Noticing. What a gift.
– Byron Katie
When we have an opening, an experience of overwhelming love or bliss, a very clear recognition of all as Spirit, a deep sense of peace, or something similar, it’s not meant to last. Experiences come to pass, not to last.
What they do instead is inviting or creating a shift. A facet of reality may have been revealed clearly in the experience, so the shift can be to notice this facet here and now and through shifting experiences and states. It can also be a shift in how our human self is organized, aligned, and functions in the world.
If we expect the experience to last, we disappoint ourselves. But if we see it as an invitation for noticing or realignment, then the experience can be very valuable and it’s value may last far longer than the experience itself.
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.
When something charged is triggered in me and I don’t notice it very consciously, I tend to be unconsciously identified with it. I take on the viewpoint of the stories within the charge. I perceive the world through that filter.
Say hopelessness is triggered and I am unaware of the sensations and imaginations creating it. I take on the viewpoint of that hopelessness and I feel that the current situation or my life, in general, is hopeless.
I am a client in an inquiry session. Anger gets triggered. I don’t notice the components making it up, so I feel angry and get annoyed at the facilitator, the inquiry, or anything else my mind chooses to put it on.
A deficiency story of not being good enough is activated. I feel I am not good enough in relation to anything in my current situation, whether it’s work, a relationship, a task, or even being facilitated in an inquiry session. This story will color my experience and influence how I behave.
I may instead notice that something charged is triggered, and I may also notice the most obvious elements making it up (sensations, images, words) as it happens. I notice it as content of experience, and that softens or releases identification with it. I can relate to it more intentionally.
Hopelessness is triggered by a current situation. I notice the sensations and some images of me looking hopeless. I may notice words saying “it’s hopeless”, “nothing will help”. I relate to these more intentionally and recognize it as a combination of sensations and imaginations. I may recognize it’s not anything more than that. I may recognize that it’s coloring my experience, and at the same time is not any ultimate or final truth nor is it my destiny. There is some distance to it. I can explore it further as an experience that’s here now.
And the same goes for anger or not feeling good enough, or anything else with a charge that’s activated. I can explore the sensations combined with imaginations, and relate to it more intentionally.
When something is charged, it’s charged because sensations become “glued” to imaginations or stories.
The charge functions as glue or a magnet for identification.
When it’s activated by a current situation and it’s not recognized as what it is, there is almost automatically identification with it. There is identification with the viewpoint of the stories making up the charge.
If I instead notice it as an object within experience and notice the sensations and imagination components, there is a softening of that identification. That happens even if I just notice the most obvious sensation and one or two associated mental images or set of words. And it happens more thoroughly if I take time to inquire further into it.
It can sound a bit abstract but it’s also something I can repeatedly notice just about every day.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
– Viktor Emil Frankl
This is, of course, an essential part of mindfulness.
Notice the stimulus, notice the (automatic) response. Notice how my mind creates its experience of the stimulus. Notice the associations. Notice the response.
The more noticing and the more noticing of the space its all happening within, the more space there is to relate to both more intentionally.
Mindfulness is a word that’s currently used to mean a lot of different things.
I tend to understand it as noticing content of experience. The content of experience that’s here now, whether it’s sensory experiences and imaginations of sensory experiences (aka mental images, sounds and images making up words, sounds, taste, smell, sensations).
Why would we do that? I can find a few different reasons:
I get to notice how sensory experiences and imagination combine. For instance, I get to see how sensations combine with imagination to lend this imagination a sense of solidity and reality, and how imagination gives a sense of meaning to sensations.
It helps me shift from thinking to noticing thought. It helps me shift out from being caught in thinking. More precisely, it helps attention shift out of being caught in the content of stories and instead notice that these are imaginations and stories.
It helps me relate to all this in a more intentional way. For instance, I can more intentionally relate to my own reactivity (velcro, beliefs, identifications). It gives me a little more space to recognize that I can relate to my own experience and reactions in a more intentional way. I don’t have to automatically act on whatever is triggered in me.
It helps me notice that what’s here is already noticed and already allowed. This content of experience is already noticed and allowed, and noticing this helps shift the “center of gravity” to that noticing and allowing already here. It’s already built into experience.
It helps me notice what’s here, so I can take it to inquiry and explore it further.
To me, mindfulness is just one aspect of this exploration. In one way, it’s a helpful stepping stone to further exploration. In another way, it’s an essential element of any exploration of our experience, reality, and who and what we are.
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.
Coming to our senses.
That’s an expression that can be understood literally.
When I am caught in thought, I am – in a sense – caught in the imagination of my senses. I am caught in the story created by mental images (sight), words (sight, hearing), and mental imaginations of sound (hearing).
I am absorbed in these stories, because they feel real. And they feel real because these images and words are connected with sensations in the body, which gives them charge and lends them a sense of solidity and reality.
All of this can be useful in a practical sense. Imagination is vital for us to function in the world, to plan ahead, run through different scenarios, sift through and examine the past, and act on what we learn from this imagination. It’s vital for our survival.
At the same time, it can go a bit awry. We can get caught in stressful stories about the past or future, and these can even go in a loop. We stress ourselves out rather than use imagination as a simple and practical tool.
What’s the remedy? One is to examine these stories. (Is it true? What happens when I take it as true? Who would I be without it? What’s the validity in the reversals? (The Work.) What images and words are associated to the sensations? What do I find when I look at each one, and ask some simple questions to help me see what’s there? (Living Inquiries.))
Another is to, literally, come to my senses.
I can notice what’s here. Notice sensation. Sound. Thought. Shift from thinking to noticing thought. Allow. Notice it’s all already allowed. Notice the boundless space it’s all happening within.
I can feel the sensations. Feel the sensations I may have wanted to escape, by going into thought. Rest with it. Take time.
Both of these – noticing and feeling – helps me shift out of thought.
The noticing helps me notice thought as thought, notice imagination as imagination.
The feeling helps me meet, feel, and even befriend the sensations I initially tried to escape by going into thought. I may get to see that the sensations that initially seemed uncomfortable or scary, because of the stories attached to them, are not so scary. They are sensations. They don’t inherently mean anything. I can feel them, rest with them, even find kindness towards them. I get to see I don’t need to escape sensations by compulsively going into thought. (Getting here may require some inquiry.)
This is a retraining of the mind. A forming of a new habit of noticing and feeling, when I notice the compulsion to go into (obsessive, stressful) thought.
In resting with what’s here, there may be thoughts that “escape” the intentional noticing and allowing. They seem so intimate and and so much like me and so true that I don’t notice them as thoughts. They go unnoticed. They slip under the radar. They seem given and true.
So in resting with what’s here, it can be helpful to include this reminder:
Notice the thoughts that seem the most personal. The most intimate. The most as you. The most true. Include these too. Notice these too as thoughts.
Notice them. Allow them. Notice they are already allowed.
Notice the shift from thinking to noticing.
I notice I am curious about this, partly because it’s not very clear to me yet.
Sometimes, shifts in perception is supported by a state. There may be a state that makes it easier to notice (what a thought may say is) all as one, all absent of any “self”, all as Spirit, all as love, meeting all as love etc.
So there is a shift in state, which invites a shift in perception, which in turn invites a shift in insight, and a shift in noticing.
When the state shifts again, perhaps into something (apparently) very ordinary again, the invitation is to keep noticing and questioning. Is it true it – the noticing, all as Spirit/love etc. – went away? Is it true this is not one, Spirit, love?
This noticing throughout changing states and experiences is in itself (sort of) a state, a state of noticing.
And it is also a shift from something that may appear extraordinary, an extraordinary state, to something very ordinary, noticing what’s already here in (and as) any state, any content of experience.
Situations and experiences always change, so my best option is to shift how I relate to it all.
The Work helps me shift how I relate to thoughts – about myself, the world, any experience.
TRE helps release tension, which helps me shift so I relate to any experience from a lower baseline of stress and tension.
Ho’oponopono shifts how I relate to situations that bother me. I take responsibility for having created them (whatever I see reflects my stories and what’s here), ask for forgiveness, and remind myself of my love.
Asking for help from God (Christ, angels) opens up for a larger wisdom and kindness (Big Mind/Heart/Belly) than what’s here as who I take myself to be (a particular human being).
Breema reminds me of my wholeness as who and what I am, which in turn shifts how I relate to what’s here.
Noticing what’s here helps me coming into more conscious alignment with reality. What’s here is already accepted. What “I” am is that which any experience already happens within and as – including any images of an I, me, a world, and someone relating to something else.
When fear and other difficult emotions and experiences surface, I find it’s painful – and futile – to try to escape it. And something shifts if I instead meet it.
The pointers go from witness and observing, to being space for and allowing, to meeting and being with, to welcome and say YES to it, to dive into and be it, to notice it’s already allowed, to notice it’s already what I am.
Any of those can be very helpful, perhaps at different times.
For me, I am now more attracted to diving into the middle and being it.
How does it feel to dive into the middle?
How does it feel to be it?
When I explore, I can allow, change or notice, and those three are really facets of the same. Only the emphasis is slightly different.
I allow experience, and notice what happens. There may be a shift from being identified with resistance, to identification with that which (already) allows all experience as is it, including the resistance and identification with various images w/in content of experience. In allowing experience as is, there can also be a shift out of identification with a doer, and a noticing of this doer as an image of a doer causing thinking, decisions, shifts in attention, and action to happen.
I can change something. For instance, I can invite in a shift from resisting to allowing experience. And notice that is really just a shift of identification, of what I temporarily take myself to be. As first-aid, I sometimes visualize stuck energy going down my legs and into the center of the earth and invite a shift that way. I may inquire into belief to find what is more honest for me than the belief, and allow time for it to sink in, to feel it and who I am without the belief, and allow it to sink in. This doing is a thought, a choice, a shift of attention, perhaps an action in the world, a story of how these go together and one leads to another, and perhaps identification with the doing – as a doer, or just noticing that the doer is a story and an image, happening within content of experience.
I can notice what is already here. I can notice shifts. What happens when I take a story as true. What happens when I find what is more honest for me. What is happening within each sense field, and how overlays of images tie them together and create gestalts. What happens when I take myself to be something within (an imagined boundary within) content of experience, and what happens when I notice myself as that which already allows all content of experience, and its play in the form of this field of experience.
We already know.
We know what we are because we experience it throughout the day, and it is right here now in immediate awareness.
We may not notice, recognize it, or take it seriously as something to investigate, but we still know.
We know that we are not content of experience, because content of experience comes and goes and something – what we are – does not come and go.
We know stories are not true. They are not true in a conventional sense, since their reversals always have truth in them and entierly different stories may make more sense to us than the ones we are familiar with. And they don’t – and cannot – touch what we and everything are.
We know all this. We know we are that which experience happens within and as, because it comes more to the foreground throughout the day, whenever identification is relaxed out of content of experience.
Yet, we don’t always notice it. We don’t always recognize it as what we are. We don’t always take it seriously and as something worth investigating.
And when we do notice, recognize and investigate, it may take quite a while to become familiar with it. To trust it. To allow ourselves to reorganize and align with it.
It is all too easy to grasp onto identifications, because that is what we are used to and what seems safe. And some of those identifications may be with stories about exactly these things, stories about what we are which may be as true as stories can be. But we are still identifying with content of experience, holding onto the bank of the river when we are invited to let go and trust.
We are so used to take ourselves as content of experience that it may take a while to learn to trust. To let all identifications go and relax into and as what we – and everything – already are. And then allow this human self to reorganize, function and mature within that new context.
One of the things that brings up discomfort in me (=shadow) is people who seem agitated, driven in an unsettled way, haunted, hunted… who perform daily activities in a harsh way.
I notice for myself that when I feel this way, it is because I have created a box for life and myself, through beliefs and identities, and life comes up with something that is outside of this box, reminding me that it is too small. It comes knocking, I try to ignore it, it keeps knocking, and I become unsettled and agitated, haunted by its presence.
So what happens when I become unsettled when there are unsettled people around? I have a belief that people should be more conscious, more at peace with what is, and I also have an identity for myself as more conscious than that, and more at peace. So what the person is doing comes up outside of the box, and is unsettling to me. Their behavior becomes a reminder of what I left out in my views and identities, and that is exactly what unsettles me and haunts me.
As usual, what I see out there, in someone else, is exactly what is happening right here, at the same moment. It is a precise mirror.
I think he is stupid, and maybe it is a little stupid of me to believe that? What do I really know? Maybe there are some good reasons for his choices and actions? I think she is agitated and shouldn’t be, and as I believe that, I am agitated because what is shouldn’t be, according to my story. I think someone is brilliant, and right there, there is a hint of my own brilliancy in even noticing. I admire someone for having an open heart, and if my own heart was not at least partially open, I wouldn’t recognize or admire it.
The whole process of having things show up outside of the box can be unpleasant, but it is also a good thing. Life invites me to examine those beliefs and identities, broaden them to make them more widely inclusive, and eventually allow any identification with them to release.