Meeting others where they are

 

As part of uncovering who and what we are, we need to meet ourselves where we are here and now. We need to take our own immediate experience seriously. Any journey starts exactly where we are. For real results, we need to be real with ourselves.

And the same goes for our relationship with others. For a real relationship, we need to be real with them about where we are, and we need to meet them where they are. We need to take their experience seriously, no matter how different it may be from our own. (If we are honest and look, we can most often find it in ourselves.) And we also need to take their intentions and goals seriously, no matter how different they may be from our own. (Any advice that comes up for us, whether about goals or anything else, is always for us, not for anyone else.)

As we treat ourselves, we treat others, and the other way around.

How do I treat myself when it comes to take my experience seriously? I don’t have to look any further than how I treat those around me.

Adding the self/other dimension to the integral practice map

 

It seems that any integral/comprehensive map of integral practice can benefit from including the self/other effort dimension.

The most clear example may be at the energy level, where we can do the work on our own through different forms of yoga, or we can receive it from others through energy transmission or shaktipat, such as diksha and the munay-ki rites.

At the physical level, we do our own work through exercise, but we can also receive different forms of bodywork.

The Other dimension at the mind level has maybe fewer clear examples, but having someone facilitate us through the Big Mind process, The Work, Process Work, or something similar would qualify.

In each case, there is a nudge or seed received from the Other dimension which we can then work with on our own and invite to unfold further.

Looking a little closer at it, we see that the two dimensions are always intertwined. Whatever practices we do, even if we do the work ourselves, is made available to us by others in many ways. We may receive support from others in doing our own practice, including through simply doing it with others. Or we may receive something from others, such as energy transmission, which serves as a seed or a catalyst, and our own work is what allows it to unfold further.

And looking even more closely, the distinction breaks down completely.

For instance, looking at causality we can find innumerable causes for any effect, reaching back through the history of the universe and bringing in its whole extent. It becomes almost impossible to pin point that boundary between self and other, because it is hardly there in the world of form.

And when we notice ourselves as this awakeness here now, we find that what we really are is already free from self and other. What we can filter as self and Other arises as part of the same field of awakeness and form, and the filtering only happens through an overlay of thoughts.

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The Work and owning the shadow

 

Through some of the subquestions, The Work helps us explore how our beliefs and perceptions are formed and maintained by culture and community and more.

For instance, asking the question when did I first have that thought? tends to bring up the whole initial context, how it came from family, society and more, and how it continues to be maintained by those around us and our culture. Question no. 4, who would I be without the thought? and the turnarounds help us see that having that belief, that identity, and that way of filtering the world is not inevitable. Other people and cultures may indeed see the world quite differently. Their experiences and interpretations may be very different from what I initially took for granted, and I too glimpse this now.

The Work also helps us work with the he/she/it, you and I dimensions. The initial statement is about Other, a he, she or it. When we read our inquiry to the one it is about, for instance our partner, the you dimension comes in. And the I dimension is there throughout.

Here are some of the ways The Work works with the shadow

  • It brings it up and out by encouraging us to find a stressful statement. Whenever there is a stressful thought, aka any belief, there is also a shadow inherent in it.
    • Often, a part of us see that belief as unacceptable, even if it is there, so we squash it and try to not make it visible to others or even ourselves. In this case, we may partly be aware of our shadow, and uncomfortable with it.
    • Other times, we may be completely identified with the initial statement and corresponding identity, so don’t even question it. In this case, it is usually a blind shadow, and we see it only out there in the wider world.
  • It works with the shadow in its many forms, as a shadow of a belief, an identity, and a group identity.
    • We work with the shadow of a belief through the turnarounds, which help us see the grain of truth in its reversals. The shadow of a belief, a statement taken as absolutely true, is exactly there, in the grain of truth of its reversals and also the limited truth of the initial statement.
    • Any belief creates a corresponding identity, at the very least an identity as someone who has that belief, filters the world that particular way, and behaves in relation to that identity (whether these behaviors are aligned with the identity or not.) When I explore what comes up through question no. 3, what happens when I believe that thought?, I explore this identity and its consequences. Question no. 4 and the turnarounds helps me explore what happens when this identity is not blindly identified with anymore, and I allow myself to move more freely among the different reversals of that identity. These reversals are the former shadow of the initial identity, and this is a way to begin to make more friends with it, bring it more actively into my daily life, see what it asks of me, and harvest its gifts.
    • And from the shadows of the belief and its corresponding identity, group shadows form. Again, through questions no. 3, 4 and the turnarounds, we get to see and explore this group identity, its consequences, its shadow/reversals, and what happens when there is a release from blindly identifying with it.
  • Through taking one or more of the turnarounds into daily life, we get to explore it more actively there as well, with the insights inquiry gave us.
    • We get find the truth in the reversals/shadow of the initial belief, live from a space holding the limited truth in all of them, and find a fluidity among them in daily life.
    • We get to find in ourselves the the reversals/shadow of the initial identity, explore how it is to admit to and live from those reversal identities, and finding a fluidity among them in daily life. What is different when I live from an identity that previously was not acceptable? What gifts does it offer? How it is to find more fluidity among them in daily life?
    • And we get to explore the corresponding group shadows as well. Which groups in my life have these shadows, and how are they expressed? What happens if I deliberately move outside of the group norms and acknowledge the grain of truth in the reversals of the belief, and maybe shift into the reversals identities? Is is accepted or not? Does it help shift the group into a wider embrace? If not, maybe I could leave the group?

The impulse to explore this in a little more detail (not that I haven’t many times before) came when I read some discussion about The Work in the context of the Ken Wilber type integral framework. Sometimes, we can be so intent on finding how things does not align with a particular framework that we miss how it does. (Not that it has to, or even should.)

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A limited inclusiveness

 

Seeing how much sense it makes to include the energy & consciousness, and self & other dimensions in our own practice, it is paradoxical how for instance CSS, which has as its mission to be inclusive, confines itself to one one quadrant: the one of consciousness and self-initiated work. Also, in terms of the aqal quadrant of one & many, and inner & outer, it again confines itself mainly to only one quadrant: one and inner. It is inclusive in a very limited way.

And although the teachers may know about and have explored some of the other quadrants, they usually don’t talk about it, which can set the students up for having limited and limiting ideas about what is possible.

This is of course OK as well. The benefit of limiting ones focus to a small area is, as usual, that we get to be intimately familiar with it. The drawback is a potentially narrow world view, and also a dismissing of practices and approaches which help us explore the terrain in different ways, and outside of what other practices may cover. While keeping it simple, it also limits.

Energy/consciousness & self/other grid

 

In talking with someone local who has done Buddhist meditation for a couple of decades, and is also a diksha giver, I was reminded of the energy/consciousness and self/other grid, and also how much I appreciate being free to move among and include each of the quadrants.

In the awakening process, we can work from the energy side or consciousness side, each supporting and in mutual influence with the other. And we can also do our own work, or have it done for us (shocking, for many in a Buddhist world view.)

Diksha, and any other form of shaktipat, is an example of work on the energy side influencing the consciousness side, and also an example of the “other” quadrant. It is something that is given to us from outside of this human self, without much or any effort on our own part.

Regular meditation and inquiry is an example of self-initiated work on the consciousness side, which inevitably influences the energy side.

Different forms of yoga is an example of self-initiated work on the energy side.

And in terms of other-initiated work on the consciousness side, I am not sure. Maybe different forms of pointing-out instructions, such as the Big Mind process, could fall into this quadrant, although these are more of a other-self partnership.

We can of course also include other levels here, such as the physical. Self-initiated work here include exercise and yoga, and other-initiated work includes massage and other forms of bodywork.

The benefit of limiting oneself to one quadrant or side of the grid is that we get to explore that one in depth. We get intimately familiar with that part of the terrain. The drawback may be slight one-sidedness, both in view and practice. We may end up discounting the other side of the grid. And we may end up being overly self-reliant, reinforcing a sense of a separate self and a “doer” that way. Or we may end up being overly other-reliant, not trusting what can be initiated from this – the human self – side.

So with all of this available to us, why limit ourselves to any one quadrant, or even any one side of the grid? In my experience, it all goes hand in hand, seamlessly, with activities in each quadrant shedding some light on the other quadrants. Each one contributing to exploring the terrain in slightly new ways.

As with any map, this grid is false and also potentially useful in a practical way.

Even if we focus on one quadrant, each of the other ones are included. I may focus on self-initiated meditation and inquiry, which in turn influences the energy, and also invites Ground as “other” to notice itself. I initiate prayer, and “other” comes in and shifts both energy and consciousness. I receive diksha, and lots of old patterns come up to be seen, and I actively stay with it and may even work with beliefs around it. Or I receive diksha, and go into samadhi, which helps me inquire into what is here now in more detail.

And without the boundaries created by this map, we see that it is all a seamless whole of awake void and form, only with appearances of I and Other, consciousness and energy. It is all the play of God, it is all Lila.

Consciousness and energy

 

I am reminded of a great article Ken Wilber wrote on consciousness and energy: Towards a comprehensive theory of subtle energies.

It is a while since I read it now, but what I got from it was a clearer sense of how consciousness and energy interacts and support each other at each level of our being, and in the awakening as well.

If we see ourselves as body (physical, chi), mind (emotions, thoughts), soul (alive presence, luminosity), and spirit (awake emptiness and form, Big Mind, Brahman, Tao), then we can find a pairing of consciousness and energy running through all these levels.

The diksha, and similar energy transfers in the shaktipat family such as Ilahinoor and what happens in Waking Down, is working at awakening from the energy side, functioning as a catalyst for changes on the energetic side, which in turn invites corresponding changes on the consciousness side.

These changes seem to happen at all levels. At our mind level, there is less being caught up in knots. At the soul level, there is an immediate experience and perception of the alive presence filtered in different ways, including the fertile darkness, luminous blackness, and as the alive and infinitely loving and intelligent presence in the heart area – the indwelling god. And at the Spirit level, there is the growing noticing of all as awake emptiness and form, absent of any separate self.

Changes at the energy side supports changes at the consciousness side, and the other way around.

This also reminds me of the slightly expanded integral practice grid, where we have our levels of being on one dimension, and self/other on the second. Some of the practices we do on our own, we put our own work into it, such as yoga, meditation, inquiry and physical exercise. And others are given to us from somebody else, such as massage, Breema, and the various forms of energy transfers mentioned above.

Together, there is our own work, and the gifts of others. Which there always is, of course, only more noticed this way.

Big Mind resources

 

I see that Ken Wilber has posted a foreword to a new Big Mind manual on his blog. Worth reading.

And I also see that there is lots of material (including online videos of talks) on the new Big Mind website. A modest monthly contribution gives unlimited access to it all.

It is good to see many of my fellow students from when I was there either continuing to teach, or now starting to teach.

(I got sidetracked from that path some years ago (being physically away from the center was a contributing factor for going into the dark night), and that loss, among many others, has been part of the nigredo and albedo of the dark night, the misery and purification.)

Symptoms, roots and subtle reductionism

 

Beliefs as the root

Through the filter of certain forms of self-inquiry, such as The Work, it certainly appears as if beliefs are the roots of a whole cascade of effects, including emotions and behaviors.

I believe that I am not good enough, make myself depressed, and eat ice cream. I believe my co-worker should be more considerate, feel anger, and try to avoid that person. I believe my kids are at a wrong track because of something I did, feel guilt and regret, and get involved in their lives far more than they appreciate.

So, of course, the thing to do then is to inquire into those beliefs, to get at the root of what is going on.

Working with the effects

At the same time, there are many approaches that work with what appears to be the effects of beliefs, and not the beliefs themselves.

I may experience strong emotions, such as fear, sadness, grief, anger, resentment or panic, or a strong sensation such as pain.

And I can ask myself can I be with what I am experiencing right now?

I can sit with it in meditation, allow it to unfold and live its own life in awareness.

I can bring attention to my body, to the weight of the body, the movements of the body, the breath, the facial expression, the tone of voice.

In each of these ways, I shift the center of gravity out of the seen and into the seeing of it. So here, there is a very real release from the pain that comes from (blind) identification with the seen.

It works, as there is indeed a release from being blindly caught up in the seen, and it helps me find myself as the seeing itself, as the witness.

At the same time, it may only work temporarily. Sometimes, allowing the seen to unfold with less or no interference in this way, and allowing it into awareness, is enough for the patterns to erode and wear themselves out. But other times, they remain and come up again, and again, and again.

(Then there are all the other ways of working with these symptoms, such as therapy, yoga, visualizations and so on. Each of these seem to work in some cases, and maybe not fully in other cases.)

Working with the beliefs themselves

So then, and especially if there is a recurrent pattern, it may be very helpful to inquire into the underlying beliefs themselves.

Is it true? What happens when I hold onto that belief? Who would I be without it?

Allowing the underlying beliefs to unravel in this way, through examining them more thoroughly, also allows its symptoms to fall away. Without roots, no trunk or branches.

Symptoms, roots and subtle reductionism

So working with the symptoms may work for a while. And it can also have other benefits such as finding myself as the seeing, and noticing the shift of center of gravity from the seen and into the seeing, and the effects of that shift.

Yet working with the roots – the beliefs themselves, is is far more effective. It gets to the root cause of it.

Or so it seems, through this filter of inquiry.

I also see that there is a subtle reductionism here, assuming beliefs as the cause and anything else as the effect, in any and all circumstances. Isn’t there also an effect the other way around? If I work with emotions, can’t that influence, and maybe even release, the belief, at least in some cases? And if I work directly with emotions, won’t that support the effects of the inquiry?

And there is also a, maybe less subtle, absolutism here. First, if we see beliefs as the only cause of stress and suffering. And maybe especially if we see the relationship between beliefs and emotions (etc.) as a one-way-street.

Supplement and inquire

In practical terms, it may make our repertoire limited to inquiry only, and we may miss out on some of the insights and transformations that can come from other practices which appear to deal more with the symptoms.

As Ken Wilber says, there is nothing wrong with the practice we are already doing, but supplement. Try some other things as well, and see what happens.

And it may also be helpful to notice this tendency to subtle reductionism and absolutism, and bring even that into inquiry. Is it true that beliefs are always the cause of stress? Is it true that I won’t benefit from working with other approaches besides self-inquiry?

Self/Other Grid II

 

The Self/Other practice or modality grid mentioned in an earlier post left out the body level.

With it, the rough outline could look like this:

Self/Body

Various forms of exercise, including aerobic and strength, and diet, sleep and self-massage.

Other/Body

Forms of bodywork, such as massage, other-assisted stretching, medicines, surgery.

Self/Energy

Forms of yoga, including indian yoga, tai chi, chi gong, and related practices such as Breema.

Other/Energy

Forms of healing and energy transmissions such as reiki and diksha.

Self/Consciousness

Forms of inquiry and meditation, such as The Work, headlessness experiments and shikataza.

Other/Consciousness

Changes in content or context of consciousness catalyzed by an apparent Other, by a teacher, Christ and God.

Interactions

This grid overlays Ground and its many manifestations, so it is one fluid whole before and after we put on this grid. This also means that through the filter of this grid, we will see interactions between each of the areas.

When I or somebody else works on my body, it has effects on energy and consciousness levels. Energy may start flowing more freely, I may feel more relaxed and/or alert, and so on.

When I or somebody else works on my energy aspect, it has effects on my physical body, maybe healing of or relief from physical problems, and my consciousness aspect, maybe an experience of bliss or clarity, maybe even glimpses of Big Mind or selflessness.

When I or somebody else influences my consciousness, it also affects on the two other levels. My body may change, maybe it relaxes and tension melts away, and my energy system may change, maybe knots unravel and energy flows more freely again.

Integral Life Practice

The Other portion of this grid is often left out of integral practice discussions and frameworks, but it seems that for it to be more inclusive, and more aligned with the what is out there and available to us in terms of practices and tools for healing and awakening, both the Self and Other sections must be included.

Deeksha & Subtle Energies

 

We went to the final deeksha weekend of our seven-month deeksha process (monthly gatherings), and it was quite amazing – as it usually seems to be.

Integral view on subtle energies

A couple of days ago, I also read the draft of the chapter on subtle energies from Ken Wilber’s upcoming book Integral Spirituality. He clarifies many things there that I have either picked up other places and/or had a sense of from own experience. Mainly that there is an energy component to each level from matter through to the causal, F1 through F9 in Wilber’s model.

At each level, there is an energy and a consciousness element or aspect, and they are mutually supportive and changes in one influences the other.

Through various forms of energy work – such as Indian and Chinese yoga and similar practices, we can change our consciousness at various levels. And through changing our consciousness – through for instance meditation and inquiry, their energetic components change at various levels.

Deeksha and energies

So with transmissions such as deeksha, it seems quite clear – as the people transmitting it say themselves – that the transmission work through the energy components at the various levels. It helps reorganize and restructure the energy field, possibly at levels F1 through F9, and this in turn impacts both our biological organization (at F1) and our consciousness. (It also seems that it functions as a seed, planted from even one deeksha and then unfolding on its own over time – according to the needs and circumstances of the person.)

This makes good sense when looking at the various typical effects of the deeksha transmission.

The general and typical (?) process seems to be…

  1. Growing sense of declutching (release from old stressful patterns)
  2. Deepening sense of intimacy with and no separation from the world
  3. Awakening to and as the witness. Shifting the sense of I from our human self to pure awareness, in which the world of phenomena arises including our human self. A sense of just watching our human self functioning as before, but not seeing any of it as personal or I.
  4. Shifting into a deepening nondual realization. Realizing that nothing has an inherent I in it, not our human self, not any other phenomena, and not even the Witness or the seer. This is an awakening to/as ground, appearing as all the forms in the world. Everything is revealed as God, as consciousness, as emptiness dancing.

My experiences

I received my first deeksha in the Bay area in June of last year, and experienced not much while receiving – but then empty light dropping into my body. The following day, I was absorbed into the Witness (F9). I found myself as pure awareness in which the whole world of form arouse – my human self and everything else. There was no identification with my human self, but still an identification as the seer of it all. This lasted for several days.

Some weeks later, it slipped into an early nondual realization. There was no I anywhere, not even as the witness or seer – just the ground in all its myriad forms, just emptiness dancing. And it was completely simple and ordinary. Nothing to write home about. It is an early nondual realization as it did not go through the sleep cycle.

This lasted for some weeks, and then shifted back to a vague/transparent sense of self. There is probably (obviously) more work to do there before the nondual realization can be more stable.

Throughout this process, there has also been periods of declutching, and also periods where quite a lot of previously unprocessed material has come up – in the form of illness (fatigue), vivid dreams, old stressful patterns and so on. It has been a good lesson in see, feel, and allow it to come and go on its own without getting too caught up in it, although that has happened as well.

The week after the initial deeksha, there were quite strong muscle contractions in the head and neck area. Each time I received distance deekshas in the following weeks (once a week), the same tension and pain came up, and then dissipated after the deeksha.

Initially, the deeksha energy seemed centered in and around the head. After some weeks, it droppen into the body. Also, at the beginning there was a sense of it coming from the “outside”. Then, again after some weeks, there was a sense of it just coming from space – from every point of space, pouring out from the ground everywhere – including within and from every cell in the body.

These are all relatively typical effects of the deeksha, although somewhat at the dramatic end of the spectrum.

Transmissions and integral practice

Here are some of the typical categories for an integral practice…

  • Physical (diet, activity)
  • Energy work (yoga, tai chi, chi gong, sat nam rasayan, etc.)
  • Shadow work (3-2-1, Byron Katie inquiry, etc.)
  • Relationship work
  • Meditation
  • Inquiry (Big Mind, Byron Katie, Diamond Path, Headlessness, etc.)
  • Engagement in the world (paid work, social & ecological engagement)

One that I sense may become more important and common in the future, obviously biased by my own experiences, is transmission – for instance in the form of Waking Down and deekshas.

Everything else on the list tends to be self-power type activities, and a more integral practice would also include other-power type activities, for instance in the energy realm through Waking Down and deekshas.

Inner and Outer Integrations

 

With our abundance of traditions, approaches, techniques etc. for exploring ourselves (as individuals and Big Mind), there is a natural integration that takes place as well. Maybe not in terms of changing each approach, but at least in terms of the cross-training they talk about in integral life (transformative) practice. We engage in several different practices, since they each have their area of focus and leave something else out. And this takes place both in terms of integral practice, and also over time – something is helpful at one period of our life, and other approaches at other times.

And this exploration takes place on both individual and collective levels.

Streams meeting

For instance, I got into Ken Wilber’s framework in my teens, a few years before living at Kanzeon Zen Center, and then learning the Big Mind process developed some year later. Since then, I discovered Waking Down in Mutuality and (apparently? possibly?) went through the second birth some weeks later.

A little later, Genpo Roshi got involved with the Integral Institute and Ken Wilber, and Big Mind met the integral approach. Today, I found an email in my inbox from Genpo Roshi recommending Saniel Bonder’s latest audio publication, and indirectly the Waking Down approach.

So what I had explored on an individual level later became connected on an outer and more collective level.

I am still curious to see if the Universe Story, Process Work, Byron Katie’s inquiries, or Breema will meet at our collective level in a significant way 🙂

Ways of meeting

I can think of three ways this type of cross-fertilization take place.

One is in our own integral practice. I do some sitting practice, some Big Mind, some shadow work, some inquiry, some Breema, and so on, and although each approach retain their integrity they cross fertilize in my being. Each one remains as they are, yet cross fertilize through our integral practice.

Another is how each of these approaches may organically change through this cross fertilization. A Big Mind instructor may also have experience with Process Work, find something valuable in process work to integrate in the Big Mind process, and this may gradually transform how the Big Mind process is done. Or a Process Work trainer may learn the Big Mind process, pick up useful aspects of that approach, and integrate that in how she or he does and teaches Process Work.

And yet another form of cross-fertilization may be the most risky and least organic. This is to have an idea of creating a hybrid out of two or more distinct practices. In doing this, the unique contributions of each may get watered down or lost.

Integral Practice

 

Current practice…

  • Breema (bodywork, self-breemas, principles)
  • Being with what is (asking myself Can I be with what I am experiencing right now? – from Rapahel Kushnir)
  • Inquiry 1 (nature of mind)
  • Inquiry 2 (Byron Katie)
  • Relationships (friends + intimate)
  • Shamata/Vipassana
  • Deekshas (just started)
  • Work (engagement in the world)
  • Social change work (NWEI courses at workplaces)
  • Nature (hiking, backpacking, some deep ecology group activities)
  • journaling (here and in physical journal)
  • Framework (AQAL model, integral framework)
  • Visualizations (health, well-being, view)
  • Exercise (walking, biking, hiking, backpacking, some strength)
  • Nutrition (whole simple foods, listening to the body)
  • Just breathing, walking, standing, sitting, talking – being and living and experiencing