Thomas Keating: The spiritual journey… is a series of humiliations of the false self

 

The spiritual journey… is a series of humiliations of the false self that become more and more profound.

Thomas Keating?

Yes. This is not the usual sales pitch of spirituality, but it’s real and true. It’s what we realize after a while on the spiritual path. 

What he calls humiliation is what I see as life rubbing up against any thought we hold as true, any belief or identification. These are the ones that create a sense of being a separate being, so these are the ones that gradually go. It’s not a comfortable process. It’s not what many think spirituality or awakening is about. But it’s what happens. It’s what’s needed for life to wake up to itself more as it is, without the filter of identifications and taking itself to be separate in any way, or anything else than all there is living a local life as this human self. 

Healing, awakening, and aligning with reality

 

Healing, awakening, maturing, and embodiment all have to do with aligning with reality. 

Of course, everything is reality so everything is already aligned with reality. But sometimes, we are consciously and less consciously aligned with our ideas about reality rather than reality itself, and these ideas can be a bit weird. So our alignment is a bit weird. Which means we create stress for ourselves (and others), and life situations will rub up against this conscious alignment which is an invitation to notice and realign.

Misalignment creates emotional wounds, hangups, and trauma. And more simply, it creates and comes from identifications, and these identifications create both stress and emotional wounds, and distractions so the mind doesn’t notice what it already is. Identification here means that the mind identifies with, and becomes in its own experience, the viewpoint of certain thoughts. This creates a sense of being a separate self. 

A few things make a thorough realignment a bit difficult. The misalignment goes through all of us (mind, body, energies) and is a living system, and as any living system, it adjusts to preserve itself. It also makes it difficult to know what reality is, or what’s more real, so we may not have a good internal guide. (Unless there is a spiritual opening which can provide such a guide.) We may have been taught to mistrust reality. (Especially in our Judeo-Christian culture.) And unless life rubs up against our misalignment quite strongly, we may not be motivated to invite in changes. (Life may invite it in anyway although it can take time.) 

I have written about the details of this misalignment in other articles, and also how we can invite in alignment in the form of healing and awakening. I have written less about maturing and embodiment since those tend to come over time and from experience, although I may write more about them in future articles. 

See part II of this article

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Physical tension to maintain beliefs, wounds, and trauma

 

It’s common to see physical tension as created by stressful beliefs and trauma. At the level of our regular everyday experience, that’s true enough. We have stressful thoughts and with that comes physical tension. It can be stressful thoughts that are recurrent and comes with recurrent tension, it can be more chronic and ongoing, or it can be something that happens rarely.

When we explore this through some forms of inquiry (e.g. Buddhist, Living Inquiries) we may find another connection between beliefs and physical tension. We see how any one identification and belief is associated with tension or contraction somewhere in the body. The thoughts give meaning to the tension, and the tension and contractions give a sense of solidity, reality and even truth to the thoughts. The physical tension is required for the thought to seem true. In a certain way, the mind creates physical tension in order to be able to believe a thought.

This is an abstraction from what I notice regularly in inquiry. I explore an identification or belief. I notice it’s connected with a particular sensation, tension, or contraction in the body. I notice how the thought gives a sense of meaning to the sensation (it seems to mean something when it’s there), and the sensation gives a sense of substance and truth to the thought.

For instance, the thought may be I am not good enough (identity as someone not good enough). I feel it as sensations in the throat. When I feel the sensations, they seem to tell me I am not good enough. And when I look at the thought I am not good enough it seems substantiated by the feeling in the throat.

This all happens without too much conscious noticing. It happens relatively automatic and at the edge of what we are consciously aware of. When it is brought into conscious awareness, through inquiry, the mechanisms are revealed. The man behind the curtain is revealed. And through noticing and resting with what’s noticed, with patience, respect, and curiosity, the connections between these thoughts and sensations tend to weaken and eventually fall away. Thoughts are recognized as thoughts and not inherently true. Sensations are recognized as sensations and not inherently meaningful.

Also, it all seems a bit silly. The mind believes a thougth just because it’s connected with some sensations? It creates these sensations (through tension) just so the thoughts can seem substantial and true? And yet, that’s how it seems to work.

These dynamics can be explored and addressed in a wide range of ways. We can explore the thought-sensation connections through Living Inquiries. We can find what’s more true for us than our initial belief through The Work. Therapeutic tremoring (e.g. TRE) can, over time, release the physical tension giving substance to stressful beliefs and identifications. Vortex Healing can address both the mind (thought) and physical (contraction) side of the equation. We can help the relationship between these thought-sensation “beings” through parts and subpersonality work. We can change our overall relationship to them (allowing them to relax, reorient, and partially resolve themselves) through heart-centered practices. We may notice these dynamics and giving them space to resolve themselves through noticing, allowing, and giving it time (basic meditation).

Note: When I say “stressful beliefs” or “stressful thoughts” here it really refers to identifications. When the mind identifies with the viewpoint of a thought, it takes it as true and make it into a belief. And any identification (or belief) is inherently stressful.

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