All inclusive practices

 

I tend to be drawn to all-inclusive practices. For instance, ho’oponopono or tonglen where we open the heart to everyone and everything, gratitude practices where nothing is left out, or inquiry where we “leave no stone unturned”.

It makes sense for two reasons. First, all is Spirit. And second, it allows for a more thorough healing, awakening, and embodiment.

Of course, it’s more an orientation than something we can completely do. But it does seem to be a helpful orientation and guideline.

The fear behind spiritual practices

 

For many of us engaged in spiritual practices, or any form of healing work, there is an element of fear in our motivation. That’s usually not the whole story, and sometimes not a very large part of the story, but there may still be an element of fear there.

As usual, it’s normal, very understandable, and there is nothing inherently wrong with it. The downside is that it can be stressful, and it can

It’s good to notice and be honest about any fears so we can relate to them more intentionally.

One way to explore the fear is to ask ourselves: What do I fear if I don’t do these spiritual practices? If I don’t heal? If I don’t awaken? What’s the worst that can happen?

Meet the fear with some kindness and love. With gentle curiosity. And inquire into those fears and whatever identities are threatened. How does the mind creates its own experience of the fears? What’s associated with them? How does the mind relate to it? (Living Inquiries.) What are the beliefs? And what do I find when I examine them? (The Work.)

Unless we are mainly driven by fear, this type of examination won’t remove our motivation for engaging in these practices or healing work. We’ll still do it. We’ll just experience a bit more ease in how we relate to it.

Equally important, we may be more aware of the deeper, kinder, and more genuine motivations behind it.

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Avoid, present with, or resolve

 

How do we relate to uncomfortable thoughts and sensations?

We can avoid them. Be present with them. Or invite them to resolve.

Each one has its place.

Avoiding can be useful in the short run. But nothing is resolved, the discomfort tends to return, and avoidance in itself can create problems in life.

Being present with the images, words, and sensations can be helpful. It tends to help the mind calm down. We may notice what’s there, some of the dynamics of the mind, and perhaps have some insights. But in itself, this too won’t neccesarily resolve anything.

So how do we resolve it? It can be resolved through the consciousness side or the energy side, and really through both. I’ll just mention the few approaches I am familiar with, out of the innumerable ones available.

We can identify and examine the stressful beliefs, and find what’s more true to us (The Work). We can notice and rest with the mental images, words, and sensations creating the stressful experience, allowing the mental connection between the thoughts and sensations to dissolve (Living Inquiries). We can dissolve it from the energy side while inviting in insights to support the new patterns (Vortex Healing). We can change our relationship to it through heart centered practices (tonglen, ho’o, metta).

In general, we can meet it with presence, patience, respect, kindness, and curiosity. And that curiosity is a kind of inquiry supported by certain pointers, guidelines, and perhaps practices aimed at helping us see what’s already there. The truth is kind, and it will set us free.

Another meta-skill is important for something to resolve and that’s intention. Intention for it to resolve and clear. Intention for us and the process to keep moving, to find and explore associated and underlying beliefs and identifications.

It also helps to notice that all of it – any movements and any content of experience, including the stressful beliefs and how we relate to and explore it – happens within and as presence. That’s the context for it all. And it helps us notice identfications with wanting something to change, and then notice that too as happening within and as presence. It gives it all more space and freedom to be.

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Welcome, God

 

Earlier today, I noticed some slight discomfort, sadness, and impulse for it to change.

And then welcome, God. To the discomfort, sadness, and impulse for it to change. And as a reminder to myself that it’s all Spirit. It’s happening within and as awakeness. It’s the play of life. It’s life experiencing life.

It’s also a reminder of how spiritual practices are made. Something happens spontaneously, as welcome, God did. We find it helpful to ourselves. And sometimes, it’s passed on to others. To be more useful, it’s often made into a structure or a kind of prescription. And sometimes, it’s helpful to someone else, and sometimes not.

Either way, it’s something that initially happens spontaneously. Is found to be helpful. There is an impulse to pass it on to someone else. (Often as a kindness.) It is made into something slightly more structured. And it is then helpful or not, depending on the person and the situation they are in.

This particular one is helpful if we have seen (as a glimpse) or continue to see (when we look) all as Spirit. But we sometimes need a reminder that some manifestations of Spirit – such as discomfort or an impulse for something to change – also are Spirit. So we can then try welcome, God as a reminder, and see what happens.

Note: We can say welcome, God to anything. Situations. People. Emotions. Thoughts. Whatever it may be that we initially don’t recognize as Spirit. Whatever we don’t automatically recognize as Spirit due to old habits of calling some thing bad, undesirable, or just not the divine.

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Practices = experiments

 

What people call “practices” I like to think of as experiments.

What happens if I do this? If I stay with it for a while? What do I notice?

This helps me have a more open mind and also approach it with interest and curiosity.

It becomes more open, interesting, fun, and enjoyable.

For instance, what happens if I do ho’oponopno towards (images of) myself at different ages? How is it if I start at birth (or before) and go along the timeline to today (or even later), staying with each age for a while – perhaps even days – until there is a shift towards genuine love towards myself at that age. How is it to include others in my life at the different ages? How is it to include my parents, friends, teachers, and others? How is it to include even those my mind has made into an “enemy”, however subtly?

Passive and active aspects of the dark night

 

Traditionally, it’s said that the dark night of the soul is passive, in the sense that it comes uninvited and on its own time, and when – or if – it leaves, that’s also on its own time. It lives its own life. As anything does, really.

It’s also active in that it invites us to actively engage with what’s here, to have an active relationship to it. To intentionally and actively relate to it, using whatever tools we have available, whether its kindness, love, gratitude, natural rest, presence, prayer, inquiry, service or something else, and whether it’s structured by guidelines (practices) or more natural and intuitive.

When I look a little closer, I see that the active relationship also lives its own life. That too is, in a sense, “passive”. It’s a gift. Although it can feel very much active and intentional.

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Adyashanti: What style of approaching spiritual practice works best for you?

 

Rikki writes:

I’ve been taught that I should “practice like my hair is on fire” and in the past I have done so. Now I feel I should relax into it, be patient. But I keep attacking myself for not being more urgent with the admonition that the more awake I am, the easier it is for someone else to find freedom. How can I relax, urgently?

Dear Rikki,

Let us throw out both of the ideas that say you must practice “like your hair is on fire” or that you should relax in your practice more. What is natural to you? What style of approaching spiritual practice works best for you? That’s really the only relevant question. What attitude works best for you? It’s not about what’s right or wrong as much as it is about what is most natural and works best for you. And you will not find this in your head, but in your body. When you are applying the most conducive attitude to your practice you will feel inspired and relaxed, questioning but not impatient or anxious. You will also feel challenged at times but still open and eager to unveil Truth.

With Great Love,

Adyashanti

 

Attending to the spine

 

In my teens and early twenties, I did a Taoist practice where I brought attention up and down the spine and through the top of the head. (Visualizing dark light going up, and golden light coming down, with the in and out breath.)

Now, I am doing a similar although simpler practice where I bring attention up and down the spine. Rest with it. Notice. Allow. Feel.

I notice again something I noticed several years ago. When I bring attention to the spine, I see three (or more) pictures of the spine, and they don’t quite align. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where the spine is, for that reason, and it’s more noticeable from the chest area up. My sense is that it’s connected with an incarnation trauma, perhaps the sense of being unloved and unlovable, and a sense of fragmentation. (Which is also expressed in sometimes being confused what to do next in life, and feeling split between two or more options.)

Some ways to explore this:

Continue bringing attention to the spine. Notice. Allow. Rest with it.

Find kindness towards it. See it’s there to protect me. It’s from deep caring. It’s from love. Treat it with respect. Kindness. Authenticity. (As I would like to be treated.)

Look for a threat. Where is the threat in bringing attention to the spine? In the multiple pictures of the spine? In the slight discomfort I experience when I bring attention there?

What’s the worst that can happen if this doesn’t heal or resolve? (Look for the threat.)

What’s the best that can happen if it does heal and resolve? (Look for that.)

Look for the spine. See if it’s findable.

Look at the incarnation trauma. Look for a threat there. (In the images, words, sensations associated with it.)

Kindness is not dependent on a feeling or state

 

Kindness is not dependent on a feeling or state.

I can act from kindness, even if I feel angry, sad, frustrated, or just about anything else.

Kindness is more of an orientation, an habit, or a practice.

It’s also something that comes from recognition. Recognizing in myself what I see in others. Recognizing that we are all in the same boat. Recognizing that I am responsible for how I relate to what comes up in me. Perhaps recognizing that we are all local expressions of (the one) life, universe, existence. Even recognizing that we – and everything – are happening within and as awareness. And all of that may be deepened through practice and habit.

Love is another name for kindness.

I often prefer thinking of it as kindness. It seems a little more approachable, especially on days like today when my feelings go more in the direction of frustration, anger, and sadness. Even on these days, I can be kind towards myself. (Gentle, eat well, meet what’s here – the emotions and reactions towards it – with kindness.) I can be kind towards the person working at the coffee shop, and others I relate to through the day.

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Keeping it simple

 

In my own life, and when I work with clients, I am reminded of how helpful it can be to keep it simple.

Here is the simple recipe that seems to work best for me:

Simplicity. Keep it simple.

Ongoing. Make it part of daily life.

Comfortable. Find a way to do it so you’d want to do it forever.

And another principle that keeps it simple:

Reality.  Use practices and guidelines that are aligned with reality, and helps you align more consciously with reality, with what already is.

When it’s simple, it’s…..

Easier to remember and do.

More attractive to actually do.

Easier to do when things feel more overwhelming and challenging.

Something I’d want to make part of my daily life.

Here are some practices that fits these guidelines for me:

Heart practices. Loving kindness. Ho’oponopono. Doing this towards me, others, parts of me and my experience, the world, life. (Other practices: Tonglen, holding satsang with parts of my experience.)

Head practices. Inquiry. Asking simple questions in everyday life. (Is it true this is too much? Is that image of the future the actual future? Does that sensation mean something terrible is going to happen?) Sometimes doing it in a more structured way, for instance using The Work or the Living Inquiries.

Belly practices. Feeling sensations, especially the apparently uncomfortable ones and contractions. Resting with them. Doing simple body-inclusive practices. Walk in nature.

General practices. Resting with what’s here, with my experience as it is. Notice. Allow. Notice they are already allowed. Notice all as awareness.

Most of these are quite simple. And how are they aligned with reality, or how do they help me more consciously align with reality? Other posts have addressed that question so I’ll only mention a few things briefly here.

Love and kindness feels good. It’s a relief. And it’s what we are, when we find ourselves as that which any experience happens within and as.

Inquiry helps us see what’s already here. It helps us see what’s more true than our initial beliefs. It helps us see images as images, words as words, and feel sensations as sensation. (Not jumbled together as they initially often are, creating the appearance that these images and words are solid and true.)

Feeling sensations, along with inquiry, helps us feel sensations as sensations. Initially, they may seem to mean something, perhaps even something scary. (Because images and words seem “stuck” on them.) Through feeling them, and perhaps asking some simple questions about them and the associated images and words, we can feel sensations as sensations. We recognize that they don’t inherently mean anything. We can rest with them, more as they are.

Resting with what’s here helps me shift from thinking to noticing. It helps me find myself as that which I already am. As that which any experience already happens within and as.

Slow down 

 

Slow down.

That’s one of the most helpful pointers for a wide range of practices.

Slow down in resting with what’s here. Looking. Holding something in kind presence. Training a stable focus.

Find a way to do it so you would want to do it forever. 

Most of us have a tendency to want to skip ahead, or avoid feeling or looking at what’s here. Slowing down is an antidote to this. If it feels threatening, include that in the rest. Inquire into it. See if it’s from deep caring (wishing to protect you?). See how it is to meet the fear or apparent threat with kindness.

How would it be to slow down, as an experiment?

Is it true it’s uncomfortable? Too much? Dangerous? A threat?

Tools to explore one or a few of the many facets or reality

 

There are many – innumerable – facets of life and reality.

And different practices and explorations naturally and inevitably focuses on one or a few of these.

That’s how it has to be. Practices are tools, and tools often have just one or a few functions. They do some things well, and other things not at all.

Inquiry can help us see what’s already here, and what’s not here but seemed very real initially. It can help us align more consciously with reality, which is often a big relief. It can even help us see that reality is kind.

Heart practices can help us find love for our world. For ourselves, others, parts of us, situations, life, Existence, and God.

Body inclusive practices can help us release tension, or experience ourselves as a body-mind whole, or just be more aware of what’s happening physically and energetically.

Happiness practices, as described by for instance Sonya Lyubomirsky, can help us feel more alive, excited about life, and aligned with what feels meaningful and satisfying to us.

And so on. One does not exclude another. In reality, they all work hand in hand. They complement each other. They help us explore different facets of life and existence.

I was reminded of this since I have seen some non-dual folks exclude practices that explores other facets of life and reality, for instance heart practices, or happiness practices. I assume what happens is that they (a) identify with their own practice and tradition, (b) don’t recognize that it’s tool meant to invite exploration of one or a few facets of life and reality, and (c) exclude or put down other practices or traditions which address other facets of reality and life. It’s a mistake we all can make, unless we recognize the dynamics behind it.

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Immediate results vs ongoing practice

 

Maybe I am naive, but I often judge practices by their immediate results. If they don’t offer any, I tend to move on to something else.

It may be that I, in some cases, am missing out of longer term benefits. But I prefer to move on if I don’t see relatively quick results. There are enough practices that do offer immediate results, along with longer term deepening and more thorough shifts.

If I stayed with everything I tried that didn’t offer immediate results, it’s likely that I would stay with much that didn’t give longer term results either. Many of these are likely to be practices that, for one reason or another, are not compatible with where I am at in my process.

Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) is a good example of a practice that offers immediate results and a longer term deepening. During and following a TRE session, I often feel deeply relaxed and alert. And there is also a deepening over time. Tension is gradually released, over weeks, months, and years of ongoing practice. After all, it does take time to release a lifetime of built-up tension. It would be too much to release all at once. Better to take it slowly.

The same goes for heart centered practices, inquiry, and a body centered practice such as Breema. All offer immediate results, and an ongoing deepening over time through ongoing exploration and practice.

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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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Spiritual practice?

 

I sometimes use the words “spiritual practice”.

It’s a convenient shorthand. Most people have a general idea of what it means.

At the same time, I can’t say I like either of the words very much.

The word spiritual can refer to many different things, and be understood in many different ways.  (Most of which are different from the way I intend it.) It may sound special or something out of the ordinary. While for me, it’s more synonymous with life or existence. It’s ordinary. Simple. It’s what all already is. It’s all already Spirit. We cannot escape it, even if we try.

I also see that the word spirituality does point to a certain orientation to life, so in that sense it’s useful.

The word practice sounds a bit heavy handed to me. It may bring to mind drudgery, or something that’s overly disciplined. While what it really means, at least for me, is something that’s just part of everyday life. It’s a resting with what’s here. Finding love for what’s here. Occasionally asking some simple questions, to shift out of habitual views.

It’s very simple. Even ordinary. A part of everyday life. Ongoing. Restful.

This too is about slightly different orientations, and perhaps phases of our process. Initially, both spiritual and practice can be helpful and meaningful words. They hint at a different orientation than what we perhaps were used to, and the discipline we initially may need to shift to that orientation. After a while, as we become more familiar with the terrain, the word spiritual may hint at something that seems too extraordinary, and practice doesn’t fit either since what it refers to is just part of ordinary everyday life – a resting with what’s here, finding love for it, an inherent curiosity.

What I have found helpful during difficult times

 

Here are some things I found helpful during difficult times, including during (what looked like) my PTSD phase.

I did the one(s) that felt right, and most helpful, at the time. Most or all of these have stayed with me for longer periods of time, and I still find them helpful.

Many of these things may seem superficial, but I found they helped shift my mindset just a bit, which often was very welcome. And over time, they may shift things more significantly.

Remembering that thoughts and feelings are just that, thoughts and feelings. They don’t necessarily tell the truth.

Doing Ho’oponopono to myself and others. (I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.) I also do it towards parts of me.

Going for walks. Spending time in nature. Gardening. Physical activity.

Avoiding too much sugar. (It can do funny things with the mind.)

Doing shaking (neurogenic tremors, Tension & Trauma Release Exercises) now and then.

Remembering that others have gone through similar things, and came out on the other end. A typical symptom of PTSD and similarly despairing mind states is thinking and feeling it will always be like this.

Being patient with myself. (Sometimes easier said than done.)

Another thing I find helpful is writing a gratitude list. Just a few simple things that I are grateful for. (Family, shelter, food, sun etc.) I tend to favor the all-inclusive gratitude list, where I include things it’s easy to feel grateful for, and also all the rest including what feels the most challenging.
Asking myself simple questions: Is it true it will never change? Can I know for certain it will always be like this? Is it true it’s too much? Is it true I cannot take it? 
Asking myself, if this was a movie, what would the meaning be? If I was the director, how would the sequel be?
Sometimes being strict with myself when I find myself going into despair and dark states. I will remind myself that the thoughts and feelings telling me that it will never change were lying to me. (Since I can’t know for certain it’s true that it won’t change. And I know from experience things do change, including when it seems very dark and thoughts – worried love – tells me it won’t.)

Bumpy and messy

 

When I write these posts, I am aware that the way I write can make what I write about appear simple and straight forward. Reality is usually not like that. Reality is often bumpy and messy.

Since it’s that way for me, I assume it’s like that for many others too. Most people who speak or write about different practices make it seem clear, simple and relatively straight forward. That’s understandable. We seek to present it in a clear and simple way. And that doesn’t mean it’s always that way to us.

For me, it’s certainly been a bumpy and messy path, with lots of apparent detours, mishaps, wrecks, derailings, and more. And that’s part of the process too. That’s life.

Getting ready for inquiry

 

For all of us, there may be supportive practices that makes it easier for us to explore love, natural rest, and inquiry.

And if we are completely new to it, there may be practices that helps us get ready for it, and get more out of it.

Here is a list of practices I have found helpful in themselves, and as a support for – for instance – inquiry. (And inquiry, in turn, is a support for each of these. These practices are all a support for each other, in a very real way.)

Body inclusive: Tension & Trauma Release Exercises (TRE). Self-Breema and Breema bodywork. Yoga. Tai Chi. Chi Gong.

Stable attention: Training a more stable attention, for instance by bringing attention to the sensations of the breath.

Love: Ho’oponopono. Tonglen. Loving kindness.

Natural rest: Noticing. Allowing.

Physical exercise: Strength. Aerobic.

Nature: Being in nature. Moving the body in nature. Connecting with nature. (Practices to Reconnect.)

Inquiry: Some forms of inquiry may be easier to start with than others. For instance, it may be easier for some to start with the Big Mind process and The Work, and then move into Living Inquiries.

Stepping stones for what’s natural

 

I keep noticing how different practices are stepping stones to what’s natural.

For instance, inquiry is a stepping stone – a formalized structure – inviting us to a very natural and simple curiosity.

Prayer is a stepping stone to an equally natural and simple reverence and sense of connection with the sacredness of existence.

Heart centered practices – such as loving kindness, tonglen, ho’oponopono – are stepping stones to a simple love for what’s here, as it is, and as love already.

Movement practices are stepping stones to a simple and natural way of moving…. from our wholeness and with curiosity.

Even a specialized practice such as Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) is a stepping stone for allowing a very simple and natural shaking to release (body-mind) tension.

Stepping stones to what’s more natural

 

Many practices I have explored seem to function as stepping stones to what’s more natural. They take me from a disconnected and fragmented state to what’s simpler and more natural. And that includes meditation, yoga (tai chi, chi gong, Breema), inquiry, prayer, loving kindness, gratitude, precepts and shaking (TRE, spontaneous movement, dance), and a variety of other practices.

The mental body is the newest in our human evolution, so it is perhaps natural that it’s been emphasized during the last few thousand years at least. This has led to a temporary over-emphasizing of role of the mental faculties (they are important, but function best in service to the heart), the appearance of our thoughts as more real and solid than they are, and identification with and as thought. So many or most of the practices developed over this time period are aimed at remedy and balance this. They are medicines for a temporary over-emphasis of the mental body. They are a bridge from this to seeing what’s already here, and a simpler and more natural way of being and living.

Some examples:

Precepts highlight what in us – usually fears, shoulds and beliefs – that prevent us from living with a natural and simple kindness towards ourselves and others. As with the other practices, it can feel a bit artificial at first, and then it shifts into a more natural and free living from kindness.

Natural meditation (Shikantaza) is what’s already here, although attention may be drawn to the complexities and drama of the mental and emotional bodies. It’s also how the mind naturally is when it’s less identified.

Yoga helps us connect more consciously with the body and movement, and allows us to experience ourselves as the body-mind whole. The whole is already here, although it’s not always noticed. And an experience of it can be cultivated through various movement practices.

Prayer is a giving of ourselves to God, an offering of our human self to Spirit. Again, it’s already that way, and this helps us notice it. It’s also how we naturally live when mind is less identified.

Loving kindness is again what’s here when mind is less identified. There is a natural and simple love and kindness for whatever is here in myself, others and the world. It’s what I am and life is.

Gratitude is similar. It’s what’s naturally here when mind is less identified. This may be a gratitude for what it’s easy to find gratitude for (friends, family, health, shelter, good food), and also for life itself as it shows up, with warts and calamities and all.

Inquiry is an examination of our thoughts and how it relates to emotions, sensations and our lives. Again, when mind is less identified it is naturally curious and attentive of these dynamics.

Shaking is what any mammal does to relieve stress and tension. It allows the body and mind to restore itself to a more healthy state.

With all of these, it can feel a bit artificial at first. We learn a form and a method, apply it, and it can feel clumsy. It also brings up what’s in us that prevents us from living it in a natural and simple form, it brings us face to face with identifications, wounds, fears, shoulds and more. And over time, as these soften, are held in love, and are seen through, the natural way of living this is gradually revealed. Form gives way to a very natural and simple way of living. These practices is a bridge from a temporary over-emphasizing of the mental body, with accompanying identifications, to a more simple and less identified way of being and living. (more…)

Spiritual practices, and their function

 

Spiritual practices have a couple of different functions.

Spiritual practices can help improve the dream, making our lives more comfortable, improving the life of our human self.

Spiritual practices can get us “closer” to reality, and thin the veils. All may be recognized as Spirit, while there is still some identification as a me (human self) or I (observer, doer).

This thinning of the veils is a preparation of the ground, or an invitation, for a more clear and thorough awakening. (Although a thinning of the veils is not necessary for such an awakening, as there are many examples of.)

Spiritual practices cannot in themselves “get us there”. They cannot make a clear and thorough awakening happen. At most, they can improve our human life, thin the veils, and invite in a more clear awakening.

And it’s all grace. The ability to do any spiritual practice is grace, as is reality awakening to itself.

Here are some ways different practices improve our human life, and thin the veils.

Inquiry helps us see through stressful stories, and our most basic assumptions about ourselves and life. This reduces stress in our human life, and it reveals reality more as it is.

Heart practices opens up for love, gratitude, empathy and humility, and this too improves our human life, and thin the veils. Reality is love, and these practices help reveal life as love.

Feeling sensations as they are helps releasing wounds and contractions, which improves the life of our human self, and also reduces the “hooks” for identification.

Note: This is sometimes called a gradual and direct path. A gradual path helps improve our human life. It thins the veils, which perhaps makes it a little easier for the simplicity of being to awaken to itself. An a direct path is a more direct invitation for the simplicity of being to awaken to itself, independent of everything else, and without the possible distractions and “side-tracks” of the gradual path. For most of us, there is a combination of both of these.

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My tradition is the best

 

Why do some think that their tradition or practice is the best?

I can think of a few different reasons:

It’s the typical in-group / out-group dynamic.

This creates a sense of cohesion within the group. We are better than them. We know how things are. We are the chosen ones.

It also makes people feel better about themselves. I am with the right group. I’ll be saved.

It may come from ignorance. People may be misinformed about other traditions, or may not know much about them.

They may have a good point. Each tradition has its strengths and weaknesses, and the strengths may well be stronger than in some other traditions.

It also seems that this attitude may be increasingly more difficult to maintain, for a few different reasons.

We are better informed about other traditions and practices.

We encounter more frequently people from other traditions and practices, and see that they are as smart as us.

It simply looks pretty stupid to think that your tradition is the best (!). Especially considering that most people know that such an assumption is typically (a) used to keep people in the tradition, and (b) is often based in fear and insecurity, and is an attempt to feel better about ourselves.

I have always been eclectic in my approach, and see the value in all the main spiritual traditions and a wide range of practices. They are all medicine for people with different backgrounds, from different cultures, and at different phases in their process. So although I seek out practices that seem the most effective for me, I also realize that they are not inherently or absolutely “better” than other practices out there. And they are definitely not better than what’s possible, and what will most likely be developed in the future.

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Basics of spiritual practice

 

A brief outline of a(n imagined) course on spiritual practice:

  1. What it is, and is not
    1. What it is: Training the mind (just like training the body, or training any skill)
    2. What it is not: It’s not airy fairy, or “mystical” in the sense of strange or hidden
    3. Overview of the course + tasters + Q&A
  2. Stability practice
    1. Training a more stable attention, creating a new groove for attention
    2. Bring attention to an object, for instance (a) the breath, the sensations of the breath at the nostrils or (b) a visual object
    3. Insight: Notice attention wander, being drawn into compelling stories (beliefs), bring it back (grace when notice it’s wandering)
  3. Mindfulness / Natural Rest
    1. Body scan, feel sensations, allow what’s here to be here
    2. Notice all is already allowed as is
  4. Insight / inquiry
    1. Insight that comes from the other practices
    2. Insight from inquiry, f.ex. The Work, Living Inquiries, sense field exploration, labeling, Big Mind process, holding satsang
  5. Devotion / Heart Centered
    1. Prayer – (a) Jesus/Heart Prayer, (b) Christ meditation (visualize Christ at the seven points), (c) asking for guidance etc.
    2. Ho’oponopono, tonglen, metta
  6. Body Centered
    1. Yoga, tai chi, chi gong, Breema etc.
    2. A form of stability practice + mindfulness + body awareness practice + grounding (psychologically and energetically)
  7. Life / Guidelines
    1. Simple guidelines for life
    2. Reduces turmoil and drama (suffering + distractions) + mimics a life lived from love and clarity
    3. Shows us what’s left to look at (get to see beliefs, take to inquiry)
  8. Spiritual Emergence / Emergency / Maps
    1. Map of stages and quadrants (AQAL)
    2. Spiritual emergence – definition, typical unfolding, sign posts
    3. Spiritual emergency – definition, possible triggers, types + symptoms, how to best relate to it

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What can be trained: previous blind spots in mainstream western culture

 

Mainstream western culture has had some blind spots about what can be trained and what cannot, and that’s already changing.

For instance, from spiritual traditions from around the world, including western ones, we know that we can train (a) a stable attention (supports almost any activity), (b) empathy and an open heart (tonglen, prayer, ho’o), (c) opening to the experience that’s here (inquiry, true meditation, tonglen, prayer, ho’o), (d) what we are recognizing itself (true meditation, inquiry, prayer), and (e) that we can inquire into our most basic assumptions and find what’s more true for us. Many newer versions of these practices are also available now, including headless experiments and the Big Mind process (what we are noticing itself), and The Work (inquiry into our beliefs, including our most basic assumptions).

And some traditions also shows us that we can train more “mundane” things such as our eyes and sight (sometimes recover from or prevent eye problems), our body so it has a good chance of staying supple and healthy throughout life (yoga, tai chi, Breema), and even our ability to notice and support a flow of subtle energy in and around our body for ourselves (chi gong) and sometimes others.

This is a training and a practice, although it’s equally much an exploration and investigation. What happens when I engage in these activities?

The dark side of the sacred

 

I came across a blog post called Holy Irreverence: A New Series Exploring the Dark Side of the Sacred by Vanessa Fischer.

It’s an interesting topic. What comes up for me around it?

Definitions of Sacred and light/dark

First, what do I think of as the Sacred? The Sacred for me is the same as life, reality, God.

And light and dark? Light and dark are not inherent in reality, they are only found in my thoughts about it. Since they are labels in my thoughts, what’s called light or dark is arbitrary and influenced by culture, tradition and personal experiences. (It’s arbitrary from a big picture, and yet often not experienced as arbitrary within a particular culture or tradition.)

Aspects of the Sacred

Then, when we talk about the “dark” side of the Sacred, what aspects of the Sacred may we refer to?

I find three: (a) The “dark” side of the Sacred (God, reality, life). (b) Approaches that address the “dark” sides of the Sacred (life, reality). (c) The “dark” sides of a Sacred process (awakening, maturing).

The dark sides of the Sacred as inquiry

A simple way of defining the dark side of the Sacred is to see it as the shadow of our typical images of the Sacred (reality, God) and a Sacred process (awakening, maturing, living from it). If I see God as good, can I also see the bad (what I label bad in my own mind) as part of the Sacred? If I see clarity as sacred and part of a sacred process, can I also include confusion? If what I see as desirable is included in my image of the Sacred, can I also include what I see as undesirable?

If I see something as sacred, can I see the rest as also sacred?

(a) The dark side of the Sacred. What’s my image of the Sacred or of God? What’s the reverse? If I make a list, can I find genuine and simple examples of how each one is equally part of the Sacred?

(b) Approaches addressing the dark side. Any approach to the Sacred worth it’s salt will have ways to address and work with the dark sides of life. Some may be of the first aid variety, making the process a bit easier in the moment. Others will go more to the core of the issue, and may even uproot any ideas of shadow or light, right or wrong, desirable and undesirable. Some of my favorites are tonglen and various forms of inquiry (the Big Mind process, sense field explorations, The Work).

(c) The dark side of the Sacred process. I am not even sure what to define as a sacred process. If it is a process of awakening and/or maturing, then it does have it’s “shadow” sides, which – when I examined it a little closer – turned out to be it’s bright sides! For me, these have included loss (of dreams especially), disillusionment, illness, and primal fears and beliefs surfacing so intensively that they cannot be ignored, pushed aside or sidestepped.

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Gratitude for all

 

Gratitude and appreciation is a practice, and it is also a natural expression of who we are when less clouded over by beliefs.

It’s rewarding and helpful to find gratitude for what’s obviously good in my life. It helps me shift attention from my complaints to what is pretty good in life.

And it is even more powerful to include all without exception, including and especially that which I at first don’t appreciate. This helps me find the ground below likes and dislikes, and a softening of identification with my own familiar beliefs about what’s good and bad.

The simplest form of gratitude practice is to repeat thank you – to life, God, the Universe.

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Simple, not easy

 

The pointers I have found most helpful are all simple, but not necessarily easy.

Here is my usual list….

The world as a mirror. At an ordinary human level, I can find in myself whatever I see in the wider world. I recognize qualities, characteristics, dynamics and so on in other people, in imagined figures, in nature, in myths and world views, and can then find the same in myself. It won’t necessarily look the same, it may be expressed differently and at a different volume, but I can still find it here. I can see it, feel it, take it in, and eventually find appreciation for it.

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