We are what we fear

 

In the classic cave scene from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back, Luke Skywalker meets his nemesis and representative of the dark side, Darth Vader. After a brief sword fight, Luke decapitates Darth Vader, and sees his own face inside of Darth’s helmet.

Luke is what he fears the most. He is the dark side.

That’s how it is for all of us. We are what we fear. And that’s true in a few different ways.

It’s happening within and as what I am. It’s all happening within my world. It’s happening within and as (my) awareness. When it’s here, in awareness, it’s what I am.

The world is my mirror. Whatever I see “out there” in the wider world or someone else, is what I know from myself. Whatever stories I have about the world and other people, I can turn them around to myself, and find specific examples of how it’s true. (It may not look the same, or be expressed the same way, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find the same here as I have stories about in others.)

It pushes back. When I try to push something away in myself, and in the world, it tends to push back. It wants in. It wants to be acknowledged. Life is kinder than allowing me to reject something for good.

And why? Because life invites me to see what’s more real and true than my initial beliefs about it.

Life invites me to…. Recognize it as happening within and as what I am. Find in myself, as a human being, what I see in others and the wider world. Realize we are all in the same boat.

Life invites me to…. Meet it – the fear and what I fear – with respect, kindness, curiosity. Take a closer look and examine by beliefs about it, and how my perception of it is created by my own mind.

Life invites me to see that what I fear is not how it initially appears. (That doesn’t mean we become passive bystanders to injustice or cruelty, or approve of it. On the contrary. We are in a much better position to do something the more clear and mature we are in our relationship to it.)

How does it push back? We may find ourselves in situations where we encounter it again. We may replay a situation in our minds. We may have certain qualities or emotions surface in ourselves.

For instance, if I see anger as bad and try to push it away, I’ll still find myself in situations where people are angry, perhaps even at me. I’ll still replay memories of people being angry, or imagine someone being angry with me in the future. I’ll still experience anger, even if it’s pushed down and perhaps comes out as frustration or restlessness, or even feeling flat. It doesn’t go away.

P.S. I am aware that the usual interpretation(s) of the cave scene is slightly different. I imagine the more standard interpretation is that Luke has the potential to go over to the dark side, just as his father did. He has the anger. The impulsiveness. The restlessness. He is his father’s son, in that way. The cave experience is a warning, and also an invitation for him to recognize this in himself and take it seriously.

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Deep wounds and deep caring

 

I am rewatching X-Men Days of Future Past, and it’s reminding me of what can happen when there is a combination of deep wounding and deep caring. It’s also easter, and that too is reminding me of this theme.

Raven, and to some extent Eric, both were deeply wounded, and deeply care. And it sometimes comes out in reactive ways. Ways that hurt themselves more, and hurt others too.

I see the same in Judas. There too, I imagine a deep caring, and deep wounds, combining to bring him to do what he did. To give the person he deeply loved to those who wanted to do away with him.

And I see the same in myself. I see what happens when there is deep caring, and deep wounding, and acting from reactiveness. It hurts me further, and it hurts those around me.

Sometimes, it’s not very obvious. Sometimes, it’s in what I am not doing rather than what I am doing. And yet, I see the same pattern there. A combination of deep caring, deep wounding, and acting from reactiveness rather than a more clear and kind intention.

Deep wounds come from deep caring. They are an expression of deep caring. And, as Xavier said, Just because someone stumbles and loses their way, it doesn’t mean they’re lost forever. Sometimes we all need a little help.

Interstellar: Earth vs Space

 

I finally got around to watch Interstellar, and liked it very much. I thought it was very moving at times, the story was tight, and I like well made science fiction movies in general.

It also brought up the topic of sustainability vs space colonization. To me, those go hand in hand. They both have to do with big picture questions. And knowledge from each may well inform the other. For instance, what we learn from sustainability will be of help if (when?) we create space colonies or terraform other planets, and what we learn from those will give us valuable information about how to live in a more sustainable way back on Earth. (Although we probably should have figured that our before we get around to space colonizes and/or terraforming.)

In the short and medium term, we need to learn to live in a more genuinely sustainable way. (Which will require significant reorganization of how we do just about everything, including our institutions.)

In the medium and long term, we need to explore space further, and learn to move beyond this planet. We need, as so many points out, to become an multi-planet species. We need to branch out. It’s what life does. It’s part of our built-in draw to adventure and exploration. It’s how Earth will propagate. It’s what’s necessary if Earth life is to continue beyond the lifespan of this one planet and solar system. It’s what’s prudent, considering that having just one location for Earth life is far more precarious than two, or more.

All life propagates, and Earth is a living system, so why wouldn’t Earth propagate? In that sense, we are in service of Earth life. We are the part of Earth that may be able to make it happen.

And although Interstellar contrasts sustainability with space colonization, it’s the type of movie that makes these ideas more mainstream. It’s part of spreading these ideas, making them familiar, and even attractive.

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What’s left out

 

I haven’t watched American Sniper, but from the trailer – and just knowing it’s a Hollywood movie – I assume it’s presented as “apolitical”, and the main character as a slightly conflicted hero.

If that’s the case, what’s left out is quite glaring: He participated in illegal wars, mainly created to serve corporate (and political) interests. And he, most likely, saw himself as serving his country, and doing his job. Which may be true, but is secondary to him choosing to be an active participant in very questionable foreign policies. The US foreign policies and military actions may well create more enemies and terrorists than they are preventing or getting rid of, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that too is left out of this movie.

By leaving these things out, the US movie producers are doing their job, which is (a) to make money, and (b) not question the actions of the US government in any serious way. (If they do so, they mostly focus on more harmless fringe issues.)

Truman Show

 

I first saw The Truman Show with friends from the Zen center, and was immediately struck by the – almost too obvious – parallels with the story of the Buddha, and of each of us as we begin to see through what we take as real and true. I later read that it was, indeed, the intention of the creators of the movie.

Here are some things that come to mind:

Truman is the only “true” one in the TV show. He is also each of us, the “true” man in the sense of universal man.

He takes his world as real and solid, and “accepts the world presented to him”.

He begins to see that his world is not as it appears. Little hints here and there makes him suspicious that his world is not as it first appeared to him.

He seeks the truth.

This brings up fears. It’s a threat to his identity. It’s a threat to who he takes himself to be and what he takes the world to be.

His world creates apparent obstacles to finding the truth. This is a reflection of how our mind sometimes brings up fears and reasons for not pursuing the truth, since it means giving up our familiar identities, identifications, and how we see ourselves and the world. It can feel threatening.

He persists, since he wants truth more than comfort and safety.

And he finds reality, or at least what’s more real. Reality reveals itself to him.

Although this is not part of the movie, it’s possible that after having explored the “real world” for a while, he’ll be disillusioned about it. He may have his hopes and dreams dashed. He may regret having sought it out. And if he continues to persist in finding what’s more true for him, he may find a deeper peace with himself and his world.

This parallels the typical phases – or sometimes facets – of an awakening process. (a) Taking our world as it appears to us, without much questioning. (b) Initial curiosity, interest. Initial quest to find what’s more true. (c) Facing some unloved/unquestioned fears and identifications. (e) Early release from identifications. Honeymoon phase. (f) Facing deeper unloved/unquestioned fears and identifications. (g) A deeper peace with what is. (h) Repeat variations of f-g. (?)

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Byron Katie: Welcome to the movie of who you think you are

 

Welcome to the movie of who you think you are. Pass the popcorn.

– Byron Katie

It’s a commonly used analogy: our life is like a movie.

It has a main character (me). It has drama. It has ups and downs. It has other characters that come and go, some more central than others. It has challenges. It has joys. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. The story has an arc. It’s messy at times. It’s at times fascinating, scary, amusing, funny, tragic, suspenseful, surprising, exciting, predictable, boring and more.

The difference is in identification. Movies are entertaining because we are only mildly identified with the main characters. In contrast, our life can be experiences as a life-and-death matter, and hold onto very tightly, if we are strongly identified with the main character(s). And it can be entertaining and amusing if there is a softer identification.

Also, we can say that just like a movie is projected on a screen, our life – and it’s word – is “projected on awareness”. Or, rather, it happens within and as awareness itself. And just as a movie projected on the screen doesn’t impact the screen, the content of awareness doesn’t impact awareness itself. It doesn’t impact what we more basically are.

Movie: Kumaré

 

I watched Kumaré the other day, and thought it was – or at least turned out to be – a quite beautiful and heart centered story. Many of his essential pointers were very good, especially the reminder that any guru “out there” in the world is a mirror of what’s in me. He or she is a reflection of my own wisdom, clarity, joy, love.

I also enjoyed how he had his followers take his role, and give advice to themselves from the position of the guru. That’s something I have explored for myself. If I was a guru – with great wisdom, love and care – what advice would I give myself?

Fascination with scary stories

 

Why are we – some of us – fascinated by scary stories?

I find a few different ways of looking at it.

Evolution

In an evolutionary context, it makes sense that we are drawn to explore scary things through stories. It helps us mentally prepare for similar situations in our own life. We get more familiar with the possible situations and how we may react, we get a bit desensitized to these types of situations so we may be more calm if or when something similar happens in our own life, and we get a chance to mentally explore different ways of dealing with it.

Beliefs

When I take a story about something scary as true, my attention tends to be drawn to these beliefs and what they are about. Again, it’s an invitation to mentally explore these situations in a safe setting, and how I may deal with it if something similar should happen in the real world. It’s also an invitation to explore these beliefs in themselves. Are they realistic? What’s more realistic? What’s more true for me? 

An impulse to wholeness as who I am, this human self

What I see in the wider world is a reflection of what’s here. So far, I have found how each one of my stories of the wider world – including anything scary – equally well applies to me. As long as I think some human quality or characteristic is only out there in the world, or only in me, it’s painful and uncomfortable. When I find it both in the wider world and in me, there is a sense of coming home and it’s much more comfortable. In this sense, being drawn to scary stories in an invitation for me to use it as a mirror, to find in myself what I see out there in the world, and whether the scary story is from “real life” or made up doesn’t matter much.

Finding a characteristic both in the wider world and myself, I can also relate to it in a more relaxed and level-headed manner, so this impulse to find wholeness also makes sense in an evolutionary perspective.

An impulse to clarity as what I am 

There is also an invitation to find clarity here. When I take a story as true, it’s uncomfortable. And finding more clarity on the story, it’s more comfortable. So when I am drawn to what I think of as scary stories, there is an invitation for me to identify and investigate any stressful belief that may come up. Through this, what I am – clarity and love, that which any experience and image happens within and as – notices itself more easily.

I also see that when I take a story as true I tend to get caught up in reactive emotions and one-sided views, and finding more clarity helps me function in a more healthy, kind and informed way in the world.

Summary: Evolution, and who and what I am

It makes evolutionary sense for me to be drawn to scary stories in all of these ways. (a) I become more familiar with the different scenarios of what may happen and how I desensitize to scary situations to some extent, so I can be more calm if or when something similar happens in my own life. I get to mentally explore different ways of dealing with it, in a safe setting and before it happens. (b) I am invited to investigate my beliefs about it and find what’s more realistic and true for me. (c) I am invited to find in myself what I see in the wider world, which helps me relate to it in a more relaxed and level-headed manner. (d) And there is no end to the stories I can investigate, including my most basic assumptions about myself and the world, which helps me function in the world from more clarity, kindness and wisdom. Each of these support my survival and ability to reproduce and raise offspring.

All of these also make psychological sense. It helps me function in the world, and find a sense of wholeness as who I am.

It all makes spiritual sense. It helps this human self – the infinite experiencing itself as finite – survive and function in the world. It’s an invitation for what I am to more easily notice itself.

And all of these perspectives – evolution, psychology and spirituality – converge in one sense, and are the same in another.

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The Artist

 

I just saw The Artist at Barn Cinema and was surprised of how powerful it was for me. The clean story, beautifully amplified in the spirit of the silent movies, made it very archetypal and brought up several beliefs.

Here are some to take to inquiry:

1. I am better than others. I am on top of the world. I can get what I want. I can do what I put my mind to. Nothing can touch me.

2. I have lost it all. I am worthless. I am a loser. I have failed. They see me as a failure. I am a nobody. I don’t matter to others. The world is better without me.

3. I cannot accept her help. She pities me. Her kindness is out of pity. He needs my help.

4. I cannot tell him (her) I love him (her). I cannot ask for what I want. I am washed up –> nobody will want me. He’s a big star –> he won’t want me. He’s not ready yet.

When I take any of these to inquiry, I find a situation and time where it was alive for me, and answer the questions from there.

Moon

 

I saw this when it first came out and thought it was very good.

What sticks with me now – and perhaps the main reminder from this movie – is that we have memories and tend to take them as true, or at least mostly or close to true. While in reality, they are just memories. They are images appearing here now, triggering emotions, and with stories about them saying they reflect the past, and that’s it. I cannot know for certain they actually reflect the past. And the past itself, the idea of a past is an image, as is any ideas of what happened in that past.

There is a big difference in knowing this abstractly, as an interesting thought, and knowing it through and through – with body and mind – about specific instances and memories. I can inquiry into one memory at a time, and gradually there is a shift in how I relate to stories about the past. I see – through specific, concrete and genuine examples – how my images of the past are just that, images, alive here now.

Doing The Work on Dreams, Fairy Tales and Movies

 

I find it fun, interesting & helpful to do inquiry on dreams, fairy tales and movies.

There is more freedom of imagination, the themes are amplified, and I am out of my familiar context of everyday life even as the themes and stories are the same.

So I can take any dream, fairy tale or movie, identify my thoughts, and do inquiry on these thoughts. And I can also imagine myself in any role in those stories, image what thoughts I have about what’s happening and other characters in the story, and do the same.

It can be a playful and juicy way of tapping into some core stories.

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Pray the Devil Back to Hell

 

“Pray the Devil Back to Hell” tells the remarkable but little-known story of a small band of unarmed women who risked their lives to bring change to Liberia. Reconstructing the moment through interviews, archival footage and striking images of contemporary Liberia. Armed only with white T-shirts and the courage of their convictions, a coalition of Christian and Muslim women confronted cruelty and corruption, taking on Charles Taylor and the warlords and bringing peace to their country after decades of war. Their demonstrations brought about the exile of Charles Taylor and the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female head of state and mark the vanguard of a new wave of people taking control of their political destiny around the world.

Not so little known anymore. Great movie.

 

The divine takes over

 

This sequence (the first one, up to 3:20) from The Fountain by Darren Aronofsky illustrates a process that’s getting to be more familiar to me than I – the surface I – wanted.

The conquistador really wants the tree of life and what it offers, and then realizes in terror that it requires everything of him and doesn’t look at all like what he expected. First, he chased the tree, then the process took over and he didn’t have a choice anymore – as if he ever had a choice.

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Toy Story 3

 

I watched Toy Story 3 on the flight yesterday. It’s a rich story with many forms of love, several ways of being misguided, and most or all of the themes of the hero’s journey.

One of the things that stood out for me was the death and resurrection themes. Towards the end of the story, our friends find themselves as garbage, as the lowest of the low, the discarded. They face death with some acceptance and mutual support. And as all hope is lost, are miraculously saved to a new and unexpected life which may be better than any of their plans.

True humility comes not through trying to be humble, but through admitting we’re pathetic, full of it, and basically, the worst of the worst.

The Pathetic one transmutes to Humility when empowered, owned and embodied.

– Genpo Roshi

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The Troll Hunter

 

I just watched Trolljegeren – The Troll Hunter – and was reminded of a couple of common themes in stories about trolls.

Trolls burst in daylight. As long as they remain in the dark, they are fine. But as soon as the rays of the sun hit them, they burst. This is familiar to me from my own experience.

I keep certain thoughts and emotions in the dark because they look scary, and this keeps them looking scary. And yet, when I bring awareness and attention to these – examining the stories and allowing the emotions, there is a shift. The light of awareness reveal them as innocent and – in themselves – harmless. The trolls burst. They are only harmful as long as they are kept in the dark.

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Movies and voice dialog

 

I watched Pale Rider tonight, and found myself doing voice dialog with the Preacher a few times. It was very helpful, and gave me some added insight into some long-standing patterns in my life. So this is of course one of the ways of working with movies: Use the characters in voice dialog. Hear what they have to say. Take in their insights. Listen to their advice to you and perhaps some of the other voices.

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