The sweetness of being with what’s here

 

This morning, a strong sadness came up. I don’t know exactly where it is from or what it is about (although I do remember it from childhood mixed with a longing), and I don’t really need to know. 

My initial impulse was to wish it wasn’t there. It was uncomfortable. It brought up uncomfortable thoughts.

And then there was a kind of surrender into it. It’s here so I may as well be with it. There isn’t really much else to do. And I know from experience that initially uncomfortable experiences reveal something else if I can meet it and relate to it more intentionally. 

Notice the sadness-sensations in the body. Notice the mental images and words. Notice the (very human) reactions to it. Notice it’s all already allowed. (It’s already allowed by space, mind, life.) 

Rest attention with the sensations in the body. Notice the space around it, and it all happening within and as space. Notice it’s already allowed. Rest with it, as it is. 

I know from earlier experiences that this is the way through it, and a part of me wanted through it.

At the same time, another part just wanted to be with it. Feel it. Allow it. This is a part of me, of life. It’s visiting. It’s life meeting life.

Yet another part knows that this – the sadness and being with it – works on me. There is a deepening. Something happens and is processed, and although I don’t know exactly what it is or what’s happening, it’s welcome and feels deeply right. 

Now, a few hours later, there is a spaciousness and sweetness mixing in with the sadness. A warm fullness. Earthiness. Receptivity. A deeply felt sense of the resilience, fragility, and immense beauty of all life. 

I often don’t write about this. It’s wordless so finding the right words are difficult. At the same time, I know it’s valuable to share so I’ll do it even if it falls a bit short. 

Compulsions: two levels of what we escape

 

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

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

And those uncomfortable sensations and thoughts come in two layers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Basic forms of meditation: attention, notice, insights, heart, body

 

Here are a few basic forms of meditation. All of them are reasonably universal and they are – in their essential form – found in several different traditions. As with any skill, it’s helpful to be guided by someone who are experienced, and our own skills and understanding will develop with experience.

Training a more stable attention. This is helpful for just about anything in life, whether it’s work, studying, hobbies, relationships, or any inner or spiritual practice. It helps us bring our attention to something in a more stable way and for as long as we wish. It makes our attention a more useful and pliable tool for us. As a bonus, a more stable attention tends to bring in a sense of well being and grounding.

The easiest way of training this is to bring attention to the sensations of the breath (chest, nose, tip of nose), notice when it goes to something else, and then gently bring it back to the sensations. We can also use other objects: sounds, imagined or visual imagery etc.

This practice also gives us some insights into how the mind works. We notice that attention tends to go somewhere else, almost always to thoughts that have a charge, and it seems to go there on its own. We can also notice which thoughts attention tends to go to, notice the charge and that there may be something unresolved around it, and then explore it through inquiry or a healing approach, perhaps allowing it to resolve and the charge goes out of it. In a small way, this may give a greater sense of well being, allow us to function better in life, and make it easier for attention to stably rest on whatever we intend.

Notice and allow. The basic form is to notice and allow. Notice what’s here in the sense fields (sight, sound, sensations, smell, taste, thoughts). Allow it to be as it is.

Again, this can give us some simple insights. We may notice that what’s here is already allowed – by life, mind, space – to be here as is, and that it’s more restful to notice this. As before, we may notice attention going to thoughts with a charge. We can also explore noticing the space it all happens within and as.

We may notice the effects of this noticing and allowing. We may notice that it creates a sense of space around whatever happens. Attention may not be immediately caught up and drawn into thoughts with a charge. And that this becomes easier and more of a habit the more we do it.

As with training a more stable attention, we may also find that this noticing and allowing helps us in everyday life and that it brings with it a sense of well-being and grounding. (When attention is less caught up in charged thoughts, there is often a sense of well being and grounding.)

Insights. Insights can come as a byproduct of any of these explorations. When we over time notice how we function, insights are almost inevitable. Insights can also come through inquiry, and especially through more structured forms of inquiry such as The Work, Living Inquiries, or just noticing what’s happening in the sense fields (including thoughts).

These structured forms of inquiry are like training wheels, and although we may never outgrow them (or wish to do so), becoming familiar with them tends to lead to more spontaneous helpful noticing and simple forms on inquiry in everyday situations.

The main insights we may get from these inquiries is how thoughts combine with sensations, so sensations lend a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations. This is how thoughts get a charge, and how beliefs, identifications, reactivity, compulsions, and more are created.

Heart-centered. Heart-centered practices help us change our relationship to ourselves, others, the world, life, situations, and parts of ourselves. They help us shift from seeing (some of) them as a problem, mistake, or something that needs to go away, to genuinely befriending them. As with the explorations above, this tends to bring in a greater sense of well-being, ease, and grounding. And as my old Zen teacher used to say, we tend to become less of a nuisance to others….!

Some of my favorites here are tonglen (from Tibetan Buddhism), ho’oponopono (Hawaii), and all-inclusive gratitude practices. (See other articles for more on these.)

Continuous prayer. I’ll add this since it’s found in many traditions and can be a powerful and transformative practice. Say a brief prayer along with the in- and out-breath and the heart beats. Do it as often as you remember, and set aside time to do this exclusively. Over time, this will become a continuous prayer. You will even have a sense of it happening while you sleep.

The Christian version is the Jesus prayer or heart prayer: Lord Jesus Christ (on in-breath), have mercy on me (on outbreath). And synchronize the words with the heart beat (for instance, one heart beat for the three first words, then another, then one on “have mercy”, another for “on”, and then one on “me”).

Body-centered. These are the familiar ones, including yoga, chi gong, tai chi, Breema, and many others. Ordinary forms of physical activity can also be included here, if we bring our noticing and allowing to the sensations and movements of the body.

I won’t say too much about these since they are reasonably well known in our society today. We bring our noticing to the sensations and movements of the body, and what’s described above under training attention and noticing applies here too. And these explorations too tend to bring in a deeper sense of well-being and grounding, and we may also experience ourselves – at a human level – more as a whole.

These are all practical approaches to exploring ourselves and our relationship with ourselves and the world. They tend to bring in a sense of well being, ease, and grounding, perhaps first as we engage in these and then more stably in our life in general. They tend to invite in healing and a noticing of what we really are.

An important aspect of any spiritual practice is what it may bring up in us that needs meeting, clarity, or healing.

At times, these practices may rub up against our beliefs, identifications, and habits. So we notice these, and can take them to inquiry, heart practices, or whatever healing work we are doing. This is an important aspect of any spiritual practice, at least if we wish to be thorough.

Healing work in general is an important complement to any of these practices. We will, inevitably, encounter parts of us that needs healing, so it’s helpful we are are familiar with effective forms of healing work, or can go to someone who are.

These practices may also bring up old wounds and trauma. Any good guide or coach will inform about this in advance, keep an eye on our practice to minimize the chances of it happening in a traumatic way, and offer guidance through it should it happen.

The last part is, unfortunately, often overlooked or not mentioned by people offering these practices to the public. I assume there will be a greater understanding of and transparency about it with time as it is an aspect of spiritual practice it’s important to be aware of.

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All-inclusive practices for healing and awakening

 

Another revisit:

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

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

Here are some examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inquiry, TRE, Vortex Healing etc. vs talk therapy

 

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

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

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

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

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Why do these approaches work on so many issues?

 

When I talk about the approaches I use to healing and awakening, I am often aware that it sometimes can sound too good to be true. They seem to work on a wide range of issues and work pretty well – at least if used with skill and over some time.

So why do they work on such a wide range of issues? The simple answer is that they tend to address underlying issues and dynamics. They go below the surface, so they work on a wide range of surface manifestations.

And are they too good to be true? Yes and no. As mentioned above, they tend to work well if used with skill and over time. But it does take work. And if an issue is entrenched, it can take time to clear it.

Here are some examples:

TRE – Tension & Trauma Release Exercises. Therapeutic trembling releases tension out of the body and mind, and that has a wide range of effects. It tends to reduce anxiety, depression, and compulsions. It improves sleep. It can give us a different and more healthy experience of ourselves and the world, and improve our relationship to ourselves, others, and the world.

Inquiry. In inquiry, we examine our beliefs and identifications. Since we often have a layer of beliefs and identifications on top of how we perceive ourselves, others, and life, we can address just about any issue with inquiry. Inquiry can help us release whatever charge is there in our experience of anything. And that means that this too can reduce anxiety, depression, compulsions, and more, especially in relation to something specific.

Vortex Healing. Any issue has a consciousness and energy side. Inquiry tends to approach something from the consciousness side and has an effect on the energy side. Vortex Healing approaches it from the energy side and has an effect on the consciousness side. Vortex Healing can work on emotional or physical issues, relationships, and situations. The deeper reason is that Vortex Healing is divine energy guided by divine consciousness, and since everything is already the divine, only the divine can allow for a deep and thorough healing and clearing of something.

Heart approaches. Ho’oponopono, tonglen, heart prayer, and all-inclusive gratitude practices tend to change our relationship with ourselves, others, and the world. This can be deeply healing and also aligns us with awakening.

My inclination is to seek out approaches that are effective and multi-purpose. Approaches that can be used to work on a wide range of issues, and also invite in healing, awakening, and embodiment. The ones I have mentioned above are among the most powerful I have found so far. (TRE tends to work mostly on healing, although it’s an excellent way to support embodiment of whatever awakening is here.)

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Using spare attention for noticing, resting, healing

 

Through the day, there are many periods where I have spare attention. It may be after I wake up and am still in bed, before falling asleep, when I walk, shower or cook, when I use public transportation, when I rest, and so on.

During these periods, I often use my spare attention intentionally. I may notice what’s here – sensations, thoughts, sight, sound, taste, smell. I may intentionally rest with – or as – what’s here. Nowadays I often use Vortex Healing for myself or others. And in the past (going back to my teens), I have often used heart prayer (Jesus prayer), ho’oponopono, or tonglen.

Sometimes, I just let the mind do what it does in the moment and gently notice it.

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Resting with and investigating an uncomfortable feeling

 

I woke up from a slightly uncomfortable dream and with an uncomfortable feeling in my body. I know from experience that discomfort is created by my own mind, so I can explore it and see what’s really there.

So I rest with the sensations. I notice where I feel the uncomfortable feeling, and notice the sensations making them up. I notice these sensations are already allowed. I take time feeling them. I say “welcome home” to them. I continue resting with them – noticing and allowing.

Then I see if there are any images connected with it. I notice a dark texture overlaid on an image of my upper body. I notice and rest with that image.

I check for words, but none come.

I check for resistance to the uncomfortable feeling, or any other experience that’s here now. Do I want it to go away or change? Where in my body do I feel that want? I do find some resistance to the uncomfortable feelings, a wish for it to change or go away. I notice it in my upper chest and face, and especially the jaw. I notice, allow, and rest with those sensations.

Rest and inquiry can be used throughout the day, in just about any situation. And it can be quite simple, and doesn’t need to take a long time. (Although watch for the tendency to want to shorten it to avoid feeling or meeting an experience.)

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Keep coming back 

 

In a guided rest, I’ll sometimes say:

See how it is to shift from thinking to noticing thought.

If you notice attention gets caught in thinking (in stories, content of thought), then gently shift to noticing thought, notice the mental images or words.

The invitation is to keep coming back to noticing.

And that’s the invitation in daily life as well. I get caught in thinking, notice it, and can shift into noticing the images and words. I can even have some gratitude for the noticing, which happened on its own. I may also notice that the noticing seems to happen more easily and frequently if it’s supported by an intention of noticing.

More generally, I can keep coming back to resting with what’s here. Notice it. Noticing the space all content of experience happens within and as. Even noticing it all as presence.

What’s the difference between sitting still and meditation?

 

What’s the difference between sitting still and meditation?

Sitting still.

If we just sit still without any particular intention, most of us will look for something to do or think about. This tends to just reinforce our habitual patterns of doing and thinking. There are no real shifts.

And if we sit still regularly, the mind tends to get still too. (I noticed that through all those hours of sitting at the Zen center. My mind got still and clarified even if I didn’t always intend to do a particular practice.)

Meditation.

There are many forms of meditation, including natural rest (notice, allow) and training a more stable attention. Other things we can do while sitting still includes heart-centered practices and inquiry.

These practices tend to shift our habitual patterns. Mainly, out of being caught in thinking (the stories, the content of thought) and into noticing thought, from a scattered attention to a more stable attention, and from being caught in occasional enemy images to befriending our experience. If we practice inquiry, there may also be a shift from taking units of sensations and imaginations at face value, to recognizing their distinct elements.

Also, many of these practices become more natural and habitual with time. They become our new normal, and they can be brought into more and more situations in daily life. Sitting still creates a container that reduces distractions and helps us go deeper with the practices, and this is helpful early on in our practice and also at any time later on. But we don’t need to sit still to engage in these new habits. They tend to enter the rest of our life as we go about our daily activities, and eventually even those situations that initially strongly pulled us into our old patterns.

So, yes, there is quite a difference between sitting still and engaging in various types of meditation. Unless you are a cat. I suspect cats naturally meditate while sitting. (Most animals probably do since they are less prone to be caught up in thinking compared to the human animal. Without the distraction of compelling thoughts, they are likely to be naturally inclined to notice and allow their experience in the moment.)

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Including the restlessness

 

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

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

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

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

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Identification and fear

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Restful inquiry

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

For instance….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Inquiry with a bodywork emphasis

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Using healing to avoid meeting discomfort

 

I see how I sometimes use healing modalities as a way to avoid meeting something in me.

I experience distress. It feels unbearable. So I wish to do Living Inquiries, Vortex Healing, or something else to make it go away.

There is nothing wrong with these modalities, and they can help me work through and resolve the issues deeply in me. They may even help me meet and be with what’s here. And yet, it’s good to notice.

It’s good to notice when I reach for something, whatever it is, to avoid meeting discomfort in myself.

What I wish is to be able to meet and rest with the discomfort, and then continue and deepen the process through inquiry, VH, and whatever else is helpful for me to do that. And sometimes grace allows me to do just that, even when it’s intense and initially feels unberable.

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How I escape meeting what’s here

 

When I experience discomfort, and especially if it’s strong, here are some ways I sometimes avoid meeting it:

Connecting with friends and family.

Talking about what’s happening with someone.

Internet. Videos. News. Reading.

Nature. Walking. Photography.

Inquiry. Vortex Healing. Other forms of healing modalities that I hope will reduce the suffering.

If it’s especially strong: Readings, I Ching. (To feel I know about the future.)

And longer term:

Relationships. Education. Work. Stable situation.

There is nothing wrong with any of these. Many of them are very helpful and just part of a human life. But they can be used in a compulsive way to avoid being with what’s here, to avoid feeling the uncomfortable sensations. A good way to do it is to (a) notice what’s happening. (Uncomfortable feelings/thoughts + wish to avoid.) (b) Take time to rest with and feel the uncomfortable sensations. (For a while, for instance until how I relate to it shifts and then a little longer.) And (c) then do any of these other things if the wish is still there.

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Training a more stable attention as support for natural rest and inquiry

 

In the Living Inquiry world, there is an emphasis on Natural Rest (notice + allow) and Living Inquiries, sometimes combined with bodywork to explore body contractions.

What’s missing is a training of a more stable attention. This is something that’s very helpful for natural rest and any form of inquiry.

How do we train a more stable attention? The simplest is to focus on the sensations of the breath, perhaps starting with the movement of the chest and belly and then narrowing it down to the sensations at the nostrils.

Even just a few minutes of this a day can make a big difference, and it can support a wide range of daily activities from work to play to exploring our relationship to ourselves, others and the world.

I tend to do natural rest and inquiry in any position and just about any situation in daily life. And when it comes to practicing a more stable attention, I find it helpful to do as they recommend in most tradition: Sit upright, perhaps in meditation position, and use this to support an alert and relaxed mind.

I should mention that any time we bring attention to something, as we do in natural rest and inquiry, we do train a more stable attention, so it is built into these activities. And I still find it very helpful to train a more stable attention on its own.

Ride it out

 

After listening to enough mindfulness advice, it’s easy to get into the idea that we “should” be able to be present with whatever comes up. Feel it. Rest with it. Inquire into it.

The reality is that sometimes the best we can do is ride it out, as best as we can.

And then, after a while as it lessens in intensity, we may be able to be present with it, inquire into it, and all the rest.

It’s a storm passing through, and it’s often helpful to remember that. And sometimes we don’t have the capacity to meet it as we would something less intense. And that’s OK.

It’s a reminder that we are human. It helps us see where we are at, which is the definition or real humility.

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Give it all over to presence

 

In natural rest, we give it all over to presence.

Notice what’s here. Allow it to be as it is. Notice it’s already noticed. Notice it’s already allowed.

Notice the space it’s happening within. Notice the presence it’s happening within and as.

When we give it over to presence, we are really just noticing and acknowledging that our current experience – all of it – is already happening within and as presence.

Another way to say this is that we are giving everything over to God. In this case, God means the presence that’s already here, that’s everything we experience, and inherent in what we are.

A variation of this is more of a second person relationship to God. We give everything over to God through intention and prayer. I give everything over to you, God.

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Natural rest + curiosity = inquiry

 

Some words about the relationship between natural rest and inquiry.

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

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

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

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

Natural Rest

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

Notice and allow – with some guidance.

Notice sensations. Mental images. Words. Sensations.

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

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

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

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

Inquiry

Wordless inquiry – a bit more guided.

Slow it down. Take your time with each element.

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

Feel sensations. See if they fade or not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Explorations within natural rest

 

Many things can be explored within natural rest:

Notice. Allow. Notice sensations, images, words. Any content of experience that’s already here. Allow it to be as it is.

This one is closer to conventional, and may appear more effortful than it needs to be.

Notice what’s here is already noticed. It’s already allowed. (Notice how effortless it is, just a slight shift of attention.)

Here, we may notice how effortless it can be. It’s just about noticing what’s already happening, in a more intentional way.

Notice the space it’s happening within. Notice that any imagined boundaries also happens within this boundless space.

From the narrow focus on having attention only on content of experience, we expand attention to include the boundless space any content of experience happens within. We can also notice the strongest current contraction in the body, and then notice the space it’s happening within.

Notice the awareness it’s all happening within. Notice that this content of experience happens within and as awareness.

This is one of the “backwards steps”, where the attention and noticing goes to awareness itself, and any content of experience already as awareness. Again, it’s just noticing what’s already here. Nothing needs to change or be added, it’s just a simple and gentle noticing of what’s already here.

Notice and feel any impulse to change content of experience. Any resistance. Any restlessness. Rest with these sensations. Notice. Allow. Notice they are already noticed and allowed. Notice the space they are happening within.

This shifts identification out of these impulses and they are instead noticed as content of experience.

Notice what feels the most as me or I, the observer, doer. Notice and feel the sensations. Notice and look at any images associated with it.

Again, this can shift identification out of these sensations and images (or words) and they are noticed as content of experience.

And so on. We can explore contractions further, by noticing what images and words are connected with them and staying with feeling the sensations while noticing the space. We can explore apparent threats, objects, compulsions. Anything that seems solid and real.

Isolating out sensations, images, words

 

Here is a simple set of guidelines for doing inquiry:

Natural Rest

Notice what’s here: sensations, images, words. Slow it down. Take time with each. Allow.

Notice they are already noticed. Notice it’s already allowed. Any content of experience is already noticed and allowed. The only difference is that the noticing is more intentional.

Noticing that it’s already notice and allowed makes it less effortful. This noticing is just a simple shift. I can be very natural and effortless.

This is what inquiry happens within, it’s the context for inquiry.

Living Inquiries

Separate out sensations, images, words. Isolate them out. Slow it down.

Recognize sensations as sensations. Images as images. Words as words. One at a time. Take your time.

Feel sensations as sensations. Look at images. Look at / listen to words.

Ask simple questions to see more clearly what they are: sensations, images, words.

Ask simple questions to see what more is there, what additional sensations, images, words are associated with it.

Follow the trail of crumbs. Go where the energy is strongest. Regularly return to what you looked at earlier to check and see if there is more there.

Essence

Notice and allow. Notice content of experience is already noticed and allowed.

Isolate out sensations, images, words. Slow it down. Do one at a time.

Identify what they are. Identify sensations as sensations, images as images, words as words.

Feel sensations. Look at images. Look at / listen to words.

Ask simple questions to clarify what’s there (sensations, images, words). Ask simple questions to see what more is there.

It can be a very simple and natural process. These are things the mind already does. It already notices. It already allows. It already recognizes sensations, images, and words as what they are. It already asks questions. The main difference is that this is more intentional and slowed down, and the intention and focus is different from how the mind usually works.

The depth of painful experiences

 

It can seem that painful experiences are powerful, deep, and pervasive.

These painful experiences are created by painful beliefs. Or identification. Or velcro. And velcro here means the way sensations appear stuck to images and words giving them a sense of substance, solidity, and reality, and also giving them a charge (dislike, like, or neutral). This is really the same as beliefs or identifications. It’s also how hangups, wounds, trauma, compulsions, and chronic patterns of anxiety, depression, and anger are created.

In a way, it’s true. If the velcro is unexamined, if the parts of it are unloved, if the sensations making it up are unfelt, then it can certainly appear powerful, deep, and pervasive. We become a slave to a master that can seem powerful. It can seem that there is no end to it. It can color our whole experience and life.

At the same time, it’s not completely true. Velcro is created by the mind associating certain sensations with certain images and words. It’s created by the mind, and it can be undone by the mind. It can be undone by (a) separating out sensations, images, and words from each other, (b) recognize each for what they are (sensations, images, words), (c) ask simple questions about each to see what’s really there, and see what’s more may be there, and (d) feeling the sensations.

There are also other aspects, such as finding kindness towards these sensations, images, and words (which is not so difficult when we see that that’s what they are), noticing the boundless space they are happening within (if there is an image of a boundary, that too happens within space), and perhaps using bodywork to help release the chronic tension that typically hold chronic velcro in place (TRE, massage).

It can seem that noticing sensations, images, and words would be insignificant. After all, they are pretty ephemeral. At the same time, they are what make up our whole experience, without exception. (If we take “sensations” to mean sensory input, and images and words as any imagination). It is, literally, our whole world. We can undo any painful aspect of our whole world this way.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t feel anything. We will still experience physical pain. There will, most likely, still be sadness, fear, anger. And yet the overlay created by our struggle with it, and the overlay holding it in place over long periods of time, may have fallen away. My experience is that the sense of connection and empathy deepens and more and more experiences become quite beautiful.

Another angle on this is our own experience in doing natural rest and inquiry. Through this, we may see – sometimes within minutes – that what appeared solid, unquestionable, painful, all pervasive, unhealable, is anything but that. We may see it vaporize as we are watching.

Sometimes, it may take quite a few sessions on any one trauma. That’s quite normal. And yet, with sincerity and actually doing it, it may well undo itself. There is no end to it, and at the same time more and more falls away as we keep exploring.

The missing ingredient: Noticing

 

What’s here is already noticed. What’s here is already allowed.

The missing ingredient is consciously noticing just that.

Without this noticing, we are stuck in old patterns and identifications.

With the noticing, there is a shift into healing, dissolving velcro, and relating to it more consciously.

And what’s meant by what’s here? It’s what’s here in the simplest and most direct sense. It’s whatever content of experience happens to be in the moment.

Effortless and built-in

 

What we find through natural rest is effortless and built-in.

We find that what’s here – this content of experience – is already noticed and allowed.

And that noticing and allowing is effortless and built-in.

It’s effortless because it’s built in to what we are. It’s built in to awareness. (Or whatever we chose to call it.)

In the beginning it may seem like it takes some intention and effort to notice and allow. That’s true, to some extent, since we go against the grain and old habits, including the habit of letting attention be absorbed into the content of stories rather than recognizing them as stories, and also letting attention be caught in the confusing bundle of images, words, and sensations rather than recognizing each component for what it is.

And yet, what we discover is that content of awareness is already noticed and it’s already allowed, and the noticing and allowing is effortless since it’s built in to awareness. And that awareness is here independent of its content.

The content may be what a thought calls clarity or confusion, pleasure or pain, ease or discomfort, alertness or tiredness, or whatever else we have words for. It doesn’t matter. It’s still noticed and allowed.

And there is a relief in noticing that. There is a sense of coming home.

Elements of readiness

 

Meeting our own experience takes readiness.

Since I am mostly using Natural Rest and the Living Inquiries these days, I’ll focus on readiness for more wholeheartedly using these approaches as I write this post. I assume much of what I write applies to readiness for other approaches.

What are some elements of this readiness?

Push

We may have reached “rock bottom” in one area of life. We may realize that what we have done in the past doesn’t work anymore, and perhaps never really worked.

Draw

We trust it works from trusting the facilitator, testimonials, the tradition, or something else.

We trust it works from our own experience. We may have gone deep in one trauma or issue, found resolution, and trust it because we know from own experience that it works. (This is why it’s often so important to continue looking at one trauma or issue until it resolves, especially in the beginning.)

We have an intuition that it works. (Perhaps even a calling.)

Skills

We are guided by someone who has the skills to guide us through it.

We have the skills to guide ourselves through it.

Blocks

We identify and face our fears of meeting our experience, and explore these fears through inquiry. These may be fears of meeting certain images, words, and sensations. Fears of what it means for my life if I find clarity on my old hangups. Fear of not doing it right. Fear it won’t work.

We identify and explore stories and identities that prevent us from doing wholehearted inquiry. These may be stories saying that our rational understanding is enough or that we can do it later. Deficient selves telling us we are not good enough, incapable, broken beyond repair, or it’s hopeless. Or inflated selves telling us we don’t need it.

I am sure there is more to it. Sometimes, it’s just not the right place, person, or time of our life. Something else is calling us mores strongly. And that’s absolutely fine. These things are not for everyone or at any time in their lives. There are many other ways to live a life. There are many other approaches to exploring our life and experience.

These tools are tools, helpful for some people in some situations and for some purposes.

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Natural Rest and content of the mind

 

When it comes to natural rest, the content of the mind doesn’t really matter.

Whatever is here, I can still notice what’s here, and notice it’s already allowed.

Whatever emotions, feelings, thoughts, pain, states, experiences, I can still notice what’s here, and notice it’s already allowed.

And that’s natural rest. The content of my mind can be anything but resting, and yet there is still noticing and allowing. That noticing and allowing is already here, so I can just notice it’s already here.

It’s pretty simple. Straight forward. Even easy in more and more situations, as it becomes a new habit.

Compulsively happy

 

We all try to find safety in different ways. For some of us, it is to be compulsively happy. We insist we are happy most or all of the time. We act as if we are happy. And what we are really doing is escaping an uncomfortable feeling.

This may work for a while, but it doesn’t work in the long run, and it doesn’t really work even in the moment.

Whatever we try to escape is still here.

This is just another unfreedom. Another way of leaving ourselves.

There is of course nothing wrong with feeling content or happy.

There is not even anything wrong with trying to escape uncomfortable feelings by seeking happiness, or acting as if we are happy. It’s just that it doesn’t really work, and there is another way.

That way is to feel what’s here, and look at any images and words associated with it. When sensations are felt and recognized as sensations, images are recognized as images, and words as words, there is a release of the charge that initially seemed to be in it. And here, there is a freedom to allow happiness, unhappiness, and whatever feelings naturally come through. There is a deeper and less effortful contentment. We are more consciously aligned with what’s already here: an effortless and built-in noticing of what’s here, and an effortless and built-in allowing of what’s here.

Note: We all have our habitual ways of escaping feeling certain feelings. For me, it’s more going into understanding, seeking feeling loved, and the usual distractions of modern life (reading articles online, talking with friends etc.). I think I did the happiness one to some extent in my early twenties, but not so much anymore.

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Takes less energy to notice and look

 

For a while, it may seem that it takes more energy to switch to natural rest and gentle looking rather than being caught in thought.

In a way, it’s true. It takes some intention and energy to make the switch. It seems easier to stay in our old familiar habit of being caught in thinking, just because it is an old familiar habit.

After a while of exploring this switch and becoming familiar with it, something else may reveal itself.

We may see that it takes less energy to rest (natural rest) and look (inquiry) than to be caught in thinking.

It takes less energy simply because it’s a shift into (more consciously) aligning with what’s already here.

We notice what’s here, and that what’s here is already noticed.

We allow what’s here, and notice it’s already allowed (by space, life, mind).

Also, being caught in thought tends to create discomfort and stress, and that takes a lot of energy.

It takes far less energy to notice and allow.

It’s often a relief. There is a sense of coming home, of dropping a lot of extra effort.

Note: Natural rest here means something very specific. Notice what’s here – images, words, sensory input. Allow it. Notice it’s already noticed. Notice it’s already allowed. It’s a conscious alignment with the noticing and allowing that’s already here, built into what we are.

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Quote: Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge

 

Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.

– attributed to CG Jung on the internet

This may or may not be an actual quote from Jung. My guess is that it isn’t a quote by him since it doesn’t quite sound like something he would say. It sounds too judgmental!

I would rather say that familiarity is what dissolved judgment. When I understand and am familiar with another person’s history and situation, it’s difficult to judge. For instance, after working with several people with trauma and addictions, judgment doesn’t really come up. It just seems very understandable why they are struggling the way they do. And the same for me, with the ways I struggle. And the same for other people I know. We are all in the same boat here.

At another level, I would say that feeling is difficult, that’s why we judge. When I want to escape an uncomfortable feeling, one of the ways I do that is by judging myself, others, and life. And when I notice, meet, and feel that feeling, and open to it, the need to escape it tends to soften and dissolve, as does the impulse to judge.

Why is it difficult to feel certain feelings? It’s not due to the feeling itself. That’s just a sensation. It’s because of the images and words the mind associated with these feelings, and the mind taking these are scary and real. That’s what makes a sensation or feeling scary, and something we want to avoid at almost any cost. And one of the ways we avoid feeling is by going into thought, and sometimes into judgment of ourselves, others, or the world.