Using spare attention for noticing, resting, healing


Through the day, there are many periods where I have spare attention. It may be after I wake up and am still in bed, before falling asleep, when I walk, shower or cook, when I use public transportation, when I rest, and so on.

During these periods, I often use my spare attention intentionally. I may notice what’s here – sensations, thoughts, sight, sound, taste, smell. I may intentionally rest with – or as – what’s here. Nowadays I often use Vortex Healing for myself or others. And in the past (going back to my teens), I have often used heart prayer (Jesus prayer), ho’oponopono, or tonglen.

Sometimes, I just let the mind do what it does in the moment and gently notice it.


Giving it over to God


For the first several years after the initial opening, my practices were simple and heartfelt. They consisted of resting with what’s here, notice all as awakeness (Spirit, the divine, intelligence, love), gratitude for whatever happened, prayer, Heart/Jesus prayer, Christ meditation, tonglen, and giving it all over to Spirit. All of these happened very naturally.

Then, I got “sidetracked” by traditions and teachers with ideas of how things should be done.

And now, I am hoping to find back to a more natural and simple approach. For instance, giving it all over to the divine.

Notice. Notice what’s here – emotions, stories, the fear or wounds behind them.

Rest with what’s here. Take time resting with and as it.

Give it all over to Spirit. To the divine.

There is a beautiful simplicity in this. It’s a reminder that all is Spirit. And it doesn’t exclude any other approach or exploration.


Ways through the dark night III


Another way of organizing some of what can be helpful in a dark night of the soul.

Head center. Inquiry into our stories about what’s happening, who we are, and the nature of reality. Seeing through these stories helps us find equanimity (no need for drama when we see they are stories), and helps us be a loving presence for what’s surfacing. Inquiring into stories about what’s surfacing (emotional and physical pain, discomfort) is a support in feeling sensations as sensations, without getting (too much) caught up in the associated stories.

Heart center. Heart center practices helps us recognize what’s here as love, and meet it as love. These include prayer (for guidance, support), giving it all over to the divine (our body, mind life, pain, pleasure), metta (to ourselves, the suffering self, and also friends, enemies, the world), tonglen (same), ho’oponopono (same), all-inclusive gratitude practice, Christ meditation, and more.

Belly center. Breathe, feel the sensations, allowing them to move through. Notice any images or words “stuck on” the sensations, and inquire into these. That makes it easier to feel sensations as sensations. Also, body-centered activities and practices can be helpful such as walking in nature, gardening, or Breema, yoga, tai chi and more.

Support. Find support from friends, family, people who are in the same process as yourself, and guides who have gone through it. Eat well. Rest. Get plenty of sleep. Drink plenty of water. Find a nurturing environment. Engage in nurturing activities. Learn about the process. (Spiritual emergencies, dark nights.) Give yourself a break, when you need to. See if you can find patience, and trust in the process.

Also, if you are drawn to it, notice what makes it difficult to do any of the things that seems supportive and helpful, and take it to inquiry.

This is obviously a very simplified outline, and a great deal more can be said about each point. I wrote this mostly because it’s interesting to see how the practices can be organized according to the three soul centers. I also see that Buddhist traditions tends to emphasize the head, while also including the heart and belly, and theistic traditions tend to emphasize the heart, with head and belly sometimes included. It seems that it may be possible to go through a dark night emphasizing practices from any one of the centers, perhaps with support from one or both of the two other.


Ways to work with the dark night


I am no expert on how to work with or relate to the dark nights, but here are some things that seem helpful to me….

First, all of the usual practices can be helpful, whatever they may be. Ethics. Work in the world. Relationships. Inquire into beliefs. (Including those about the dark night.) Allowing experience as it is, as if it would never change. Be with experience, in a wholehearted and heartfelt way, with kindness. Be with emotions, with heart and kindness, allowing them to unfold and change as they want. Tong len. Rejoicing in others happiness. Jesus prayer. And so on.

And one that is especially helpful for me now is to explore how the dark night appears in each sense field. How does it appear, whatever it may be? (Despair, aridity, grief etc.) Is it content of experience, as any other experience? And then also notice the doer and observer of this inquiry. How does the doer + observer appear in each sense field? Are they content of experience as any other content of experience?


Need a little help


Tank: Got him! He’s on the run.
Neo: Mr. Wizard, get me the hell out of here.
Tank: Got a patch on an old exit, Wabash and Lake.
Neo: Oh shit…. Help. Need a little help.
Tank: Door…. Door on your left. No, your other left…. Back door.
– The Matrix (transscript)

When I first watched The Matrix, I was touched by this moment of honesty and humanity. It is a little out of character for a hard-core action movie, but then The Matrix is more than that.

As always, it is a reminder and a question.


Verbal prayer


Some forms of verbal prayer that I find very helpful. Nurturing and opening of the heart.

  • Prayer for the well being and awakening of all beings (including myself), and also for specific beings. (Some version of “May all beings find well-being and awaken.”)
  • Dedication of practice to the benefit of all beings. (“May this benefit all beings.”)
  • Expressions of gratitude. (Including the mantra “thank you”.)
  • Heart/Jesus prayer. (“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me” said with the breath and heart beats.)
  • Songs and chants. (The traditional Christian hymnals work well here too, much good stuff there if taken a certain way.)
  • Reading poetry of well-wishing and gratitude. (Rumi, Hafiz and others.)

I do these verbal prayers in my native language, since it seems closer to my heart. And I also use each of these as a mantra, repeated in a heartfelt way over and over, often while bringing attention to the heart.

Jesus Christ


A simple way to look at Jesus Christ…

Jesus was the human being, reorganized within the context of a soul awakening (alive presence, oneness) and quite possibly a nondual awakening.

The soul and nondual awakening is the Christ part. The awakening to who/what we are at the soul level, as this alive presence, and what we are as awakeness and this field of awakeness and form inherently absent of an I with an Other.

When we engage in Christian practices, such as the heart/Jesus prayer (brief prayer with the breath/heartbeats) or the Jesus meditation (visualizing Christ in the six directions and the heart) we invite our human self to reorganize within this new context, we tap into the particular Christ flavor of soul level awakening (one that I experience as especially fiery in the heart and on top of the head), and we invite what we are to notice itself.

Heart Prayer


The Heart Prayer was very alive for me some years back, and is now coming back more.

The basic form is simple: Come to the breath and/or the heartbeat, and say a simple prayer in the rythm of the breath and/or the heart.

The words can be…

Thank you, thank you, thank you – to open for gratitude for life, allowing an atmosphere of gratitude to permeate our life, where all of life’s experiences are included.

Or more traditionally, Lord Jesus Christ (on the inbreath), have mercy on me (on the outbreath) – to open for a connection with the divine in the form of Christ and allow it to to work on our human self. The inbreath is the ascending, the inviting in. The outbreath is the decending, the surrender and letting go.

In any case, this invites an atmosphere…

of prayerfullness which awakens and enlivens the heart.

of receptivity to life, as it is.

of surrender to the divine and to life as it shows up in the present.

which – after just a few days – tends to continue throughout the day and even through sleep.

that works on our human life. Our human life soaks in it – realigns, knots unravel, we find a deepening peace with what is, and so on.