The rigidity of beliefs and identifications

 

Why is it appropriate to use a strong word as trauma in this way? Because beliefs and identifications are inherently stressful and – yes – traumatic. There is a low-level trauma inherent in any belief and identification. And in some situations, when life pushes up against the rigidity created through beliefs and identifications in just the right way, it can create a full blown trauma as trauma is understood in a conventional sense.

– from a previous post

There is a lot of information in that paragraph, and it may seem a bit opaque.

What does beliefs and identifications mean? A belief is when we hold a thought to be more or less absolutely true. And identification means that we are identified with the viewpoint of that thought. We – as strange as it may sound – take ourselves to be that viewpoint.

Why does it create rigidity? Because the mind goes from the fluidity of being able to consider and recognize the validity in any thought and viewpoint on a subject, to holding one or a few thoughts and viewpoints are true and real and excluding the validity of other – now apparently opposing – viewpoints. And this creates a certain rigidity of the mind.

It also creates a rigidity of the body since it needs to contract certain muscles to support these beliefs and identifications. (See the previous post for more on this.)

Why is this rigidity stressful? When life pushes up against these beliefs and identifications, it’s stressful. And life will since life is inherently uncontrained by any belief or identification, so it naturally creates situations that goes against any belief or identification.

How does this create trauma? It creates trauma, as trauma is understood conventionally, when life pushed up against the rigidiy of the body-mind in a strong way, or a way that’s especially stressful to that particular body and mind.

The role of society and culture. I should add that society and culture plays a significant role in this. Society and culture comes with a blueprint for most of our beliefs and identifications. The ones that may appear more uniquely individual are variations of themes set by culture and society.

Rigity and life flow. This rigidity of mind and body, in a sense, limits and blocks the flow of life. It limits our perception. It limits how we perceive opportunities and make chocies. It limits how we live our lives. And it even limits the mind’s and body’s natural and inherent capacity to heal itself.

At the same time, in the bigger picture, this rigidiy is the flow of life. It’s life creating this rigidy within itself. And in the even bigger picture, it does so in order to express, experience, and explore itself in its richness and in as many ways as possible. Including through temporary rigidity and what that temporarily creates.

Healing & awakening = aligning with reality 

 

Healing and awakening is all about aligning with reality – at all levels of our being.

That’s a tall order. And it’s already what’s here.

In brief:

We are a local part and expression of life. We are already reality so from this perspective, no alignment needs to happen. We can’t align with what we already are.

And yet, as human beings, we are typically out of alignment in many ways. There is room for alignment and this alignment is an ongoing process of exploration and inquiry, healing and maturing as human beings, and embodying our discoveries and realizations.

How did we get out of alignment? We got out of alignment by holding our thoughts as solid, real, and true. We aligned with our thoughts more than being receptive to life as it is. We came to identify and experiencing ourselves as a being separate from the rest of existence. (Consiousness identified in that way, and took itself to be a being within the content of itself.) And this process built on itself so we came to create wounds, trauma, dynamics leading to some physical illnesses, relationship problems, and a culture and society out of tune with the larger living world.

Nothing is wrong. It’s all life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. And yet, it is uncomfortable so at some point, there is a motivation to coming back into alignment with life so we can find a sense of home, being in tune with reality, and being more at ease.

How do we get back into alignment? We do so by noticing what we are. That we already are (this local expression of) life and a whole that always is whole. We do so by healing and maturing as human beings. We do so by an ongoing process of clarifying and embodying.

That’s the short version.

And in more detail:

Already reality. We are, in a sense, already 100% aligned with reality. We are life, this local part of the Universe, all of us is already Spirit. We cannot help being 100% reality. We are more than aligned with reality, we are reality. We are this local thinking, feeling, experiencing part of reality. As what we are, we are already reality.

Room for realignment. And it’s a tall order. It’s an ongoing process. We’ll need to face a great deal that may be uncomfortable to us, mainly because we have habitually pushed it away and seen as scary. As who we are, this human being, there is a lot of room for realignment.

Out of alignment. How did we get out of alignment?

One answer is that we, as human beings, tend to believe our thoughts. We hold some of our thoughts as real and true representations of reality and perceive and live as if that’s the case. That inherently creates a sense of separation and of being a separate being, and temporarily veils what we already are. (Life experiencing itself through this local body and these local thoughts, feelings, and experiences.) This – combined with meeting difficult life situations – is also what creates contractions, wounds, and trauma, and the accumulated effects of different types of contractions.

Another answer is Lila, the play of the divine. It seems that Existence has an inherent drive to experience itself in always new ways. The universe is life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways. And one aspect of that is creating beings and energetic/consciousness veils that create a temporary and local experience of separation. Nothing went wrong. There are no lessons to be learned, no redemption to be earned. It’s just the temporary play of the divine.

Into alignment. So how do we get back into alignment?

We get back into alignment by noticing that we already are life and whole as we are. We already are a wholeness that’s always whole. We can understand that in different ways, and the easiest may be to notice that all happens within and as awakeness or consciousness. And that’s always whole and undivided.

We also get back into alignment through healing and maturing as human beings. And by consciously living from whatever realizations we have about life, what we are, and who we are (aka embodiment).

Both of these are ongoing explorations. As what we are, we keep noticing and clarifying. As who we are, we keep healing, maturing, and embodying. And it’s not at all a linear path.

A few additional notes:

Christianity. I thought I would say a few words about Christianity. In some cultures, the idea of aligning with reality for healing and awakening is natural and comes in from birth. I assume Buddhist cultures, Taoist cultures, and many native cultures are this way.

In other cultures, and specifically Christian and perhaps Abrahamic or theistic cultures in general, it’s different. Here, nature, life, and reality is viewed with some ambivalence and perhaps suspicion.

In Christinanity, there is the idea of original sin which makes us question our own nature, we are suspicious of our natural drives (sex, eating, resting etc.). We may also be trained to be suspicious of nature and life since it can lead us into temptation. In a Christian culture, or one that was Christian for a long time, it can seem odd or questionable to want to align with reality. If we and nature is more or less inherently sinful, why would we align with it?

Maybe it’s better to push it away as much as we can? Or maybe it’s better to transcend? We may try transcending, and find it works for a while, but reality is whole so we are inevitably brought back here and now with what’s already here.

In this case, it’s good to take small steps. Try it out and see what happens. We can explore this through inquiry where we question stressful thougths and find what’s more true for us. We can also explore it through body-centered practices such as Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises where we use the natural and inherent mechanisms of the body to find healing. Through these explorations, we may see that aligning with nature and reality is healing and can give us a sense of coming home.  We gradually build trust.

Healing, awakening, & sustainability. As shines through what I wrote above, healing, awakening and sustainability are all about aligning with reality. That’s why the three – for me – are inseperable. The seeds of dis-ease, an unawakened experience, and a society out of tune with the larger living world, are all the same. And the basic remedy is the same as well – align with life and reality.

For healing, we can align through inquiry, TRE, Breema, yoga, meditation and more. For awakening, we can align through inquiry, meditation, prayer, and more (whatever helps us ripen). For sustainability, we can align with life through philosophical and economic frameworks that takes ecological realities into account (which none of the current mainstream ones do), and a generally worldview that does the same.

Psychotherapy. I intentionally left out psychotherapy from my (brief) list of ways we can find healing. That’s because psychotherapy can be healing or not depending on who’s doing it (the therapist) and the approach they are using. If the therapist’s view is inherently skeptical about life and reality, then any healing won’t go very deep. It may even be traumatizing. If their view and life is more deeply aligned with life and reality, and they have a deep trust in life, then the healing can go quite deep. Process Work is an excellent example of an approach that’s inherently trusting of and aligned with life.

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Creating and seeing through 

 

Creating and seeing through.

For me, they go hand in hand.

The creating is creating in an ordinary sense. Making a life. Being a good steward of our life. Envision. Follow through. Follow our guidance. Cooperate. And more.

Seeing through can happen in different ways, including more systematically through inquiry. This either requires some desperation and disillusionment with other approaches, or trust or intuition that life, reality, truth, and who and what we are is fundamentally OK. Or a combination of these.

Seeing through can seem scary. We need to face what seems the most scary to us. We need to feel the most uncomfortable feelings. It can take away most or all of what we relied on to find a sense of safety.

And yet, what’s “taken away” is what wasn’t true in the first place. What’s taken away is what we thought was true, and experienced as true.

This reveals what’s already here. What a thought may call presence, clarity, love, intelligence, engagement, intimacy with life. An intimacy that comes from life recognizing itself as this, and this life, this human being in the world, and the world itself.

Creating is natural. Seeing through is equally natural. And we usually need some guidance on both, especially at first.

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Kurt Vonnegut: The truth is, we know so little about life, we don’t really know what the good news is and what the bad news is

 

But there’s a reason we recognize Hamlet as a masterpiece: it’s that Shakespeare told us the truth, and people so rarely tell us the truth in this rise and fall here [indicates blackboard]. The truth is, we know so little about life, we don’t really know what the good news is and what the bad news is.

– Kurt Vonnegut quoted in At the Blackboard in Lapham’s Quarterly

The video cuts out just before the interesting part….!

Here is the diagram for Shakespeare.

Alan Watts: the dream of life

 

One of my favorite thought experiments.

Imagine you can control your dreams. The first night, you may decide to dream that you have everything that you have ever wanted. It’s very pleasurable, and you may repeat it for several nights.

Then, maybe you decide to forget that it’s a dream, while you are dreaming it. That makes it more interesting.

You may also decide to include some challenges in the dream, to spice it up. Maybe even some that seem a matter of life and death.

Eventually, you arrive at the life you have now. You have forgotten it’s a dream, and there is a mix of pleasant experiences and challenges.

After some more nights, you may decide to add another wrinkle to your dreams. Within the dream, you add hints that it’s a dream – perhaps through synchronicities or direct glimpses. These may cause you, the dreamer, to be curious about waking up within the dream. You may even actively wish for it, and work at waking up. That becomes another adventure within the dream.

And that too, may be the life you are living right now.

Tools to explore one or a few of the many facets or reality

 

There are many – innumerable – facets of life and reality.

And different practices and explorations naturally and inevitably focuses on one or a few of these.

That’s how it has to be. Practices are tools, and tools often have just one or a few functions. They do some things well, and other things not at all.

Inquiry can help us see what’s already here, and what’s not here but seemed very real initially. It can help us align more consciously with reality, which is often a big relief. It can even help us see that reality is kind.

Heart practices can help us find love for our world. For ourselves, others, parts of us, situations, life, Existence, and God.

Body inclusive practices can help us release tension, or experience ourselves as a body-mind whole, or just be more aware of what’s happening physically and energetically.

Happiness practices, as described by for instance Sonya Lyubomirsky, can help us feel more alive, excited about life, and aligned with what feels meaningful and satisfying to us.

And so on. One does not exclude another. In reality, they all work hand in hand. They complement each other. They help us explore different facets of life and existence.

I was reminded of this since I have seen some non-dual folks exclude practices that explores other facets of life and reality, for instance heart practices, or happiness practices. I assume what happens is that they (a) identify with their own practice and tradition, (b) don’t recognize that it’s tool meant to invite exploration of one or a few facets of life and reality, and (c) exclude or put down other practices or traditions which address other facets of reality and life. It’s a mistake we all can make, unless we recognize the dynamics behind it.

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Bumpy and messy

 

When I write these posts, I am aware that the way I write can make what I write about appear simple and straight forward. Reality is usually not like that. Reality is often bumpy and messy.

Since it’s that way for me, I assume it’s like that for many others too. Most people who speak or write about different practices make it seem clear, simple and relatively straight forward. That’s understandable. We seek to present it in a clear and simple way. And that doesn’t mean it’s always that way to us.

For me, it’s certainly been a bumpy and messy path, with lots of apparent detours, mishaps, wrecks, derailings, and more. And that’s part of the process too. That’s life.

Life as an experiment

 

Mind sometimes seeks metaphors for life.

Life is a battle. Life is a school.

Life is a game. Life is divine play.

All of these can be helpful, to a certain extent, and some can also be stressful.

Life is a battle. It can help us find determination and strength, while it’s also clearly stressful.

Life is a school. It can help us look for what we can learn in different situations, while it can be stressful to think I am supposed to learn something. Maybe I am not getting it? Maybe I am learning the wrong lesson? Maybe I won’t pass?

Others are more playful.

Life is divine play.

Another one is life is an experiment.

Life with capital L is an experiment. Life is always experimenting, with the big bang, making itself into…. elements and other particles, stars, light, exploding stars, heavier elements, solar systems, planets, living planets, ecosystems, species, families, emotions, thoughts, culture, civilizations, technology, drama, peace, striving, war, peacemaking, and much more.

This life, my life, is also an experiment. What happens if I do this? Does it bring pain? Peace? Joy?

Life as an experiment is an attractive metaphor for me now. It highlights the curiosity and inquiry aspect of it. And it highlights that there is no one “right” way to do it.

Taking it one step further, I can see if I can find “life” or “my life” as a solid, real object in immediate experience. Can I find it outside of words, images, and sensations? And can I find experiment, or play, or the divine?

P.S. Thanks to KL for reminding me of this metaphor today. I needed it.

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Fire & Brimstone

 

Life has some sobering aspects to it, and so does spiritual practice, and absence of spiritual practice.

Life.

Everything that can be lost will be lost.

This experience is gone as soon as it’s here, whether I like it or not, whether I try to hold onto it or not.

We inevitably get what we think we don’t want, don’t get what we think we want, and lose what we have that we think we want.

Everyone and everything I cherish will be gone. My loved ones will die. I will die.

Earth will end. Humanity will end. The Universe will end.

We are heading straight into an ecological bottleneck of our own making. We are getting the consequences of a worldview and way of life that doesn’t take ecological realities into account.

There is war. Suffering. Illness. Death.

No spiritual practice.

When mind identifies with thought, and takes it as true, we perceive and live as if it’s true. Suffering is inherent in this, and even synonymous with it.

Living from a perception of mainly or exclusively being this human self creates and is suffering.

Spiritual practice.

Awakening includes having to face ones wounds, traumas, and a very primal dread and terror.

Awakening  includes life setting up situations that requires us to live from our realization. If we don’t, we get the consequences and still can’t avoid having to do it at a later point.

Awakening requires us to chose our guidance over our shoulds and fears. Here too, we get the consequences of not doing it, and can’t escape having to more consistently living from our guidance at some point.

Seeing this, we also see that there is “no way out” but to find peace with what’s here. Allow it, and notice it is allowed. Welcome it. Find love for it, and notice it is love. And see through it. See how the mind creates the appearances, and the nature of delusion, and the nature of reality.

Also, each of these ideas are here to be questioned. Can I find the validity in the reversals of these ideas, with concrete and real examples from my own experience? Can I find life, death, suffering, illness, pain – when I examine immediate experience?

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It’s life

 

What do I perceive as existence, or life?

Is it nature? The universe with its galaxies, solar systems, planets? Clouds, mountains, rivers, forests?

Is it culture? Habit, customs, rituals, mythology, how we collectively organize our lives?

Is it what appears outside of “my” control? Life circumstances? Illness? Health?

Is it what thoughts sometimes takes credit for? Choices? Clarity? Confusion? Impulses? Intelligence? Creativity? Images? Thoughts? Feelings?

What do I at a feeling level see as outside of existence or life?

Is it true that these are not life?

A choice is life appearing as a choice. A thought is life appearing as thought. A wish is life appearing as a wish. A dream is life appearing as a dream. A sense of me or I is life appearing as me and I. Thoughts may take credit or blame for these, and that too is life appearing as a thought taking credit or blame. Mind identifies and that’s life appearing as identified mind. Mind is non-identified, and that’s life appearing as non-identified mind.

It’s not personal. And yet it’s personal in that it appears in connection with this human self, and it’s experienced as personal as soon as a thought takes credit or blame for what’s here.