bubbles and identification

 

Draft….

Some relationships between reversals, bubbles of confusion, and identification.

Any experience – any state, any content of experience – shifts into it’s reversals. There is clarity, then confusion. Bliss then neutrality. Joy then sadness. Insights then lack of insights. Energy then tiredness. A human self here, then no human self here. And so on. This is an invitation to notice what happens when there thoughts about this – I need bliss, joy is better than sadness – are taken as true, and explore what may be more true. It’s also an invitation to notice what already allows and is it all. And it’s an invitation to ask myself if I am content of this experience, or that which it all happens within and as.

Bubbles of confusion surface. They were or are formed within confusion, and surface to be seen, felt, loved and digested and learned from. They are universally human, so this is an invitation to see what happens if I open my heart to them as they surface here or in others. There is also an invitation to notice what happens when they are resisted, and what happens when they are met – with some kindness and wisdom – as a suffering being, as I would meet any suffering being. Another invitation is to notice the fears and beliefs behind the resistance, meet those with kindness, and ask is the story true?

It’s all a process of love and manifestations of love.

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The process is endless, so what happens when it’s identified with?

 

Healing, digesting, maturing, clarifying and maturing at the human level is endless, an ongoing process.

What happens when I identify with this?

There is an equally endless process of hope for resolution, struggle, disappointment etc.

How would it be without this identification?

It’s seen as happening on it’s own, it’s all the life processes unfolding.

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Identity and subpersonalities

 

I keep coming back to the topic of identification and subpersonalities.

When reality awakens to itself, there is either an apparent release of all identifications (nondual) or there is still identification as an I (unity).

At the same time, there are subpersonalities at our human level, and these may still be marked by a previous life within a sense of I and Other. They may be wounded, confused, reflect beliefs and so on. These too wish to move from confusion to clarity, they wish to align more with reality, they seek liberation from their suffering. They seek to heal, align with reality, and mature, and this is an ongoing process.

The overall process can happen in different ways.

There may be a good amount of healing, aligning and maturing of subpersonalities prior to reality awakening to itself. Many spiritual practices has this as side-effect, and this is what most traditional paths intend to set the stage for.

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Identification and solidity

 

Something about the perception of solidity:

As soon as there is identification with a view, there is identification as a separate I. And with this comes the appearance of being an object in a world of objects, all appearing quite solid and real.

With this identification as something within content of experience, what this experience happens within and as goes into the background. It’s notices less or not much at all, and if it’s noticed then it may appear as an “other”. And what experience happen within and as is awareness, and capacity for awareness and it’s play as appearances. It’s what shows that appearances are not solid and real.

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Medicine, and medicine for the medicine

 

Don’t Take Anything Personally:  Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
– from The Four Agreements

I don’t know much about the Four Agreements, but saw this quote on facebook.

It is medicine for a certain fixed and habitual viewpoint, in this case, of taking whatever happens too personally.

But this view, intended to dislodge a habitual and fixed view, can itself be taken as an exclusive truth. The medicine needs its own medicine.

I find that I can take things too personally in two ways.

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What is identification?

 

What is identification really?

It can be seen as a mistake, a mistaken identity with a story, a view, a role.

And yet, it is of course not a mistake. It is just how life (the universe, existence, God, Allah, Buddha Mind) expresses itself here now. It is yet another way for existence to experience itself. It is a way for the infinite to temporarily experience itself as finite.

When there is identification, there is a story saying “this (other) view is what I really am”, but that is not sufficient. That story can be here without being believed, so a belief in that story is necessary. That belief seems the same as identification. Identification with a viewpoint is belief in a story. (What is a belief then? What are the dynamics there? What is really happening?)

I can notice the effects of identification: A sense of center. Of a separate I located at a specific location in space. An identity to flesh out the identification with a view. A sense of having to maintain and defend that view and identity. A sense of unease, tension, stress, distress. (Even if it is at a very low volume.)

I can notice how it is an overlay of images on top of sensations, and how muscles tense up to give those images a better anchor. Tensing the muscles makes what I (temporarily) take myself to be appear more stable and solid.

But all of those may be effects and more peripheral facets of identification.

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Noticing and identification

 

When I notice something – an emotion, story, sensation etc. – there is a softening or release of identification with it. I find myself as what notices, and less as what is noticed.

It is very simple, yet with a lot of complexity as well.

For instance, I may notice an emotion – allow it as it is, be with it. Yet, if that emotion is triggered by a story – as they often are – and I don’t notice that story, it means I am still identified with the story.

So whenever I notice an emotion, I can first allow that emotion as it is, with heart and kindness. And when look for the story behind it. Which story do I – somewhere – take as true, which triggers that emotion? Is that story true? What happens when I take it as true? Who am I without it? What is the validity in its reversals?

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Islands of density II

 

I wanted to explore these islands of density a little further.

What are they made up of? I find sensations and an overlay of images. And these images include images of a location in space, an outline of the islands – roughly defining their shape and size, and labels and interpretations of these islands. And also images of a me with certain identities and viewpoints, relating to these images in certain ways depending on how they fit with these identities and viewpoints. Images of a doer acting in certain ways. And an image of an observer observer all of this.

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Inner peace

 

I just watched episode eight of NRK’s Vendepunkt (Turning Point), a TV series about quality of life. It is hosted by a psychologist (a particularly wise one), and the topics are exemplified through interviews with people who made a choice of leaving a stressful life for a simpler and more rewarding and deeply satisfying one. It is well worth watching if you understand Norwegian….!

Inner peace was mentioned several times. What does it mean? 

It can be a state, found through being in nature, connecting with good friends, through meditation and so on. But as any state it is precarious. At any moment, something can shift it into a different state. It doesn’t last. I may try to hold onto the peaceful state and push away incompatible states, but right away, I find that this activity in itself disturbs the peace.  This form of peace is ephemeral. 

There is also a different form of inner peache, one that is found through simply allowing experience, as it is. As if it would never change. Wholehearted. With kindness. Independent of the content of experience. (And if I find I can’t allow a particular experience, I can allow that as it is.) 

When I am caught up in holding onto or pushing away experiences, there is stress and a sense of being off balance. And when I find myself as that which allows experience – as it is, independent of its content, and including the impulses to hold onto and push away experience – there is a different peace. One that is independent of states. 

Here, there is stillness, even in the midst of a great deal of activity. 

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Last footholds

 

I notice a series of shifts for myself…

First, there is a noticing of what I am and what everything is. All is awakeness, no thing appearing as something, the play of Ground, and so on.

But something is left out. The sense of a separate I – as a doer and/or observer – is left out of this, and is still taken as what I am.

There is a oneness state here. A separate I one with everything, and all as awakeness itself.

And also a sense that something is missing. It is not quite complete yet.

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