A hole in us: filling it, seeing it’s not there, and living the opposite

 

Many of us experience that there is a hole in us. Something is lacking or missing. We are not quite enough. Not quite OK.

This is created by beliefs we have about ourselves and the world, and identifications. And it’s rooted in our culture, our family patterns, and our own journey through life.

We can approach this in a few different ways. Tracing the sense of lack back to a belief and identity, and seeing how it (most likely) was created early in life, can be helpful in itself. It helps us see it more as an object (a part of us) than a subject (what we are). Being honest about it with ourselves and others helps for the same reason, and it helps us see it’s a universal experience.

We can dialogue with these parts of us. Get to know them. Befriend them. Listen to what they want to say to us. Be a friend to them. Give them our kindness, wisdom, and love. (Parts work.)

We can give these parts of ourselves love through heart-centered practices such as ho’oponopno and tonglen. And we can do the same towards ourselves as a whole, and towards those who trigger these parts of us now and in the past.

We can seek out situations where we feel loved and cared for, by ourselves and others. We can seek out people and communities that genuinely love and care for us.

We can increase our overall sense of well being. For instance through mindful movement (yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema etc.). Training a more stable attention (e.g. by bringing attention to the sensations of the breath). Find gratitude for our life, both what we like and perhaps what we don’t so much like (all-inclusive gratitude practices). This creates a different context that makes it easier for the not-enough parts of us to reorient and heal. (Although the healing may require one or more of the other approaches as well.)

We can identify and investigate the beliefs creating a sense of lack and not-OKness, including underlying and related beliefs. We can come to find what’s more true for us (and more peacefully true) than these stressful beliefs. (The Work.)

We can explore how our mind creates its own experience of these beliefs, identities, and stressful situations triggering them. We can see how they appear in each of our sense fields (sensations, thoughts, images, sounds, taste, smell etc.), and how the sense fields combine to make them seem solid and real to us. And through this investigation, the “glue” looses its strength and the sensations appears more as sensations without (stressful) meaning, and the thoughts appears more as thoughts without (stressful) substance and reality. (Living Inquiries.)

We can use energy work (often combined with some insights or simple inquiry) to release these beliefs, emotional issues, and identifications. (For me, Vortex Healing.)

We can even shift into what we are (that which these experiences happens within and as), and notice that it’s all what a thought may call consciousness. It’s all happening within and as what we are. Sometimes, we call it the divine or the One. (Big Mind process, headless experiments.)

So when we experience a hole in ourselves, we can fill it through befriending this part of ourselves and giving it care and love, and we can see through it and see it’s ultimately not real in the way it seemed to be. And we can also live in a way that helps us reorient and rewire and shows that these parts of us are not who we are. (Living turnarounds in The Work of Byron Katie.)

Finally, we must all find our own way through this. The examples I gave above are just examples based on what am familiar with and have found helpful. And finding our own way often includes finding someone who has gone through it themselves and can guide us through it.

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Astrology?

 

As part of my general education for myself, I studied astrology for a while in my teens. (As I studied anthroposophy, theosophy, and a lot of other things I knew I wouldn’t stick with long term. Even back then, I knew that the more traditional and straight-forward mystical streams within and outside of the main spiritual traditions were for me. Christian mystics, Taoism, Buddhism, Jung, Jes Bertelsen and so on.)

How did and do I see astrology?

First, the birth chart. The upside is that it can function as a projection object. I can find in myself what the chart describes in me. The downside is that it can leave a lot out, and I can overlook or downplay important elements. (Which is the case with anything that supposedly says something about who we are.)

If I wanted to create some sort of psychological profile for myself, certain personality tests (like the Big Five) seems more helpful to me. More importantly, the characteristics and qualities I see in the whole world are here in me. I see them out there because I know them from myself. The whole world is a mirror, and that’s more helpful to me. It’s juicy, alive, immediate. It’s something I can explore through any form of projection and shadow work, including inquiry.

Then, prognosis and influences at specific times of our life. The upside is that I may use certain time periods as an opportunity to focus on certain things in my life, to start projects, and so on. It may give me an extra nudge. The downside is that I may hope or think I know something about what will happen, and that I may follow what the astrology says more than what comes organically from my life, situations, and inner guidance. In the worst case, I may force myself into something that doesn’t feel quite right.

I prefer genuinely not knowing. Follow what organically comes out of my life and inner guidance. And do inquiry on my stressful beliefs about what may happen, what is happening, and what happened. That’s what makes pragmatic sense to me, feels juicy, alive, and rich, and gets to what I really want for myself.

And then there is the question of whether astrology works and is accurate or not. I don’t know. It would be a good topic for research (if it’s done well). In any case, I am – for one reason or another – not drawn to it and prefer other approaches.

I see that if I would be drawn to astrology, it would be to (think I) know something about myself, although I can more easily and effectively do that through working with projections. And it would be to (think I) know something about current and future influences on my life, and perhaps find a sense of safety in that knowing. Again, I prefer to follow my guidance and find a more genuine peace by investigating any stressful thoughts I have about anything.

I should mention that people approach and understand astrology in a multitude of ways. Many are aware of this and have found ways to use it that makes sense to them and perhaps even would make sense to me.

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When spiritual teachers say stupid things

 

I am against organ donations because organ transplants take resources away from other health services.

Paraphrased from Ric W. on FB

Ric is the main teacher of one of the modalities I find most helpful, and when he talks about healing or awakening, it usually makes complete sense to me. But when he posts about social issues, I often find I disagree. Sometimes, I even think his views seem a bit naive.

In this case, he posted this to an international Facebook group which makes it seem as if he is making a broad statement that applies to all countries and situations. In Norway, people get the health care they need even if some with organ transplants need a small portion of the health care resources available. Even in the US where he lives, it’s hard to see that it’s true. Insurance companies pay for the health services people need and have paid for through their insurance, whether it’s organ transplants or something else.

Also, he is using the “divide and conquer” argument where he sets two vital issues up against each other while we, as a society, can afford both. We spend a huge amount of money and resources on far less important things. (In the US, on a ridiculously large and bloated military budget.) It’s the argument politicians use when they want to set groups up against each other, for instance by saying “society spends resources on immigrants that retired people should have had”.

Of course, it is true that organ transplants increase the overall cost of healthcare in a society. But it’s negligible. It’s a cost most of us agree is worth it. And a lot of other and less vital things bring up the cost as well. In the US, privatization increases the overall cost dramatically. In most countries, doctors perform or prescribe costly treatments they know won’t work or are ineffective.

It is also true that, as he said, that in the big picture, life and death is not so important. But it is important to us as humans. And I want to live in a society that’s kind and honors life.

So what do we do when spiritual teachers or guides say stupid things?

First, is there something in it? Does he see something I don’t? In this case, I haven’t found it yet but I am open to it.

Then, I can be relieved. He is just a human being. He may have knee-jerk ideas about things. He may not think everything through. His social views may, at times, seem unnecessarily harsh. He is a human as we all are. He is not perfect. He has his own issues and limitations. It’s a gift that he shows me this.

Finally, it helps me see my own issues. Something in me got triggered when I saw what he wrote. I reacted to what he said, considered it for a while, and then – as part of the reactivity – decided that what he said seemed stupid, harsh, and uninformed. It was my way of dealing with the discomfort it brought up in me.

I can do inquiry (The Work) on the stressful thoughts it brought up in me. (He is stupid. He should be more responsible in what he says. He may influence others to not support organ transplants. His view is harsh, heartless, and uninformed. I don’t know if I can trust his views on anything now.)

I can do inquiry (Living Inquiries) to see how my mind creates the reactivity, and also see how it creates what it reacts against and when it was initially formed in my life. And, in the process, invite sensations and thoughts to separate so the charge may go out of these issues (beliefs, identifications, traumas) in me.

I can do Vortex Healing for what it brought up in me, even if I don’t know exactly what it was.

And much more.

So when spiritual teachers say stupid things, it can come with many benefits. I may find the grain of truth in it, or it may help me see something from a different perspective or a different context. It brings him down from the pedestal and among us humans, as I see him. And it helps me find my own emotional issues, triggered by what he said, so I get to explore and perhaps find resolution for these.

I want to add a few words about the “life and death is not important” view. In the big picture, it is true. It’s all the play of the divine. The different masks of the divine. And yet, one of the pitfalls of spirituality is to dismiss the human. We go into Big Mind, and find ourselves as Big Mind, and dismiss or value less the human views and perspectives. (If this happens, it’s often a way to try to protect ourselves of the pain inherent in our human existence. It doesn’t work, but it can give a sense of temporary relief.)

As I see it, a more mature view is to include both and embrace the human, including our valuing of life. To me, that’s one of the most beautiful things about humans. We value life. And few things are as beautiful as a society that values life. In this case, that values life enough to give people organ transplants when they need it and follow up so they can stay healthy as long as possible.

Finally, I should add that I know that Ric may say these things precisely to initiate a process in people just like it did me. It may be, unconsciously or consciously, a teaching tool. Outside of when he talks about healing and awakening, where he seems amazingly precise and insightful, he may allow himself to say controversial things in order to stir things up a little. I imagine I would be tempted to do the same if I was in his position.

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It’s not who you are

 

And remember, it’s not who you are.

When I worked at a clinic a little while back, one of my co-workers would say this to clients after they did the enneagram test. (We used the test so we wouldn’t overlook some possible core issues for the clients.) He would say it mostly to pique their curiosity, to counter their tendency to take the results as who they are, and also because it’s accurate.

When I find my enneagram types according to an online test, in what way is it who I am? The results do hint at how I cope with core issues from my childhood.

And in what way is it not who I am?

It’s not who I am because the test may give different results depending on when I do it and which situation(s) I have in mind when I answer the questions. So in a limited enneagram context, the results may not be who I (always) am.

It’s not who I am because I am a whole human being and the enneagram types only touch upon aspects of who I am and how I am in the world. (What it does address is partly how I typically cope with core wounds from childhood.)

I am not destined by what the test points to. Yes, I may have those dynamics in me and tend to use those coping mechanisms, but when I become aware of it, and when I find more healing for the core issues behind it, I can relate to these dynamics in me more consciously. I may find myself living differently.

Beyond the human, there is what I am. That which any experience, including what the enneagram types point to, happens within and as. In this context, I am also not limited to any enneagram type or any label at all.

And this goes for any personality test, any label, any role we have in society. It’s not who we are. It may or may not be accurate in a conventional sense. And as who (human self) and what (Big Mind) we are, we are far more, different, and not defined by it.

So what enneagram types am I? When I do the tests, my most prominent ones tend to be 9 and 1. Peacemaker and perfectionist. When I grew up, I was taught to avoid conflict (peacemaker) and that doing things well was safe (perfectionist). So by seeking peace and perfection, I can avoid conflict (which I am scared of) and also failing or being disapproved of (which I am also scared of). These types suggest that if I want to work on core emotional issues, I may do well to address conflict avoidance and fear of being unloved or disapproved of, and the early childhood situations where I learned this.

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What is the present?

 

I saw a couple of videos about what the present is. Is it what happens right this millisecond? Or these few seconds? Or even minutes?

When I look at my experience of time, I find an overlay of thoughts (images and words about what happens in time) on top of another overlay of thoughts (an image of a timeline), on top of what’s happening in the other sense fields.

For past and future, it’s a series of images and words on top of the timeline either stretching back in time or forward in time, with sensations lending it a sense of substance, solidity, and reality.

For the present, it’s images and words on top of the “present” part of the timeline (the middle), and if the present is what’s happening in my immediate surroundings, then these are on top of what’s happening in sight, sound, taste, smell, and sensations. And, again, sensations lend these thoughts about the present as sense of solidity, reality, and truth.

So it doesn’t really matter how “long” the present is. It’s created in thought, as is past and future. In a sense, it’s imagined. And at the same time, our ability to imagine the past, future, and present is vital for us functioning in the world. We need it to orient, learn from the past, imagine different futures, and relate to what’s happening here and now.

And it does help to recognize that this is what’s happening, as it’s happening. It helps us hold it all more lightly.

The Living Inquiries is what I have found most helpful for exploring this in detail. And when I have found it, in depth, one or more times, it’s easier to notice it as it happens, in daily life.

When people say “be present” or “stay in the present”, what do they mean? It may mean to stay with what’s happening here and now, and that’s often helpful. But really, it means to notice that my mind creates an idea of a timeline, and then places other thoughts on top of it to populate my past, future, and present. I notice how my mind creates its idea of time and what happens in time, and that it’s all happening in immediacy.

Even if I am absorbed into thoughts about past, future, or present, one little noticing is all that’s needed for me to see that it’s all happening in immediacy, here now. My attention can be absorbed into thoughts about past, future, and present, and I can notice that’s what’s happening. And that helps me hold it all with a lighter touch.

One thing I like about this approach is that it’s pragmatic. It’s relatively easy to notice, especially through some guided inquiry. And it fits the understanding of modern psychology (although it’s still in its infancy) and even common sense.

At the same time, my impression is that many people tend to see past, future, and (their ideas of the) present as real, solid, and true. There is a past, future, and present, as it seems to us, and it’s populated with, more or less, what we think it’s populated with. That’s an understandable assumption, and it’s one that can only survive as long as we don’t take a closer look.

I also find the idea of time travel interesting. As a story device or a thought experiment, it can be very entertaining and even illuminating. If we take it as anything more than that, it means we assume there is an actual, real and solid past and future as a “thing”, that it’s somehow stored somewhere, and that we can conceivably visit it. That’s an example of taking our mental timeline of past, future, and present, investing it with a sense of solidity (through associating it with sensations), and taking that sense of a solid and real timeline as actually true and real “out there” somewhere, as a place we can visit. Again, this impression can only survive for as long as we don’t take a closer look.

Readiness

 

When I worked with addiction clients (at the Kiloby Center), I noticed that it was relatively easy to see how willing, ready, and wholehearted the clients were about being sober, and that the more willing, sincere, wholehearted, and receptive they were, the more likely they were to succeed.

That’s how it is for any of us in any area of life, including healing emotional issues and changing our orientation to life (befriending).

So how do we arrive at this readiness? It seems that the main factor is recognizing – deeply, viscerally, through experience – that the pain of changing (and there is often some pain involved) is less than the pain of staying in the old pattern.

Is there a way to prepare the ground for readiness? As with so much, it comes through grace and on its own time. At the same time, there may be some ways to invite it in. Inquiry is one. Heart-centered practices is another. Being really vulnerable and honest with ourselves and (a trusted) other is yet another way, and a vital component.

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The benefits of knowing it’s all selfish

 

There are many benefits to knowing that what I am doing is selfish, even when it also seems kind.

It aligns me with reality and truth and I avoid the stress of pretending something else.

It’s easier for me to take care of my own needs so I am in a better position to live the life I want.

I am less prone to burnout. I am less likely to tell me I am doing it for someone else so there is less chance of resentment.

It’s easier for me to stay in my own business. I am less likely to go into blame, victimhood and so on.

There is less sense of self-importance. I know I am doing it for myself so I can’t so easily use it to boost a false sense of self-importance or tell myself I am better than others. 

If I don’t immediately see how what I am doing is selfish, how can I explore or find it? Here are a couple of suggestions.

If I tell myself I am doing something because I need to, I can write down the “need” statement first (“I need to drive the kids to school bc there are no busses”) and then change it to a “want” statement (“I want to drive the kids to school because I want them to have a good education, and I enjoy spending the extra time with them”).

If I tell myself I am doing something noble or altruistic or for someone else, I can ask myself what I get out of it. Here is an example: I moved to Wisconsin to support my wife in her education. What did I get out of it? In what ways did I do it for myself, for my own reasons? It made me feel good to support her. I wanted the best for her. I got to be with her. I got to apply for US residency which I wanted. I got to be a good husband and see myself that way. All of that was selfish, and some of it selfish in the best way.

The Work of Byron Katie is also a great way to explore if what I am doing is selfish, and to find that it is, in the best way, and that it’s completely innocent. (At least, that’s what I have found so far. I am open to discover something else.)

I’ll add a few examples I have found for myself. When I do something that seems kind, for someone else, and in the interest of the larger whole, I do it because it feels good. I am aligned with my guidance. I know all is interconnected so I am really doing it for myself, for the whole I am intrinsic part of. I notice it’s all happening within and as what I am, so it is – as they say in Zen – like the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

Sometimes, I may do something because it makes me look good. It feeds into a desired self-image or how I want others and myself to see me. It can make someone like me. All of that is also selfish and when I look I find it’s innocent. It’s what we humans do when we are caught up in stressful thoughts and neediness.

So yes, when I have looked, I have found that what I do – even when my mind tells me I need to do it or what I do out of kindness – is selfish. It’s often selfish in the best way. It’s innocent. And it’s a huge relief to admit to myself it’s selfish and it comes with many benefits to see it.

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Serving oneself

 

I watched the 2017 documentary about Spielberg, and one of the many things that struck me was when someone said he is totally unselfconscious and it’s almost as if he is an employee of Spielberg.

If that’s true, and it seems there is a good amount of truth in it, it’s one piece of the explanation for how he has been able to so wholeheartedly do what he loves and be so productive, make movies across many different genres, with such skill, and for so long. He has been getting out of his own way.

So the question for me is, if I am an employee of Per (this human being here), how can I best serve him? How can I be a really great employee? What would I do in this situation? How would I approach this task if I was an employee of Per?

Again, this is a very simple pointer or inquiry, and if we apply and follow it, it can be life transforming.

Reactivity isn’t realness

 

Some people (and movies!) seem to think that reactivity is the same as being real and authentic. In a way, it is since it’s part of human life. And in another way, it’s not.

When we are reactive, we react to our own uncomfortable feelings and associated thoughts. We react to them as a way to avoid them, and the way we avoid them may be through blame, complaints, anger, sadness, victimhood, going into and recycling stressful thoughts, and more.

So what’s more real? To me, it’s to notice I go into reactivity (the symptoms are not hard to recognize), stop, take a breath and a step back, and notice what I am really feeling. Often, it’s fear. And then feel it, give it space to be here, admit to it to myself, and perhaps – if the situation is right – admit to it to someone else. And that someone else may be the person who initially triggered the reactivity in me.

As Adya says, when I find and admit to myself or someone else what’s more real and true for me, it feels like a confession. It’s vulnerable. And the reactivity is not needed anymore.

Say I am reactive when I am visiting my parents and have the thought that my mother nags my father. I notice my mind goes into complaints and blame. My muscles tense up. I see images of her nagging my father in the past and future. My breath is more tense and shallow. I get shorter with them. I want to be somewhere else. I am starting to fantasize about leaving and being away from the situation. I leave sooner than I normally would. All of that is reactivity.

So I can notice. Get closer to what’s really going on and notice what I am really feeling. And I notice fear. I am afraid of what the nagging does to both of them. (And my father not speaking up about it.) I am afraid of what it does to their health. I am afraid of what it does to me. I am afraid it’s harming my relationship with my parents. (Which it doesn’t, only my reactive thoughts about it does.) I am afraid I’ll have been and will play out similar underlying dynamics in my own relationships.

And when I notice that, something falls into place in me. I am more authentic and real with myself. I am in touch with the underlying feelings and thoughts, the ones my mind initially reacted to in order to avoid. And there is a relief here. A sense of coming home. Knowing that while I can’t do anything about their relationship (it’s not my business and it’s futile even trying), I can address this in myself.

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Does The Work only work at the thought level?

 

Does The Work of Byron Katie only work at the thought level?

That’s one of the concerns I have heard from people new to The Work, and it was one of my initial concerns as well.

In my experience, The Work can go very deep and can be life-changing. Especially when I follow the simple instructions and I am facilitated by someone trained in and experienced with The Work. When I stay with the situation, get close, use some of the subquestions (for number 3), feel what’s happening in my body, go back in time to my earliest experiences with the stressful thought, and also look at my scary images of the future. When I am still, get close, and take time to find genuine examples for each turnaround. And when I select a juicy living turnaround and bring it into and apply it in my daily life.

In addition to the obvious cognitive shifts, I often feel energetic and emotional shifts when I do The Work, and I do notice how my life changes when I bring the living turnarounds into my daily life.

The Work can be “just” a cognitive exercise if we take it that way, and it often stays at that level if we don’t follow the simple instructions or don’t have a skilled and experienced facilitator. And it can be profoundly life transforming if we do.

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Parliament: Testify

 

Once I was a hollow man
In which a lonely heart did dwell
You know love came creeping upon me
Bringing life to an empty shell

Now I heard so many times before
That your love could be so bad
I just want to tell you people
It’s the best love I ever had

Don’t you know that 
I just want to testify
What your love has done for me
I just want to testify
What your love has done for me

Ooh, ooh luscious
Sure been delicious to me
Ooh, ooh luscious
Sure been delicious to me

I just want to testify
What your love has done for me
I just want to testify
What your love has done for me

Parliament, Deron Taylor / George S Clinton, Testify

I listened to this song by Parliament and realized it falls into place more for me when I turn it around to myself. (When I hear songs or watch movies or read stories or look at the world, I find it interesting to explore it as I would a dream, as if all aspects are in myself.)

I can understand the lyrics of Testify in a conventional sense, as someone who comes alive through the love of someone else. I allow myself to come alive because I tell myself I am loved and lovable.

And when I see that, I also realize I can give myself that love.

How can I give myself that love?

I can do loving things for myself (take a bath, make a good meal etc.).

More importantly, I can find love for whatever parts of myself come up, and especially those parts I previously have shunned and pushed away. I can find love for my experience as it is here and now, even if it’s uncomfortable and something I previously have shunned.

To get started, I can do this with the help of a structure. It can be a basic meditation such as natural rest. When I notice and allow my experience, as it is here and now, it’s a deep expression of love. It can also be a heart-centered practice such as ho’oponopno, tonglen, or metta. Or I can do it through a simple inquiry such as the Headless experiments or the Big Mind / Big Heart process.

If I want to be more thorough, I can also find and investigate any beliefs that prevent me from finding a deep and lasting love for myself. I can do this, for instance, through The Work or Living Inquiries. A common thought is that I am not worthy of love or I am unlovable. One of my thoughts is that the love of someone else (preferably a woman beautiful inside and out) is more important or worth more than my own love.

These are all very natural and understandable thoughts, and it can be a great relief and open up a whole new dimension of the world when the charge goes out of them (Living Inquiries) or we find what’s more true for us (The Work).

The voice of God

 

Misophonia, literally “hatred of sound”, was proposed in 2000 as a condition in which negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions are triggered by specific sounds.

Wikipedia entry for misophonia

I have a history of misophonia. Predictably, it’s stronger when I am very tired or stressed, and less so when my energy reservoirs are fuller and I am more content. And I have found it very helpful to explore stressful beliefs around it (The Work), stressful sensation-thought connections in my mind (Living Inquiries), enemy images (inquiry, heart-centered practices), and undoing the energy and consciousness components creating it (Vortex Healing). Reducing the overall stress level of my nervous system with therapeutic tremoring (TRE) also helps.

Perhaps because of this work, there is now space for making use of a simple pointer or shortcut.

I hear the neighbor making noise (using bandsaw and chain saw to cut wood). And I either remind myself this is the voice of God and then take time to notice. Or I ask myself is this the voice of God? which also helps me notice.

What does it help me notice? It has to happen here and now, for myself, and it’s always new, so putting it into words can be a sidetrack. And it can also be a pointer for own exploration. Right now, what I notice is that the noise happens within and as consciousness. It happens within and as this awake, alive space. In a sense, it happens within and as what’s capacity for any content of experience, including this alive consciousness. To me, the noise and everything else that happens in my sense fields happens within and as awake consciousness. Even the “me” happens within the sense fields and within and as this consciousness.

That’s really all I can say about it. Although if I take it one step further, which many spiritual traditions do, I can say that everything is the divine, Spirit or God. It gives it a little extra oomph.

So when I ask myself is that sound also the divine? I notice that the sound too happens within and as awake and alive consciousness. As a side-effect, it helps me notice that any reactions in me to the sound – thoughts combined with sensations – also happens within and as the same consciousness. So my “center of gravity” shifts out of this a bit and a little more into what I already am, which is this consciousness all happens within and as.

Aside from that, I get to notice that the noise helps me see what’s left in me of beliefs, identifications, and emotional issues. (This is endless but at least it shows me what to explore next.) And it’s a reminder for myself that all is God’s will. Everything that happens are movements within the whole and has infinite causes stretching back to beginningless time and out into endless space. And, in yet another way, it’s all life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. When I am distressed by the noise, the noise, the distress, and the idea of it happening to someone separate, is all part of this exploration (Lila).

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What would a sane person do?

 

Sometimes, when I am faced with a decision in daily life, I ask myself:

What would a sane person do?

I imagine someone normally sane, grounded, kind, and reasonable. And ask myself, what would that person do?

Yesterday, I bought a humidifier from someone online, and I had the choice of going to Oslo to pick it up or pick it up at my local train station. I was drawn to travel to Oslo since it would give me an excuse to go there and see an exhibit before picking it up.

I noticed a slight confusion in me, and asked myself what would a sane person do? It was pretty clear that a sane person would chose to pick it up at their local train station, and go to Oslo another day to see the exhibit, free from having the additional obligation of picking up the humidifier.

It’s a simple and perhaps silly example. And yet, it shows that taking a third person perspective sometimes can help us clarify what to do. It also shows that very simple pointers or inquiries can be helpful in daily life.

Faking that it is a problem

 

I have noticed a low-grade fear that others will think I am faking illness (CFS). Since it’s a stressor in my life, I wanted to explore it through inquiry, and in this case The Work. Even before getting into the more structured inquiry, my facilitator suggested a perspective that made something fall into place for me.

I am faking that it’s a problem.

It is true that I am faking it. I am faking that it’s a problem.

It’s a huge relief to admit to the truth. Yes, I am faking it. Not that it’s an illness. (I know it is from the history, symptoms etc.). But that it’s a problem.

How am I faking it’s a problem? As soon as I believe thoughts saying it’s a problem, I am faking it. I pretend to believe stressful thoughts before even investigating them. And when I do investigate them, I – at least so far – find something peaceful that’s as or more true for me than the initial stressful thought.

I also notice an additional benefit. From that more peaceful place, I am more able to take kind actions to help my life and situation.

And how can I use this as a guideline or reminder for my daily life? A living turnaround? Whenever I notice a thought that my health is a problem, I can notice it’s my mind making it into a problem, I can identify the thought, and then explore it through inquiry. That’s the kind and sane approach, and what I want for myself.

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Defeated by life vs actual surrender

 

There is a difference between being defeated by life or a particular situation, and being surrendered to it. And we can also think we are surrendered when there is more left.

Say I have an ongoing health issue (as I do).

I can be defeated by it. Feel hopeless. Sad. Hopelessly angry. Give up. At the surface, this can look like surrender but it’s really just being defeated by the situation. I still see it as terrible, I still fight it in my mind, but I have given up doing something about it.

I may think I have surrendered. I may also think I have surrendered because I hope for it and it looks like it has happened, while the surrender is temporary or one of several layers. I can also fake surrender. I can pretend I have surrendered. I may have all the right words. I may see the benefit of surrender. I may wish for surrender. But I am still secretly fighting life. I still secretly see my situation as terrible.

And there can be a more real surrender. My resistance to the situation has worn off over time, perhaps through a lot of struggle. And sometimes it’s supported by inquiry, whether the natural inquiry we all engage in through living our lives, pondering our situation, and talking with others about it or a more structured inquiry. I may have seen through my stressful beliefs about the situation and find what’s genuinely more true for me. I may have identified and seen through my cherished identities that don’t fit my health situation, and again found what’s more genuinely true for me. I may have found the genuine gifts in the situation for me and genuine gratitude. I may have found that what I really value in life, myself, my relationships, and my role in life, genuinely isn’t what this illness impacts. I may have come to a place where I openly allow my grief, anger, sadness, gratitude, joy, and anything else that sometimes come up in me around it.

Often, there is a mix. Some parts of us struggle with it, and we struggle with these parts of ourselves, so we don’t fully allow them. We may think we have surrendered (perhaps in a particular way or area of life) and there is still something left which surfaces later and in another situation. And sometimes, in some areas of us and our life, there is a more genuine surrender through clarity, allowing, and an open heart.

How can we invite in a more genuine surrender? Mainly, it comes in its own time. We cannot decide for it to happen or will it to happen. If it happens, it’s often because our resistance wears out through (futile) struggle. What we can do is prepare the ground. For instance through basic meditation (noticing, allowing), heart-centered practices (prayer, ho’oponopno, tonglen, metta), inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries, Big Mind process, headless experiments), therapy with a wise, skilled, and heart-centered therapist, and most of all receptivity, sincerity, and authenticity.

I notice I rarely write about surrender although it is an important topic. It’s not something we can choose or will to happen – it comes through grace. There is a difference between surrender as a temporary state and a more genuine and complete surrender, and it’s not always so easy to tell the difference (unless we wait to see). And there are always more layers. Surrender is a not something we achieve, it’s at most something we can invite in. And it’s an ongoing process.

There is also a bigger picture here. A lack of surrender is life resisting itself. It’s life locally and temporarily taking itself to be separate from everything else and engaging in an ongoing struggle with itself. Surrender then is life recognizing itself as all of it and giving up the (identification) with the struggle. The struggle may still happen because that’s conditioning. But life recognizes itself as all of it – this human self, the wider world, the situation, the struggle – and identification goes out of it. All of it is recognized as the play of and within life and not something that happens to an actual separate self.

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Where is the final “I”?

 

Where is the final or ultimate “I”?

Where do I think it is? Where have I glimpsed it is? And where is it, in my immediate experience?

Is it in this human self? Is this apparently separate self the final word on what I really am?

Or is it in life itself? As this Earth? As the universe? As all of existence? As all as consciousness? As that which is capacity for it all?

There are several layers to this as well as ways of noticing.

I can have an intellectual understanding, either through western science and philosophy (Universe Story, Epic of Evolution, Ecospirituality) or from mysticism and maps from different spiritual traditions.

I can have glimpses, either without anything apparently bringing it about or through certain practices (inquiry, Big Mind process, basic meditation, practices to reconnect etc.).

And my center of gravity can shift. Perhaps it’s first as this human being in the world. Then, as the wholeness of what I am as human and soul. Or as the wholeness of existence. Or as consciousness somehow separate from the content of existence. Or as consciousness that all experience happens within and as. Or as that which is capacity for it all. Or as this capacity and all it is capacity for (consciousness and all content of experience happens within and as consciousness).

This is one aspect of what spirituality is about. Being curious about where the final “I” is. Exploring it. Noticing new layers of “I” in glimpses. And gradually, and sometimes suddenly, having shifts in the center of gravity of what I experience as “I”.

And really, it’s life exploring itself. It’s life temporarily and locally taking itself as a local “I” and not questioning whether this is the final or most basic “I”. And then being curious about it, either through spontaneous glimpses opening up to something more, or through intuition or a knowing, or perhaps through a crisis that makes it question basic assumptions. It’s life gradually gaining an intellectual understanding and seeing that it must be life itself not this apparently separate self. And it’s life gradually inviting the center of gravity of what it takes itself to be out from the local and to the whole, to all as consciousness, and to what’s capacity for it all.

I want to add a few words about using (structured) inquiry to explore what we are. We can use forms of inquiry that explicitly helps us shift into what we already are, like the Big Mind process and the headless experiments. And we can use inquiry that helps us see what we are not, and helps us see how our mind creates a certain experience for itself of what it is (through images, words, and sensations), and how it holds onto it as true in order to find a sense of safety. Both are equally helpful and they feed into each other.

Shifting into what we are highlights our old (an incomplete and ultimately false) ideas of who or what we are. And shifting out of our old ideas of who or what we are invites in a noticing of (more of) what we really are. And it’s good, and eventually essential, to question absolutely all our experiences or ideas of who or what we are, even the most “spiritual” or “enlightened” ones, and perhaps especially those. They may still be roughly accurate and serve as helpful pointers, but if we hold onto those ideas as true and our identity, we’ll eventually need to question and see through them.

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Spiritual awakening: urgent or not?

 

Some experience an urgency about spiritual awakening. There is a sense that we have to find ways to make it happen as soon as possible.

When that happens, I suspect it’s to find peace, contentment, and a sense of arriving. And that a component of it is a wish to escape discomfort, a belief that awakening will give that, and that it needs to happen quickly because this discomfort is unpeasant and/or unbearable.

The upside of this is that it’s a “golden chain”. It can help us go more wholeheartedly into an awakening-exploration and we can gain a lot of valuable experiences and insights from that process.

The downside is that if it distracts us from our own healing, we may miss out of a path (the healing path) that will give us enough of what we want to satisfy us for a while. Often, healing is a quicker and more effective path to find a measure of peace, contentment, and a sense of arriving. Also, since it’s a compulsion, it comes from one or more beliefs, and it doesn’t work in the long run. Sooner or later, we’ll need to question the beliefs creating the awakening-compulsion in us and explore the emotional wounds in us that it comes from.

There are no easy answers in how to navigate this. Yes, the awakening compulsion comes from neediness, beliefs, and emotional issues. Yes, we can find a lot of what we are looking for through healing. Yes, we can learn a lot from a more compulsive awakening path, at least for a while. Yes, the compulsion eventually will have to go. And how we navigate all of this is up to us. We have to find our own path through it. And it does help to have experienced, wise, and balanced guidance.

At the same time, perhaps there is an easy and mostly helpful guideline. What I do is to choose approaches to awakening that also includes healing. Heart-centered practices often heal and prepare the ground for awakening (tonglen, ho’oponopno). Some types of inquiry invite healing as well as awakening (Living Inquiries, The Work). Some types of energy work do the same (Vortex Healing, although the awakening component comes in more when you are a student). Basic meditation (AKA natural rest, shikantaza) sets the stage for awakening and supports healing (although other approaches are often needed for deeper and more thorough healing). Training a more stable attention supports any activity, whether it’s exploring awakening or healing or anything else (and it does tend to bring in a measure of contentment).

So it makes sense to combine an awakening path with a healing path. The two support each other. And we tend to find what we really want through a combination of the two. And, perhaps more importantly, a release from thinking it’s what we really want and that we need it.

And is awakening an urgent matter? The dull (?) answer is that it is for us if we experience it as urgent. There is nothing wrong with this urgency. And it’s not needed. As far as I can tell, awakening isn’t inherently an urgent matter. If it was, life would have awakened through most or all beings already. It seems that for life, the path is the goal. (Lila.)

And there is a small (?) caveat here in that humanity is at a crossroads and a crisis point and the more life has healed itself and awakened to itself through a certain number of people, and the more the better, the more likely we are to get through this with some grace and with less massive collective suffering. (The crisis, if it isn’t obvious, is our current ecological crisis which requires an overhaul of our collective worldviews and systems, and also a reduction in local and global inequality in terms of resources and opportunities.)

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The effects of The Work (inquiry) on daily life

 

Spiritual practices has their effects on us. That’s why we engage in them.

Heart practices opens for love and gratitude for what our human personality likes and doesn’t like. Inquiry helps undo the charge on thoughts and reveal thoughts as questions about the world and not the final word on anything. Breema bodywork allows us to find ourselves as the whole that any unease or discomfort happens within, and that makes the unease and discomfort much easier to relate to and live with. Vortex Healing as a practice, as something I do for myself on a daily basis, helps undo decades and lifetimes of conditioning. Therapeutic tremoring (TRE) helps release tension out of the body, which in turn lessens the charge on thoughts. And so on.

Each of these – at least if we engage with it with sincerity and over time – has a certain effect on our daily life.

When I talk with people, and it may be people who for a while have engaged in different forms of spiritual practice, I tend to notice relatively quickly whether or not they seem to be informed by The Work.

In general, people who have done The Work for a while, and have lived and breathed it, tend to recognize beliefs. They may still be caught in them, and they may still feel true, but they know – from experience – that they are not. They know the stress is created from holding a thought as more true than it is. That no thought is the final word on anything. That there is as much or more validity in the turnarounds as the initial stressful thought.

And through that knowing, there is some space around the thought. We don’t get as caught in it. We are open for finding what’s more true. We may even see the humor in the stressful thought. And all that before even taking it formally to inquiry.

When I talk with people who may have a long spiritual practice but have not immersed themselves in The Work, I often notice that they seem to hold some thoughts as the final or absolute truth without having the same awareness of what’s happening. Of course, there are exceptions. But I have noticed this as a general trend.

The thoughts they hold as true may be anything, and often – if they are spiritual practitioners – they may be thoughts about spirituality or reality.

As usual, this is OK and more than OK. It’s natural and understandable. It’s how life manifests locally and temporarily through and as us. It’s part of the play of life and the divine. It’s how the divine experiences itself, here and for a short while, as separate and finite.

And, of course, this – as everything – is a projection. I am describing myself. I sometimes hold thoughts as the final truth without noticing, and often these are thoughts about spirituality or reality. Including the ones in the previous paragraphs…! Although I am generally aware these are thoughts and questions and not the final word on anything.

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I am scared

 

I am scared. 

What picture do you get when you hear that sentence? 

I see a child. 

And that says a lot. It says that in our culture, it’s OK to say I am scared when you are a child, but you are not really supposed to say it as an adult. As an adult, you are supposed to be angry, or sad, or grieve, or be frustrated, or happy, or ecstatic. And sometimes afraid, but that’s definitely more taboo. 

Why is fear more taboo? Why does it feel more vulnerable to say I am scared? I am afraid? 

My guess is because it’s more real. It’s more true. It’s more authentic. 

When I explore anger, grief, sadness, and frustration in myself, I often find fear behind it. These are often reactions to fear. 

My mind feels fear. It reacts to it. And that reaction can take the form of anger, frustration, sadness, or even grief. 

I lose something or someone important to me. It brings up fear of being alone, of missing out. And my reaction to that fear takes the form of sorrow. 

I don’t get what I want because of someone else’s actions, and I see it as unfair. I am scared because I don’t get it, and I feel out of control. And I react to that fear by going into anger. 

When I explore emotional issues for myself, mostly through inquiry, fear is often at the bottom of it. (Along with my mind believing scary stories.) And the rest – anger, frustration, sadness, grief, even elation, happiness and ecstacy – come as reactions to the fear. 

I can’t say it’s always this way, or always this way for everyone. But this is what I find. When I get close enough, I often arrive at fear. And that tends to dissolve the surface emotions and reactions. 

My suspicion is that’s why fear is more taboo. It’s more taboo for adults to admit fear. It’s too intimate. Too authentic. It doesn’t allow for our usual ways of coping with fear through anger and sadness or various compulsions. Admitting to the fear and getting close to it allows the house of cards to fall. What’s left is just nakedness. 

When I get close to fear, what then? It’s just like a scared child or animal. What it wants is to be noticed, allowed, respected, met with kindness and patience. Listened to. Often, that’s all that’s needed. (At least, at first.) 

Divination and wanting to know the future

 

I discovered I Ching in my teens and read it over and over for the insights and wisdom in it. (This was the Richard Wilhelm translation and I think I got into it because it had a foreword by Jung.) 

I also occasionally used it as an oracle although I quickly realized it mostly reflected my mind at the time of asking and less the situation I thought I asked about. 

At times, I have also consulted psychics. The good ones often have good insights and pointers and pick up on what’s happening in the situation. They may also get something about the future but tend to not emphasize it, partly because it’s less useful and partly – as Yoda said – always in motion is the future

And I too have a knowing about which choice to make. Mainly, it’s from the quiet inner voice and sometimes it’s a sense of how bright different options are. And I have seen that it works out best (more aligned, more flow) if I follow the quiet inner voice, the voice of the heart, and the brighter options. 

My experience with oracles and psychics is that, at best, they can point to what I already know and help me trust it. They may also help me look at an aspect of the situation I have ignored or not taken seriously enough. 

What they cannot do is tell me what to do or what will happen. And that’s as it should be. There are many benefits to the future being (mostly) unknown to us and always in motion.

One is that the future doesn’t exist apart from as images in our minds. (And these images will always be based on very incomplete sensing and information.) Realizing we can’t know the future, and that what’s here now is all there is, helps us align with reality and “live in the moment” in the sense of knowing that our images about the future, past, and present are all images in our mind.

Another gift in an unknown future is that a big part of human life is making choices, experiencing the consequences, and learning from it. That’s how we mature and grow. Also, if we knew the future the suspense would be gone. It would take a lot of the spice out of living. 

Of course, we know the future in a limited way. I know that if I stub my toe, I’ll most likely experience pain. If I am kind to people, they are most likely kind to me. If I save money, I’ll have money in the bank for when I need it.

Ideas and images about the future are essential for us to function as individuals and society. It helps us plan, and it helps us mentally test out different futures and chose to invest in the ones that seem most sensible and attractive. And it really helps to know and remind ourselves that these are images. They are not an actual future. They are not “real” apart from as images. We can act in ways that make the ones we like more likely to happen. And investing these images with emotional energy tend to eventually create suffering. (Life often won’t conform and everything passes.) 

All of this brings us back to ourselves. I am the one who has to make my own decisions. I have to live the consequences. I have to steer my own ship. It won’t be perfect. I’ll make choices I would have made differently with what I know in hindsight. And that’s the human experience. That’s how this life is set up. It’s inevitable so I may as well make the best out of it. I may as well enjoy it…. the unknowing, the suspense, the surprises. 

Any source of information about the consequences of different choices is helpful, including my own knowing and the quiet inner voice. Any images of the future are just that, images. And embracing the reality of this, the inherent unknowing, makes it easier for me to enjoy it all. 

And that brings me to perhaps the most important aspect of this. Where in me does the impulse to want to know come from? If I feel compelled to know, or find safety, or have others decide for me, where does it come from? What do I hope to get out of it? What are the emotional issues behind it? What beliefs and identifications fuel them?

These are often quite deep-seated and central issues in our lives so it’s good to acknowledge and explore them. The more I find clarity around and healing for these issues, the less compulsion there will be to know, the less paralyzed or stressed I will feel, and the easier it is to notice and follow my own knowing. 

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Irrational emotions? No

 

Are emotions irrational? 

Not in my experience. They do their job perfectly. And that job is to follow our beliefs, including beliefs we may not realize we have, and conflicting beliefs. 

We can say that the emotions are always “rational” in that they do their job. It’s the beliefs that not always are so rational. Although they made perfect sense at the time our minds created them. They made perfect sense in that situation and with the inner and outer resources available to us. Since most of them were formed when we were children, they made perfect sense to our child self at the time. 

In that sense, even the beliefs are rational. Although they may not always appear to make sense to us and others now, in our current situation. 

How do we identify these beliefs? And how do we invite them to resolve so we can live in a way that makes more sense to us now? Inquiry – The Work or Living Inquiries – are effective ways to do this, although it does take intention, sincerity, work, and often patience. And the guidance of someone familiar with how to use them effectively. 

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Nisgaradatta: Literally, you are a figment of your own imagination

 

Literally, you are a figment of your own imagination. 

Nisargadatta Maharaj

Yes. Any ideas of an I or me are images and words in my own mind, combined with sensory impressions. I am, literally, a figment of my own imagination. Any ideas of there being a separate I or me here, and how this separate I or me are in the world, are figments of my own imagination.

It’s very simple. It’s very easy to not notice clearly. And it makes a huge difference when it’s noticed, either through a spiritual opening or awakening or through inquiry.

The ideas of an I and me in the world are still here, and they are essential and very useful for navigating and functioning in the world. And yet, when they are recognized as what they are, as imagination, they are held more lightly. The heaviness of taking it all as real and the final word is gone, or at least recognized as created by the mind and not inherently real or true.

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Ariana Grande: thank u, next

 

I know they say I move on too fast
But this one gon’ last
‘Cause her name is Ari
And I’m so good with that (so good with that)
She taught me love (love)
She taught me patience (patience)
How she handles pain (pain)
That shit’s amazing (yeah, she’s amazing)
I’ve loved and I’ve lost (yeah, yeah)
But that’s not what I see (yeah, yeah)
‘Cause look what I’ve found (yeah, yeah)

There isn’t too much to say about this song because it’s all there in the lyrics.

It’s about gratitude, impermanence, and self-love. 

Everything passes – all our relationships to anything in the world, to people, things, situations. And all we can do is learn from it and say thank u, next. 

Except, one relationship doesn’t pass and that’s to myself. I can find a good relationship to myself. I can treat myself as I would want to be treated by someone important in my life. I can treat myself – and anything coming up in me, all my experiences – with love, kindness, respect, as a good friend or lover. 

It’s an important pointer. In some ways, it’s the secret to life. And it’s beautiful to see it in pop culture, and especially when aimed at younger women as I assume this one is. Although the pointer is equally valid and essential independent of our gender or age. 

This song is completely aligned with the insights we find through The Work. I won’t be surprised if this will be a regular song at future Schools. 

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Healing and the limits of what happens inside of thoughts

 

When it comes to healing of emotional issues, it’s limited what can happen inside of the person’s thoughts. There is a limit to what can happen through thinking and talking. 

Of course, through thinking and talking, some limited resoling and healing can happen. It can be good to think or talk about something and put words on it. It can be good to have someone listening to it, whether that’s ourselves or someone else, especially when the listening is kind, insightful, and helps us find our own insights and resolutions. 

In the best case, it can help us gain some perspective and resolution. In the worst case, our painful (and trauma-creating) stories can be reinforced by ourselves or the other person. And by entering into something too quickly or in an unskillful way, we can also retraumatize ourselves. 

And although emotional issues may be largely created by us believing our own thoughts about something that happened, the emotional issues themselves go far beyond out thoughts. They sit in our whole system. 

So for a more thorough and real healing and resolution, we often need something outside of thought. As mention above, the main healing factor may be listening with presence, patience, respect, kindness, and invitation for us to find our own insights and resolution. 

Among the many outside-of-thought approaches to healing out there, I am only familiar with a few so those are the ones I write about here. They are just examples, and I don’t mean to say you have to do any of these. The ones available to you, and the ones that work for you are the ones best for you. 

So here is a list of examples I happen to be familiar with: 

Release tension related to and created by the issue out of the body through therapeutic tremoring (TRE). 

Reorient in how I relate to the emotional issue and to the triggering situation through heart-centered practices. (Ho’o, tonglen, all-inclusive gratitude practices.) 

Examine the stressful and issue-creating thoughts, and find what’s more true for me (The Work). 

Examine how the mind creates its own experience, and specifically the issue, through combining sensations and thoughts. Peak behind the curtain. Shine sunlight on the troll. (Living Inquiries.) 

Use energy healing to release the issue, including through releasing conditioning at all levels and invite in new insights. (Vortex Healing.) 

In addition, there are the time-honored ways of healing through touch, movement, loving social interactions, and time in nature. 

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This too is the divine

 

This too is the divine. 

Any pointer in healing or spirituality is medicine for a certain condition. 

If our condition happens to be that (a) we have recognized all as the divine – either in glimpses or ongoingly, and yet (b) we don’t always see, feel, and love some experiences as the divine, then this can be a helpful pointer. 

This too is the divine. 

This is where I have found myself for a while. I know deeply that all is the divine. I can see it. I can feel it. I love it as the divine. 

And yet, when some experiences come up – strong discomfort, emotional pain, physical pain, wounds, trauma – I don’t always see, feel, or love it as the divine. Old reactive patterns take over. (And that’s OK since that too is the divine, it’s a local and temporary expression of the divine.) 

It’s really a question. Is this too the divine? Sit with it. Let it sink in. Let it guide noticing. Let it work on you. (There is no need to answer with words.) 

I find this one helpful. It’s the right pointer for me right now. It probably wasn’t some while ago, and won’t be at some point in the future. But now, when my attention gets absorbed in what’s triggered in me and I temporarily don’t recognize what’s here as the divine, it’s the right medicine. 

It’s not the right medicine if we don’t easily recognize most as the divine. Then it just becomes intellectual and not helpful. And it’s a not needed medicine if we habitually recognize even that which our personality doesn’t like as the divine. 

Most of the time, I focus on remedies and pointers that have more universal use such as different types of inquiry and heart centered practices. And yet, sometimes, more narrowly applicable remedies are just what’s needed. 

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Projecting sensations into space

 

I had a low-grade sense of sinking heaviness for a couple of days and decided to explore it in a Living Inquiry session yesterday. 

I started with resting with the sensation of slowly sinking heaviness filling my experience and going indefinitely far out in space in all directions.

Then, I rested with the sensations in my body that created this experience. It was a slightly vibrating sensation on my skin in the face, head, and upper body. After resting with this for a while, I brought attention to the image(s) of something sinking, and of something spread out infinitely out into space in all directions. 

As I have noticed before, when a feeling feels like its outside of the body, it’s created by a combination of bodily sensations and one or more images placing the sensations outside of the body. 

And as with any experience with a charge, it can only hold itself together and seem real as long as it’s uninvestigated. As soon as it is investigated, and we have taken time to rest with each of the components, the illusion falls apart.

In this case, the sensations are still here (although less) but they are recognized as sensations in particular places in the body, and the associated images are recognized as images. The magic trick cannot anymore be experienced as I initially experienced it.  

I also explored some of the associations with this slowly sinking all-encompassing heaviness, what triggered it a couple of days earlier, and some of the underlying issues (back to childhood). I won’t go into details here since I mainly wanted to share how sensations can be projected into space, and seem to fill our whole experience even if they are actually quite localized. 

Since I noticed some identification as someone sitting here (mostly with the head area), I took some time to rest with the sensations making up this experience, and also the images making it up. That allowed this identification to similarly fall apart as a convincing magic trick. 

Finding meaning, and freedom from meaning

 

We need a sense of meaning in our lives, and especially when we find ourselves in challenging life situations. 

We can find meaning in many different ways depending on the situation and what works for us. We can make a situation meaningful to us even if we at a very human level don’t like it. 

And if we want to take the next step, we can investigate meaning itself. Meaning is created by our own thoughts, and especially when we invest them with energy and hold them as at least partially true. This meaning typically tells us something we like or don’t like. In either case, it can be freeing to investigate these thoughts creating a sense of meaning. 

The word meaning is here used in two slightly different ways.

In the second paragraph, it refers to a sense of meaning in our lives or for a situation we find ourselves in. We can make our life or a situation meaningful to ourselves.

And meaning is also something that’s in any thought as long as it makes sense to us. We can invest a thought and meaning with energy, hold it as true, and identify with its viewpoint. And we can also examine this meaning and how our mind creates it for itself. 

The first sense of meaning gives us a meaningful way of viewing and approaching a situation. And investigating meaning itself, the ideas of meaning we have about the same situation, gives us freedom from these ideas. In my experience, both are valuable and helpful. 

How do we investigate meaning? The easiest is perhaps to take an example from my own life. With my current health problems (CFS) comes thoughts and ideas about how terrible it is and also in what ways I can make it meaningful (or life makes it meaningful for me).

So I can identify these thoughts, and then explore them in inquiry (for me, The Work + Living Inquiries). In The Work, I can identify some of these thoughts through the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet, and other beliefs tend to come up in the inquiry process. In Living Inquiries, some are found in the initial exploration and most through the process. 

As I mentioned earlier, I find both of these approaches valuable and helpful. It helps me to find meaning in a life situation. And it helps me investigate any thought that gives me a sense of meaning – whether I like it or not – about the same life situation.

One helps me orient towards the life situation and find a productive approach. The other lightens the weight of any thought offering me an opinion about it. 

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Compulsions: two levels of what we escape

 

When we have a compulsion, there are usually two levels to what we try to escape. 

The compulsion could be any activity – eating, using alcohol or drugs, internet, work, upholding an image of ourselves, certain thought patterns, or just about anything else. Behind compulsions is a wish to avoid certain uncomfortable sensations and thoughts.

And those uncomfortable sensations and thoughts come in two layers

First are the immediate sensations in our body we wish to avoid. They seem frightening to us, so we use our compulsion as a strategy to avoid them. Sometimes, we may be conscious of uncomfortable or frightening thoughts associated with these sensations, but not always.

Then, there is a whole undergrowth of uncomfortable and frightening thoughts and additional sensations often in the form of chronic contractions. These can be quite entrenched, seem very real to us, and can stretch back to childhood experiences. 

Often, we would do almost anything to avoid consciously entering and meeting these. Including escaping into our compulsions, even if these come with their own unpleasant consequences. 

Several things may prevent us from consciously entering what we try to escape from. Mainly, it seems scary and frightening. We have our own beliefs telling us it’s scary and dangerous. Our society, at least traditionally, has told us these parts of us are dark and hide something terrifying. Our society makes it easy to escape through various addictions and compulsions. (We see others do it, and escape routes are easily available partly because some of them are profitable.) We may, wisely, think we would get lost if we enter these parts of ourselves, we may rock the boat, and we may take the lid off something we won’t know how to handle. (This may be true if we don’t have the right support, guidance, and skills.) 

The answer is to do exactly what we have avoided, do so with support and guidance, and eventually learn how to do it safely for ourselves. We need to meet and befriend these areas of ourselves. Become familiar with them, see the innocence behind it all, and perhaps invite these parts of us to heal. 

Over time, we get to see that it’s actually not so scary to enter these areas after all. It may be uncomfortable at first, but as we rest with the sensations and thoughts, and investigate what’s there, it tends to shift into an experience of relief and even of returning home. We are returning home to parts of ourselves we have shunned. 

It’s important to do this befriending in a skillful way, and that often means to initially be facilitated by someone experienced. These parts of ourselves are best met and explored in a way that’s respectful, patient, allows these parts to be as they are, see the innocence behind and in them, and invites them to heal in their own time. 

For me, the most helpful ways I have found of doing this include natural rest (notice, allow, rest with), inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries, Big Mind process), heart-centered practices (ho’oponopono, tonglen – towards these parts of ourselves), and releasing associated body contractions (TRE, massaging the contractions etc.). I won’t go into the details here since I have written about it in other articles. 

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Everything that happens has a meaning?

 

Does everything that happens have a meaning?

When something apparently unfortunate happens in our life, does it have a meaning?

Yes. We can give it a meaning. We can use it to learn, grown, mature, be of service and so on.

No. Nothing has an inherent meaning in a conventional sense. Any meaning comes from an overlay of thoughts. (And a felt sense of meaning comes when these thoughts are associated with certain sensations in the body.)

Yes. If everything is the play of the divine, then that’s the underlying meaning of everything. The play itself is the meaning. The divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

So we can give what happens a meaning for us. We can notice that it’s inherently free from meaning since any meaning comes from an overlay of thought, sometimes connected with certain body sensations that make it a felt sense of meaning. And, in some ways, the meaning of anything is that it’s the play of the divine.

The first helps us orient. The second helps us hold any ideas of meaning lightly. The third is something we may find for ourselves through our own exploration and it can give us a sense of the underlying OKness of what’s happening.

Note: The third one can be talked about in two different ways. One is that everything happens within and as what we are. It’s the play of awakeness as form. The other is what I wrote above, that this can be seen as the play of the divine.

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How does The Work work?

 

How does The Work of Byron Katie work?

As with anything else in life, it’s ultimately a mystery. But we can also say a few things about it.

Here is some things I have noticed:

It’s a confession, and we are seen by another without (or with less) judgment. And that, in itself, is somewhat healing.

And then there are some elements nearly explicit in the process itself.

We get to identify our stressful beliefs about a situation, someone else, life, or ourselves. We get to pinpoint the close (proximal) cause of our stress and suffering.

We get to see that our thoughts about it may not be as true as we initially thought. Our mind opens a bit to other possibilities, and to hold it a bit lighter.

We get to see what happens when we hold onto the thought as true. We get to see the stress and suffering it creates for ourselves, and what it does to our life and our relationship to others.

We get to imagine how it would be if we didn’t hold onto it as true. We get to imagine feeling it.

We get to consider and see the validity in the reversals of the thought, and that the initial thought, as well as its reversals, all have some limited validity to them. This also helps soften our grip on the initial thought.

We get to pick one reversal and see how it is to bring it into our life and how it is to live from it in daily life.

So we get to identify and question our initial stressful thought. Our mind is invited to soften its grip on it, and consider the validity in the reversals. And, as mentioned above, we – in the best case, if we work with an experienced facilitator – feel seen, met, understood, and not judged by another human being, and that in itself is healing, and shows us that we can do the same towards ourselves.

Another way The Work works is that it can give us clarity to act on something in our life that requires our action, and to do so with more clarity, kindness, and hopefully wisdom.