Core, ground, periphery

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thoughts as guide

 

At some point, we realize that thoughts are…. thoughts. They contain no final or absolute truth. They are tools. They are here to help us orient and function in the world.

As we mature in that realization, we learn to function in the embrace of knowing that thoughts are thoughts while also using them as guides.

One way that works pretty well is to…..

Use consensus reality thoughts as general guide in everyday life, unless there are good reasons not to. This is especially helpful when we interact with people and in our work…!

Use maps that fit with our deeper experience of reality, perhaps similar to what is found in some spiritual traditions.

Use overarching maps of maps found in, for instance, integral models such as the AQAL model of Ken Wilber.

Use kindess as a guide. Use big picture views and long term perspectives as a guide.

Know that our experience, our choice of views, and the views themselves are inherently biased. They are the product of the whole history and evolution of the universe up to this point. They each have innumerable causes stretching back to the beginning of the universe.

Use the maps, views, and orientations with some fluidity, receptivity, and humility. Knowing that with more experience and maturity, we’ll find other ones that make more sense to us.

And there is always further to go. What I outlined here is pretty basic and a first step.

A map: Some phases and facets of the path

 

The self-disclosure of God never repeats itself
– Ibn Arabi

God never repeats itself, and that seems true for how it awakens to itself as well. It’s an adventure. Always unique and different in each case.

At the same time, there are some common themes, and many of these are outlined in maps from different traditions and teachers. When reading any of these types of maps, it’s good to remember that these are maps of possibilities, not of limitations. They say something about what’s possible, what may happen, but not what’s necessary or what will happen.

What I am going to describe here is influenced by some of these maps, although it is mostly from my own experience – which is of course limited. I came up with five themes, and each of these can be seen as (a) a phase, and (b) a facet we can find at most or all phases of the path.

So here they are, as a rough draft.

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Maps and pointers

 

Here is a nice overview from Shinzen Young on six things to look out for on the spiritual path.

These six stories can be taken in a literal way and may be very helpful for some people in some situations. But they will have limited usefulness just for that reason. And if taken as beliefs, these six stories can become pitfalls in themselves.

It can be taken as more universal, applicable to many paths and situations in life.

More simply, it can be taken as a pointer for what is here now. These stories can be taken as a mirror of what is already here now. As a question and an invitation for inquiry.

And finally, if we are used to noticing symptoms of beliefs and inquiring into those beliefs – in whatever way seems most helpful to us – these six pointers are not even needed. Life itself will show us. Chances are, we will already have noticed most or all of them as they show up in many different ways in daily life, in whatever situations we are in.

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Any practice has elements of inquiry, devotion, integrity and service

 

Any practice has elements of inquiry, devotion, integrity and service.

It can be an expression of love for reality (God, Buddha Mind). It can be an expression of curiosity: what happens if…? It can be an expression of integrity, a sincere intention to live more aligned with reality. And it can be an expression of service, of realigning this human life so it better can be of service to the larger whole.

So there is fertile ground for exploration here. Any of those four is a practice in itself, and it includes elements of each of the other ones. What is the devotion component of inquiry? What is the integrity component of service? What is the service component of devotion? What do I find in my own experience?

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Truth or Buddhism

 

Awakening is an awakening out of stories, and that includes whatever guidelines (if any) used to invite in the awakening. As Gautama Buddha said, the teachings are a boat designed to get you over to the other side. No need to carry it with you after you land.

This is good advice at any phase of the process, whether it is before or within awakening.

And it is also good advice when the veils are thinning, since attachment to teachings as true may be among the last identifications. There may be an identification with the viewpoint of these teachings and all that comes with it, including dentification as content of experience, and as an I with an other.

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Maps as statistics, truth, refuge, temporary guide etc.

 

t-o_mappa_mundi

Some 101 stuff about maps…..

What we call truth in any story or map comes from how it works as a practical guide for attention, exploration or action. If it works well and it fits with our individual or shared stories about how the world works in general, we call it true. But there is no truth inherent in any story or map.

Stories and maps are tools. Practical guides for attention, exploration and action. There is no more “truth” in them than in any other tool such as a hammer or saw.

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Maps as questions

 

mercator_1595

Again, pretty basic but a good reminder….

Any story is a question, and that includes maps. They are questions and starting points for inquiry.

For instance, what happens if I take the map as true? What happens if I experience and live as if it is true? How do I limit myself and the world? Who would I be if I didn’t take it as true? What are the truths in its reversals?

What happens if I take it as a tool? A tool of limited and practical value only, with no truth to it apart from in a very limited and temporary sense? How and when may it be useful? How and when is it not?

As with any story, God (life, existence) is not bound or limited by any map.

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Expectations = plan

 

M: … but in reality if he went out and used again, it could be tough for me.

Byron Katie: Oh, there’s a plan. “I think I will plan that.” [M laughs.] If you want to know your plan, look at your mind. It will show you. “That will be tough.” There’s a plan.

On my way through PDX to San Francisco, I read short sections of Who Would You Be Without Your Story and then stayed with it for a while, letting it work on me.

The quote above especially made an impression on me, maybe because it is something I have explored on my own lately.

When I have an expectation, I have a plan. I have a plan for how it will turn out, and I may either interpret what happens so it fits my expectation, or act so it is more likely to happen – to the extent it can at least.

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Stories as true and not

 

In what ways are stories true and not? 

When we call them true, we often mean that…

  • Others agree. They match conventional views and consensus reality.
  • They match the data. Our stories about the data, that is. (Our stories of how the data fits together matches our stories of the data.) 
  • They seem to work. When we use them as guidelines for how to function in the world, they seem to work in a practical sense. At least well enough for our purposes, and for now. 
And here are some ways they are not true, first in a conventional sense…
  • Stories always come from limited experience
    • Our experience, individually and collective, is always limited, no matter how vast it seems in a conventional sense. We are always only scratching the surface. 
    • Our experience is finite within the infinite. 
  • The map is not the terrain
    • Maps are selective. We chose what is included and what is not. 
    • There is a difference in kind. Stories are mental field creations, and what they referer to is (apparently) not. 
  • Stories are always interpretations within a worldview
    • Other interpretations are possible within the same worldview. 
    • Other worldviews are possible, producing quite different interpretations. 
    • These interpretations can fit the data equally well, and be equally functional in a practical sense. 
  • Outside of what I can imagine
    • I have no idea what is beyond my limited experience. If I do, it is most likely wrong. 
    • Many of the interpretations within familiar worldviews are unfamiliar to me. 
    • Most interpretations within other worldviews are far outside of what I can imagine in advance.
    • There are innumerable interpretations and worldviews unfamiliar to me that fit the data equally well or better than anything I am familiar with, and may work equally well or better as practical guidelines. 
  • All happens within the mental field
    • Maps are mental field creations about other mental field creations. Interpretations (maps) of interpretations (data). And these interpretations happens within other interpretations (worldviews). 
  • Words split and what they refer to is not split
    • Reality is untouched by, beyond and includes all polarities.
    • Words, by their nature, split and exclude. (That is their job, and it is essential that they do so, but it is also good to notice.)

Waking up out of stories

 

When we notice – quite clearly – what we are, there is a waking up out of stories

There is a waking up out of the story of I. A doer. Observer. Thinker. An I with an other. A center with periphery. An inside and an outside. 

And with it is a waking up of any other story as well, including the stories of maps, models, religions, spirituality and practices.

We see that what we – already and always – are, cannot be touch by any of those stories. They can be very helpful in a purely practical sense, for this human self to function in the world and explore who it is and what it really is.

But they are also, quite literally, imaginary. They are creations of the mental field, overlaid on pure perception. And reality cannot be touched by any of them. Not in a conventional sense. And not in the context of all as God.

Each story has a temporary and practical value only. 

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Appreciation and differentiation

 

When I differentiate, it can happen within the context of appreciation or not.

If I differentiate – using thought to sort things out – within appreciation, I find that it tends to invite in curiosity and receptivity. I am more free to explore different views and takes on the topic, find the validity in each, and ways these views may fit together into a larger picture. If I am engaging with someone else, there tends to also be more of a sense of us and a recognition of myself in the other. A sense of exploration and partnership, whether the other person is open to that or not.

If I differentiate and it is not within a context of appreciation, it can be quite neutral. But the stage is also set for more easily going in the direction of a rigid view and a closed heart. Instead of a more open exploration, I may go into justifying or defending a particular view. I may go into polarization. I may experience separation to others and the views they happen to use as a guideline.

Either one is of course fine. And the differentiation without appreciation may be an effective tool in some specific situations. (Tough love, but there can be appreciation even there, just not expressed so directly.)

But in general, differentiation within the context of appreciation seems to be more helpful. When the heart comes in and supports the mind, there is more receptivity and curiosity there, and a willingness to explore the validity in a wider range of views. In some ways, there is a certain intelligence that comes from the heart supporting the mind.

Even when the differentiation comes up with the same in both cases, it is at least more enjoyable to do it within the context of appreciation and a deeper sense of us.

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Buddhist four phase map of awakening

 

[…] After a while, and it can vary for different people, one will have gone through many cycles—with what will appear to be an underlying cycle beneath these surface cycles. When the underlying cycle comes to completion, the surface cycles and deeper cycle converge with a fruition, and there is a dramatic shift in perception where one begins to see what is meant by emptiness, now in real-time. This shift, which is the 3rd stage of enlightenment, has to do with seeing the empty, selfless nature of reality upon mere reflection. Where once emptiness was contained in the discontinuity experience at the end of an insight cycle, it now permeates all of experience. It comes obvious, for those of 3rd path, what is meant by the lines from the Heart Sutra, “form is emptiness.”

The time between 3rd path and 4th path tends to be the longest yet. Ingram breaks 3rd path into early and mature phases. In the early phase one is still looking for the cycles to bring further progress, whereas in the mature phase emptiness is so ordinary and integrated into one’s experience that the inquiry turns away from the cycles and toward the last subtle hints of duality, which remain.

Finally, there is another radical shift in perspective, in which the sense of a separate center-point, observer, or doer is completely undone. Apparently this realization can occur and then fade for some time, until finally the shift is permanent (i.e. nothing can interrupt this centerless perspective). This is the opening of the “wisdom eye”, the attainment of arhantship, and as Ingram says is the end of insight path: “For the arahat who has kept the thing open, there is nothing more to be gained on the ultimate front from insight practices, as ‘done is what is to be done’.” It’s also interesting to note that it’s difficult to predict how long it will take from 3rd to 4th path. It tends to be the longest path, though I have so little data (even anecdotal) that it’s really hard to say. […]

A great overview from Vince of a four-phase model of awakening, drawn from Daniel Ingram’s book Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, in turn drawn from traditional Buddhist teachings.

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Travelers and explorers

 

There are many ways of relating to the path of growing and/or waking up.

We may be travelers with a destination in mind, and use maps, guides and the provided vehicles on our way.

We may want explore in a more open ended way, using maps, guides and any vehicle we come across for parts of the journey but not always.

We may be tourists and visitors.

Or we may do each of these at different times.

All are God exploring itself in as many ways as possible.

And all have their gifts and (apparent) drawbacks.

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No closer to really understanding

 

During a recent Breema workshop, one of the students asked about the hara (belly). What is it? What happens with the hara during a session? Is it connected to the chakras? The meridians?

For me, it was one of those moments that shows very clearly that no matter how many models and theories we are familiar with, and no matter how well these seem to explain what is going on, we are no closer to really understanding it.

Of course, these theories and models and maps can be very useful. They have a practical value, and we can certainly understand something more or less well in this conventional and practical sense. In a conventional sense, a map is “true” or “valid” if it works well enough, and false if not.

But even if they work, we are no closer to really understanding.

In a conventional way, we know that a map is different from the terrain. Any map highlights some features, ignore other, and may be inaccurate in what it highlights and leave out something important. Chances are, it does leave something important out, we just don’t know it yet.

Also, a map is made of thought, while the terrain is something else. They are different in kind, often dramatically different.

Thoughts are always about the past. Even if they are about the present, they lag behind. And if they do say something about the future or present, it is always drawn from memories of the past.

Models always have a shadow, a reversal that is not included. They are inevitably partial. They leave out views and perspectives that also have validity. And life, as it goes about its business, has a tendency to bring up just those things that can only be understood through those reversals views.

So in all of these ways, we see that a map is not the terrain. It can be quite useful – and “true” – in a practical way. But that is how far they go in terms of their relationship to what they supposedly are about. They work (or not) in a practical sense, and that’s it.

There is also a more immediate way to see that the map and terrain are quite different, not only in degree but in kind. Where we see that the terrain is awareness itself, taking different appearances, and the map is just an overlay.

If we explore it through the sense fields, we see that thought is an overlay on each of the sense fields. It is an interpretation, a question, about what happens in the sense fields. It has immense practical value for our human self in the world, and no value – or truth – beyond that. It is just a thought. An activity of the mental field.

Any statement, theory, model, map, is a question only. Sometimes it helps our human self to function in the world. Sometimes it is less helpful. Sometimes it can even be a pointer for us to explore what we really are, and also here be more or less effective in a practical sense.

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Karma

 

Another look at karma, and how it is and isn’t, and is personal and universal, belonging to the part and the whole.

As with any maps, models and stories, the story of karma is a practical tool only, a tool that helps our human self to orient and navigate in the world. A tool that can be more or less useful depending on what we want to use it for. There is no value or truth in it beyond that.

And we can say that karma is and isn’t.

It is, because there is, obviously, cause and effect in the conventional sense.

It isn’t, because there is only what is here now, the five sense fields and what appears in each one. Anything else comes from the inside of a story. Past, future, time, continuity, space, extent, causality, all that is only found on the inside of a story.

It is individual, because we can find, in a conventional sense, causality within the boundaries of this human self. We see how thoughts and decisions are followed by actions in the world, and so on. It is also individual as a practical ethical tool, inviting and helping the human self to live in a more ethical way and follow the golden rule more easily.

It is universal and of the whole, because everything has infinite causes and effects, reaching back to the beginning of the universe and out to its furthest reaches. What we see locally, including what appears as local causes and effects, are just the local effects of movements within the whole.

So karma, cause and effect, exists in a conventional and practical sense. If we look a little closer, we cannot find it in our immediate experience. It can only be found on the inside of a story.

It is individual, again in a practical and conventional sense. And it belongs to the whole of the world of form, in that everything happening locally has infinite causes and effects, and is a manifestation of the movements of the whole.

And we can find all of this here and now, in our own immediate experience. How is it true for me, here and now? What do I find when I look for myself?

Thank God for evolution!

 

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Michael Dowd’s new book, Thank God for Evolution, is available for pre-order. Also check out the book’s website which has articles as well as audio and video samples.

He does a great job of providing bridges from the traditionalist/fundamentalist to the rational/scientific perspectives, and between science and spirituality, all within an integrally informed framework.

(Not sure how much the book goes into the integral maps, but his talks often do.)

What is a relative truth relative to?

 

Any story has only a relative truth. It has limited and temporary validity only, and there is also a grain of truth in each of its reversals.

And it is relative for several different reasons.

First, stories differentiate within the seamless whole of the world, which means that any segment only exists relative to something else. Here is relative to there. False relative to true. Life to death.

The appearance of anything distinct is dependent on, in contrast to, and relative to a boundary and something on the other side of the boundary.

Then, there is a grain of truth in each of the reversals of any story. The appearance of limited truth of any story happens when we recognize the grain of truth in its reversals as well. We recognize the relative relationship between the initial story and its reversals, and the grain of truth in each of them.

And if we ignore this, trying to put all truth into one story and remove truth from its reversals, then that appearance too is dependent on the relative relationship between the initial story and its reversals.

When I see the grain of truth in each of the reversals, I may find that I appear as a separate self, but when I look, I also find that this sense of separate self only comes from an image, a thought, and is not inherent in what arises. There is a grain of truth in both. Or, I lie, and I can find that in my life. Sometimes I lie blatantly, and even if I try to be honest, what comes out of my mouth is a lie because it is a limited truth.

Or, if I take I am honest as an absolute truth, then that truth can only appear because there is no truth in its reversal, I lie.

The appearance of a limited or absolute truth in any story is dependent on, in contrast to, and relative to, its reversals.

Also, any story has a grain of truth only as related to a set of other stories. It is dependent on a particular context of other stories to have even this grain of truth. And it is when we switch this context of other stories that we can see the grain of truth in its reversals.

I lie. Yes, I can find a set of stories that says that – in memories of times when I did, and even here now because any storytelling, any use of words, is really a lie. It leaves out a great deal, simplifies horribly independent of how complex it is, and splits the world when the world itself is not split.

I am honest. Yes, I can find that too, in another set of stories. Even if I blatantly lie in some situations, there are many other situations where I am quite honest. And here now, I try to use stories that honestly reflect my experiences, as much as possible. I try to be true to what appears as true to me here and now.

The appearance of truth in any story is dependent on, in contrast to, and relative to, a set of supporting stories.

And finally, a relative truth only exists because there is an absolute truth. It is dependent on, in contrast to, and relative to an absolute truth.

Relative truth is what arises filtered through stories, whether these are recognized as only stories or not. And the absolute is this field of awake void and form, recognized as awakeness itself. And in real life, both go together very well.

Awake void and form is inherently absent of and untouched by any stories, including the one of I and Other, whether it recognizes itself as awakeness or not. And the overlay of stories, whether taken as just stories or not, is essential for this human self to function in the world.

The appearance of a relative truth is dependent on, in contrast to, and relative to an absolute truth. And the relative truth arises due to, from and within the absolute, so is dependent on it that way too.
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What is a mystery, and what is not?

 

There is another irony here:

Conventionally, we tend to think that the Truth with capital T is a mystery, and always will be. Possibly, at best, something revealed after death, if we are lucky and the universe is set up that way. We can always know quite a bit about this physical world, the world of form, so that is not really a mystery, but the Ultimate Truth will quite probably always remain a mystery.

But when Ground awakens to itself, this too, as so much else, is reversed.

Now, we see that the Ultimate Truth is revealed to itself, so simply and plainly that it is difficult to express in words. All is God, awake void and form. There is no separate self anywhere, no I with an Other. The nature of all is God, is awake void and form. The ultimate truth is no longer a mystery.

And we also see, equally plainly, that the content of world of form is always a mystery. Whatever maps we put on top of the world of form is always only a map. There is an infinite number of ways to filter the world of form, and even if it was filtered only one way, there is an infinite number of maps possible to account for the world of form as it appears.

The nature of everything is clearly revealed, but the content of everything ultimately remains a mystery, independent of how refined and sophisticated our maps are.

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