Feminine inquiry tradition

 

A friend of mine mentioned that we both belong to the feminine inquiry tradition.

I hadn’t heard that term before, and hadn’t really thought of it that way. But I see how it fits.

Here are some of what’s been important to me lately (most of it for a while), that can be seen as feminine:

An emphasis on love. Finding love for what’s here, for this experience, for this part of me and my experience I previously pushed away or ignored. Recognizing that identification (velcro, beliefs) come from love, from a wish to protect, and deep caring.

An emphasis on allowing. Allowing what’s here, this experience as it is. Notice it’s already allowed. Allowing even resistance, contractions, fear and more.

An emphasis on resting with what’s here. Notice. Allow. Rest with even discomfort, tension, resistance, contractions.

An emphasis on feeling. Feeling the sensations that are here. Feeling what I have to feel if I don’t do the compulsive behavior that’s coming up for me to do. Feeling what seems most uncomfortable, here and now.

And the inquiry part:

Inquiring into all of this. Inquire into what’s here. Notice the images, words, sensations. Ask simple questions to see more clearly what’s already here.

So yes, this is a feminine inquiry tradition. It’s love oriented. Feeling oriented. Inquiry oriented. It’s gentle, in a way. And also unsentimental and direct.

It’s even disillusionment oriented. And that too can be seen as feminine. That’s what a mother will do when it’s needed for the welfare of her children and family.

Of course, the reason we may see this as feminine is our stories about it. And these are adopted from tradition and culture. It’s a label. And it doesn’t need that label, which is partly why I haven’t thought about it this way, and may not use that term again in the future. (Unless someone else uses it, and I join in because it fits and helps us connect.)

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Doing one thing, recommending another 

 

I sometimes hear spiritual teachers advice their students to use a different approach than what they themselves used on their path.

It’s understandable. They may wish to share their current view, and what seems the most helpful advice now.

And yet, it’s a bit like someone using a boat to cross a lake, and then – when on the other side – telling the people on the other shore that a boat is not needed anymore. They themselves don’t need the boat anymore, so they assume others don’t need it.

I especially see this in people who worked hard early on in their process – perhaps struggling and “muscling through” with meditation and a wide range of other practices – and then found more simplicity and clarity. They may recommend that their students skip the “work hard, do lots of meditation” phase, and instead suggest more “subtle” practices such as natural rest or looking. That’s what works for them now, so that’s what they recommend to others, ignoring that they themselves came to it through a different path and lots of hard work.

I can’t say that this is not good advice. I don’t know. But it does seem slightly odd. At the same time, I know that people will do what they’ll do. They will follow the impulse in them, wherever it takes them. Some may hear this advice, and still try to “muscle through”, and perhaps through that arrive at a similar place as where the teacher is coming from.

Others may follow the advice, and they may indeed have an easier time with it. That’s entirely possible. I don’t have enough information (yet) to say much about it.

I am saying this partly since my early process also involved lots of hard work – hours of meditation and prayer daily – and now feels much more simple. And I also notice that I can’t unreservedly recommend others to start with what I now find most helpful. It may just be most helpful to me now because of what I did earlier. I can’t recommend others to start where I, and others who have explored these things for a while, am now. What I can do is share what’s been helpful to me at different phases in my process, and then let people go with what seems most helpful to them. They’ll do that anyway, which is a good thing. (Not that anyone has asked. And I still feel I am in the middle of my own process so others probably have much more perspective than I do.)

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Innocence

 

There are many orientations that are very helpful on the path… As they say in Tibetan Buddhism, they are the path and the fruition of the path. They are helpful on the path when we shift into them, and they are what naturally is there within an awakening. 

One of these is innocence. An innocence in the don’t know way. 

Receptivity. Curiosity. Recognizing thought as innocent questions only. 

And this coexists easily with experience, knowledge and anything else that helps our human self function in the world. Within a context of don’t know

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Travelers and explorers

 

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

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

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

We may be tourists and visitors.

Or we may do each of these at different times.

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

And all have their gifts and (apparent) drawbacks.

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Projections and the path

 

One of the best tools to have in one’s toolbox is ways to work with projections, and that is equally true for how we relate to our path.

In general, if I notice I am caught up in stories about something out there – in the future, past or others – I can find it right here.

I can find the stories here now, obviously, and also whatever they seem to refer to.

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Facets, paths and tools

 

Whenever I take a story as true, I make life much smaller than it is.

I identify as something within content of experience, so lose sight of what I am. (That which experience happens within and as.) I identify as something much smaller than what I am as a human being, so have to resist parts of who I am and live from a smaller pallete. I have an idea that I know how others – and life – should behave. And in all of this, I try to limit God.

So when it comes to growing and waking up, there is no need to assume that my limited experiences says anything about how it will be for me in the future, or how it should be for others.

I may have experiences with facets of what I am – such as emptiness and fullness and how it is lived through this human self. I may be familiar with awareness as a field with no center and no periphery, and how this human self functions in that content. I may have experiences with infinite love and how it is to live within and from it. I may be somewhat familiar with who I am at the soul level, with the alive presence, brilliance, luminous darkness, and so on. I may have practical insights into these things and much more.

Yet all of this comes from a very limited experience and just one path. There is no reason to assume that life is limited to this, and every reason to welcome a far richer terrain – and find a deep apprecation and gratitude for the diversity in how all of this is expressed through many different humans and their always unique paths.

Blocks to the path, as the path itself

 

Draft…

Blocks may appear as obstacles to my path – whether that path is in the world or a path of growing/waking up. But if I take these blocks a certain way, they themselves become my temporary path.

Blocks appear either in the wider world – as situations or people), or in our human self – as knots, hangups, compulsiveness, stuckness.

In either case, they are something my personality doesn’t like. Otherwise they wouldn’t appear as blocks.

And in either case, they tend to trigger knots in me. Hangups. Complexes of beliefs, reactive emotions, and habitual behaviors.

Blocks bring attention to knots, inviting me to work with them.

They invite me to inquire into my beliefs, finding what is more true for me than the initial belief. And they invite me to fully allow experience, including those my personality doesn’t immediately like. And from here, there is often a genuine appreciation – for the knot, the block, the process of working with it, and whatever else may be going on.

So whether I see my path in terms of how my human self lives in the world, or as a process of growing or waking up, blocks temporarily become my path.

A block appears on my path, and this invites me to work with the knot that comes up, which clarifies for me my path in the wider world, and also supports growing and waking up.

A more anthropomorphic way of putting it is that my knots wants to be seen, felt and loved. They throw up blocks in my path, so I will notice them (the knots) and as an invitation to see, feel and love them.

And in the process clarify my path in the world, and also grow and wake up a little more.

Spirit animal

 

blackjaguar_big.jpg

When I was a child, I had a Big Dream about a black panther, and I realize later that it was very similar to shamanic experiences and connections with a spirit animal. In the dream, there was a connection with the panther as long lost friend, and someone who had immense wisdom, insight and ability to guide me.

The world is a mirror of what is inside of ourselves, and animals can be especially helpful in mirroring and evoking certain qualities in us.

When we journey – whether in dreams, shamanic rituals, active imagination, through using the whole of us as in process work, or even through voice dialog – we are often guided to exactly those qualities that wants to come into our lives more fully. Those that may have been disowned, or just temporarily forgotten. There is an infinity of sources for reminders, including animals.

What comes up is what is needed here and now, so will change over time. But some may have to do with longer term processes, unfolding over decades, and the black panther for me seems to be one of these.

For me, the black panther evokes a beautiful combination of polarities, maybe especially a natural confidence and relaxation, and alertness and explosive activity, depending on what the situation calls for. It is firm and gentle, cute and vicious, and follows its path with receptivity yet in a non-nonsense way and undistractedly. Its velvety blackness reminds of the fertile blackness and awakening of the belly center, which nurtures each of the qualities listed above.

rockart1.jpg

Shamanism is probably the earliest form for psychology, and from the little I know about it, it can be every bit as sophisticated as any contemporary western psychology. Judging from the earliest examples of rock art, it is a form of psychology that has been with us since before the dawn of civilization, which is humbling and also gives a sense of connection across time and universality.

I have worked with the black panther more lately, bringing its qualities into my daily life, and have found it a great support.I may find the black panther qualities in myself through images and movements, or just ask myself what would the black panther do?

Rollercoasters and path into void

 

rollercoaster.jpg

Our deepening into what we are, is a path into the void.

And what prevents us from noticing ourselves as the void, is exactly that which propels us to notice ourselves as void: an identification with content. It is the identification with content (any content of awareness) that clouds over a recognition of ourselves as awake void, and it is the same identification which creates a sense of something being off (in whatever form… unease, restlessness, dissatisfaction, suffering) which invites us onto the path of finding ourselves as (already and always) awake void… and the content of this awake void as the awake void itself.

The content of awareness is always in flux… so if there is identification there, there is also preferences, and life clashing against those preferences, so then also suffering. When life shows up according to the preferences, there is joy and satisfaction. When it does not, disappointment, frustration, anger, sadness, grief, suffering. In this sense, the world of form is a wave with peaks and valleys, and one follows the other.

It is a rollercoaster ride, and when there is identification there, it is as if we are sitting inside of the rollercoaster. We are along for the ride, at the mercy of wherever the tracks take us. When the track goes up, what we take ourselves to be goes up, and when it goes down, what we take ourselves to be goes down. For a while, it can be fun and even fascinating, and there are enough peak moments to make it worthwhile. But then there are the lows as well, which are equally tormenting as the peaks are enjoyable.

(I know this is not a perfect analogy… Many folks enjoy rollercoasters, but I don’t so much so this works for me…!)

We may try to redesign the track to have more or bigger peaks and to design out the lows, but we see that the peaks are still followed by the lows, no matter what.

After a while, after having gone around the track for several times, a question comes up. Isn’t there something else to life? Is it always going to be this way? I have tried all sorts of techniques and tricks to change content, but peaks are still followed by lows. We start to explore other options.

This may lead us to first find ourselves as an outside observer, as the witness of it all. But there is still separation here, so still some dissatisfaction. And since there is an identification with an aspect of what is, in this case the seeing, it is also inherently unstable. Identifications too are in flux.

Then, we may find ourselves as the space it all happens within, but this too is not quite satisfactory for the same reasons as mentioned above.

To stretch the analogy a little, we can also identify with the alive presence that everything happens within and as (the soul level), but this too is unsatisfactory in the long run and for the same reasons.

And then, finally, as the void it all happens within and as. The awake timeless void that time and space, the amusement park and the rollercoaster and the observer and anything else happens within, and which is nothing other than the awake void itself.

Looking back, we may see that not having much of a stomach for the rollercoaster ride was actually a good thing, propelling us to explore alternatives and finally to happen upon ourselves as the awake void, doing away with any identifications, any sense of inner and outer, any sense of center, any sense of an I with an Other.

The path of sobering up

 

Especially recently, the path of deepening into who and what I am feels very sobering… Which is not surprising. We go from having a lot of ideas about who and what we are and how the world is, which include a lot of fantasies and wishful thinking, to seeing more clearly what is already there, what is already more true for us.

The two main aspects to this sobering up may be working with projections (at the who level, leading into what), and also discovering the void, and ourselves as the void (at the what level).

I thought I was worse and better than everyone else, but the more I work with projections, and maybe especially the shadow, the more I see that is not the case. Whatever I see out there, I also find in here, and the other way around. The more I work with projections, the more the world is a mirror for myself, at the level of my individual self.

And as I find myself to be the void, nothingness, as the void awakens to itself, it is even more sobering. Here, all identifications fall away… as this human self, this personality, finite, separate, and I with an Other, and anything else, it all falls away. There is only the void, which is no thing… nothing… nothing there… awake void and form arising as this awake void itself. Everything is stripped off. It is beyond and includes any and all polarities. It cannot be touch by words, as words split the world up. This is the real sobering up, having all identifications stripped off with not a trace left. Anything I ever took myself to be is stripped away.

At a more finely grained level, both of these include a stripping away of beliefs as well.

At the who level, it involves partly exchanging beliefs with other beliefs. But as the process goes on, the level of attachment to beliefs themselves fades (although some strong attachments usually remain). The whole system of beliefs and identities becomes more inclusive, more transparent, more fluid. We deepen into the evolving whole of who we are, which in developmental terms looks as maturing and developing along the different lines and levels outlined in many different models.

At the what level, it involves examining and questioning even our most core beliefs, those that seems so obviously true that most of the time it wouldn’t even cross our mind to question them in a sincere, thorough and experiential way. I am a human being. I am this personality. I am an object in the world. I am finite in space and time. I am an I with an Other. I am.

So at the who level, we find the wider world mirroring us in a very precise way. What I see out there is also in here, and the other way around. We deepen into the evolving wholeness of who we are, healing, maturing and developing.

And at the what level, the void awakens to itself, allowing all identifications to fall away. The Ground of who and all form awakens to itself.

Additional note: the third part here, in addition to projections and void, is of course to see this human self more accurately, including where it is in terms of lines and levels of developments. Working with projections does just that, allowing for a clearer view of what is, and the void also helps in seeing this human self clearer, as void itself.

Slow & fast, easy & difficult

 

Vince Horn has a good comment at Buddhist Geeks, under an interview about the Brad Warner vs. Big Mind controversy.

[…] Even the Buddha recognized that people could progress through the path in at least 4 different ways:
1) slow progress that is very difficult (probably what Brad is describing)
2) slow progress that is pleasant
3) fast progress that is very difficult
4) fast progress that is easy

Fast progress, and I’m talking extraordinarily fast, does happen. I’ve seen it happen for others, have heard of it happening, and have at times experienced it happening. My opinion is that as practitioners, no matter what point in the path we are, we need to hold this open as a possibility and respect and appreciate it when it happens. I suspect that not doing so only creates a disempowering air around enlightenment, and may actually prevent people (if they buy that one-sided perspective) from deepening in insight. […]

It also seems that however it happens, it evens out in the end… in two ways.

When Ground awakens to itself, that’s it… and there is also the realization that it all, the whole human drama and drama of awakening, was no other than emptiness dancing… an appearance of a drama unfolding over time, all happening as no other than this awake emptiness, this timeless now.

And also, the long and/or difficult process has its own rewards. It gives a different depth and richness of experience for this human self, which can be very valuable in aiding others through the process.

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Neutrality of path, ground and goal

 

The Ground of everything, the emptiness (void) it all happens within, to and as, is inherently neutral. We can taste this through the Big Mind process, headless experiments, The Work, and in many other different ways, right here now.

The goal, if we can call it that, of Ground awakening, is also inherently neutral. It is like the bottom drops out of everything, revealing it all as nothing other than the dance of emptiness, inherently free from any separate self anywhere. The content stays the same, but now suspended within and as the void.

And the path too, is inherently neutral. It is inherently neutral for the reasons above.

But it is also inherently neutral in itself… going from the most amazingly wonderful (especially in the releases, and the openings into the soul level) and the most amazingly awful (especially the dark nights of the senses and soul, and the wearing off of beliefs and identities).

Together, looking back at the path, the two cancel each other out leaving only an appreciation for the path (or the story about it at least, which is all that is left) and the inherent neutrality of it, also in terms of its content.

The path is like waves on an ocean, with their peaks and valleys, canceling each other out when we look back at it.

It doesn’t sound that great to the personality, but then, there is nothing for the personality there either. There is nothing to gain anywhere in all of this. Just the bottom falling out of it all.

Impulse to wholeness

 

There seems to be two main aspects to our impulse towards wholeness…

First, it is the intuition or sense of the field of seeing of seen, inherently absent of I. This field is already and always whole, or more accurately free from wholeness and fragmentation.

Then, there are the processes at work in the world of form, specifically – in all living organisms, the self-maintaining, self-healing and self-transcending processes.

And a psychological aspect of this process of self-organization is the dislike of suffering and draw to happiness and freedom from suffering. Disease at a physical level is often uncomfortable, so we seek health and wholeness there.

It is the same with dis-ease at a psychological level. It comes from a sense of separation, being finite in space and time, and from the basic sense of I and of I and Other, so there is a natural impulse to find a resolution to it, and we do this in many ways.

We seek healing and a sense of connection on a psychological level.

We notice, at first not even consciously, the inherent painfulness of a sense of I and Other, and We and Them, so we move along the path of egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric to planetcentric, widening the circle of who we see as us.

And at some point, we start the process of shifting our center of gravity from the seen (our human self) to the seeing (pure awareness, witness), to the field of seeing and seen, inherently absent of I, awakening to itself.

The mirroring tendencies

At the same time, there are several mirroring and complementary tendencies.

First, of the field of seeing and seen to forget itself, to take itself as only a segment of itself, as this human self.

Then the inherent tendencies in the world of form towards disintegration, falling apart, accidents, malfunction.

And also the inherent tendencies of the mind, when operating in the context of a sense of I and Other, to create trouble for itself, to knot itself up and create a sense of drama through beliefs, and often through a complex set of contradictory beliefs.

Game of separation and finding itself

It is all part of the game the field plays with itself, first of forgetting itself, creating a sense of I and Other and experiencing the drama there, then of seeking itself through wholeness, and finally realizing the absence of I anywhere.

Both tendencies are part of the game, part of the drama, making it richer and more varied. One could not be without the other.

The complementarity of Atman and Anatman

 

I just finished up The Supreme Self by Stan Trout, which is one third autobiography, one third history of mysticism, and one third how different universal questions appears when Spirit awakens to itself.

As it is written by somebody who is intimately familiar with Big Mind, the essence of the various traditions is brought to the foreground and presented in a very clear and simple way. (Which by necessity means that the diversity and difference in flavor goes into the background, leaving out some of the richness.)

One thing that came up for me is the complementarity of Atman and Anatman, of Self and no-self, and the traditions emphasizing one or the other.

There is the Self, aka Buddha Mind, Big Mind, Brahman, and so on. The field of seeing and seen, of awake emptiness and form, as that beyond and including all polarities. It is “I” as awake emptiness and form, as the field as a whole, as Big Mind.

And there is the no-self, the field of seeing and seen absent of I anywhere. It is the field of awake emptiness and form awakening to itself as a field with no center anywhere, with no I as any segment of itself. There is doing, but no doer.

There is a beautiful complementarity of Self and no-self, and this is expressed within each of the traditions talking about Atman or Anatman, whether they emphasize one or the other in how they talk about it, or as a path into this realization.

The Big Mind process strikes me as a practice that especially well includes both. We get to explore ourselves as Big Mind, as Atman, as awake emptiness and form, as the whole beyond and including all polarities. And we get to explore the no-self, the absence of I anywhere in this field of awake emptiness and form, including in all the different personal and transpersonal voices. They are all there, available, yet each one of them inherently absent of an I.

Update March 2010: Stan Trout’s new website is The Mystic Vision.

Popping & Path

 

An awakening can happen spontaneously, out of the blue, apparently uninvited. Or it can happen following a period of practice, of deliberately walking the path.

In sufism, the initial version is apparently called majzub, and the second salik. One is obviously grace, the second apparently effort. Although there is also effort in the first one, in terms of exploring and living what happened. And there is clearly grace even in the second one, first in the external and internal circumstances coming together for someone traveling the path, and then in the awakening itself.

As J. Nurbakhsh says in The Path (p. 31), both have to be present for it to be complete – especially if that person is to guide others. If there was first an awakening out of the blue, then the path has to be traveled later on (either from within the awakening, or after an apparent fall). And if the path was traveled initially, then the grace and popping of awakening has to happen for it to be more complete. One alone is not sufficient.

Path & No Path

 

I went to a Process Work session today, and it brought up the different ways Path shows up when filtered through the different levels.

No path

At the nondual (Big Mind) level, there is no path – the idea of path doesn’t make sense. Or we can say that it is impossible to not be on the path. Everything just is, manifestations of Buddha Mind, God’s play, emptiness dancing. Everything is path.

Paths

At our soul and human levels, there are indeed paths – and they are very real for us.

No path and paths together

As they say in Zen, everything is perfect as it is and there is room for improvement. There is the nondual beyond and including perfection and imperfection, and there is the real of perfection and imperfection.

In terms of our path, we are always on in and we are it at a nondual level. And as guided by our soul or wished for by our human self, we can definetely be more or less on it.

Withouth the pathlessness, we can easily get too caught up in the path – take it too seriously. We are stuck in the relative.

And without the path, we can aimlessly wander around – not caring about what is nurturing and what is not. Being stuck in absolute.

For me

For me, I was strongly on my path while living in Norway and Utah. There was a strong sense of everything unfolding beautifully, of strong and clear guidance, of maturing, of finding my way in the world in many ways. I was deeply on my path at my human and soul levels.

At the same time, I saw that at the nondual level there was no way anyone could be “off the path” – everything is an expression of God so there is no path to be off.

Then, during the dark night phase, there was an equally strong sense of being off the path – at least as I had experienced my path earlier. I was cut off – externally and internally, from everything that had provided such as deep sense of nourishment, meaning and fulfillment.

I felt completely derailed, which was true in many ways. At the same time, I knew I could learn from it – mature through it, see something I earlier didn’t want to see, and through all this deepen my sense of ordinariness and empathy.

Now

Now, there is the beginnings of a release from this dark night and the derailment. The bits and pieces are coming back, gradually – as a slow soul retrieval process. What came so effortlessly earlier, and also seemed so extraordinary, is now coming back in a different way. Through more of an intention and a more conscious process, and seeming very ordinary and simple.

It also seems clear that one of my tasks now is to nurture the soul level far more than I could during the dark night phase, and far more than I did by choice at the Zen center. To allow it back in, with its tremendous sense of guidance, fullness, richness, maturing, deepening, meaning, purpose, calling, and – yes – path. A unique path for me in this life, unveiled gradually.

And some of the simple ways to connect with this more deeply is through what is deeply nurturing for me, such as Breema, drawing, music, nature, good relationships and even planning for the future – exploring deeply nurturing and meaningful, and realistic, options.