Don’t make an effort to love the world. Love your internal world, and the world will be different.
– Byron Katie
This is something that becomes clearer over time, especially through exploring specific issues through inquiry.
Behind anger, sadness, and compulsions is fear. Behind fear is caring. And behind that caring is love.
Said more succinctly:
Behind identifications (beliefs, velcro) is fear, and behind that fear is caring and love.
The pitfall in saying to so simply and succinctly is that the mind thinks it gets it and that such a superficial and intellectual understanding is sufficient. The benefit is that it can serve as a question to explore, and a guide when we work on ourselves and clients.
A few more details:
Identifications (holding a thought as true) is what creates stressful experiences such as struggle with anger, sadness, and compulsions. (Anger, sadness etc. can also just be here without any struggle.)
Fear is what holds identifications in place. It may be what created the identification in the first place, and it’s often what comes up when the mind considers not having that identification.
Behind fear is a deep caring. A caring for oneself and others. And caring is just another word for love.
When we see the behind all this is love, there is less of a struggle with it. And less struggle means a bit more space around it, which helps soften and release the identifications in and relating to it.
I saw recent research where they found that people can intentionally fall in or out of love depending on what they focus on in the other person.
It’s seems pretty intuitive, and something we all (?) use more or less intentionally. When we focus on lovable aspects, we fall more in love. And when we focus on unlovable aspects, we fall more out of love.
This has several practical applications.
One is when we lose someone we love. If we idealize the person and only focus on the lovable and amazing aspects, we amplify the pain of the loss. And if we intentionally identify and include the unlovable, troublesome, and annoying aspects of the person, we get a more realistic picture and it can lessen the pain. It can help to make a list and do it somewhat regularly over time.
Conversely, if we are in a relationship and find ourselves falling out of love, we can rekindle the love by intentionally remind ourselves of the lovable aspects of the other person.
Another is self-love. Self-love can be allowing our current experience and meet it with some kindness. And it can also be finding and remind ourselves about lovable aspects of ourselves. The first focuses on the presence aspect of what we are (context), and the second our human self (content).
This also goes for life. If we focus on the less desirable aspects of our life and life in general, we tend to fall out of love with life. And if we focus on the lovable aspects of life, we tend to fall more in love with life.
Love addiction comes from not feeling loved sufficiently. We typically have an identity as someone unloved or unlovable, and we are also unable to love ourselves fully and in a satisfying way. We are unable to sufficiently find love and kindness towards our own emotions, emotional and physical pain, painful thoughts, and general discomfort and unease.
We were not shown how to do this as babies and children. Our parents were perhaps unable to give us sufficient unconditional love, and they were unable to do it to themselves as well. So we didn’t learn it.
What we did learn was to seek it outside of ourselves, from others. Many of us spend a lifetime trying to find love from others, to fill that hole in us through the love of others. It works to some extent, but not completely. It may not be sufficient, it may be uncertain and withdrawn, and since the only real remedy is to give it to ourselves it will never be enough when we try to get it from others.
I was reminded of this when I talked with a friend who is in a polyamory relationship, somewhat against his preference. Polyamory may, for some, be a strategy to find that love. We get it from multiple sources, and we always have one or more backups if one should fail.
It can be just another way to avoid facing the pain of feeling unloved or unlovable, and to avoid the challenge and discomfort in learning to truly and more consistently meet our own experience with kindness and love. The other side of it is that it can provide a setting for us to learn to love ourselves, just as any other setting – whether we are single, in a conventional relationship, or in an open or polyamorous relationship.
Some say love hurts.
In my experience, love is love. It’s kindness to my own experience, others, and life.
What hurts is the very human parts of us that sometimes get caught up in it. The beliefs, wounds, identifications, expectations, insecurities, longing, and so on. Anything in us with a charge on it.
The two – the love and the human parts – are often intertwined in our life and experience, but they are actually distinct from each other. And we can unwind these two.
Eventually, we can more and more often allow love to be love, and our human hurts and hangups to be just that and be met in that love.
Some say we are love, and I would say that too.
Sometimes, love is felt. And always, love is what we are.
Say we are this presence that all experience happens within and as. Then acting from love is inherent in us. It’s as natural as one hand pulling out a splinter from the other.
The feeling of love comes and goes, as any experience does. And what we are doesn’t come and go. It just is unnoticed at times, when the mind is temporarily lost in its own self-created drama.
There is often some resistance to our experience, some fear, some wish for it to be different.
There is unmet, unloved, and unquestioned fear about some part of our experience, and that takes the form of resistance and wanting it to be different. It’s completely innocent, understandable, and nearly universal. It may happen for most of us most of the time, even if it’s subtle.
If the resistance is not noticed or explored, then there is often unconscious identification with it. We take on the perspective of that resistance and the fear behind it, and we may not even notice it’s happening.
The remedy is to notice and have some gentle curiosity about it.
Is there any restlessness, any wish to be somewhere else or do something else, any compulsion to think or do something else? Is there any wish for parts of my experience to be different?
Where in my body do I feel it? Rest with those sensations. Notice the space it’s happening within, and that’s also within the sensations. Notice any images or words connected with the sensations, rest with these too, and return to the sensations.
Rest with it in kindness.
You are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me.
I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you. (Ho’o.)
We can also do some gentle mining.
If the sensation could speak, what would it say?
What do the sensations mean?
What’s my earliest memory of feeling that way?
Often, I will just rest with the sensations and whatever images and words come up. If it seems helpful, I may ask a few simple inquiry questions just to clarify what’s here. For instance, an image may come up, I sense it feels like a problem or a threat, so I can ask if it is.
When the fear underlying the resistance is unmet, unloved, and unquestioned, there is that unconscious identification with it and its scary story about my experience, myself, and the world. As soon as the resistance or fear is noticed, there is some distance to it and some disidentification. There is room to relate to it more intentionally and with kindness and curiosity. There is room to give it what it wants, which is often to be met with kindness, allowed as it is, held in presence, understood, treated with respect.
Note: I realize I took the reasons for exploring this as a given, and only addressed it indirectly above. I see two reasons. One is that being unconsciously identified with scary stories means I perceive through this filter and live as if these scary stories are true, or at least somewhat true. That can create some problems in my life. I may live and act in ways I wouldn’t if there was more clarity around the fear. Also, being identified with scary stories is in itself uncomfortable. Resting with what’s there, and see more clearly the components making it up, allows it to soften and relax.
When I was 16 and had the initial opening or awakening, all was recognized as Spirit and Love. The divine woke up to itself as everything without exception, and as consciousness, love, and the void it all also is. This was quite strong for several years.
At the same time, I knew that there was still a lot of healing needed for my human self and that the remaining unloved and unexamined parts of my human self created a pull for identification. I worked on this as well as I could, but it was difficult to access as deeply as I felt was necessary.
So what happened was a dark night of the soul. And that brought that material up to the surface without much filtering and without much opportunity to hold it back.
There are many ways to talk about this and many angles to approach it from. Each one with it’s own validity and value.
These parts want what I want, which is to be met in presence, kindness, patience, and understanding.
These parts do not yet know all as Spirit and love. They seek to know.
They seek to know their own deeper reality, which is presence, love, and even void.
Said another way, Spirit seeks to know itself as these parts of me. And to know these parts – the trauma, pain, sadness, anger, fear, grief – as presence, love, and void. As the divine and the play of the divine.
This allows for a deeper healing. And it allows for a deeper and more thorough alignment of more of my human self with reality. This is one of the ways an opening or awakening deepens.
The love you take is equal to the love you make.
(a ) When you live from love, kindness, caring, then it’s likely to come back to you from others.
(b) When you find love, caring, kindness in yourself, you experience it, you give it to yourself, independent of the apparent target in the world.
(c) When you find love, kindness, and caring for you own experience you experience and receive that love.
(d) When you find yourself as love, you both “make” and “take” that love.
In each of these ways, the love we make is the love we take.
Love does not always feel safe because love is pure potential and pure presence and in pure presence every feeling and impulse is welcome, however gentle, however painful, however inconvenient, however fierce.
So when you let someone matter to you and you let yourself matter to someone and you are not ruled by fear your heart will have no choice but to crack to the hugeness of love and you will not be able to control the results and that’s why the ego cannot love.
Safe, unsafe. Happy, sad. Certain, uncertain. Afraid, fearless. Fragile, powerful. Worthy, worthless, and everything in between. There is so much life now trying to fill you up, and you can barely contain it all. You are full of life, penetrated by life, pregnant with life.
They lied to you about love, you see, they said it was always supposed to feel good and warm and happy, they said it was something you’d be given, something you’d have to earn, or deserve, they said it was all butterflies and angels and light, but really it was always you, naked, raw and alive, cracked, whole, vulnerable, shaky but real, inhaling a cosmos, exhaling euphoria and the darkness and the grief and the joy of humanity and sometimes not knowing what the hell you’re doing or how you’re still alive.
Good. Breathe. All is unfolding beautifully, here. Love is not only gain, it is also loss. The beloveds will die and the loved ones will vanish, but love will not. She will simply make you rise, you see, and fall again, and wonder again if you will ever rise. She will open you and close you and break you and humble you and laugh at your childhood fantasies of love.
But it is all natural, and it is all for you. You will come full circle before long, back to yourself, the Origin. You were only ever seeking your own Heart, and its multitude of reflections.
Love is here. Love is always here. Somewhere between the euphoria and the darkness she found you. And the very ground you stand on is blessed, and you are safe.
So cry, laugh, shake, vomit; you will never be abandoned by the Heart.
– Jeff Foster
There is a love polarity. One end is love itself. The other is what or whom I love, the object of love.
The first is what I am. It’s a facet of presence. The second is transient and will inevitably go away.
If my focus and attention is solely on the object of love, it will create suffering. And while that suffering is an expression of love, it’s also quite painful.
So why not bring attention to love itself? Why not notice it? Be present with it? Find myself as it? Notice it’s a facet of presence? Notice it’s divine love? (If we want to use that word.) Notice I am presence and love?
This can be a very helpful and even enjoyable practice. I notice love for something or someone. And that’s a reminder to myself to notice love itself. Notice presence as love. Notice myself as presence and love. Rest as presence and love.
It’s not only helpful for me in aligning more with this reality. It also helps my relationships with whom or what triggers this love. There is less of a sense of neediness or (illusory) ownership, and more of a sense of appreciation, gratitude, and giving the object its freedom. Including its freedom to come and go. If I find myself as presence and love, the comings and goings of the objects of love are a little easier.
In a practical sense, this can be quite simple. (a) Love (or joy, contentment, gratitude) comes up, perhaps triggered by an external circumstance. (b) I notice it. (c) I am reminded to shift my noticing to the love (or joy, contentment, gratitude) itself, to how it feels in my body. I am present with these feelings and rest with them.
Often, a current situation triggers an old wound.
For instance, we felt abandoned early in life. It felt life threatening. All encompassing. It made a deep impression. And the current situation triggers this old wound.
What we often do is to abandon the abandoned part of ourselves. We abandon the part of us that feels abandoned. We abandon the abandonment wound. We repeat the initial situation.
The remedy is to not abandon it. To be present with it. Patient. Kind towards it. As we would a scared child or animal. Presence, patience, and kindness heal. It makes this part of us feel held, supported, understood, met. It gives this part of us what it needs to relax, heal, and feel more comfortable.
There is more to say about abandonment. It helps if we can recognize it for what it is: Created by the mind. Inherently without substance. Made up by energies and imaginations. We can do this by looking at each element at a time, and take time to feel the sensations as physical sensations. That helps the mind see it for what it is and the power drains out of it.
Love your enemies.
I keep rediscovering and relearning how healing this is.
What my mind makes into an “enemy” can be a person, a situation, a part of myself, an experience, or anything else. As soon as my mind makes anything into an enemy, there is struggle, a sense of separation, and suffering (even if just slight). It’s uncomfortable. It creates unease. It’s how suffering, wounds, and trauma are held in place.
When the mind finds love for it’s “enemies” there is a relaxation, a healing, a reconciliation, a sense of connection (or no separation at all), and receptivity.
So how can we do this? There are many ways to help the mind shift into this.
Tonglen. Give and take. Visualize the “enemy” – whatever it is. See its suffering as dark smoke. Breathe it in. Breathe out light and see it go into and light up the other. (This can feel scary at first. If it does, do tonglen for the scared part. Include it.)
Ho’oponopono. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Say it many times towards the other. Repeat until the sense of separation and sense of it being an enemy softens and dissolves. Here too, if there is fear or resistance coming up, do ho’o towards these parts of the mind.
Prayer. Pray for the health and well-being of the other.
Inquiry. Examine any sense of threat and a threatened one, any sense of solidity of the other (and yourself), any command to see the other as an enemy or not. (Living Inquiries.) This will help soften or dissolve any sense of solidity of what you are examining and it tends to open for receptivity, understanding, kindness, and love.
Love seems to be at the core of healing. Love. Reconciliation. And helping softening and dissolving any sense of solidity of the components (threat, separation, commands) creating a sense of an enemy.
As I have said before, to me the love your enemy pointer is more a pointer for healing than anything else. Although I also see how it can be helpful if it’s taken more as a pointer for how to behave.
Perhaps, we should
love ourselves so fiercely,
that when others see us
they know exactly
how it should be done.
– Rudy Francisco
Yes. And the love is a simple love of presence, meeting what’s arising in me in presence and with love and patience. Meeting whatever is arising in that way, no matter how scary it may at first seem.
It’s such an irony that it can seem scary to meet our own experience in this way. And yet, that fear is the gatekeeper to a life that’s far more peaceful and authentic.
For some of us, the victim identity can be very strong. The mind may even hold onto it as if it’s a matter of life and death.
Why is the need to hold onto something so painful so strong? What is the real need or wish within it? It must be something that our minds holds as very important. So important that it’s willing to create suffering for itself in the hopes of getting it.
To me, it seems that it comes from a deep need and wish for love and presence. For attention, understanding, comfort, love and presence. As long as that’s not met, the victim identification will continue to be fueled by the mind. In it’s trance, it may see it as the best or only way to get what it really needs and wants, which is that presence and love.
It works to some extent. When we go into victim identification, other people may give us some attention, understanding, and love. We may even have been trained by our parents that that’s how we get attention and love. And yet, it doesn’t really work. People may give it to us sometimes and not other times. And even if we get that presence and love from them, it’s not enough as long as we don’t give it to ourselves. We cannot truly take it in and experience it until we give it to ourselves.
So that’s the remedy. Our own presence and love is the remedy.
How do we give it to ourselves? There are a few different ways.
Natural rest. Notice and allow. Notice what’s here in experience and allow it. (Notice it’s already noticed and allowed.) Being present with it. This presence itself is a form of love.
Say “thank you for protecting me” to the part of us in pain. It’s here to protect us.
Say “I love you” to the part of us in pain. Say “you are allowed to be as you are”. Say “I am here with you and I love you”. Say “I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.”. Say any one of these over and over until it becomes a felt experience.
Imagine ourselves, or the hurting part of us, sitting in front of us. Do tonglen. Visualize that person’s suffering as dark smoke and breathe it in on the inbreath. Breathe out light (love, presence) and into the other person on the outbreath. See the person light up. Repeat many times until you really and deeply feel it.
Examine stressful and painful stories and identities. Use inquiry. (The Work, Living Inquiries. Something else.) This is also a form of presence and love. It cannot be done if there isn’t presence. And it’s a loving attention and examination, which may also reveal love when the painful stories and identities are seen more clearly for what they are.
Take care of the body. Do something soothing. Take a bath. Eat nourishing food. Drink plenty of water. Go for a walk. Be in nature. Be kind to yourself. Do yoga, tai chi, chi gong, Breema, TRE. (All of which are forms of presence and love.)
These are all ways we can shift how we relate to those parts of ourselves in pain. If we suffer, it’s because we tend to avoid or try to push these parts away. They are like animals or children who are ignored, avoided, struggled with, or even bullied. No wonder they suffer and are in pain. No wonder they cry out for our presence and love.
When we meet them in presence and love, they feel seen and honored and can relax. This takes time. We need to stay with it for a while. We need to return to it frequently, especially if these parts of us are used to being ignored or struggled with. An animal or child whose needs have been neglected needs time to learn to trust and relax, and that’s how it also is with these parts of ourselves. Giving our presence and love means giving of our time.
As mentioned above, one way to meet them in presence and love is through inquiry. Inquiry is a form of love. The process of inquiry is a process of presence and kind attention. And the outcome is that we see that what we thought was so solid and real (and painful) may not really be so solid and real. What’s more real and true is also more kind.
Love your enemy.
I re-listened to Adyashanti’s Finding the Capacity to Heal yesterday. (Radio Adyashanti, January 28, 2015. Listen to excerpt above.)
What he talks about there is what I have found is a key for my own healing.
When I only feel and see the anger, hurt, pain, sadness, grief, fear, longing, sense of lack, then I am stuck at the level that creates the wounds and pain. And if I recognize and feel the deep caring and love behind all of this, the potential for real and deep healing is there.
It’s very helpful to shift into finding love for what’s here, including the wounds, hurt, pain, anger and so on. And it’s even more helpful when I recognize that all of these come from deep caring and love. They are there to protect me. They are an expression of caring and love. And I can feel that caring and love behind these more surface emotions. Connecting to that opens up the potential for another level of healing.
There are several ways to explore this and get a more embodied experience of it. Parts work is one. I can have a dialog with these parts of me, and see that they are there to protect me, and that impulse to protect me comes from deep caring and love. (The me that’s being protected is an image of me, which is another aspect of this and only incidental here.)
One way I have found helpful is holding satsang with these parts of me, as suggested by Pamela Wilson:
Feel the emotion. (Anger, sadness, grief, fear.)
Thank you for protecting me. (Say several times until you feel it.)
Thank you for your love for me. (Repeat many times.)
I love you. (Repeat many times.)
What would satisfy you forever? (Allow the answer to come.)
This is a form of inquiry. As I say “thank you for protecting me” it’s accompanied by several questions. Is it really protecting me? Could that be true? In what ways are it protecting me? There is a curiosity there and a gentle exploration. By repeating the words, I get to see that yes – it is really there to protect me. I find specific ways it is protecting me. And from there, it’s easier to see that it comes from deep caring and love. Which in turn makes it easier for me to find love for it. And also ask it what would satisfy it forever, and notice that the question itself seems to evoke what would satisfy it (love, allowing, acknowledgment, being listened to).
Through doing this, there is an experience of love through and through, and that noticing really needs to change. To the extent I recognize the deep care and love behind the emotions, I find that the emotions can be exactly as they are. They don’t need to change.
I can be with the emotions, feel them, and recognize them as an expression of care and love. (And there, they do tend to soften and there is more sense of spaciousness, even if they don’t need to change.)
Hurt people hurt people. That’s how pain patterns gets passed on, generation after generation after generation. Break the chain today. Meet anger with sympathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Greet grimaces with smiles. Forgive and forget about finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future.
– Yehuda Berg
Be the love you never received .
– Rune Cazuli
Be that love for yourself.
For you experience here and now.
For the content of your experience, as it is now.
How do I do it? Through the support any heart centered practice, such as ho’oponopono, loving kindness / metta, heart flame, Christ meditation, heart prayer etc. Through the support of inquiry. Through natural rest, and noticing, seeing, feeling what’s here which in itself is a form of love.
Instead of trying to silence your mind chatter, simply love the one who wants to chat.
Instead of trying to shift your emotions, just love the one who can’t stop feeling.
Instead of trying to resolve each fear, simply love the one who’s always afraid.
Instead of trying to let things go, just love the one who still holds on.
Instead of trying to not take things personally, simply love the one who makes life personal.
Instead of trying to prove your worth, just love the one who feels worthless, lost, and alone.
Instead of trying to leap forward in evolution, simply love the one who feels left behind.
Instead of having something to prove, just love the one who came here to play.
Instead of bossing yourself around and measuring your progress through spiritual obedience, simply love the one who refuses to listen.
Instead of trying to believe, just love the one in doubt.
Instead of trying whatever you attempt, simply love the one needing permission to be.
Whatever arises, love that. This is the way of an awakening heart.
– Matt Kahn
Yes. And I have found some simple practices very helpful here, in actually doing it:
Ho’oponopono. Loving Kindness / Metta. Saying “I love you” several times.
Holding a hand over my heart.
Inquire into whatever stops me from doing this. Whatever fears and resistance surfaces, when I do this. What’s the perceived threat? What do I find when I look for this threat, in images, words, and sensations?
When I seek love, acceptance, and appreciation (LAA as Byron Katie calls it), I become someone who manipulates.
I act in certain ways to manipulate others to give me what I want, or what I think I want.
I become nice, avoid conflict, say what I think they want to hear, so they’ll like me, love me, and appreciate me.
Looked at superficially, it doesn’t look so bad. What’s bad about being nice? About being nice to others so they are nice back?
And when I examine it more in detail, it looks quite ugly. I see the manipulation. When I do this, I use others to get what I want. It’s even violent.
That’s what inquiry is about, of course, looking at it more in detail. Seeing what’s actually and already there.
And when I see what’s already here, in more detail, it tends to change.
I can use the Living Inquiries to examine this.
What does it say about me? What person would act in this way?
I am unloved. I lack in love. I need love (from others). I am deficient.
Someone who is insecure. Still a child. Confused. Inauthentic.
Can I find the threat in having someone not like me, love me, appreciate me?
Can I find the threat in X? Conflict. Being authentic. Not acting so people will like me.
Can I find X? (Me, the one who is unloved, deficient, insecure, still a child, inauthentic.)
Can I find the command to X? Be nice. Be loved. Be appreciated. Be accepted.
What the universe will manifest when you are in alignment with it is a lot more interesting than what you try to manifest.
Yes, and as usual there is a lot more to this.
In one way, we are always in alignment with the universe. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts and feelings of the universe. (As Carl Sagan said.) What’s here is the universe feeling, thinking, acting, doing. It’s not two.
In another way, it’s possible to be more or less aligned with the universe. When I am caught up in fears, beliefs, velcro and drama it’s difficult for me to act from kindness and clarity, and follow (the quiet) inner guidance. When there is more clarity, and less trauma/beliefs/velcro/drama, it’s much easier for me to act from kindness, clarity, and guidance.
So there is always and already alignment with the universe. It’s unavoidable. And I can be more or less aligned with the universe, through (a) recognizing what I am (what this experience happens within and as), (b) healing my human self, and (c) relate to what’s here – including unloved fears and unquestioned fearful stories – with love, presence, and gentle and engaged curiosity.
Recent experiences has brought me back to this topic:
Why do things tend to go wrong in a dark night of the soul?
When I use the term dark night of the soul here, I use it the same way Evelyn Underhill does in Mysticism, largely because the phases and how she describes them fit my experience. I am aware that the types, sequence, and characteristics of the phases people go through can vary quite a bit.
So why do things tend to go wrong in a dark night of the soul phase? Why do things fall apart or away? Why do things tend to not go “our way”?
In terms of contrast: It’s often reverse of the honeymoon phase
A dark night of the soul tend to follow an initial awakening and initial honeymoon phase. During this phase, life seems easy, joyful, and seems to mainly go “our way”. For me, there was a sense of being deeply on track, being held in God’s hand, and living a life full of amazing serendipities.
The following dark night phase has been the reverse of this, and it’s even more noticeable – and sometimes more painful – because of the contrast.
At a big picture level: Life squeezing out what’s left in us
A dark night of the soul is life squeezing out what’s left in us. It’s life rubbing up against remaining identifications (velcro, beliefs) in us, with an invitation for it to wear out, be seen through, and/or loved as is.
Central to this is life flushing out the victim identity in us. It comes to the surface, we cannot escape it, and are invited to meet it, examine it, find love for it as it is.
When I had a meeting with Adyashanti some years ago, he said I would find myself in this situation. And he used the words “life squeezing what’s left out of you”. That’s very much how it feels. I feel squeezed.
Flushing out what’s left from the inside: Victim identities and more
Along with all this, there also seems to be an inner impulse to flush out what’s left. Old wounds, traumas, hurts, pain seems to steadily come to the surface. With an invitation to examine unexamined painful stories, love the unloved, feel the unfelt.
They seem to surface even in the absence of “external” life circumstances and triggers, and although life certainly also has brought a lot of these triggers into my life during this phase. The internal impulse to flush out, and the external triggers, often go hand in hand.
And yes, I know there isn’t really anything internal or external. It’s all part of a seamless whole, all part of this seamless field of awareness. At the same time, it can be helpful to differentiate a bit using these words.
What’s missing: Lack of trust, confidence, resources
In this phase, it’s easy to lose heart. A sense of confidence, trust, and being able to rely on inner and outer resources may be among what’s lost. It’s been that way for me. It’s very humbling, and invites me to see what’s here without the possible defense or refuge of confidence, trust, and knowing I can rely on inner and outer resources. It makes me more naked.
At a more conventional level: Messiness begets messiness
When “the lid is taken off” our wounds and unresolved trauma, and these come to the surface and into focus, our life may reflect this (apparent) turmoil. We may act from these wounds, which in turn tends to create messy situations.
Inner messiness, confusion, and turmoil tends to be reflected in outer messiness, confusion, and turmoil. That’s how it’s been for me. Sometimes more than other times, and in some areas of life more than other.
Questioning the more basic ideas: Right & wrong, dark night, awakening, threats, someone going through it
As long as we hold onto ideas of certain things in our life going right or wrong, and the idea of right and wrong itself, life will rub up against it. Life will inevitably bring us into situations that we feel are wrong, or where something went wrong. (When I say “life” I could easily say “I” here, which would refer to both my human self and also the Big Mind/Heart/Belly Self.)
That’s an invitation for us to question our stories about right and wrong, look at the deficient and inflated selves our life situations brings up (victim, the one in control etc.), and find love for the unloved parts of us and our experience.
Falling away or apart is not the same as going wrong. That something goes against my preferences doesn’t even mean it’s wrong. When things fall away or apart, and it brings up the story of something going wrong, it comes with an invitation to look at that story.
Even the idea of a dark night is good to look at. Can I find it, outside of images, words and sensations? Can I find a threat? What’s the best that can happen? The worst?
And can I find someone going through a dark night? A victim? Someone going through an awakening process? Someone who is squeezed by life? Someone who has something going wrong, or right?
Healing, maturing, deepening
This phase can be a phase of healing, maturing, and deepening. A deepening in trust, prayer, inquiry, love, presence. A healing of old wounds and traumas. A maturing as an ordinary human being in the world.
It’s especially so when we align with this. When we intentionally allow this to happen. When we intentionally play along with it. (Instead of opposing it, resisting, complaining, although that too is often part of the process, and can eventually lead to further healing, maturing, and deepening. That too is part of being human, and noticing what’s here.)
Embracing it all: Being human
This too is part of the dark night of the soul. Embracing it all. Being human. Noticing what’s here. Notice and even find kindness for my human frailties, weaknesses, and imperfections. I am human, as anyone else. I am no different. We are all in the same boat. There is a huge relief in admitting this, and really seeing it, feeling it, and taking it in.
The initial awakening and honeymoon phase may be a phase of transcendence. A phase of transcending, at least temporarily, our human frailties and weaknesses. The dark night of the soul is an invitation to embrace, get to know, and find kindness for my very human weaknesses and messiness.
Three centers: Including the heart and belly
For me, the initial awakening was a “head center” awakening, a recognition and seeing of all as Spirit. Shortly after, the heart came in, with a love of all as Spirit, and a recognition of all (and Spirit) as love.
The dark night of the soul seems to be a cleaning out of the belly center for me, of the emotional wounds, traumas, and traumas related to the primal survival instincts. It seems to open for a more deeply lived and felt sense of all as Spirit.
Is there a guarantee?
Reading Everlyn Underhill, it seems that the dark night of the soul inevitably leads to a clarification, maturing, and deepening. But that’s because she took people who had gone through it and come out on the other side as examples.
She didn’t look at those who may have gotten lost in despair, resentment, pain, and reactivity, perhaps for decades and the rest of their lives.
Is there a guarantee that this phase will lead to clarification, maturing, and deepening? Will this happen on its own? I don’t think so. I think it’s up to us to intentionally align with and support this process. It requires intention, sincerity, and work. It requires readiness.
Here is a simple and quite thorough process that I sometimes use:
Scan the timeline of my life. Go back from now to birth, or forward from birth to now. Or jump around to situations that stand out, and then scan as a check to see what’s left.
Find love for myself as I was then, for others in my life, and whatever else is salient in the situation. (Health, anxiety, depression, anger, school, etc.)
If the love feels easy, natural, and genuine, then stay with it for a while, and move on to the next situation in the timeline.
If it feels sticky, or difficult, or there is resistance, then take the situation to inquiry. After inquiry, check by finding love for it. If it feels easy and natural, then move on to what’s next. If it’s still sticky, do some more inquiry, perhaps from another angle.
For me, finding love is easiest now using ho’oponopono, although other approaches can also be used.
The inquiry can be The Work, or the Living Inquiries (what I usually land on now), or the Big Mind process, or some other form of inquiry – preferable somewhat structured.
I have to admit that I have used the “jumping around” approach mostly, up to now, but am inclined to scan more systematically now.
It’s also possible to scan forward in time, looking at situations that I imagine may be coming up, including scary ones. After all, they are all made up images, words, and sensations – just like the past and present.
When we get into spirituality, it can be from love for reality and love and life.
It can also be to escape something. And that compulsion to escape can take different forms and be more or less strong.
I was reminded of this when I heard of someone who was interested in breatharians. (People who apparently live on sunlight and breath alone, and no food.) The first that comes up for me around that is:
What do you hope to get out of it?
What do you want to escape? Which feeling here and now? What in your life? Where is the threat?
With the breatharian fascination, it’s relatively easy to spot since it’s unusual and a bit extreme. It’s often pretty clear that he or she is trying to escape something, including their body and the feelings (and perhaps trauma) found there.
And this may be there in any spiritual seeking. There is often a component of wanting to escape something. And that can be very helpful to look at.
With breatharians, I assume some – perhaps quite a few – are scam artists. For all I know, it’s possible that it’s genuine in some cases, and that would be an interesting topic for science. And for me, it’s not really that interesting either way.
My fascination is more around finding love for myself and life, inquire into sticky and painful stories, live in a way that supports life, and be as good steward of my life as I can. And there too, there may be something I wish to escape (I know there is), which in turn creates a slight compulsion. It’s good to look at.
What do the breatharian fans mirror back about me?
(a) I am better than them. More evolved. More clear. More down to earth. More practical. More going to the essence.
(b) I am no different from them. I too use spirituality – my own form of spirituality – to escape something. To escape discomfort. Trauma.
A friend of mine mentioned that we both belong to the feminine inquiry tradition.
I hadn’t heard that term before, and hadn’t really thought of it that way. But I see how it fits.
Here are some of what’s been important to me lately (most of it for a while), that can be seen as feminine:
An emphasis on love. Finding love for what’s here, for this experience, for this part of me and my experience I previously pushed away or ignored. Recognizing that identification (velcro, beliefs) come from love, from a wish to protect, and deep caring.
An emphasis on allowing. Allowing what’s here, this experience as it is. Notice it’s already allowed. Allowing even resistance, contractions, fear and more.
An emphasis on resting with what’s here. Notice. Allow. Rest with even discomfort, tension, resistance, contractions.
An emphasis on feeling. Feeling the sensations that are here. Feeling what I have to feel if I don’t do the compulsive behavior that’s coming up for me to do. Feeling what seems most uncomfortable, here and now.
And the inquiry part:
Inquiring into all of this. Inquire into what’s here. Notice the images, words, sensations. Ask simple questions to see more clearly what’s already here.
So yes, this is a feminine inquiry tradition. It’s love oriented. Feeling oriented. Inquiry oriented. It’s gentle, in a way. And also unsentimental and direct.
It’s even disillusionment oriented. And that too can be seen as feminine. That’s what a mother will do when it’s needed for the welfare of her children and family.
Of course, the reason we may see this as feminine is our stories about it. And these are adopted from tradition and culture. It’s a label. And it doesn’t need that label, which is partly why I haven’t thought about it this way, and may not use that term again in the future. (Unless someone else uses it, and I join in because it fits and helps us connect.)
Following an awakening or opening phase, there may be another where “the lid is taken off” as Adyashanti says. A good amount of what is unquestioned, unloved, and unhealed in us comes to the surface, and we have little or no ability to set it aside or push it away.
It’s as if life wants to heal the human side of us, so we can become better vessels for the clarity, love, and awakening. The more we have questioned our unquestioned stories, the more we have found love for what’s unloved in us and our experience, and the more we have healed and matured as human beings, the better the clarity, love, and awakening can be expressed and lived through us.
For some, this may be more gentle and ongoing, and without dramatic “dark nights” of this type.
For some, it may be relatively short, or less intense. Perhaps if they already are quite healthy as a human being, and relatively free of what’s unloved and unhealed.
And for some, it can be quite dramatic, intense, and overwhelming. I seem to find myself in this category now.
Why is it more dramatic and intense in some cases? I suspect part of the answer is trauma. If there is more trauma – more that is unquestioned, unloved, and unhealed – this type of dark night may be more intense as well, and perhaps even last longer. There is simply more material to question, find love for, and heal.
The drawback then is that this phase may be more rocky, painful, and last longer, and it can impact ones life in many areas. The benefit is that there is an opportunity to learn a great deal through this process. And this may in turn even benefit others. There are plenty of examples of “wounded healers”.
Shame is an excellent pointer to something in me that’s still unloved and unquestioned.
The only reason, it seems, that something feels shameful, is that it’s still unloved and unquestioned. The stories creating the beliefs around it are unquestioned, and perhaps as yet unseen.
Shame is just one of many pointers: stress, discomfort, unease, guilt, depression, reactivity, compulsions, trauma, “sticky” sadness, anger, and fear, and body contractions.
I suspect that some things in me has been unloved and unquestioned for generations, in some cases perhaps even back to the beginning of civilization or earlier.
For generations, we have learned to not love certain experiences and parts of ourselves, and not question – or even notice – certain stories. And the pain has been passed on from one generation to the next.
Here and now, some of that pain is surfacing with an invitation for me to love it, questions the stories behind it, and release it from the pain of being unloved and unquestioned.
Sometimes, I imagine generations of ancestors here, approving of me engaging in this process of love and questioning, encouraging me, quietly supporting me. I even dialogue with them, to remind me, to hear what they have to say, and to feel their support.
This is, of course, all a story. It’s made up in my own mind. I cannot find any actual ancestors, or generations, or passing on. What’s here is here, and I cannot find it in the past. I cannot even find a past.
At the same time, this is sometimes an helpful story. It’s a reminder that my ancestors would support me in this if they were here and came from their more wise and kind sides. It’s also a reminder that I am may do this for myself, or think I am doing it for myself, and yet this is something far more universal and shared, and I cannot know the ripple effects of the work I am doing now.
It may not seem much. It may not always be enjoyable. I may not feel I am doing it as sincerely or diligently as I imagine I could. And yet, I really don’t know the ripple effects of this work – for myself and others, or perhaps even for Earth as a whole.