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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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.)

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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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.