When Teresa of Avila was asked what she did in prayer, she replied, “I just allow myself to be loved”.– Anthony de Mello in Sadhana
There are (at least!) two general forms of prayer.
One is prayer asking for my life to change.
The other is prayer inviting the divine to change me.
The first type of prayer is perhaps what many think of first. It’s the “dear God, please do this for me” type of prayer.
The second is a form of prayer that can be profoundly transformative. In its most explicit form, we find it in the Jesus or Heart Prayer, and also in the Christ meditation. Any form of spiritual practice, when done with heart and sincerity, is an invitation for the divine to work on and change us as a human and divine being. So any type of spiritual practice can become this prayer. (Including basic meditation.)
We can do it from the view of me as a human being inviting and allowing the divine to transform me – all of me, through and through. (Including what seems the most essential in me, and what “I” may hold onto and cherish the most.) And it can also, if it happens on its own, be a resting as the divine recognizing itself as all there is.
Note: I gave a couple of examples from the Christian tradition since that’s what I have the most experience with, but this goes for all traditions and non-traditions. If I use a more theistic language, I would say that there is one God and many religions and spiritual traditions, and all of them have some good pointers.
This is very basic, as so much here, but the basics is often important.
When I pray for a shift in myself, healing for someone else or a situation, or something else, I stay with it until there is a clear shift, and then continue a bit longer so the shift can deepen and stabilize.
In other words, I “pray through” what often is an initial sense of lack of alignment, gruff, or things in me or the situation generally not aligned with a deep healing or flow.
And then I revisit it as often as feels needed.
Of course, I don’t always do this. But I do it when the situations feels especially important.
When I pray, my main intention is for the divine to work on me and align me more deeply with reality. (This may include emotional healing, an opening of the heart, a more genuine well-wisihing for myself and others, a more genuine receptivity, a softening or release of whatever I think “should” be, and so on.) If I pray for someone else or a situation, I may gently hold a specific outcome but mainly ask for whatever is best for the person or the situation to happen.
I personally find it helpful and interesting to sometimes explore my connection with aspects of the divine like angels (frequently), saints (St. Francis and others), avatars (Amma) and so on.
And yet, God is always primary. God is what I always return to, including in my prayers and my gratitude.
Whether we see God as Source, the wholeness of existence, that which allows and is all, as Mother and/or Father, or something else, God is primary.
Even if emphasizing aspects of the divine can be instructional, helpful, and interesting, and sometimes easier, I remember (through grace) that God is primary and I keep returning to God in my prayers and gratitude.
This is another very simple and basic topic, and yet it’s good to remember since the basics are important.
When faced with a challenging situation, my first impulse is often to change the situation. Most of the time, that’s what makes
And yet, sometimes, I encounter a situation that doesn’t change, or that challenges me more deeply. What makes more sense then is to ask how I can allow the situation to transform me.
To help me reorient, I may pray for receptivity, clarity, and an open heart. I pray for clarification, maturing, and finding love for what is. I pray for being more consciously aligned with reality, truth, and love.
These are wishes and prayers for myself independent of any situation. And a challenging situation reminds me and may allow me to find more sincerity in the prayers.
In addition to these prayers, I can find more specific ways to allow the situation to transform me.
And for me, this often includes….
Being honest with myself and others in the situation. As Adya says, this honesty often takes the form of a confession. It can be a confession of deep fears in me, and thoughts and wishes I feel embarrassed or shy speaking out loud.
Inquiry where I allow the situation to help me see through my initial beliefs and find what’s true for me. I am willing to allow the situation to strip me of my old beliefs and identifications.
Heart-centered practices where I allow my old orientation (of complaining, blame, see myself as a victim) to make way for befriending the situation and what it brings up in me.
Energy healing where I invite in healing for emotional issues and identifications triggered by the situation.
And perhaps noticing all as what I am, for instance through the Big Mind process or headless experiments.
What’s the outcome of any transformation that may take place? We can’t know in advance, and it’s an ongoing process. At the same time, I have hinted at some in the list above.
We may find more honesty (and real kindness) in how we relate to ourselves and others. We may befriend the situation and what it brings up in us, and more. We may find what’s more true for us than our initial stressful beliefs. We may find healing for emotional issues triggered by the situation. We may mature as a human being. We may live with a little more kindness towards ourselves and others. We may find a little more capacity for allowing
I am with Adyashanti and a small group of people. At some point, he sits down and asks me if I have a question. I explain my situation with the long-lasting illness (chronic fatigue) to
him,and ask what the divine asks from me. He starts speaking gibberish.
The night before, I prayed for my situation with the chronic fatigue to transform me deeply, and for the divine as me locally support this process. I remember having the question of whether the divine (as the fullness of existence) asks something specific from me or if I (as the local divine) can decide, or if there
In the dream, as Adya starts answering my question, I am aware it’s a dream and that I – my mind – need to put words in his mouth. I am also aware that I don’t know the answer. That is perhaps why he starts sputtering and speaking gibberish as a faltering Westworld robot. If I think the divine has a specific request or plan for me, I don’t know and cannot know what it is. I cannot provide the answer.
The answer is more that it’s a dialogue between the divine as the wholeness of existence and the divine locally as me. We together find the answer. It’s a process. An ongoing discovery happening within the One.
At first, the dream seemed a little disappointing. After all, instead of answering my question, Adya sputtered nonsensical sounds. And now, I see that’s the perfect answer. In my dream, I have to provide his answer, and I cannot. If I think the divine “out there” asks something specific of me, I cannot know for certain what that is. The answer is more that it’s a process, a dialogue between the divine as all there is and the divine locally as me.
This is not new to me. But I see that when I recently prayed for my situation with the fatigue to profoundly transform me, I had in mind that the divine asks it of me and has something specific in mind for me. Almost as if it’s a test, and when I more fully allow the transformation, my health may eventually return. These were not very conscious assumptions, which is perhaps why my mind (the divine locally) produced this dream, allowing me to see more clearly these assumptions and that they are not so helpful.
It’s more helpful to see it as a dialogue and an ongoing process, and as happening within the One.
What is prayer?
For me, it’s what happens when I have a prayerful orientation. When there
This means any moment can be a prayer. And any activity can be a prayer.
Prayer can also happen through any form of meditation, any form of mindful movement, any form of heart-centered practice.
Prayer can also happen with words. I may pray for an external situation to shift. Or I may pray for
In any case, it’s the divine locally (as us) having a prayerful attitude towards itself as the divine as the fullness of existence. It’s all happening within and as the One. It may even be a part of the process of the divine locally gradually waking up to itself as a local expression of the One.Read More
I find myself with a quite serious and lasting (at least so far) health condition (CFS), and although I sometimes do pray for assistance with my health and for my health situation to transform, there is another prayer that’s closer to my heart.
And that’s a prayer for receptivity, inner transformation, and alignment with truth, reality, and love.
If my outer situation, in this case my health, doesn’t change, something in me needs to change. How I see it, relate to it, how I am in relation to it, needs to change. It’s an invitation for me to align myself consciously more closely with reality and love.
One of the more central and traditional forms of Christian prayers is let Your will be done.
It’s an acknowledgment that we, as human beings, cannot absolutely control anything. Life has the final word.
Also, it helps us reorient to this reality. As we engage in this prayer, it works on us. Life’s will is already being done. That’s just how it is. And by engaging in this prayer, we can allow it to work on us. We allow our conscious view and the views of all our human parts to realign with this reality.
And that makes it easier when things don’t seem to go “our way” as we see it as human beings. There is a little more receptivity. A little more curiosity. A little more opening to find the genuine gifts in what’s happening, even if we don’t initially like it very much.
A companion prayer is I give it all up to You. I give all of what’s happening with me as a human being up to life (or God, Spirit). I give it all up to the larger wisdom and love. I give it up as compost for whatever can come out of it – clarity, insights, receptivity, or something else.
These two prayers form a context for my life. Let Your will be done. I give it all up to You. And within that, I live my life much as before. I am still active and engaged. I still have hopes, wishes, and plans. I still try to be a good steward of my own life. I still try to fulfill my roles as best I can.
In my experience, I can find healing in three ways.
I can find healing for the issue itself, whether it’s physical, emotional, a relationship, or something else. This is the conventional approach and obviously an important one.
I can change my relationship to it. From seeing it as a problem and an enemy, I can befriend it and what it triggers in me. This, in itself, changes a great deal and is often experienced as a great relief.
I can find that which is already whole beyond the issue. This may be my wholeness as a human being, which is always here and goes far beyond any issues. It can be being part of the wholeness of the Earth or the Universe or all life. It can be being what I am, that which any experience happens within and as.
How do I go about finding these forms of healing?
Since the first is the conventional approach, the world is full of advice and opportunities for this one. I have written about my own experiences in healing from CFS and Lyme, and also in finding healing emotionally and for parts of me (using inquiry, heart-centered approaches, TRE, Vortex Healing, and other approaches).
I can change my relationship to anything that seems problematic through, for instance, inquiry or heart-centered practices. Inquiry for me is often The Work, Living Inquiries, Big Mind process, parts/subpersonality work, and dialogue with a part or actual person. Heart-centered approaches may be ho’oponopno, tonglen, prayer, gratitude explorations, or whatever else works for us.
Finding what’s already whole depends on what level of wholeness we wish to explore. In periods when I have done meditation and yoga daily, I have found an amazing sense of my wholeness as a mind-body whole. I have also found it, slightly differently, through receiving and giving Breema and especially when I have been immersed in the atmosphere through an intensive or when I gave daily sessions. The connection with (or as) the wholeness of the Earth and Universe can come through being in nature or any number of practices, for instance, the Practices to Reconnect. Finding myself as that which already allows and is any experience can happen through meditation, inquiry, heart-centered practices, and many other ways.
And really, it all depends on grace.
Getting to the point where we are able to have issues and discomfort is grace. It required this amazing universe and Earth and us as temporary parts of it. That’s an amazing grace if there ever was one.
Getting to get to the point where we are interested in finding healing, in any of these forms, is grace.
Having a glimpse of the possibility of these forms of healing is grace.
Inviting it in, through intention and exploration, is grace.
When it happens, it’s grace.
What we call grace is really just the universe or life coming together a certain way locally. Sometimes, we may see just some things (the ones our mind tells us are good) as grace. Sometimes, we may see everything as grace (because it is).
Note: In the “finding wholeness beyond the issue” section, I lumped together things I normally would keep in separate categories. Finding mind-body wholeness is quite different from finding the Earth/Universe wholeness, and those are again quite different from finding what I am, that which allows and is any experience. But that’s OK. In this context, and especially in a brief article like this, it seemed OK to group them together. And it’s a reminder that this should really be a book rather than just a set of brief articles.
I have noticed several times that someone is on my mind. And later, that person asks if I did healing for them. I guess if we have healing abilities, which we all probably do, then thinking about someone we care about can be experienced as a form of healing. And if that healing ability is stronger than average, it may be more noticeable.
I just re-read Angels in My Hair by Lorna Byrne in which she says something similar. Having someone we care about in mind can be a form of prayer for that person. I am also reminded of my mother who says “can you think about me” when she asks for energy healing 🙂
Through the day, there are many periods where I have spare attention. It may be after I wake up and am still in bed, before falling asleep, when I walk, shower or cook, when I use public transportation, when I rest, and so on.
During these periods, I often use my spare attention intentionally. I may notice what’s here – sensations, thoughts, sight, sound, taste, smell. I may intentionally rest with – or as – what’s here. Nowadays I often use Vortex Healing for myself or others. And in the past (going back to my teens), I have often used heart prayer (Jesus prayer), ho’oponopono, or tonglen.
Sometimes, I just let the mind do what it does in the moment and gently notice it.
For the first several years after the initial opening, my practices were simple and heartfelt. They consisted of resting with what’s here, notice all as awakeness (Spirit, the divine, intelligence, love), gratitude for whatever happened, prayer, Heart/Jesus prayer, Christ meditation, tonglen, and giving it all over to Spirit. All of these happened very naturally.
Then, I got “sidetracked” by traditions and teachers with ideas of how things should be done.
And now, I am hoping to find back to a more natural and simple approach. For instance, giving it all over to the divine.
Notice. Notice what’s here – emotions, stories, the fear or wounds behind them.
Rest with what’s here. Take time resting with and as it.
Give it all over to Spirit. To the divine.
There is a beautiful simplicity in this. It’s a reminder that all is Spirit. And it doesn’t exclude any other approach or exploration.
In natural rest, we give it all over to presence.
Notice what’s here. Allow it to be as it is. Notice it’s already noticed. Notice it’s already allowed.
Notice the space it’s happening within. Notice the presence it’s happening within and as.
When we give it over to presence, we are really just noticing and acknowledging that our current experience – all of it – is already happening within and as presence.
Another way to say this is that we are giving everything over to God. In this case, God means the presence that’s already here, that’s everything we experience, and inherent in what we are.
A variation of this is more of a second person relationship to God. We give everything over to God through intention and prayer. I give everything over to you, God.
Did Jesus exist?
The reality is that we don’t know. There are hardly any historical sources suggesting that he did exist, apart from Christian sources.
Looking at the data, it seems that it’s very possible that he didn’t exist.
And yet, most historians and theologians seem to gloss over this question. They don’t mention it, or perhaps say of course he existed, don’t be silly. (As one theologian did when I asked.)
Why this lack of intellectual honesty and courage? It’s perhaps because aspects of Christian theology, as it was created in the centuries after Jesus may have lived, depends on Jesus having existed as a historical person.
And yet, maybe there is another way. A way where we can be intellectually honest about the historical question, and still benefit as much if not more from the Jesus story, and Jesus’ teachings.
The Jesus story is, as many have realized and pointed out, a metaphor for the awakening process we all may go through. Adyashanti’s Resurrecting Jesus is a clear and insightful book on this topic.
Jesus’ teachings applies to us whatever label we put on ourselves – Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist or whatever else it may be. As any good wisdom teachings, they are pointers. Questions. Experiments.
And, it seems, we can connect with the Christ energy whether or not we know if Jesus existed as a historical person. The Christ presence responds, as it seems to have done for centuries or millennia, to prayer and Christ meditation. (I experience it quite strongly, and know that many others do too.)
Note: Was Jesus a Pagan God, by Freke and Gandi, is an interesting exploration on this topic.
Note 2: Some say that the mutual disagreements between the texts in the New Testament is an indication that Jesus didn’t exist, but that seems a weak argument. Disagreement between historical sources is expected and inevitable, even if they refer to something that did happen.
Also, some point to the striking similarities between the Jesus story and stories from religions and mythologies in the middle east prior to Christianity. It almost seems that someone did a cut & paste job when they created they Jesus story. Again, that doesn’t seem that this is a good argument for the non-historical Jesus.
Finally, there is the Shroud of Turin. From what we know about it today, it’s possible that it’s real. Science can only determine if it’s a fake, and haven’t been able to conclusively do so yet. In any case, it’s an interesting question.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to do inquiry, or various forms of meditation, or even shift into natural rest. The mind is too busy, too agitated, perhaps in too much reactivity.
At these times, it can be especially helpful to do something physical. Go for a walk. Run. Lift weights. Seek out nurturing touch. Do yoga. Tai chi. Chi gong. Breema. Even tapping. Or just take a break.
After this, it can be easier to do inquiry, meditation, or shift into natural rest.
Most, or all (?), spiritual traditions have known this, and often recommend doing a body-centered activity before (or during) inquiry, meditation, natural rest, or prayer.
It helps channel the restlessness or agitation in a way that’s more supportive of these practices.
It can also be helpful to inquire into ideas about this such as: “I have to be in the right state of mind to inquiry/meditate/pray”, “I need to inquire/meditate/pray now”, “it’s better if I inquire now”, “this agitation/distress is preventing me from …..” and so on. (The Work.) Also, can I find agitation, distress, reactivity, or even inquiry, meditation, or prayer? Or someone unable to do inquiry now, or someone who should? (Living Inquiries.)
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.
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. Read More
I notice how helpful I find all-inclusive practices.
An all-inclusive gratitude practice helps me shift out of a split perception. I write or say I am grateful for….. [anything in my life, what I initially like and don’t like]. It helps me open up for the grace in it all. It invites me to gently and quietly question my assumptions about what went right and wrong, what’s good and bad fortune. It invites me to find the gold in whatever is here.
An all-inclusive prayer helps me find love for my enemies, whether these are things I at first don’t like in myself or the wider world. I pray for the health and well-being of myself, suffering parts of me, others, all beings in the three times, and the Earth, and especially those I have closed down my heart to. This helps me open my heart to all of me and all of life. It helps me open my heart to my whole field of experience, finding love for it. Loving kindness (metta), tonglen, ho’oponopono, Heart Prayer, placing myself and others in the heart flame, and other practices can also be very helpful here.
An all-inclusive inquiry practice helps me leave no stone unturned. I examine even my most basic and cherished assumptions about myself, the world, life and reality. I can use The Work to question any stressful story in my life. I can use the Living Inquiries to question anything that seems real and solid to me. And there are many other forms of inquiry as well.
The reason these practices can be helpful and powerful is that they reflect reality. Reality is one. It’s Spirit. It’s love. It’s aliveness. It’s life. And all-inclusive practices, such as these, invite this seamless whole that we are to recognize itself more fully. It helps shed assumptions about reality, especially about separation, and notice what’s already here and what we already are.
Note: Whatever these practices brings up of wounds, fear, apparent resistance etc. can be brought into the practice. If a wound or fear comes up during the gratitude practice, include it. If it comes up during prayer, pray for that too. If it comes up during inquiry, look at what it is.
In Christianity, they differentiate between passive and active prayer.
Active prayer – or meditation, or inquiry – is where “I” engage in a practice. And this is made possible by life and Spirit. Grace is what makes it all possible.
Passive prayer – or meditation, or inquiry – is where it seems to happen on it’s own. The grace, in a conventional sense, is more obvious. And what I can do is make myself available and receptive to it. I can align myself with it.
These can also be seen as two aspects of the situation, and one may be more obvious for a while, and then the other.
The active aspect is what “I” do, what the human self, the me, the doer, the observer is doing.
The passive aspect is grace. It’s life making it possible. It’s life or soul or Spirit working on the human self.
And it’s really all life.
It’s life engaging in prayer while (at least for a while) taking itself as a human being, a doer, and an observer, and it’s life making this possible through grace.
It’s life appearing as conventional grace, and as an I and me aligning itself with this grace (or not), and that aligning is grace too.
Really, it’s all grace. It’s all the play of life and Spirit. Whether it looks like grace, in a conventional sense, or not, it’s all grace. It’s all made possible by life and Spirit, and it is all life and Spirit. It’s life and Spirit in its play as what’s here.
Another way of organizing some of what can be helpful in a dark night of the soul.
Head center. Inquiry into our stories about what’s happening, who we are, and the nature of reality. Seeing through these stories helps us find equanimity (no need for drama when we see they are stories), and helps us be a loving presence for what’s surfacing. Inquiring into stories about what’s surfacing (emotional and physical pain, discomfort) is a support in feeling sensations as sensations, without getting (too much) caught up in the associated stories.
Heart center. Heart center practices helps us recognize what’s here as love, and meet it as love. These include prayer (for guidance, support), giving it all over to the divine (our body, mind life, pain, pleasure), metta (to ourselves, the suffering self, and also friends, enemies, the world), tonglen (same), ho’oponopono (same), all-inclusive gratitude practice, Christ meditation, and more.
Belly center. Breathe, feel the sensations, allowing them to move through. Notice any images or words “stuck on” the sensations, and inquire into these. That makes it easier to feel sensations as sensations. Also, body-centered activities and practices can be helpful such as walking in nature, gardening, or Breema, yoga, tai chi and more.
Support. Find support from friends, family, people who are in the same process as yourself, and guides who have gone through it. Eat well. Rest. Get plenty of sleep. Drink plenty of water. Find a nurturing environment. Engage in nurturing activities. Learn about the process. (Spiritual emergencies, dark nights.) Give yourself a break, when you need to. See if you can find patience, and trust in the process.
Also, if you are drawn to it, notice what makes it difficult to do any of the things that seems supportive and helpful, and take it to inquiry.
This is obviously a very simplified outline, and a great deal more can be said about each point. I wrote this mostly because it’s interesting to see how the practices can be organized according to the three soul centers. I also see that Buddhist traditions tends to emphasize the head, while also including the heart and belly, and theistic traditions tend to emphasize the heart, with head and belly sometimes included. It seems that it may be possible to go through a dark night emphasizing practices from any one of the centers, perhaps with support from one or both of the two other.
I thought I would write another brief post on ways of relating to a dark night, mainly since the previous one is more of a draft and quite rambling.
Here are some pointers that have been helpful to me, in no particular order.
Find your own way. What works for some in some phases does not work for others or in other phases. We all need to find our way through it. That’s part of the lesson, it seems, of the dark night.
Take care of yourself. Eat well. Get plenty of rest. Drink lots of water (so your urine is pale). Go for walks. Do strength training. Engage in body centered activities that work for you, such as Breema, shiatsu, massage, and possibly yoga or tai chi. (Be mindful of the effects of some of these, such as yoga, tai chi and chi gong. If the energy intensifies or goes “up”, slow down or do something else.) Seek out a nurturing environment and nurturing activities. Spend lots of time in nature. Walk barefoot. Do gardening. Visualize a grounding cord to the center of the Earth. Seek healing for old wounds and traumas that may be surfacing. Finally, be careful with medications, especially psychoactive medications. Use these as last resort, and if you take any, start with very small doses as you may be more sensitive than average. (I have not been drawn to using drugs of any types, and would avoid it as much as possible.)
Do inquiry on what’s coming up – wounds, trauma, resistance, blame, self-blame and so on. Find what’s more true than your initial assumptions.
Stay with the sensations, as much as possible, instead of going into stories. Inquiry can make it easier to stay with sensations as sensations.
Do mindfulness practice. Contemporary secular mindfulness practice may be gentler, and more appropriate to the dark night phase, than many forms of meditation and some forms of body-centered practices.
Find love for what’s here. This can be as simple as saying to what’s coming up (pain, distress, anger, fatigue, pride, fear), or to our body (heart, brain), I love you, I wish you ease. We can use ho’oponopono, tonglen or metta on ourselves or suffering parts of ourselves, as well as other people in our lives, and the earth. We can place ourselves in the heart flame. We can hold satsang with what’s here. (You are welcome. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love. What would satisfy you forever? What are you really?)
Devotion and prayer can be helpful. Offer it all – the pain, the situation, your body and mind, your life, your resistance – to God (Spirit, Christ, Buddha Mind). Ask for guidance. Ask for inner and outer support. Ask for the intensity of what’s going on to be reduced (if it feels overwhelming). Ask for support in meeting what’s here with love. Ask for what’s happening / your life to benefit all beings. Give thanks for what’s happening (including, or especially, that which you don’t particularly like). Do the Jesus/heart prayer combined with the breath and heart beats: “Lord Jesus Christ, Have mercy upon me”. (If this last one intensifies or brings the energies up, try to do it with more ease, or wait until another phase of your process.)
Uncover a clear intention to…. find love for what’s here, heal what needs to be healed, give your mind-body and life over to the divine, follow your guidance, or whatever else seems helpful and aligned with love and clarity. This can be done through setting an intention (temporary value), clarifying your intention (more helpful), or asking life/the divine for support in uncovering a clear intention.
Gratitude can seem difficult to access during a dark night, at least at times. And yet, it’s something that can significantly ease the process. Try a simple gratitude prayer or mantra of of thank you, thank you, thank you as you go for a walk, lie in bed, or do daily activities. Experiment with gratitude lists. These lists can include only what’s easy to be grateful for. Or they can be all inclusive lists, including that which it’s not so easy to be grateful for. (Daily inclusive gratitude lists can be shared with a gratitude practice partner.)
Be mindful of the effects of any meditation and energy practices. Some forms of meditation or energy practices may be helpful, at least at times. For instance, insight meditation may help you see through what’s coming up (wounds, resistance) and who you are (the basic duality), and stability practice may support you in feeling sensations and allowing what’s here. Other times, these practices may intensify the energy running through your system, further open a very open system, and bring the energy up while it could benefit more from grounding.
Learn the basics about spiritual emergencies and dark nights. Get to see that it’s a natural process, not uncommon at all, people get through it, and very few if any wish it wouldn’t have happened when they are out on the other side. This can bring a sense of trust in the process, and some relief from the idea that something “went wrong”. (It will feel that way, and that’s good to know too.)
Seek guidance from someone you trust, who is knowledgeable and skilled in guiding people through spiritual emergencies, and ideally who has gone through it themselves. This person can help you navigate through it a bit more skilfully. (This also goes for therapists.)
Find a community of people going through something similar, whether it’s through reading (people who recorded their stories), on the internet, or in person. These can be a good source of advice, and it can be comforting to know that others are going through the same.
Seek support from family, friends, like-minded people, guides, environment and wherever else you can find it.
Don’t blame others or the world for your pain. That’s not where it belongs, although it’s easy to lash out when the pain seems unbearable. Let people in your life know what’s going on, and apologize as needed. Also, notice and bring to inquiry any attitudes and stories that would get you to lash out and blame others.
Keep it simple. During this phase, which can feel quite overwhelming at times, keep it simple. Spend time in nature. Use a simple mindfulness practice. Stay with the sensations as sensations, the best you can. Find love for what’s here, perhaps using a simple practice such as metta or ho’oponopono. Ask for support (from the divine, from people). Write a simple gratitude list. Don’t blame yourself for not being able to engage in apparently more sophisticated practices. (If you do, that’s OK. And it’s also something you can take to inquiry.)
Give yourself a break. It’s a tough phase. There will most likely be resistance, fear, overwhelm, a sense that something went wrong, and a sense that you are doing something wrong – including in how you relate to what’s happening. That’s part of the process. It’s OK. Life is guiding the process, and it will not always look the way we expect or wish. At times, you may not feel up to doing any of the things that you know may be supportive, and that’s OK too. (It may be a relief to look at shoulds in inquiry, as well as whatever thoughts stops us from – for instance – continuing a simple practice, whether it’s mindfulness or inquiry or something else.)
I thought I would give a brief update here. There is still a lot coming up for me, of previously unfelt, unloved, unseen material, and it’s sometimes challenging and sometimes quite moving. It’s all coming up with an invitation for it to be met, felt, loved, seen as what it is – in form and as the same as everything. Things keep falling apart in my outer life as well, perhaps as a reflection of a dismantling of inner patterns as Barry suggests. It’s also because I get caught in what surfaces and live it out, to some extent, and what surfaces is sometimes quite wounded and very young.
Some practices I find helpful these days:
The Living Inquiries. I am in the LI training program, so do the LIs most days, and sometimes several times a day. I find it very helpful, and it’s an approach that makes it easy to explore what I previously have looked into through more traditional (Buddhist) sense field explorations.
Tonglen & Ho’oponopono. I use both of these on anything that my mind takes as an “enemy”, wherever in my world this apparent enemy appears – subpersonalities, physical symptoms, emotions, resistance, life circumstances, other people, a dream figure or anything else. It helps shift how I relate to and see these. There is a curiosity and a question in this. Is it really an enemy? Is my perception of it as an enemy as true as it first appears? What’s my perception of it as I continue exploring it through tonglen and ho’o? (Maybe it’s even revealed as – what a thought may call – awareness and love?)
Holding satsang. I also hold satsang with subpersonalities and whatever else is here (anything can be taken as a subpersonality). You are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me. What would satisfy you forever? What are you really?
Heart flame. I find and fan the flame of the heart with my attention and gratitude. Then – in my mind – place my whole body and being inside of this flame, allowing it to burn away anything that’s not similar to itself (clarity, love). It burns away any trance, any illness.
Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE). I continue inviting in neurogenic tremors, often throughout daily life – when I sit in a chair, stand waiting for the tea water to boil, lie in bed etc. Sometimes, I also bring something stressful to mind to invite tension around that to release through the tremors.
The Work. I sometimes use The Work too. Right now, I have to admit I am more drawn to the Living Inquiries, although I see them as equal and complementary. They are both forms of inquiry. They both invite beliefs to be seen through and soften or fall apart. And yet, the Living Inquiries work on images, body images, and sensations more specifically, which I find helpful now. It’s as if it more directly goes to a more primal part of the mind.
Rest. Whenever I remember, I intentionally rest, allowing any experience to be as it is. Noticing the sensations, allowing them as they are. Noticing the sounds, images and words coming and going. Noticing it’s all already allowed. This is an alert form of resting. More accurately, it’s a resting from being caught up in images and words. They come and go, and are noticed as objects instead of being identified with…. and taken as a subject, as what I am. This is also called Shikantaza, or natural meditation, and it’s part of the Living Inquiries.
Stable attention. I sometimes also take time to bring attention to the sensations of the breath at the nostrils, or at one nostril. This invites attention to stabilize, and it becomes more pliable and a support for any activity in life (and just being). I am just getting more back into this, and wish to do it more again.
Prayer. I pray for guidance. For seeing through the trance. (Victim etc.) For support seeing through the trance. For support in meeting what’s here with love. For support in any way that’s most helpful for me. For support in living from love and clarity. For support in giving my life over to God (Spirit, Christ, Buddha Mind) wholeheartedly. For support in meeting any fear in me with love and clarity. For my life being in service of life.
Additional. I have also done some EFT and TFT. I go for walks in nature. I make sure to drink plenty of water, usually in the form of different types of herbals teas, so my urine is pale or almost clear. (This really helps with any sense of energetic stagnation in my system.) I take some herbs and similar things (chulen, rhodiola, eleuthero, echinacea). I get plenty or rest and sleep. I do things that sparks my passion (photography, drawing, reading). I connect with friends. (As or more important than much else here.) And so on.
I am in a phase again where there are occasional strong contractions. My mind contracts into beliefs (complaints, self-pity), my breath gets shallow, I resist the contraction and think I am doing it wrong, and when it goes far enough, I partly forget and partly don’t want to use any tools in my tool box. At this point, time is what seems to help the most.
Here are some reminders to myself of what I can do.
As the contraction starts
- Notice the trigger, the situation and beliefs
- Give mind/body over to the divine, including the contraction and resistance to the contraction
- Drink water (herbal teas, beef broth), take Chulen
- Use the body. Shake, neurogenic tremors / TRE + walk outdoors
- Breathe and stay with the sensations/feelings
- Rest, notice what’s here is already allowed
As it happens
- Walk outdoors
- Notice sensations, and beliefs about what they mean, take to gentle inquiry
- Is it true this sensation means I am doomed?
- Is it true this sensation means something terrible happened? Is it true it means something terrible will happen?
- Do these sensation say anything about what’s real?
- Breathe and stay with the sensations/feelings
When it’s lighter
- Inquiry on triggers and the contraction itself
- Some beliefs: I made a mistake, I lost what’s important to me, my life will be miserable
- Set intention to remember these things when the contraction starts
- Pray for guidance and support
- Training stable attention (attention on the sensations at the nostrils)
- Rest, allow what’s here + notice it’s already allowed
- Bring attention to the heart flame, put mind/body in the flame, put contraction and resistance to it into the flame
Although I am not an expert on these things, I thought I would share how I experience a few basic practices that have been helpful for and important to me.
One of these is stable attention, or samatha. It’s a way of training attention to be more stable and pliable, often through focusing on the sensations of the breath (for instance at the nostrils) or an imagined or visual (object in front of you) image. This benefits almost any activity in life, from interactions with family and friends to work, and any of the other forms of meditation or practice.
Another is rest, also called natural rest, natural meditation, or shikantaza in Zen. This is an allowing of everything to be as it is. Or, more precisely, noticing that it’s already this way. Everything that’s here now is already allowed as it is. There is a shift in gravity from being identified with certain viewpoints and identities, to noticing that what we are is what’s here now as it is. This rest can happen within a great deal of activity. It’s a rest that’s not necessarily obvious to an outside observer.
Yet another is insight, inquiry or vipassana. Some insight into the nature and dynamics of the mind comes naturally through any of the other practices mentioned here. And it can also come from a more intentional and dedicated investigation, for instance through exploring the sense fields, The Work, the Living Inquiries, or other forms of inquiry. This insight is into the nature of mind (what we are, that which all happens within and as), the dynamics of the mind (the nature of clarity and delusion), and also everyday insights into our lives, history, and interactions and relationships with others and the world (who we are, as human beings).
Then there is prayer. This may be a noticing or setting of intention. It may be a request for guidance, clarity and support. It may be an opening to what’s larger than and beyond ourselves as a human being. It may be a noticing of what we are.
There is also body-inclusive practices, such as yoga, tai chi, chi gong, and Breema. The body may be a support for training a more stable attention. There may be insights into the body and the subtle energy system, and how these interact with the rest of who we are. And body centered practices may also invite the three soul centers – head, heart and belly – to open, as do natural rest, inquiry, and prayer.
There are practical guidelines for how to be in the world, aka precepts. Following these, to the best of our ability, tends to bring some stability and ease to our lives and relationships with others and the world. They tend to give a preview of how it is to live from clarity. They show me that I am unable to follow all of them all of the time, so it gives me a sense of understanding and empathy when others don’t follow them. And they highlight places in me where there is still confusion. If I notice that I lie, I can investigate this. For instance, I can ask myself what’s the perceived benefit of this particular lie? What are the consequences of this lie? Do I lie from fear? If so, what do I fear would happen if I am honest? If what I fear happens, is it still OK?
Finally, there is a large number of approaches to healing and health, such as Tension and Trauma Release Exercises which I have found very helpful for myself. Trauma – which here is used in a broad sense – can wreak havoc in any life, regardless of the amount of practice we do, so it’s good to address it and invite it to heal. This also brings insight into the dynamics of the mind, and a sense of empathy and understanding for others who have gone through stressful experiences and may have some amount of trauma in their system – which includes almost all of us.
One flavor of spirituality is about consciously aligning with reality, with what is.
Noticing that what’s here is already allowed, it’s easier to intentionally welcome what’s here.
Noticing what’s here as love, it’s easier to find love for what’s here. For instance, noticing how this anger is here to protect the image of me, how it’s devoted to this me, how it comes from love and is love, it’s easier to find love for it.
Noticing what’s here as awakeness, it’s easier for parts of our psyche and experience to notice itself as awakeness.
Noticing the different selves as images and sensations, it’s easier to see how the appearance of a self is created and that there is no real (absolute, solid) self there.
Noticing what’s here as already God’s (reality’s) will, it’s easier to welcome and appreciate God’s will, and to welcome and appreciate what’s here.
Noticing that God is already closing and opening doors for me, it’s easier to find some receptivity to and perhaps curiosity and even gratitude for these closing and opening doors.
Noticing how life invites me to consciously align more closely with what is, it’s easier to ask for support (guidance, be shown the next step, inner/outer support) to consciously align with what’s here.
In my late teens and twenties, it was easy and natural for me to have the intention of whatever happens with me and whatever I do to benefit all beings. Then, during the dark night, this fell away and I found an appreciation for taking care of myself first. And now, the initial intention seems to come back, perhaps held in a slightly different way.
May this be for the benefit of all beings. This experience. This situation. What I say and do.
How is it to find this intention? When I find this intention, what changes? Is it true this intention is not already here?
Is it true life is not already this way? Is it true that what’s here is not already for the benefit of all beings? Can I know for sure it’s not already this way?
Can I find the idea of benefit outside of my own images? Do I really know what’s of benefit? Do I really know if anything is or isn’t a benefit? Can I find beings outside of my own world of images? How is it to live from this intention, while recognizing what’s more true for me? (That “benefit” is an idea in this mind, not inherent in the world, and I cannot know what’s of benefit or not. And the same goes for the word beings.)
How is it to notice that this intention is an intention for all the beings in my world to benefit. The beings in me – the different parts, voices and subpersonalities. And for the beings apparently out there in the world (and yet still images in this mind) to benefit. An intention for all beings – whether a thought says they are internal or external – to be welcomed, met with respect, thanked, loved, notice what they really are. For these beings to allow themselves to relax, and find liberation from their struggle.
When I have fear or frustration or dullness or physical pain or a sense of stuckness come up, how is it to find this intention? How is it to say may this benefit all beings? How is it to have that quiet prayer, that quiet wish?
Some things I am asking the divine (Christ) for…..
Meeting what’s here – including beliefs, wounds, pain – with love, recognizing it as love, as the divine/Christ. For the divine/Christ to recognize what’s here as itself.
Deepening connection with the divine/Christ through the belly, heart and head centers, and especially the belly and heart.
Strengthen connection with the divine/Christ, for the connection to continue to strengthen, be unshakeable.
To plant a seed inside of beliefs/wounds so when they come up, I remember to breathe, feel, connect w the divine/Christ, ask divine/Christ for help, relate to it in the way that’s most clear/loving/helpful.
Robust health and vitality, natural strength. For the body to find its way to health, vitality and aliveness. For the body to know it’s OK for it to find its health and vitality. For the mind to find its way to health and clarity. For the mind to know it’s OK for it to find its way to health, rest and clarity.
To have a good, easy, enjoyable income, abundance, no lack of money.
To heal anything frozen, paralyzed in me, heal any insecure attachment patterns.
To bring healing and resolution into my recurrent childhood dream about the witch, representing the mother wound. Find love for the witch, clarity, understanding.
Guidance, receptivity to follow the guidance. Meeting fear – of following guidance – with respect, love.
Recognizing – see, feel, find love for – that what’s happening may be as good or better than what I wanted.
Trust that there is a divine intelligence/love behind what’s happening.
Confidence. Natural confidence.
Finding in myself what I seek in others. Finding in myself what I seek – love, comfort, nurturing, encouragement, guidance, clarity.
Process: (1) Connect with the soul center above the heart, and the flame there. (2) Follow it up the central channel up through the head. (3) Asking. Staying with it. (4) Bring attention back down to the heart and belly, anchoring.
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
– Matthew 5:43-48, The New Testament (NIV).
This came to me again following some recent events in the media.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
This is what most of us have learned from our family, friends and culture. We have taken it on as a habit.
As I shift into intending to find love for my enemies, and as I pray for those who persecute me, I may notice the more of particulars of what I have learned and taken on. I may notice the fears that come up if I don’t hate my enemies. I have an opportunity to identify and inquire into beliefs of why I should hate my enemies, what will happen if I don’t, that someone is or can be my enemy, and labels such as hate, enemy and persecution.
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
This is what happens naturally when there is more clarity, and a living more from the heart. It’s also a medicine or antidote to our habitual pattern of seeing something or someone as an enemy. It’s an invitation for exploration, to see what happens when I try it on. And it’s an invitation to see if it’s already this way for me, and that I just haven’t noticed.
As I try this as medicine, exploration, or inquiry, there is a closer alignment with what I really am. It’s easier to notice that I am a “child” of “my father” which is clarity, love, presence, and that we are not two.
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
God’s presence and love is there for all of us, and it is who we really are.
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
Again, an invitation to go beyond what’s familiar to us. What happens if I find love for the person who is here – in my life, in my mind – no matter what my thoughts tell me about that person? What happens if I find love for what’s here – whether it’s a situation, an emotion, an image, pain, identification – no matter what thoughts tell me about it?
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
And again, an invitation to notice what I really am. What’s here when there is more clarity on my thoughts about the other person? Is it true love is not here? Is it true it’s other than what I am?
Holding satsang with aspect of the psyche is inquiry, prayer, meditation, therapy and life all in one.
It’s curiosity, exploration, inquiry. It’s taking a closer look to see what’s there.
It’s devotion, gratitude, humility. It’s a form of prayer.
It’s noting that which is already open to what’s here, and finding what I am as that. It’s basic meditation.
It benefits from and supports a more stable attention. It’s a form of training a more stable attention.
It invites subpersonalities to heal, liberate, and notice what they really are. It has some of the same effects as therapy.
And it’s life. All of it is an expression of life. And daily life brings subpersonalities into awareness, and is where any changes are lived.
Friend, you lie quiet,
watching the dawn light color your heart,
dreaming of healing for your hurt body
lying there unanswerable to your will.
You breathe deep and your breath has two sides:
inside and outside. You are on both, being breathed.
The future approaches. You will heal or
you will go back to being God.
Which will you do?
Oh by all that is beautiful –
May it be that you live!
May your body heal happy and whole!
May energy fill and delight you!
May we join the dance your presence gives!
May you live!
And if you die?
Oh dear self, by all that is beautiful,
Know you are Safe! Everything is All Right
Forever and Ever and Ever!
The most wonderful, exquisite, familiar
Truth is what is True, and welcomes you.
It will be very easy.
You lie quiet now, praying.
A great healing is coming
and you want to be ready.
The colors of your heart blend
with the light of the morning.
You are blessed.
– Elias Amidon
In one sense, there is a mutuality among meditation, prayer, and inquiry. Each support the other.
And in another, very real, sense, there is very little or no difference between the three.
It all depends on what’s meant by the different words, of course.
Meditation may mean noticing that what’s here is already allowed. It’s already allowed by awareness, it already happens as awareness. Any response to it happens after the fact.
Prayer is an opening to what’s larger than what I may take as a me or I. It’s receptivity, and often awe, humility, gratitude.
Inquiry is curiosity about what’s here. What’s really here?
There is a mutuality among these. Meditation is a noticing of the context it’s all happening within, and this supports prayer and inquiry. Prayer opens for a sense of receptivity and humility, which supports meditation and inquiry. And inquiry invites in a sense of curiosity, which supports meditation and prayer.
And already here, the three are shown to be very close to each other. Receptivity and curiosity is part of meditation. Curiosity and recognizing the nature of reality/mind is part of prayer. Receptivity and recognizing the nature of reality/mind is part of inquiry.
It’s part of one movement of noticing, receptivity, curiosity.
When I pray for my enemies, I notice a shift into well wishing for the person, state or situation, and a noticing of him/her/it as God, as love.
I see someone on the street and there is a reaction to his facial expression, posture, or voice. I notice I feel uncomfortable about him. My thoughts make him into an enemy, and they make my reaction to him into an enemy as well. I pray for him, there is a shift into well wishing for him and myself, and even for my own confusion and reaction. And there is a noticing of him as God and love, and my reaction as God and love. He doesn’t need to change, and what came up in me doesn’t need to change.
I notice a sense of tiredness. I feel uncomfortable about it. My thoughts make tiredness into an enemy. I shift into well wishing for it, and notice it as God and love. It doesn’t need to change.
I remember a class mate in middle school. There is a slight discomfort and resentment there. My thoughts make him into an enemy. I pray for him, there is a shift into well wishing for him and well wishing for me. And I notice him as God and love, and my own innocently confused reaction to him as God and love.
If God’s will is what is, then my will is what happens when a thought is taken as true, and I want something else. And when that’s what is, that’s God’s will too. It’s included in God’s will.
So God’s will is equal to my will, since my will is included in God’s will.
And God’s will is not equal to my will, since my will – what happens when I take a thought as true – appears to be in opposition to what is. I tell myself how things are, and that they shouldn’t be that way.
It’s uncomfortable when my will is not equal to God’s will, so how can I invite it to shift?
I can pray let your will be done, and invite in a general shift. I can pray for my enemies, whether they are people, states, or situations. I can inquire into my thoughts – telling me what is isn’t right, find what’s more true for me, and invite in a more finely grained shift in that area.
The truth is that until we love cancer, we can’t love God. It doesn’t matter what symbols we use—poverty, loneliness, loss—it’s the concepts of good and bad that we attach to them that make us suffer.
– Byron Katie
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
– Matthew 5:43-44
Anything thoughts tell me is wrong, bad, not God, becomes an enemy for me, in my mind, when those thoughts are taken as true.
It’s uncomfortable, painful, it’s how I create suffering for myself.
So what can I do? Here are a few approaches I find interesting and helpful: Prayer for he/she/it, ho’o, tonglen, The Work, sense field explorations, the Big Mind Process, Headless experiments, and more. And all are supported by inviting in a more stable attention, perhaps by bringing attention to the breath, or through body-centered practices such as yoga, tai chi, chi gong, or Breema.
All of this helps me shift into finding genuine love for he/she/it, and it may even help me notice it’s already love. It never was anything but love.
And I do it for my own sake. It’s a relief. I function from more clarity. I function from more kindness. There is a sense of coming home.
I did an inquiry yesterday on I need them to see me as OK. The situation was a group in Oregon where I spoke up and felt misunderstood, and also in elementary school where I raised my hand and got “the look” from a couple of class mates.
Here is the first turnaround:
I need me to see me as OK.
I found several examples of how this is as or more true than the initial statement (I need them to see me as OK).
It’s more peaceful, I am available to take care of myself, I am more friendly to myself and others, I find love for myself, I am more engaged, there is a sense of connection (with myself, others, life), there is more receptivity, there is a sense of coming home.
And how can I do it?
(a) When I come from honesty, I see myself as OK. When I am honest with myself and others, and live in integrity. In this particular inquiry situation, when I speak honestly and respond honestly.
(b) When I find love for others (my “enemy”), there is a relief and I experience myself as OK. When I pray for others – especially those I tell myself am not giving me what I want – and myself. When I do ho’o or tonglen. When I inquire into my thoughts about others, and find what’s more true for me. In these ways, I find or shift into love for others and myself. I may also see it’s all already love.
(c) When I inquire into a belief and find what’s more true for me, I see – through simple, real, and honest examples – I am OK, and that others and life is OK. At least, that’s been my experience so far.
(d) In the specific situation I did inquiry on, I see that we like each other, he seemed to have the best of intentions, and it was most likely an innocent misunderstanding. Also, we are all there to explore together, so whatever I say from honesty is completely fine. It’s where I am at. That’s why we are there.
Adyashanti sometimes talks about true prayer.
In front of the altar in the main temple of Bodh Gaya, I spent hours and days sincerely and deeply asking for complete awakening, no matter what it would cost. The sequence of events that led into the dark night started not long after.
A little less than two years ago, I asked to be shown what’s left, and a couple of weeks later was plunged into primal dread and terror lasting for almost a year.
And even now, bubbles of confusion (wounds, fears, beliefs) surface, and sometimes feel overwhelming.
It’s like cooking. If the heat is too high the food is burnt. If it’s too low, it doesn’t cook at all. And if it’s in the middle, it cooks well and in a reasonable time.
In my experience, asking to be shown what’s left, or asking for clarity no matter the cost, seems to invite in a quite hot fire. The universe was kind and gave me what I asked for. Another thing I got out of it is recognizing the value of medium heat, and that I can ask for that as well.
So now, when I remember, I ask for the middle ground. When bubbles of confusion surface, let it be in a way I can handle better, so I can relate to it with kindness and some wisdom.
In my experience, a true prayer feels like an alignment with what’s already ready to happen. If I leave out asking for how, the universe seems to turn up the heat to the point where I feel burnt. So I can ask for it to happen in a gentle way. In this case, medium heat seems to cook the food the best.
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?
There is a big difference between like and love, and perhaps also not such a difference.
With love, I can (a) develop or find love for anyone/thing, and (b) notice it’s already loved, it’s already love. The first may happen through prayer, tonglen, ho’o and other practices. The second may happen through any of the previous ones, and also inquiry. And I don’t really “develop” love, of course. I may invite in a feeling or state of love, which comes and goes as a guest as any other feelings and states, and that may be very helpful. It may even be helpful in noticing that I am and everyone/thing already is love. In my experience, beliefs is what stops me from noticing my love for everyone/thing, and noticing I and it all is already love. So inquiry is a good tool to invite beliefs to unravel, revealing all as already love. This is a love that’s not a feeling, not a state, although recognizing it can – in a sense – be called a state, a state of recognition.
In terms of liking, I may (a) initially like someone or not, (b) then like the person because I find love, and (c) still want or not want to spend time with that person, and like or not in that sense. Initially, I like someone, something or a situation, or not, and that may come (partly, mostly?) from personality and/or beliefs. Then, as I develop or find love for him/her/it, I like because of that love. And if it’s a person, I notice I still am free to be with that person or not, and like or not in that sense.
When I write someone/thing or he/she/it here, it’s because the “object” is just about anything in the world. It can be a person. An emotion, pain, memory, wound. A thought, including my images of the world, others, and myself. A situation. Taking a thought as true. Or anything else.
So I can be oblivious to my love for someone. I can develop love for that person, including through different practices. I can notice my love that’s already here, and that the person and I already are love.
I may initially like that person or not. I may then like the person because of finding my love for him or her. And I will still chose to spend time with that person, or not, and in that sense like him or her, or not.