Let it run its course

 

When I rest with an energy or body contraction, I sometimes remind myself let it run its course.

Here are some things I notice subtly happening.

It invites patience.

It’s a reminder that it’s temporary. It will pass as any experience does.

It’s a reminder that it may just need to run its course. If it has been shunned in the past, what it needs is partly to be rested with in presence and with patience.

Sometimes, a gentle pointer like this invites a small shift, and that’s all that’s needed to support me in resting more wholeheartedly with the energy or body contraction.

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Fewer dreams after inquiry

 

Since my teens, I have worked with dreams using mainly Jungian approaches such as active imagination. It’s been an important part of my process, and I used to remember dreams quite regularly. Since I started with the Living Inquiries a couple of years back, I have remembered far fewer dreams.

I wonder if it is because dreams convey information from what’s going on outside of conscious awareness to my conscious awareness, and especially if I remember them and work on them. Using the Living Inquiries, I am accessing that or similar information anyway, so there may be less need to remember dreams. An even simpler explanation is that my conscious attention is more on inquiry than dreams right now, and my mind responds by reducing the number of remembered dreams. One or both of those seem to be the most likely reason and they also make most intuitive sense.

Including the restlessness

 

Attention is like a light beam. It can be narrow or wide.

If it’s narrow, say resting on a body contraction, sometimes something will come up outside of this narrow field of attention. It may be restlessness, fear, a compulsion to think, a desire to be somewhere else or do something else. And if that happens, I find it helpful to notice where I feel that restlessness, fear, or compulsion in my body, and expand my field of attention to include those sensations. I include it in the noticing, allowing, and resting.

If it’s not noticed and acknowledged in this way, it’s easy to become unconsciously identified with it. I feel that “I” am restless, or want to do something else. There is very little space to intentionally relate to it, and instead, I may just act on it by getting up and do something else.

If it is noticed, acknowledged, and included in the noticing, allowing, and resting, then there is a shift. It’s recognized more easily as content of experience, and as a combination of sensations and imaginations. There is less identification with it. It’s also helpful to notice the space it’s happening within, and the space within the sensations. Through this, and by being gently and kindly acknowledged and rested with, it tends to relax.

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Identification and fear

 

Here is a very simplified overlook of how the identification process looks to me:

Our mind learns to identify early on, partly or mostly through imitating those around us, and perhaps partly through genetic or karmic conditioning. It learns to create velcro (combine sensations and imaginations), and through that create beliefs (taking stories as true) and identify with the viewpoint of these stories.

As soon as that happens, there is a sense of a separate self. A small self that is somehow separate from the rest of the world. In our case, that separate self calls itself a human self, and that human self accumulates a lot of additional identities over time.

Identifying as a separate self, in turn, creates fear. A separate self is vulnerable, in danger, at the whim of other separate selves and the larger world. It is born and it will die.

The mind learns to fear that fear. It learns to shun it, avoid it, fight it, distract itself from it. It learns to avoid feeling the scary sensations and looking at the scary mental images and words connected with it.

When the mind fears the fear, it reacts to it and tries to protect itself from it. And it does so in the form of distractions of any kind. It also reacts to the fear by creating anxiety, depression, compulsion, and through reinforcing and creating new identifications. These reinforced and new identifications continue the cycle.

This cycle is a cycle of suffering. It’s the mind struggling with its own creations, and that creates suffering. The mind makes some of its own experiences into an enemy, fights them, and suffer as a consequence. It’s split off from itself, and that’s suffering. It’s not home, even as it is. It’s caught in a cycle of perceived threats, and that too is suffering.

The remedy is for the mind to befriend its own creations. To befriend the scary sensations and imaginations. And also to see how it’s creating these combinations of sensations and imaginations that seem so scary. Resting with these components allows the glue holding them together, making them seem scary, to soften and perhaps even fall away.

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Restful inquiry

 

As I continue to explore inquiry, it has become simpler and more restful.

Isolate out one component at a time of what we are looking at.

Rest with what comes up. A gentle noticing, allowing, resting.

Ask simple questions to help the mind see what’s there, and see what more is connected to it.

It’s a very natural process. And it can be quite effortless. It just what happens when there is a natural curiosity and kindness towards our own experience (or a wish for that curiosity, gentleness, and kindness), and it’s been guided a bit through training in this particular form of inquiry.

Of course, there is a lot more to it. And there is a lot that’s learned through the shared experience of those of us exploring these forms of inquiry.

For instance….

Notice fear, resistance, restlessness, or a command for something to be different. Notice where you feel it. Include those sensations in the resting. Notice, allow, rest with it.

When resting with a contraction, bring half of the attention on the sensations and half on the space. That boundless space it and everything else is happening within, and that’s also within the contraction (no matter how dense it may seem).

Welcome what’s here. (a) Thank you for arising. I love you. Stay as long as you like. (Scott Kiloby.) (b) I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you. (Ho’oponopono.) (c) Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me. (Pamela Wilson.) (d) Gentle resting with it, with kindness.

Mine for additional imaginations connected with the contraction through tapping on the contraction, massaging the contraction, asking simple mining questions.

Asking questions to see what more is connected to sensations. What does it mean? What would it say if it could speak? What’s your first memory of having that feeling? How do you relate to it? What does it need from you? What holds it in place? 

The main dish is the gentle curiosity and kindness towards our own experience, and the isolating out of components and resting with them. The side dishes and spices are the rest, the questions, the little pointers to help the mind see and rest with what’s already there.

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Inquiry with a bodywork emphasis

 

I had a session earlier today where we combined bodywork and inquiry. This client is familiar with inquiry and is aware of a chronic contraction in his solar plexus/belly that’s connected to some long-standing issues, so we decided to start working on it from the body side and then see what came up.

Any psychological issue – whether it’s anxiety, depression, trauma, cravings, deficiency stories, or more generally beliefs and identifications – has a body side and a mind side. They are two sides of the same coin. So it makes sense to work on them from both of those sides.

When I first heard of the body-mind connection, it was partly from the new age world where it made intuitive sense but seemed a bit fuzzy and mysterious, and it was partly from science where I explored psychoimmunology and similar connections.

We can also explore this body-mind connection in a more simple and immediate way in our own experience, for instance through inquiry.

Body contractions give charge to any psychological issue, whether it’s anxiety, depression, trauma, cravings, deficiency stories, or anything else. These issues are unable to exist or have any sense of reality or charge unless they are associated with body contractions. It seems that for the mind to create these issues for itself, it needs to connect them with sensations, and the easiest way to do that is to create body contractions which provide these sensations. Chronic issues then come with chronic body contractions. These may not be obvious all the time, but they resurface whenever the issue is triggered. And sometimes they are obvious and present all the time, as with my shoulder tension.

The other side of this is that imaginations and stories (mental images and words) give meaning to sensations and body contractions, and any emotionally related body contraction will have imaginations and stories connected with it. If it’s chronic and long lasting, it may have a great deal of meaning – in the form of images and words – connected with it.

So if I am working with a client and we have done one or two sessions together, and we have identified a recurrent body contraction, we may do a bodywork session. A session where we focus on the body contraction, work on it physically, and then explore the mental images and words that come up through that work.

In this session, I massaged the belly contraction by leaning in, holding for a while, and then moving over slightly. The client rested with the sensations while noticing the (boundless) space they happened within. He also noticed and reported images and words, and rested with these as they came up. Occasionally, I would ask inqiry or mining questions such as is it a threat?, what is your first memory of feeling this contraction? 

During silent periods, I did run some Vortex energy to help heal the issue behind the contraction, and also bring up images and words related to it.

The client trembled (therapeutic tremoring, TRE) at times, and I used Breema principles and moves when I worked on his belly (hara), so we got to use Natural Rest, Living Inquiries, Breema, Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises, and Vortex Healing in this session. They all came in naturally and seamlessly.

For both the client and me, the session felt grounded and real. That’s one of the benefits of working more intentionally from the body side of the issue.

I am not quite sure what to call it. Somatic inquiry? Bodywork inquiry? Mind-body inquiry? Inquiry with bodywork emphasis?

There is nothing new here. I believe there are many traditions and practitioners doing similar work. And it’s also an integral part of the Living Inquiries. One way to do it is to have the client massage the contraction themselves. And the other way, which I often prefer since it can go deeper, is for the facilitator to do it while guiding natural rest and simple restful inquiry.

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How do the Living Inquiries work?

 

How or why do the Living Inquiries work?

In general, it’s because we get to see more clearly what’s really here. Instead of being mesmerized by scary or uncomfortable appearances created by the mind, we get to align more consciously with reality. And that in itself is a relief and healing.

Here are some more specific possible reasons why it works.

We go out of story and instead notice thought as mental images and words. The stories may be stressful, and perhaps not entirely true. So noticing them as mental images and words is a relief. We align more closely with that reality. (Withouth denying the validity of the stories.)

By separating out the elements and looking (images, words), listening (words, sounds), and feel (sensations) them, the mind “gets” what they really are, and this allows the glue holding the elements together to soften and perhaps release.

Said another way, when we rest with each element, it sinks in what they really are – images, words, and sensations.

By facing what we fear, a charged combination of elements, we get to see that it’s not as scary as it initially seemed. As long as we avoid it, we reinforce the idea that it’s scary and dangerous. When we meet it, we get to see what’s really there and it’s less scary.

It’s a form of exposure therapy. We rest with the scary images, words, and sensations. We get more familiar with them. We get to see they may not be as scary as they initially seemed.

When we notice the (infinite) space the elements happen within and as, they seem less charged or strong. It’s as if their charge is diluted.

By asking questions such as what’s your first memory of that feeling?, we get to see how the charged combination of elements was created early in life. We may see the innocence of it. And how it made sense then, and makes less sense now in our current situation.

When we work with a facilitator, we are accompanied by someone else holding space and guiding us. This makes is easier to meet and explore what’s here. We feel more held and supported. We have a witness, which somehow makes it easier for us to witness what’s here. This person is also familiar with the process, and knows from own experience that any charge experience is made up of simple elements, and the relief when we get to see and take this in.

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Going to thought to avoid feeling sensations given meaning by thought

 

Most of us go to thought to avoid feeling sensations given meaning by thought. It’s an interesting circularity that begins and ends with thought.

Here is the simple version of what’s happening.

(a) Thought gives a scary meaning to sensations.

(b) Since it seems scary, we want to avoid it.

(c) And the easiest way to avoid it is often to go to thought.

And a more elaborate description:

(a) Thoughts give a scary meaning to sensations. And the same sensations give a sense of substance and reality to those thoughts. These sensations often take the form of a body contraction, and this can be activated in the moment, or it can be more chronic.

(b) Since it seems scary, we want to avoid it. The thought-sensation combination seems scary, so we typically want to avoid looking at it closely. We may be caught in the drama of it, and even that’s a way to avoid looking more closely at the thought component and feeling the sensation component.

(c) The easiest way to avoid it is often to go to thought. These thoughts can be about nearly anything. They can be distracting thoughts. Analyzing thoughts trying to understand the problem. Strategizing thoughts trying to find a solution to the apparent problem. And they can even be the initially troublesome thoughts themselves when we get caught in their content instead of recognizing them as mental images and words.

There is a circularity here. The whole cycle starts and ends with thoughts. It starts with a scary thought held to be true. And ends with thoughts aimed at avoiding taking a closer look at these thoughts, and avoiding feeling the associated sensations and body contraction.

The solution to this and the way out is described in several other posts on this blog.

Aligning with reality vs tricks

 

In the Living Inquiries, most of the time we notice what’s here and align more consciously with reality. That’s where the deepest healing is found. And sometimes, we also use “tricks”.

I may have a client notice images, words, and sensations (contractions) associated with a particular perceived threat, or compulsion, or deficiency story. I have them notice the boundless space it’s all happening within and as. We may explore the earliest memory of feeling that way. All of this is just noticing what’s already there and resting with it. And it can be very healing.

And sometimes, I may use a “trick”. One of my favorites is amplify / release. When something has a strong charge, amplify it. Make it stronger for about 10 seconds. Then release and relax for 10 seconds. Repeat a few times. This helps us see that what we tried to avoid because it seemed scary is actually not quite so scary. Also, by attempting to make it stronger we may get some insights into how these contractions and charged experiences are created and held in place by the mind. And the charge does tend to lessen, which makes it easier to rest with it and inquire into it. It supports resting and inquiring into it.

There are also other tricks which I rarely if ever use. For instance, when looking at words, you can scramble the letters and/or let them fall down in a pile. This helps the mind get that they are words without any inherent meaning. (For me, this is a bit too much of a “trick” although it seems to work for some.)

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Allowing vs healing

 

For me, allowing and healing go hand in hand.

What’s here is already allowed. This experience, as it is, is already allowed – by life, mind, space, awareness. There is an allowing of what’s here inherent in existence and what we are. Our conscious view may or may not be aligned with this allowing, and this alignment may change from situation to situation, and that’s allowed as well.

When we don’t notice this allowing, and instead are caught in beliefs saying what’s here is wrong, bad, and shouldn’t be, we struggle with what is. And that’s suffering. It can be very helpful to notice and then align more consciously with this allowing. It’s a relief. It is, in a very real sense, a coming home. We are coming home to a central characteristic of what we already are, which is this inherent allowing.

One of the innumerable things that are allowed is a wish for something to be different. If we don’t notice the allowing, then wishing for something to be different can become compulsive and add another layer to the suffering. If we do notice the allowing, then the movement for change can become much lighter, more of a natural movement than a compulsion. In either case, the wish for something to be different is very natural, very human, and sometimes even kind and healthy. It can be a kindness to our human self and perhaps to others as well.

This topic sometimes comes up in an inquiry context. The allowing invites a natural healing, and it also allows us to work towards this healing. Say I feel unloved. I can notice it’s all already allowed. The sensations, images, and words making up the sense of being unloved is already allowed. And just resting in that noticing is very healing. I rest with each of the components of “unloved” while noticing the boundless space it’s happening within and as, the presence it’s happening within and as, and the inherent allowing of it all.

And I can also explore it more thoroughly and intentionally through inquiry. I can ask simple questions about each component of “unloved” to see what’s really there. I can look at the early situations in my life where that identify was initially created. I can do some mining on the body contraction supporting the sense of being unloved and see what additional stories are connected with it. All of this too invites in healing.

When I notice and align more consciously with the inherent allowing, I get to notice and align with what I am. When I invite in healing, I do something very natural and kind for my human self.

Note: The topic of this post became more clear to me as I wrote. If I was to rewrite it, which I probably will in another post, it would probably be more clear, simple, and direct. That’s one of the benefits of writing. If it starts out fuzzy, it does tend to become a bit more clear as I write.

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How to avoid retraumatizing in inquiry

 

Some form of trauma is behind anxiety, depression, addictions and just about anything else that seems troubling to us.

That’s why it’s helpful to focus on trauma in inquiry sessions on these type of topics. A good question to get back to an early or initial trauma is to have the client notice and feel the sensations connected with the current problem, and ask what’s your earliest memory of feeling that way?

How can we avoid retraumatizing the client in inquiry?

Here are some ways to reduce the chance of retraumatizing:

Approach it indirectly.

Find the deficiency story triggered or created by the traumatizing situation. What does the situation say about me? Explore that identity.

Explore the threat in looking at the images and words associated with it, and feeling the sensations.

Isolate out the components – images, words, sensations – one at a time. Look at words or an image, feel the sensations, and set the rest aside for a while as best as you can. Slow it down, isolate out each component.

Notice the infinite space the imaginations or sensations happen within, and that’s also inside of the sensations and body contractions.

Spend a lot of time resting with what’s here. Again, slow it down, isolate out each component, spend a lot of time resting with it.

Meet what’s here – images, words, sensations – with kindness. Meet it with gentleness, kindness, patience. If needed, use ho’oponopono. (I am sorry, Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.) Or the thank you phrase. (Thank you for arising. I love you. Stay as long as you like.)

Sometimes, other supports can also be helpful such as tapping (EFT, TFT). Or the amplify / release technique. (Make the sensations, image, or words as strong as you can for 10 seconds, then release and relax, repeat a few times.)

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Unconsciously identified with vs recognizing as content of experience

 

When something charged is activated in us and not recognized, then we are often unconsciously identified with it.

If we instead notice it as content of experience, and notice how it’s made up of a combination of sensations (charge) and stories (meaning), then there is often a softening or even release of the identification.

For instance, resistance may come up in an inquiry session. There is a resistance to doing the inquiry, and this may come from fear and fearful thoughts about what we may have to feel and encounter. If we don’t notice this resistance, or don’t look at it more closely to find the images, words, and sensations making it up, we are typically unconsciously identified with it. It will color our session, and our relationship to the session and the facilitator. A good facilitator will notice this and invite the client to find the resistance and explore its components. Look at the imaginations, the mental images and words. And feel and rest with the sensations. This helps us notice it as content of experience, as made up of imagination and sensations, and it tends to soften the identification with it. We also get to explore the fear behind it. We can relate to the resistance/fear more intentionally.

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Three ways to mine body contractions

 

Most body contractions are associated with certain imaginations, certain stories. The two go together.

They are held in place by certain stories, and they also make these stories seem real and charged.

There are three main ways of finding stories connected to a body contraction.

One is to rest with the sensations. Notice and allow them as they are. Feel the physical sensations. Take time. And notice what images and words surface, and then look at these.

Another is to ask mining questions. What does it mean? What is my earliest memory of feeling this?

A third is to explore it through bodywork. Massage the contraction. Tap on it. Use vibration. See if any images or words come up, and then write them down to look at them later, or explore them here and now.

When these stories surface, we can look at them and explore them through inquiry questions. And these may bring us back to sensations again – whether it’s the same contraction or something else, which in turn may bring up more images and words. It’s helpful to keep going until no more images or words surface, until the images and words have little or no charge to them, and the body contraction doesn’t seem to mean anything anymore. This

It’s helpful to keep going until no more images or words surface, until the images and words have little or no charge to them, and the body contraction doesn’t seem to mean anything anymore. This may not happen within one session, but it will happen if we keep exploring it.

I should also mention that I find Vortex Healing very helpful in exploring body contractions. It can help soften and dissolve the contraction. It can help heal the underlying issues. And it can help bring images and words to the surface so we are aware of them and – if we wish – so we can explore them in inquiry.

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Muscle relaxants and painkillers, and what we feel

 

Their conclusion: Acetaminophen, the most common drug ingredient in the United States, can reduce a person’s capacity to empathise with another person’s pain, whether that pain is physical or emotional.

Popular painkiller ingredient can reduce empathy, study finds, The Independent, May 12 2016

Recent research shows that common painkillers reduce empathy. Having worked with clients who are on different types of medication aimed at reducing emotional or physical pain, I am not surprised. It seems that reducing our ability to feel physical sensations reduces our ability to feel emotions as well. And that’s what we would expect knowing that sensations are an essential component of emotions and any experience that we experience as having a charge.

As I have mentioned in other posts, sensations lend charge and a sense of reality and solidity to imaginations. They make the content of stories seem real, true, and charged, whether these stories are just a label (sadness, anger, happiness, pain), or a more elaborate story about the world, others, or oneself.

I assume something similar is happening with muscle relaxants. Body contractions are a part of anxiety, depression, trauma, and addictions, so when the body contractions soften, the intensity of these emotions and cravings are likely to soften as well.

No wonder people get addicted to painkillers and even muscle relaxants. They help us not feel feelings we would rather not feel.

Painkillers and muscle relaxants numb us. There is nothing wrong in that. For some of us, it may be the best solution in the situation we are in. And it’s also not a lasting solution. It doesn’t solve the underlying issues which is that we take our experience as real and solid, we take our painful stories as true, and we fight and struggle with our painful stories and how they make us feel. For that, we need to address these underlying issues more directly. For instance through inquiry.

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Addressing traumas in inquiry without retraumatizing

 

Many of us have traumas and areas of the mind that seem scary and dangerous to approach. At the same time, we would like to be free from the painful dynamics these tend to create in our lives.

How do we work with these issues?

One approach is to plunge directly into trauma and the scariest areas of the mind, overriding any natural and understandable fears or resistance to doing so. That tends to retraumatize and creates a lack of trust between the facilitator and client. And that’s understandable since this is not a very skillful way to do it. Such an approach tends to come from inexperience or from a belief on the facilitator’s side that the client should plunge directly into these things while ignoring fears, resistance, and red flags.

A more skillful approach is to fully acknowledge the fears, resistance, and red flags. We take them seriously. We explore them. We see what’s there and perhaps their roots in early life experiences. And from there, we see where to go next. We may continue exploring related issues such as fears, resistance, and identities. After these explorations, we may also find that it seems safer to explore these traumas more directly. There may be a readiness to do so.

In the Living Inquiries, how do we approach inquiry in these situations? A common approach is to initially look at one or more of the following:

(a) The fears of entering the traumas or other scary areas of the mind. How does the mind create its experience of these fears? What imaginations and sensations make them up? What’s really there? (These may be fears of being overwhelmed, not being able to deal with it, that healing is not possible, we are broken beyond repair.)

Conversely, what fears are there about not entering or exploring these areas? How are these fears created by the mind? What’s really there? (We won’t ever heal, we are missing out of an opportunity.)

(b) Any commands to enter these areas or to not enter these areas. How are these commands created by the mind? What imaginations and sensations make them up? What’s really there?

(c) Any identities related to these traumas and scary areas of the mind. What does the traumatizing situation say about me? What do I fear others would say about me? What’s the worst someone could think about me in that situation?

Each of these is often easier to explore than entering the initial trauma head on. And these inquiries tend to get at core issues relating to the trauma. They may also reduce the charge sufficiently so we feel comfortable facing the trauma more directly, allowing us to see and explore what’s left of the trauma related charge.

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How the modalities I use work together

 

The different approaches I use all fit together nicely for me. Detailing how would take a long time since the parallels and interactions are very rich, although here is the start of an outline.

THE MODALITIES

Living Inquiries (LI). An exploration of how sensory experiences and imagination combine to create our reality and how we experience the world. Specifically, we look at how sensations and imagination (mental images, words) come together to create an experience of different selves (deficient and inflated), threats, and commands. Through noticing the elements and the presence it’s all happening within, there is a release of the “glue” holding them all together. Our relationship to it changes. The charge tends to soften and go out of it. We recognize it all as presence and what we already are.

There is a deep allowing of what’s here which helps us to recognize ourselves as presence and that which all happens within and as. (And also as the emptiness allowing all of that.) There is also an invitation for what creates suffering in us to soften and release, which supports us as who we are, as human beings who naturally wishes to reduce and be free of suffering. These two go hand in hand and are mutually supportive.

The Work (TW). Identify and investigate beliefs. Beliefs means to take certain stories (imaginations) as true and real. It’s what happens when there is identification with the viewpoint of certain stories. We take ourselves to be that viewpoint, at least to some extent. The outcome is similar to the outcome of the Living Inquiries.

Breema. Mindfulness in movement. Finding ourselves as the whole that body and psyche is part of, and the presence it’s all happening within and as. This is also a very nurturing practice.

Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE). Releasing muscle tension through the natural trembling and releasing mechanism of the body. Allowing our body and the innate wisdom of the body – created through evolution and the experiences of all our ancestors – to be in the driver seat. This also naturally and progressively helps release layers of trauma.

Vortex Healing (VH). My most recent exploration. Inviting and allowing divine energy and intelligence to work on us as a healing and awakening path. The framework for VH is very much aligned with the other modalities.

HOW THEY WORK TOGETHER

LI and TW. I sometimes will use TW within an LI session if I notice the client is more comfortable with thought than presence or feeling. It’s a stepping stone for them, and can be very helpful.

TW and LI. Within a TW session, I may include LI elements of resting with sensations, images or words.

Breema. Breema helps us bring noticing and allowing into movement. It can also be deeply nurturing. It helps us experience ourselves as the whole that body and psyche are part of. And it helps us find ourselves as the presence all happens within and as.

TRE and LI. TRE helps release the tension and body contractions that together with imagination makes up anxiety, depression, compulsion and general struggle and suffering. It speeds up the LI process, and LI helps speed up the TRE process.

VH and LI. VH can help bring the client into a more calm and present state, ready to do the looking required in LI. It can also help reveal and release whatever issues the client is exploring, and can help release and reveal the issues related to body contractions. VH can be used at any point before, during, or after an LI session.

LI and VH. LI can help us examine and find more clarity around issues revealed and softened through VH. It can help us see how the mind creates a sense of reality in anxiety, depression, and compulsions, and also help us find ourselves as the presence it all happens within and as.

HOW HEALING AND AWAKENING WORK TOGETHER

Healing and awakening. Beliefs, identification, and wounding are all words for the same. All creates the appearance of us being a separate self. All of it creates a contraction within mind and body which makes it difficult for what we are to recognize itself. It makes it difficult for the presence that we are to rest in itself as presence and as presence as the content of experience. When there is identification, beliefs, and wounds, we will inevitably identify as these whenever they are triggered. So healing is an essential part of a more stable awakening. Presence recognizing itself in a more stable and consistent way as that which all happens within and as, and then emptiness recognizing itself as that which all of that happens within and as.

It’s quite common for an opening or awakening to be followed by a “loss” of this awakening. That comes from mind identifying with stories again. And most (or all?) of the time, it’s because a wound is triggered leading to identification with painful stories. As these heal, which is a somewhat endless process (!), it’s easier for the awakening to be more stable and to deepen.

Awakening and healing. An opening or awakening can be very helpful for healing. It gives the mind a new context for any experiences, and this can make it easier to explore beliefs and identifications, and heal from wounds. At the very least, it gives a reference which can serve as a guide in this healing and exploration.

Awakening also can and will “take the lid off” of our trauma and wounds. At some point, these come to the surface to be seen, felt, loved, and rested with in presence. They come up to be recognized as presence itself, as love itself, as the divine. They come up so the divine (presence, love) can recognize itself as that too, as wounds and identification. And that’s where the deeper healing happens.

Mutual support. Healing as who we are, this human being, supports a more stable and deepening awakening. And awakening as what we are, that which all happens within and as, supports the healing of who we are. They go hand in hand.

Vortex Healing & Inquiry

 

Here are some simple ways of combining Vortex Healing (VH) and inquiry.

Use VH to settle the mind, center, nurture, find peace. This is a good starting point for inquiry.

Use VH on an issue and then follow up with inquiry. VH tends to break down the density of the issue, making inquiry easier.

Use VH on a body contraction to help dissolve it and bring the issues related to it to the surface. This can then be explored further with inquiry.

Any of these can be done during a session. I did an inquiry session today where I used VH to help settle the mind, and then on the particular issue and body contraction that came up during inquiry. There are often periods of resting with what comes up, and especially sensations and body contractions, and that’s where it’s relatively easy to bring in VH.

As I continue to explore Vortex Healing, I am sure I’ll find more ways the two go hand in hand.

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Sensations combined with imagination

 

Imagination gives sensations a meaning. Sensations that are not associated with a story are easily recognized as sensations. And sensations associated with a story seem to mean something.

Similarly, sensations give imagination a sense of substance, solidity, and reality. Imagination that’s not associated with sensations are easily recognized as imagination. When imagination is associated with sensations, it seems real, solid, and substantial. It has a charge.

Any stress, trauma, deficient or inflated self, perceived threat, compulsion, and attraction or repulsion is created in this way. That’s why – in the Living Inquiries – it’s helpful to look at each image and word making up whatever we explore, and notice and take time to feel the associated sensations.

That’s how the mind reprograms itself. That’s how it shifts from (a) taking the collection of imaginations and sensations making up an experience as real, solid and unquestionable, to (b) recognize the separate elements as just that – distinct and separate. That’s how the charge softens or is released. That’s how healing happens. That’s what gives more clarity.

Through this, we also get to see the process from sensations appearing to mean something, to sensations being revealed as sensations inherently without meaning. And we get to see how imagination that seems real and solid is revealed as imagination without an inherent reality to its story.

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Current situation -> early trauma

 

When I work with clients with the Living Inquiries, we often start with a current charged situation.

There are several reasons for this. One is that the client feels heard and respected. They feel that their immediate concerns are understood and taken seriously.

The other is that any current charged situation often leads us relatively quickly to a traumatic situation early in life. I will usually explore the current situation for a bit – look at a couple of images and perhaps some words, and feel the related sensations. Then, I’ll ask what’s your earliest memory of feeling that feeling? This will usually bring us right back to an early traumatic situation – either a one-time or a repeated situation. Often, one instance stands out of a series of similar instances.

In this way, we get to address both the earlier traumatic situation – which often is behind several current issues and the initial current issue. The client gets to see and feel the connection between the two. And the charge may relax around both through being present with the imaginations and sensations that make up the charged issues.

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Noise as escape

 

Noise – as just about anything else – can be used as a distraction and escape.

It can be used to distract us from uncomfortable feelings and the stories attached to and often creating these feelings. (These stories make the physical sensations appear uncomfortable and have a meaning.)

Silence can seem threathening because it makes the noise of our mind more obvious. It highlights the discomfort of a mind struggling with itself.

I assume using noise as an escape is partly universal and partly a cultural phenomenon. In our culture, we have the technology to easily create a lot of sound. (Music, TV and movies which we can leave on even if we are not paying much attention to it, and equipment such as leaf blowers, power tools etc..)

I do this sometimes too. I sometimes listen to podcasts instead of being present and resting with uncomfortable sensations and the imagination associated with them.

The other side of this is that I am sometimes bothered by noise, and my mind wants to make noisy pepople “wrong”. And that’s for me to look more at.

Where is the threat in noise and noisy people? How does my mind create its experience of a threat in these things? What sensations and imaginations (images, words) are there?

What does noise say about me? (I am a victim, sensitive, different.) Can I find that person? How does my mind create its experience of such a person?

Where is the compulsion for silence? How does my mind create its experience of a compulsion? What sensations and imaginations are there, creating that apperance of a compulsion?

I had a conversation about this today, which was the seed of this post, and by coinciencee saw two articles on this topic:

Science says silence is much ore important for our brains than we thought – Lifehacker

Why silence is so good for your brain – Huffington Post

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Natural rest + curiosity = inquiry

 

Some words about the relationship between natural rest and inquiry.

What is natural rest? Natural rest means to notice and allow. Notice what’s here – sounds, mental images, words, sensations, smell, taste, movement and more. Allow it as it is. It’s a shift from thinking to noticing thought. It’s a shift from being caught in the content of thought to noticing what’s here in sensory experience and noticing imagination as imagination.

What’s the relationship between natural rest and inquiry?  Natural rest naturally leads to inquiry. Within natural rest, a natural curiosity comes up. A curiosity about our experience. And this leads to inquiry.

Inquiry happens within natural rest. It happens within – and as – noticing and allowing.

How do natural rest and inquiry combine? The combination of natural rest and inquiry can take several forms.

Natural Rest

Notice and allow. There is very little guidance of attention here.

Notice and allow – with some guidance.

Notice sensations. Mental images. Words. Sensations.

Do a body scan. Notice areas that seem more spacious. Neutral. Dense, contracted or uncomfortable.

Notice the boundless space outside and inside of the body, and outside and inside of bodily contractions.

Notice awareness. Notice that your whole field of experience is awareness. It’s already aware.

Notice that what’s here is already allowed – by awareness, space, life.

Inquiry

Wordless inquiry – a bit more guided.

Slow it down. Take your time with each element.

Look at an image or word. See if it fades or not.

Feel sensations. See if they fade or not.

Notice how imagination gives a sense of meaning to sensations, and sensations gives a charge and sense of solidity and reality to imagination. Look at the different sensations and imaginations that seem “stuck together”.

If imagination or bodily contractions don’t naturally fade, it can be helpful to use inquiry with questions.

Inquiry with questions – goes a bit deeper and helps us stay more alert.

Flash inquiry. Ask questions about the “first layer” of imagination and sensations.

Typical self-facilitation. Keep returning to sensations between each “look” at imagination.

Advanced self-facilitation. Do it similar to a facilitated session.

Natural rest is something that can be done in just about any situation in daily life. The same goes for wordless inquiry and flash inquiry with words. A more in-depth self-facilitation is easier if we set aside some time for it, and it can be helpful to ask the questions (to oneself) out loud and/or writing down the questions – and perhaps even the answers.

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Let it be true

 

Let it be true.

That’s been my main pointer lately.

When I notice even slightly uncomfortable thoughts or sensations, and I remember, I remind myself let it be true.

There is a great relief in this. So much energy goes into resisting or disproving uncomfortable thoughts or sensations, and often it’s not even conscious. This pointer is an invitation to do the opposite. Let it be true, and rest in it being true for a few moments.

Whenever a thought is even slightly uncomfortable, it’s because we have thoughts about it saying it’s bad or undesirable and there is resistance to it. And the same goes for sensations. Whenever sensations seem even slightly uncomfortable, it’s because it’s because a thought says it means something, and that meaning is bad or undesirable, so there is resistance to it.

It’s helpful to take time resting in it being true. Notice what happens. Is there a sense of relief? Anything else?

After a while, we can explore it further in gentle inquiry. What images are there? Words? What (other) sensations? Look at the images and words. Feel the sensations. Perhaps ask a few simple questions to clarify what’s already and really there.

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Notice push/pull of distractions

 

During any form of meditation, it can be interesting to see where attention goes when it wanders.

This may happen during a training of more stable attention (keeping attention on something, for instance the sensations of the breath at the nostrils), natural rest (noticing and allowing), a heart centered practice (ho’o, tonglen), a body centered practice (noticing sensations, yoga, tai chi, breema etc.), or something else.

When attention gets distracted, it gets distracted by stories that has a charge to them. And these stories have a charge because they are associated with certain sensations. (Sensations lends a sense of reality, solidity and charge to the imagination. And imagination lends meaning to the sensations.) Instead of charge, we can say identification (identification with the viewpoint of the stories), beliefs (at least a part of us taking stories as real and true), or velcro (sensations and imagination associated with each other).

And when I say “distracted by” that can happen in at least two different ways, and there is often a combination of the two.

One is the stories that attention goes to. These may have a charge to them, as described above. And this charge makes them seem important. The charge may be interpreted as a like or dislike. We like or dislike the stories and/or what they are about.

Another is what attention seeks to avoid, which is also a story with a charge to it. When we look, we may first notice the sensation aspect of it (uncomfortable sensations) or the imagination aspect of it (uncomfortable stories). And it appears uncomfortable because a certain story is associated with sensations that makes it appear real, true, and solid.

Explaining it in this way, it may seem complicated, but it can be quite simple in practice.

(a) Keep attention somewhere, for instance in one of the ways mentioned above.

(b) Notice when attention wanders. (This noticing may happen during or after the fact.)

(c) Notice where attention goes. Notice the story or stories it goes to.

(d) Does that story have a charge? Where do you feel it in the body? What are the associated images and words?

(e) What among the sensations in my body did (or do) I not want to feel right now? What did attention want to escape? Find it in the body. Take some time to feel the physical sensations. Notice associated images and words.

This is a simple way to explore it. We can also use inquiry to take it further and explore it more in depth. In most cases, there is a lot of different sensations and imaginations (images and words) connected to what attention went to and tried to avoid.

In the beginning, can be easier to explore it in this setting. It provides a supportive container for the exploration. And really, it can be done in any situation in daily life. Whenever attention gets drawn into a story, I can explore the charge in the story it goes to and also what attention was trying to avoid.

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The importance of training a stable attention

 

With a more stable attention, whatever we do becomes easier and more effective.

Fortunately, training our attention is relatively straight forward and doesn’t need to take much time.

Even five or ten minutes a day makes a big difference. All we need to do is find something for attention to rest on for that period of time, and gently and firmly bring it back when it wanders. (Which it will, at least at first.)

Breath is a good place for attention to rest. At first, we may have attention rest on the whole experience of breath from nose through belly. We may also have it rest on the belly. Or we can have it rest on the sensations of the breath in the nose, or even at the very tip of the nose.

Whatever we do becomes easier and more doable with a more stable attention, including inquiry, heart or body centered practices, being with someone else (a friend, partner, child), work, play, rest, even falling asleep.

There is a reason I write about this again. I sometimes see inquiry facilitators working with clients over time, without having them practice a more stable attention. That seems unfortunate, and even a slight waste of time. The five minutes spent having them practice stable attention would easily be made up for later in the session and the benefit will be especially noticeable over time.

Boomerang vs shadow

 

What’s the difference between the boomerang in Living Inquiries and the shadow?

The shadow refers to seeing in others what I don’t like and don’t fully acknowledge in myself. The other is a direct mirror. If I judge the other in words, I can turn those words around to myself and find specific examples of how that’s true.

The boomerang question is more open: What does the situation say about me? We are looking for an identity triggered by the situation, and there may be a range of identities triggered.

So for instance, someone in my household is not doing their dishes.

Shadow: She is sloppy -> I am sloppy. She is irresponsible -> I am irresponsible. For each, find at least three specific examples of how that’s as or more true than the initial statement.

Boomerang: What does it say about me? What identities get triggered in me? I am responsible. I am tidy. (Inflated selves.) I am a victim. (Of her messiness, a deficient self.)

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Sleepiness in inquiry

 

Clients sometimes get sleepy in inquiry.

It may be because the client is getting close to or is entering an area that seems scary. Or he or she may be physically tired.

We can explore sleepiness in inquiry.

Is the sleepiness a threat or a problem? How does the mind create its experience of this threat or problem?

How does the mind create its experience of the sleepiness itself? What sensations and imaginations makes it up?

Is there a command to stay awake? How does the mind create the experience of this command?

I sometimes also invite the client to get up and move to invigorate the body and mind. (Especially if the tiredness is more due to withdrawal or lack of sleep.)

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Body contractions as a component of trauma, anxiety, depression, addictions, low self-esteem and more

 

Body contractions are an important component of trauma, anxiety, depression, addiction, low self-esteem and more.

The mind needs sensations to give imagination a sense of solidity and reality and to give it a charge. So it tenses muscles to create these sensations.

They are sometimes temporarily amplified as needed in the situation. And if the mind wishes to create a more lasting experience of trauma etc., then the body contractions can be more lasting and chronic.

These contractions are somewhat individual and can be just about anywhere on the body, although they are often in the torso along the mid-line and also in the throat and head area. They can be on the skin or deeper in the body. (They can even sometimes be experienced as outside of the physical body, when imagination makes physical sensations appear in the space outside of the body.)

There are many ways to work with these contractions and what they are a component of. We can do inquiry on them and see how we relate to them and also what imaginations are connected with them.

Through inquiry, we get to see how we relate to the contractions and also what imaginations (memories, images, words) are connected to them.

We can tap on them, hold, massage.

Therapeutic tremoring (TRE) can help release the physical contraction. This will, in turn, take some of the charge out of what the contraction is a part of whether it’s trauma, anxiety, depression, addiction or something else.

We can use different forms of energy and/or bodywork to (a) shift how we relate to the contraction (befriend it), or (b) release the contraction.

Exploring the contraction both from the mind (inquiry) and the body side is often helpful and sometimes essential.

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Simplified explanation of inquiry

 

Here is one way to talk about the Living Inquiries:

  • Why
    • We get to see how the mind creates its own experience of X.
    • X can be a perceived threat, something that seems real (a deficient/inflated self, an object, a concept), or a command to do or not do something.
  • How – general
    • We look at sensory experiences and imagination and how the two combine.
      • Sensory experiences include sensations, sight, taste, smell, touch, movement and more.
      • Imagination tends to mirror sensory experiences: Imagined images, sounds, tastes, smells, touch, movement and more. This imagination includes words (picture + sound).
    • Most often, we feel sensations and look at mental images or listen to words.
    • We ask simple questions to see what’s there more clearly.
      • The main question is is it X? Is this image a threat? Is this word me, the one who is alone? Do these sensations tell me to eat ice cream? 
      • To see what more is there, we can ask questions such as: What does it (the sensations, image, words) mean? What does it want from me? If it could speak, what would it say?
  • How – practical
    • Start with words or an image, or perhaps a sensation. Start with the most obvious.
    • Take some time to look at it, or feel it if it’s a sensation.
    • Ask is it X? 
    • If yes, then see how you got that answer. Did you feel it? Or was it an image or words? Go there and ask the question again.
    • If no, then rest. Return to a previous yes and check again. Stay with the original question.

As mentioned above, it’s all about seeing how the mind creates its own experience of something. By looking, feeling, asking simple questions, and “leaving no stone unturned”, two things may happen. We may befriend it and see it’s not as scary as we thought. And the charge may go out of it.

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Living Inquiry terminology

 

There are certain words I rarely use in the Living Inquiry context, even if they are part of the “official” terminology.

Unfindable and overcompensation are two of them. (See another post about the “unfindable” terminology and what I prefer instead.)

Overcompensation refers to when we get scared in inquiry and go into thoughts as a way to cope. We may analyze, go into stories, talk about something else, talk a lot more than needed for the inquiry, and so on. And it’s all because we get close to something “hot” in the inquiry, something that our mind tells itself is scary.

It’s completely normal. Understandable. Universal. (We all do it.)

It’s even healthy. It’s a protection against re-traumatizing ourselves. In most situations in life it’s a good and useful protection.

And in inquiry, we can gently enter that territory through (a) gaining trust in the process and the facilitator, (b) see that what initially appears scary is actually OK to look at, (c) look at the perceived threat in entering a particular area, and more.

I am slightly confused about the term “overcompensation”. What are we compensating for? It may mean that we compensate for a deficient self by going into stories. (Although that may not always be the reason we go into stories for safety.) And what means it to over-compensate? Who decides where the boundary is between compensating and overcompensating? It’s a confusing term to me and there seems to be simpler and clearer ways to talk about it.

For instance, when I or someone else goes into stories to avoid feeling something or looking at something, I tend to say that we scare ourselves, are afraid of entering a certain area, go into stories, go into intellectualizing or rationalizing, try to find safety in stories, or something similar. That seems simpler and more accurate.

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Testimonial

 
Hi P., I just wanted to say thank you for everything. Thank you for the difference you made my life and my recovery. I will never forget you. You were one of the greatest and most influential. You always thought of me and kept me calm when I wanted to jump out of my skin and run for the border.
Thank you,
Keep in touch.

– Breana K.
A testimonial from a client 🙂

Velcro = manipulation

 

Whenever I hold a story as true, there is manipulation of myself or others.

Sensations anywhere in the body are sometimes associated with imagination, and this lends the imagination a sense of substance, solidity and reality. It makes the imagination seem true to us. Our mind makes it seem true to itself. This is called velcro in the Living Inquiry terminology. (Velcro = Sensations + imagination.)

This velcro lends a sense of reality and charge to imagination. And this imagination may take the form of a perceived threat, a deficient or inflated self, a compulsion, or anything else. And this tends to leads to manipulation of myself or others.

I manipulate to avoid a perceived threat. To compensate for a deficient self. To uphold an inflated self. To act on a compulsion to fill a perceived hole. To avoid feeling certain sensations associated with a threat, deficient or inflated self, or compulsion.

More generally, my mind manipulates it’s own perception to fit it’s beliefs, and it manipulates it’s own actions to act as if these beliefs are real.

There is nothing inherently wrong here. It’s just the way the mind works. It’s innocent. And it creates suffering, which is why we are motivated to change it to the extent we see and realize what’s going on, and that there is an alternative.

The alternative is to (a) notice what’s going on, (b) be honest about it with ourselves and perhaps others, and (c) examine what’s going on – for instance through inquiry.

Note: Velcro here refers to the same as a belief, holding a story as real and true. And identification, identifying with the viewpoint of a story. And even “ego” as that words is sometimes used in spiritual circles.

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Meaning and purpose in life

 

Some folks in the non-dual world are skeptical to words such as meaning and purpose. They may say just do inquiry on it, or it’s all made up by the mind, or it doesn’t exist.

To me, that seems a little one-sided.

It is helpful to do inquiry on meaning or purpose. I get to see how my mind creates its own experience of meaning and purpose (Living Inquiries). I get to question stressful thoughts (The Work). The charge and stress tends to go out of it, or is at least softened.

At the same time, I find it equally helpful – and enriching – to have a sense of meaning and purpose in my life in a conventional sense. To have a direction, something I am passionate about, something that has meaning for me and is aligned with my values and interests.

As usual, the two are not mutually exclusive or opposed to each other. They work together.

Examining my ideas of meaning and purpose tends to soften or release the stress in it. And finding meaning and purpose in an ordinary everyday sense gives me a sense of direction life.

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Fearlessness – what is it?

 

What is fearless? What does it mean to be fearless?

Does it mean to be without fear? Clearly not, since fear – and emotions in general – is not something we can chose to experience or not. They live their own life. They are guests, coming and going.

I may see it as pushing the fear away, setting it aside, or distract from or ignore it. That works to some extent, but it’s still there and not really examined or addressed.

I can also acknowledge the fear, allow it, feel it, and do something anyway. I can learn to act in spite of fear. (Mountaineers and others often talk about it, and use their activities as a way to explore and practice this.)

I can dialog with fear. Get to know it. Listen to it. Hear what it has to say. Explore how we relate to it. Learn to acknowledge and listen to it and treat it with respect instead of ignoring or mistreating it. We can listen to its wisdom, take it into account, and act from being informed by the wisdom of the fear. In one case, fear may say, “don’t ski down that hill so fast”, I listen and slow down. In another case, fear may say “don’t speak up, you’ll make a fool of yourself and they won’t like you”, and I still chose to speak.

I can examine the fearful thoughts. What are they? What are the underlying assumptions? Is it true? Can I know for sure it’s true? What happens when I believe it? Who would I be without it? What’s the validity in each of the turnarounds? (The Work.)

I can notice and allow the fear. I can notice the sensations and associated images and words. I can feel the sensations. I can notice the space around and inside of my body, and around and inside of the sensations of fear. I can notice any resistance to the fear, and feel those sensations too. (Natural Rest.) This in itself can be helpful, and also sets the context for further inquiry.

I can examine how my mind creates its experience of fear. What sensations are there? What imaginations (images, words) are associated with these sensations? How does my mind create its experience of the fear its? Of the threat? Of the command to be afraid or not be afraid? Of the command to not do something because of the fear, or so something because of the fear? Of the command to do something in spite of the fear, or the command to not do something in spite of the fear? (Living Inquiries.)

Through the four or five last ones, my relationship with fear changes. From seeing it as an enemy and a problem, I may come to see it as a friend. I may befriend it. It’s not a problem anymore, and not something that needs to go away. My struggle with it is reduced or ceases, and that makes a big difference. My struggle with it is what creates stress and discomfort. It’s what may make me act on it automatically, or feel paralyzed by it. When I explore it, I can relate to it in a more intentional way.

Often, there is a mix of many of these. Sometimes I do one, other time something else. And over time, I may shift into doing the four or five last ones more habitually. The more I do it, the easier and more natural it becomes.

Personally, I shift between all of these. Sometimes, I act on or feel paralyzed by fear. Sometimes, I try to ignore it or distract myself from it. Sometimes, I act in spite of it. Sometimes, I examine my fear-inducing thoughts. Sometimes, I rest with the fear while noticing what’s there. Sometimes, I examine how my mind creates its experience of the fear.

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Perceptual center = center of sense of self

 

This is something I keep noticing and also explore more intentionally at times.

Our perceptual center often becomes the center of a sense of self.

It’s not so surprising. We need to attach our sense of self to something, and that’s typically our body. It also seems that our mind likes to narrow it down further, so our head is a natural candidate. That’s where we see, hear, taste, and smell from. It’s a perceptual center, so why not make it into a center for identification as well? Why not center our experience of me and I there?

I was very much aware of this during the initial opening or awakening phase, and also noticed that there was still an identification in the roof of the mouth and in the back. I asked Buddhist teachers for advice for how to work on it and explore it further, but they either thought it wasn’t the right time for me to know or they  didn’t know (I somehow suspect the latter).

When I explore this, I see that my mind associates sensations in the head area – and specifically back in the roof of the mouth – with certain imaginations (images and words), and these creates the experience of a self centered in the head area. There is a me centered there – a human self, a man, a friend etc. And an I centered there – an observer, experiencer, thinker, chooser, doer.

By exploring these bundles of sensations and imaginations, I get to see how these selves are created in my own experience. They tend to lose their charge. They seem less solid, real, and substantial.

When it comes to body identification, it can be helpful and interesting to explore the following:

Identification with the body as a whole. How does my mind create its experience of “me, the one who is this body”? (UI on me, the one who is the body.)

How does my mind create its experience of the body as a whole? (UI on body.)

How does my mind create its experience of a threat of being this body? And not being this body? (AI on being the body, not being the body.)

How does my mind create its experience of a command to be identified with this body? Or not be identified with it? (CI on identifying / not identifying with the body.)

How does my mind create its experience of being any particular deficient/inflated self? (UI on deficient / inflated self.)

Even identification as “spiritual” things such as awareness, Spirit, oneness, Buddha Mind, Big Mind, Brahman etc. actually involve body identification. Any identification requires sensations associated with images and words, so it is a form of body identification. For instance, when I explore “awareness” or “I am awareness” I find an image of awareness connected with subtle sensations in my head, and also other imaginations and sensations making up my experience of awareness or being awareness. Any identification involves body identification, also when it’s a “spiritual” type identification.

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Talking about the living inquiries

 

Here are some ways I tend to talk about the Living Inquiries.

What

  • Explore how the mind creates its experience of anything – a threat, an object, a command
    • An object here can be a perceived self (deficient, inflated), others, past, future, any concept (awareness, love etc.)

How

  • By examining two areas of experience: Senses + imagination
    • Senses: sensations, sight, sound, taste/smell
    • Imagination: images, sounds, smell/taste, touch, and words = images (letters, words) + sounds (spoken words)
  • See how they combine to create an experience of…. anything.
    • Sensations give imagination (stories, images, words) a sense of substance, solidity, reality and a charge
    • Imagination gives sensations meaning (story)
  • Glued together vs separated
    • When sensations + imagination seem “glued” together, the imagination seems real (may appear as a threat, object, command)
    • When examine how the mind creates its experience of the threat, object, command, several things happen
      • Recognize imagination as imagination, and sensations as sensations
      • See that our experience of the actual “thing” we are looking for is created by our mind
      • This helps unglue sensations + imagination, and the sense of solidity, reality, and the charge is reduced or goes out of it completely

Where & When

  • Initially easier in dedicated sessions – with a facilitator or on our own
  • Then more and more part of everyday life, anywhere and any time
  • As we get more experience, we can bring it into even more intense situations and experiences

Who

  • Anyone who is interested in exploring how their mind creates certain experiences
  • Anyone who is interested in finding peace with what currently seem scary, overwhelming, outside of their control
  • Anyone ready to examine root causes of their suffering and see it go

Why

  • Get to see how our mind creates its own experience of the world
  • Get to see it’s a created experience, not “how the world is”
  • There is more “space” to intentionally relate to our experience instead of acting on it automatically. We can relate to it more intentionally.
  • How we relate to our own experience shifts, typically from seeing it as a problem or enemy to befriending it (seeing its innocence). When this struggle is removed there is more ease and comfort, ability to relate to it intentionally, and act with more clarity and heart.
  • As a side effect, the sense of reality, solidity, and the charge in anything (a perceived threat, object, command) can reduce and perhaps even fall away

Additions

  • There are little “tricks” that can help the mind get – at a more visceral level – that imagination is imagination and sensations are sensations.
    • For instance, we can imagine seeing a mental image on a wall or in a book. We can imagine pushing it further away and closer in. We can imagine stretching it. We can imagine touching its surface. We can do the same with images of words.
  • It can be helpful to notice the space around sense experiences and imagination.
    • Notice the space around the image and between you and the image.
    • Notice the space sensations happen within. Notice the same space outside and inside of the body, and outside and inside of a sensation.
    • If space seems to have a boundary, explore that boundary. Is it an image combined with a sensation? Is it a real boundary? Does that image of happen within space?
    • Noticing space in this way helps “dilute” our experience of anything. It’s similar to drinking a glass of water with a teaspoon of salt in it (intense) vs drinking water from a bucket or lake with a teaspoon of salt in it (it’s OK).
  • As a general rule, follow what has the strongest charge in the moment. Explore how the mind creates its experience of it.

Body contractions & identifications, threats, selves, compulsions

  • When sensations combine with imagination, what happens is also called velcro (Living Inquiries), a belief, or identification. (In a spiritual context, some may even call it “ego”.)
  • Since sensations give imagination a sense of solidity and charge, it seems that the mind creates sensations to serve that purpose. It tenses muscles so there will be sensations that can combine with imagination to give that imagination a sense of solidity, reality, and charge.
  • If the identification or belief is more long lasting, then the tensing and contraction also becomes more long lasting. It can turn out as a chronic contraction connected with and making possible any form of identification or belief (including a sense of threat, deficient or inflated self, or compulsion or even addiction).
  • This is why it can be helpful, and sometimes essential, to work with the body along with the inquiry. We can help release tension and contractions out of the body through therapeutic tremoring (TRE), massage or bodywork, or other body-oriented techniques.

Relationship between imagination and reality

  • Our whole world is created by sensory experiences and imagination. My experience of the world – myself, others, life, and anything – is created by a combination of sensory experiences and imagination.
  • In the moment, imagination functions as an overlay of immediate sensory experiences and helps us make sense of them, interpret, and function.
  • When we consider something that isn’t here – past, future, abstractions – then there is either just imagination or as described earlier imagination combined with sensations.
  • This imagination is essential for helping us orient and function in the world. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s only that when the mind combines it with sensations and takes it as solid and real, an additional layer of suffering is often created. (In a general sense, we can say that sensations and imagination “glued” together = identification, beliefs, velcro = suffering.)
  • When we find peace with this layer creating suffering, or it softens or fall away, we are typically much better able to function in the world. We are more able to act from clarity and with some kindness. (When the mind is caught in this suffering, the mind often tells itself that the suffering is needed for action. When the suffering softens or falls away, we see that’s not true and that we can act and function more effectively without it.)

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Sensory input and imagination

 

In the Living Inquiries, they often talk about sensations, words, and images. I understand why since these are the main component of most inquiry sessions.

Still, something else is more precise and makes more sense to me.

I tend to think about it as sensory input and imagination.

Our experience consists of sensory input and imagination. Sensory input is sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, movement and a few other things. Imagination is basically imagined sensory input. Imagined sight, sound, smell, taste, movement etc. Even words are imagined sound and/or images (of letters, words). Imagination can also be called thought in this context.

In the Living Inquiries, we tend to focus on sensations, images, and words, although the rest comes in now and then. Sometimes, we explore actual or imagined sound, smell, taste, movement, or something else.

It’s a slight difference but it’s an important one for me because it seems a bit more accurate. And since it’s more accurate, it feels more simple.

In previous posts, most from several years ago, I wrote about this as sense field explorations. We have the sense fields which includes sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, movement, and also the mental field (imagination).

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Examining space

 

I have explored space more lately, both in my own experience and in working with clients.

Notice the space around the sensation. Notice the space the sensations happen within, and the space around and within the sensations. Notice the space around the image and between you and the image. Notice the space between the letters of the words, around the words, between you and the words.

Also, is there a sense of a boundary to the space? If there is a sense of a boundary, examine that boundary. Is there an image of a boundary? If so, look at that image. Is that an actual boundary? If yes, what makes it seem a real boundary? Is it a sensation? If so, feel that sensation. (And so on.)

I heard a good analogy a few days ago: If you put a teaspoon of salt in a small glass of water, it’s almost too intense to drink. If you put the same teaspoon in a big bucket of water or a lake, it’s fine. It’s more diluted.

Something similar happens when we notice the boundless space around something that seems to have a strong charge to it: a physical contraction, emotional or physical pain, a strong emotion, cravings and more. When I notice the space it happens within, the space within it, and that it’s the same space, its intensity is “diluted”. It becomes more manageable, and there is also more “space” to examine it further.

Also, if unexamined, a physical contraction or pain may seem very solid, real, and dense. By noticing the space it’s happening within, the space within it, and that it’s the same space, my experience of it shifts. It seems less dense. And if it seemed a problem or a threat, then it may seem less like a problem or threat. Again, there is more “space” to examine it further.

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Examining boundaries

 

It can be helpful to examine boundaries.

How does my mind create its experience of boundaries?

For instance: Is there a boundary around this body, between the inside and outside? Is there a boundary between me and others? Between me and the wider world? Between me and nature? Between me and anything I see as “out there”? (Universe, spirit, awareness etc.) Is there a boundary to space? To mind?

If there is a sense of boundary, how does my mind create that experience? Is there an image there? Is it associated with certain sensations? are there words connected with this experience of a boundary? What do I discover when I look at each of these? Is there a threat in not finding a real boundary? Is there a threat in having an experience of a boundary? Is there a command to have a sense of boundary? Is there a command to not have a sense of a boundary?

Through these explorations, my experience of these boundaries may soften and have less of a sense of solidity or charge. The “outside” and “inside” are recognized as happening within the same space. The boundaries are recognized as mind-made, as images sometimes connected with sensations.

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