We cannot really know. Even if a Morpheus comes to rescue us, we cannot know that that world is the real one.
And we do know that our perception of the world is filtered through our very limited senses, is pieced together by our brain, and is strongly colored by and filtered through our conscious and less conscious assumptions about ourselves and the world. In a very real sense, we are – collectively and individually – living within our own virtual simulation.
In short, we cannot trust any of the content of our experience. We cannot trust our senses. We cannot trust our interpretations, thoughts, and views about it.
So is there anything we can know for certain? Yes, fortunately. We can trust what we are. We can trust what the content of our experience happens within and as.
We can have fun with how we phrase this:
The content of our experience is unreliable and cannot be trusted. We can only trust what we are.
We can also say that who we are, and the world this character lives within, is notoriously unreliable and cannot be trusted. We can only trust what we are.
There are several forms of wholeness, all part of the main form of wholeness.
There is the wholeness of what we are. We are that which the content of our experience happens within and as, whether we call this awakeness, consciousness, or something else. This makes our experience into a seamless whole, whether we notice or not.
As soon as the mind believes its thoughts and latches onto the viewpoints of some of these thoughts, there is an experience of fragmentation and it’s more difficult to notice what we are.
The process of what we are noticing itself is called awakening. And the process of living from this in more situations in our life is called embodiment.
There is also a wholeness of who we are, as this human self. Again, the wholeness is already here. And yet, there is also a sense of fragmentation since we tend to identify with some of who we are and disown or ignore other parts of who we are. The process of finding our wholeness as who we are is what Jung called individuation.
There is also the wholeness of the world and the universe. The Earth is one seamless living and evolving system. The universe is also one seamless evolving system. And we – as human individuals and species with our culture – are an intrinsic part of those systems.
Finally, there is the wholeness of all of existence. Whether we use a small (psychological) or big (spiritual) interpretation of awakening, we can say that all of existence is one. We can also say that everything is existence exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself.
How do we explore these forms of wholeness? I have written many articles on each of them but I’ll say a few words here.
To explore the wholeness of what we are, we can use inquiry (Headless experiments, Big Mind Process, Living Inquiries, etc.), often combined with meditation (basic meditation, quiet prayer, training stable attention), and perhaps mindful movement (yoga, taichi, Breema, etc.).
To explore the wholeness of who we are, we can use psychology (parts work, shadow work, projection work), bodywork, relationship work, and more.
When we explore the wholeness of Earth and the universe, we can use systems views and integral (aqal) maps.
And what about the wholeness of all of existence? It includes all of the above, although we can most directly explore it as we explore what we are.
Note: The examples of approaches above are just the ones I have found useful. What works for you may be different, and what I use in the future will probably also change as I discover other approaches.
I love Life 101 topics. The ones that are simple, practical, and can change your life.
This is one for when I notice a should. When I feel I should do something and notice tension or stress.
The original thought may be: I should go to the presentation.
Change it: I can go to the presentation if I want.
Check it (a): I can go to the presentation if I want, and I want to. Notice how it feels in the body.
Check it (b): I can go to the presentation if I want, and I don’t want to. Notice how it feels in the body.
Which one allows the body to relax? Which one is true for me?
This is a very good little exercise: It’s simple. It can be done in a few seconds in just about any situation. It shifts our thinking from a should to a can and a want. And we check in with our body to see what’s true for us.
The body relaxes when we find what’s true for us. It can breathe. Release. Let go.
This is a form of inquiry, and I think it’s from cognitive therapy and/or ACT. It’s also similar to the I should -> I want to because inquiry where we list reasons and see if they hold up. They are both useful although I like this one since it makes use of checking in with the body and learning to trust the body. There is a part of our mind that knows what’s true for us and this is reflected in the body.
I enjoy watching Fool Us with Penn & Teller and also learning how the tricks may be done. (Often, there are several ways to do each trick.)
One thing I pay attention to is the audience reaction. Sometimes, the strongest audience reaction is to tricks with an amazing effect but disappointing method. (For instance, when the magician surreptitiously instructs an audience member in what to say or do.)
Other times, the method of the trick is as or even more amazing than the effect. These are typically tricks that take years to master like Kostya Kimlat’s third performance and The Evansons. They are both impressive although the first has a simple method and the second a complex method.
Life is full of magic tricks from the big magic trick of anything existing at all to the myriads of smaller magic tricks of how life expresses itself.
One of the magic tricks of our mind is of special interest to us. The effect is the mind creating a temporary experience for itself of ultimately being a small part of the world. And a related effect is the mind believing a thought (taking it as true), identifying with the viewpoint of thoughts, and creating emotional issues, hangups, and traumas. The method is the same for both, and the second creates the first, so it’s really one and the same trick.
We can discover how the mind does this trick. We can learn the theory of it, which is a starting point. And, more importantly, we can explore it in real-time, as it happens, in our own experience.
The best way to do this may be to mentally divide our experience into sense fields and then see how these combine to create our experience. It’s slightly arbitrary how we divide up the sense fields (e.g. taste, smell, sight, sound, sensation, thought), although the two important ones are sensation and thought (mental images and words).
I initially explored this through traditional Buddhist inquiry and more recently through the contemporary version called Living Inquiries.
When we explore this, often over and over, in our own experience, we learn to recognize the magic trick and how it is performed. Our mind gradually becomes less fascinated with the effect and less caught up in it. The charge that made the effect seem real gradually goes out of it.
(This is partly because we recognize that the charge comes from the mind associating certain sensations with certain thoughts, and the sensations lend a sense of reality and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations. When we see that the connection is only an association, it’s easier to recognize sensations as sensations and thoughts as thoughts, and we are no longer so caught up in the effect of the magic trick.)
The effect of this trick is certainly amazing. It’s the One creating an experience for itself of being separate and one among many.
And what about the method? Is it disappointing or amazing? In my experience, it’s both. It can be almost laughably simple when we first discover it. And yet, it’s also impressive in its simplicity, elegance, and effectiveness.
P.S. The Evansons is an amazing act, and – as mentioned above – they use a complex method (system of verbal cues) which requires years of practice in order to appear smooth and effortless. They say they do mentalism, and we can see that as either a tongue-in-cheek white lie that’s part of the performance, as misdirection, or as a mostly innocent bordering-on-unethical form of deception. I am with P&T and prefer when the magicians/mentalists are more transparent and tell the audience what they are doing, or – in this case – what they are not doing, without necessarily revealing the method.
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Traditional myths tell us something about ourselves, and myths from religion are no different.
In a non-dual context, there is a pretty straightforward way of looking at this.
Before thought, and before taking thought as telling us something that’s fundamentally real and true, there is no knowledge of good and evil. Everything just is.
With thought, and specifically taking thought as telling us truth and reality, there is suddenly knowledge of good and evil. Thoughts tell us what’s good and evil. And what falls into each category depends on our culture, parents, subgroups, and to some extent personal history and preferences.
And that’s how we throw ourselves out from the garden of Eden. Suddenly, we are not innocent anymore. We know what’s good and evil, we judge others by it, and we judge ourselves by it.
Why a tree with fruit? Perhaps because beliefs, including beliefs about good and evil, are a bit like eating something juicy. And these thoughts do grow and branch out just like a tree. We may start with something simple, and from there comes a lot of complexity.
And how do we return to the Garden of Eden and our age of innocence? We cannot return to what was. But we can examine how our mind creates its own experience of good and evil, and there are ways to dismantle it. We can have the same thoughts without so much of a charge on them, and without them appearing to tell us something inherently real about the world. The thoughts can be allowed to be thoughts, and we can relate to them more consciously. We can be more discerning in how we relate to them.
That’s another form of Eden and one that’s a bit more mature.
Myths mirror ourselves, and in this case, they may mirror the shift to believing thoughts, and specifically thoughts about values and good and bad. It threw us out of Eden, but the good news is that we can dismantle the process and find a more mature Eden.
Some folks see popular culture as inevitably shallow. But is that true? And is it true that shallow is bad?
First, is shallow bad? No. There is nothing inherent in life telling us what we should be into. There are no requirements.
Many have stressful and busy lives and need something undemanding to help them relax and switch gears. Nothing wrong in that. (Although we can question a society that sets us up for such busy and sometimes stressful lives.) At one time or another, easy pop culture serves a helpful function to us.
And for most of us, it’s just one part of a much more varied cultural diet.
Is it true that pop-culture is shallow?
Yes, it’s perhaps true in a conventional and limited sense. There may be less soul and more formulas in much of what we find in pop-culture.
It’s easy to find exceptions. There is often depth to aspects of what we find in pop-culture. Something surprising, moving, or something that gives us an insight into ourselves or the lives of others. And some of what we find in pop-culture obviously has more depth, richness, and complexity to it, for example, stories rich in archetypes like Star Wars (original trilogy) and Pan’s Labyrinth.
It also depends on what we define as popular culture. Bach is quite popular. Is that pop culture? Chopin was a pop-culture superstar in his time.
And it depends on how readily available something is to us. When we have to put more effort and intention into finding something, it can seem more sophisticated, for instance when we are into the pop-culture of another time or culture.
Finally, we bring the depth to it.
When I watch movies, including the most mainstream Hollywood movies, I often look for archetypes and archetypal dynamics.
I take it as I would a dream, see the different parts of the story as parts of me, and find it in me.
I notice what I react to and look for the beliefs or emotional issues it triggered in me.
I notice what I am fascinated by and find what the fascination is about and then see if I can find that in myself.
So when it comes down to it, if we see something as shallow, we can only blame ourselves. We take a shallow approach to it.
We bring the richness or the shallow to it.
A personal note: In my late teens and early twenties, I had judgments about pop culture and went deep into more “high” and “sophisticated” art, music, books and movies. There was nothing wrong with this, and it was very rewarding and I still enjoy that type of culture. But it also came from insecurity. I wanted to be “better” and more sophisticated. I didn’t feel good enough as I was. Now, fortunately, I feel more free to enjoy all of it.
If we have ideas about high or low culture, or one thing being better than the other, it’s a reminder to take a look at ourselves. Where in me does it come from? Do I try to create an identity for myself to feel better about myself? How would it be to enjoy it all independent of labels?
I am surprised a long-time mediator talks about it this way. If course, he can be misquoted and it may be taken out of context, and he may have more to say about it if asked.
Basic meditation and mindfulness is not about not thinking or getting rid of thoughts, at least not as we conventionally understand it.
In one sense, it’s about noticing thoughts and anything else here, anything happening in our sense fields. Notice and allow. (And to be fair to Ringo Starr, that may be just what he means which means the wording in the interview is misleading.)
In another sense, it’s about thoughts – usually gradually and over time – losing their charge. When they have a charge, they seem true, important, and something we need to pay attention to (i.e. go into as if they are true and keep spinning and elaborating the story). As they lose the charge, it’s easier to notice they are thoughts – perhaps with a charge — passing through. We don’t need to pay much attention to them or elaborate or act on them unless they inform us about something practical we need to take care of.
This tends to happen over time with regular mindfulness practice. And it can be greatly helped and speeded up through inquiry, for instance, traditional Buddhist inquiry, its modern variety Living Inquiries, or even The Work of Byron Katie or some forms of cognitive therapy.
So basic meditation is about changing our relationship to our thoughts and not getting rid of them. As someone said, the mind creates thoughts just like a flower creates smells. It’s the natural function of the mind, and essential for our survival and functioning in the world.
Over time, we may find we appreciate our thoughts as we appreciate the smell of flowers. We may even find we appreciate the apparently stressful ones, at least sometimes and perhaps more often.
Most of us have a complicated relationship with suffering. It’s terrible and familiar. It’s something we want to avoid, and it seems unavoidable. If we don’t already live with it, even if it’s very low grade, then something can happen at any time that triggers it in us.
If we are on a path of healing, or awakening, or embodiment, we need to explore our relationship with suffering.
The obvious relationship is our fear of suffering and wanting to avoid it. I can befriend this great and explore this through inquiry, Natural Rest, and so on.
And yet, there is another side that’s equally important. Or more important since it’s more likely to be overlooked. And that’s our attachment to suffering and fear of what it means if we don’t suffer.
What’s the worst that can happen if I don’t suffer? What do I fear may happen if I don’t suffer?
Here are some stressful stories I find for myself. Most of them don’t have much charge and none of them match my conscious view, but they may still operate in me low-grade and influence my perception and life.
I need to suffer to heal, mature, awaken and embody. It gives me material to awaken etc. It’s required to awaken etc.
It’s noble to suffer. It’s heroic when it’s in the service of a bigger cause. (Healing etc.)
Others who have been on a deep spiritual path have suffered. (Buddha, Jesus, St. Theresa, etc.) If they suffered, I need to too.
If I don’t already suffer, I’ll be taken by surprise when suffering comes and it will be doubly painful. It’s better to brace for it.
If I don’t suffer in a situation people expect me to, they will judge me.
If I don’t suffer, the divine won’t see me as worthy of a good life and awakening. By suffering, I show the divine I need it and deserve it.
After finding these, I can explore them in any way that works for me. In my case, I’ll use inquiry (e.g The Work, Living Inquiries) to find underlying stories and help release the charge out of them, change my relationship with it through heart-centered practices, and/or identify the emotional issue(s) behind the strongest one(s) and work on it with Vortex Healing.
I wanted this article to be simple and a starting point. The topic is much more complex. For instance, what is suffering? How do I go about exploring my relationship to it? How can I befriend and find more peace with it? How can I release the charge in suffering? I have written about that in other articles.
I realize why I liked them so much in my childhood and early teens (and still enjoy much of what they made). They are questioning everything, or at least any conventional middle-class norms, expectations, unwritten rules, double standards, small-mindedness, and irrational or misguided religious beliefs.
And I love questioning everything, even back then. It’s what led me to first informal and then guided inquiry.
What are the most basic assumptions or beliefs in society or a group? What are my most cherished and basic assumptions and beliefs? What are the effects of holding onto and living from them? In what way don’t they hold up? What are some other views that are equally or more valid? What’s the bigger picture?
This is a common experience in the awakening process:
The world seems insubstantial. And this human self, that we perhaps previously took ourselves to exclusively be, seems insubstantial along with it.
It’s completely natural. It’s part of the process. It’s part of what we are waking up to itself.
Here is my experience with it and some ways of looking at it.
The world seems insubstantial. All matter seems insubstantial as if I could put my hand through it. It’s as if it’s in a dream.
Why is it that way? Because it’s all consciousness. It’s all happening within and as consciousness.
In a spiritual interpretation, I can say it’s all Spirit, it’s all the divine. In a smaller or psychological interpretation, I could say it’s all consciousness to me since I am – even if there is a separate being here – consciousness. To me, I am the consciousness it’s all happening within and as.
Why am I writing about this? Mostly to reassure others who may be on a spiritual path (with or without knowing it), experience this for themselves, and perhaps feel disturbed by it.
It’s normal. Nothing is wrong. It’s part of the process. It’s a part of waking up to reality, and reality waking up to itself.
For me, this shift happened when I was fifteen and found myself shifted into or as the “observer”. I found myself as what observes the world, including this human self. At the time, it was disturbing and I thought something was wrong. (It happened after the onset of CFS although I didn’t know about CFS either at the time.) A year later, this opened up into a more full-blown opening or early awakening. Here, everything without exception was revealed as the divine. Any sense of being a separate being was revealed as the divine temporarily and locally experiencing itself that way, as part of the play of the divine. The world still seemed insubstantial but it wasn’t disturbing anymore. And it’s still that way.
This experience of the world as insubstantial can happen spontaneously and out of the blue (as it did for me), it can happen from certain drugs or plants (I don’t recommend it), and it can (seem to) happen from spiritual practice. It can also happen suddenly (as in my case) or more gradually over time.
The easiest way of having a direct experience of it may be through inquiry, for instance, Living Inquiries, the Big Mind process, or Headless experiments. The Living Inquiries gives us the most detailed look of what’s happening “behind the curtain”, and we get to see how the mind creates its own experience of a substantial material world.
I’ll say a few words about what’s going on behind the curtains:
The mind creates its experience of the world through a mental overlay on the other sense fields. And this is enhanced when mental images and words are associated with sensations in the body. The sensations lend a sense of substance and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations. When this happens “behind the curtain”, it all seems real, solid, and self-evidently so. When we take a closer look, it all starts to appear more as it is – and this includes experiencing the world, as it appears to us, as insubstantial. As consciousness. As awakeness.
For it to sink in, we typically need to discover it for ourselves, over and over again.
So, does this mean that nothing is “real”? Not really. In a sense, the world is real as it appears to us conventionally (with individuals, food to eat, bills to pay, people to treat with respect and so on), and the sane and kind approach is to live and function as if it’s real.
On the other hand, the word does appear a certain way to us because of this mental overlay, and we do well to investigate this overlay and how it creates a certain world for us.
When we see through it, it doesn’t mean that the conventional world goes away. We still operate and function within it. We just hold it all more lightly. We (more) know what we are.
In the words of a man who (possibly) lived a long time ago:
Everything you define yourself as is an image. Behind that is not a better version of yourself.
I couldn’t help laughing out loud when I read this. As so often, it’s funny because it’s true.
Everything I define myself as is an image. Everything I define anyone or anything as is an image.
And behind that image isn’t a better version of me or any version of me. Behind it is the silent awake mystery that everything – all my experience of myself, others, the world – happens within and as.
There is always a lot more to say about this.
My mind creates an overlay of images and words on my sensory experiences to make sense of it all. These images and words sort the world into me (this human self) and the wider world, and then continues sorting and creating labels and identifications on just about everything. This is essential for us to be able to orient and function in the world. We wouldn’t be here as individuals or a species unless the mind did this.
And yet, these images and words are questions about the world. Suggestions. If we take them as anything more, we misguide and mislead ourselves and create stress and suffering for ourselves and others (we serve as triggers for this in others). They are not complete since what they refer to are different from, more (far more qualities, characteristics, and fluidity), and less (silent mystery) than our words and images.
We can know this to some extent and understand it intellectually. And any time something in us is triggered – any time there is a charged reaction to something – it shows us that something in us doesn’t quite get it yet. That’s OK. It’s natural. It’s the human condition. And it’s good to be aware of.
And if we are so inclined, we can explore what’s happening through inquiry, parts work, energy healing, or any other approach we have access to and find helpful. For me, Living Inquiries (based on Buddhist inquiry), parts work (Voice Dialog, Big Mind process) and Vortex Healing, are the approaches I use most right now.
When we work on deep-seated issues, there is often a fear of not only entering it but also of healing from it. This fear is a guardian of the treasure that’s there when we enter it, get to know it, and find healing for it. It’s a big part of what holds it in place.
The fear is also innocent, natural, and very understandable. It’s there to protect us. The protection is partly wise and partly a bit misguided. It’s wise since entering the issue without proper guidance can further traumatize us and make it worse. And can be a bit misguided since entering it with some guidance is what allows it to heal.
So when I work on deep-seated issues in myself or others, I often address this fear as well. If it’s strong, I may treat it as its own issue.
In a sense, this is a detour and slows down the process. In another sense, it’s what allows for a more real and deep healing of the issue. Slow is sometimes faster. What’s slow in the short run can be faster in the long run.
I often address this fear when I work with inquiry, Vortex Healing, and parts work (Big Mind process etc.).
As usual, there are many answers – each with some value.
Personally, I don’t find the word very useful and rarely if ever use it, apart from when I explore it in inquiry or as I do here.
So with that caveat, here are some answers to the question: what is evil?
The easy answer is that nothing is inherently evil, and nothing is what we call it. Evil is in the label. The idea of evil is created from a mental overlay.
We could also say that it’s intentionally causing harm to others, whether as a byproduct of getting to another goal or for its own sake. This is tricky since we all cause harm to other living beings in our daily life – especially to non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations.
And that’s a reminder that what’s evil depends on who we are. If we are a human, then evil can be seen as what other humans do to us when they act in ways that systematically harm us. If we are a non-human or an ecosystem, we can say that the current behavior of humans is evil since it systematically harms non-human life. Animals are imprisoned and killed just so they can provide food or other products to humans, and they often suffer immensely in the process. Ecosystems are systematically damaged and destroyed so what’s extracted from them can temporarily support human activity. And if we are any being in the future – any future human or non-human being or ecosystem – then the current human behavior is evil. It’s destructive for all future generations. This means that, in a sense, we are all evil. Each of us is evil to someone. And our current human society, the way it’s organized, functions in an evil way. If we chose to use the word evil, and if we want to be honest with ourselves, we have to include this view.
And, related to “it’s all in the label”, evil – as anything else we see in ourselves or the wider world – is a projection. It’s an idea we put on something in the world. And the idea, as any other idea, is made up by our own mind by a combination of mental images, words, and sensations. We may feel that something is evil, because it’s connected to sensations in our body that makes the idea seem solid, real, and perhaps even true. And that, in turn, is happening because we have learned it from our parents, friends, subcultures, and our culture in general. (That’s probably why I don’t find the word very useful or compelling: I didn’t grow up in a culture where it was used much or was seen as meaningful.)
In a more pragmatic sense, what we conventionally label evil in humans is often their reaction to their own trauma and pain. Hurt people hurt people. When we see someone acting in a way we can call evil, it’s often because they themselves have deep wounds they don’t know how to deal with in a constructive way, so they react to their deep pain by inflicting pain on others. Or, at the very least, by not caring very much if they inflict pain on others. (This gives us some understanding and empathy for people acting in this way but doesn’t in any way condone their actions. It’s still our duty to do what we can to stop harmful actions.)
This lack of caring can also happen if we are very removed from the consequences of our actions. If most humans today can be seen as evil from the perspective of non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations, it’s not because we wish to inflict pain and suffering on these. It’s because the consequences of our actions are often far removed from us. We don’t see the consequences and don’t get immediate feedback. And it’s also because we live and operate within a social system that’s created in a world (in the 1800s) where the resources and garbage-absorption capacity of the natural world seemed infinite and is still – for the most part – considered infinite in our economic system. It’s not, in itself, evil, but the consequences can certainly be experienced and seen as evil.
How can I work with this in my own life?
I can explore my ideas of evil in this way, and through inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries, Big Mind process etc.). I can find in myself the qualities and characteristics I see as evil, and see “out there” in the world and other people. (Even if what I find are perhaps much smaller or even just seeds and potentials.) I can put myself in the place of others – including non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations – and ask myself how they would see my behaviors, and perhaps use that as a correction. I can inform myself about the far-reaching and distant consequences of my actions and use this as a correction and guide for my own life. I can invite in healing for my own traumas and wounds so I am less likely to create and operate from ideologies aimed at protecting me from my own pain (racism, sexism, uncaring anthropocentrism, general dehumanization etc.), or lash out when my pain is triggered and harm myself and others.
Personally, I find my actions are evil from the perspective of nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations. It’s not intended to be evil, but I know it can easily be seen that way. After all, I operate within a system that doesn’t take the long term and distant effects of our actions much into consideration. It’s not incorporated, because it didn’t need to be when our system was developed. I also know I my actions have caused suffering for others, especially when I have not been able to be completely honest or in my own integrity because of my own pain and fears. That is something I am working on, both in terms of finding healing for my issues creating this behavior and preventing it by being honest, taking care of my own needs (some of it has happened because I didn’t), and be more in integrity.
I notice a (familiar) frustration with my body’s lack of energy. I want to do more but am unable to.
Along with this is a sense of pushing. Wanting to push through. Push so I can get things done. Push life so my health improves.
I notice this and know it comes from beliefs, identifications, and something that’s not felt and seen.
So I take a step back. Notice what’s here. Open to it. Allow it. Take time with it.
And notice a curiosity about what’s behind it. I notice fear. I open to this fear. Allow it. Notice where in my body I feel it and the sensations connected with it. Notice it happens in infinite space.
I also notice any fear of this fear, or feeling or opening to this fear, and include that in what I open to and allow. Whatever is here is included in what’s allowed and welcomed.
I notice a curiosity about this fear. It seems to be a fear of not being enough. Of being judged. Of not being able to take care of what needs to be taken care of. It’s a survival fear.
In the moment, this is enough. Connecting with, allowing, and befriending this more primal survival fear is enough. Something profound shifts. There is a sense of returning home, returning to what’s more real. It’s a relief. The initial frustration and pushing makes sense in a different way and identification with it softens and falls away.
I know I can keep exploring, and probably will at some point. I continue noticing any associated sensations, images, and labels. I can explore my first memories of feeling this frustration or pushing, and – more to the point – this primal survival fear.
I see it’s innocent. It’s very understandable and human. This primal fear is essential to most or nearly all living beings. It’s what has kept us alive for all these generations going back to very early organisms. It’s what has kept me alive. It’s a friend and it’s a big relief to actually and finally get to know it and befriend it.
Running away from it is innocent too and very natural. And it creates stress, pushing, a fighting with what’s here, and make me overlook the innocence in it and the primal fear behind it, and I miss out of seeing all this and making friends and peace with it.
This is a quick note about something I notice with my physical health condition. I’ll mention it here since it points to a more general and universal pattern, and one I assume most of us experience in different areas of life.
Because of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), I sometimes physical crash. I exert myself and this is followed by a kind of physical collapse. My body shuts down.
When this happens, there is often fear. A primal survival fear is triggered.
When I notice this, I can open to and allow the fear. This allows the fear to be experienced and acknowledged (and even welcomed and thanked). It’s experienced as a part of me and not who or what I am, so I can mentally and emotionally stay neutral or even genuinely appreciative of my life.
And when I don’t notice, or don’t want to notice, there is a reaction to the fear. My mind identifies with the fear and the (sometimes catastrophic) stories related to the fear. I feel the crash it terrible and that it means something terrible about my life and future.
And that sometimes leads to a corresponding emotional crash and shutdown. This can take the form of a mix of irritability, hopelessness, catastrophic thinking, fears, depression, blame, judgment, and general turmoil.
So there is a physical crash, which triggers primal fear, which sometimes triggers a reaction to or identification with the fear, and this can lead to an emotional crash.
It does pass, both the physical and emotional crash. But it is much easier when I notice the primal fear, open to it, find some curiosity about it, and can allow and welcome it.
When “I give a Vortex Healing session, I notice two different orientations I can operate from.
One is to gently use my intention to guide the process, notice what I sense and be receptive and adjust the session accordingly, notice that the divine is guiding and doing the healing, enjoy watching the process, and find gratitude for being allowed to be part of the process.
Another aspect of this is noticing that it all – the giver, the recipient, the channeling and everything else – is happening within and as the divine. The divine plays all the roles.
The other is to be caught in the “doing” of it. Whether it’s the minimal “doing” of using my intention, sensing what’s happening, and adjusting my approach based on that feedback. Or a more course “doing” of feeling “I” am responsible for the outcome, or overly question or be self-conscious about the process, or something else.
The first tends to come with a sense of flow and ease, and the second with stress and exhaustion. A gentler touch is not only much easier but it, most likely, allows me to be more of an open channel and not get in the way of the process.
As so often, this applies to other situations and life in general. It’s stressful and can be exhausting to be caught up in the “doing” and being a “doer”. And there is often a sense of ease and flow when we have a gentler touch and can step out of the driver’s seat in the mind.
How can we explore this more intentionally? One quite effective way is through inquiry, for instance the (Buddhist-informed) Living Inquiries. Here, I get to see how my mind creates its own experience of being a doer, how the charge in it is created (making it seem important to be a doer, and making it seem real), and perhaps the fears in stepping out of this role.
Other approaches I am familiar with is Breema which allows for this exploration and stepping out of (thinking that we are in) the driver’s seat. And the Big Mind process and Headless experiments which gives us a taste of what we are. And I assume it does tend to come naturally, over time through Vortex Healing and the feedback and awakening inherent in that process.
In general, any approach that allows for some awareness and exploration of this dynamic is likely helpful, as is any approach that invites in awakening – and healing of whatever in us thinks it needs to be a doer to stay safe.
To me, healing, maturing and awakening is partly about discernment, differentiation, and clarifying in what particular ways something is true.
In modern spirituality, we sometimes hear people say that we create our own reality. This can be understood in slightly naive (misguided and less helpful) ways, but there is also some truth to it.
So how is it true for me?
In general, I see that my perception of anything is filtered through and created by an overlay of stories – of images and words. And most these are often not even noticed, unless we have spent some time exploring and noticing them intentionally.
Also, as what we are – that which any experience happens within and as – we can say that we “create” our world. Our experience of anything is an expression of the creativity of the mind.
And if we are so inclined, we can say that what we are is the divine, everything is the divine, and the divine creates all these experiences for itself.
There is a related question: are we creating the situations we find ourselves in?
Sometimes, because we live from our limited experience and perception, and sometimes our hangups, wounds, and identifications, that creates situations for us. We sometimes sit in the nest we built ourselves. This is the conventional and ordinary way of looking at it.
I mostly find it helpful to look for how I can use my current situation to heal, mature, and awaken.
It can be helpful to assume that life “wants” me to heal, mature, and awaken. Life sets up situations for me where I can see what’s left, with an invitation for me to invite in healing, maturing, and awakening for whatever in me needs it.
From a bigger perspective, we can say that life creates situations for itself that invites in local healing, maturing, and awakening through this part of itself that’s this human me.
I don’t know if it’s true in any absolute or final sense, but I find it a helpful guide.
I can also do another what if exercise. What if something in me created this situation? Which emotional issue, belief, or identification in me would create it? (This is similar to the – somewhat naive – assumption that we are creating our own situations, but the what-ifangle gives it a lighter and more playful touch.)
How has this played out in my own life? This topic is current for me now in a few difficult situations. One is my health (CFS and Lyme) and another is a recent process with the government which took longer than I expected (the wait had some ripple effects).
Some may say (and have said) that I am creating the situations for myself. For instance, I have created the illness. When I try that assumption on, I find it creates stress in me and weird thought patterns. It feels more helpful to see the situation in a more conventional way and use a couple of what-if thought experiments to harvest the value in the situation.
I can look at the situation in a more finely grained way, and in a way that’s more real and honest to me. For instance:
Have I created the CFS and Lyme disease for myself? Not really as they are caused by a virus (EB) and Lyme. And yet, it may be that stress and some stressful beliefs and identifications in me weakened my system and created the conditions for these to move into a full-blown disease. It’s good to address this. It’s very helpful for me to strengthen my system in any way I am able, including through reducing stress and clearing up any chronic stressful beliefs and identifications in me.
The illness has brought to light many areas of myself where I resist my life as it is (other stressful beliefs and identifications), and it’s helpful for me and my quality of life to address these. I can use the illness and the situations I find myself in due to the illness to identify and invite healing for these parts of me.
I can ask myself what if I created this illness, where in me was it created from? (I find a victim identity, overwhelmed by life, and perhaps a desire to hide from life.)
Did I create the delay with the government process? No, I found myself in the same situation as others in the same process. The delay was caused by many social factors, including restructuring and priorities. And yet, here too, I can find stressful beliefs and identifications triggered in me by this situation and invite in healing for these. If life placed me in that situation so I can find deeper healing, which parts of me need healing? Which wounded parts of me were triggered? (Victim, hopelessness.) What did the situation say about me? (I am a victim.) And what if something in me created it, which wounded parts of me would that be? (A victim expecting things to take longer than expected.)
In this way, I acknowledge the validity in conventional ways of looking at life. I benefit from assuming that life is conspiring on my behalf and places me in situations so I can heal, mature, and awaken and find healing and awakening for more parts of me. And I can even benefit from the angle (held lightly as a what-if question) that something in me created it.
A deep truth is a truth so deep that not only is it true but its exact opposite is also true.
Niels Bohr, paraphrased
Yes, this is true (!) in my experience. Although, I find that any statement with some truth in it has reversals that also has some truth in it. It doesn’t have to be a deep statement. Words are only pointers, and we can find some validity in most statements about the world.
The question is specifically how something is true. When we identify that, we avoid assuming that all statements are somehow equally true (they are not) or true in the same way (they are not).
I love therapeutic tremoring. It’s as natural as it can be. It reminds me that I am a mammal and am part of nature. It allows the inherent wisdom in my system to take over and I (the conscious me) can take the back seat. It allows deep tension to release out of my body. It tones and relaxes the tissues of my body. It frees up energy from being bound up in contracting muscles.
And yet, it’s not sufficient in itself. For mammals in the wild, it may be and probably often is sufficient. But it doesn’t seem sufficient for us mammals called humans who live in a (often pretty screwed up) culture and were not taught or encouraged to naturally use therapeutic tremoring from early childhood on.
We need to also approach it from the mind side. Tension is created by stressful beliefs and identifications. Releasing tension out of the body certainly improves our well being and how our body functions, and it can even lessen the stress connected with these beliefs and identifications. But it doesn’t resolve the causes of the tension and underlying stress in our life and body.
To do that, we need to bring the stressful stories we have about ourselves, the world, and certain situations into awareness. We need to find them, investigate them, and through that allow them to find a resolution. We can do this on our own, with friends or confidantes, with a therapist, and through a range of different modalities.
And what modalities can we use to help resolve the causes of stress and tension? We have to find one or more that works for us (that we like, resonate with, and get results from), and it helps to have a good guide, at least at first. Again, for me, inquiry complements therapeutic tremoring very well. As do energy healing (Vortex Healing) and heart-centered practices.
Note: Some call this neurogenic tremoring, and that’s accurate although a little too broad. There are many types of neurogenic tremors (for instance shivering to warm up our tissue and body). Therapeutic tremoring is the tremoring built into our body through evolution specifically to release tension and stress, including tension and stress from traumatic experiences.
Conversely, tremoring is a little too specific! When the body releases tension in this way, it can do a lot more than just tremble. We may stretch (often on one side of the body, and then symmetrically on the other side), make sounds, cry, laugh, and so on.
Many of us experience that there is a hole in us. Something is lacking or missing. We are not quite enough. Not quite OK.
This is created by beliefs we have about ourselves and the world, and identifications. And it’s rooted in our culture, our family patterns, and our own journey through life.
We can approach this in a few different ways. Tracing the sense of lack back to a belief and identity, and seeing how it (most likely) was created early in life, can be helpful in itself. It helps us see it more as an object (a part of us) than a subject (what we are). Being honest about it with ourselves and others helps for the same reason, and it helps us see it’s a universal experience.
We can dialogue with these parts of us. Get to know them. Befriend them. Listen to what they want to say to us. Be a friend to them. Give them our kindness, wisdom, and love. (Parts work.)
We can give these parts of ourselves love through heart-centered practices such as ho’oponopno and tonglen. And we can do the same towards ourselves as a whole, and towards those who trigger these parts of us now and in the past.
We can seek out situations where we feel loved and cared for, by ourselves and others. We can seek out people and communities that genuinely love and care for us.
We can increase our overall sense of well being. For instance through mindful movement (yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema etc.). Training a more stable attention (e.g. by bringing attention to the sensations of the breath). Find gratitude for our life, both what we like and perhaps what we don’t so much like (all-inclusive gratitude practices). This creates a different context that makes it easier for the not-enough parts of us to reorient and heal. (Although the healing may require one or more of the other approaches as well.)
We can identify and investigate the beliefs creating a sense of lack and not-OKness, including underlying and related beliefs. We can come to find what’s more true for us (and more peacefully true) than these stressful beliefs. (The Work.)
We can explore how our mind creates its own experience of these beliefs, identities, and stressful situations triggering them. We can see how they appear in each of our sense fields (sensations, thoughts, images, sounds, taste, smell etc.), and how the sense fields combine to make them seem solid and real to us. And through this investigation, the “glue” looses its strength and the sensations appears more as sensations without (stressful) meaning, and the thoughts appears more as thoughts without (stressful) substance and reality. (Living Inquiries.)
We can use energy work (often combined with some insights or simple inquiry) to release these beliefs, emotional issues, and identifications. (For me, Vortex Healing.)
We can even shift into what we are (that which these experiences happens within and as), and notice that it’s all what a thought may call consciousness. It’s all happening within and as what we are. Sometimes, we call it the divine or the One. (Big Mind process, headless experiments.)
So when we experience a hole in ourselves, we can fill it through befriending this part of ourselves and giving it care and love, and we can see through it and see it’s ultimately not real in the way it seemed to be. And we can also live in a way that helps us reorient and rewire and shows that these parts of us are not who we are. (Living turnarounds in The Work of Byron Katie.)
Finally, we must all find our own way through this. The examples I gave above are just examples based on what am familiar with and have found helpful. And finding our own way often includes finding someone who has gone through it themselves and can guide us through it.
I am against organ donations because organ transplants take resources away from other health services.
Paraphrased from Ric W. on FB
Ric is the main teacher of one of the modalities I find most helpful, and when he talks about healing or awakening, it usually makes complete sense to me. But when he posts about social issues, I often find I disagree. Sometimes, I even think his views seem a bit naive.
In this case, he posted this to an international Facebook group which makes it seem as if he is making a broad statement that applies to all countries and situations. In Norway, people get the health care they need even if some with organ transplants need a small portion of the health care resources available. Even in the US where he lives, it’s hard to see that it’s true. Insurance companies pay for the health services people need and have paid for through their insurance, whether it’s organ transplants or something else.
Also, he is using the “divide and conquer” argument where he sets two vital issues up against each other while we, as a society, can afford both. We spend a huge amount of money and resources on far less important things. (In the US, on a ridiculously large and bloated military budget.) It’s the argument politicians use when they want to set groups up against each other, for instance by saying “society spends resources on immigrants that retired people should have had”.
Of course, it is true that organ transplants increase the overall cost of healthcare in a society. But it’s negligible. It’s a cost most of us agree is worth it. And a lot of other and less vital things bring up the cost as well. In the US, privatization increases the overall cost dramatically. In most countries, doctors perform or prescribe costly treatments they know won’t work or are ineffective.
It is also true that, as he said, that in the big picture, life and death is not so important. But it is important to us as humans. And I want to live in a society that’s kind and honors life.
So what do we do when spiritual teachers or guides say stupid things?
First, is there something in it? Does he see something I don’t? In this case, I haven’t found it yet but I am open to it.
Then, I can be relieved. He is just a human being. He may have knee-jerk ideas about things. He may not think everything through. His social views may, at times, seem unnecessarily harsh. He is a human as we all are. He is not perfect. He has his own issues and limitations. It’s a gift that he shows me this.
Finally, it helps me see my own issues. Something in me got triggered when I saw what he wrote. I reacted to what he said, considered it for a while, and then – as part of the reactivity – decided that what he said seemed stupid, harsh, and uninformed. It was my way of dealing with the discomfort it brought up in me.
I can do inquiry (The Work) on the stressful thoughts it brought up in me. (He is stupid. He should be more responsible in what he says. He may influence others to not support organ transplants. His view is harsh, heartless, and uninformed. I don’t know if I can trust his views on anything now.)
I can do inquiry (Living Inquiries) to see how my mind creates the reactivity, and also see how it creates what it reacts against and when it was initially formed in my life. And, in the process, invite sensations and thoughts to separate so the charge may go out of these issues (beliefs, identifications, traumas) in me.
I can do Vortex Healing for what it brought up in me, even if I don’t know exactly what it was.
And much more.
So when spiritual teachers say stupid things, it can come with many benefits. I may find the grain of truth in it, or it may help me see something from a different perspective or a different context. It brings him down from the pedestal and among us humans, as I see him. And it helps me find my own emotional issues, triggered by what he said, so I get to explore and perhaps find resolution for these.
I want to add a few words about the “life and death is not important” view. In the big picture, it is true. It’s all the play of the divine. The different masks of the divine. And yet, one of the pitfalls of spirituality is to dismiss the human. We go into Big Mind, and find ourselves as Big Mind, and dismiss or value less the human views and perspectives. (If this happens, it’s often a way to try to protect ourselves of the pain inherent in our human existence. It doesn’t work, but it can give a sense of temporary relief.)
As I see it, a more mature view is to include both and embrace the human, including our valuing of life. To me, that’s one of the most beautiful things about humans. We value life. And few things are as beautiful as a society that values life. In this case, that values life enough to give people organ transplants when they need it and follow up so they can stay healthy as long as possible.
Finally, I should add that I know that Ric may say these things precisely to initiate a process in people just like it did me. It may be, unconsciously or consciously, a teaching tool. Outside of when he talks about healing and awakening, where he seems amazingly precise and insightful, he may allow himself to say controversial things in order to stir things up a little. I imagine I would be tempted to do the same if I was in his position.
When I worked at a clinic a little while back, one of my co-workers would say this to clients after they did the enneagram test. (We used the test so we wouldn’t overlook some possible core issues for the clients.) He would say it mostly to pique their curiosity, to counter their tendency to take the results as who they are, and also because it’s accurate.
When I find my enneagram types according to an online test, in what way is it who I am? The results do hint at how I cope with core issues from my childhood.
And in what way is it not who I am?
It’s not who I am because the test may give different results depending on when I do it and which situation(s) I have in mind when I answer the questions. So in a limited enneagram context, the results may not be who I (always) am.
It’s not who I am because I am a whole human being and the enneagram types only touch upon aspects of who I am and how I am in the world. (What it does address is partly how I typically cope with core wounds from childhood.)
I am not destined by what the test points to. Yes, I may have those dynamics in me and tend to use those coping mechanisms, but when I become aware of it, and when I find more healing for the core issues behind it, I can relate to these dynamics in me more consciously. I may find myself living differently.
Beyond the human, there is what I am. That which any experience, including what the enneagram types point to, happens within and as. In this context, I am also not limited to any enneagram type or any label at all.
And this goes for any personality test, any label, any role we have in society. It’s not who we are. It may or may not be accurate in a conventional sense. And as who (human self) and what (Big Mind) we are, we are far more, different, and not defined by it.
So what enneagram types am I? When I do the tests, my most prominent ones tend to be 9 and 1. Peacemaker and perfectionist. When I grew up, I was taught to avoid conflict (peacemaker) and that doing things well was safe (perfectionist). So by seeking peace and perfection, I can avoid conflict (which I am scared of) and also failing or being disapproved of (which I am also scared of). These types suggest that if I want to work on core emotional issues, I may do well to address conflict avoidance and fear of being unloved or disapproved of, and the early childhood situations where I learned this.
I saw a couple of videos about what the present is. Is it what happens right this millisecond? Or these few seconds? Or even minutes?
When I look at my experience of time, I find an overlay of thoughts (images and words about what happens in time) on top of another overlay of thoughts (an image of a timeline), on top of what’s happening in the other sense fields.
For past and future, it’s a series of images and words on top of the timeline either stretching back in time or forward in time, with sensations lending it a sense of substance, solidity, and reality.
For the present, it’s images and words on top of the “present” part of the timeline (the middle), and if the present is what’s happening in my immediate surroundings, then these are on top of what’s happening in sight, sound, taste, smell, and sensations. And, again, sensations lend these thoughts about the present assense of solidity, reality, and truth.
So it doesn’t really matter how “long” the present is. It’s created in thought, as is past and future. In a sense, it’s imagined. And at the same time, our ability to imagine the past, future, and present is vital for us functioning in the world. We need it to orient, learn from the past, imagine different futures, and relate to what’s happening here and now.
And it does help to recognize that this is what’s happening, as it’s happening. It helps us hold it all more lightly.
The Living Inquiries is what I have found most helpful for exploring this in detail. And when I have found it, in depth, one or more times, it’s easier to notice it as it happens, in daily life.
When people say “be present” or “stay in the present”, what do they mean? It may mean to stay with what’s happening here and now, and that’s often helpful. But really, it means to notice that my mind creates an idea of a timeline, and then places other thoughts on top of it to populate my past, future, and present. I notice how my mind creates its idea of time and what happens in time, and that it’s all happening in immediacy.
Even if I am absorbed into thoughts about past, future, or present, one little noticing is all that’s needed for me to see that it’s all happening in immediacy, here now. My attention can be absorbed into thoughts about past, future, and present, and I can notice that’s what’s happening. And that helps me hold it all with a lighter touch.
One thing I like about this approach is that it’s pragmatic. It’s relatively easy to notice, especially through some guided inquiry. And it fits the understanding of modern psychology (although it’s still in its infancy) and even common sense.
At the same time, my impression is that many people tend to see past, future, and (their ideas of the) present as real, solid, and true. There is a past, future, and present, as it seems to us, and it’s populated with, more or less, what we think it’s populated with. That’s an understandable assumption, and it’s one that can only survive as long as we don’t take a closer look.
I also find the idea of time travel interesting. As a story device or a thought experiment, it can be very entertaining and even illuminating. If we take it as anything more than that, it means we assume there is an actual, real and solid past and future as a “thing”, that it’s somehow stored somewhere, and that we can conceivably visit it. That’s an example of taking our mental timeline of past, future, and present, investing it with a sense of solidity (through associating it with sensations), and taking that sense of a solid and real timeline as actually true and real “out there” somewhere, as a place we can visit. Again, this impression can only survive for as long as we don’t take a closer look.
When I worked with addiction clients (at the Kiloby Center), I noticed that it was relatively easy to see how willing, ready, and wholehearted the clients were about being sober, and that the more willing, sincere, wholehearted, and receptive they were, the more likely they were to succeed.
That’s how it is for any of us in any area of life, including healing emotional issues and changing our orientation to life (befriending).
So how do we arrive at this readiness? It seems that the main factor is recognizing – deeply, viscerally, through experience – that the pain of changing (and there is often some pain involved) is less than the pain of staying in the old pattern.
Is there a way to prepare the ground for readiness? As with so much, it comes through grace and on its own time. At the same time, there may be some ways to invite it in. Inquiry is one. Heart-centered practices is another. Being really vulnerable and honest with ourselves and (a trusted) other is yet another way, and a vital component.
There are many benefits to knowing that what I am doing is selfish, even when it also seems kind.
It aligns me with reality and truth and I avoid the stress of pretending something else.
It’s easier for me to take care of my own needs so I am in a better position to live the life I want.
I am less prone to burnout. I am less likely to tell me I am doing it for someone else so there is less chance of resentment.
It’s easier for me to stay in my own business. I am less likely to go into blame, victimhood and so on.
There is less sense of self-importance. I know I am doing it for myself so I can’t so easily use it to boost a false sense of self-importance or tell myself I am better than others.
If I don’t immediately see how what I am doing is selfish, how can I explore or find it? Here are a couple of suggestions.
If I tell myself I am doing something because I need to, I can write down the “need” statement first (“I need to drive the kids to school bc there are no busses”) and then change it to a “want” statement (“I want to drive the kids to school because I want them to have a good education, and I enjoy spending the extra time with them”).
If I tell myself I am doing something noble or altruistic or for someone else, I can ask myself what I get out of it. Here is an example: I moved to Wisconsin to support my wife in her education. What did I get out of it? In what ways did I do it for myself, for my own reasons? It made me feel good to support her. I wanted the best for her. I got to be with her. I got to apply for US residency which I wanted. I got to be a good husband and see myself that way. All of that was selfish, and some of it selfish in the best way.
The Work of Byron Katie is also a great way to explore if what I am doing is selfish, and to find that it is, in the best way, and that it’s completely innocent. (At least, that’s what I have found so far. I am open to discover something else.)
I’ll add a few examples I have found for myself. When I do something that seems kind, for someone else, and in the interest of the larger whole, I do it because it feels good. I am aligned with my guidance. I know all is interconnected so I am really doing it for myself, for the whole I am intrinsic part of. I notice it’s all happening within and as what I am, so it is – as they say in Zen – like the left hand removing a splinter from the right.
Sometimes, I may do something because it makes me look good. It feeds into a desired self-image or how I want others and myself to see me. It can make someone like me. All of that is also selfish and when I look I find it’s innocent. It’s what we humans do when we are caught up in stressful thoughts and neediness.
So yes, when I have looked, I have found that what I do – even when my mind tells me I need to do it or what I do out of kindness – is selfish. It’s often selfish in the best way. It’s innocent. And it’s a huge relief to admit to myself it’s selfish and it comes with many benefits to see it.
I watched the 2017 documentary about Spielberg, and one of the many things that struck me was when someone said he is totally unselfconscious and it’s almost as if he is an employee of Spielberg.
If that’s true, and it seems there is a good amount of truth in it, it’s one piece of the explanation for how he has been able to so wholeheartedly do what he loves and be so productive, make movies across many different genres, with such skill, and for so long. He has been getting out of his own way.
So the question for me is, if I am an employee of Per (this human being here), how can I best serve him? How can I be a really great employee? What would I do in this situation? How would I approach this task if I was an employee of Per?
Again, this is a very simple pointer or inquiry, and if we apply and follow it, it can be life transforming.
Some people (and movies!) seem to think that reactivity is the same as being real and authentic. In a way, it is since it’s part of human life. And in another way, it’s not.
When we are reactive, we react to our own uncomfortable feelings and associated thoughts. We react to them as a way to avoid them, and the way we avoid them may be through blame, complaints, anger, sadness, victimhood, going into and recycling stressful thoughts, and more.
So what’s more real? To me, it’s to notice I go into reactivity (the symptoms are not hard to recognize), stop, take a breath and a step back, and notice what I am really feeling. Often, it’s fear. And then feel it, give it space to be here, admit to it to myself, and perhaps – if the situation is right – admit to it to someone else. And that someone else may be the person who initially triggered the reactivity in me.
As Adya says, when I find and admit to myself or someone else what’s more real and true for me, it feels like a confession. It’s vulnerable. And the reactivity is not needed anymore.
Say I am reactive when I am visiting my parents and have the thought that my mother nags my father. I notice my mind goes into complaints and blame. My muscles tense up. I see images of her nagging my father in the past and future. My breath is more tense and shallow. I get shorter with them. I want to be somewhere else. I am starting to fantasize about leaving and being away from the situation. I leave sooner than I normally would. All of that is reactivity.
So I can notice. Get closer to what’s really going on and notice what I am really feeling. And I notice fear. I am afraid of what the nagging does to both of them. (And my father not speaking up about it.) I am afraid of what it does to their health. I am afraid of what it does to me. I am afraid it’s harming my relationship with my parents. (Which it doesn’t, only my reactive thoughts about it does.) I am afraid I’ll have been and will play out similar underlying dynamics in my own relationships.
And when I notice that, something falls into place in me. I am more authentic and real with myself. I am in touch with the underlying feelings and thoughts, the ones my mind initially reacted to in order to avoid. And there is a relief here. A sense of coming home. Knowing that while I can’t do anything about their relationship (it’s not my business and it’s futile even trying), I can address this in myself.
Does The Work of Byron Katie only work at the thought level?
That’s one of the concerns I have heard from people new to The Work, and it was one of my initial concerns as well.
In my experience, The Work can go very deep and can be life-changing. Especially when I follow the simple instructions and I am facilitated by someone trained in and experienced with The Work. When I stay with the situation, get close, use some of the subquestions (for number 3), feel what’s happening in my body, go back in time to my earliest experiences with the stressful thought, and also look at my scary images of the future. When I am still, get close, and take time to find genuine examples for each turnaround. And when I select a juicy living turnaround and bring it into and apply it in my daily life.
In addition to the obvious cognitive shifts, I often feel energetic and emotional shifts when I do The Work, and I do notice how my life changes when I bring the living turnarounds into my daily life.
The Work can be “just” a cognitive exercise if we take it that way, and it often stays at that level if we don’t follow the simple instructions or don’t have a skilled and experienced facilitator. And it can be profoundly life transforming if we do.
Once I was a hollow man In which a lonely heart did dwell You know love came creeping upon me Bringing life to an empty shell
Now I heard so many times before That your love could be so bad I just want to tell you people It’s the best love I ever had
Don’t you know that I just want to testify What your love has done for me I just want to testify What your love has done for me
Ooh, ooh luscious Sure been delicious to me Ooh, ooh luscious Sure been delicious to me
I just want to testify What your love has done for me I just want to testify What your love has done for me
Parliament, Deron Taylor / George S Clinton, Testify
I listened to this song by Parliament and realized it falls into place more for me when I turn it around to myself. (When I hear songs or watch movies or read stories or look at the world, I find it interesting to explore it as I would a dream, as if all aspects are in myself.)
I can understand the lyrics of Testify in a conventional sense, as someone who comes alive through the love of someone else. I allow myself to come alive because I tell myself I am loved and lovable.
And when I see that, I also realize I can give myself that love.
How can I give myself that love?
I can do loving things for myself (take a bath, make a good meal etc.).
More importantly, I can find love for whatever parts of myself come up, and especially those parts I previously have shunned and pushed away. I can find love for my experience as it is here and now, even if it’s uncomfortable and something I previously have shunned.
To get started, I can do this with the help of a structure. It can be a basic meditation such as natural rest. When I notice and allow my experience, as it is here and now, it’s a deep expression of love. It can also be a heart-centered practice such as ho’oponopno, tonglen, or metta. Or I can do it through a simple inquiry such as the Headless experiments or the Big Mind / Big Heart process.
If I want to be more thorough, I can also find and investigate any beliefs that prevent me from finding a deep and lasting love for myself. I can do this, for instance, through The Work or Living Inquiries. A common thought is that I am not worthy of love or I am unlovable. One of my thoughts is that the love of someone else (preferably a woman beautiful inside and out) is more important or worth more than my own love.
These are all very natural and understandable thoughts, and it can be a great relief and open up a whole new dimension of the world when the charge goes out of them (Living Inquiries) or we find what’s more true for us (The Work).
Misophonia, literally “hatred of sound”, was proposed in 2000 as a condition in which negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions are triggered by specific sounds.
Wikipedia entry for misophonia
I have a history of misophonia. Predictably, it’s stronger when I am very tired or stressed, and less so when my energy reservoirs are fuller and I am more content. And I have found it very helpful to explore stressful beliefs around it (The Work), stressful sensation-thought connections in my mind (Living Inquiries), enemy images (inquiry, heart-centered practices), and undoing the energy and consciousness components creating it (Vortex Healing). Reducing the overall stress level of my nervous system with therapeutic tremoring (TRE) also helps.
Perhaps because of this work, there is now space for making use of a simple pointer or shortcut.
I hear the neighbor making noise (using bandsaw and chain saw to cut wood). And I either remind myself this is the voice of God and then take time to notice. Or I ask myself is this the voice of God? which also helps me notice.
What does it help me notice? It has to happen here and now, for myself, and it’s always new, so putting it into words can be a sidetrack. And it can also be a pointer for own exploration. Right now, what I notice is that the noise happens within and as consciousness. It happens within and as this awake, alive space. In a sense, it happens within and as what’s capacity for any content of experience, including this alive consciousness. To me, the noise and everything else that happens in my sense fields happens within and as awake consciousness. Even the “me” happens within the sense fields and within and as this consciousness.
That’s really all I can say about it. Although if I take it one step further, which many spiritual traditions do, I can say that everything is the divine, Spirit or God. It gives it a little extra oomph.
So when I ask myself is that sound also the divine? I notice that the sound too happens within and as awake and alive consciousness. As a side-effect, it helps me notice that any reactions in me to the sound – thoughts combined with sensations – also happens within and as the same consciousness. So my “center of gravity” shifts out of this a bit and a little more into what I already am, which is this consciousness all happens within and as.
Aside from that, I get to notice that the noise helps me see what’s left in me of beliefs, identifications, and emotional issues. (This is endless but at least it shows me what to explore next.) And it’s a reminder for myself that all is God’s will. Everything that happens are movements within the whole and has infinite causes stretching back to beginningless time and out into endless space. And, in yet another way, it’s all life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. When I am distressed by the noise, the noise, the distress, and the idea of it happening to someone separate, is all part of this exploration (Lila).
Sometimes, when I am faced with a decision in daily life, I ask myself:
What would a sane person do?
I imagine someone normally sane, grounded, kind, and reasonable. And ask myself, what would that person do?
Yesterday, I bought a humidifier from someone online, and I had the choice of going to Oslo to pick it up or pick it up at my local train station. I was drawn to travel to Oslo since it would give me an excuse to go there and see an exhibit before picking it up.
I noticed a slight confusion in me, and asked myself what would a sane person do? It was pretty clear that a sane person would chose to pick it up at their local train station, and go to Oslo another day to see the exhibit, free from having the additional obligation of picking up the humidifier.
It’s a simple and perhaps silly example. And yet, it shows that taking a third person perspective sometimes can help us clarify what to do. It also shows that very simple pointers or inquiries can be helpful in daily life.
I have noticed a low-grade fear that others will think I am faking illness (CFS). Since it’s a stressor in my life, I wanted to explore it through inquiry, and in this case The Work. Even before getting into the more structured inquiry, my facilitator suggested a perspective that made something fall into place for me.
I am faking that it’s a problem.
It is true that I am faking it.I am faking that it’s a problem.
It’s a huge relief to admit to the truth. Yes, I am faking it. Not that it’s an illness. (I know it is from the history, symptoms etc.). But that it’s a problem.
How am I faking it’s a problem? As soon as I believe thoughts saying it’s a problem, I am faking it. I pretend to believe stressful thoughts before even investigating them. And when I do investigate them, I – at least so far – find something peaceful that’s as or more true for me than the initial stressful thought.
I also notice an additional benefit. From that more peaceful place, I am more able to take kind actions to help my life and situation.
And how can I use this as a guideline or reminder for my daily life? A living turnaround? Whenever I notice a thought that my health is a problem, I can notice it’s my mind making it into a problem, I can identify the thought, and then explore it through inquiry. That’s the kind and sane approach, and what I want for myself.
There is a difference between being defeated by life or a particular situation, and being surrendered to it. And we can also think we are surrendered when there is more left.
Say I have an ongoing health issue (as I do).
I can be defeated by it. Feel hopeless. Sad. Hopelessly angry. Give up. At the surface, this can look like surrender but it’s really just being defeated by the situation. I still see it as terrible, I still fight it in my mind, but I have given up doing something about it.
I may think I have surrendered. I may also think I have surrendered because I hope for it and it looks like it has happened, while the surrender is temporary or one of several layers. I can also fake surrender. I can pretend I have surrendered. I may have all the right words. I may see the benefit of surrender. I may wish for surrender. But I am still secretly fighting life. I still secretly see my situation as terrible.
And there can be a more real surrender. My resistance to the situation has worn off over time, perhaps through a lot of struggle. And sometimes it’s supported by inquiry, whether the natural inquiry we all engage in through living our lives, pondering our situation, and talking with others about it or a more structured inquiry. I may have seen through my stressful beliefs about the situation and find what’s genuinely more true for me. I may have identified and seen through my cherished identities that don’t fit my health situation, and again found what’s more genuinely true for me. I may have found the genuine gifts in the situation for me and genuine gratitude. I may have found that what I really value in life, myself, my relationships, and my role in life, genuinely isn’t what this illness impacts. I may have come to a place where I openly allow my grief, anger, sadness, gratitude, joy, and anything else that sometimes come up in me around it.
Often, there is a mix. Some parts of us struggle with it, and we struggle with these parts of ourselves, so we don’t fully allow them. We may think we have surrendered (perhaps in a particular way or area of life) and there is still something left which surfaces later and in another situation. And sometimes, in some areas of us and our life, there is a more genuine surrender through clarity, allowing, and an open heart.
How can we invite in a more genuine surrender? Mainly, it comes in its own time. We cannot decide for it to happen or will it to happen. If it happens, it’s often because our resistance wears out through (futile) struggle. What we can do is prepare the ground. For instance through basic meditation (noticing, allowing), heart-centered practices (prayer, ho’oponopno, tonglen, metta), inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries, Big Mind process, headless experiments), therapy with a wise, skilled, and heart-centered therapist, and most of all receptivity, sincerity, and authenticity.
I notice I rarely write about surrender although it is an important topic. It’s not something we can choose or will to happen – it comes through grace. There is a difference between surrender as a temporary state and a more genuine and complete surrender, and it’s not always so easy to tell the difference (unless we wait to see). And there are always more layers. Surrender is a not something we achieve, it’s at most something we can invite in. And it’s an ongoing process.
There is also a bigger picture here. A lack of surrender is life resisting itself. It’s life locally and temporarily taking itself to be separate from everything else and engaging in an ongoing struggle with itself. Surrender then is life recognizing itself as all of it and giving up the (identification) with the struggle. The struggle may still happen because that’s conditioning. But life recognizes itself as all of it – this human self, the wider world, the situation, the struggle – and identification goes out of it. All of it is recognized as the play of and within life and not something that happens to an actual separate self.
Where do I think it is? Where have I glimpsed it is? And where is it, in my immediate experience?
Is it in this human self? Is this apparently separate self the final word on what I really am?
Or is it in life itself? As this Earth? As the universe? As all of existence? As all as consciousness? As that which is capacity for it all?
There are several layers to this as well as ways of noticing.
I can have an intellectual understanding, either through western science and philosophy (Universe Story, Epic of Evolution, Ecospirituality) or from mysticism and maps from different spiritual traditions.
I can have glimpses, either without anything apparently bringing it about or through certain practices (inquiry, Big Mind process, basic meditation, practices to reconnect etc.).
And my center of gravity can shift. Perhaps it’s first as this human being in the world. Then, as the wholeness of what I am as human and soul. Or as the wholeness of existence. Or as consciousness somehow separate from the content of existence. Or as consciousness that all experience happens within and as. Or as that which is capacity for it all. Or as this capacity and all it is capacity for (consciousness and all content of experience happens within and as consciousness).
This is one aspect of what spirituality is about. Being curious about where the final “I” is. Exploring it. Noticing new layers of “I” in glimpses. And gradually, and sometimes suddenly, having shifts in the center of gravity of what I experience as “I”.
And really, it’s life exploring itself. It’s life temporarily and locally taking itself as a local “I” and not questioning whether this is the final or most basic “I”. And then being curious about it, either through spontaneous glimpses opening up to something more, or through intuition or a knowing, or perhaps through a crisis that makes it question basic assumptions. It’s life gradually gaining an intellectual understanding and seeing that it must be life itself not this apparently separate self. And it’s life gradually inviting the center of gravity of what it takes itself to be out from the local and to the whole, to all as consciousness, and to what’s capacity for it all.
I want to add a few words about using (structured) inquiry to explore what we are. We can use forms of inquiry that explicitly helps us shift into what we already are, like the Big Mind process and the headless experiments. And we can use inquiry that helps us see what we are not, and helps us see how our mind creates a certain experience for itself of what it is (through images, words, and sensations), and how it holds onto it as true in order to find a sense of safety. Both are equally helpful and they feed into each other.
Shifting into what we are highlights our old (an incomplete and ultimately false) ideas of who or what we are. And shifting out of our old ideas of who or what we are invites in a noticing of (more of) what we really are. And it’s good, and eventually essential, to question absolutely all our experiences or ideas of who or what we are, even the most “spiritual” or “enlightened” ones, and perhaps especially those. They may still be roughly accurate and serve as helpful pointers, but if we hold onto those ideas as true and our identity, we’ll eventually need to question and see through them.
I have been interested in magic tricks since childhood. Like many kids, I had my own magic set and learned and performed the basic tricks for family and friends. In adulthood, I have enjoyed learning about the history of stage magic and how many of the tricks are done. (I have no interest in performing since that takes a lot of time, practice, stage presence, and showmanship.)
There are many great magicians, and the greatest is life itself. The greatest magic trick of all is that anything exists at all. Another is that the one appears as many, and even temporarily and locally takes itself to be separate from the whole. And the magic of life is, obviously, what allows our human lives and everything we are and do and experience. It’s also what allows our small stage versions of magic.
What does stage magic have to do with healing and awakening? Healing and awakening require us to see through some of the magic tricks of life. We need to go behind the scenes and see how emotional wounds are created, and how a sense of being (ultimately) a separate being is created.
How does stage magic work? It relies on a solid understanding of human psychology and especially how our mind uses shortcuts and fills in the gaps in our perception. The magician also makes use of misdirection, of distracting our attention away from where and how the trick is done.
The same principles are behind how our mind creates emotional wounds and a sense of being a fundamentally separate being.
How does the mind’s ability to fill in the gaps play a role in stage magic, healing, and awakening? I’ll write more about this below. In essence, the mind operates on limited information and assumptions.
A stage magician may show a woman in a box with the head out one end and the feet out the other. The box is cut in half, and it looks like the woman was cut in half along with the box. We assume the head and the feet belong to the same body, so she has to be cut in half. And yet we know that can’t possibly be the case so we feel bewildered, amazed, and entertained.
A trauma or emotional issue is formed in a similar way. Something happened. We felt overwhelmed and couldn’t process it very well. And we told ourselves scary and stressful stories about the situation and what happened. When we examine those stories, we see that they created the emotional issue, they hold it in place, and they are not accurate. There are other ways of interpreting the situation that are more accurate and kinder and allows the emotional issue to heal. (That’s obviously very simplified.)
Similarly, the mind creates the appearance of being a fundamentally separate self through limited information and assumptions. We may notice the human self operating and that it’s always here. We may not notice that we are not that (but what which is space for it). We are told that we are this human self, and others take us as this human self. So the mind takes itself to fundamentally be this apparently separate human self. It’s innocent and understandable. It happens through assumptions and the mind making use of shortcuts. And stage magic makes use of the same processes of the mind.
Let’s look at misdirection. How does misdirection work in stage magic? With the example above, there is a subtle form of misdirection that allows the trick to be believable. The box often appears much more shallow than it is. For instance, there is a bright side on the box so the box appears as shallow as that bright area. Below, there is a black area that may be set in and appears as just part of the construction of the box. The bright section isn’t deep enough for anybody to curl up in and it distracts us from noticing that there is actually a lot more space in the box than it first looks like.
More common forms of misdirection are words – saying something that isn’t true but sounds plausible. And movement – bringing attention away from where the secret of the trick happens.
How does misdirection work with emotional issues? How does life – or the mind – use misdirection to hold an emotional issue in place?
In order to heal emotional issues, we often need a combination of investigating the thoughts holding it in place, and meeting, feeling, allowing and befriending the emotions and physical sensations connected with the issue. The mind applies misdirection in order to avoid this.
It may be uncomfortable to examine the thoughts, and it’s often uncomfortable to feel and befriend the emotions, so the mind brings attention somewhere else. This misdirection takes the form of reactivity (a reaction to the discomfort) and can come out as compulsive blame, shame, guilt, defensiveness, fueling stressful stories, attaching to ideologies, anger, addictions, and so on.
And how does misdirection work when it comes to awakening? How does life (temporarily and locally) use misdirection in order to take itself as a fundamentally separate being?
Life has to take attention away from what’s here and what’s pretty obvious when it’s noticed. We are that which all our experience happens within and as. We can say that we are consciousness, and to us everything happens within and as consciousness.
The misdirection happens as soon as our mind holds any thought as true, as saying something fundamentally true about life, the world, and ourselves. As soon as that happens, the mind identifies with the viewpoint of the thought and in the process takes itself to be a part of the content of experience (and not that which all experience happens within and as). It takes itself to be a separate being, someone in the wider world.
This becomes a habit. It’s reinforced by people around us who do the same. And it’s reinforced by a lot of different psychological processes.
How is the magic trick actually performed? The main trick has to do with our sense fields (sight, sound, sensations, taste, smell, thought) and how our mind combines them into our experience of the world. As we know from mainstream psychology, the mind is excellent at shortcuts and filling in “the gaps”, and that’s (roughly) how emotional issues are held in place, and it’s also how we come to take ourselves as fundamentally a separate being (and not consciousness all experience happens within and as).
There are many aspects to this. We can say it happens when the mind believes its own stories. When it identifies with or as viewpoints created by these stories. When the mind associates sensations with thoughts (images, words), and the sensations lend a sense of reality and solidity to the thoughts (so they seem true), and the thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations.
These sensations are typically created by the mind through physical tension. This allows the sensations to either be chronically available or to become available as needed in order for the mind to perceive a thought as true. This is why emotional issues are associated with physical tension (sometimes chronic). And it’s why taking ourselves to fundamentally be a separate being inherently comes with tension and stress.
I have gone more into these mechanics in other articles. Mainly the ones related to Living Inquiries (a modern form of traditional Buddhist inquiry).
Finally, what’s the purpose of stage magic? The purpose of stage magic is to amaze, bewilder, and entertain.
And what’s the purpose of life’s magic? It may not be so different. It’s the play of life. Or the play of the divine – Lila. Existence expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways. Existence amazing itself. Existence temporarily bewildering itself. Existence entertaining itself.
Some experience an urgency about spiritual awakening. There is a sense that we have to find ways to make it happen as soon as possible.
When that happens, I suspect it’s to find peace, contentment, and a sense of arriving. And that a component of it is a wish to escape discomfort, a belief that awakening will give that, and that it needs to happen quickly because this discomfort is unpeasant and/or unbearable.
The upside of this is that it’s a “golden chain”. It can help us go more wholeheartedly into an awakening-exploration and we can gain a lot of valuable experiences and insights from that process.
The downside is that if it distracts us from our own healing, we may miss out of a path (the healing path) that will give us enough of what we want to satisfy us for a while. Often, healing is a quicker and more effective path to find a measure of peace, contentment, and a sense of arriving. Also, since it’s a compulsion, it comes from one or more beliefs, and it doesn’t work in the long run. Sooner or later, we’ll need to question the beliefs creating the awakening-compulsion in us and explore the emotional wounds in us that it comes from.
There are no easy answers in how to navigate this. Yes, the awakening compulsion comes from neediness, beliefs, and emotional issues. Yes, we can find a lot of what we are looking for through healing. Yes, we can learn a lot from a more compulsive awakening path, at least for a while. Yes, the compulsion eventually will have to go. And how we navigate all of this is up to us. We have to find our own path through it. And it does help to have experienced, wise, and balanced guidance.
At the same time, perhaps there is an easy and mostly helpful guideline. What I do is to choose approaches to awakening that also includes healing. Heart-centered practices often heal and prepare the ground for awakening (tonglen, ho’oponopno). Some types of inquiry invite healing as well as awakening (Living Inquiries, The Work). Some types of energy work do the same (Vortex Healing, although the awakening component comes in more when you are a student). Basic meditation (AKA natural rest, shikantaza) sets the stage for awakening and supports healing (although other approaches are often needed for deeper and more thorough healing). Training a more stable attention supports any activity, whether it’s exploring awakening or healing or anything else (and it does tend to bring in a measure of contentment).
So it makes sense to combine an awakening path with a healing path. The two support each other. And we tend to find what we really want through a combination of the two. And, perhaps more importantly, a release from thinking it’s what we really want and that we need it.
And is awakening an urgent matter? The dull (?) answer is that it is for us if we experience it as urgent. There is nothing wrong with this urgency. And it’s not needed. As far as I can tell, awakening isn’t inherently an urgent matter. If it was, life would have awakened through most or all beings already. It seems that for life, the path is the goal. (Lila.)
And there is a small (?) caveat here in that humanity is at a crossroads and a crisis point and the more life has healed itself and awakened to itself through a certain number of people, and the more the better, the more likely we are to get through this with some grace and with less massive collective suffering. (The crisis, if it isn’t obvious, is our current ecological crisis which requires an overhaul of our collective worldviews and systems, and also a reduction in local and global inequality in terms of resources and opportunities.)
Spiritual practices has their effects on us. That’s why we engage in them.
Heart practices opens for love and gratitude for what our human personality likes and doesn’t like. Inquiry helps undo the charge on thoughts and reveal thoughts as questions about the world and not the final word on anything. Breema bodywork allows us to find ourselves as the whole that any unease or discomfort happens within, and that makes the unease and discomfort much easier to relate to and live with. Vortex Healing as a practice, as something I do for myself on a daily basis, helps undo decades and lifetimes of conditioning. Therapeutic tremoring (TRE) helps release tension out of the body, which in turn lessens the charge on thoughts. And so on.
Each of these – at least if we engage with it with sincerity and over time – has a certain effect on our daily life.
When I talk with people, and it may be people who for a while have engaged in different forms of spiritual practice, I tend to notice relatively quickly whether or not they seem to be informed by The Work.
In general, people who have done The Work for a while, and have lived and breathed it, tend to recognize beliefs. They may still be caught in them, and they may still feel true, but they know – from experience – that they are not. They know the stress is created from holding a thought as more true than it is. That no thought is the final word on anything. That there is as much or more validity in the turnarounds as the initial stressful thought.
And through that knowing, there is some space around the thought. We don’t get as caught in it. We are open for finding what’s more true. We may even see the humor in the stressful thought. And all that before even taking it formally to inquiry.
When I talk with people who may have a long spiritual practice but have not immersed themselves in The Work, I often notice that they seem to hold some thoughts as the final or absolute truth without having the same awareness of what’s happening. Of course, there are exceptions. But I have noticed this as a general trend.
The thoughts they hold as true may be anything, and often – if they are spiritual practitioners – they may be thoughts about spirituality or reality.
As usual, this is OK and more than OK. It’s natural and understandable. It’s how life manifests locally and temporarily through and as us. It’s part of the play of life and the divine. It’s how the divine experiences itself, here and for a short while, as separate and finite.
And, of course, this – as everything – is a projection. I am describing myself. I sometimes hold thoughts as the final truth without noticing, and often these are thoughts about spirituality or reality. Including the ones in the previous paragraphs…! Although I am generally aware these are thoughts and questions and not the final word on anything.
What picture do you get when you hear that sentence?
I see a child.
And that says a lot. It says that in our culture, it’s OK to say I am scared when you are a child, but you are not really supposed to say it as an adult. As an adult, you are supposed to be angry, or sad, or grieve, or be frustrated, or happy, or ecstatic. And sometimes afraid, but that’s definitely more taboo.
Why is fear more taboo? Why does it feel more vulnerable to say I am scared? I am afraid?
My guess is because it’s more real. It’s more true. It’s more authentic.
When I explore anger, grief, sadness, and frustration in myself, I often find fear behind it. These are often reactions to fear.
My mind feels fear. It reacts to it. And that reaction can take the form of anger, frustration, sadness, or even grief.
I lose something or someone important to me. It brings up fear of being alone, of missing out. And my reaction to that fear takes the form of sorrow.
I don’t get what I want because of someone else’s actions, and I see it as unfair. I am scared because I don’t get it, and I feel out of control. And I react to that fear by going into anger.
When I explore emotional issues for myself, mostly through inquiry, fear is often at the bottom of it. (Along with my mind believing scary stories.) And the rest – anger, frustration, sadness, grief, even elation, happiness and ecstacy – come as reactions to the fear.
I can’t say it’s always this way, or always this way for everyone. But this is what I find. When I get close enough, I often arrive at fear. And that tends to dissolve the surface emotions and reactions.
My suspicion is that’s why fear is more taboo. It’s more taboo for adults to admit fear. It’s too intimate. Too authentic. It doesn’t allow for our usual ways of coping with fear through anger and sadness or various compulsions. Admitting to the fear and getting close to it allows the house of cards to fall. What’s left is just nakedness.
When I get close to fear, what then? It’s just like a scared child or animal. What it wants is to be noticed, allowed, respected, met with kindness and patience. Listened to. Often, that’s all that’s needed. (At least, at first.)
I discovered I Ching in my teens and read it over and over for the insights and wisdom in it. (This was the Richard Wilhelm translation and I think I got into it because it had a foreword by Jung.)
I also occasionally used it as an oracle although I quickly realized it mostly reflected my mind at the time of asking and less the situation I thought I asked about.
At times, I have also consulted psychics. The good ones often have good insights and pointers and pick up on what’s happening in the situation. They may also get something about the future but tend to not emphasize it, partly because it’s less useful and partly – as Yoda said – always in motion is the future.
And I too have a knowing about which choice to make. Mainly, it’s from the quiet inner voice and sometimes it’s a sense of how bright different options are. And I have seen that it works out best (more aligned, more flow) if I follow the quiet inner voice, the voice of the heart, and the brighter options.
My experience with oracles and psychics is that, at best, they can point to what I already know and help me trust it. They may also help me look at an aspect of the situation I have ignored or not taken seriously enough.
What they cannot do is tell me what to do or what will happen. And that’s as it should be. There are many benefits to the future being (mostly) unknown to us and always in motion.
One is that the future doesn’t exist apart from as images in our minds. (And these images will always be based on very incomplete sensing and information.) Realizing we can’t know the future, and that what’s here now is all there is, helps us align with reality and “live in the moment” in the sense of knowing that our images about the future, past, and present are all images in our mind.
Another gift in an unknown future is that a big part of human life is making choices, experiencing the consequences, and learning from it. That’s how we mature and grow. Also, if we knew the future the suspense would be gone. It would take a lot of the spice out of living.
Of course, we know the future in a limited way. I know that if I stub my toe, I’ll most likely experience pain. If I am kind to people, they are most likely kind to me. If I save money, I’ll have money in the bank for when I need it.
Ideas and images about the future are essential for us to function as individuals and society. It helps us plan, and it helps us mentally test out different futures and chose to invest in the ones that seem most sensible and attractive. And it really helps to know and remind ourselves that these are images. They are not an actual future. They are not “real” apart from as images. We can act in ways that make the ones we like more likely to happen. And investing these images with emotional energy tend to eventually create suffering. (Life often won’t conform and everything passes.)
All of this brings us back to ourselves. I am the one who has to make my own decisions. I have to live the consequences. I have to steer my own ship. It won’t be perfect. I’ll make choices I would have made differently with what I know in hindsight. And that’s the human experience. That’s how this life is set up. It’s inevitable so I may as well make the best out of it. I may as well enjoy it…. the unknowing, the suspense, the surprises.
Any source of information about the consequences of different choices is helpful, including my own knowing and the quiet inner voice. Any images of the future are just that, images. And embracing the reality of this, the inherent unknowing, makes it easier for me to enjoy it all.
And that brings me to perhaps the most important aspect of this. Where in me does the impulse to want to know come from? If I feel compelled to know, or find safety, or have others decide for me, where does it come from? What do I hope to get out of it? What are the emotional issues behind it? What beliefs and identifications fuel them?
These are often quite deep-seated and central issues in our lives so it’s good to acknowledge and explore them. The more I find clarity around and healing for these issues, the less compulsion there will be to know, the less paralyzed or stressed I will feel, and the easier it is to notice and follow my own knowing.
Not in my experience. They do their job perfectly. And that job is to follow our beliefs, including beliefs we may not realize we have, and conflicting beliefs.
We can say that the emotions are always “rational” in that they do their job. It’s the beliefs that not always are so rational. Although they made perfect sense at the time our minds created them. They made perfect sense in that situation and with the inner and outer resources available to us. Since most of them were formed when we were children, they made perfect sense to our child self at the time.
In that sense, even the beliefs are rational. Although they may not always appear to make sense to us and others now, in our current situation.
How do we identify these beliefs? And how do we invite them to resolve so we can live in a way that makes more sense to us now? Inquiry – The Work or Living Inquiries – are effective ways to do this, although it does take intention, sincerity, work, and often patience. And the guidance of someone familiar with how to use them effectively.
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