Enemy images and the divine

 

Almost all of us create enemy images in our minds. It can be of ourselves, parts of ourselves, others, situations, life, God, and just about anything.  

We invest these with energy so they seem more real and true, and we identify with the viewpoint of these enemy ideas. We view the world through them. 

This creates stress, discomfort, and inner and outer conflict. So there is a built-in motivation for us to eventually, when we have had enough, find another way. 

That’s the simple and down-to-earth way of talking about it.

The other side is that if all is God, then these enemy images are part of the play of the divine, they come with the built-in mechanism mentioned above, and that eventually leads to the divine recognizing itself as the divine and all there is.

It’s all part of the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways, including by temporarily and locally taking itself as a separate being that creates enemy images of parts of the world, invests these with energy, perceives and lives as if they are true, notices the discomfort inherent in it, and explores ways to resolve the enemy-image situation, and eventually recognizes itself as the divine again and as all there is. 

How can we explore enemy images, find a different way or relating to them, and perhaps even invite them to resolve? 

In general, we do it one image at a time. We notice an enemy image and notice the effects it has in our life. We can reorient towards what the enemy image is about through heart-centered practices. We can investigate the enemy image through inquiry. We can find healing for the emotional issue(s) behind it. These are the approaches I find most helpful right now, although there are a lot of other ways to explore enemy images. 

Here are a few more details about enemy images: 

If we can form an image of something, we can make it into an enemy image.
It can be ourselves (not good enough, unlovable etc.), a part of ourselves (too easily angered), someone else (she insulted me), a group (Republicans are cynical and uncaring), an illness, a type of food, a species (cats are weird), life (life is cruel and too hard), or God (God fucked up my life). 

We believe our own stories telling us something is bad, wrong, a problem, and should be avoided or go away. We perceive and act as if it’s true. We experience discomfort and conflict because of it.

At a more elemental level, our minds associate enemy-thoughts with certain sensations in the body where the sensations give a sense of reality and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts give meaning to the sensations. Our mind can also create more chronic body contractions so these sensations are more readily available, stronger, and seem more solid. 

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The infinite wanting to experience itself as finite, and the finite wanting to experience itself as infinite

 

There is a nice symmetry in life: The infinite wants to experience itself as finite, and the finite wants to experience itself as infinite.

Spirit wants to experience itself as all the things it isn’t: finite, separate, vulnerable and so on.

And humans want to experience themselves as what they (think they) are not: infinite, one, invulnerable and so on.

The divine has gone to great lengths to set up and evolve into a universe where parts of itself take itself as a separate being that is born and will die. And some humans go to great lengths to escape just that, whether it’s through ordinary human activities (to forget, feel alive) or spiritual practices.

And this symmetry is all part of lila, the play of the divine, Spirit expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in a myriad of ways.

Note: We cannot really say that Spirit or the divine “wants” to experience itself as finite. I am just using that word for the sake of symmetry. A want sounds too much like human wants and it’s not like that. I imagine it’s more of a pull, a movement, to explore itself in as many ways as possible, including temporarily as finite. On the other hand, any human experience is the divine’s experience so the divine does (locally) want, feel, think, long, suffer and so on through and as humans and other beings.

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How the mind creates its experience of space, time, solidity

 

Our perception of space, time, solid objects and a sense of reality to them all is central to our human experience.

It can be very interesting to explore this basic perception and how our minds create it, and inquiry – for instance the Living Inquiries – is a good way to do it.

In general, the mind creates its experience of the world through (a) sensory input with (b) an overlay of thoughts (images and words) combined with sensations. And sometimes, just (b). And that’s how it is with its experience of space, time, and solid objects as well.

Space. As I am sitting in this room, there is (what my thoughts label as) sensory input about the – visual, sound, touch. On top of that, my thoughts put mental images and words to make sense of it and make it into a room with floor, walls, ceiling, table, chairs and so on. And physical sensations combine with those thoughts to make it seem more real and substantial. When I close my eyes and see images of the table, and hear the word “table”, sensations – for me now, in the front of my upper body – lend a sense of solidity to those thoughts of table.

Time. Similarly, I have the word “present” overlaid on top of this room as it appears to me now. And I see images of a timeline with past, present, and future, and certain other images and words in certain spots on this timeline. For instance, for the part of the timeline that represents “this evening” I see “6pm SETI talk with Dan Werthimer” and “8pm Tallis Scholars concert” along with “Oakland” and an image of going there with Lyft and a map of San Francisco (where I am right now) and Oakland. Wherever my attention goes, images and words pop up to create content and an impression of past, future, and present, and more generally of “time”, with a range of events placed on it.

Here too, certain sensations are associated with each image and word to lend a sense of substance and reality to them. Sometimes, it’s just enough for my mind to think to itself “this is real”, and sometimes there is more of an emotional charge to it. For instance, I remember first learning to ride my bike as a child, and see an image of my father supporting the bike, letting go, and me cycling for the first time without support. I feel sensations in the forehead and front of the belly that lends a sense of substance and reality to these memories. These sensations, along with some other images and words, tells my mind these memories are “real”, they represent – more or less – what happened.

Substance. I have my laptop on my lap as I sit on the sofa with my legs outstretched. When I close my eyes, I notice sensations on top of my thighs along with an image of my thighs with a laptop resting on top of them. These sensations and images, along with some other ones, creates an experience of “thighs” and “laptop” and thoughts that these are substantial and real. My mind creates an experience for itself of these are real physical objects.

Looking closer. When I look a bit closer, I see it’s all created by thoughts and sensations, and it’s all made up by awakeness. It’s all happening within and as awakeness. As is space and objects in space, time and events in time, and anything else – including any ideas of a body, mind, universe, life, and even Spirit and awakeness.

If we continue to explore this, with some skill and guidance, we come to see our experiences more as just that – as they happen. And that can be quite a relief. The heaviness goes out of it, and the sense of it being “real in itself”.

Notes. As usual, I have taken some shortcuts in writing about this and there is always a great deal more to say about it. Any of the ideas used here are made up in the same way, including the most basic ones and also including “mental images and words” and “sensations”.

Also, when I write about closing my eyes to investigate, it just because it helps me see my own mental images – and other imaginations – more easily. These are here also when my eyes are open, but the visual impressions tend to “override” them so they are easily noticed, at least at first, with the eyes closed.

And the mind uses a wide range of imaginations, not just images and sounds. The mind imagines all the senses and uses all of it to create its own experience of the world. It takes sensory impressions, puts an overlay of imaginations, and combine these with sensations to create a sense of reality and solidity for itself, and sometimes also an emotional charge.

This is all lila – the play of life (or the divine). This is how we can explore lila in immediacy – right here now. This is one layer in how life creates its experience of itself here and now, and it’s the layer it’s most easy for us to notice and explore, and that has the most practical effects when we do so.

There is nothing new here. Individuals from all cultures and times must have been aware of this, in their own way, with their own take on and flavor to it. These are sometimes called mystics, but that makes it sound too special and far away. This is very simple, ordinary, and immediate.

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Why is the world beautiful?

 

Why do we experience the world as beautiful?

Why do we experience people, animals, plants, landscapes, art, music, science, the Earth as a whole, stars, nebulae – and much more – as beautiful? As intrinsically beautiful?

Could it be because we are it? We are the universe experiencing itself as all of that. We are Earth experiencing itself as landscapes, animals, plants, humans. We are life itself experiencing itself as all of that. We are a product of the evolution of the Universe, Earth, and life on Earth. We experience ourselves. And we find it fascinating, interesting, and beautiful.

And what happens when we find some of it not beautiful? Could it be because we have stressful and unpleasant stories about it, and those stories temporarily shade our experience of its beauty?

In the even bigger picture, we can say that all is Spirit. All is Spirit expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in myriads of forms. So it’s only natural for Spirit to find it beautiful. Spirit – as us – finds Spirit – as the world – beautiful. And Spirit sometimes forget. Spirit – as us – sometimes tells itself parts of itself is not beautiful, and temporarily believes it, and that too is Spirit expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in myriad of ways. That too is Lila… the play of the divine.

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The veils of perception: a gift or curse?

 

When we speak about our veils of perception – the veils of identifications and beliefs – we can do so from one of two different perspectives.

One is that these veils are a problem. They hinder clear perception, they create suffering, they cause a lot of the problems we experience as humanity. And so, we may think that they are a problem, wrong, bad, a mistake and so on.

Another is that the universe and life is Lila, it’s the play of the divine. And for the divine to experience itself as limited and as separate beings, it created these veils to allow for just that experience. They are not a mistake. They are not wrong. They are part of Lila, the play of life, the divine, and the One.

Both are valid, and there is some truth to each view.

In the big picture, the veils are part of the play of the divine. They are how the divine is able to experience itself as limited and as separate beings each with their own experience, view, and perspectives on itself and life. They are how the divine is able to create an experience of drama and – sometimes – of an apparently very real life-and-death struggle.

And for us – the divine experiencing itself as limited and as a separate being with its own dramas, struggle, and perspectives – these veils are what keeps this perception in place. They do create suffering. They do limit us. They may be seen as a problem. That too is part of the play. That’s part of the divine experiencing itself as limited.

Alan Watts used a brilliant thought-experiment to give us a taste of Lila.

Imagine you can decide the content of your dreams, and that these dreams are lucid – you know you are dreaming as you are dreaming. You may decide to dream about pleasant situations and getting whatever you desire. After a while, that may get a bit boring. You may decide to throw in some challenges to make it more interesting. After some time, you realize it’s still not very exciting because you know you are dreaming as you are dreaming, so you decide to forget you are dreaming while dreaming.

What you dream seems real to you as it’s happening. That makes it more juicy and interesting. But that too gets a bit boring, so you throw in some more serious challenges, perhaps life and death situations and even dying and being born again. That’s certainly juicy, but that too gets a bit monotone in the long run. So you decide to dream that you intuit or realize you are dreaming, and wish for and work toward waking up.

That becomes a new and different challenge. It becomes the new drama. And then, eventually, you wake up. And you realize that the dreams, however real they appeared and however real the actual experiences were, were dreams. They were created within, from, and as what you are. Nobody really was born and died. Nobody was really harmed. The drama wasn’t as real as it seemed, although it certainly seemed and was experienced as real.

And that’s Lila. What we – at least many of us – would choose if we could decide the content of our dreams, is how the world is. And that’s because we are the divine living and experiencing Lila. We are the divine expressing, exploring, and discovering itself in always new ways, including through the drama of life as it is for us humans part of this living planet.

And what are the veils of perception? The expression may sound vague and general, but it can be understood in quite specific ways.

From the consciousness side, these veils happen when the mind identifies with certain thoughts and their inherent viewpoints. That’s how a sense of being a separate self is created. As soon as the mind takes itself to be the viewpoint of any thought, it experiences itself as separate. Instead of being that which any and all experiences happen within and as, including thoughts, it takes itself to be the perspective inherent in a thought, and usually a great number of thoughts. It tells itself it’s a being, a separate being, a certain being, a certain being with certain roles, identities, preferences, and so on.

From the energetic side – as described in, for instance, Vortex Healing – there are energetic structures that make these identifications possible and support these identifications. The divine creates these to allow for identification, and the aspect of Lila that involves experiencing itself as separate, as a separate being, as a separate being with identities, roles, and viewpoints, and so on.

And there are ways to explore both the identifications and the energetic structures, and invite them to unravel when the time is right. That too is part of Lila. That too happens when the divine – experiencing itself as a separate being – is ripe. That too happens through grace, which is another word for the divine being ready and ripe for it. What needs to play itself out for it to happen, has sufficiently played itself out.

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Oneness understood in different ways

 

There are different forms or versions of oneness.

All as a system. The universe is a seamless system. Everything is evolving from, within, and as the universe. In the same way, the Earth is a seamless living system, and all parts of the Earth is evolving from, within, and as the Earth. (And, yes, that includes humans and our culture, technology, and society.) Everything has infinite causes. Our health and well being is intimately connected with the health and well being of the larger social and ecological wholes. This is a systems view of oneness.

All as consciousness. In our immediate experience, any experience happens within and as consciousness. Any experience is consciousness and cannot be anything else ever. It’s form empty of substance. Any appearance of substance of solidity comes from mental images or words combining with sensations, and that too happens within and as consciousness. (Images or words lend meaning to sensations, and sensations lend a sense of solidity to images and words.) This is something we can – if we explore it skillfully – agree on whether we come from a psychological view or a spiritual view.

All as Spirit. To us, any experience is inevitably consciousness. But is reality in itself – the whole universe – consciousness? (Or Spirit, Brahman, Buddha Mind, Allah, God.) It certainly appears that way to us, but that doesn’t mean it – in itself – is. As with anything else, we cannot know for certain. We can say that there are hints that everything, in itself, is consciousness, including synchronicities, various forms of ESP and knowing, and perhaps distance healing. But, in fairness, these can be interpreted other ways as well.

Is it so obvious? I have assumed that it’s obvious that all our experience happens within and as consciousness. I know that to many, the world appears to be made up of solid and substantial “things” that exist “out there” in the world. And yet, within one session of Living Inquiries, guided by a skilled facilitator, we can all have a taste of how the mind creates its own world. And that all of it happens within and as consciousness. A brief exploration will typically reveal it, even if most will revert to the “solid objects in a real world” experience afterward.

My view? To me, each of these three forms of oneness seems valid and useful. The systems view helps us organize ourselves so we are more aligned with reality, and it can also open for awe, gratitude, and humility, and a deep sense of belonging. The second helps relieve stress from recognizing how the mind creates its own experience. And although the third is perhaps a less needed addition, it does help us function in a more sane and mature way in the world.

Play of the divine. These three forms of oneness have an additional component for me. And that’s lila – the play of life, the mind, or the divine. From a systems view, the universe is the play of life. From the second view, our experience is the play of the mind. And from the third view, all of existence is the play of the divine. It’s life, the mind, or the divine, expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in a great multitude of ways. There is perhaps no ultimate “goal” to it all apart from the play itself, and that’s perhaps enough. Of course, within this play, there are apparent sub-“goals” or stepping stones, but it’s all happening within and as the play.

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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.

How difficult things look from the perspective of awakening

 

How do difficult things look from the perspective of awakening?

How do tragedies look? Loss of all kinds, whether personal or collective?

It depends, of course. It depends on the level of clarity. It depends on how embodied and lived that clarity is. It depends on conditioning, tradition, and culture, both in how it’s perceived and expressed.

Here are a few things from my own experience.

It’s lila. The play of the divine. It’s all the divine – or life, the Universe – exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself.

It’s all Spirit. It’s happening within and as what we are and everything is. It’s happening within and as (what we may call) awakeness, consciousness, love, wisdom.

It’s not what it looks like. Partly because of lila. Partly because the way it looks, in a conventional sense, is filtered and created by believing stories and being identified with identities and stories. And many of these stories, especially when it comes to loss, are stressful.

When we examine these stressful stories, we may find that reality is kind. (As Byron Katie often points out.) And we can find this for ourselves, even in small ways, through inquiries such as The Work.

When it happens to someone else, there is empathy. We know very well how painful and distressing human experiences can be. We know from our own experience. We wish to be present with others going through it. We wish to be human with others. If appropriate and possible, we wish to alleviate the suffering. That’s all very natural.

And when something diffcult happens in our own life, we wish the same. To be present with what’s here as it is. To recognize the suffering as very natural. Recognize it as the play of the divine, and as Spirit. And if appropriate and possible, to alleviate the suffering. (In our own case, through presence, inquiry, love, and more.)

Mainly, it looks very human. In the best case, it looks like clarity and maturity in a very human way.

In other cases, our own wounds – areas in us not yet healed or on board with the clarity – are triggered and we act from these wounds and lack of clarity.

Often, there is a mix. There is clarity and lack of clarity. And that too is very human.

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Core, ground, periphery

 

Here is one way to map out the discomfort/suffering dynamic.

Core. The core is identifications and beliefs. It’s holding stories as true and real, and this has energetic, emotional, mental, perceptual, and lived components. It’s reflected in all our human levels of being, in how we perceive, and how we live.

Periphery. These are the consequences of the identifications and beliefs. They include additional beliefs that support the initial ones, reactions towards the pain created by the initial beliefs, reactions towards the life situations the initial beliefs brings us into, and more. There is sometimes a great deal of these more peripheral beliefs, and they in themselves can become core beliefs for additional ones.

Ground. The ground is what we are and everything are, aka consciousness and love.

Identification means identification with or as the viewpoint of a thought. We hold it as real, and perceive and live as if it’s real. This creates a sense of separation. It also creates discomfort and even suffering since it’s out of alignment with reality. Life and reality rubs up against our beliefs and identifications, and this is uncomfortable.

Say there is a belief that there is a separate self. This can have a more peripheral belief that this separate self is unlovable. And this in itself becomes a core belief for a constellation of other beliefs, for instance that I need to seek love by doing what I think other people want me to do, and that her look means she doesn’t like me and that is terrible. All of this creates discomfort and suffering.

And that discomfort is an invitation to – eventually – examine more closely what’s happening and find more clarity and release from it. And that will eventually lead Spirit to recognize itself – and all there is – as consciousness and love.

Why is all this happening? We can see it from a few different perspectives.

At a human level, we can see the formation of the initial beliefs and identification as mimicking the adults in our life. We take on what we see our parents and others doing. It’s a form of love. It’s a form of taking care of ourselves. It’s innocence.

At a multiple-life perspective, we can see it as a habit that is passed on over lifetimes.

At a Spirit perspective, we can see it as Lila, the play of the divine. The universe – and our experience – is the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways. And this includes temporarily experiencing itself as separate, as a separate being. It’s part of the play.

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The dramatic flow of our lives

 

Dramaturgy is the study of dramatic composition and the representation of the main elements of drama on the stage.

Wikipedia

I have been listening to the Norwegian (VG) broadcast of the world chess championship between Magnus Carlsen and Sergej Karjakin. The commentators will sometimes talk about the dramaturgy of the match. The dramatic flow of the twelve games making up the championship. (They both make mistakes, sometimes missed by the other, the underdog finally won a game, then the current champion, and they are now even before the final game tomorrow.)

Our life has a dramatic flow and composition as well. And sometimes, it can be helpful to step back and see it that way. Whether things go “our way” or not, we can at least appreciate the dramatic flow. I find that quite helpful.

This is a more western way of talking about lila, life as the play of the divine. It’s a more limited view but perhaps more accessible to many.

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A purpose to life?

 

Some talk about a purpose to life (external to what we make up for ourselves), or of life as a “school”, or a series of tests, or perhaps having a goal we may miss or not.

I see how each of those can be helpful for a while, but they are also inherently stressful. They are stressful because they assume we either pass the test or not, or fulfill the purpose or not, or reach the goal or not. They are additionally stressful because if we believe those stories we believe stories that we cannot know for sure are true. Trying to take them as true while knowing we don’t know for certain is inherently uncomfortable. And they are stressful because we may think we need to push away the grain of truth in any stories that appear incongruous with the one we try to hold as true.

Our minds are fundamentally honest. It knows when we try to deceive ourselves in the ways described above. And that’s discrepany is inherently stressful and uncomfortable.

Ther is a story that makes more sense to me and is far less stressful. And that’s the story of life as lila, as divine play. We can still use the stories of goals, tests, or purposes if they seem helpful, although these stories are seen in the context of the play. We can still grow, mature, and heal, and that too is part of the play. We can even believe stories, and that happens as part of the play.

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Why do I feel the way I do?

 

A friend of mine asked in a Facebook update why do I feel the way I do? 

That’s probably a question many of us have.

I’ll say a few words about it through the lens of Living Inquiries, since that’s what I am exploring most these days.

Through looking at the images and words connected with the sensations, and feeling the sensations, we get to see how the mind creates the experience of whatever we are feeling. We get to see and recognize the components, and how it makes up a certain experience. That’s one answer to why we are feeling the way we do.

As part of it, we get to see the many associations to the feeling, including perhaps fears or hopes about the future, and painful or joyful images about the past. We may even get some hints about how this identification (velcro) was created way back in time, perhaps even early childhood. (That’s not so important in itself, but the images, words, and sensations making up those early stories are.) That’s another answer.

Using another approach, I can see this part of my experience as a being, and have a dialog with it, or hold satsang with it. I can ask it who it is. What it’s doing here. How it sees me. How it would like me to relate to it. What would satisfy it forever. And more.

We can also answer the question other ways. For instance, whatever I am feeling is an invitation to rest with it, find love for it, and ask some simple questions about it to see what’s really there. (Especially if the experience is uncomfortable, but even when it’s not.) It’s an invitation to recognize it as an individual expression of a more universal pattern, something shared by most or (almost) all human beings, and perhaps also other beings. It’s an invitation to be more honest with myself, and perhaps others, about what’s really here. It’s an invitation to meet it with kindness in myself, and even others when I (imagine I) see it there. It’s an invitation to heal and mature.

And, it’s an expression of life. It’s life – the Universe, Existence – expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself. It’s the play of life.

Dark forces?

 

Here in Europe, I have come across a couple of people who talk about “dark forces” or entities, and claim to have seen them.

It’s quite possible that something may appear as dark forces, and yet…..

It’s so easily a distraction. It can be made into a belief, which in turn can be stressful and misleading. It can put a cause out there and a victim here.

Here are some other ways of looking at it, which may be more helpful:

It’s all lila – the play of life (AKA the divine). The appearances, our interpretations and everything else.

It’s all happening within and as what we are (AKA awareness, capacity).

It’s all unfindable. I cannot find it – forces, entities, dark, light, causes, outside, inside, me – outside of words, images and sensations.

It’s a projection. Whatever I see “out there” is also here. I can take any story I have about what’s out there, and find how it’s true for me too. I can find a specific example of how it’s true for me, and then another, and another.

None of this is saying that what can appear as dark forces/entities doesn’t exist. That question is not so relevant in this context. (Although it could be interesting as a research topic.) What’s more interesting to me, is what’s more true. And for me, that’s lila, that it’s happening as what I am, that it’s – all of it – unfindable, and that I can find in me and here what I see “out there”.

There are also other stories about this that are as or more true, at least for me, than the standard ones I have heard. For instance, it’s all love.

These forces reflect back to me what’s here, helping me to see it and take responsibility for it, and that’s love.

It’s (unquestioned, unloved) fear and wounds in me that makes me behave in ways that may appear dark and self-destructive. These parts of me wants to protect me, and that’s love.

I can hold these parts of me in quiet presence and love. That’s the invitation, and – in a sense – what they seek and wish for.

In all of these ways, it’s really love. It’s love all around. (It may seem scary, and the opposite of love, before it’s met with curiosity and love, before it’s questioned and loved.)

A final thing here: This is not condoning any harmful or hurtful action. To the contrary, this allows for a more clear and wise action, including saying “no” to certain behaviors. I can find presence and love for hurt and wounded parts of me, and that makes it more possible for me to not act on them in hurtful ways. (Not that it’s always that easy or straight forward. There is often a confused phase before the way I relate to these hurts and wounds heal, and perhaps they heal too.)

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If I could decide the content of my own dreams

 

As I woke this morning, this question returned to me:

How would it be if I was aware of dreaming while dreaming? What would I do if I could decide the content of my own dreams? Would my choices change over time?

Most of us would probably first go for our “dream” life. All our goals met. Our wishes fulfilled. Perhaps an easy and interesting life, in a house at a nice location, with some travel, and shared with good friends and family.

It would get predictable and slightly boring after a while, so why not add unpredictability, surprise, and some challenges? It would helps us stay alert and interested, and help us push our boundaries and discover new things about ourselves and the world.

But even that may get slightly boring after a while. After all, we know it is a dream. The challenges are no more real for us than the ones we watch in a movie or read in a book. The stakes are not very high. How can we raise the stakes and make it more interesting? By forgetting that we are dreaming.

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The benefits of belief

 

What are some of the benefits of belief? Of taking a story as true? Of identifying with its viewpoint and the identity that comes from it?

One obvious benefit is that it helps channel attention and action, often with an element of compulsiveness.

We also get to explore what is inside of the story, the world and options available within that story.

We get to notice what happens when we take a story as true, the dynamics of taking a story as true.

We get to filter the world in a particular way, adding to the richness of experience.

We get to filter the world through a sense of an I with an other, and also the viewpoint of the story and its corresponding identity.

Of course, most of this can happen when we use a story as guide for attention and action, even if it is not taken as true. We can still use it to channel attention and action, we still get to explore the world through its viewpoint and identities. We still get to add to the richness of experience through it.

The difference is the drama and reality that comes when the story is taken as true. The story and what it creates – including a sense of a separate I – seems real and substantial, and we act as if it is. And that is the unique benefit of believing a story.

What otherwise may appear as a game (lila) is now taken as a real death-and-life drama. That is the real and juicy gift of beliefs.

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The mistake

 

There is a core mistake in most of our lives: We take stories as true, including the basic story of a separate I in whatever form it takes, for instance as a doer and observer.

And yet, that mistake is not a mistake. It has infinite causes. And it is part of the play of God, another way for God to explore and experience itself. How else would God experience itself as finite? How else would God experience drama, and being completely caught up in drama? How else would God experience the drama of seeking and eventually “finding” itself?

The initial mistake only appears as a real mistake when stories are taken as true….

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A thought experiment: What if could chose content of dreams?

 

I keep coming back to this one as well…

Alan Watts suggested this exploration:

What if I could chose the content of my dreams, and each dream contained lifetimes of experiences, what type of dreams would I chose?

I may start out with choosing to get everything I want. (Everything my personality wants). Wealth. Leisure. Success. Security. Tropical beaches. Intimacy. Pleasure. Happiness.

After a while, that may get a little boring and stale, so I would introduce something to spice it up, maybe some light challenges. Some minor snakes in the paradise.

But knowing that it is a dream makes these challenges less interesting, so I may chose to forget that I am dreaming, as I am dreaming, just to spice it up further.

Even forgetting that it is a dream, light challenges may get a little stale, so I may chose to make the challenges more heavy, more dramatic. Poverty. Disease. Violence. Fall from grace.

To spice it up even further, I may chose to realize – or have an intuition – that it is a dream, and then strive to recognize it as a dream in the midst of the dream. Strive to know that it is a dream, even as it unfolds. And to recognize this consistently, through the different dream situations.

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Just a story? Yes, no, and Lila

 

Is a story just a story?

Yes, it is, because it is only a story. It is an overlay of thought making the world appear a certain way.

There are the basic stories of an I with an Other, extent, continuity and so on, overlaid on what happens in the sense fields. These are usually only noticed if we look a little closer, for instance through exploring the sense fields.

And there are the familiar discursive stories using language and words, the ways we talk with ourselves and others.

And no, it isn’t just a story.

Each story has some truth to it. But so do each of its reversals, and all of them have value only as a practical tool guiding our human self in the world. Or, sometimes, in guiding it in noticing what is really is. In that sense, stories has a practical value.

And they do also have another, very important, function. They create a sense of drama.

When identified with, they make the world of appearances seem real and substantial. They make the stories of a separate I adventuring in the world seem – temporarily – real and true.

They create lila. The drama of an I with an Other in its struggle to survive and enhance its life, and, sometimes, in its struggle to awaken.

Lila as inquiry

 

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Stories are really questions about the world, which means they are an invitation for inquiry.

The story of lila, of God playing hide and seek with itself, is just such a story, as Alan Watts so elegantly shows in this talk on Hinduism.

:: each dream a full life, what content would I choose? ::

Just as a thought experiment, say that each night I dreamt a full human life, from birth to death, in great detail. And say I could choose the content of these dreams, with no limitations.

What would I do?

Maybe we would start with a few months of dreams that fulfills all our most immediate desires. Then, it may get a little boring, so why not add some drama? And to spice it up, why not forget within the dream that it is a dream? And to really make it juicy, why not take it to an extreme?

:: each day the same day, how would I want to live it? ::

I just watched Groundhog Day for the first time (better late than never), and that story too is really a question for ourselves, an invitation to inquiry. If I lived the same day over and over, how would I live that day? How would I, eventually, want to live that day?

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What if we could choose our dreams?

 

I listened to the Alan Watts podcasts about Hindu mythology, which is specifically about Brahma and lila, God playing hide-and-seek with itself.

One part I found especially interesting is in the third segment where he explores what we would do if we had complete freedom to choose our night dreams?

For a few months, we would probably want to dream about having all sorts of riches and pleasures. But it would get boring and predictable after a while.

Since we know it is just a dream, and we can’t really get hurt by it, we may then choose to include some drama in the dream to make it more interesting. Something is at stake, and we may or may not get it.

And to make it even more juicy, we may choose to make it into a life and death drama, to see how far we can take it. After all, it is just a dream and we don’t really get hurt.

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Nothing has ever happened

 

In the Star Trek TOS episode Errand of Mercy, the Organians several times says nothing has happened, in spite of a Klingon invasion and several hundreds of their own dead. And that is also what some spiritual teachers in this planet says.

In what way is that true? In what way has nothing ever happened?

When I look for myself, I find that it is true in a Big Mind sense.

There is awakeness and its content of what arises here and now, including stories about this content. It is a timeless and spaceless present, within which there are stories of space and time placed on top of what arises.

In that sense, nothing every happens. It is all the play of awakeness, which is inherently free from this play, allows this play, and forms itself into this play. Nothing every happens, in the sense that nothing really happens in a dream. It is all the play of and within the one awakeness.

And yet, something does happen, when all of this is filtered through stories. With stories, there is a whole world of form and objects, including living beings, and a lot certainly happens within this world and to all of these beings.

If those stories are taken as real, then there is an I here that something happens to, and a lot of drama. I take the play of awakeness for solid objects in a real world, playing itself out in a drama of life and death importance.

If they are directly seen as only stories, and the consequences of taking these stories for real are also directly seen, then it is all different.

Then, we can freely play along and engage with the game, but now also seeing that nothing really and ever happens. It is all the play of the awakeness.

Good and evil, absolute and relative

 

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Over the last few weeks, I have come across several references to Buddhism and The Work, and other similar approaches, as leading to nihilism… It is obviously coming from people who haven’t tried it out for themselves, and project something onto it, but it can still be useful to look at.

The easiest way to talk about it is through the filter of the absolute and relative

From the absolute, from void awake to itself, no stories are real… they have only limited and temporary truth to them, their reversals each also have truth to them, and altogether they reveal the inherent neutrality of any situation. It is all God, God’s will, the play and appearances of God. No matter how it appears, it is just appearances temporarily covering up God’s play. The world of form, the content of awareness, is the infinitely varied faces of God.

If this becomes a belief, a story taken as true, it can look pretty weird… it can easily take the form of nihilism, apathy, anti-social behavior, lack of empathy, reckless disregard for social norms and rules, and so on, dependent on what else is going on in the personality.

But if it is realized, if void is awake to itself, it is very different… here, it is expressed through natural empathy and compassion, through a deepening and maturing of the human self it is expressed through. It is expressed in a deeply human way… It looks like clarity, wisdom, compassion and wholehearted engagement in the world. It looks like a life lived for the benefit of the larger whole, in a deeply (and deepening) mature and skillful way.

It is the void playing the game through a human self, knowing it is a game, and acting from the compassion, wisdom and engagement that naturally comes up in this human self when it functions in the context of void awake to itself.

And this difference between belief and realization is why, on the relative level, all nondual traditions emphasize ethics and norms… before the void awakens to itself, live your life in an honest and sincere way, in a way that does as little harm to others and the larger whole as possible, and in a way that supports life as much as possible. These may all be the temporary appearances of the awake void, but this path is one that leads to the void to be awake to itself, and the suffering is real in that it is experienced as real… so why not reduce it as much as possible.

The absolute is free from good and evil (or bad), but at the relative everyday level, it is a useful distinction… live your life in a way that minimizes suffering and optimizes well-being and joy for yourself and others, including future generations.

The function of thoughts

 

Some of the functions of thoughts…

  • They help our human self explore, and orient and navigate in the world (they split up the seamless whole so we can explore segments of any shape and size, how they relate to each other, and the larger whole they are aspects of)
  • They help our human self communicate, with itself and others, here and now (although there is always some lag time) and between past, present and future
  • When believed in, they create a sense of a separate self, and I with and other, which is essential for lila (God playing hide-and-seek with itself)

Whether believed in or not, they help our human self explore, orient and navigate within the world of form. And when believed in, when a story is added to the stories saying they are true, they create a sense of a separate self, and the richness of the human drama.

Why haven’t we awakened yet?

 

It seems that lots of folks on the spiritual circuit wonder why they haven’t awakened yet. There is a resistance to what is (which happens to be what holds it, the appearance of non-awakening, in place.)

So why haven’t we awakened yet?

The immediate and technical reason is the resistance itself, which creates a sense of I and Other, splitting the seamless field of awakeness down the middle. This comes from a belief in a separate self, which in turn is propped up by innumerable other beliefs. The initial sense of I and Other is elaborated through lots of different identities which define exactly how this I is different from the rest of what is.

Another reason is that it is all the play of emptiness. It is all the spontaneous expression and manifestation of God in the form realm. It is lila, the dance of God. God manifesting, experiencing and exploring itself as and in form, including taking itself to be just a segment of this form.

Any experience, independent of its content, is God experiencing itself. Awakened or not, it is still God exploring and experiencing itself in its vastness and immense richness.

Specifically, there is a tremendous richness in the exploration and experiencing of being a separate self. Why would God let that go right away? There is so much more to explore and experience there, so it makes sense to allow the exploration to continue a little longer.

It may not always be what our human self wants, but that too is part of the game.

So if we take ourselves as this human self, and have stories about why we haven’t awakened, then exploring the genuine gifts of not having awakened may help.

It takes some of the charge out of our initial stories, allowing us to see that they are only stories, and revealing the inherent neutrality of the situation.

It also helps reduce resistance to what is, or rather identification with and fueling of this resistance. This in turn eases a sense of something being off. And it also allows for an easier noticing of what already and always is. A field of awake emptiness and form, seamless, with no center, sometimes with a sense of a separate self and sometimes not.

Neutrality and appreciation

 

When beliefs are gone, the inherent neutrality in any situation is revealed.

From the emptiness side, we see that it is just emptiness dancing, the play of God.

From the form side, we see that any story about it, and all its reversals, all have a grain of truth in them.

Both reveal the inherent neutrality in the situation.

But what happens when all situations are revealed as inherently neutral?

What happens, at least in my experience, is a deep appreciation for life, for existence, for the world of form, for the play of God, and for this particular life. A deep gratitude and appreciation for it, as it is, independent of its particulars.

Beyond appreciation, there is also a quiet and deep joy in the freedom of the play of life and God, as revealed here and now. And beyond this, a joy in the freedom of the play of stories and their reversals, all revealing some relative truth.

The gifts of misidentification, suffering, friction and resistance

 

When we take ourselves to be a separate self, it is natural to want to avoid suffering and friction. And if we identify ourselves as a spiritual practitioner, at least in some traditions, we don’t like resistance and misidentification much either. In fact, our whole practice is often aimed at getting rid of it.

As long as we want to get rid of it, or anything, we are stuck in it. We are identified with content of awareness (resistance, beliefs), which is exactly what we were trying to escape.

And when we finally see this, really see and feel it, allowing even this identification to go, we are fine with all of it… which is also when it tends to fall away.

It is tricky. Wanting something to change is what traps us. And only by fully and wholeheartedly allowing it all can it change, but by then it doesn’t matter anymore. We are doing it for another reason… because we see we don’t have a choice, and because we want to be consciously more closely aligned with what is.

One of the ways to be more consciously aligned with what is, and to allow it all, even the suffering and resistance, is to explore it from the emptiness and form sides more in depth.

From the emptiness side, it is all OK. It is the temporary form play of emptiness. All forms are revealed as inherently neutral. Or as God manifesting and exploring itself, as God’s will.

From the form side, we can explore the genuine gifts of what we resists.

At one level, we see that suffering is an invitation to wake up. When we are not fully awake to who and what we are, there is suffering.

At another level, we see that the misidentification is a part of the play of God. It is God temporarily forgetting what it is, and exploring itself as some small realms of its form aspect (as a separate individual.) It is beautiful, a beautiful play and exploration, even when suffering comes up because of it.

And resistance is an inherent part of misidentification. When we take ourselves to be a separate self, as a region of the world of form, resistance is what allows it in the first place.

Also, resistance and misidentification is what allows for an exploration of parts of the form realm in more detail. It filters a lot out, so that some regions of form come into the foreground and there is a deeper and more intimate familiarity with it. It is part of God’s exploration of itself.

In a very real way, to resist any of this, or to put it down in any way, is to resist and put down God.

The freedom to let go

 

In a Ground awakening, awakening to ourselves as emptiness, there is complete freedom to allow the play of any and all forms. And this also includes a complete freedom to temporarily misidentify with, and take itself as, one or some of these forms.

The irony is that when there is misidentification, there is also a desire to escape the suffering, which is ultimately a desire to wake up to what we already are. And when what we already are awakens to itself, there is a complete freedom to allow even misidentification, to allow the cycle to start all over again.

Inherent in the awakening is the allowing of misidentification over there, in other human selves and sentient beings. There is the allowing of the process of the world of form to take its course, wherever it may go, including misidentification here.

After all, it is all the play of emptiness.

That is how it looks from the emptiness side.

The form side: a natural impulse to relieve suffering, and also appreciating the gifts of suffering

From the form side, it is a little different. There is still the freedom from taking any story as absolute, as anything else as a relative truth with all its reversals having relative truths as well.

Yet, there is also compassion coming up when there is suffering, anywhere. And there is acting to relieve this suffering, either in a temporary way or in a more complete way through aiding awakening.

So within the context of a complete freedom to allow it all, there is also the natural and effortless impulse to relieve suffering. And within the context of wanting to relieve suffering, there is also the appreciation of the richness and explorations that happens in the midst of suffering and delusion.

There is nothing wrong with temporary misidentification, delusion, and even suffering. That too is the play of emptiness, or put in another way, it is God manifesting, exploring and experiencing itself.

Dream: detective work (lila)

 

I have been given the task of tracing a person, and it turns out to involve many people and situations, and a large amount of drama and surprising twists and turns. Finally, as it reaches its climax, I find the person at the bottom level of a very tall building. It turns out that my client and the target, and several others involved, were all the same person. I notice how it seems that everyone and everything were that same person, apart from me searching (and working) for him, and it puzzles me.

As I wake up, I stay with the discrepancy of everyone being the same person, apart from me as the searcher. I also realize that the dream seems to be all form the felt-sense perspective, not the conscious view, and that at this felt-sense level, there is indeed a sense of I and Other, I as searcher (doer, chooser) and Other as anybody and anything else. The dream seems to be a reminder for me to notice that, take it into account… there is still a sense of I and Other at the felt-sense level.

The dream is a variation of Lila… God playing hide and seek with itself, through all of us seeking God, and then realizing that there never was anybody or anything but God in this whole drama.

And it is also another variation of the dream of a composer who is a composite of many composers, and his instrument which can make the sounds of many instruments. The individuality of each is preserved, many combinations are available, yet as one composer and one instrument.