Whatever happens – sounds, sights, sensations, smell, taste, thought – already happens within and as awareness. Awareness is already present everywhere in this field of experience. Attention may go different places, including lost in thought, and that too happens within and as awareness.
I have been drawn to war movies (Band of Brothers, The Pacific) over the last couple of weeks, and mentioned it to a friend. They are sobering, helps me contact that quiet undercurrent of dread I have experienced lately, and helps me put things in perspective. She suggested it could have to do with past lives and I said perhaps, and was also a little puzzled. How would it be useful to think it had to do with past lives?
Of course, it can be helpful to play with ideas of past lives – through active imagination, dreams, regression therapy, apparent memories or any other way. It helps me unfold and notice what’s here.
Whatever ideas I have of awakening, can I notice they are images – reflecting what’s already here now, alive in awareness?
What are my ideas of awakening? What images of awakening do I put “out there” in the past, on others, in the future? What do I hope it will fix in my life?
It is better to awaken. I need to awaken. Awakening will take care of my problems. Awakening will give a deep sense of rightness. Awakening will fill a hole in me. Awakening will be an exiting adventure. Awakening will facilitate my development. It is possible to awaken. It is possible to not awaken. It is possible to be awake. It is possible to not be awake.
Some of these feels more true for me, such as a few of the last ones. Others don’t feel as true, but they are still good to explore further – also because they are common in our culture.
(a) The stories I have about the wider world, equally apply to me. Whatever qualities, characteristics and dynamics I see out there, in others and the wider world, are right here. I can find specific examples of this to ground it and make it more real for myself, and I can always find one more. Whatever story I have about someone else or the wider world, apply to me, and not only at times in the past, but right now in how I relate to the ones I have this story about.
Towards the end of his life, Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss had a toy piglet. It is perhaps a little odd for a grown and respected man to have a stuffed toy.
What is even more odd is that he and his wife treated it as a child, and wrote a book about him.
It is easy to dismiss it as the folly of an old man. But is that all?
Playfulness was always central in his life, and his playfulness in relating to his piglet is a teaching in itself. It is an invitation for us all to find more playfulness in life, including in how we use our imagination.
And there is also wisdom here.
When we interact with others, we usually assume we interact based on who they are. But we are really interacting with them based on who we imagine they are. When Arne Næss treated his piglet as a living being, it becomes clear that he is really interacting with his imagined piglet. This is an invitation for us to take a closer look at this in our own life.
A quick look at the entertainment world – books, movies, songs, fairy tales, mythology – tells us that we are fascinated with the unpleasant.
Why is that? I can find several reasons for why I am drawn to it….
The most obvious is that these things (death, pain, cruelty etc.) are part of human life, and this is a way for me to get familiar with it in a safe way. I get to explore it without putting myself at risk. And I get to prepare for it should it happen to me or someone close to me. If or when something like it happens in real life, I am somewhat prepared.
Other people know something fundamental about life that I don’t.
That seems to be a common thought or feeling, and one I recognize from my own life as well.
It is easy to understand why we have that assumption. We are more familiar with the facade of others than what is going on internally. And that facade is often one of being in control and knowing what is going on.
The sense that others know something fundamental about life is also a projection. Others are a mirror for myself, so it is a good guess that I know something fundamental about life, but I don’t quite notice or “own” it.
A sentence from any source can be used as a koan, a question for own exploration.
It is most interesting when the statement appears mundane or counter intuitive, and even if it is a familiar reminder, it can be an invitation to look in a fresh way and perhaps a little further.
This is it.
This is all there is. All my images of the world and myself is my own world of images.
All I see “out there” – in present, past, and future, is here now. All goals, dreams, qualities, dynamics, whatever it is, is here now.
It is an image here now. The feelings and atmosphere it evokes are here now. The qualities and dynamics I see out there is here now.
Even the images of present, past, and future themselves happen in my own world of images.
I can notice and get familiar with this in the usual ways. I can inquire into my beliefs. I can explore my sense fields. I can recognize my images as images as they happen. I can notice my emotions as here now, and not belonging to anything out there in the past, future, or present. I can recognize my goals as stories here now. I can find the qualities and dynamics I see in others here now, in myself, including in how I relate to that person. I can ask myself if what I seek is not already here.
In this way, I get double benefit from my world of images. I can use my images, goals, and so on as guides for choices and actions in the world. And I can recognize it all already happening here now.
The most obvious is that projections allows us to orient and navigate in the world. Our world of images create a sense of space and time, places whatever happens in the sense fields in space. connects images of past, present, and future events, places boundaries to create the appearance of objects, filters, interprets, and makes sense of it all. This can most easily be noticed through simple sense field explorations. Without our world of images, we wouldn’t function.
This world of images also creates an infinitely rich world. We can place boundaries anywhere. Find connections anywhere. Look at any (imagined) object from any number of perspectives. Create any number of contexts which dramatically changes how we see something. We quite literally create our own worlds through the images we place on top of the sense fields.
When I look at the type of spirituality I am most familiar with, I find three facets. And one, two, or three of them can be present at once, it seems, and in any combination.
First, there is fascination. We can be fascinate by many things, including the idea of what we may get out of spirituality (awakening, healing, peace, good rebirth), our own path and experiences (insights, dreams, glimpses), the stories in the tradition (cosmology, teaching stories), the teacher (personality, what they represent), more peripheral aspects such as reincarnation, supernatural powers, and auras, or even more peripheral things such as astrology, foreseeing the future, reincarnation, and also anything unexplained and weird such as UFOs, crop circles, ghosts and so on.
Fascination can be very helpful. It can make us feel good, hopeful, and inspired. It can help us stay with a path. It can be a needed temporary escape from problems. And it brings up projections, inviting us to find here what we see over there.
The Mohammad caricature saga continues, and it is all quite predictable. Extremists on one side go out of their way to insult traditional Muslims. Extremists on the other side allow themselves to be insulted and try to retaliate by burning flags (pretty hopeless) or violence. And the media, always looking for a good story, focuses on the extremes and not the large middle ground dismayed by the whole spectacle.
Deliberately offending or hurting someone seems a poor strategy, and in this case, it only serves to inflame an already too hot and dangerous situation. Can we expect others to gain respect for “freedom of speech” when what they see is the most misguided and infantile examples of its use? Much better then to say what we have to say, with clarity and respect, defend freedom of speech through laws and regulations, and demonstrate responsible use of free speech.
It may also be good to notice that we have taboos as well, and there are places where we are hurt in a similar way, the boundaries are just located differently. When a discourse treads close to our own taboos, we expect respect and sensitivity, so we may as well treat others with that same respect.
The recent Tiger Woods story is a reminder of a simple pointer:
Would I do what I am doing if everyone knew about it? What would I do differently if everyone would know it?
In our digital and highly connected age, it is very possible that everyone will know, and that gives an added reality to the question.
Here is another take on those questions: When I am alone, do I behave as I would if others were here? How would it be to act as if others were here? When I am with others, do I feel and act as free as I do when I am alone? How would it be to feel and act with the freedom that is here when I am alone?
As we move beyond childhood and teenage years, it is common to recognize in ourselves what we see in our parents, and especially what bugged us about them. And this can also be a good exploration in a more structured way.
What is it my parents do/did that bugs me? In what ways do I find myself doing the same? What are some specific examples? How does it feel to let that sink in? Is there more compassion? More understanding? More of a sense of us being in the same boat? An impulse to take more responsibility for how I act?
What is it my parents did or do that I admire? What are some specific examples? How am I doing the same or something similar? How does it feel to take that in?
Its a common dilemma: We imagine a boundary, elevate our side and devalue what is on the other side, and make it difficult for ourselves to recognize it as an imagined boundary.
It is easy to see among some Christian fundamentalists. In their own minds, they elevate humans as being made in God’s image, and devalue non-humans as a lesser category of beings. From within such a mindset, removing the boundary means that humans ends up in the same group as beasts, and it is not a very attractive proposition.
The solution is of course to elevate non-human species and gain a more realistic view of humans. We can recognize the immense beauty of the natural world. The intelligence, caring and fit to their environment of all species, come about through millions of years of evolution. Our shared ancestors and close kinship with all life. How we are all expressions of a seamless process of evolution of this planet. The ways our evolutionary past is played out in our daily life, and how a recognition of this can be a great help to us.
There are many reasons why I wouldn’t be a good teacher, at least not of the traditional type. Apart from not being qualified in any way, not being trained, and not enjoying projections coming my way, I often feel that traditional spiritual teachers play a cruel game with their students.
There is a reason for that cruel game, of course, and it is a quite innocent one. When there is an awakening, it is natural for many to want to share it. And when there is an absence of awakening here, combined with neediness at a human level, it is natural to seek something that will fill that hole, and spirituality can be one of those things.
What I see in the wider world – in others, culture, nature, fictional and real life stories, science, dreams – is a mirror of what is here now. It is a mirror of the characteristics and dynamics here now.
My world – the world I relate to and live within – is my own world of images. It is my own overlay of boundaries and interpretations on pure perception.
And it all happens within and as what I am and everything is.
It is quite common to hear people say they are sensitive to the energy of others. It may be especially noticeable – and sometimes uncomfortable – in close quarters with others over time, and if the others have relatively strong internal conflicts going on. I notice it mostly on the train or bus, and I know many others notice it – among other times – when giving bodywork.
There are lots of ways to work with this. Visualize a cocoon around oneself. Working on grounding. Visualize roots down the earth. Visualize clarity. Pray for the other and yourself. Visualize healing for both of you. And so on. All of these may work fine to some extent and for a while, but they won’t work completely or always because they are just alleviating the symptoms.
When I explore this for myself, I find that the discomfort I experience has one source, and that is my own beliefs about what is going on. Here too, I find that the discomfort I experience comes from friction between my stories of what should be and what is.