If you compare, you lose

 

Thoughts compare. It’s one of the things this tool is built to do.

Comparing is essential. It helps us differentiate. Find better solutions. See ourselves in perspective. Identify areas where we can develop and learn more. And so on. It’s necessary for us to function and thrive in the world.

And yet, if we assume this says something about our inherent value as a human being, we lead ourselves astray. We create stress and anguish for ourselves, and also participate in a culture where this is seen as normal and creates widespread – and unnecessary – stress and anguish for a lot of people.

In the moment, we may tell ourselves it feels good when we compare ourselves to others and come out favorably. We tell ourselves we are better than someone else in a particular area of life, that this means we are inherently better or valuable, and that we can then allow ourselves to feel good about ourselves.

But it’s not that simple. When we get into the habit of this dynamic, we inevitably find someone to compare ourselves with who – in our mind – is better than us, and assume this means our inherent value is diminished or threatened, which means we feel not very good about ourselves.

We can’t have one without the other.

This means it’s a losing game. It’s rigged for us to lose. And that’s a very good thing.

Why is it a losing game?

It’s because this extra assumption has no real value. It’s a way for us to torture ourselves and others. And it’s not based in reality.

The ideas we have about better and worse are cultural. And the idea that this means something about our inherent value is cultural. They are not inherent in existence.

At some point, we may realize that this dynamic is not only painful, but it’s also not inevitable. There is another way.

How can we find another way?

The answer is through becoming aware of this dynamic of comparing ourselves to others and assuming it says something about our inherent value. The most direct and effective way may be through inquiry (The Work of Byron Katie, Living Inquiries, etc.). And inquiry can also help release our fascination with this type of comparing.

What’s the bigger perspective on this?

We can say that this whole dynamic is cultural. The ideas of better and worse, and what is better and worse, is cultural. And the idea that this says something about our inherent value is cultural.

We can say it’s as a(n unfortunate) side-effect of the differentiating function of thought.

And we can also say it’s part of lila. It’s one of the myriads of ways what we are explores and experiences itself – whether we call this consciousness, existence, or even the divine.

From the perspective of a separate human being, it’s unfortunate. From the perspective of existence itself, it’s part of its exploration of itself.

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The Matrix and our world

 

The Matrix – with its real and virtual worlds – is explicitly an allegory for our world.

In what way is our world like The Matrix?

In a literal sense, it’s theoretically possible – although probably unlikely – that this world is created by some beings like in The Matrix. And in a metaphorical sense, we all believe things others may want us to believe and we can wake up from those illusions.

There is also another way, and one I find equally or more interesting.

Our world is created through an overlay of thoughts, of mental images and words. This overlay is what makes sense of this world and also helps us visualize a past and future and a wider world beyond what’s here and now. It’s where all labels, assumptions, values, and so on come from.

This overlay is virtual. It’s imagined. It’s created from thoughts to help us orient and function in the world. It’s completely essential for our survival.

And it makes our world quite a bit like The Matrix.

How can we take the red pill?

The safest and most lasting and effective way may be through inquiry, and especially sincere inquiry over time.

Through headless inquiry, we may discover that we are capacity for our world. The world, as it appears to us, happens within and as what we are.

Through traditional Buddhist inquiry, and modern variations like the Living Inquiries, we may discover how our mind creates its own reality. How it associates sensations with thoughts… so the sensations lend a sense of solidity and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts give meaning to the sensations.

Through The Work of Byron Katie, we may discover that the thoughts and assumptions we held as true are not as true as we thought, and not true in the way we thought.

Through basic meditation – notice and allow what’s here – we may come to hold our thoughts a little more lightly which supports these forms of inquiry.

And so on. There are innumerable forms of inquiry and supporting practices that can be helpful here.

I am personally not interested in the path of psychoactive drugs. Although they can give us a glimpse of this, it’s dependent on chemical, it’s often transient, it may come with side-effects, and there are other approaches that are more reliable and thorough.

Why would we want to take the red pill?

There is some inherent suffering, discomfort, and struggle in taking our virtual world as inherently true and real.

Taking the red pill may not remove the suffering, discomfort, and struggle, but it can make it much easier. It can help us not struggle with it, and that – in itself – is a big relief.

Also, some of us seem drawn to truth, or love, or returning home, no matter what the cost may be. In that case, it seems we don’t have that much choice.

Tom Compton: Notice your presence when you are open to complete helplessness

 

Helplessness is one of those things most of us are trained to avoid. We don’t allow ourselves to open to helplessness. We struggle and wrestle with it.

So when we allow ourselves to open to it, what happens?

What happens if you open to your helplessness now?

I notice it opens to spaciousness and a sense of wholeness. It’s a relief. A certain pressure – the one that came from seing helplessness as “other” – is gone.

The reality is that we are completely helpless. We are completely dependent on the universe, Earth, the Earth community, the human community, and the kindness of strangers and friends and family. It’s a relief to open to this. (At the same time, we are not completely helpless. We can act. We can be good stewards of our own life. We can relate more consciously to our inner and outer world. And so on.)

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The essence of spirituality doesn’t require anything esoteric

 

There are many ideas about spirituality in our culture. Some see it as a refuge or something that will save them. Some see it as escapism, fantasies, and avoidance. Some see reaching the “goals” of spirituality as only for special people. In some situations, and in some ways, there is some truth to each of these.

And yet, the core of spirituality is pragmatic and secular. We don’t need to take anyones word for it. We don’t need to assume anything about the nature of existence. We don’t need to leave it to someone else. We can try it out for ourselves.

So what is this secular and pragmatic core of spirituality?

It takes two forms. One is the many effects of spiritual practices on our human life. The other is finding what we already are.

I have written articles about both so I’ll just give a brief summary here.

Finding what we are

This isn’t dependent on any philosophy or particular worldview. It’s just dependent on noticing what we already are to ourselves.

Even logically, we see that – to ourselves – we must be consciousness.

Consciousness is what’s aware of any experience at all, so that’s what we are to ourselves. Any sense of being something happens within and as this consciousness, any experience of anything at all happens within and as this consciousness. Even the idea of consciousness, the mental images and associations we have about it, happens within and as consciousness.

And we can find this for ourselves. Consciousness can notice itself as, to itself, all there is. We can find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us. We can find ourselves as what the world, as it appears to us, happens within and as.

Our habitual identification is typically with this human self which appears within and as what we are. This is a kind of “trance” as many have pointed out, and is self-perpetuating unless something comes in to help us notice what we already are, or – more accurately – help what we are notice itself.

The most effective approach to notice what we are may be inquiry (headless experiments, Big Mind process). The most effective approach to stabilize this may be a combination of inquiry and basic meditation (notice + allow). The most effective approach to live from this includes heart-centered practices (tonglen, ho’oponopno) and regular emotional healing work. And training a more stable attention helps all of this and our life in general.

Is this the awakening spiritual traditions talks about? Yes, as far as I can tell it is. It’s what we are noticing itself, and noticing itself as all its experiences. It’s oneness. It’s a waking up from the trance of being this one separate self happening within and as what we are. It’s a noticing that what we are is love. After all, oneness noticing itself is expressed as love.

Helping who we are

Traditional spiritual practices, and modern versions of these, can also help us at a human level.

Training a more stable attention supports just about any activity in our life and our general well-being.

Basic meditation – notice and allow what’s here, and notice it’s already noticed and allowed – helps us release out of struggling with what’s here, our experience as it is.

Basic inquiry – finding ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us – also helps release us out of struggling with what is. It brings a lighter touch. It creates a space for us to act a little more from clarity and kindness.

Heart-centered practices helps us reorient in how we relate to ourselves, others, situations, and life in general. It helps shift us out of a struggle orientation to befriending what’s here. And this, in turn, helps our well being and allows us to act more from clarity.

The essence of spirituality doesn’t require anything esoteric

To me, this is the essence of spirituality, and it doesn’t require anything esoteric. It doesn’t require us to believe anything or go outside of our own experience. On the contrary, if we want to take it as far as it goes, it requires us to be ruthlessly honest about our own experience and find what’s already here.

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How our mind creates its experience of matter

 

To ourselves, we are consciousness. And the world, as it appears to us, happens within and is consciousness. (When we look, we can find this independent of whatever worldview we have or philosophy we subscribe to.)

At the same time, we undeniably experience matter, and we may even experience it as solid and substantial.

So how does our mind create its experience of matter?

We can explore this through some forms of inquiry, for instance traditional Buddhist inquiry (exploring what’s happening in each sense field and how they combine to create an experience) and modern variations like Living Inquiries.

What do we find through these inquiries?

In general, we find that our mind makes sense of the world through an overlay of mental images and words, and it also associates sensations with some of these images and words. The sensations lend a sense of solidity and even truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts give meaning to the sensations.

I feel that something is true because of the sensations associated with the thoughts, and the sensations means something to me because of the thoughts associated with the sensations.

And that’s how our experience of matter is created as well. As I type of this computer, I see the screen and the keyboard, I heard the sound of the keys, and I feel the sensations of my fingers touching the keys. There is a mental overlay that makes sense of it all – screen, keys, hands, words, meaning. And one of the thoughts – and underlying assumptions – is of matter. The computer is matter, my fingers and hands are matter.

When I examine this specific experience of matter – for instance the sight and feel of the computer, I find sight, sound, sensations, and mental images and words making sense of it. That’s all I can find. I cannot find something called matter outside of this, or a computer, or hands, or anything else. It’s all made of up of these components in my mind.

My mind is creating its experience out of these very simple components.

I may also notice that all of this – sights, sounds, sensations, mental images and words – happen within and as consciousness. My experience of matter is made up of these components, and it all happens within and as what I am. I find myself as capacity for all of it.

This examination – especially when done over time and from different angles – changes our experience of…. our experience. Yes, matter is matter as it’s conventionally seen. And yet, it’s also not. It’s all made up of these components and it’s all happening within and as consciousness. It’s not as real or substantial as I initially assumed.

After we see through this, how do we experience matter?

I take it as we all do in a conventional sense. I walk, pick up things, my toe hurts when I stub it. But I also notice it’s happening within and as what I am, or within and as consciousness. One does not preclude the other.

Why is it useful to explore this?

This, in itself, is perhaps not directly useful. It’s interesting to see how our mind creates its own reality. And it is useful in exploring anything stressful in this way, whether it’s a thought or belief, an identity, a compulsion, or something else.

As we keep exploring it, we see that these stressful surface thoughts and identities rest on underlying assumptions, so it’s useful to examine these too. And one of these underlying assumptions is matter. (Along with body, doer, observer, consciousness, capacity, and so on, and taking ourselves as any of these.)

How can I explore this for myself?

What I wrote here is just a description of what I have found, and it’s similar to what other report finding. It’s a kind of very general travel description in case you’d like to visit or explore this for yourself. It gives you a starting point.

To actually explore it for yourself, traditional Buddhist inquiry can be helpful, and I have found Living Inquiries to be the most effective. You can ask a trained facilitator to facilitate you through this, and over time you can learn to do it for yourself.

Byron Katie: All thoughts are recycled

 

All thoughts are recycled.

– Byron Katie

Our stressful thoughts are recycled. They may seem very personal as long as we hold them as true. But they are variations of very old and familiar stressful thoughts for humanity. They are variations on universally stressful thoughts.

Any thought is stressful when it is believed. No thought is absolutely true and life will remind us of that, as will our mind which already knows. Believing a thought creates a position that’s not completely aligned with reality, and that’s inherently stressful.

I should also mention that, in a strict and literal sense, it’s not true that all thoughts are recycled. There are some new thoughts within science, philosophy, and art, although these too are usually variations on familiar themes. From what I know about Byron Katie, this is not what she refers to in her quote.

The role of intellectual honesty in spirituality

 

For me, intellectual honesty seems an intrinsic part of spirituality. After all, spirituality is an exploration of reality, and intellectual honesty guides and supports that process.

This is another large topic perhaps better suited for a book, but I’ll say a few words about it.

Intellectual honesty is intellectual honesty no matter what the topic is. In general, there seems to be some universals to it and some universal findings. And there may also be some universal findings when it comes to spirituality.

How does intellectual honesty look for me in general?

I don’t know anything for certain.

Thoughts are questions about reality.

Thoughts help me orient and function in the world. They can be more or less valid in a conventional sense, and it’s not their function to give any final or absolute truth.

Life is ultimately a mystery, including what we think we understand or know something about.

How does intellectual honesty look for me when applied to psychology?

The world is my mirror.

(a) My mental overlay of the world creates all the maps, separation lines, labels, interpretations and so on that I operate from as a human being in the world. Anything I can put into words or images is just that, my own words and images. It’s not inherent in the world.

(b) Also, what I see “out there” reflects dynamics and characteristics in myself. Whatever I can put into words about someone or something else also applies to me. When I look, I can find specific examples of how it applies to me.

I am my own final authority. I cannot give it away, no matter how much I try.

I operate from a wide range of underlying assumptions. It’s good to bring these to awareness, as far as I can, and question them.

How does intellectual honesty look for me when applied to spirituality?

Awakening can be understood in a small and psychological or big and spiritual way. In both cases, it’s about what we are noticing itself and then living this human life in that context. We are capacity for the world as it appears to us. Any content of experience happens within and as what we are.

In the small interpretation, we say that this is MY or perhaps OUR nature. In the big interpretation, we go one step further and say it’s the nature of EVERYTHING.

What we can say for certain is that it seems to be our nature. And although saying it’s the nature of everything is a leap, there are some hints that this may be the case. (I have written more about this in other articles.)

What are the benefits of intellectual honesty?

It helps us stay honest, on track, and grounded. And it helps us avoid detours created by wishful or fearful thinking. (Although these detours become part of our path and have their own function.) It helps us – individually and collectively – to make better decisions.

Why is intellectual honesty important in spirituality?

I have mentioned a few things about this above.

Spirituality is about reality. It’s about noticing what we already are and living from it. It’s about seeing through our assumptions about ourselves and the world. And in that process, intellectual honesty is invaluable and essential. It keeps us on track. It helps us see through what’s not aligned with reality.

Can intellectual honesty be learned or trained?

Yes, absolutely, although it does require readiness and willingness. We can learn about cognitive bias, logical fallacies, and so on, and learn to recognize them in our own thinking. There is always more work to do in these areas for all of us, and especially in recognizing it in ourselves.

Does intellectual honesty preclude trust, devotion, or poetic expression?

Not at all.

I can trust an approach or a guide, at least for a while and to some extent.

I can engage in devotion and devotional practices towards the divine.

I can enjoy poetic expressions and even engage in my own.

Are the examples above all there is to it?

No, these are just some examples that come to mind. There are a lot more out there and variations and clarifications of these. And probably a lot I am not aware of and won’t be aware of in this lifetime.

Are the examples above examples universal?

They do not represent any final or absolute truth, although it seems that many of these are relatively universal. And it’s always possible to go further with each one of these and other insights and pointers.

The examples I gave above apply to the part of the terrain of reality I am exploring. If we explore other parts of the terrain, there will be some other ones that applies specifically to that terrain. For instance, if we see ourselves as a more conventional Christian, we may chose to “believe” something while also admitting we don’t know.

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How my meditation practice changed when the CFS got stronger

 

I had a long meditation practice before the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome got significantly worse some years ago. I found I couldn’t continue my practice as before, and struggled with it for a while, until I started to find my way.

So how does it look now?

I do a very simple basic meditation of noticing and allowing. Notice what’s here. Allow it as it is. Notice it’s already allowed as it is. Adyashanti has some very good guided meditations on this, and Natural Rest is another way into it that works well. It’s also the basic meditation found in Buddhism.

I find heart-centered practices very helpful, including tonglen and ho’oponopno. This helps shift how I relate to myself, others, situations, parts of myself, and existence in general.

Pointers for noticing what I am are helpful, especially Headless experiments and (a simple version of) the Big Mind process.

Sometimes, I also do some inquiry, especially simple pointers like the ones from Adyashanti. How would I treat myself right now if I was someone I deeply care about? How would truth and love view this situation? And so on.

Beyond this, I sometimes do more in-depth inquiry, for instance through The Work of Byron Katie and Living Inquiries. And I do some somatic work, especially Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) and Breema.

In general, I have found a more relaxed way of doing these practices. And it’s more about noticing what’s already here than creating anything or going somewhere.

Adyashanti: The most important element in overcoming a regressive life pattern is starting to focus more on the heart center

 

Almost always, the most important element in overcoming a regressive life pattern is starting to focus more on the heart center than on the head. Allowing your heart to be vulnerable, open, and connected, even if it feels scary, is an unavoidable step. Start by opening to sensing the presence in your heart center. Hold whatever arises in the presence of the heart. And from the heart center, inquire into the underlying nature of patterns of resistance and avoidance. But do it from the sense of presence in the heart. That will make all the difference.

– Adyashanti in A Revolution of Being: Embracing the Challenge of Awakened Living, 2018 Online Retreat

Adyashanti: our greatest emphasis should be on our actual spiritual practice

 

Far and away our greatest emphasis should be on our actual spiritual practice – committed time to abiding in the stillness and silence of our being. Nothing can take the place of this.

– Adyashanti

Dedicated time for basic meditation is a kind of laboratory. We get to explore notice and allow, and finding ourselves as capacity for our experiences.

We may notice how attention sometimes gets absorbed into thoughts with a charge on them, making them seem true and important. We may notice that any sense of an I or me or observer or doer happens within and as what we are, as any other experience.

We may notice that our experiences are already noticed by awakeness and what we are, even if our attention is somewhere else. We may notice that our experience is already allowed, even if our attention is caught in thoughts struggling with it.

And this noticing and laboratory work makes it easier to bring this noticing into daily life and daily life activities. It can become a noticing through our activities.

Sometimes, it will go more in the background, especially if our activities requires our attention. Sometimes, it may go more into the foreground. Sometimes, it may even be “forgotten” if our attention gets caught into the drama of our issues.

Through it all is the inherent noticing and allowing as what we are. And our laboratory work allows us to notice that consciously more often.

Any other forms of spiritual explorations are a support for this, whether it’s inquiry, heart-centered practices, body-inclusive practices, or anything else.

As Adyashanti suggests, the most important thing is to notice what we are and keep clarifying this and bringing the noticing into our daily life.

Conspiracy theorist don’t go far enough: they don’t question ALL authorities

 

….many who are into conspiracy theories do not go far enough in questioning authorities. If you want to question authorities, question ALL authorities, including the sources of conspiracy theories and – especially – your own thinking. Are you certain you know what you think you know? Explore critical thinking, media literacy, and how the human mind operates from biases, shortcuts, and logical fallacies.

– from a previous post

This is an important point about conspiracy theories. People who are into conspiracy theories often pride themselves on questioning authorities, and yet they tend to be selective in which authorities they question. They may not question all authorities, including the sources of conspiracy theories and their own thinking.

Do you know the source of the conspiracy theory? Can you verify who it is? Can you verify the conspiracy theory itself? Would the evidence hold up in a court of law? Would it be solid enough for a serious historian or investigative reporter?

Do you know the common biases of the human mind, and do you take them seriously when it comes to your own views? Are you familiar with common logical fallacies, and do you test your own thinking against them?

The banality of what we are

 

Awakening and enlightenment is sometimes seen as mysterious, from another time or culture, for special people, or a fantasy.

And yet, there is a banality to it.

It’s about what we already are noticing itself. Noticing that all content of experience happens within and as what we are. And living from it.

From a conventional view, we can say we are a body, a human being, and so on. And that’s valid enough.

And yet, what we are to ourselves is consciousness.

Consciousness is what experiences or is aware of anything. To consciousness, everything – all experiences – happens within and as itself. And that’s what we are.

What we are is what all our experiences happens within and as. Including our human self, any sense of a me or I or observer or doer, and any ideas about who and what we are – including any ideas about consciousness.

The world as it appears to us – with all its content – happens within and as what we are.

It’s logical. It’s inevitable. It’s something we can notice and explore for ourselves.

And it’s quite banal.

To ourselves, we are consciousness. The world as it appears to us happens within and as consciousness. All content of experience happens within and as what we are.

And it’s all about noticing what we already are and what’s already here.

It’s so ordinary that it’s sometimes easy to overlook.

On the one hand, I understand that we humans are used to taking ourselves to be this body, a human being, and so on.

And yet, it seems so obvious that to ourselves we are consciousness and all our experiences happen within and as what we are. It’s inevitable. It’s logical. It’s not something we can get around.

So why isn’t it acknowledged more often? Why isn’t it the basics of psychology 101? Why isn’t it something that more people – including people in research and academia – explore and study?

If we allow our civilization to continue, I imagine there will be a time when this is more commonly acknowledged and explored, including through research and in academia. It’s already happening, to some extent.

So why isn’t this more commonly noticed and acknowledged?

I assume it’s because our mind is typically conditioned to think of itself as an object in the world, as a human being, as someone with identities and roles, and so on. I

It tends to get fixated on its own content. As many say, it’s a kind of trance.

And as we can discover through inquiry, it’s because our mind associates certain sensations with certain thoughts, the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations, and the sensations give a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts.

That’s how the mind can tell itself that it fundamentally is an object in the world – a human, man, woman etc. – and overlook what it actually and more fundamentally is.

This is how what we are can overlook what it is. Capacity for the world. What all its experiences happen within and as.

What happens when this noticing happens? Does it have any practical value?

Yes and no. It doesn’t change the reality of our life – our circumstances and challenges.

But it does change how we see and understand it all. It changes the context for our life and experiences. And that, in a sense, changes everything.

Is this what the different spiritual traditions talk about?

I assume so.

For instance, we are capacity for the world as it appears to us, and this is the void that Buddhism talks about. We are nothing full of everything. And we can say that this is clarity, awakeness, consciousness.

It’s also oneness since all happens within and as what we are, and any ideas of an I or me happens within and as what we are – as anything else does. And it’s all love since oneness is also love. Not sentimental love, but the love that comes from oneness noticing itself as all there is.

If this is banal in some ways, is it also not banal?

Yes, it’s banal in that it’s what we already are noticing itself, and our life – in terms of its challenges and problems – doesn’t neccesarily change even if our conscious context for this life changes.

When this noticing is happening, our life goes on much as before. And as we mature in it, our life often tends to look very ordinary, and perhaps more and more ordinary, to others.

It’s also not banal. It’s the most dramatic change in our conscious context for our life possible. We go from taking ourselves to be an object in the world to that which the world, as it appears to us, happens within and as. We may experience it as magical, amazing, and even baffling.

And as we live from it, our life does transform. In a sense, we become more thoroughly and ordinarily human. We deepen into an ordinary humanness, kindness, and – perhaps – a bit of wisdom.

In another sense, living from this new noticing is extraordinary. It helps transform our human self. It helps the human parts of us still living within separation consciousness to join in with the oneness, and this gives a deep healing of old wounds and traumas. It’s not an easy process, it can be confusing and even overwhelming, and yet it’s more than worth it.

It’s also anything but banal to experience all of existence – as it appears to us – as consciousness, AKA love, AKA Spirit, AKA the divine.

Are there stages to this noticing?

Yes and no.

In one sense, the noticing itself is the same. It’s what we are noticing itself. We find ourselves as capacity for our world and all content of experience.

At the same time, there is a deepening of clarity, healing, maturity, and living from it.

Say the fear instead of acting on it

 

This is very basic but makes a crucial difference in our life.

When I am with someone else and something is triggered in me, how do I relate to it? Do I react to it and act on that reaction? Or do I notice the fear and discomfort in me and acknowledge it to myself and perhaps the other person?

This is especially important in our close and intimate relationships. And this is also, hopefully, where we can feel more safe to practice acknowledging what’s going on.

My partner says something. It triggers a reaction in me. I notice what’s happening and perhaps the temptation to go into reactivity and defensiveness. Instead, I can find and acknowledge the fear behind what was triggered in me. And if I feel ready and safe enough, I can say it to my partner.

When you say that – when you give an ultimatum, when you make things black and white like that, when you blame me – I notice I feel scared.

The honesty of it is often enough to diffuse a situation that otherwise could be tense and go into reactivity-dynamics on both sides.

At first, it can feel less safe. But is it really? Is it safer to go into defensiveness and reactivity? Is it unsafe to be completely honest and vulnerable?

If it feels unsafe, we can examine it for ourselves in this way. And we can also talk with our partner – or another close person in our life – about it in advance. We can set the stage for trying this out in future situation. We can even support each other in this.

It can be a beautiful shift in how we relate to ourselves, the other, and perhaps each other.

Why do some get into conspiracy theories, and why do we see a blossoming of it?

 

Why do some people get into conspiracy theories, almost as a lifestyle?

One answer is lack of critical thinking, media literacy, and willingness to check the sources and facts. This has partly to do with our educational system. 

Some may want to feel important, that they know something others don’t, that they can “stick it to the man”, and so on. 

It may come out of a general distrust in authorities. (Which is healthy, to some extent, but can also go too far if it’s compulsive.)

It may come out of general frustration and sense of powerlessness. It may be tied to lack of opportunities in life and reflect a structural social problem.

As anything else, it’s a projection. We see in others and the world what’s in ourselves. Whatever we see out there and can set word on, we can turn it around to ourselves and find examples of it in ourselves and our own behavior as well. This, in itself, doesn’t mean it’s not also out there in the world. It’s certainly here and can also be out there. “Blind” projections – where we don’t recognize it as a projection and take care of it – can make conspiracy theories into a compulsion.

Getting into conspiracy theories can, paradoxically, be a way to feel more safe. It can feel safer if there is one simple answer to a lot of the problems we see in society today. Instead of the randomness of life and systemic problems in society, it can feel somewhat comforting if one small group of people are behind it.

It may be rooted in fear. A way for people to deal with their own unmet, unloved, and unexamined fear. It’s a way for them to try to exorcise their own demons.

I also suspect it can be rooted in trauma. It’s a way for some people to deal with the pain of their own trauma. Instead of meeting that pain and the fear behind it, it seems easier to get upset about something in the world and blame someone for it. It’s a distraction and a coping mechanism.

Why is it difficult to have a rational and grounded conversation with people who are into conspiracy theories?

It may be because nothing we can say can disprove – in their mind – their views. What we say is just evidence that we are brainwashed or are actively in on the conspiracy.

Conspiracy theories tie into identies and most people want to hold onto their identities. In the case of conspiracy theories, some of these identities may be as a rebel, someone who knows what others don’t, someone who is willing to question authorities, someone who is independent, and so on. (Although none of those may be true – they may not actually know anything real, they may not question the authority of the source of the conspiracy theories and their own thinking, they may just follow along with others who are into conspiracy theories.)

Getting into conspiracy theories may give some a sense of community. Perhaps they already feel like an outsider, so they find a community of others who feel like outsiders – and that community happens to be a mostly online conspirary theory community.

Conspiracy theories may be a way to deal with discomfort. It may be easier to indulge in ideas about a few people out there being responsible for many of the problems in the world instead of facing our own life, life challenges, discomfort, fear, trauma, and sense of lack and not being enough.

Conspiracy theories often give a simple and clear cut answer to very complex real-life issues. It gives us scapegoats while the real culprit may be the randomness of nature (natural disasters), systemic problems (our current economic system), and the cumulative effects of humans functioning within this system. It may feel comforting to have clear-cut scapegoats.

Sometimes, conspiracty theories become a kind of religon. It can’t be disproven. It’s woven into people’s identity. It is a source of (stressful) comfort.

What’s the best way to communicate with people into conspiracy theories?

It’s always good to keep an open mind. Be willing to look at the sources. Examine the evidence. See if you can verify it. If the source and evidence seems questionable, it may be good to just leave the conversation.

If we want to engage in a conversation, a couple of things may be helpful.

It may be an innocent mistake, for instance, someone may have reposted something they saw and resonated with on social media. In this case, it may be enough to find and present more accurate information.

If it’s more ingrained, it may be helpful to ask some questions.

For instance, what’s the source? Do you know who they are? Can the source be verified? Is it possible they have a particular motivation?

Is there verifiable evidence? Would the evidence hold up in a court? Would it be sufficient for a serious historian or investigative reporter?

Isn’t it possible that what we see in society comes from known structural problems, and sometimes predictably unpredictable random events, instead of a small group of people pulling the threads?

Why shouldn’t we automatically believe conspiracy theories?

What we know is going on in the world is often far worse than any conspiracy theory. Giant corporations owning a large number of other organizations and media outlet. Big money influencing elections, politicians, and policies. Huge gaps between the few very wealthy and everyone else. Large numbers of people around the world living in poverty. Destructions of ecosystems. Minorities marginalized around the world. Widespread animal abuse. An economic system that does not take ecological realities into account. Poor preparedness for large-scale disasters. And so on.

Often, harebrained conspiracy theories serve to distract us from serious issues we know are real – in our own lives and the world – and need to address.

Also, many who are into conspiracy theories do not go far enough in questioning authorities. If you want to question authorities, question ALL authorities, including the sources of conspiracy theories and – especially – your own thinking. Are you certain you know what you think you know? Explore critical thinking, media literacy, and how the human mind operates from biases, shortcuts, and logical fallacies.

Why do we see a blossoming of it now?

I imagine conspiracy theories have been with humantiy since beginning of civilization and perhaps before.

And yet, there seems to be an upswing of conspiracy theories now. Why is that?

One answer is internet echo chambers and the ease of finding information and people on the internet that will support and endorse just about any view.

Before internet, most of us got our news and information from mostly or partly the same sources. We had a shared understanding of the world although our ideas about what to do with it differed. Now, we disagree on basic facts.

Some individuals actively create and spread disinformation for whatever personal reason, including entertainment and – in some cases – profit.

More seriously, some groups and organizations – including some governments like Russia through their state-sponsored troll farms – actively create and spread disinformation for political purposes. Often to sow confusion and weaken rival countries and alliances, and it’s a new version of the old divide-and-conquer strategy.

The problem with conspiracy theories seems obvious. It distracts people from actual and more serious problems in the world most of us agree are real. (Unraveling ecosystems, hunger, lack of clean water, lack of education, huge gap between a few super wealthy and the rest, poverty, Big Money influence on policies, and so on.)

And it’s a problem for our democracy and public discourse when we cannot agree on basic facts and some get fixated on things that are not grounded in critical thinking and solid evidence.

Isn’t it possible that some conspiracy theories are true?

Yes, of course. I am all for serious investigation into possible conspiracies, if it’s rooted in critical thinking, examination of the sources, and solid and verifiable information.

Most conspiracy theories seem clearly false and are perpetuated through lack of critical thinking, lack of media literacy, lack of knowledge of history and science, and a willingness to jump on an idea without first checking the sources and facts.

One thing to remember is that historically, the uncovering of actual conspiracies was done through investigation from historians, journalists, or official investigators. Not cooks people on YouTube and the internet.

Is this only about others?

No, this is about me and each of us. We all go into our own version of conspiracy theories, at least sometimes. I could as well written this as us instead of they, and that would have been more accurate and inclusive.

I sometimes take an idea as true just because others do. To some extent, that’s what makes up a culture and shared worldview.

I sometimes latch onto some information without checking it just because it fits into my worldview and what I want to be true.

I sometimes hold an idea as true – even a scary one – just because I want to and it feels good in the moment. Perhaps it’s a momentary distraction from my own fear or discomfort.

Have shared things on social media because it happened to fit into my worldview or how I want things to be and without fact checking it first.

I sometimes want to find a scapegoat even if systems, circumstances, or conditioning plays more of a role.

I sometimes want to blame someone else instead of looking at my own role in a situation.

I sometimes irrationally hold onto an idea even if a more grounded take on it would show me that something else is more true.

I sometimes tell myself I know something even if I actually don’t know or don’t know for certain.

In these and more ways, I am the conspiracy theorist. I am just like the conspiracy theorists I see out there, although the outward form it takes may be a little different.

It’s about us, not them.

Relax, nothing is under control

 

Relax, nothing is under control.

– unknown origin (to me)

A lot of our stress comes from wanting or trying to be in control of what we are not in control of.

In a conventional sense, we are in control of how we relate to a situation. We can do what we can to deal with it the best we can. But we are not in control over the situation itself, or other people, or the world.

The quote reminds us of this. I can take care of what I am in control of and do the best I can there. And reminding myself that I am not in control of the rest allows me to sit back a bit and relax.

I do my job, see what happens, and then I can respond to that if I need to.

I don’t know what will happen, but I can trust that I can deal with it as best I can when it does.

That’s really all that’s needed in daily life.

And yet, if we are drawn to it, we can look a little closer.

We may find that we are not in control of anything. An impulse comes up in me to act, but I am not in control of that impulse coming up or not. Nothing that happens in this human self is under “my control”. It lives its own life.

And that may show me something else. If what happens lives its own life, is there really any “I” here that has or has not control?

Adyashanti: Every story… is a painful story

 

Every story, in relation to pain, is a painful story.
~ Adyashanti, Silent Retreat Vol. 57 ~ Q&A

I don’t know the context of this quote, but I have found the same.

Any story – when it’s held as true – is a painful story.

Why is it painful? Because holding it as true means to identify with it and the viewpoint created by the story, and it’s just one of many viewpoints all with some validity and none with any absolute truth. Holding onto a story – any story – creates discomfort and pain because it’s out of alignment with reality. Somewhere in us, we know that. And life will remind us.

Life will create situations that rub up against the story so we feel we need to defend it (it seems like defending ourselves since we identify with it) and that, in itself, is stressful. Life will also remind us that the story is just one of many that are valid about the same topic and none hold any absolute or final truth, and we may not want to see it since holding onto the story can feel safe.

When we hold any story as true – no matter how innocent or apparently helpful and beautiful – we create stress for ourselves. We create struggle within ourselves. And that’s the inherent mechanism in that dynamic that invites and motivate us to examine what’s going on.

It invites us to examine the particular stressful story we have, see what happens when we hold it as true, find the validity in the other stories about the same topic, and hold it a little lighter. And it invites us to recognize this dynamic in all stories, no matter what they are about.

This doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to hold stories as true. We all do, to different extent, and often without even knowing it. It’s often first when life rubs up against one that we notice it. It’s natural and innocent, although it also creates stress and pain for us, and may lead us to act in ways that creates more stress and pain.

It also doesn’t mean that we need to somehow drop all beliefs in all stories at once. We can’t even if we wanted.

It’s more a process of examining the currently stressful story and find what’s more true for us, and then examine the next. It’s a gradual process, it goes over time, and it’s ongoing. There is no particular endpoint – at least not in this life – and doesn’t have to be.

Spirituality labels

 

Life is always more than and different from our ideas about it. That means that any spiritual tradition or practice can help us explore some facets of reality, but we may need to go beyond it – through other approaches or in other ways – to explore more of the fullness of who and what we are.

That also goes for any identities we have for ourselves. We are more than and different from any of these identities.

That’s why I have generally avoided using spirituality labels for myself, along with many other forms of labels.

Some of them can be useful in a specific situation as a short-hand to convey something. But beyond that, they are perhaps not so useful.

I am not a Buddhist since I am interested in many other traditions and don’t practice within buddhism. During the time I did, I said: I do Buddhist practice but am not a Buddhist since I knew that what it’s about goes far beyond any one — or all – traditions.

I am not really a Christian mystic, although I have a (sometimes) strong connection to Christ and resonate a lot with several Christian mystics. I don’t belong to Christianity as they did.

I am not religious since I don’t belong to any one religion, although I am interested in the history of religons and the gems of insights and pointers in all of them. And I also know that the main purpose or religons is to maintain themselves and often power and social hierarchy, and life and reality can’t be captured by any one religion or all of them combined.

I can’t call myself a light-worker since I am equally interested in different forms of metaphorical darkness – the divine feminine, my own shadow, not-knowing, and so on. (Also, it sounds silly.)

Although I always seek to discover more and continue healing, maturing, and embodying, I am not really a seeker. Mainly, I am exploring what’s here and I can equally well call myself a finder, although I don’t really resonate with either label. (Both sound too clear-cut and the reality is something in between and different from either and both.)

Am I an explorer? I have loved stories of exploration since I was a little kid, and it is a label that resonates with me. It points to an orientation and a process and is a little more open-ended than many of the other labels in spirituality. And yet, this one too is too narrow and a little misleading. For one, it’s a word and thought and what it points to is different.

Although I am interested in some New Age stuff, it’s not really my main focus. If astrology or past lives catches my interest, it’s mostly to explore it as a mirror for myself here and now.

I am into spirituality, but for me, it’s more about exploring who and what I am and reality – to the best of my ability. Spirituality hints at a certain orientation and interest, but it’s really just an exploration of what’s here and reality. It’s simpler than the label spirituality hints at, and it also goes far beyond the label.

I am an instant student of different teachers when I hear or read their words and follow their pointers. But I know that I am my own final authority, I am the one who have to explore it for myself, and what I see in them is what I have in myself. So, yes, I am always a student of some teachers, and it’s also is both simpler and not that simple.

We are all teachers for each other. When someone reads these words, they may get something out of it one way or another (it may resonate with their own experience, it may encourage their own exploration, or it may not fit their experience), and in that sense I am a temporary teacher. In another sense, I am not since I don’t particularly seek or feel I am qualified for that role – beyond being a temporary teacher as we all are teachers for each other.

When I facilitate others or do distance healing (prayer) for them, am I a healer? Perhaps yes, right there and then and in that role. But not really since I just facilitate healing. I am not doing the healing. Their own system does the healing. Life does the healing. At most, I facilitate the healing. I help set the stage for the healing. (And that too is Life’s doing, Life sets the stage for it’s own local healing.) In general, I am a lot more – and less – than that label suggests.

Awakening can point to some things in my process, but it also doesn’t quite fit. It comes with a lot of typical associations that are misconceptions. There is plenty in me – at a human level – that still lives in separation consciousness. Awakening is ongoing and can always clarify further and be more fully embodied.

I also don’t avoid spirituality labels in all situations. Sometimes, they are useful. They can create a connection. They can give a rough pointer about something. They can ease or start communication. They can be useful there and then, and that’s about it.

Do I intentionally avoid being pinned down by others? Most of the time, I am OK if people want to put a label on me. Although I sometimes mention how it also doesn’t fit if that seems useuful.

Art and match with the person experiencing it

 

There are many ways to evaluate art: skills, technique, heart, humanity, psychology, sociology, symbolism, politics, reflection of society, impact on society, and so on.

In daily life, people often generalize based on how they experience music, paintings, writing, movies or whatever it may be, and say “this is good” or “that’s terrible”, or “these people have good taste” and “those people have terrible taste”.

For me, art is largely about match. How does someone experience and receive it? Do they get something out of it? Does it resonate with something in them? Does it help them get in touch with someting in themselves? Does it add to their life?

I love some music that few others seem to like, and that’s fine. The music means a lot to me, and that’s enough.

Similarly, I sometimes don’t like what some others like, and that’s good to. If they get something out of it, that’s very good for them and it makes the existence of that piece of art even more meaningful (beyond what it means to the one creating it).

This is very simple, and yet I am surprised by how often people seem to generalize based on how they personally perceive a piece of art, as if their individual experience says something inherently about the piece of art, and about the people who either resonate with it or not.

I assume it’s partly because we have trouble differentiating our perception from what it’s about (which we cannot say anything final or absolute about).

We may have trouble deeply realizing that we all have our own biases and backgrounds and so perceive the world differently and uniquely.

We may have trouble feeling relaxed about our own likes and dislikes, and enjoying the enjoyment of others even if it’s about somehting we personally don’t like.

It may also have to do with our identity. We often use our likes and dislikes to create an identity for ourselves, and to filter people into us and them.

The photo is of Huun-Huur-Tu from Tuva, which is one of my favorite bands and the one I have seen most often in concert. It also happens to be music many or most from the western world wouldn’t easily resonate with or like. And that’s understandable and completely OK.

Dream: A spiritual guide and joining the inner and outer

 

A spiritual guide is with my partner and I. He or she shows us what’s in us that we see in ourselves, what’s in us that we see in the world, and how we can see all of it in ourselves. We see a symbol with an outline of us, and two circles in each of us, one representing what we already see in ourselves and the other what’s in us that we see in the world.

This is one of the dreams that spells things out quite clearly. We each have two circles in us, one representing what we see in ourselves and “own” as our own, and the other representing what we see in the world that’s also in us but we may not be aware (yet) as being in. The guide helped us see both in ourselves.

Why would I have this dream? At a conscious level, I know it’s this way. And yet, last night I got caught up in some inner drama where I “forgot” it. The situation I had a struggle with mirrors something in me.

Why is the dream about me and my partner? Perhaps because the situation that triggered me last night also triggered her in a similar way, and it’s a shared situation for us. In a sense, the dream is for us both.

The stories I have about this outer situation also fit and describe me, and it helps me to examine it more in detail and find specific examples of how it’s true. I can use the outer situation to find in myself what I see there.

In my dream, the spiritual guide was a large figure without any clear features, and it was neither female or male and also had characteristics of both.

I should also mention that this is an example of the more explicit dreams I have written about before. During the first few years when I was really into Jung (in my teens and early twenties), I would have typical Jungian dreams. Then, I asked the dream-maker in me to sometimes skip the symbolism and make the dreams more explicit, and that’s what largely happened.

The upside of being average

 

In our culture, there is an idealization of the special or extraordinary person. At a personal level, many experience a sense of lack so we latch onto this idea of being or becoming someone special in an attempt to compensate for it. This also drives consumption since advertisers promise specialness through clothes, cars, and things in general, and special experiences like certain vacations, restaurants and so on.

How can we examine this wish to be special, famous, or extraordinary?

Examining the average and special

One way is to look at the the upside of being mediocre and in the average range, and perhaps – to the extent we have experience with it – the downsides of being special.

What’s the upside of being not famous, not extraordinary, and in the average range?

It makes it easier for me to see that we are all in the same boat. It makes it easier to connect with and understand others, and have genuine empathy.

Others are more likely to see me as their equal and it’s more of a meeting between equals. Any difference in staus or role in soceity doesn’t come between us.

I don’t have to live up to a certain image or role in order to maintain some special status. I can live more anonymously and without being scrutinized in public.

Perhaps most important, being within the average range does not preclude what’s most important for me. It does not preclude a deeply meaningful life, love, insights. It doesn’t precule being of assistance and helping others and supporting life.

And what’s the downsides of being special or extraordinary?

I’ll go back to the few instances I have experienced this, and also what I saw when I was the student of a famous artist and later the student of a wannabe rock-star type Zen master, and what I have heard and seen from others and in the media.

If you are extraordinary or famous, people tend to put you up on a pedestal. They make you special in their minds. They experience a separation from you. They see you as an image more than a real person. They idealize you or demonize you. They want something from you just because you are seen as special.

If they seek you out and want to be your friend, you cannot be certain about their motivation. Some may want to get to know you just because you are special or famous.

If you are famous, you’ll be scrutinized. The media will write about you, and often any little thing, and sometimes things that are not true. They will try to find scandals. They will interview people around you about you, whether you want or not. I imagine you’ll wake up in the morning wondering if or what someone has written about you.

If you are famous, you can’t be out in public as yourself. You always have to think of your image and how people see you.

Being extraordinary or famous does not take care of our troubles or insecurities, as innumerable stories in the media shows us. Extraordinary and famous people have their troubles, as we all do.

These examples are a little simplistic and general. It helps to find examples to a specific situation, and you may find some that are more true for you. But it’s a start of seeing through the illusion of worshipping the special, extraordinary, and famous.

Also, is it true we are not already special?

As any good mum will tell us, we are all special. It’s not just a platitute. It’s true. We – and all beings – are a unique way for the universe and life to experience itself.

Examine the lack in us

Another approach is to see where the worship of the extraordinary in us comes from. (Most likely, there is some worship of the extraordinary and of fame in ourselves since we live in this culture.)

Often, it comes from a sense of lack in ourselves, and we hope that this will somehow compensate for this. And there is a fear behind all of this.

So we can meet this sense of lack on us and the fear that comes with it. Feel the sensations. Listen to its stories. Get to know it. See what it really wants. Give it what it really wants. (Often love, respect, patience, understanding.) And see through the stories it has when they come up and not let them take us over.

If we seek to be special, extraordinary, or famous, it’s often because we hope it will make us feel OK, loved, and admired. Through this, we can take a short-cut and give that to ourselves – and the parts of us that need it – here and now.

At first, it may seem a bit disappointing since we thought we wanted or needed it from others, and perhaps a large number of others. When we explore this, we may find that there is only one who can give us this so it feels deeply satisfying, and that’s ourselves.

In summary…

I can have the most important in life while being average – friendship, family, love, meaning, contentment, contributing to society and nature.

Being extraordinary doesn’t fix most of our human challenges and problems.

And it’s easier and more direct to address any lack in me that fuels a desire to be extraordinary than to try to be extraordinary.

That identity, that’s not who you are

 

All those identities you have, that’s not who or what you are

– paraphrased from a friend of mine (PG)

What he actually said was, and that’s not who you are in response to someone mentioning an identity they had for themselves.

In what way is our identities not who or what we are?

It’s not who we are, as a human being, because we are so much more than that. Any identity is very small compared to the richness and fullness of who we are. Even all our identities combined are small compared with the richness and fullness of who we are.

As what we are, we are capacity for the world as it appears to us. Any identity and what it refers to happens within and as what we are. They can, at most point to something. We are not the identity or any or all of the associations we have around that identity.

As respectively who and what we are, we are different from, more than, and less than, any identity.

We are different from any identity. Any identity comes from an overlay of thought. It can be wrong in a conventional sense. It’s certainly incomplete. And no matter how accurate it may seem, what it is meant to point to is different by nature from any thought.

The fullness and richness of who and what we are is far beyond any identity and all identities. What we are aware of or can name is a drop in the ocean of who and what we are.

We are also less than any identity since any identity comes from the addition layer of thoughts. It comes from an overlay of thoughts. It’s extra.

The more we explore this for ourselves and take in what we find, the more we tend to hold any identity we have – applied to ourselves or others or anything – more lightly. They are already questions, and we get to recognize them as questions and not anything final or complete.

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Iceberg of thought

 

Most of us are aware of our conscious verbal self-talk. Many of us are also aware that we have other thoughts and assumptions that are less conscious, and for the most part, we only have a rough idea of what they are. For instance, we may have been in a situation that showed us that our assumptions about someone or something was wrong, and we were initially not even aware of having and operating from those assumptions.

The iceberg analogy works well for thoughts. We are aware of our conscious self-talk, which is the tip of the iceberg. And we also have and operate from a large number of other thoughts that influence – and to a large extent determine – how we experience life and what choices we make.

They form our most basic assumptions about ourselves, others, and life. They color our perceptions and choices. And they color our life as a whole.

Knowing this, it makes sense to explore and make some of these conscious, especially if they don’t serve our life as we would like it to be.

What does this iceberg look like?

As mentioned above, the tip of the iceberg is our conscious self-talk.

The part of the iceberg that’s under the metaphorical water consist of verbal self-talk and visualizations, words and images.

Some of these are about more peripheral things in our daily life and the world.

And some make up our most basic assumptions – about ourselves, others, the world, and life in general.

What are some examples of the below-the-water thoughts?

The particular combination of thoughts are individual. But there are more universal themes – especially for people within the same culture and subcultures.

I have images and stories about specific people in my life. She is my partner and have these qualities and relationships with me. This is my father and he is a certain way. And so on.

I have images and stories about countries and groups of people – including cultural and political groups. My images and stories determine what I think about them, how I see myself in relation to them, and who I like and don’t like so much.

I have images and stories about who and how I am. I have these qualities, roles, and identities, and not so much these others ones. I like these and don’t like those, and wish I had more of these.

I have images and stories about situations, how I am in relation to them, and what they mean about me and for me. One I am exploring right now is noise (the closest neighbor building is going to be torn down and rebuilt), and I see stories in me about being a victim, not being in control, and somehow being damaged by noise. Behind these are some early childhood memories.

Then we have our most basic assumptions about ourselves, others, and the world. These are, at least in my experience, mostly in the form of images, although it’s usually easy enough to set words to and elaborate on these images.

For instance, I find I have images of time – in the form of a timeline separated into present, future, and past. And I fit specific images (aka memories, scenarios) into each of these categories. I also have an image of me as a human being, a man, and so on. And of the world – the universe, planet, humanity, myself – both as separate objects (from my culture) and as a seamless whole (from my own conscious explorations).

How can we make these thoughts and assumptions more conscious?

The best way I have found is through different forms of inquiry, for instance The Work of Byron Katie and Living Inquiries which is a modern version of Buddhist inquiry.

The Work helps us be more conscious about our verbal thoughts, and – depending on the skill of the facilitator – can helps us go very deep in exploring both verbal and visual thoughts.

Living Inquiries more explicitly helps us explore both images and words, and also how they combine with sensations. We get to see how sensations lend a sense of substance, solidity, and truth to the thoughts, and how thoughts give a sense of meaning to their associated sensations.

Some additional reflections

I have seen people saying “I am not a racist” as a response to the recent focus on racism in the US and around the world. For me, this is an example of not being aware of what’s below the water. Just by living in our culture, we adopt racist thoughts – and for most of us, these are below the water. Even black people have these racist stereotypes, and probably reverse ones to compensate, just from living in this culture.

The One experiencing itself as many

 

Through noticing what’s here in immediacy, we can find a few things….

We may notice that the One experiences itself as many.

No-thing experiences itself as something.

Consciousness experiences itself as matter.

And sometimes….

The One experiences itself as separation.

Love as not-love.

Clarity as confusion.

It can help to use a more structured form of inquiry to notice this, for instance Headless experiments, the Big Mind process, Living Inquiries, or The Work of Byron Katie.

This is all what we can notice for ourselves here and now.

COSMOLOGY

And we can also see it in the universe as a whole. We can make it into a cosmology. (After all, any cosmology mirror us here and now.)

Existence is oneness experiencing itself as many. No-thing as something. Consciousness as matter.

And sometimes – locally and through us and other beings – oneness experiencing itself as separation, love as not-love, clarity as confusion.

MORE DETAIL

There is easily one or several books worth of material here if we want to go into more detail. I’ll just say a few words.

I find that I am capacity for the world as it appears to me – including this human self and any me or I or observer or doer. That’s the oneness. It all happens within and as what the mind may label consciousness. Within this oneness is immense diversity. The world is many. (It’s an overlay of thought that divides the world up in this way, and it’s a very useful function of thought.)

I find that no-thing experiences itself as something. What I am is no-thing full of the world as it appears to me. No-thing full of somethings. (Again, the somethings are separated from each other through an overlay of thought.)

Similarly, consciousness experiences itself as matter. What I am – and I assume what you are to yourself – can be labeled consciousness. The world as it appears to me happens within and as consciousness. And when thoughts label some things in the world matter, and sensations come in to lend a sense of substance to those thoughts, then consciousness experiences itself as matter.

Also, when these dividing lines created by thoughts – often in the form of mental images – are held as true, there is an experience of separation. So the One experiences itself as separate, as an I here and others out there.

When thoughts are held as true, the mind can tell itself that this human has been wronged, is a victim, and so on. And then love – which is another word for oneness – experiences itself as not-love.

And when the mind takes thoughts as true, clarity – which is yet another word for oneness – can experience itself as confusion.

STRUCTURED FORMS OF INQUIRY

We can all (?) find this for ourselves, and structured forms of noticing – AKA inquiry – can help here.

Headless experiments can help us find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us – including anything connected with this human self and any I or me or observer or doer.

The Big Mind process can help us find ourselves as Big Mind (AKA capacity full of the world), Big Heart, and a variety of other aspects of what and who we are.

Living Inquiry – which is based on traditional Buddhist inquiry – can help us explore in detail how thoughts (words and mental images) combine with sensations to create our experience. Specifically, it’s helpful to notice how the mind associates certain sensations with certain thoughts, and these thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations, and the sensation give the thoughts a sense of substance, reality, and even truth.

The Work of Byron Katie is a great help in exploring thoughts we take as true, and in finding what’s more true for us in our own direct experience.

There are many other forms of inquiry out there as well, which may work as well or better for you. These are just the ones I happen to be familiar with.

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Werner Heisenberg: Only a few know, how much one must know to know how little one knows

 

Only a few know, how much one must know to know how little one knows.

– Werner Heisenberg (1901 – 1976)

In one sense, we don’t need to know much to know how little we know.

We just need to know that our thoughts are questions about the world, educated guesses at most. They are practical tools to help us orient and navigate in the world. Their role is not to give us any final or absolute answers to anything.

And yet, to know that, we often need to wade through a great deal of worldly knowledge. We need to know a lot about different things and see that what we know is a tiny drop in the ocean of all there is to know, and also that what we think we know often isn’t as certain or valid as we thought. Even our most basic assumptions are up for question.

At a social level, this is especially clear when we learn about the history of thought, science, and worldviews, and we see how different it is across cultures and how much all of it changes over time. What we take as a given today – about specifics and our worldview as a whole – will be seen as obsolete by future generations.

There is a shortcut to realizing how litte we know, and that is to examine our thoughts more directly. We can see how our mental “field” creates an overlay of images on the world and makes up what we think we know about ourselves, others, and the world. It’s all created in our own mind. None of it is “out there” inherent in anything. It’s all just questions about the world. None of it contains any final or absolute truth.

If we rely on knowing things to feel safe or loved or good about ourselves, then this can seem distressing. But, in reality, this realization and noticing is immensely freeing.

We get to see thoughts more as they are, and we get to see their role and function and what they can do – which is to provide some provisional and practical orientation and guidance, and what they cannot do – which is to provide any truths or final answers.

That goes for what we collective think we know and understand about the world. It applies to our personal lives and what we think we know about others, situations, and ourselves. And it applies to our most basic assumptions about existence.

Adyashanti: There is more truth and sacredness in a blade of grass

 

There is more truth and sacredness in a blade of grass than in all the shrines, scriptures and stories created to honor an idea of God. […] All of these are labels. All of them are fine. There is nothing wrong with any one of them, until you actually believe they’re true

– Adyashanti

Not every thought is true in an everyday sense of the word, and no thought has any final or absolute truth in it. But everything is truth.

Everything is, as it is, an expression of reality and is reality.

On the one hand, it’s all an expression of and is existence, this unfolding universe, life. It, in itself, is reality and truth. And our thoughts about it are pointers, helpful in a pragmatic sense, and contain no final or absolute truth.

On the other hand, everything – to us – happens within and as what we are. They happen within and as what we may label awakeness, consciousness, or even the divine.

When we humans – or existence or the divine in this local expression as a human – look for Truth, or God, or Home, or our True Nature, we often look out there in what others say or are or in thoughts and ideas. Those can all point us in the right direction. But what we are looking for is what everything – to us – already are. We are looking for what we already are and what everything already is.

How can we discover this? How can we shift out of the trance we have created for ourselves through identifying with and believing some of our thoughts? This is what most spiritual practices are about, although the shortest path to what we already are is often inquiry. (Big Mind process, Headless experiments, Living Inquiries, or something else that brings our attention to what we already are.)

The irony is that since we already are this, it can be difficult to notice. What we are is already very familiar to us. Even when we notice it more consciously, for instance through inquiry, it can seem too ordinary. Thoughts may tell us that this is too simple and ordinary, it can’t be it. What we think we are looking for should come with bells and whistles and fireworks. (Sometimes it does, but usually not when we notice it through inquiry.)

And yet, since it’s what we already are, we can notice it in our ordinary experience. We don’t need any special states to notice it. It’s available here and now, in all it’s extraordinary ordinariness. It’s available through any number of changing experiences and states, including all the apparently ordinary and familiar ones.

Meeting our issues with love, without indulging in them

 

When discomfort and reactivity comes up in us, we have a few different options in how we relate to it.

We can take the scary stories behind it as true and identify with it and act on it.

We can avoid it or pretend it’s not there.

We can try to change it, transform it, make it into something different.

In all of these options, we take the stressful stories behind the issue as true and reinforce it. We indulge in the scary story.

There is another option, and that’s to meet what’s coming up and identify and question the stressful stories behind it. We can meet it with curiosity and love, listen to what it has to tell us, and see where it’s coming from, how it’s not true, and find what’s more true for us. And then allow this to sink in and inform how we are.

We can also set it aside for a while if the situation require something else from us first. If we don’t explore it later, it’s usually because we take the story as true and indulge in it. If we do explore it later, we don’t indulge in the story.

Here is an example:

Say I have a diffuse sense of dread and anxiety and a story behind it saying that something terrible will happen.

I can take it as true and act on it as if it’s true. This creates a lot of stress and can lead decisions I wouldn’t have made if I was less reactive.

I can pretend it’s not here and override it as best as I can. This doesn’t make it go away. It’s still here, influencing my perceptions and actions.

I can try to change it, for instance by telling myself everything will be OK. This also doesn’t make it go away so I’ll secretly believe it won’t be OK.

These are different ways of indulging in the stressful stories creating emotional issues. I perceive and act as if these scary stories are true and I don’t question them.

I can set it aside because the situation calls for me to do something else. This is fine since we cannot always take care of what comes up right there and then. It’s worth noticing if we use this to avoid looking at the stressful stories, which means we indulge in just those stories.

I can meet what comes up and even find some love for it, and not identify or question the stressful stories behind it. This is another way of indulging in the scary stories since – at some level – I’ll keep taking the scary stories as true.

There is really just one way to not indulge in the scary stories, although there are some variations in how we go about doing it.

I meet what’s coming up with curiosity and love, listen to the scary stories, and examine and question them and find what’s more true for me.

Identifying, exploring, and questioning the scary stories, finding what’s more true for me, and allowing this to sink in and inform how I am, is an essential step.

Wanting what’s here

 

I just (re)listened to the audiobook version of On Having No Head by Douglas Harding, mostly because it’s a relief to listen to someone taking such a simple, grounded, sane, and pragmatic approach to awakening (!)

Towards the end, he talks about actively wanting what’s here.

Why would we want what’s here?

We are capacity for what’s here – our human self and the wider world as it appears to us. It happens within and as what we are. It’s us in whatever form it happens to take here and now. So why not welcome it?

What’s here is here. It’s too late to do something about it. So why struggle with it? Struggle only creates suffering. It makes more sense to actively want what’s here. This also frees us up to be engaged and work on changing situations as needed.

The wanting-what’s-here pointer is a touchstone. It shows us how we relate to what’s coming up in us. Is it easy for us to genuinely welcome it? Or is there an impulse in us to avoid it or make it go away? And do we join in with that impulse or do we notice that it too happens within what we are capacity for? Having the pointer in the back of our mind can help us notice when suffering – unawake and unhealed – parts of us are triggered, and also whether we join in with it or notice ourselves as what it happens within and as – just like anything else.

How does it look in practice?

It’s a welcoming of what’s already here because we can’t do anything about it and struggling with it doesn’t help or make any sense. What’s coming up for our human self is already here. The situation our human self is in is already here. So why not join in with it and actively want it? Also, it’s what we already are so why not welcome it as another expression of the creativity of what we are?

It does not mean to be passive or resigned. We can still actively work to change the situation and circumstances we are in – or someone else is in. Often, wanting what’s here frees up our response. Instead of reacting we can respond a little more intentionally. There is access to more kindness, clarity, wisdom, and creativity.

How can we find this active welcoming?

When we notice ourselves as capacity for what’s here, including anything coming up in our human self, it’s easier to notice it all as happening within and as what we are and find a genuine and active welcoming and wanting of what’s here.

Said another way, the welcoming and actively wanting it is already here. It’s what we already are. So when we find ourselves as capacity for what’s here, we also find this welcoming and wanting.

Why don’t we always notice what we are?

Perhaps we haven’t noticed. Or we have noticed but don’t take it seriously. Or we don’t see any practical use of it.

Or we do notice and we take it seriously, and yet sometimes get pulled into old beliefs, emotional issues, and traumas, and “forget” for a while.

How can we notice what we are?

To have an initial glimpse of what we are, and to keep noticing in daily life, it helps to have some pointers. For me, the most effective one has been the Headless Way, Big Mind process (based on Voice Dialog and Zen), and Living Inquiries (a modern version of traditional Buddhist inquiry).

How can we train this noticing even when emotional issues come up?

There are two elements that stands out to me.

One is how we relate to what’s coming up in this human self. Do we get caught in it or do we notice it as happening within and as what we are?

The other is inviting in healing and awakening for any suffering parts of us surfacing, the one still operating from separation consciousness.

These two mutually support each other.

Noticing what we are while bringing presence into the suffering parts helps them relax and feel seen and loved. They receive what they need and want.

And inviting these suffering parts of us to heal and awaken makes it easier to notice what we are even when they are triggered. Some or most of the charge goes out of them.

I have written a lot about this in other articles so won’t go into it here.

What if we notice the shift is close?

If we are in a situation where we notice that the shift into actively welcoming what’s here is close, then a small pointer or question may be helpful. For instance:

How would it be to want what’s here?

Even if there are things coming up in my human self, I can often find this shift. And I can still notice what’s coming up in me and later get to know it better and invite in healing and awakening for it.

How does the overall process look?

Douglas Harding talks about seven stages or phases. I’ll just mention a very simplified version here.

First, there is an initial glimpse or noticing. This is always spontaneous although it can come without any apparent preparation or through inquiry or other spiritual practices.

Then, there is taking this seriously and wishing to continue exploring it and how to live from it in our daily life.

A part of this exploration is to investigate what happens when the mind gets pulled into old separation consciousness. We get more experience in noticing ourselves as capacity through more and more experiences, states, and life situations. And we invite in healing and awakening for the parts of us still stuck in suffering and separation consciousness.

As we keep doing this, the noticing becomes more stable and continues more often even when emotional issues surface.

Is Douglas Harding the only one talking about this?

Not at all, it’s common for mystics from all times and traditions to talk about it. Christian mystics may talk about God’s and my will becoming one. Byron Katie talks about loving what is. And so on.

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When something uncomfortable comes up, it helps to acknowledge any fear about it and wanting it to be different

 

When something uncomfortable is coming up – a suffering bubble, an emotional issue, a sensation that seems to mean something, fearful thoughts – it helps to acknowledge any fear it brings up in us and any impulse in us wanting it to be different.

This fear is often there, and it’s completely natural and understandable. A part of us is suffering and caught in separation consciousness. Another part is afraid of that first part. And there is often a wanting of one or both to be different.

Where do I feel it in the body? Notice and allow those sensations. Rest with them. Notice the space they happen within. (It may be good to explore the fear first, and then the impulse for it to be different since the two are often in different locations in the body and take different forms.)

See what happens if you let it know one or more of these…

You are welcome here. I love you. Thank you for protecting me.

Stay for as long as you want. Get as big as you want. Spread out as much as you want.

I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you. (Ho’oponopno.)

If it could speak, what would it say? Listen to it. Examine the stories. See they come from a fearful part of us. For each story, ask is it true?

Perhaps remind yourself that none of this is what we are. All of this is coming from the same place. It’s more layers of the mind.

After this, and when it feels right, we can go back to the initial issue.

Adyashanti: To be bestows infinite worth upon you

 

You don’t have to be someone to be of infinite worth. To be bestows infinite worth upon you.

– Adyashanti, The Inherent Meaning in Being

This can sound like a well-meaning platitude, but it’s far more than that.

One the one hand, the idea of value comes from culture and what’s seen as having value varies between culture and over time. Assigning value to something has a function, and it can be helpful to examine how we assign value and if there is another way of doing it that makes more sense.

At an ordinary human level, we all agree that babies have infinite worth. Growing up, many of us are taught that our value comes through our actions and that erodes our sense of having infinite value just by being. This is a means of control and it creates a lot of suffering and judgment of ourselves and others.

So why not recover the sense of infinite value of each human being? This can easily co-exist with accountability, responsibility for our own life and so on. Seeing the infinite value in each of us, independent of personal characteristics and roles, provides a sense of basic worth that allows for a more healthy life and a more healthy society.

In our western culture, we see nature as a commodity and having value from the value it has to us – and this is often limited to short-term commercial value. This leads to destruction of ecosystems, eradication of whole species, and systematic abuse of non-human beings. Not valuing all life threatens all life, including our own.

Why wouldn’t all life have infinite value? Why not see all life as having infinite value? This would lead to a more careful approach in how we relate to and make use of nature and non-human beings. We would be far more concerned about their welfare. It doesn’t mean we can’t eat or live or grow food but we would do it with more concern for the lives we are impacting and we would look for ways to make up for it and support a more thriving Earth.

When we take a big picture and deep time view, we see that the universe has unfolded from energy to matter to suns to solar systems to this living planet and all that’s currently part of this living planet. We are all expressions of the universe exploring itself and bringing itself into consciousness. We are all expressions of this living planet and ways for it to bring itself into consciousness. As this, we and all life has infinite worth just by being as we are.

In a more immediate sense, independent of assigning value to anything, we are capacity for the world as it appears to us. This human self, all other beings, and everything happens within and as what I am. In this oneness, ideas of value is not needed in order to live with reverence for life.

How can we explore this in our own life? How can we deepen into this and live more from it? In a sense, this whole website is about just this. We can identify and examine beliefs. We can explore how our minds creates its experience of value and lack of it, and see through it. We can engage in Practices to Reconnect. We can use heart-centered practices to find a more loving relationship with ourselves, others, and all life. We can find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us. We can discover that this human self, others, and the world happen within and as what we are. And we can explore how to live from that in our life.

Byron Katie: Happiness may look entirely different from the way you imagine it

 

Happiness may look entirely different from the way you imagine it.

– Byron Katie

We have ideas of how a happy life looks. We have ideas about what life situations we need to be happy. Perhaps it’s health, money, a loving relationship or something else.

And yet, life may surprise us.

We may find ourselves in a very different situation than we imagined and find happiness there. We may live in a different place than we imagined. Do different type of work. Be in a relationship with someone we didn’t imagine. And find that we are very happy in that situation.

We may also find that happiness is less dependent on specific circumstances than we thoughts. We may find ourselves with an illness and perhaps without money or a partner. And still find happiness. We may find happiness in situations we imagined would be terrible and didn’t want at all, and perhaps still wish were different.

How is that possible? It’s possible through questioning our stressful beliefs about what is and what should be. Through questioning our stressful beliefs about anything in our life. And through questioning our most basic assumptions about ourselves and life.

Sometimes, this questioning is a natural and organic process and happens as part of our life. Sometimes, we can fuel it a bit through more structured inquiry and perhaps with the assistance of others who know the process.

The Work of Byron Katie is one way to do this.

How we relate to our thoughts

 

One of the benefits of exploring how our mind functions – through mindfulness, inquiry and so on – is that it changes our relationship with our thoughts.

From believing our thoughts we may realize that they offer questions about the world, hold no final or absolute truth, and it works better if we find the grace to hold them lightly.

Instead of fighting with out thoughts, we may realize that it’s easier to examine them and find what’s more true.

Instead of fearing certain thoughts, we may find that by examining them and finding what’s more true, we also find peace.

Instead of thinking we control – or should control – our thoughts, we may find they come and go and live their own life and that’s completely OK.

Instead of thinking we can “chose” to believe a thought or not, we may find that all we can do is examine them and through that magic sometimes happen.

Notes: I saw a very brief article about meta-cognitive therapy which seems to be one of the new hot things today. Apparently, it has to do with how we think about our thoughts so I thought I would write a brief post about what comes up for me around it.

Because of that article, I wrote “how we think about our thoughts” as the initial title, partly because I thought it sounded more snappy. But I changed it since how we think about our thoughts is not so important. It’s how we relate to our thoughts that matters, and that’s far more than just thinking.

Inquiries as a structured reflection of how a clear and awake mind naturally functions

 

I love inquiries like headless experiments, the Big Mind process, The Work of Byron Katie, and the Living Inquiries.

They are all structured forms of a noticing that happens naturally when there is more awakening and more clarity. They reflect how a more awake and clear mind functions. They function as training wheels and stepping stones until we find that clarity for ourselves and it happens more naturally and fluidly here too. And no matter what clarity and awakeness are there, they can show us more.

Headless experiments reflect how an awake mind notices itself and the world, as capacity for the world.

The Big Mind process does the same while including a dialog with and among sub-personalitites. This dialog is something that happens more naturally in a mind that’s clear, healed, and used to working with parts of our human self.

The Work examines what happens when our mind holds a thought as true, how it would be without holding it as true, and the genuine validity in the reversals of the initial thought. This reflects a natural examination of thoughts that happen in a more clear and awake mind.

Living Inquiries helps us explore how the mind associated thoughts and sensations, and how sensations lend a sense of solidity to thoughts so they seem more true, and thoughts lend a story to sensations so they seem to mean something. This allows the “glue” binding them together to soften and perhaps even fall away. This reflects what happens more naturally in a mind that’s clear and awake and used to examine these things in a more finely-grained way.

So these inquiries – in their essence – reflect natural processes in a more awake and clear mind. And for anyone of us, I imagine they can help us explore certain things in an even more finely-grained way.

Tools for emotional emergencies

 

When we feel overwhelmed, it can be helpful to have some emergency tools to help us deal with it.

We may can feel overwhelmed when a strong emotional issue or trauma is triggered in us. And this can happen from daily life situations. Or it can come up as part of an ongoing healing or awakening process.

I have selected a few tools for this article that I have found helpful for myself.

These are emergency tools. They won’t solve the issue themselves but they can help us relate to them differently and help us through the strongest parts of the storm.

If you are currently overwhelmed, just do something simple that helps you here and now. Ask for help. And if something in this list resonates with you, try it and see if it helps. Don’t force yourself to do anything. Be kind with yourself.

If you are currently in a more calm place, I suggest you try each tool out for yourself, see which one or ones resonate with you, and get comfortable using it so it’s easier to apply when you need it.

AMPLIFY / RELEASE

Make whatever goes on for you stronger for a few seconds. Then release, let it all go, and rest for a few seconds. Notice the difference before and after. Repeat a few times if necessary.

See if you can make the uncomfortable sensations stronger. Make the scary thoughts and images stronger. Do it for perhaps five seconds. Then release. Relax. Let it all go. Do this for a few seconds. Notice the difference before and after and repeat once or a few times if necessary.

Don’t worry if you are unable to actually make the sensations etc. stronger. It’s the intention and engaging in the trying that it’s important.

I love this tool and it can help reduce the strength of what’s going on. I assume it works because our resistance to uncomfortable experiences makes it stronger and tends to hold it in place. Using this tool, we go against this resistance and intentionally try to make it stronger. That helps us release the resistance and it also shows us that the sensations, thoughts and so on are not as scary as they seemed.

BE KIND WITH YOURSELF

Place your hands on your chest and belly. Breathe slowly and intentionally.

Say kind and soothing words to yourself, as you would to a child or a good friend. For instance: I love you. I love you just as you are. This will pass. You are stronger and more resilient than you realize. Everything you are feeling is OK as it is. This is part of the universal human suffering we all sometimes experience.

You can also say to what’s coming up – the pain, fear, panic, loneliness, anger: Thank you for protecting me. You are safe here. I love you. Repeat.

Say: I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you. Repeat several times. Say it to yourself. Or the suffering part of you. Or who or what triggered the reaction in you. (This is a beautiful Hawaiian practice called Ho’oponopno.)

ATTENTION TO PHYSICAL SENSATIONS

Pay attention to the sensations in your body connected with the emotions. See if you can set aside any thoughts and mental images for a little while.

Stay with the physical sensations. Find some curiosity about them. Where do you feel it? Do they have a boundary? If you close your eyes, can you also notice the boundless space they happen within? Can you notice the space and the sensations at the same time? Do the sensations get stronger? Weaker? Do you notice sensations other places in the body?

It can really help to learn to pay attention to the physical sensations and set aside related thoughts and mental images. It helps us ground. It helps us notice that the charge of emotions come from body sensations. And we may notice that it’s often OK to set aside stressful thoughts for a while. We don’t need to actively fuel them.

BREATH

Slow and intentional breathing helps calm our system. There are several ways to explore this.

One is the alternate nostril breathing from yoga. Use a finger to block one nostril and take a relaxed and full in-and-out breath with the other. Switch. Repeat several times. Notice any differences before and after.

Another is to breathe out as much air as you can and allow your lungs to fill up again naturally. Repeat a few times.

And and yet another is to lie down, place one hand on the chest and another on the belly, and breathe slowly and intentionally. This can be combined with breathing as much air out as possible and then allowing the air to fill up the lungs naturally.

NATURE & PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES

Spend time in nature. We belong to and evolved in nature so this can be soothing and nurturing. Walk barefoot if conditions allow.

Walk. Run. Scream. Sing. Jump up and down while landing on your heels. Do strength training. Swim. Do yoga. Shake. Use your body. Take a good bath.

Put your face in cold water or splash cold water on your face. This can help calm down your system.

BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF

Identify your stressful thoughts. Write them down. Be gently and brutally honest with yourself. What’s more true than these stressful thoughts? If your life dependent on being brutally honest with yourself, what would you tell yourself? Finding what’s more true for us is often a relief.

For instance, my mind may tell itself it’s too much, I can’t handle it. Is that true? What’s the reality? The reality is that I am still here. I seem to know how to handle it, somehow.

This one may depend on some practice with inquiry. As with the other tools here, only use it if it works for you.

MORE STRUCTURED APPROACHES

The Work of Byron Katie can be great for dealing with stressful and overwhelming thoughts and corresponding emotions. Look up the free helpline where a facilitator will help you through the process.

Another form of inquiry, the Living Inquiries, can also be of great help although it does require some ability to rest and notice.

Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) helps release tension out of the body through the natural and in-built tremoring mechanism.

And Vortex Healing can help your system relax relatively quickly. This can be done at a distance.

Common for all of these is that you’ll need an experienced practitioner to help you unless you have some experience with it (The Work and TRE) or gone through the training yourself (Living Inquiries, Vortex Healing).

NOTES

There are a lot of other tools out there. Find the ones that work for you and practice when your system is more calm so you get familiar with using them.

You may notice that many of these tools have to do with the body, nature, and our physical world. That’s not coincidence. When we go into overwhelm, it’s usually because we actively fuel stressful thoughts and mental images. This can happen more or less consciously. In either case, it helps to bring attention to something physical and here-and-now.

I have written more in-depth about some of these tools. Follow the tags to find these articles. I also have a small booklet on the back-burner with these and more tools.

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

Learning to follow our inner guidance

 

We all have a quiet inner voice that gives us pointers and advice. We can also call it inner guidance, or the voice of the heart.

It’s perhaps not so important to know where it comes from. Is it a knowing that goes beyond what I – as a human being – can know? Does it come from experience? Does it come from the wisdom inherent in the body and passed down through the generations?

Is it the whole of who and what we are using any and all sources of information to arrive at a “yes”, a “not now”, a direction, a warning, or an impulse to do something?

What form does our inner guidance take?

As suggested, our inner guidance can take many forms. It can come as a sense. A voice. An image. And I am sure many other ways depending on the person and situation.

It can be a “yes” or “not now”. Or it can give us an idea, a direction, or a message for what to do or where to go.

A simple way to check in with our inner guidance for a yes or no

There is a simple way to check in with our inner guidance. I like it because it’s simple, practical, and can be used in almost any situation.

I say to myself I can if I want, and I want to X, and then check with my body. Is there a relaxation? A relief? Or tension? Contraction?

I then say to myself I can if I want, and I don’t want to X. Again, I check with my body. Is it more relaxed? A sense of relief? Or tension? Contraction?

A relaxation is a yes and tension is a no.

For instance, I say I have been invited to a social event and I am unsure if I want to go.

I ask myself: I can if I want, and I want to go to this gathering. I notice a gentle relaxation and softness in my body.

I then ask: I can if I want, and I don’t want to go to this gathering. This time, I notice a slight tension.

So here, my inner guidance tells me to go.

It’s helpful to practice this in small and daily life situations. That way, we get to know the process and learn to trust it through experience.

A more spontaneous way to follow inner guidance

This can also happen in a more spontaneous way.

Just now, I had the impulse to remove my neck warmer. It was just a brief thought and one that wasn’t consciously generated. I did a quick check and I couldn’t see any reason not to. So I removed it.

I make a point out of following these simple impulses right away, after doing a quick check to see if there is a good reason not to. It’s a way of saying to my own system and life: Yes, I appreciate these messages and take them seriously.

Noticing what stops us from following our inner guidance

Sometimes, my inner guidance is clear and the thought of following it brings up fear in me. I may see that it makes sense. I may recognize that there isn’t a good reason not to follow it. I may see that a sane, healed, and grounded person in the same situation would follow it. And at the same time, the thought of acting on it bumps up against fear in me.

In these situations it’s good to notice the fear and listen to what it has to say. What are the fearful stories behind it? What do I find if I investigate it?

This way, following our guidance brings with it a bonus: Identifying and investigating fears that may prevent us from living a life that feels deeply right to us.

Should I always follow my inner guidance?

In my experience, the inner guidance tends to give accurate information even if it doesn’t make sense at the time.

At the same time, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate what’s inner guidance and what’s inner “noise” from beliefs, fears, wants and so on.

That’s why I tend to listen to the inner voice, see if there is a good reason not to follow it, and then follow it if there is no good reason not to.

Does it give an answer once and for all?

Any no is really a “not now”. It may change, and sometimes it can change within a relatively short time. It’s good to check in with it.

What’s the characteristics of the inner voice?

When it happens spontaneously, it is – in my experience – simple, clear, and quiet. It’s there if I later check in with it on the same issue. (Although it can, of course, change if the situation changes.) It can be temporarily drowned out by fearful feelings and thoughts. And it is, in itself, free from fears and shoulds.

Photo by Samuel Chenard on Unsplash

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The Treachery of Images

 
The Treachery of Images by René Magritte, 1929

To our conscious mind, it’s obvious. It’s not a pipe. It’s a painting of a pipe. We know that an image of something is not the thing itself.

And yet, at some level, we often don’t understand this. Somewhere in us, we tend to hold certain mental images and thoughts as not only telling us something true about reality, but what they tell us as reality itself.

We are confused. We may not even notice what’s happening. And we create a lot of stress and suffering for ourselves that way.

What’s the solution? The first may be to be aware of what’s happening. Identify stressful thoughts. Notice they are thoughts and not reality. Investigate the thoughts.

How do we investigate thoughts? It may be easiest to start with a slightly structured process, for instance The Work of Byron Katie or Living Inquiries.

The Work helps us see what happens when we hold a thought as true, how it would be to not, and to find the validity in the reversals of the thought.

Living Inquires helps us see how our mind combined thoughts with sensations. Sensations lend a sense of substance, truth, and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations. Through this examination the “glue” holding thoughts and sensations together softens and there is more space to notice what’s going on.

If we want to go one step further, identify and investigate your most basic assumptions about yourself, others, and the world. Question what seems the most true and obvious. What do you find?

Questioning our most basic assumptions may seem like a luxury or something we do mostly out of curiosity. But we may find it’s surprisingly liberating.

Trauma and awakening

 

These days, there seems to more awareness of the different connections between trauma and awakening.

There are people more experienced with this than me. But I have some experience in working with people with trauma and from exploring the connections between trauma and awakening in my own life, so I’ll say a few words about it here.

What are some types of trauma?

Trauma comes in different forms. Acute trauma is what most of us think of when we hear the word – from violence, catastrophes, war, loss. There is trauma from witnessing others experience and living with trauma. There is developmental trauma which comes from being in an ongoing challenging situation, often in childhood.

We can also expand the definition and say that any emotional issue is a form of trauma, and any belief and identification is a form of trauma. It comes from and – depending on how we relate to it – may create more trauma.

What is trauma?

It’s often explained as how our system deals with a scary and overwhelming experience we feel we cannot deal with. The basic elements of trauma are strong stressful beliefs and identities and corresponding muscle contractions (to hold the beliefs and identities in place). And trauma behavior span a wide range including anger, anxiety, hopelessness, and compulsions and addictions.

What role does trauma play before awakening?

Trauma can be part of our drive for healing and awakening. We may wish for healing and/or awakening to find relief from the pain of trauma. Whether we chose mainly a healing or awakening path, or a combination, depends on our inclinations and what we have available.

If we already are on an awakening path, it can be very helpful to include an emphasis on emotional healing.

If we are on an exclusive healing path and are happy with it, there is not really any need to include an emphasis on awakening. Although some of the tools for awakening can help deepen the healing, and glimpses and tastes of awakening can certainly help with the healing.

What about trauma following – or within – awakening?

Awakening involves an opening of our heart and mind – and even the body. And at some point, this can include an opening to whatever unprocessed emotional material is in us.

This often happens in smaller doses and over time. We have emotional issues triggered, are unable to ignore it as before, and have to find a way to relate to what comes up that’s healing in itself and allows what surfaces to find healing.

Sometimes – and perhaps especially if there is stronger trauma in the system – it happens in a more dramatic way. When this happens, it can feel confusing, overwhelming, and unbearable. (We can see this as a certain type of dark night in the awakening process.)

How do we deal with overwhelming trauma?

The best is to get help from someone experienced in working with trauma. Find someone you trust, are comfortable with, and respect where you are and don’t push you. If the person also understands awakening, then it’s even better.

The main guideline is patience, kindness, working with the body, and using nature.

I have written other articles on this topic so won’t go into it too much here.

How do healing and awakening go together?

Emotional healing helps living from the awakening. The fewer and lighter emotional issues, the less likely we are to be hijacked back into separation consciousness when they are triggered. (Although if it happens, it shows us what’s left in us to explore and find healing for.)

Awakening gives a new context for healing emotional issues. The healing can go deeper and the process may be a little easier.

What are some tools that invite in both healing and awakening?

There are several. Some of the ones I have found helpful – and that I keep mentioning here – are different forms of inquiry like The Work, Living Inquiries, and the Big Mind process. Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE). Heart-centered practices like ho’oponopono, tonglen, and Metta. And energy work like Vortex Healing.

Note: As usual, take anything you read – anywhere – with a pinch of salt. It may be different for you.

Photo by Adrien Aletti on Unsplash

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Mind going to the past

 

If you keep going over the past, you’re going to end up with a thousand pasts and no future.

– Ricardo Morales in The Secret in their Eyes / El secreto de sus ojos

Yes, that’s true. If we get obsessed with the past and only repeat and fuel the stressful stories, we get stuck in the past. We get stuck in our stories about the past.

But there is a reason the mind goes to the past. It goes to traumatic or stressful events in order to seek resolution. It seeks healing. And it will keep going back until it finds it. There is nothing inherently wrong in it. It’s part of the healing process.

If the mind goes back to the past, and we use it to reinforce the painful stories, then the healing process goes no further. But if we relate to it with some kindness and skill, it can be an invaluable opportunity for healing.

Relate to the emotions and stories with kindness, as you would a child in pain. Acknowledge the pain that’s there. Feel the sensations of the emotional pain in the body. Allow it as it is. Find a gentle curiosity about the stressful stories. Listen to what those stories are. Write them down. Examine them. If you are gently, brutally, honest with yourself, are they true? What is more true?