The Matrix and our world

 

The Matrix – with its real and virtual worlds – is explicitly an allegory for our world.

In what way is our world like The Matrix?

In a literal sense, it’s theoretically possible – although probably unlikely – that this world is created by some beings like in The Matrix. And in a metaphorical sense, we all believe things others may want us to believe and we can wake up from those illusions.

There is also another way, and one I find equally or more interesting.

Our world is created through an overlay of thoughts, of mental images and words. This overlay is what makes sense of this world and also helps us visualize a past and future and a wider world beyond what’s here and now. It’s where all labels, assumptions, values, and so on come from.

This overlay is virtual. It’s imagined. It’s created from thoughts to help us orient and function in the world. It’s completely essential for our survival.

And it makes our world quite a bit like The Matrix.

How can we take the red pill?

The safest and most lasting and effective way may be through inquiry, and especially sincere inquiry over time.

Through headless inquiry, we may discover that we are capacity for our world. The world, as it appears to us, happens within and as what we are.

Through traditional Buddhist inquiry, and modern variations like the Living Inquiries, we may discover how our mind creates its own reality. How it associates sensations with thoughts… so the sensations lend a sense of solidity and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts give meaning to the sensations.

Through The Work of Byron Katie, we may discover that the thoughts and assumptions we held as true are not as true as we thought, and not true in the way we thought.

Through basic meditation – notice and allow what’s here – we may come to hold our thoughts a little more lightly which supports these forms of inquiry.

And so on. There are innumerable forms of inquiry and supporting practices that can be helpful here.

I am personally not interested in the path of psychoactive drugs. Although they can give us a glimpse of this, it’s dependent on chemical, it’s often transient, it may come with side-effects, and there are other approaches that are more reliable and thorough.

Why would we want to take the red pill?

There is some inherent suffering, discomfort, and struggle in taking our virtual world as inherently true and real.

Taking the red pill may not remove the suffering, discomfort, and struggle, but it can make it much easier. It can help us not struggle with it, and that – in itself – is a big relief.

Also, some of us seem drawn to truth, or love, or returning home, no matter what the cost may be. In that case, it seems we don’t have that much choice.

The experience we fight, fights back

 

The essence of this is basic and simple, as so much here. And as so much here, it’s something I rediscover regularly, and I keep finding slightly new and different wrinkles to it.

When I fight my experience, it metaphorically fights back.

What specifically do I fight?

When I say “fight my experience” it usually means fighting sensations in my body and thoughts associated with it. These sensation-thoughts may be triggered by a situation, but what I react to is these sensations and the thoughts my mind associate them with.

How do I try to fight it?

I can use a range of different strategies to fight it, including wanting to push the sensation away, distract myself from it, go into compulsions (the fighting itself is a compulsion), deny it’s here, try to intellectualize it away, try to transcend it, try to fix it through healing, and so on.

What happens when I try to fight my experience?

I act on and reinforce the idea that the story behind the sensation is true. By fighting it, I tell myself the scary story behind it is true and needs to be taken seriously and fought.

I reinforce the belief in me that it is scary. I reinforce the belief that I cannot co-exist with it, and that it’s dangerous to get to know it, allow it to be here, and befriend it. I reinforce the view in me that it is “other” and I keep it other.

And it doesn’t go away. It’s still here no matter how much I try to distract myself from it or change it or transcend it.

In what way does it fight back?

It fights back by remaining here. When I fight something that doesn’t go away, it easily appears to me that it fights back.

More importantly, when I struggle with it – and tell myself it’s strong and important and true and real and worth struggling with – it’s reinforced. and by being reinforced through my own struggle with it. The scary stories behind it and about it are reinforced.

What’s the alternative?

The alternative is to befriend my experience, whatever it is – even the impulse to fight it.

How can I learn to do this? It can help to use pointers and a more structured approach to get into it, at least until it becomes more familiar and second nature. And even when it is more familiar, a more structureed approach is sometimes helpful, especially when we get caught up in something strong.

Basic meditation is a way to get familiar with noticing and allowing what’s here, whatever it is. Doing this in the “labarotory” of meditation sessions makes it a little easier to do the same – notice and allow – when uncomfortable things come up in us in daily life situations.

Natural Rest is a variation of this basic meditation, and it has some pointers that helps bring it into daily life situations.

We can also dialog with whatever comes up, listen to what it has to tell us, get to know it, and find some empathy with it. This helps befriending it and shifting out of the struggle.

Heart-centered approaches like tonglen and ho’oponopono helps us reoritent towards our experiences in general, and we can also use them specifically with our own discomfort and ourselves in that situation.

We can identify and examine the stressful and scary thoughts behind the uncomfortable sensations, the situation triggering it, and about it all. (The Work of Byron Katie.)

It’s especially helpful to look at the fear of befriending our experience as it is. What do I fear would happen? What’s the worst that can happen?

We can examine how our mind creates its experience of the disocmfort, of it as scary and something we need to struggle with, the struggle itself, and any fears, compulsions, and identities connected with it. (Living Inquiries.)

We can find what we are – that which this and any experience happens within and as – which, in turn, helps notice and allow it all. (Headless experiments, Big Mind process.)

For me, it also really helps to have “wastness buddies” as a friend of mine calls it. Someone we can call when something strong comes up in us, and who can help us shift out of the struggle and into br

What’s the benefit of befriending our experience?

When we fight our experience, it ties up a lot of energy and attention, and it also tends to lead us to make life decisions out of reacivity rather than a more open receptivity. It’s uncomfortable and tiring to chronically struggle.

When we shift out of the struggle, we shift out of the battle and can find a different peace. A peace that allows what’s here, in my experience, to be here. It’s a sense of coming home. It opens for love for what’s here, as it is. It opens for a whole new way – one that’s fuller, rof being in the world.

What’s this not about?

It’s not about not fighting in life. Sometimes, it’s appropriate to fight – or fight for – things in life. It’s appropriate to fight for what’s kind and benefits life. (As we see it, from our limited perspective.)

Why do I write about this now?

The virus behind the chronic fatigue seems to get activated through physical exertion and/or stress, and that happened a few days ago. When it happens, it creates a toxic and very uncomfortable feeling through my whole system, and it also impacts my emotions. And I sometimes struggle with it and try to fight it. When I notice what’s happening, an I have struggled enough, there is a shift into allowing what’s here. And that changes everything. It’s like returning to my home and lover after an absence.

Universal themes: finding a better way, and learning to love

As I wrote this article, there were a couple of minor song-synchronicites. When I wrote about the alternative, the song said “You can learn to love me, given time”. (Sting, A Practical Arrangement.) And when I wrote about the benefits of befriending our experience, “While fighting was useful…. there has to be a better way than this.” (Sting, The Pugalist.)

I don’t really take these as a synchronicities, more a reminder that this – the dynamic of learning to love and finding a better way than fighting – are universal themes.

And, of course, that I gravitate to musicians and song writers who have a general similar orientation to life as me.

Aspects of what we are: exploring and using them as medicine

 

There are many aspects to what we are as Big Mind or whatever else we want to call it. And there are many aspects to who we are as this human self. So why not explore it?

Space may be the final frontier, but this is the ultimate frontier and it’s much closer to home. It’s something we can explore here and now, and it just requires some motivation and guidance.

Aspects of what I am

When I look, I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am capacity for any content of experience – this human self, the wider world, any sense of doer or observer, any insights, any noticing, even awareness. Capacity allows it all.

I am also awakeness. Not any special awakeness but this ordinary awakeness that’s here for all of us. The awakeness that’s inherent in awareness, consciousness, and noticing or experiencing anything at all.

As this oneness, what I am is also love. Not the love that is or is dependent on a feeling, but the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

What I am is also all of it. Any content of experience happen within and as what I am. There is no inherent boundary. There is no inherent other.

What I am includes this human self and the wider world as it appears to me.

I can continue to find aspects or flavors of what I am, although this depends a bit on culture and orientation and what we look for. For instance, I can find (what we can call) feminine and masculine aspects, dark and light, and so on.

Aspects of who I am

As who I am, the world mirrors me. Whatever I see out there – in others and the world in general – reflects parts of who I am. My inner world is as rich as the outer.

Identities come in polarities and although we often identify more with one end of any one polarity than the other, we have both in us. Both are already here. And both are here as potentials that can unfold and be further embraced and brought into our life.

Unintentionally identifying with some aspects

We typically unintentionally identify with one or a set of aspects of what and who we are.

Many identify as a particular human being and overlook what they are (capacity, Big Mind) and also all the sides of themselves they see in others but not in themselves. This is the typical human condition and there is nothing wrong with it, but there is a lot more to who and what we are.

After having a glimpse of what we are, and early on in the process of getting to know what we are, some may identify more with some aspect of Big Mind – capacity, awakeness, or something similar. Or as it often is, we identify with some ideas about this. In Zen, they sometimes refer to this as being “stuck in the absolute”. It may feel safer than the scary messiness of being a traumatized human. And it’s also a way to become more familiar with what we are and get used to it. It’s a natural part of the process for many and perhaps most of us.

In the awakening process, there is usually still identifications of different types. We may be identified with ideas about what we are, as mentioned above, and also ideas about who we are as a human in the world. Noticing and exploring this, gradually include more of what and who we are, and find a bit more freedom around this, is an ongoing process. It is the exploration of a lifetime. (And if there are several, then several!)

Intentionally emphasizing aspects as medicine

This is all a part of our exploration of ourselves, or life or the divine exploring itself.

At some point, we may discover that we can intentionally explore and emphasize aspects of who and what we are and this can support our healing, maturing, awakening, and embodiment. We can get more familiar with some aspects and bring them more into our life.

We can use them as medicine for specific conditions.

For instance, if we are used to identifying as this human self, why not exploring finding ourselves as Big Mind?

If we are one-sidedly identified with (ideas about) Big Mind, why not also embrace being a human being in the world?

If we are used identify with (ideas about) what’s closer to the “absolute” – capacity, awakeness, observer – why not also include all that’s happening within and as what we are? (The world as it appears to us.)

If we are used to identify with one particular human identity, why not explore the reverse? Why not find it in ourselves? Why not find how it’s already in our life? Why not embrace it more fully?

This helps us unstick from any particular identifications, and it also helps us explore and embrace more of who and what we are.

How can we intentionally explore aspects of who and what we are?

There are innumerable approaches. I like a combination of dialog and parts work (Big Mind process), inquiry (Headless experiments, Big Mind process, Living Inquiries, The Work), energy work (Vortex Healing), and I also love Process Work (Jungian and shamanic) for these type of explorations.

And, of course, the real work and exploration is in our life today and now.

Organic process and intentional exploration

These shifts into exploring different sides of who and what we are is an organic process. It happens naturally in our human life, and it also happens naturally in an awakening and embodiment process.

An intentional exploration of these sides of us complements this organic process. It can clarify it for us, help us explore things more in detail, and it can give us a map that helps us orient and understand the overall process a little better.

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Is my true nature the same as the true nature of existence?

 

I rarely use the term “true nature” since it suggests certain knowledge, although I also understand why they call it that in Buddhism.

My own apparent true nature

When I explore it for myself, I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. What I am is what my experience – of myself and the wider world – happen within and as.

One aspect of this is being capacity for the world as it appears to me. I can also say it’s no-thing full of everything. Or void allowing any experience. Or awakeness and all happening within and as awakeness. Or oneness since all is happening within and as what I am. Or love and all happening within and as love. (This is the love of the left hand removing a splinter of the right, not the type of love that is a feeling or dependent on a feeling.)

It can also be called Big Mind, Brahman, Spirit, the Divine, or any of the labels that points to roughly the same.

So I understand why they call it “true nature”. It’s difficult to imagine anything more fundamental than finding ourselves as capacity for all content of our experience, including awakeness, love, and whatever else it may be.

The true nature of existence

If my true nature is capacity, or capacity and awakeness, what about the true nature of the rest of existence?

The honest answer is that I don’t know.

Another answer is that, yes, it appears – to me – to be the true nature of all of existence. To me, the world happens within and as capacity and awakeness, so it naturally appears that way to me.

It makes logical sense that it’s the true nature of existence. After all, what’s more basic than capacity for anything and all? I am not so sure about the other qualities like awakeness. Is the universe and existence awake in itself? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps in part. I don’t know.

And yet another answer is that there are signs that suggests it’s the true nature of existence, for instance synchronicities, ESP, distance healing, and more. At the very least, this hints at the oneness of existence.

Exploring this for ourselves

As I often write about, there are ways to explore this for ourselves. Any words are pointers and questions, at most, and this only comes alive and has meaning as we discover it for ourselves.

Headless experiments is an excellent way to explore this, as is the Big Mind process and the Living Inquiries, and many other approaches out there.

Summary

I can say something about what appears to be my own true nature. I can say that existence itself appears to me to have the same true nature. It makes logical sense. There are some hints. And that’s about what I can say.

This is something we all can explore for ourselves. What do I find when I investigate for myself? Is it similar? Different? Would I talk about it differently?

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How our mind creates its experience of matter

 

To ourselves, we are consciousness. And the world, as it appears to us, happens within and is consciousness. (When we look, we can find this independent of whatever worldview we have or philosophy we subscribe to.)

At the same time, we undeniably experience matter, and we may even experience it as solid and substantial.

So how does our mind create its experience of matter?

We can explore this through some forms of inquiry, for instance traditional Buddhist inquiry (exploring what’s happening in each sense field and how they combine to create an experience) and modern variations like Living Inquiries.

What do we find through these inquiries?

In general, we find that our mind makes sense of the world through an overlay of mental images and words, and it also associates sensations with some of these images and words. The sensations lend a sense of solidity and even truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts give meaning to the sensations.

I feel that something is true because of the sensations associated with the thoughts, and the sensations means something to me because of the thoughts associated with the sensations.

And that’s how our experience of matter is created as well. As I type of this computer, I see the screen and the keyboard, I heard the sound of the keys, and I feel the sensations of my fingers touching the keys. There is a mental overlay that makes sense of it all – screen, keys, hands, words, meaning. And one of the thoughts – and underlying assumptions – is of matter. The computer is matter, my fingers and hands are matter.

When I examine this specific experience of matter – for instance the sight and feel of the computer, I find sight, sound, sensations, and mental images and words making sense of it. That’s all I can find. I cannot find something called matter outside of this, or a computer, or hands, or anything else. It’s all made of up of these components in my mind.

My mind is creating its experience out of these very simple components.

I may also notice that all of this – sights, sounds, sensations, mental images and words – happen within and as consciousness. My experience of matter is made up of these components, and it all happens within and as what I am. I find myself as capacity for all of it.

This examination – especially when done over time and from different angles – changes our experience of…. our experience. Yes, matter is matter as it’s conventionally seen. And yet, it’s also not. It’s all made up of these components and it’s all happening within and as consciousness. It’s not as real or substantial as I initially assumed.

After we see through this, how do we experience matter?

I take it as we all do in a conventional sense. I walk, pick up things, my toe hurts when I stub it. But I also notice it’s happening within and as what I am, or within and as consciousness. One does not preclude the other.

Why is it useful to explore this?

This, in itself, is perhaps not directly useful. It’s interesting to see how our mind creates its own reality. And it is useful in exploring anything stressful in this way, whether it’s a thought or belief, an identity, a compulsion, or something else.

As we keep exploring it, we see that these stressful surface thoughts and identities rest on underlying assumptions, so it’s useful to examine these too. And one of these underlying assumptions is matter. (Along with body, doer, observer, consciousness, capacity, and so on, and taking ourselves as any of these.)

How can I explore this for myself?

What I wrote here is just a description of what I have found, and it’s similar to what other report finding. It’s a kind of very general travel description in case you’d like to visit or explore this for yourself. It gives you a starting point.

To actually explore it for yourself, traditional Buddhist inquiry can be helpful, and I have found Living Inquiries to be the most effective. You can ask a trained facilitator to facilitate you through this, and over time you can learn to do it for yourself.

How my meditation practice changed when the CFS got stronger

 

I had a long meditation practice before the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome got significantly worse some years ago. I found I couldn’t continue my practice as before, and struggled with it for a while, until I started to find my way.

So how does it look now?

I do a very simple basic meditation of noticing and allowing. Notice what’s here. Allow it as it is. Notice it’s already allowed as it is. Adyashanti has some very good guided meditations on this, and Natural Rest is another way into it that works well. It’s also the basic meditation found in Buddhism.

I find heart-centered practices very helpful, including tonglen and ho’oponopno. This helps shift how I relate to myself, others, situations, parts of myself, and existence in general.

Pointers for noticing what I am are helpful, especially Headless experiments and (a simple version of) the Big Mind process.

Sometimes, I also do some inquiry, especially simple pointers like the ones from Adyashanti. How would I treat myself right now if I was someone I deeply care about? How would truth and love view this situation? And so on.

Beyond this, I sometimes do more in-depth inquiry, for instance through The Work of Byron Katie and Living Inquiries. And I do some somatic work, especially Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) and Breema.

In general, I have found a more relaxed way of doing these practices. And it’s more about noticing what’s already here than creating anything or going somewhere.

Iceberg of thought

 

Most of us are aware of our conscious verbal self-talk. Many of us are also aware that we have other thoughts and assumptions that are less conscious, and for the most part, we only have a rough idea of what they are. For instance, we may have been in a situation that showed us that our assumptions about someone or something was wrong, and we were initially not even aware of having and operating from those assumptions.

The iceberg analogy works well for thoughts. We are aware of our conscious self-talk, which is the tip of the iceberg. And we also have and operate from a large number of other thoughts that influence – and to a large extent determine – how we experience life and what choices we make.

They form our most basic assumptions about ourselves, others, and life. They color our perceptions and choices. And they color our life as a whole.

Knowing this, it makes sense to explore and make some of these conscious, especially if they don’t serve our life as we would like it to be.

What does this iceberg look like?

As mentioned above, the tip of the iceberg is our conscious self-talk.

The part of the iceberg that’s under the metaphorical water consist of verbal self-talk and visualizations, words and images.

Some of these are about more peripheral things in our daily life and the world.

And some make up our most basic assumptions – about ourselves, others, the world, and life in general.

What are some examples of the below-the-water thoughts?

The particular combination of thoughts are individual. But there are more universal themes – especially for people within the same culture and subcultures.

I have images and stories about specific people in my life. She is my partner and have these qualities and relationships with me. This is my father and he is a certain way. And so on.

I have images and stories about countries and groups of people – including cultural and political groups. My images and stories determine what I think about them, how I see myself in relation to them, and who I like and don’t like so much.

I have images and stories about who and how I am. I have these qualities, roles, and identities, and not so much these others ones. I like these and don’t like those, and wish I had more of these.

I have images and stories about situations, how I am in relation to them, and what they mean about me and for me. One I am exploring right now is noise (the closest neighbor building is going to be torn down and rebuilt), and I see stories in me about being a victim, not being in control, and somehow being damaged by noise. Behind these are some early childhood memories.

Then we have our most basic assumptions about ourselves, others, and the world. These are, at least in my experience, mostly in the form of images, although it’s usually easy enough to set words to and elaborate on these images.

For instance, I find I have images of time – in the form of a timeline separated into present, future, and past. And I fit specific images (aka memories, scenarios) into each of these categories. I also have an image of me as a human being, a man, and so on. And of the world – the universe, planet, humanity, myself – both as separate objects (from my culture) and as a seamless whole (from my own conscious explorations).

How can we make these thoughts and assumptions more conscious?

The best way I have found is through different forms of inquiry, for instance The Work of Byron Katie and Living Inquiries which is a modern version of Buddhist inquiry.

The Work helps us be more conscious about our verbal thoughts, and – depending on the skill of the facilitator – can helps us go very deep in exploring both verbal and visual thoughts.

Living Inquiries more explicitly helps us explore both images and words, and also how they combine with sensations. We get to see how sensations lend a sense of substance, solidity, and truth to the thoughts, and how thoughts give a sense of meaning to their associated sensations.

Some additional reflections

I have seen people saying “I am not a racist” as a response to the recent focus on racism in the US and around the world. For me, this is an example of not being aware of what’s below the water. Just by living in our culture, we adopt racist thoughts – and for most of us, these are below the water. Even black people have these racist stereotypes, and probably reverse ones to compensate, just from living in this culture.

The One experiencing itself as many

 

Through noticing what’s here in immediacy, we can find a few things….

We may notice that the One experiences itself as many.

No-thing experiences itself as something.

Consciousness experiences itself as matter.

And sometimes….

The One experiences itself as separation.

Love as not-love.

Clarity as confusion.

It can help to use a more structured form of inquiry to notice this, for instance Headless experiments, the Big Mind process, Living Inquiries, or The Work of Byron Katie.

This is all what we can notice for ourselves here and now.

COSMOLOGY

And we can also see it in the universe as a whole. We can make it into a cosmology. (After all, any cosmology mirror us here and now.)

Existence is oneness experiencing itself as many. No-thing as something. Consciousness as matter.

And sometimes – locally and through us and other beings – oneness experiencing itself as separation, love as not-love, clarity as confusion.

MORE DETAIL

There is easily one or several books worth of material here if we want to go into more detail. I’ll just say a few words.

I find that I am capacity for the world as it appears to me – including this human self and any me or I or observer or doer. That’s the oneness. It all happens within and as what the mind may label consciousness. Within this oneness is immense diversity. The world is many. (It’s an overlay of thought that divides the world up in this way, and it’s a very useful function of thought.)

I find that no-thing experiences itself as something. What I am is no-thing full of the world as it appears to me. No-thing full of somethings. (Again, the somethings are separated from each other through an overlay of thought.)

Similarly, consciousness experiences itself as matter. What I am – and I assume what you are to yourself – can be labeled consciousness. The world as it appears to me happens within and as consciousness. And when thoughts label some things in the world matter, and sensations come in to lend a sense of substance to those thoughts, then consciousness experiences itself as matter.

Also, when these dividing lines created by thoughts – often in the form of mental images – are held as true, there is an experience of separation. So the One experiences itself as separate, as an I here and others out there.

When thoughts are held as true, the mind can tell itself that this human has been wronged, is a victim, and so on. And then love – which is another word for oneness – experiences itself as not-love.

And when the mind takes thoughts as true, clarity – which is yet another word for oneness – can experience itself as confusion.

STRUCTURED FORMS OF INQUIRY

We can all (?) find this for ourselves, and structured forms of noticing – AKA inquiry – can help here.

Headless experiments can help us find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us – including anything connected with this human self and any I or me or observer or doer.

The Big Mind process can help us find ourselves as Big Mind (AKA capacity full of the world), Big Heart, and a variety of other aspects of what and who we are.

Living Inquiry – which is based on traditional Buddhist inquiry – can help us explore in detail how thoughts (words and mental images) combine with sensations to create our experience. Specifically, it’s helpful to notice how the mind associates certain sensations with certain thoughts, and these thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations, and the sensation give the thoughts a sense of substance, reality, and even truth.

The Work of Byron Katie is a great help in exploring thoughts we take as true, and in finding what’s more true for us in our own direct experience.

There are many other forms of inquiry out there as well, which may work as well or better for you. These are just the ones I happen to be familiar with.

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Wanting what’s here

 

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

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

Why would we want what’s here?

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

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

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

How does it look in practice?

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

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

How can we find this active welcoming?

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

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

Why don’t we always notice what we are?

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

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

How can we notice what we are?

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

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

There are two elements that stands out to me.

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

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

These two mutually support each other.

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

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

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

What if we notice the shift is close?

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

How would it be to want what’s here?

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

How does the overall process look?

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

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

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

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

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

Is Douglas Harding the only one talking about this?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tools for emotional emergencies

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMPLIFY / RELEASE

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

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

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

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

BE KIND WITH YOURSELF

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

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

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

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

ATTENTION TO PHYSICAL SENSATIONS

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

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

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

BREATH

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

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

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

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

NATURE & PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES

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

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

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

BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF

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

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

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

MORE STRUCTURED APPROACHES

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

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

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

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

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

NOTES

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

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

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

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

The Treachery of Images

 
The Treachery of Images by René Magritte, 1929

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trauma and awakening

 

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

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

What are some types of trauma?

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

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

What is trauma?

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

What role does trauma play before awakening?

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

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

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

What about trauma following – or within – awakening?

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

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

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

How do we deal with overwhelming trauma?

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

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

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

How do healing and awakening go together?

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Adrien Aletti on Unsplash

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Our mind’s magical truth-glue

 

How does a thought appear true?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is this important?

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

Awakening is differentiation

 

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

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

So what is it we need to differentiate?

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

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

How is this connected to awakening?

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

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

How can I explore this differentiation?

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

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

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

What about other forms of differentiation?

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

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

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

Conspiracy theory literacy

 

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

What’s my personal relationship with conspiracy theories?

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

How do I see the bigger picture around conspiracy theories?

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

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

How do I see them reflecting us?

I wonder if not conspiracy theories serve emotional needs.

For instance….

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

Does it feel better to blame someone?

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

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

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

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

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

For instance….

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the even bigger picture?

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

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

See below….

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

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

 

You are the recipient, not the creator, of experiences

– Adyashanti

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

This is an ongoing exploration and noticing for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why projections are essential

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why are charged projections essential?

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

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

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

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

How can we explore our charged projections?

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

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

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

How can we explore the basic projections?

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

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

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Supporting the natural healing and awakening process

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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The dream of the divine

 

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

Dreams at our personal level

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dream of the divine

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

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

Alan Watts’ thought experiment

I love a thought experiment from Alan Watts.

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

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

The play of the divine – lila

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

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

The world is real… and a dream

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

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

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

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

All our thoughts: A human invention

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How do we find peace?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Flowers from Zürich ca. 2013.

Projections in the context of awakening

 

How do projections look in the context of awakening?

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

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

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

Layers of the projections

There are different aspects and layers of the projections.

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

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

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

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

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

Examples

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Knowing how one of the magic tricks of life is done

 

I enjoy watching Fool Us with Penn & Teller and also learning how the tricks may be done. (Often, there are several ways to do each trick.)

One thing I pay attention to is the audience reaction. Sometimes, the strongest audience reaction is to tricks with an amazing effect but disappointing method. (For instance, when the magician surreptitiously instructs an audience member in what to say or do.)

Other times, the method of the trick is as or even more amazing than the effect. These are typically tricks that take years to master like Kostya Kimlat’s third performance and The Evansons. They are both impressive although the first has a simple method and the second a complex method.

Life is full of magic tricks from the big magic trick of anything existing at all to the myriads of smaller magic tricks of how life expresses itself.

One of the magic tricks of our mind is of special interest to us. The effect is the mind creating a temporary experience for itself of ultimately being a small part of the world. And a related effect is the mind believing a thought (taking it as true), identifying with the viewpoint of thoughts, and creating emotional issues, hangups, and traumas. The method is the same for both, and the second creates the first, so it’s really one and the same trick.

We can discover how the mind does this trick. We can learn the theory of it, which is a starting point. And, more importantly, we can explore it in real-time, as it happens, in our own experience.

The best way to do this may be to mentally divide our experience into sense fields and then see how these combine to create our experience. It’s slightly arbitrary how we divide up the sense fields (e.g. taste, smell, sight, sound, sensation, thought), although the two important ones are sensation and thought (mental images and words).

I initially explored this through traditional Buddhist inquiry and more recently through the contemporary version called Living Inquiries.

When we explore this, often over and over, in our own experience, we learn to recognize the magic trick and how it is performed. Our mind gradually becomes less fascinated with the effect and less caught up in it. The charge that made the effect seem real gradually goes out of it.

(This is partly because we recognize that the charge comes from the mind associating certain sensations with certain thoughts, and the sensations lend a sense of reality and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations. When we see that the connection is only an association, it’s easier to recognize sensations as sensations and thoughts as thoughts, and we are no longer so caught up in the effect of the magic trick.)

The effect of this trick is certainly amazing. It’s the One creating an experience for itself of being separate and one among many.

And what about the method? Is it disappointing or amazing? In my experience, it’s both. It can be almost laughably simple when we first discover it. And yet, it’s also impressive in its simplicity, elegance, and effectiveness.

P.S. The Evansons is an amazing act, and – as mentioned above – they use a complex method (system of verbal cues) which requires years of practice in order to appear smooth and effortless. They say they do mentalism, and we can see that as either a tongue-in-cheek white lie that’s part of the performance, as misdirection, or as a mostly innocent bordering-on-unethical form of deception. I am with P&T and prefer when the magicians/mentalists are more transparent and tell the audience what they are doing, or – in this case – what they are not doing, without necessarily revealing the method.

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Own inquiry: Tired

 

Since the idea of “tired” and “I am tired” is a common part of CFS, I thought I would explore them.

Look at the word “tired”. See it up in front of you. Look at the letters, shapes, texture. Look at the space around it.

Do you feel anything in the body when you look at the word? Yes, a knot in my stomach, a sensation through my upper body and in my face.

Feel the sensations. Allow them to be there.

Do you see any images? Yes, an image of my body and something dark especially over the upper body and more dark and dense in my belly.

Look at that image. Put it up in front of you, as if it’s on a wall. Look at the shapes, colors, texture.

Is that image tiredness? No, but it’s connected to pressure in my chest, a (smaller) knot in my belly, and sensations through the upper body and face.

Feel those sensations. What happens? I notice they get stronger when I say the word “tired” to myself. I notice sadness.

Feel the sadness. Take time with it. Allow it. Where do you feel it? My upper body feels hollow and the sadness seems to be in the middle of the hollow upper body.

Can you find the sensations creating the sadness? Yes, in my throat, chest and heart area, and a small contraction in the belly.

Feel the sensations. Allow. Rest with it. What do you notice? The sensations are getting stronger. Stronger sense of sadness. It feels good to feel it and allow it. I notice the space it’s all happening within. It feels spacious.

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Own inquiry: Unlovable

 

Love is gonna be on your side

Just that feeling of love
That’s gonna be on your side

Firefly, Love is gonna be on your side

Life brought me to explore the feeling of being unlovable this morning and I did some simple inquiry into it as I did some other things. As I sat down to do record a more thorough inquiry here, and wrote the title of the page, I noticed the lyrics of the music I had on in the background. (Yes, I love cheesy disco music!)

Living Inquiry

When I feel into the unlovable identity, I see something dark and shriveled up in me (like a dry prune). I look at the image and notice the shape, texture, and color of the shriveled up prune.

I feel it in my chest. A pressure. Sinking in. And also in the solar plexus. My breath is shallow. I feel the sensations.

I notice it feels like I want to just shrivel up and die, and look at those words. I see the words in front of me. Is there a charge on those words? (Do they seem like me, the unlovable one?) Yes, the words seem connected to sensations in my face, chest, and solar plexus. I feel those sensations.

I notice sadness in me. I feel it mostly in sensations in the belly and feel those sensations. I stay with it for a while and feel the sensations as sensations.

I see a picture of darkness connected with the sadness. The picture is of darkness in my belly and it feels like it goes infinitely far. When I ask myself if that picture is the unlovable one, I notice the picture still has a charge (which makes it a “yes”), and that charge is the sensations in my belly. I feel those sensations.

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A hole in us: filling it, seeing it’s not there, and living the opposite

 

Many of us experience that there is a hole in us. Something is lacking or missing. We are not quite enough. Not quite OK.

This is created by beliefs we have about ourselves and the world, and identifications. And it’s rooted in our culture, our family patterns, and our own journey through life.

We can approach this in a few different ways. Tracing the sense of lack back to a belief and identity, and seeing how it (most likely) was created early in life, can be helpful in itself. It helps us see it more as an object (a part of us) than a subject (what we are). Being honest about it with ourselves and others helps for the same reason, and it helps us see it’s a universal experience.

We can dialogue with these parts of us. Get to know them. Befriend them. Listen to what they want to say to us. Be a friend to them. Give them our kindness, wisdom, and love. (Parts work.)

We can give these parts of ourselves love through heart-centered practices such as ho’oponopno and tonglen. And we can do the same towards ourselves as a whole, and towards those who trigger these parts of us now and in the past.

We can seek out situations where we feel loved and cared for, by ourselves and others. We can seek out people and communities that genuinely love and care for us.

We can increase our overall sense of well being. For instance through mindful movement (yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema etc.). Training a more stable attention (e.g. by bringing attention to the sensations of the breath). Find gratitude for our life, both what we like and perhaps what we don’t so much like (all-inclusive gratitude practices). This creates a different context that makes it easier for the not-enough parts of us to reorient and heal. (Although the healing may require one or more of the other approaches as well.)

We can identify and investigate the beliefs creating a sense of lack and not-OKness, including underlying and related beliefs. We can come to find what’s more true for us (and more peacefully true) than these stressful beliefs. (The Work.)

We can explore how our mind creates its own experience of these beliefs, identities, and stressful situations triggering them. We can see how they appear in each of our sense fields (sensations, thoughts, images, sounds, taste, smell etc.), and how the sense fields combine to make them seem solid and real to us. And through this investigation, the “glue” looses its strength and the sensations appears more as sensations without (stressful) meaning, and the thoughts appears more as thoughts without (stressful) substance and reality. (Living Inquiries.)

We can use energy work (often combined with some insights or simple inquiry) to release these beliefs, emotional issues, and identifications. (For me, Vortex Healing.)

We can even shift into what we are (that which these experiences happens within and as), and notice that it’s all what a thought may call consciousness. It’s all happening within and as what we are. Sometimes, we call it the divine or the One. (Big Mind process, headless experiments.)

So when we experience a hole in ourselves, we can fill it through befriending this part of ourselves and giving it care and love, and we can see through it and see it’s ultimately not real in the way it seemed to be. And we can also live in a way that helps us reorient and rewire and shows that these parts of us are not who we are. (Living turnarounds in The Work of Byron Katie.)

Finally, we must all find our own way through this. The examples I gave above are just examples based on what am familiar with and have found helpful. And finding our own way often includes finding someone who has gone through it themselves and can guide us through it.

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What is the present?

 

I saw a couple of videos about what the present is. Is it what happens right this millisecond? Or these few seconds? Or even minutes?

When I look at my experience of time, I find an overlay of thoughts (images and words about what happens in time) on top of another overlay of thoughts (an image of a timeline), on top of what’s happening in the other sense fields.

For past and future, it’s a series of images and words on top of the timeline either stretching back in time or forward in time, with sensations lending it a sense of substance, solidity, and reality.

For the present, it’s images and words on top of the “present” part of the timeline (the middle), and if the present is what’s happening in my immediate surroundings, then these are on top of what’s happening in sight, sound, taste, smell, and sensations. And, again, sensations lend these thoughts about the present as sense of solidity, reality, and truth.

So it doesn’t really matter how “long” the present is. It’s created in thought, as is past and future. In a sense, it’s imagined. And at the same time, our ability to imagine the past, future, and present is vital for us functioning in the world. We need it to orient, learn from the past, imagine different futures, and relate to what’s happening here and now.

And it does help to recognize that this is what’s happening, as it’s happening. It helps us hold it all more lightly.

The Living Inquiries is what I have found most helpful for exploring this in detail. And when I have found it, in depth, one or more times, it’s easier to notice it as it happens, in daily life.

When people say “be present” or “stay in the present”, what do they mean? It may mean to stay with what’s happening here and now, and that’s often helpful. But really, it means to notice that my mind creates an idea of a timeline, and then places other thoughts on top of it to populate my past, future, and present. I notice how my mind creates its idea of time and what happens in time, and that it’s all happening in immediacy.

Even if I am absorbed into thoughts about past, future, or present, one little noticing is all that’s needed for me to see that it’s all happening in immediacy, here now. My attention can be absorbed into thoughts about past, future, and present, and I can notice that’s what’s happening. And that helps me hold it all with a lighter touch.

One thing I like about this approach is that it’s pragmatic. It’s relatively easy to notice, especially through some guided inquiry. And it fits the understanding of modern psychology (although it’s still in its infancy) and even common sense.

At the same time, my impression is that many people tend to see past, future, and (their ideas of the) present as real, solid, and true. There is a past, future, and present, as it seems to us, and it’s populated with, more or less, what we think it’s populated with. That’s an understandable assumption, and it’s one that can only survive as long as we don’t take a closer look.

I also find the idea of time travel interesting. As a story device or a thought experiment, it can be very entertaining and even illuminating. If we take it as anything more than that, it means we assume there is an actual, real and solid past and future as a “thing”, that it’s somehow stored somewhere, and that we can conceivably visit it. That’s an example of taking our mental timeline of past, future, and present, investing it with a sense of solidity (through associating it with sensations), and taking that sense of a solid and real timeline as actually true and real “out there” somewhere, as a place we can visit. Again, this impression can only survive for as long as we don’t take a closer look.

The voice of God

 

Misophonia, literally “hatred of sound”, was proposed in 2000 as a condition in which negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions are triggered by specific sounds.

Wikipedia entry for misophonia

I have a history of misophonia. Predictably, it’s stronger when I am very tired or stressed, and less so when my energy reservoirs are fuller and I am more content. And I have found it very helpful to explore stressful beliefs around it (The Work), stressful sensation-thought connections in my mind (Living Inquiries), enemy images (inquiry, heart-centered practices), and undoing the energy and consciousness components creating it (Vortex Healing). Reducing the overall stress level of my nervous system with therapeutic tremoring (TRE) also helps.

Perhaps because of this work, there is now space for making use of a simple pointer or shortcut.

I hear the neighbor making noise (using bandsaw and chain saw to cut wood). And I either remind myself this is the voice of God and then take time to notice. Or I ask myself is this the voice of God? which also helps me notice.

What does it help me notice? It has to happen here and now, for myself, and it’s always new, so putting it into words can be a sidetrack. And it can also be a pointer for own exploration. Right now, what I notice is that the noise happens within and as consciousness. It happens within and as this awake, alive space. In a sense, it happens within and as what’s capacity for any content of experience, including this alive consciousness. To me, the noise and everything else that happens in my sense fields happens within and as awake consciousness. Even the “me” happens within the sense fields and within and as this consciousness.

That’s really all I can say about it. Although if I take it one step further, which many spiritual traditions do, I can say that everything is the divine, Spirit or God. It gives it a little extra oomph.

So when I ask myself is that sound also the divine? I notice that the sound too happens within and as awake and alive consciousness. As a side-effect, it helps me notice that any reactions in me to the sound – thoughts combined with sensations – also happens within and as the same consciousness. So my “center of gravity” shifts out of this a bit and a little more into what I already am, which is this consciousness all happens within and as.

Aside from that, I get to notice that the noise helps me see what’s left in me of beliefs, identifications, and emotional issues. (This is endless but at least it shows me what to explore next.) And it’s a reminder for myself that all is God’s will. Everything that happens are movements within the whole and has infinite causes stretching back to beginningless time and out into endless space. And, in yet another way, it’s all life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. When I am distressed by the noise, the noise, the distress, and the idea of it happening to someone separate, is all part of this exploration (Lila).

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Life 101: Notice + allow

 

I sometimes write about a basic form of mindfulness which can be translated into notice + allow.

Notice what’s here in the sense fields, allow it to be, and perhaps notice it’s already allowed to be here.

In daily life, there is an additional emphasis I find very helpful. And that is to notice sensations, and especially those sensations that fuel and give substance to stressful thoughts and identities.

When these sensations happen outside of conscious awareness, the thoughts they lend their apparent solidity to tend to seem real, solid, and true. And when they are brought into conscious awareness, and the way they combine with certain thoughts and identities to lend them a sense of solidity is brought into conscious awareness, it’s as if we peek behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz and the illusion falls apart.

It’s easiest to discover this through inquiry, and especially the Living Inquiries. And then notice it while taking some time out and having space and time to notice. And then, after a while, we can bring it into daily life.

For me, this is one of my favorite explorations these days. I notice my mind is caught up in stressful thoughts or identities. (I notice the typical symptoms like stress, tension, blame, mental complaining, feeling like a victim, feeling I need to protect something, a compulsion etc.) I bring attention to the sensations in the body and allow them to be as they are. And I specifically look for and give attention to the sensations giving the stressful thoughts a sense of solidity, reality, and truth.

And that tends to break the spell. It creates space to notice and allow it all, and not be so caught up in it. It shifts the mind out of identifying with the stressful thoughts and identities, and into that which allows and is it all.

And that gives space for relating to what comes up in me more intentionally, and the triggering situation in life more intentionally. It opens for a slightly more mature and kind way of being.

It is fascinating how such as simple mechanism creates our stressful beliefs and hangups. We have thoughts which, in themselves, are innocent questions about the world. The mind then associates these with certain sensations in the body, and may even tense up muscles to create sensations it can associate the thoughts with. The sensations then gives a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts. And the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations.

As long as this happens outside of our conscious awareness, the thoughts seem solid and true, and we perceive, act, and live in the world as if they are true. As soon as we “peek behind the curtain”, the illusion falls apart, it loses it’s grip, and we can relate to it more intentionally.

In my imagination, in a future society that’s a little more mature, this is Life 101. This is what children learn along with riding a bike, reading, writing, and singing songs.

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Finding meaning, and freedom from meaning

 

We need a sense of meaning in our lives, and especially when we find ourselves in challenging life situations. 

We can find meaning in many different ways depending on the situation and what works for us. We can make a situation meaningful to us even if we at a very human level don’t like it. 

And if we want to take the next step, we can investigate meaning itself. Meaning is created by our own thoughts, and especially when we invest them with energy and hold them as at least partially true. This meaning typically tells us something we like or don’t like. In either case, it can be freeing to investigate these thoughts creating a sense of meaning. 

The word meaning is here used in two slightly different ways.

In the second paragraph, it refers to a sense of meaning in our lives or for a situation we find ourselves in. We can make our life or a situation meaningful to ourselves.

And meaning is also something that’s in any thought as long as it makes sense to us. We can invest a thought and meaning with energy, hold it as true, and identify with its viewpoint. And we can also examine this meaning and how our mind creates it for itself. 

The first sense of meaning gives us a meaningful way of viewing and approaching a situation. And investigating meaning itself, the ideas of meaning we have about the same situation, gives us freedom from these ideas. In my experience, both are valuable and helpful. 

How do we investigate meaning? The easiest is perhaps to take an example from my own life. With my current health problems (CFS) comes thoughts and ideas about how terrible it is and also in what ways I can make it meaningful (or life makes it meaningful for me).

So I can identify these thoughts, and then explore them in inquiry (for me, The Work + Living Inquiries). In The Work, I can identify some of these thoughts through the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet, and other beliefs tend to come up in the inquiry process. In Living Inquiries, some are found in the initial exploration and most through the process. 

As I mentioned earlier, I find both of these approaches valuable and helpful. It helps me to find meaning in a life situation. And it helps me investigate any thought that gives me a sense of meaning – whether I like it or not – about the same life situation.

One helps me orient towards the life situation and find a productive approach. The other lightens the weight of any thought offering me an opinion about it. 

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Compulsions: two levels of what we escape

 

When we have a compulsion, there are usually two levels to what we try to escape. 

The compulsion could be any activity – eating, using alcohol or drugs, internet, work, upholding an image of ourselves, certain thought patterns, or just about anything else. Behind compulsions is a wish to avoid certain uncomfortable sensations and thoughts.

And those uncomfortable sensations and thoughts come in two layers

First are the immediate sensations in our body we wish to avoid. They seem frightening to us, so we use our compulsion as a strategy to avoid them. Sometimes, we may be conscious of uncomfortable or frightening thoughts associated with these sensations, but not always.

Then, there is a whole undergrowth of uncomfortable and frightening thoughts and additional sensations often in the form of chronic contractions. These can be quite entrenched, seem very real to us, and can stretch back to childhood experiences. 

Often, we would do almost anything to avoid consciously entering and meeting these. Including escaping into our compulsions, even if these come with their own unpleasant consequences. 

Several things may prevent us from consciously entering what we try to escape from. Mainly, it seems scary and frightening. We have our own beliefs telling us it’s scary and dangerous. Our society, at least traditionally, has told us these parts of us are dark and hide something terrifying. Our society makes it easy to escape through various addictions and compulsions. (We see others do it, and escape routes are easily available partly because some of them are profitable.) We may, wisely, think we would get lost if we enter these parts of ourselves, we may rock the boat, and we may take the lid off something we won’t know how to handle. (This may be true if we don’t have the right support, guidance, and skills.) 

The answer is to do exactly what we have avoided, do so with support and guidance, and eventually learn how to do it safely for ourselves. We need to meet and befriend these areas of ourselves. Become familiar with them, see the innocence behind it all, and perhaps invite these parts of us to heal. 

Over time, we get to see that it’s actually not so scary to enter these areas after all. It may be uncomfortable at first, but as we rest with the sensations and thoughts, and investigate what’s there, it tends to shift into an experience of relief and even of returning home. We are returning home to parts of ourselves we have shunned. 

It’s important to do this befriending in a skillful way, and that often means to initially be facilitated by someone experienced. These parts of ourselves are best met and explored in a way that’s respectful, patient, allows these parts to be as they are, see the innocence behind and in them, and invites them to heal in their own time. 

For me, the most helpful ways I have found of doing this include natural rest (notice, allow, rest with), inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries, Big Mind process), heart-centered practices (ho’oponopono, tonglen – towards these parts of ourselves), and releasing associated body contractions (TRE, massaging the contractions etc.). I won’t go into the details here since I have written about it in other articles. 

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Physical tension to maintain beliefs, wounds, and trauma

 
It’s common to see physical tension as created by stressful beliefs and trauma. At the level of our regular everyday experience, that’s true enough. We have stressful thoughts and with that comes physical tension. It can be stressful thoughts that are recurrent and comes with recurrent tension, it can be more chronic and ongoing, or it can be something that happens rarely. When we explore this through some forms of inquiry (e.g. Buddhist, Living Inquiries) we may find another connection between beliefs and physical tension. We see how any one identification and belief is associated with tension or contraction somewhere in the body. The thoughts give meaning to the tension, and the tension and contractions give a sense of solidity, reality and even truth to the thoughts. The physical tension is required for the thought to seem true. In a certain way, the mind creates physical tension in order to be able to believe a thought. This is an abstraction from what I notice regularly in inquiry. I explore an identification or belief. I notice it’s connected with a particular sensation, tension, or contraction in the body. I notice how the thought gives a sense of meaning to the sensation (it seems to mean something when it’s there), and the sensation gives a sense of substance and truth to the thought. For instance, the thought may be I am not good enough (identity as someone not good enough). I feel it as sensations in the throat. When I feel the sensations, they seem to tell me I am not good enough. And when I look at the thought I am not good enough it seems substantiated by the feeling in the throat. This all happens without too much conscious noticing. It happens relatively automatic and at the edge of what we are consciously aware of. When it is brought into conscious awareness, through inquiry, the mechanisms are revealed. The man behind the curtain is revealed. And through noticing and resting with what’s noticed, with patience, respect, and curiosity, the connections between these thoughts and sensations tend to weaken and eventually fall away. Thoughts are recognized as thoughts and not inherently true. Sensations are recognized as sensations and not inherently meaningful. Also, it all seems a bit silly. The mind believes a thougth just because it’s connected with some sensations? It creates these sensations (through tension) just so the thoughts can seem substantial and true? And yet, that’s how it seems to work. These dynamics can be explored and addressed in a wide range of ways. We can explore the thought-sensation connections through Living Inquiries. We can find what’s more true for us than our initial belief through The Work. Therapeutic tremoring (e.g. TRE) can, over time, release the physical tension giving substance to stressful beliefs and identifications. Vortex Healing can address both the mind (thought) and physical (contraction) side of the equation. We can help the relationship between these thought-sensation “beings” through parts and subpersonality work. We can change our overall relationship to them (allowing them to relax, reorient, and partially resolve themselves) through heart-centered practices. We may notice these dynamics and giving them space to resolve themselves through noticing, allowing, and giving it time (basic meditation). Note: When I say “stressful beliefs” or “stressful thoughts” here it really refers to identifications. When the mind identifies with the viewpoint of a thought, it takes it as true and make it into a belief. And any identification (or belief) is inherently stressful. Read More

Sending back projections?

 

A friend of mine talked about sending back projections. Other people put their projections on us, so we can notice and send them back (visualizing?).

First, what happens when we take on other people’s projections on us? We make it into a belief about ourselves. So although it may make sense to try to “send it back” we can’t really. We can’t send back a belief we have about ourselves because we made it ourselves. And we cannot will it away.

To me, it makes more sense to work with these beliefs about myself the same way I would work with any thoughts with a charge.

First, what’s an example of this projection-made-into-belief dynamic? Someone may have low self-esteem. They identify with beliefs and identities telling them they are not good enough and so on. So they project that onto us to feel better about themselves. And we may take on that projection through making it into a belief about ourselves. There is nothing inherently wrong or bad about this. It’s natural and understandable. Although as with any belief, these beliefs about ourselves may be stressful and limit how we live our lives.

And how would I work with it? One way is to examine these beliefs more thoroughly, for instance through The Work or the Living Inquiries.

Using The Work, I may examine thoughts such as: He is a jerk. He tries to put me down. He is insecure. I am not good enough. I am less than others. They will see me as not good enough. They won’t like me. They won’t accept me. They won’t love me. All of these, and whatever other thoughts I have, are gateways to really get to see the dynamics of the mind around this issue for me and find what’s more true for me. The thoughts become a valuable gift rather than a threat.

Using Living Inquiries, I may ask myself what the triggering situation says about me. For instance, I am not good enough. I am unlovable. I am less than others. I can explore how my mind creates these identities by combining thoughts and sensations. I can find the earliest memory I have of feeling that way and look at the thoughts and sensations creating that memory and anything associated with it. And in this way, the charge goes out of the identities and painful beliefs.

And although neither of these approaches explicitly talks about projections, that’s exactly what’s going on. Through either of these approaches, we identify, explore, and own projections, and the charge goes out of them. They are not only rendered harmless, they become a valuable asset and genuine gift.

Mild synchronicity: When I wrote this, I happened to listen to Michal Jackson’s Man in the Mirror.

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What do I do if I am interested in awakening but have had no success so far?

 

What do we do if we have an interested in spirituality and awakening but have had no success so far? Perhaps more to the point, what do we do if that weighs us down and we feel hopeless about it?

Here are some possibilities:

Explore forms of inquiry that can give you an immediate taste of what it’s about. Some I have found effective are the Big Mind process, Headless experiments, and – to some extent – Living Inquiries. This taste can give you a pointer for what it’s about, it can help you see that what you are seeking is already here, and it can serve as a needed disillusionment for the ideas you may have about what awakening entails. (Sometimes, people get an actual taste but dismiss it since it seems too simple and ordinary, and they continue to seek something more highfalutin and with more bells and whistles, and the disillusionment comes later.)

Inquire into beliefs you have about awakening and what not having it says about you. For instance, fill out these sentences and inquiry into them using The Work: Awakening is…. If I awaken, it will… Not being awakening means…. What I fear the most about not being awakened is…. Or use Living Inquiries to see if you can find the one who is unawakened, or awakening itself, or the drive to awakening, or anything else related to awakening and you in relation to awakening.

Along the same lines, clarify your motivation for awakening. What do you hope to get out of it? And what do you hope to get out of that? Continue until you find something very basic – and typically, universal – that you hope to get out of it. This, in itself, can be helpful, and it can also help you find other strategies to meet that need. As with any inquiry, take time with the question. Stay with it. Let it percolate. Allow the answer to surface on its own time.

Often, parts of our motivation for awakening is really a wish for healing. Identify what in you need healing, and may drive the desire for awakening, and invite in healing for those parts of you. Use whatever approach you are drawn to and that works for you.

If you have engaged in a particular spiritual path and don’t notice much results, consider revising your approach. Look at revising both your orientation and the tools and approaches you use. (a) Clarify your motivation for awakening. Inquire into your beliefs and identities connected with awakening and spirituality. Find healing for the parts of you that need healing and (partly) drive your wish for awakening. All of this can help you find a more helpful orientation to spirituality and awakening. (b) And you may consider trying out approaches or tools that may be more effective for you. If something doesn’t work in other areas of life, wouldn’t you try a different approach? So why not also when it comes to spirituality?

Awakening has a consciousness side and an energy side, and – for me – Vortex Healing is the most effective way to work with the energy side of awakening. Energetic structures hold consciousness in certain patterns and progressively undoing these will open for awakening. This won’t be the bells and whistles type of awakening some look for, but it will open a window to authentic awakening.

The approaches and tools I mention here are particular to me and what I am familiar with and have found especially helpful. As with anything I write here, this list is mostly meant as inspiration and to give some ideas for how to approach it. You’ll have to find what works for you. You have to make it your own.

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All-inclusive practices for healing and awakening

 

Another revisit:

I tend to be drawn to practices that invite in healing and awakening. It seems a more efficient approach since my time and energy is limited. And the two go hand in hand, one supports the other.

I also tend to be drawn to practices that are all-inclusive in different ways.

Here are some examples:

All-inclusive gratitude practice. Write a (daily) list of things in your life you are easily grateful for, or not, and start each sentence with: I am grateful for… This opens the mind for that possibility, and there is a natural curiosity for what there may be to be grateful for in situations we don’t particularly like or enjoy. (See the book “Make Miracles in Forty Days”.)

Ho’oponopono and tonglen. Helps me change my relationship to myself, others, situations, and life in general. It helps me befriend reality and life. Nothing is left out.

Notice and allow. Notice what’s here in experience, whatever it is (sensations, thoughts, sounds, smells, taste), allow it as it is, notice it’s already allowed as is, and rest with it. (Natural rest, shikantaza, just sitting.)

Inquire into anything. Any stressful belief or identity. Anything you are curious about. Anything that seems real. Anything that seems solid and substantial. (I tend to use The Work, Living Inquiries, or the Big Mind process.)

And a couple of other approaches that also have their way of being all-inclusive

Vortex Healing can be used for emotional issues, identifications, physical issues, relationships, situations, and places. As a practitioner, it works for healing and awakening. (And is the most effective approach to both I have found so far, although I still value and use the other approaches mentioned here and some more.)

Therapeutic tremoring (TRE) can be used to release any tension and trauma out of the body. Over time, this can have profound effects for our well-being and healing.

Why am I drawn to these all-inclusive practices? Mainly because reality is one. So it makes sense to find some gratitude to all experiences, or shift my relationship to everything (befriending), or inquire into any stressful belief, or question anything that seems real and true, or notice and rest with whatever experience is here whatever it may be.

Note: See other articles on this site for more detailed descriptions of these practices, or do an online search.

Sense of solidity

 

If all is awakeness or consciousness, why do we experience a sense of solidity? (We can also use modern science as a reference here since it tells us that even the most solid-appearing things are mostly space with some energy appearing in it here and there.)

This is something we can explore through different forms of inquiry. It can, for instance, be the traditional forms of Buddhist inquiry (exploring the sense fields) or modern versions such as the Living Inquiries.

When I have explored this for myself, I have taken something that seems quite solid to me. It can be my body or a part of the body, or something I am touching such as the floor or a cup. It can also be something I remember and imagine as solid, such as a car or a rock. I look at the mental images. Is that where I find the sense of solidity? Is that the thing itself? What about the words associated with it? Or the sensations? Or the imagination or memories of sensations? Or images of a past situation? Or any other associations? Can I find the sense of solidity anywhere in any of these?

Through this, I get to see how my mind creates a sense of solidity for itself. It’s created through a combination of imagination (images, words, memories of sensory experiences), perhaps some sensory experiences, and sensations in my body. In general, these sensations lend a sense of solidity to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend meaning to the sensations.

And more specifically, certain sensations in my body are associated with my memory of a rock, or my image of the floor my feet are resting on, or even how I sense my body. These sensations create a sense of solidity to my ideas about a rock or the floor or my body. They make them all seem solid, substantial, and real in a physical sense. And these sensations may be anywhere in the body. For me, right now, I notice them mostly in the mouth and head area.

After these explorations, the mind may say to itself “yes, I didn’t find the solidity there but I know it’s there”. So then we can explore that knowing. Is there a sensations that tells us we know the solidity is there? Where is it? Is that sensation the solidity we are looking for?

This doesn’t mean that the physical world doesn’t exist. It clearly does, in a conventional sense. We need to live our lives as if it does exist as it appears. At the same time, exploring how our minds create a sense of solidity can be very helpful. It opens it up. It gives us a different context for our physical lives in a physical world. It allows us to hold it all a little lighter.

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Inquiry, TRE, Vortex Healing etc. vs talk therapy

 

Talk therapy can be helpful in some situations, depending on the client, issue, therapist, and timing. In the best case, it can give us some sense of being seen and understood. That what we experience is normal. And it can give us some helpful insights and pointers.

For me, I generally find other approaches far more helpful.

In my case, it’s the ones I tend to write about here: Ho’oponopno to change my relationship to myself, others, a situation, or the world. Tonglen for the same. Inquiry for releasing beliefs (The Work) or charges out of an issue (Living Inquiries). Therapeutic trembling to release tension and trauma out of the body, and even out of specific issues (TRE). Vortex Healing for a current situation, emotional issues or identifications, and even for physical issues. All supported by training a more stable attention (samatha), and also noticing and allowing what’s here (Natural Rest, Shikantaza).

And for me, all of that supported by nature. A relatively healthy diet. Some physical activity. Nurturing of nurturing relationships and activities. And whatever else seems helpful.

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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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