Wanting what’s here

 

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

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

Why would we want what’s here?

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

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

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

How does it look in practice?

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

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

How can we find this active welcoming?

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

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

Why don’t we always notice what we are?

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

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

How can we notice what we are?

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

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

There are two elements that stands out to me.

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

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

These two mutually support each other.

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

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

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

What if we notice the shift is close?

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

How would it be to want what’s here?

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

How does the overall process look?

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

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

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

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

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

Is Douglas Harding the only one talking about this?

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

Read More

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adyashanti: To be bestows infinite worth upon you

 

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

– Adyashanti, The Inherent Meaning in Being

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

– Byron Katie

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

And yet, life may surprise us.

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

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

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

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

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

How we relate to our thoughts

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tools for emotional emergencies

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMPLIFY / RELEASE

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

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

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

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

BE KIND WITH YOURSELF

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

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

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

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

ATTENTION TO PHYSICAL SENSATIONS

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

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

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

BREATH

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

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

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

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

NATURE & PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES

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

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

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

BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF

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

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

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

MORE STRUCTURED APPROACHES

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

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

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

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

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

NOTES

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

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

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

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

Learning to follow our inner guidance

 

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

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

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

What form does our inner guidance take?

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

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

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

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

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

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

A relaxation is a yes and tension is a no.

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

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

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

So here, my inner guidance tells me to go.

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

A more spontaneous way to follow inner guidance

This can also happen in a more spontaneous way.

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

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

Noticing what stops us from following our inner guidance

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

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

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

Should I always follow my inner guidance?

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

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

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

Does it give an answer once and for all?

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

What’s the characteristics of the inner voice?

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

Photo by Samuel Chenard on Unsplash

Read More

The Treachery of Images

 
The Treachery of Images by René Magritte, 1929

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trauma and awakening

 

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

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

What are some types of trauma?

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

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

What is trauma?

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

What role does trauma play before awakening?

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

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

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

What about trauma following – or within – awakening?

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

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

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

How do we deal with overwhelming trauma?

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

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

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

How do healing and awakening go together?

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Adrien Aletti on Unsplash

Read More

Mind going to the past

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our mind’s magical truth-glue

 

How does a thought appear true?

It’s one of the things I have explored, and it’s been especially helpful to use different variations of Buddhist inquiry. When the mind holds something as true, how does it show up in the sense fields, and in particular sensations and thoughts? How do sensations and thoughts combine?

What I find is that when we hold a thought as true, the mind finds sensations to associate with the thought. The sensations lend a sense of solidity and substance to the thought, and that makes it seem more true.

It also seems that the mind tenses certain muscles to create sensations that can serve this purpose. The specific muscles and areas of the body correspond to specific thoughts, and vary some from thought to thought. (Although there are some general patterns across people, and each person seem to have some favored patterns.)

If the mind wants to hold a certain thought as true over time, which often happens, then that creates chronic tension in the corresponding area of the body.

This goes the other way as well. The thought that’s associated with certain sensations somewhere in the body gives a sense of meaning to these thoughts. If we ask what these sensations mean, the mind can typically and relatively easily come up with the answer.

When this dynamic is not noticed, or noticed only superficially, the gestalt created by the thought-sensation combination seem true and real. And we don’t really know why although we can always rationalize it and come up with a series of reasons within thought.

When we explore this dynamic in more detail, we get a peak behind the curtain. We get to see how the magic is created. And this has several effects.

Even if the thought feels true, we somewhere know what’s going on. There is a bit less certainty that the thought is absolutely true. We may hold it a little lighter.

To the extent we have explored the thought – and associated and underlying thoughts – the glue binding the thoughts and sensations together is a little more pliable and softer. There is a little more space between the sensations and thoughts.

And this makes it easier to relate to the thought more intentionally and not react to it as if it’s true. There is a little more space to relate to it differently than what we would have in the past.

Why is this important?

This gluing together of thoughts and sensations is at the center of emotional issues and identifications, so these types of explorations help with both emotional healing and awakening.

Awakening is differentiation

 

Awakening is not just oneness. It’s also differentiation.

Without differentiation, there is no awakening. At least, if we start out from separation consciousness and wish to see what awakening is about. And if we wish to actively support clarification, deepening, and embodiment of the awakening.

So what is it we need to differentiate?

Mainly, the difference between thoughts and reality. Obviously, a thought is as real – or unreal – as anything else. But what it says about reality has varying degrees of truth to it, and even the most accurate thought has no final or ultimate truth to it.

We may know this at a superficial conscious level. We may hear it and tell ourselves I know that. But the reality is often different. At some level, we – our system – takes several thoughts as true even if we consciously may know it isn’t. It requires a much deeper exploration to see this and see through it so the “glue” making these thoughts seem real weakens. (Our mind’s magical truth-glue that makes something that’s not completely true seem true.)

How is this connected to awakening?

When we – at any level – hold a thought as true, there is automatically identification with the thought’s viewpoint. We experience ourselves as the viewpoint of the thought. And that creates a sense of being something within the content of experience – within the world, and an I with the rest of existence as Other.

What the thought is about doesn’t really matter. Taking any thought as ultimately true – somewhere in our system – creates this dynamic. Although some of the core ones are thoughts saying we are a human being, a me, an I, a doer, an observer, and so on.

How can I explore this differentiation?

Through inquiry, whether natural, organic, and unstructured or more structured.

Structured inquiry can be a good way to start, and can help us go deeper wherever we are in the process. And the more natural and unstructured inquiry helps us trust our own wisdom and guidance. (Especially when we already are somewhat familiar with the terrain, perhaps with the help of structured inquiry.)

For me, a combination of Headless experiments (Douglas Harding), the Big Mind process (Genpo Roshi), The Work of Byron Katie, and Living Inquiries (modern version of traditional Buddhist inquiry) has been helpful. But there are many other approaches out there.

What about other forms of differentiation?

Yes, there is the conventional form of differentiation and discernment we need in daily life, to function in the world.

The differentiation I wrote about above is helpful for awakening and also healing for our human self. The daily life differentiation and discernment is essential for us to function in the world.

Just as what and who we are – oneness and this human self – these two forms of differentiation are two sides of the same coin.

Conspiracy theory literacy

 

I thought I would write a few words about conspiracy theories.

What’s my personal relationship with conspiracy theories?

In general, I don’t have much time for them. But I am interested in the psychology behind conspiracy theories.

How do I see the bigger picture around conspiracy theories?

Historically, actually conspiracies have been uncovered by investigative reporters or government officials. Not by smallish online communities.

What we know is going on in the world is far more serious than the topic of most or all conspiracy theories. We know we are in the middle of an ecological crisis. We know huge portions of humanity lives in poverty while others have more than they need. We know large corporations influence policies to benefit themselves at the cost of nearly everyone else. We know we live within an economic system that doesn’t take ecological realities into account. All of this deserve our attention far more than most or all conspiracy theories.

How do I see them reflecting us?

I wonder if not conspiracy theories serve emotional needs.

For instance….

Does it feel better to think I know something others don’t? That I am a part of a small select group that knows?

Does it feel better to blame someone?

Does it feel better to think that a small group of people have done something instead of social and economic structures? (For instance, economic inequality, poverty, lack of political power.)

Does it feel better to think a few humans have done something instead of the randomness of nature? (For instance, the C19 virus.)

Does it feel better to think we know instead of not knowing? (Even if we cannot know anything for certain.)

Do the scary conspiracy stories feed into a familiar identity or set of beliefs? For instance, that I am a victim? Powerless? Abused? That those in authority always abuse their power. That important things happen that I don’t know about?

And I wonder if conspiracy theories mirror something in us that deserve attention.

For instance….

What are my stressful beliefs connected with conspiracy theories, or a particular theory? Whether I believe it, fear it, or am frustrated that people seem to believe it. What do I find when I investigate these thoughts? (The Work of Byron Katie.)

What does it say about me? That I am a victim? Powerless? Abused by those in power? Smarter than those who go into conspiracy theories? What do I find when I explore how my mind creates these identities? What do I find when I explore fears around this? What do I find when I explore compulsions in relation to this? (Living Inquiries.)

How can we relate to conspiracy theories in a way that makes more sense?

Media literacy is crucial here, along with awareness of cognitive biases and emotional reasoning.

Also, as mentioned above, if conspiracy theories trigger something in us – whether we get caught in them or react to them as nonsense – it’s good to take a look at what they trigger.

What’s the even bigger picture?

The even bigger picture is that all of this is the play of life, the universe, or the divine. It’s all part of life, the universe, or the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself – also as conspiracy theories and how we relate to them.

Reminding ourselves of this can help us shift out of us vs them thinking and into all of us thinking. It can give us a slightly different context that can make all the difference – whether we chose to pursue conspiracy theories or not and whatever we think about them.

See below….

For my initial and more detailed drafts of this article. I chose to make this version simpler where the essence isn’t buried in details.

Read More

My advice is for myself

 

My advice is for myself.

What I write on this website are reminders and explorations for myself. And if it resonates with someone else, that’s icing on the cake.

Even when someone asks me for advice, I am aware that my advice is the advice I would give myself in the situation I imagine they are in. If the advice resonates and is helpful for the other person, that’s a bonus and not a given. We are all different. We need different things.

If I think my advice – whether spoken or not – is for someone else, I create an impossible situation for myself. I expect or want the other to follow it. I get frustrated if she or he doesn’t. And they often won’t for whatever reason, including that my advice didn’t fit their situation. It wasn’t for them. It was for me imagining myself in their situation – as I imagined their situation was.

I also see that most of my advice for others is unspoken. Right now, my advice for the neighbor is to be more quiet and considerate. It’s not spoken and probably won’t be spoken. And if I think it’s for him, I frustrate myself. The advice is for me. I am the one who enjoys being considerate of others and not make much or any noise. I am the one who can benefit from my mind quieting down about the neighbor, and be less noisy in my thoughts about him.

If I want to share with him that I would enjoy and really appreciate more quiet, I need to tell him. I can’t expect him to know if I don’t share it with him. It doesn’t feel right or necessary in this situation, so what’s left is my advice to myself.

I cannot go too far in seeing that my advice is for myself. But I can be one-sided. I sometimes withhold pointers or information from others even if it could be helpful for them. And that’s also not the most kind. When I notice this, I typically ask if they would like to hear what I have found helpful in similar situations. If they say yes, I’ll share. If they say no, then I am grateful they are able to say an honest “no” and I know it’s not the right time or place. (I am grateful that some of my friends are good at saying “no”. It means they trust that it’s OK for me.)

I have written this as it came to me without planning it out in advance. That means it’s more wordy and less structured than it could be, but I’ll leave it as is.

Adyashanti: You are the recipient, not the creator, of experiences

 

You are the recipient, not the creator, of experiences

– Adyashanti

Everything happens on its own. And then there may be a thought saying “I did that”.

This is an ongoing exploration and noticing for me.

Within stories, I see that everything – including feelings, thoughts, actions, identification and so on – has innumerable causes. I take one thing, find a cause, and can find one more, and one more. Everything that happens is a local expression of movements within the whole. Everything that happens has causes stretching back to the beginning of the universe (if there is one) and to the greatest extent of the universe.

In immediacy, I notice a thought happen, an emotion happen, an action happen. They happen within and as awakeness. (The normal awakeness everyone experiences.) They happen on their own.

I may also notice a thought saying “I did it” and a sensation that seems connected with it. And that happens on its own too.

I can pay attention to one sense field at a time – physical sensations, sounds, sight, smell, taste, thought – and notice how things appear in each one. They appear and vanish without a trace. (Apart from perhaps reflected in thought.)

With Living Inquiries (based on traditional Buddhist inquiry), I explore identities – the thinker, the doer, the observer, and so on.

With The Work of Byron Katie, I can explore thoughts – I did that, I am the one creating this feeling, I am the one creating this thought, I am the one who created this action.

I can also explore the thought that “everything happens on its own” and see what I find. Is there something in me that want to hold onto the thought? Rehearse it? That get more attached to the thought than noticing what it refers to? Does that thought too happen on its own?

Why projections are essential

 

In daily life language, projections are sometimes referred to as slightly out of the ordinary and undesirable. You are projecting often means you are seeing something in me / them that’s really in you.

That’s not wrong. But there is a lot more to projections and they are a lot more rich and interesting – and even valuable.

The most basic form of projection is an overlay of thought on the world. We add labels, associations, stories and so on to a lot of things in the world, including ourselves. And that’s a projection. We “project” out the thoughts and ideas onto the world, and that’s essential for us to orient and navigate in the world. We wouldn’t function without it.

Sometimes, we are aware of what’s going on and we hold our projected thoughts and ideas lightly and as questions. (As they are.) And sometimes we mistakenly take our projected thoughts as true and inherent in the world “out there”. (And that creates stress and a lot of other things.)

When I say “overlay of thoughts on the world”, it’s a shortcut since “the world” is part of the overlay. It’s really an overlay of thought on the (other) sense fields – on sensations, sight, sounds, taste, smell, movement, and so on.

The other form of projections is charged projections. This is the one often referred to in daily life and pop culture. I see something “out there” in the wider world and not in myself, or the other way around.

That, in itself, can be without much or any charge. And when there is a charge around it, it’s because it’s part of the dynamic of an emotional issue, belief, or identification. (The charge comes from our mind associating certain sensations with the thought or story. The sensations lend charge and a sense of truth and solidity to the thoughts, and the thoughts give the sensations a sense of meaning.)

Why are charged projections essential?

They are essential to the emotional issue they are connected with. For instance, when we have a belief or identity saying that we are not this or that, then we have to see it in others and the world and not in ourselves. We create a mental filter that sets it up that way. These projections are typically integral parts of beliefs, identifications, and emotional issues.

And they are essential because when we project something out in this way, we can get familiar with it “out there”. We get to see it and explore it as if it’s (only) in another person or in the world somewhere. And in that is an invitation for us to see it in ourselves.

We have something in ourselves – a quality or characteristic – that we are not admitting to. We get to see it out there in others and the world. And though that, and perhaps feedback from others and the world, we have the possibility to get to know it in ourselves.

The projection is a necessary stepping stone and part of the process.

How can we explore our charged projections?

The first step is perhaps to be aware of this dynamic and explore it through specific examples in our own life or what we see in others. (Trump does it frequently and shamelessly so he is perhaps a good example.)

We can also learn to recognize the signs of charged projections. For instance, defensiveness, blame, annoyance, and any time a topic feels charged to us.

And we can use more structured approaches like parts work (subpersonalities), The Work of Byron Katie (very effective), and Living Inquiries (based on traditional Buddhist inquiry).

How can we explore the basic projections?

We can again be aware of the dynamic and see if we can notice it in daily life. For instance, look around where you are now. Close your eyes. Notice the mental images you have of your surroundings. These are created by your mind and are imaginations. Open your eyes again and see if you can notice the difference between the sensory impressions and this mental overlay that organizes and makes sense of your surroundings.

Two of the best structured approaches to explore this that I have found are Living Inquiries and The Work of Byron Katie.

Read More

Fueling stressful stories is a form of avoidance

 

Fueling stressful stories is a form of avoidance.

Often, we think of avoidance as distraction, compulsion, overthinking, blame, guilt, going into ideologies, and so on.

And yet, avoidance can also be fueling scary and stressful stories. We make them more catastrophic and make them seem more real to ourselves. And that helps us avoid actually looking at it.

It helps us avoid looking closely at the scary stories and find what’s more true for us. (Which is usually more peaceful, at the very least because it’s more aligned with reality and we know it.) And it helps us avoid feeling the sensations of the fear in the body, rest with them, and allow them as they are.

Examining the stories and resting with the sensations is how these stressful stories can resolve. By avoiding them through fueling them, they tend to stay and perhaps be reinforced. And by meeting them and examining them, they can relax and our relationship with them can relax.

Supporting the natural healing and awakening process

 

Most approaches to healing and awakening support the natural processes of healing and awakening that seem inherent to us and life.

What are some of the characteristics of the natural healing and awakening process?

For healing emotional issues, one essential is to be brutally honest about our stressful and emotional-issue creating thoughts. Is it really true? What’s the grain of truth in it? What’s more true than the initial thought? Another is to meet the feelings, allow them, perhaps befriend them, perhaps notice them as physical sensations.

For awakening, the essence is perhaps to notice that all content of experience comes and goes, and yet something doesn’t come and go. What experiences happens within and as doesn’t come and go. Perhaps that’s more what we are than any content of experience – like this human self, or any me or I?

These processes often happen organically, although it can take time and the process can get stuck for a while. That’s why some people have developed more structured ways to support these processes.

If the structured approaches are done with sincerity and under guidance of someone with experience, skills, insights, and experience in working through things on their own, then they often work. (If we try to “push” our system to conform to whatever ideas we have about healing or awakening, it can – in the worst case – create more emotional issues and stronger separation consciousness.)

In general, structural approaches to emotional healing mimic the natural processes of a mind that’s already relatively healed – and one that operates from some sincerity, clarity, insight, and experience – when it relates to and invites in healing for parts of itself.

For awakening, they mimic the processes of an already mostly awake mind to awaken less awake parts of itself.

Here are a few examples:

Emotional healing often involves a shift in how we relate to ourselves and the world. It involves coming to terms with, find peace with, and befriending different aspects of reality. Inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries) helps us see through stressful beliefs and consciously be a little more aligned with reality. Heart-centered practices like all-inclusive gratitude practices helps us reorient and befriend. Therapeutic tremoring (Tension and Trauma Release Exercises) releases tension out of the body which makes befriending a little easier. Inquiry practices (Big Mind process, Headless experiments) that gives us a glimpse of what we are also invites a shift and reorientation in how we relate to the different aspects of reality.

Emotional healing also involves finding healing for specific emotional issues, and much of what I wrote in the previous section also applies here. Emotional issues are held in place by – among other things – beliefs and identifications, and inquiry can help us see through these. Heart-centered practices (tonglen, ho’oponopono) can help us shift out of the fear-based core of many emotional issues. Therapeutic tremoring helps release the tension out of the body that otherwise fuels emotional issues and stress. Noticing what we are (Big Mind, Headless experiments) can support emotional issues in resolving within this new context.

Awakening is a natural process, although one that doesn’t come to conscious fruition in most people’s lives. It’s supported by most of the traditional spiritual practices. Basic meditation (notice + allow) helps us notice what we are, and helps what we are notice itself. Heart-centered approaches helps us reorient in the way we naturally do in the context of awakening. Inquiry helps us see what’s already more true for us and align more consciously with reality. Inquiry practices like the Big Mind process and Headless experiments gives us a taste of what we are, helps what we are notice itself, and help us explore how to live from this context.

Since divine or energy healing is the approach I mostly explore these days, I’ll say a few words about it separately, and focusing on Vortex Healing which I am most familiar with:

Vortex Healing (VH) also supports the natural healing and awakening processes. Although it’s one of the approaches I have found that’s the most versatile and powerful, and I know very well it works from many experiences channeling for others and receiving, I still don’t have a clear sense of exactly how it works apart from the basics. It uses divine energy and consciousness to invite the body and mind to heal, and to remove energetic structures that allows the divine to temporarily and locally take itself to be separate – and this opens for awakening.

Read More

Ordinary wisdom

 

One of the things we tend to notice when we do inquiry – for instance The Work of Byron Katie – is that everyone has a lot of wisdom. It’s not reserved for a privileged few. It’s something we all have in us and can tap into and apply in our everyday life.

These pandemic days reminds me of this. I see a lot of amazing, kind, real, wisdom from very ordinary people. In challenging times, we can go into reactivity to fear, or we can tap into the wisdom that’s already here in all of us.

The Work of Byron Katie Helpline

 

A few years ago, when I was in the middle of a difficult time in my own life, I found the The Work of Byron Katie helpline very helpful.

These days, a lot of things come up for people for a variety of reasons, so I thought I would share this resource here.

It’s free and you don’t need any experience with The Work or other forms of inquiry. The facilitator you work with will help you with each step in the process. It’s a gentle process and can be – especially if you are very sincere – profoundly transformative.

How does it work? Select a stressful situation. Fill out a Judge Your Neighbor (JYN) worksheet. And take each stressful thought through the four questions and the turnarounds.

This helps us identify the stressful thoughts which, in itself, can be helpful. Sometimes, these thoughts can simmer in us without us being aware of exactly what they say or are about. It helps us see that the initial stressful thoughts may not be true or true in the way we took them. It helps us find other angles that may be as or more true for us. And through this, there is typically a sense of relief and quieting down. (If there isn’t, it’s often because there may be other stressful thoughts we haven’t identified yet.)

Through this process, we may also identify underlying – more basic – stressful thoughts, which we can then take through the inquiry.

As most or all (?) catalysts for healing and awakening, the formal steps of The Work mimics how our mind works when it is more awake and healed. It helps us find our own wisdom, answers, and what’s true for us. And if we do it regularly over time, it comes alive in us in daily life.

Fear of the truth

 

I was reminded of this in a conversation this morning.

When we believe something, we are automatically scared of the truth because the truth may destroy what we believe. That’s how it is for us as individuals, and also for us as organizations and groups.

Sometimes, we are also scared of the truth because it goes against what we want others to believe about us.

For instance, when I lived in Salt Lake City in the ’90s, the Mormons (LDS Church) excommunicated a university professor for researching the early history of mormonism (and finding things they didn’t like). What they wanted to present to others as the truth was a glorified and idealized version of their history, and reality turned out to be a little less savory.

Instead of embracing it and chose to be real and transparent, they chose to (try to) get rid of the messenger, and scare others within their church from doing similar things in the future.

Any time we believe something, we are scared of the truth. It doesn’t matter what it is or how close to reality it is. Any thought is just a pointer. It’s not the whole picture. We may see it differently, or in a different context, with more experience. And the reversals of the thought also have some validity to them.

So when we believe any thought, and hold it as a final or absolute truth, we are automatically scared of the truth. We invest the idea of truth into the thought, and We feel we need to defend the thought because reality may show us it’s not as true as we initially thought.

How can we notice when this is happening? For me, I keep an eye on any time I feel something is a given truth. Or when I feel defensive about something. Or feel a need to justify. Or find others who agree so I can feel better. Any time there is a charge on a thought, it means I believe it.

What can we do when this happens? Sometimes, it’s enough to notice this. That, in itself, may help us shift out of it and uncover the receptivity we are. It also helps to admit – to myself – what’s happening. (OK, I notice I have a charge on this thought. It feels true to me, but I know it’s not.) Sometimes, if we feels safe to do so, we can admit it to someone else. And it also helps to explore the thought through inquiry (Living Inquiries, The Work).

When I work with clients (including myself), we sometimes encounter this fear of reality. And it can be helpful – and sometimes essential – to address this fear directly before going further.

The Work of Byron Katie as shadow work

 

In a Facebook group for The Work of Byron Katie, someone asked for recommendations for how to do shadow work. For me, the most obvious answer is to do The Work! It’s a direct and powerful approach to working with projections in general and the shadow in particular.

In The Work we….

(a) Project out on someone or something else, and do so with pettiness and without much if any filter. (This is the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet.)

(b) Examine what happens when we believe the thought(s). In this process, we also get a more detailed sense of what we see in the other. (Step three in TW.)

(c) Turn the initial thought around in several different ways. This includes finding in ourselves what we see in the other, with several specific and genuine examples. (Turnarounds.)

The process helps us (a) project without holding back, (b) examine this projection, and (c) find what we see in the other (also) in ourselves.

Each step helps make the process gentler and together they make it easier to find in ourselves what we see in the other, recognize it, own it, and – often – experience relief from (finally) finding it in ourselves.

After a while, after doing this process many times, it also becomes easier to do this spontaneously in daily life. The inquiry lives in us.

What is the shadow? It’s whatever qualities and characteristics in us we deny, reject, or overlook, and see more in others (and the world in general) than in ourselves. It’s whatever doesn’t fit the image we have of ourselves or want to have of ourselves. It’s whatever it’s easier for us to recognize in others than in ourselves.

It’s often what we and our culture sees as undesirable, although – depending on our image of ourselves – it can also be qualities our culture generally see as desirable qualities. (In some cases, our own gentleness, kindness, wisdom and so on may become our shadow.)

As we work on our own shadow, the ideas of desirable and undesirable tend to soften and are recognized as our own ideas and culturally created. Even the apparently undesirable qualities and characteristics have something of value in them. By recognizing them in ourselves we become more whole and real human beings. We have a far greater repertoire. We learn to relate to these parts of us in a more conscious way and make use of these parts of us in a more conscious and constructive way. And we realize – in a more visceral sense – that we are all in the same boat.

What I see in you is also in me. And – if you are like me – what you see in me is also in you.

And that’s perhaps more important than holding onto rigid ideas of me as inherently better or worse than you.

Read More

The dream of the divine

 

Sometimes, it can seem like the world is a dream and that may be more accurate than we realize.

Dreams at our personal level

At our local and personal level, we can explore how the world is as a dream in a specific way.

In dreams, all the content of our experience – all that happens in the dream – happens within and as consciousness. It can’t really be any other way. It makes logical sense. And we can notice it when we do lucid dreaming.

In our waking life, it’s the same. All content of our experience – including our human self and the wider world and anything else – happens within and as consciousness. We can notice this through different forms of inquiry. In my case, I have found the Headless experiments, the Big Mind process, and the Living Inquiries, to be especially good at revealing this.

From this, we see that what we are is consciousness, and what we often take ourselves to be – like this human self – happens within and as consciousness. In other words, who we are happens within and as what we are.

This can seem abstract at first, if it’s just an idea or something someone else points out. We can then get a taste of it for ourselves, perhaps through inquiry or spontaneous revelations. And we can then continue to explore it and get more familiar it and allow our life to be transformed within this noticing.

If the world sometimes seems like a dream to us, it may be because it’s more true than it first seems. Just as our dreams happen within and as consciousness, our waking life happens within and as consciousness.

The dream of the divine

Similarly, we can say that all of existence is the dream of the divine. It’s all consciousness and all of existence happens within and as consciousness. It happens within and as the divine. And this consciousness – right here and now – is no different from this consciousness. It’s the same consciousness.

These experiences – that we may take to be “ours” – are the experiences of the divine. These experiences of sights, sounds, sensations, taste, smell, movements, and thoughts are the experiences of the divine. These thoughts saying these experiences belong to “me” as this limited and local human self are the thoughts of the divine.

Alan Watts’ thought experiment

I love a thought experiment from Alan Watts.

Say you can decide what you’ll dream about. First, we may chose to dream very pleasant dreams. After a while, that may get boring and we throw in some challenges, and perhaps some that seem very serious and a matter of life-and-death. If we know we are dreaming while we dream, we won’t experience the full effect of it. So we may also decide to forget that we are dreaming while we are dreaming so the dream feels more real to us.

By following this process, we see that what we end up with is the life we have now. There are perhaps a lot of good and pleasant experiences. It’s mixed in with challenges – big and small – that makes it more rich, juicy, and interesting. And we – as the divine – have temporarily forgotten we are dreaming in order to make it seem more real and make us more invested in the dreams.

The play of the divine – lila

Why is this happening? Perhaps for the divine to express, explore, and experience itself. For the divine to explore and experience its own potential infinite richness made a little more manifest.

The world can be seen as the play of the divine. And this is not a new discovery or noticing or speculation. In the Indian traditions they call this lila.

The world is real… and a dream

Our world is real in a certain way and also a dream in a certain way. That’s why I said “a little more manifest” in the previous segment.

Although there is validity to all our conventional ideas about the world and our lives, it’s all happening within a larger context that changes how we see it when this context is more alive to us in our immediate noticing and experience.

Even what we tend to experience as most physical is still happening within and as consciousness. The physical is real in that we experience it as physical and this seems to be a shared collective experience. At the same time, it’s our own mind – through combining thoughts and sensations – that gives it a sense of solidity and physicality. (How the mind creates its own experience through combining sensations and thoughts can be explored through inquiry, for instance Buddhist inquiries or a modern version of these such as the Living Inquiries.)

As we explore all of this, we may find that the world is simultaneously kind of real and kind of a dream.

All our thoughts: A human invention

 

This Christmas, a Norwegian author (Ari Behn) committed suicide. A close friend of him said he was tormented by feeling that his work was not good enough. I don’t know if that was the reason for his suicide, or how large part it played, but it was a reminder for me.

All our ideas are a human invention. All our shoulds. All our ideas about how our life should be. All our ideas of not living up to an ideal. All our “standards” that we live up to or not.

Why do we take it so seriously when it’s all a human invention?

These ideas and shoulds are not inherent in life. They are not prescribed by life or God or anything at all apart from the human mind. All our thoughts – all our words, ideas, world views, ideals, values and so on – were once created by an ordinary human being like you and me.

They are a human invention. Why take it so seriously? Why torment yourself with these human inventions?

Why take what thoughts say so seriously? They are just questions about the world. They are innocent. None of them reflect any absolute or final truth.

Of course, we are trained to believe our thoughts. For some reason, our society and culture encourages us to believe certain thoughts. I see how it’s a useful way to control people. But it also creates a lot of (unnecessary) suffering.

Why not instead teach people how to question their thoughts? Why not teach this as a Life 101 theme in school?

The most useful approach I have found to do this is inquiry. For instance, The Work of Byron Kate and the Living Inquiries.

Note: The family of Ari Behn were were open about it being suicide. The idea that it’s shameful or something to hide is another human invention, and a very old-fashioned one at that. It seems far better to be open about it. It reduces speculation. And it can generate very helpful conversations about suicide and how to support people who are going through difficult times.

Note 2: When I say that our thoughts are a human invention, it’s not entirely accurate. Yes, the content of our thoughts and what’s held as true and not was invented by someone, and reinvented each time someone decided to take it on for themselves. And yet, this is all the processes of life. Life came up with thoughts, and life came up with what thoughts to take as true and not. Ultimately, it’s all the play of life or the universe or the divine.

Read More

Billy Knapp: Uncertainty. That is appropriate for matters of this world

 

Alice Longbaugh: I never had his certainties. I suppose it is a defect.

Billy Knapp: I don’t think it’s a defect at all. Oh, no. Uncertainty. That is appropriate for matters of this world. Only regarding the next are we vouchsafed certainty.

Alice Longbaugh: Yes.

Billy Knapp: I believe certainty regarding that which we can see and touch, it is seldom justified, if ever. Down the ages, from our remote past, what certainties survive? And yet we hurry to fashion new ones. Wanting their comfort. Certainty, is the easy path. Just as you said.

– from Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the Cohen brothers

I found this exchange between Billy and Alice beautiful in its simplicity and honesty.

Uncertainty is appropriate for any idea we have. For anything we think we know, whether it’s the big picture questions or our everyday life. Any thought comes with a question mark, whether we notice or not.

Telling ourselves we have certainty about something is a way to seek comfort. In a sense, it’s the “easy” path since we can pretend to know and we don’t need to question it or explore it further. And yet, it’s not so easy because somewhere we know we are deceiving ourselves. And it’s out of alignment with reality and life may, at any moment, show that to us. Life may present us with a situation showing us that one of our most cherished ideas was not true, or not as true as we wanted it to be.

This is also why we get the preaching pattern (or lecturing or proselytizing pattern). We hold onto a thought or idea in order to find comfort or safety. Somewhere, we know we cannot know for certain if the thought or idea is true. And we probably know, somewhere that we hold onto it to find comfort. And we may, secretly, fear that life – at any time – will show us it’s not as true as we wanted it to be. If we are not honest with ourselves about this, then one way to deal with the inevitable tension inherent in these dynamics is to preach to others. We lecture and try to convince others the initial thought or idea is true so we can feel better about holding onto it for ourselves. At least, others are in the same boat. In an even more basic sense, we lecture others so we can hear it ourselves. We lecture ourselves about the importance of believing the initial thought or idea. We try to remove our own doubt, which is impossible. Doubt is sanity. Doubt is being aligned with reality. We can never completely deceive ourselves.

Uncertainty. That is appropriate for matters of this world. Only regarding the next are we vouchsafed certainty.

Uncertainty is appropriate for matters of this world. It’s appropriate for any thought and anything that has to do with the content of our experience. We cannot know or say anything for certain about this.

Only about the “next” world can we say anything for certain. Perhaps not the way Billy may have thought about it, but in another way. The only thing we know for certain is that we are – what the mind may label – consciousness.

We cannot say anything for certain about the content of consciousness. But we can say for certain that there is consciousness. That’s not only what we are but all we are, in our own immediate experience. The whole world, as it appears to us, and whatever we take ourselves to be as a human being, happens within and as consciousness.

It happens within and as what we are. And we can label that consciousness, awakeness, or whatever else we like. (Of course, the label and any ideas we have about it happens within and as content of consciousness!)

Down the ages, from our remote past, what certainties survive?

And that’s how it is today as well. The certainties we have today – collectively – will not survive. Future generations will have other certainties, and these also won’t survive.

Read More

How do we find peace?

 

There are many ways to find peace. Here are some approaches I have found helpful.

We can create a certain life. A life that feels right, nurturing, and meaningful. A life where we have nurturing relationships. Meaningful work and activities. A life aligned with our values and what’s important to us. A part of this is to heal and mend – as far as possible – any challenging relationships.

We can invite in healing. We can invite in healing for parts of us not in peace. We can invite in healing for trauma and emotional issues.

We can reorient. We can learn to befriend our experience as it is, including the experience of lack of peace (!). In this process, we also learn to befriend (more of) the world as it is.

We can find ourselves (more) as our human wholeness. As we find ourselves as the wholeness of who we are as a human being, there is a sense of groundedness and peace even as life and thoughts and emotions goes on. This is an ongoing process, perhaps including body-centered mindfulness and projection work, and the peace is of a different kind.

We can explore our need for peace. If we feel a neediness around peace, what’s going on? Do we have stressful beliefs about living without peace? Do we have identities rubbing up against the reality of sometimes lack of peace? Is there a trauma or emotional issue telling us we need peace? Examining this and find some resolution for whatever may be behind a need for peace can, in itself, help us find more peace.

It’s stressful to feel we need peace and fight with a world that doesn’t always give us the conditions we may think we need for peace. And it is, perhaps ironically, more peaceful to find peace with life as it is.

We can live with (more) integrity. Living with integrity gives us a sense of peace, even when life is challenging. Living with integrity means to clarify and follow what’s important to us, and to live with some sincerity and honesty – especially towards ourselves.

We can follow our own inner guidance. Following our inner guidance – in smaller and bigger things – connects us with an inner quiet and peace, even when life is stormy. We can learn to follow our inner guidance through experience. And it’s also helpful to notice when we connect with our inner guidance and don’t follow it, and examine what fears and stressful beliefs in us made it difficult for us to follow it.

We can connect with the larger whole. This larger whole comes in three related forms. One is the larger whole of who we are as a human being (mentioned above). Another is the larger whole of the Earth and the universe. We can connect with this through Earth-centered practices, the Universe Story, and more. The third is what we are.

We can explore and get to know what we are. What we are is what our experience happens within and as. As we learn to find ourselves as that, there is a different kind of peace. The peace of being like the sky that clouds, storms, clear weather and anything else passes through.

Each of these is an ongoing process and exploration. It’s not a place we arrive at for good and don’t have to pay attention to again.

The kind of peace we find in each of these ways is somewhat different. In a sense, they complement each other.

As for how to find these types of peace, there are many approaches and I’ll mention a few here.

To heal, I have found parts (subpersonality) work, inquiry, heart-centered practices, TRE, Vortex Healing and more to be helpful. To reorient, I have found ho’oponopno, tonglen, and all-inclusive gratitude practice to be helpful. To find myself as my human wholeness, I have found body-centered mindfulness (yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema) and projection work (inquiry, shadow work) helpful. To explore any neediness around peace, I have found inquiry to be helpful. To live more with integrity, it’s helpful to explore what in me (usually a fear, stressful belief, trauma) takes me away from living with integrity in any specific situation. To follow my inner guidance, it’s helpful to practice in smaller situations and likewise explore what in me (fears etc.) takes me away from it. To connect with the larger whole of the Earth and Universe, it’s helpful to use the Practices to Reconnect (Joanna Macy), Universe Story, and similar approaches. To explore what we are, I have found Headless experiments, Living Inquiries, and the Big Mind process to be helpful.

Photo: Flowers from Zürich ca. 2013.

Accelerated awakening?

 

If we seek awakening, we can take the traditional slow and steady approach, or we can try to accelerate it or take shortcuts. The slow approach may be “safer” than the apparent shortcuts although one is not inherently better than the other. And in either case, it’s good to look at our motivation.

Ways to accelerate awakening

We can have glimpses of what we are. Sometimes, this happens spontaneously without any apparent preparation, intention, or wish. We can also invite in these glimpses as a way to give us a taste of what awakening is. Some forms of inquiry, like the Big Mind process and the Headless Experiments, can give us a glimpse in a relatively short time and usually in a grounded way without the bells and whistles, and this can also give us more time to explore the different facets and dynamics around it.

Some also use psychoactive drugs, ideally under supervision of someone familiar with how to do it. Since this can come with side-effects, depending on the drug, I can’t recommend it and haven’t been drawn to try it for myself.

These glimpses can give us a taste of awakening and what we are, they can serve as a temporary guide (although can also be a bit misleading, especially as we add ideas to it), and they can – in that sense – accelerate awakening. As we dip into tastes of awakening through inquiry, we also get more familiar with what we are and it’s easier to notice it in daily life. And some forms of inquiry, like Living Inquiries, can help remove identifications and beliefs that typically prevent us from noticing what we are.

There is also the classic slow and steady approach to awakening. Here, we spend time with spiritual practices, with others on the path, and under guidance of someone familiar with the process. We spend time in prayer, meditation, body-centered practiced, and whatever other practices are available to us, and this provides a steady and gentle nurturing to the awakening process.

This more traditional approach is often seen as safer as it provides a lot of support and preparation work for the awakening which, in theory, makes it easier to function within the awakening if or when it happens. If done right, it also gives us a lot of benefits on the way in terms of grounding, healing, support, community, and so on. Of course, this all depends on the tradition, the community, the guide, and our fit with it and the fit with where we are in the process.

There is also the transmission or shaktipat approach. This may give a temporary spiritual opening or glimpse of awakening. Adyashanti describes this happening with retreat participants when he first started holding retreats (he stopped doing it since he found it less useful). This approach may also force the process and come with serious side-effects and challenges – sometimes because it happened a little too fast, and sometimes as the energy bangs up against blocks in our system. In some cases, energy transmissions may accelerate the process in a more balanced and integrated way.

And there is personal energy work, for instance through different forms of yoga. This can be a good way to nurture awakening, especially if combined with meditation and inquiry. As with the other approaches, it’s important to have good and experienced guidance.

These are all traditional approaches to awakening. Some cultures use psychoactive plants to offer glimpses or reality or shifts into it. Some traditions – especially in Asia but also other places – use shaktipat, inquiry, and/or personal energy work. And just about all traditions emphasize the more slow and steady approach, either on its own or in combination with the other approaches.

Personally, I have experience with all of these approaches with the exception of drugs. I have been mostly drawn to inquiry and the slow and steady classic approach. When it comes to energy transmissions, I have so far found only one that seems to be effective, predictable, and balanced, and that’s the awakening path built into being a Vortex Healing student.

Accelerated awakening and spiritual crises

An awakening process comes with different forms of challenges and sometimes spiritual crises. It’s tempting to say that the more accelerated paths come with more risk although I don’t really know. Challenges and spiritual crises seem to happen no matter which approach we take and whether our approach is slow and steady or more accelerated.

What I can say is that an accelerated path may also accelerate the crises (they may happen sooner rather than later). And a more slow and steady approach may allow us to prepare – in our mind, body, and energy system – for the different phases of the awakening process, which may make it a slightly smoother ride.

Mainly, there are no guarantees and we do what we are drawn to anyway.

Our motivation in wanting to accelerate awakening

Whether we seek awakening in the more traditional, slow, and steady way, or we seek a more accelerated path or shortcuts, it’s good to look at our motivation.

Typically, some of our motivations come from a sense of neediness, lack, and wanting to avoid suffering. There is nothing inherently wrong in this type of motivation. It can give us a drive that can be helpful for a while. At the same time, this type of motivation is inherently stressful and can drive us to make compulsive choices we otherwise wouldn’t have made.

Addressing the issues behind this slightly compulsive surface motivation – often some variation of neediness or lack – can reveal a deeper layer of motivation.

It may reveal a deeper, quiet and steady motivation that comes from – somewhere – knowing what we are.

Assumptions and context

I should mention that this view on awakening and ways to accelerate the process is based on an assumption that awakening is a natural, organic, and built-in process in all of us and – in the bigger picture – all beings. Everyone is on this path. For some, it may be far in the future and for others, it may happen now.

When it happens, there is a gradual preparation and build-up to it. It follows a similar process to a seed growing into a sapling, maturing into a tree, growing flowers, the flowers turn into a fruit, the fruit matures and eventually ripes and falls off the tree. In this analogy, the flowers may be early spiritual interests and perhaps practices, and the fruit is the awakening that ripes and matures over time.

We can support the ripening through practices and embodying it as best we can. As mentioned above, there are also other ways to accelerate this process. If we wish to accelerate this natural and organic process, it may be good to ask ourselves where that wish comes from and examine it. And it’s good to be aware that trying to accelerate, or even force, the process comes with some risks.

Finally, I want to mention that the awakening process tends to spontaneously accelerate at different parts of the process. It seems to have natural cycles of apparently slow phases and accelerated phases.

The bigger picture

Awakening is a natural and organic process. It’s what we are seeking itself, finding itself, noticing itself as all there is, and learning to live from and as it through this human being in the world.

What this looks like is a process of exploration or even a play, and many have called it the play of life, existence, or the divine – Lila.

Read More

Adyashanti: As soon as you move out of truth

 

As soon as you move out of truth, you feel it, kinesthetically; you feel it in your body when you’ve disconnected.

– Adyashanti, Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic, chapter 6

One of my current favorite ways of exploring this is the “I can if I want” test.

I can […] if I want, and I want. I can […[ if I want, and I don’t want.

Say each one to yourself and see how your body responds. Does it tense? Does it relax? (Tension is a “no”, relaxation and relief is a “yes”.)

In the last few days, I have had a slight dilemma on whether to use antibiotics or not. I try to avoid it as much as possible, but I have had an infection over several days that didn’t get better. So I said to myself I can take antibiotics if I want, and I want and noticed how my body responded, and then checked I can take antibiotics if I want, and I don’t want. The first one felt like a relief in my body, and the second tension and stress. So I went with my body, got the antibiotics, took it and it felt like a relief. (Of course, my doctor’s advice is primary in this case, but he had left it open for me to decide so I did.)

This is obviously a much bigger topic. It’s not just about everyday or life decisions. It’s also – and perhaps mainly – about the stories we tell ourselves and how we take them. Whenever we tell ourselves an untrue story – a stressful or painful story – our body tenses up. And when we find what’s truer for us, our body relaxes and it’s a relief.

And yes, I know that can sound a bit naive. Most of us would say that some true stories are stressful. And yet, this is what I have found over and over through – for instance – inquiry. The more true stories and interpretations feel like a relief. Something falls into place. My body can relax.

I have written a lot about this in other articles so I won’t go into it much here. But I’ll say that one relief-giving insight is that no story reflects an absolute or final truth. I can hold all of them lightly, as a question. And there is always some validity in the reversals of any story, and seeing that is also a relief. And we have to discover this for ourselves, by examining one specific stressful story at a time.

Why does the body respond in this way? My take on it is that somewhere, we always know when we tell ourselves something not (entirely) true, and when we take it as more true and final than it is, and that is reflected in the body. Our mind tenses up, and so does the body.

We know what we tell ourselves is not true in the way we tell it to ourselves, the seamless whole of our mind-body tenses up, and that’s a sign we are telling an untruth to ourselves and an invitation to find what’s genuinely more true for us.

Projections in the context of awakening

 

How do projections look in the context of awakening?

On a spiritual or awakening path, projections are important for awakening and healing in the usual way – with perhaps a couple of extra layers to them to explore.

Specific to the spiritual path may be projections onto spiritual teachers, teachings, and concepts related to awakening. The process of projecting itself is the usual one. We see something out there – in teachers, teachings, awakening, etc. – that’s already in here, in us. And it’s projected in two ways. One is that the qualities and dynamics we see out there is also in here. The other is that what we see out there is an overlay of imagination from our own mind. (What we see out there may fit consensus reality and what others agree is there, or not, that doesn’t matter so much here.)

So we see something that’s in ourselves – as a potential or already here more strongly – out in the world. We get familiar with it there. In the best case, that helps us find it in ourselves and what we are. And it’s the role of spiritual teachers and teachings to help us recognize what’s happening and find it in ourselves. (Of course, they don’t always do it for whatever reason – they may not recognize what’s happening or they have a vested interest in not helping students recognize and find in themselves what they project out.)

Layers of the projections

There are different aspects and layers of the projections.

We have what most people think of when they hear the word. We can call these “blind” projections. We see something in the world – in other people, situations, anything at all – that’s in ourselves, but we are mostly or only aware of it out there. These projections are mostly of qualities, characteristics, and dynamics. And the reason they are “blind” – that we only see it in others and not in ourselves, at least in the moment – has to do with emotional issues, beliefs, and identifications.

Then we have more conscious projections. We see something out in the world and are aware of it also in ourselves. This awareness can be a general awareness or more finely grained. We can always find more examples of what we see out there also in ourselves – in our own thoughts, actions, and how we live our life.

We can also be aware of the more basic dynamics and elements of the projections. We can notice the overlay of thought – of mental images and words – our mind puts on the world. With some experience, we can notice it as it happens. This helps us to recognize the projections, and it also helps us hold our mental overlay more lightly. (And not automatically assume it’s “true”.)

There is yet another layer. Projections – blind, conscious, and the mental overlay – happen within and as what we are. They are part of the creativity of the mind. If we are so inclined, we can even say it’s part of Lila, the play of life, the Universe, and the divine.

In general, projections can be a temporary apparent hindrance – or detour or distraction or pitfall – if they are blind. And they can be a great support for awakening and healing if we work with them more consciously and with some skills and sincerity. It’s helpful before awakening and within awakening.

Examples

This is all distilled and abstract so I’ll go into a few more details and give some examples.

A regular blind projection happens anytime I see something in someone else that I don’t acknowledge in myself. It’s often accompanied by emotional charge, defensiveness, righteousness, blame, and so on. And it can also be accompanied by admiration, longing, and a wish to have what we project it out onto in our life. Whether it’s one or the other or a mix depends on how our mind judges what we project.

Trump is an example for me. For a while after he was elected, my mind dehumanized him. I saw him as a liar, bigot, con man, and so on, and I felt upset and angry that people could elect someone like him. I was aware that this was a projection but I hadn’t taken the time to explore it as a projection. It functioned more like a “blind” projection, at least at an emotional level.

As I took time to explore it more, I could find the qualities I saw in him also in myself. I could – and can – find it in how I see him and his followers. (I am bigoted, a liar, a con man, etc. in how I see him and his followers, especially when I don’t acknowledge I have those qualities too.) And I can find examples in my life when I have done all of those things. I may not have done it in exactly the same way he does it, or to the same extent, but I can find examples – even if some are smaller and apparently more “innocent”.

Going through this process, I am more at peace with Trump and his followers. I see myself in them. We are in the same boat, in that sense. I don’t agree with most of his policies. I still think he operates mostly as a con man. I still see many of his followers as ill-informed and acting on misinformation. If I was in a position where it was reasonable for me to actively speak up about it and promote other solutions, I would do that. (Right now, I live in Europe and my energy goes to finding healing for myself.) And yet, the emotional charge around it for me is much less. I have more empathy and understanding. I am seeing the situation less as us vs. them and more as a larger us.

I have also experienced the other form of blind projections many times in my life. I admire and am fascinated by a woman (usually a partner). I see some people as awake – or perhaps unusually mature, insightful, and kind – and admire them and wish the same for myself. And so on. Again, it’s a process of allowing the projection, notice it, and find the qualities and characteristics I see in the other also in myself. Phrasing the projection and finding specific examples help a lot.

Conscious projections also happen all the time. I see someone as kind, and find it in myself. I see beautiful nature, and find that in myself. I see (imagine) the boundless nature of outer space and find that as what I am.

There is some fluidity between blind and conscious projections. It’s rare a projection is completely blind. And in daily life, we are often aware of a quality more in others or more in ourselves, depending on where our attention is. Bringing awareness to projections, and finding in ourselves what we see out in the world, is also an ongoing process. We can always find more examples. We can always expand our conscious identity to include more.

How do we get more aware of the basic dynamics and elements of projections? Working with projections in a conventional way brings some awareness into this. And we can also explore it more explicitly through some forms of inquiry, like traditional Buddhist inquiry or their modern versions. We typically need to explore this over and over – and bring it into daily life – before this noticing becomes a habit and second nature.

If I used Living Inquiries to explore how I see Trump (which I haven’t, at least not as a longer and formal inquiry), I would probably find some clues to why my relationship to him is charged (emotional issues) and how my mind creates its experience of him in general. I may find how my mind creates an image of Trump and this image is associated with sensations (tension) in my body. I may find that my mind has a lot of associations with this image and the connected sensations, going back to specific (traumatic) situations in my life and childhood. I may find how my mind creates beliefs and identifications in order to protect itself against him, people like him, and what he stands for. And so on. I get to see the emotional component and how it connects to my own experiences. I get to see how my mind creates blind projections in order to protect itself. I get to see how beliefs and identities are part of this projection. I get to meet and get to know the fears behind all of it.

When it comes to noticing how all of this happens within and as what I am, there are some modern forms of inquiry that can give us a taste. Big Mind process and Headless experiments may be most direct, and Living Inquiries gives us a taste through most regular inquiries into more emotional issues.

As usual, each of these points can be elaborated almost endlessly so I have given just give a few pointers here based on my own experience.

Read More

How it works: Awakening

 

I know the title is a little presumptuous! Although it’s also good to demystify awakening to the extent it’s possible.

First, what is awakening?

It’s what we are noticing itself.

What we are is what our experience happens within and as. (We can put may labels on it, like consciousness or awakeness, and those labels also happen within and as what we are.)

Usually, what we are does not notice itself. Our mind takes itself to be something within the content of its experience, and that something is generally this human self. How that happens can be described from different angles. At one level, it happens when the mind takes any story as true and identifies with the viewpoint of the story. That shifts our experience of being what we are and into something that happens within the content of our experience. We experience ourselves as an object in the world and a particular viewpoint. What this is shifts with the story our mind happens to engage with at the moment. And, as a general container, we take ourselves to be this human self. That’s not wrong, but it’s just a small part of what we are.

What’s the process of awakening?

What we are can notice itself in glimpses. More or less clearly. Out of the blue or from intentional exploration. And it can also notice itself more stably through different states and situations in daily life.

For most of us, what we are comes into the foreground in daily life without us really noticing. It can happen through flow experiences, or any time we “forget” or “lose” ourselves in what’s happening. Why don’t we notice? Perhaps because it’s so ordinary. Or not so strong. Or that we think we know what we are – this human self – and this is not that.

It can happen out of the blue without any obvious precursor. And it can also happen gradually or more suddenly as a(n apparent) consequence of intentional exploration. I’ll say more about this below.

Initially, what we are may more easily notice itself in certain situations (which is where the intentional exploration comes in). And over time, it can notice itself through changing states and also in more and more situations in daily life. It can clarify and become more stable, and this process of living from it in more situations in daily life is called embodiment.

Also initially, we may still take ourselves to fundamentally be a separate being although one that’s ONE with everything. This tends to clarify and we realize that we were never this apparently separate being. What we are just started noticing itself more clearly. In a popular phrase: it woke up of the dream of being a separate being.

What we are noticing itself is often a bit fluid and changing throughout the day. It can be more or less in the foreground and more or less obvious or clear. It’s often a gentle context for our daily life. After a while, it becomes ordinary while also somewhat extraordinary.

As a human being, we are much the same even when what we are notices itself. It doesn’t magically and all of a sudden transform us. (Although that can happen.) This means we tend to have the same emotional issues, hangups, and traumas before and within awakening.

When these emotional issues are triggered, it tends to hijack our attention and we temporarily take ourselves to be separate. What we are noticing itself goes into the background and is overshadowed by our old patterns. This is why healing of emotional issues is vital for embodiment, for living more from what we are in more daily life situations.

What’s the consequence of awakening?

The only certain one is that the context of our life changes. What we are notices itself and our human life happens within that. Our human life, in itself, doesn’t have to change that much.

In practice, our human life does tend to change. We tend to live more from the experience of oneness, which means a little more open mind and heart and from a bit more compassion and empathy and concern for the far-reaching and long-term consequences of our actions.

It also seems that awakening often starts a process of healing emotional issues. These may come to the surface to be seen, felt, loved, and more consciously included in the oneness. One way to talk about this is that the initial awakening is a global awakening, and this healing process allows more parts of us – the ones still stuck in painful separation consciousness – to awaken and align with the global awakening. As mentioned above, this is also vital for the embodiment process.

How can we understand awakening?

In my mind, there are two ways of understanding or interpreting awakening.

In the small or psychological interpretation, we can say that in our own experience, we are consciousness, and this is what wakes up to itself. Whether there is an actual human being here or an actual physical world, or whether we fundamentally are separate or not, doesn’t really matter. What matters is what we are in our own immediate experience and the pragmatics of this noticing itself and what it does for our life.

In the big or spiritual interpretation, what we are is the same as what all of existence is. All is One, or Spirit, or God, or the Divine, or Brahman, or Big Mind, or Allah. The label is not important.

The small interpretation is helpful because it can make this more approachable for people within a more conventional mindset or setting. The big interpretation is perhaps more inspiring. And both seem to fit (most of!) the data of awakening equally well.

Why are there so many myths about awakening?

There are many myths about awakening: It’s reserved for special people. It’s something unusual. It’s something very different from our ordinary experience. It will solve all our problems. We become a saint. There is something we can call a final or full awakening.

I don’t know why there are so many myths about it. I suspect it’s because it used to be the domain of certain spiritual traditions and they partly obscured it based on misunderstandings and partly had vested interests in making it appear special.

Why is it important?

It’s not for most people and that’s OK. For some of us, it’s important because it’s part of human experience. It says something about who and what we are. It does help us live in a way that’s more conscious of the whole which can help society, humanity, and the Earth.

What are some methods for inviting what we are to notice itself?

These are the traditional spiritual practices and the newer variations on these.

It can help to know the words and the theory, but this is just a starting point and initial pointer. The words are, in themselves, not important.

Training a more stable attention supports this exploration – and anything we do in life – so it’s more than worthwhile to include in our daily life. Even just a few minutes makes a difference.

Basic meditation is to notice and allow. Notice what happens in the sense fields. Allow it all to be as is. This tends to shift identification out of the observed (content of experience) and it makes it easier for what we are to notice itself. (Initially, we may take ourselves to be the observer, and then notice that this too happens within the content of experience.)

Inquiry is a great support. We can get a glimpse of what we are through forms of inquiry like the Big Mind process and the Headless experiments, and also Living Inquiries. Through The Work, we may – over time – find how our thoughts are not true which allows space for what we are to notice itself. And through Living Inquiries, we explore how the mind creates its own experience – including taking itself to be a separate being, this body, the observer, consciousness, etc. This too tends to allow space for what we are to notice itself.

Guidelines for behavior is important to reduce drama and distractions in our life, and they tend to (roughly!) mimic how we naturally live when what we are notices itself and this is more embodied.

Prayer – at least the contemplative and heartfelt variety – helps shift our identification out of the content of our experience, it shifts our attention to a much larger whole, and it creates space for what we are to notice itself.

Heart-centered practices help us reorient. They help us shift from an us-vs-them orientation to befriending the world and our own experience. Again, this creates space for what we are to notice itself, and it mimics how we naturally live when what we are notices itself through daily life.

Body-centered practices can help us train more stable attention. It can also give us an experience of our body-mind wholeness which makes it easier for what we are to notice itself.

Some forms of energy work can also support awakening. I am most familiar with the awakening process supported when we go through the higher levels of Vortex Healing training.

As mentioned above, inviting in healing for emotional issues makes it easier to live from the noticing in more situations in daily life. It supports embodiment.

Note: Apologies for this slightly disorganized article. I chose to write this without outlining or editing too much, not because that’s better but because I felt a little overwhelmed by the thought of organizing and editing it!

Read More

Do we live within a virtual reality? And the one thing we can trust

 

Do we live within a Matrix-like simulation?

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.

What is wholeness?

 

What is wholeness?

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.

Read More

The “I can if I want” test

 

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.

Knowing how one of the magic tricks of life is done

 

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.

Read More

The tree of knowledge of good and evil

 

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.”

Genesis 2:16-17

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.

The depth of popular culture

 

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?

Changing our relationship to our thoughts

 

It’s very important for me to “not think.” I do enough thinking. You can just “be.”

Ringo Starr in Parade Magazine

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.

What’s the worst that can happen if I don’t suffer?

 

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.

Monty Python and questioning everything

 
Every Sperm is Sacred from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life

I am listening to Halfway to Hollywood: dairies 1980-1988 by Michael Palin and mentioned Monty Python to my partner who was unfamiliar with them.

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?