I think sometimes we need to take a step back and just remember we have no greater right to be here than any other animal.– David Attenborough
Right now there are Tibetan Buddhist monks in a temple in the Himalayas endlessly reciting mantras for the cessation of your suffering and for the flourishing of your happiness.
Someone you haven’t met yet is already dreaming of adoring you.
Someone is writing a book that you will read in the next two years that will change how you look at life.
Nuns in the Alps are in endless vigil, praying for the Holy Spirit to alight the hearts of all of God’s children.
A farmer is looking at his organic crops and whispering, “nourish them.”Someone wants to kiss you, to hold you, to make tea for you.
Someone is willing to lend you money, wants to know what your favorite food is, and treat you to a movie.
Someone in your orbit has something immensely valuable to give you — for free.
Something is being invented this year that will change how your generation lives, communicates, heals and passes on.
The next great song is being rehearsed.
Thousands of people are in yoga classes right now intentionally sending light out from their heart chakras and wrapping it around the earth.
Millions of children are assuming that everything is amazing and will always be that way.
Someone is in profound pain, and a few months from now, they’ll be thriving like never before. From where they are, they just can’t see it.
Someone who is craving to be partnered, to be acknowledged, to arrive, will get precisely what they want — and even more. And because that gift will be so fantastical in its reach and sweetness, it will quite magically alter their memory of angsty longing and render it all “So worth the wait.”
Someone has recently cracked open their joyous, genuine nature because they did the hard work of hauling years of oppression off of their psyche — this luminous juju is floating in the ether and is accessible to you.
Someone, just this second wished for world peace, in earnest.
Some civil servant is making sure that you get your mail, and your garbage is picked up, that the trains are running on time, and that you are generally safe. Someone is dedicating their days to protecting your civil liberties and clean drinking water.
Someone is regaining their sanity.
Someone is coming back from the dead. Someone is genuinely forgiving the seemingly unforgivable.
Someone is curing the incurable.
You. Me. Some. One. Now.— Danielle LaPorte, The Manifesto of Encouragement
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, a Way to God
This is the perfect answer. We allow our human self to be loved by Spirit, by Big Heart. And, in that, is a profound transformation.
When we open up for universal love, a love that loves all of us, we notice what in ourselves we feel is unlovable. I may feel unlovable. I may feel that parts of me are unlovable. And it can be uncomfortable at first to open to this universal love. And yet, to open to this universal love can be profoundly healing. It helps us find love for ourselves and all these parts of ourselves.
In a sense, it models the love we can find for ourselves. In another way, this universal love is what we already are. Allowing ourselves to be fully and deeply loved by the universal divine love is a step into discovering that we can love ourselves in the same way. And that’s a step into finding this same universal love for others and the world. And finding ourselves as that love.
There are many ways we can support this process. Allowing ourselves to be loved can help us see that we feel unlovable or that we feel some parts of us are unlovable. We can then get to know these parts of us. Listen to what they have to tell us. What they would like from us. How they experience us. We can identify beliefs and question them until we find what’s more true for us. We can invite in healing for the issues behind not feeling lovable, or not feeling that some parts of us are lovable. And so on.
This is an example of how a very simple practice – allowing ourselves to be loved by universal love – can be profoundly healing, can deeply shift our relationship with ourselves and others and the world, and can even invite us to notice what we are and what we are to notice itself as all there is.
I have only discovered a few simple practices that are so aligned with reality and can lead to such profound shifts: Allowing ourselves to be loved by universal love. Ho’oponopono. Tonglen. Heart Prayer. And basic meditation (notice + allow).
Enlightenment is when everything within us is in cooperation with the flow of life itself, with the inevitable.
When I post quotes, it’s usually because they reflect what I have discovered for myself. I can vouch for it from own experience. (Which doesn’t mean it isn’t more to discover or other equally valid ways to express it.)
This quote is different. I have not experienced this for myself.
Phases of awakening
This may be because the awakening process goes through phases.
The awakening process may start with an interest or intuition. Then, there may be glimpses. Then, a more stable noticing. Then a reorientation of the human parts of us to align with reality (oneness). And after that, people seem to report what Adya describes in the quote.
Awakening versus enlightenment
There is a difference between awakening and enlightenment. Awakening is really a process, and it includes glimpsing what we are, what we are noticing itself, stabilizing that noticing, and allowing the different parts of our psyche to align within this new conscious context of oneness.
Adya seems to reserve the word “enlightenment” for when that last process is relatively complete. I hardly ever use the word “enlightenment”, perhaps because my process is not there yet.
The alignment process
For most of us, our human self was formed within separation consciousness. It developed in a family and culture operating from separation consciousness, and it itself likely operated from separation consciousness.
This means we have a great deal of “bubbles” of separation consciousness in us, even if there is a general awakening. These take the form of old habits, unquestioned beliefs, emotional issues, and traumas.
So when there is a general awakening here, and these bubbles come to the surface, they come with an invitation for us to see, feel, and find love for them, to recognize these bubbles as the divine, and provide an opportunity for them to align with reality – with oneness.
That’s how healing happen. That’s how the awakening can be more stable through situations. And that’s how we can live from the awakening in more situations. (Embodiment.)
In a sense, we are the guru for these still suffering parts of us. They come to us as devotees seeking our assistance to liberate.
They seek to join in with the awakening, and through that heal.
Sometimes, life can be “impatient” and bring up a lot of these bubbles at once and for a while. This can be what I think of as a “dark night of trauma” where a lot of old – including partly ancestral and cultural – trauma comes up to join in with the awakening.
Worded too strongly?
When Adyashanti says “everything in us”, I can’t help wondering if it’s worded too strongly. How can I know that it’s everything? How can I know that something won’t be triggered that I didn’t know was there?
There are a couple of important distinctions here.
One is realignment of these parts of us versus how we relate to them when they come up. I suspect it may not be possible to allow all these human parts of us to realign fully with conscious oneness. There are just too many of them, and many of them are hidden from our view.
But we can get into the habit of relating to them more intentionally when they come up. We can recognize them for what they are, meet them, and invite them to realign with oneness. It can become our new habit, but even then, something may be triggered that catches us for a while.
Another distinction is transcending versus realigning. During the awakening process, there has been phases – both early on and later – where there is a strong oneness and no separation consciousness bubbles seem to come up. They are temporarily transcended. For whatever reason, they are not triggered. But they are still there, and they surface later on in another phase of the process and when triggered by something in life.
I assume that what Adya is talking about is when these bubbles have surfaced and – through how we relate to them – been allowed to realign with oneness (healed, awakened).
Since the past is unreal and the future is unreal, all your thoughts are about nothing.– Byron Katie
For us, the past is imagined. The future is imagined. And what we call the present is our ideas about something already gone.
Since all our thoughts are about the past and future, they are about nothing.
When you fall in love with the unknown, you are free.– Byron Katie
This is not the unknown that’s outside of what we think we know. This is the unknown within what we think we know. The receptivity that comes from knowing we cannot know anything for certain. And that this applies to everything, including our own personal life and who and what we take ourselves to be.
To take full responsibility for your life (which is not judging yourself) is actually
a key to being free, because it means that no one, and no past experience, can control or determine your current state of being. The keys to your life, and your freedom, are in your hands.– Adyashanti, from Fierce Love
How can we do this?
A good start is to take responsibility for how I relate to this situation — to myself, others, what’s coming up in me, the situation I find myself in, life.
I cannot blame anything or anyone for how I relate to whatever is here.
I can ask myself: Do I take responsibility for how I relate to this situation? If not, how would it be to take responsibility for it?
And what in me urges me to blame someone or something else? What’s the belief? Identity? Emotional issue?
In this situation, what does it give me? What happens when I do it? How would it be to take responsibility for how I relate to it?
Going one step further, I can see that I am always my own final authority. Even if I tell myself I am not, I am still my own final authority. I cannot blame anyone or anything on my choices.
When I blame someone or something else, I give away my power. I overlook what I have control over and what’s my responsibility. I miss out on the life I can have when I take responsibility for how I relate to what’s here, and for my own choices now and in the past.
I have decided to stop being self-aware…. what I do is none of my business– I’m baby on social media
Although this can seem like a joke, there is more to it. I’ll look at each of the two main parts of the quote.
What I do is none of my business
When we find ourselves as capacity for all content of experience – the world as it appears to us and everything to do with this human self – we also see that it all lives its own life. The world and this human self doesn’t need an additional layer of “I am this human”, “I am doing this”, “I chose to do that” to function. It already functions well independent of it.
In a very real sense, what I do is none of my business.
Of course, as a human being in the world, I am responsible for my actions and how I chose to relate to my thoughts, emotions, and circumstances.
And as capacity for all of it, I find that it’s all living its own life.
The two complement each other and are two sides of the same coin.
I have decided to stop being self-aware
Mindfulness with “shoulds” added to it can become tight and stressful.
Find a lighter touch. See how it is to notice that allowing and noticing is already here. It’s inherent in what we are. No great extra effort is needed.
This easy noticing is, in a sense, the end of trying to be self-aware. It’s just a noticing that it’s already here and inherent in what we are.
Getting to that easy noticing sometimes does involve some effort and struggle. At first, the apparently unnecessary effort and struggle may be just what’s needed.
The real end has no beginning– Byron Katie
I don’t know how Byron Katie sees this. For me, the real end means to come home to what I am here now. And that has no beginning since its always here. It’s always what I am.
Byron Katie speaks here from a conscious noticing of what she is. What she is notices itself as all there is. If the recipient is not in this place, Katie’s words may be impossible to understand or require a lot of mental gymnastics to begin making intellectual sense. If the recipient is in a similar place as Katie, then the words make immediate sense and points to what’s here. They are simple and straight forward.
You meet your destiny on the road you take to avoid it– Jean de La Fontaine in Fables
There are several ways to understand this.
If we want to avoid something in ourselves, we take actions to avoid it, and we may meet it anyway. Life has a tendency to bring it up for us no matter which path we take.
What’s hidden in us is always here. Any number of life situations can trigger it and bring it to the surface. And there is also an inherent dynamic in us that brings what’s hidden to the surface. (Of course, we may resist and struggle with it.)
Also, sometimes, by actively trying to avoid something, we make decisions that causes us to meet just what we wanted to avoid.
For instance, if I try to avoid confrontation, I may avoid revealing important information to someone, and that omission may be the cause of a future confrontation.
The quote is sometimes misattributed to Jung, which is understandable. I imagine he could have said something like it in a specific context.
Almost always, the most important element in overcoming a regressive life pattern is starting to focus more on the heart center than on the head. Allowing your heart to be vulnerable, open, and connected, even if it feels scary, is an unavoidable step. Start by opening to sensing the presence in your heart center. Hold whatever arises in the presence of the heart. And from the heart center, inquire into the underlying nature of patterns of resistance and avoidance. But do it from the sense of presence in the heart. That will make all the difference.– Adyashanti in A Revolution of Being: Embracing the Challenge of Awakened Living, 2018 Online Retreat
Every story, in relation to pain, is a painful story.
~ Adyashanti, Silent Retreat Vol. 57 ~ Q&A
I don’t know the context of this quote, but I have found the same.
Any story – when it’s held as true – is a painful story.
Why is it painful? Because holding it as true means to identify with it and the viewpoint created by the story, and it’s just one of many viewpoints all with some validity and none with any absolute truth. Holding onto a story – any story – creates discomfort and pain because it’s out of alignment with reality. Somewhere in us, we know that. And life will remind us.
Life will create situations that rub up against the story so we feel we need to defend it (it seems like defending ourselves since we identify with it) and that, in itself, is stressful. Life will also remind us that the story is just one of many that are valid about the same topic and none hold any absolute or final truth, and we may not want to see it since holding onto the story can feel safe.
When we hold any story as true – no matter how innocent or apparently helpful and beautiful – we create stress for ourselves. We create struggle within ourselves. And that’s the inherent mechanism in that dynamic that invites and motivate us to examine what’s going on.
It invites us to examine the particular stressful story we have, see what happens when we hold it as true, find the validity in the other stories about the same topic, and hold it a little lighter. And it invites us to recognize this dynamic in all stories, no matter what they are about.
This doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to hold stories as true. We all do, to different extent, and often without even knowing it. It’s often first when life rubs up against one that we notice it. It’s natural and innocent, although it also creates stress and pain for us, and may lead us to act in ways that creates more stress and pain.
It also doesn’t mean that we need to somehow drop all beliefs in all stories at once. We can’t even if we wanted.
It’s more a process of examining the currently stressful story and find what’s more true for us, and then examine the next. It’s a gradual process, it goes over time, and it’s ongoing. There is no particular endpoint – at least not in this life – and doesn’t have to be.
Only a few know, how much one must know to know how little one knows.– Werner Heisenberg (1901 – 1976)
In one sense, we don’t need to know much to know how little we know.
We just need to know that our thoughts are questions about the world, educated guesses at most. They are practical tools to help us orient and navigate in the world. Their role is not to give us any final or absolute answers to anything.
And yet, to know that, we often need to wade through a great deal of worldly knowledge. We need to know a lot about different things and see that what we know is a tiny drop in the ocean of all there is to know, and also that what we think we know often isn’t as certain or valid as we thought. Even our most basic assumptions are up for question.
At a social level, this is especially clear when we learn about the history of thought, science, and worldviews, and we see how different it is across cultures and how much all of it changes over time. What we take as a given today – about specifics and our worldview as a whole – will be seen as obsolete by future generations.
There is a shortcut to realizing how litte we know, and that is to examine our thoughts more directly. We can see how our mental “field” creates an overlay of images on the world and makes up what we think we know about ourselves, others, and the world. It’s all created in our own mind. None of it is “out there” inherent in anything. It’s all just questions about the world. None of it contains any final or absolute truth.
If we rely on knowing things to feel safe or loved or good about ourselves, then this can seem distressing. But, in reality, this realization and noticing is immensely freeing.
We get to see thoughts more as they are, and we get to see their role and function and what they can do – which is to provide some provisional and practical orientation and guidance, and what they cannot do – which is to provide any truths or final answers.
That goes for what we collective think we know and understand about the world. It applies to our personal lives and what we think we know about others, situations, and ourselves. And it applies to our most basic assumptions about existence.
I am no wino but I am no saint either. A medicine man should not be a saint. He should experience and feel all the ups and downs, the despair and joy, the magic and the reality, the courage and the fear. He should be able to sink as low as a bug, or soar as high as an eagle. Unless he can experience both, he is no good as a medicine man.
You cannot be so stuck up, so inhuman that you want to be pure, your soul wrapped up in a plastic bag, all the time. You have to be God and the devil, both of them.
Being a good medicine man means being right in the midst of the turmoil, not shielding yourself from it. It means experiencing life in all its phases. It means not being afraid of cutting up and playing the fool now and then. That is sacred too.– John Fire Lame Deer
You don’t have to be someone to be of infinite worth. To be bestows infinite worth upon you.– Adyashanti, The Inherent Meaning in Being
This can sound like a well-meaning platitude, but it’s far more than that.
One the one hand, the idea of value comes from culture and what’s seen as having value varies between culture and over time. Assigning value to something has a function, and it can be helpful to examine how we assign value and if there is another way of doing it that makes more sense.
At an ordinary human level, we all agree that babies have infinite worth. Growing up, many of us are taught that our value comes through our actions and that erodes our sense of having infinite value just by being. This is a means of control and it creates a lot of suffering and judgment of ourselves and others.
So why not recover the sense of infinite value of each human being? This can easily co-exist with accountability, responsibility for our own life and so on. Seeing the infinite value in each of us, independent of personal characteristics and roles, provides a sense of basic worth that allows for a more healthy life and a more healthy society.
In our western culture, we see nature as a commodity and having value from the value it has to us – and this is often limited to short-term commercial value. This leads to destruction of ecosystems, eradication of whole species, and systematic abuse of non-human beings. Not valuing all life threatens all life, including our own.
Why wouldn’t all life have infinite value? Why not see all life as having infinite value? This would lead to a more careful approach in how we relate to and make use of nature and non-human beings. We would be far more concerned about their welfare. It doesn’t mean we can’t eat or live or grow food but we would do it with more concern for the lives we are impacting and we would look for ways to make up for it and support a more thriving Earth.
When we take a big picture and deep time view, we see that the universe has unfolded from energy to matter to suns to solar systems to this living planet and all that’s currently part of this living planet. We are all expressions of the universe exploring itself and bringing itself into consciousness. We are all expressions of this living planet and ways for it to bring itself into consciousness. As this, we and all life has infinite worth just by being as we are.
In a more immediate sense, independent of assigning value to anything, we are capacity for the world as it appears to us. This human self, all other beings, and everything happens within and as what I am. In this oneness, ideas of value is not needed in order to live with reverence for life.
How can we explore this in our own life? How can we deepen into this and live more from it? In a sense, this whole website is about just this. We can identify and examine beliefs. We can explore how our minds creates its experience of value and lack of it, and see through it. We can engage in Practices to Reconnect. We can use heart-centered practices to find a more loving relationship with ourselves, others, and all life. We can find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us. We can discover that this human self, others, and the world happen within and as what we are. And we can explore how to live from that in our life.
To oppose something is to maintain it. … You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road– Ursula Le Guin
This is true in ourselves and in the world.
Sometimes, it is important to oppose something in order to avoid harm. These are what Joanna Macy call holding actions. But in general, if all we do is opposing something, it tends to be maintained and even grow stronger.
It’s important to create, envision, and live what we want to see more of – in our own life and in the world.
And it’s also important to question our more deeply held assumptions and find another way of looking at ourselves and the world that’s more aligned with reality and more life centered.
It also helps to understand where the problems come from and how they are created. In our world, it’s often systemic problems, world views, and trauma. And behind that, fear. In ourselves, it’s often the same.
Happiness may look entirely different from the way you imagine it.– Byron Katie
We have ideas of how a happy life looks. We have ideas about what life situations we need to be happy. Perhaps it’s health, money, a loving relationship or something else.
And yet, life may surprise us.
We may find ourselves in a very different situation than we imagined and find happiness there. We may live in a different place than we imagined. Do different type of work. Be in a relationship with someone we didn’t imagine. And find that we are very happy in that situation.
We may also find that happiness is less dependent on specific circumstances than we thoughts. We may find ourselves with an illness and perhaps without money or a partner. And still find happiness. We may find happiness in situations we imagined would be terrible and didn’t want at all, and perhaps still wish were different.
How is that possible? It’s possible through questioning our stressful beliefs about what is and what should be. Through questioning our stressful beliefs about anything in our life. And through questioning our most basic assumptions about ourselves and life.
Sometimes, this questioning is a natural and organic process and happens as part of our life. Sometimes, we can fuel it a bit through more structured inquiry and perhaps with the assistance of others who know the process.
The Work of Byron Katie is one way to do this.
If you want to improve the world, start by making people feel safer.– Stephen Porges
What happens when we feel unsafe? We go into survival mode and tend to think mostly about ourselves or a small circle of family and friends. It may fuel us vs. them thinking, blame, radicalism, and even violence.
What happens when people feel safer? In general, we relax, can function better, and have a larger circle of concern. It tends to encourage we-thinking and a bigger picture view.
What are some things that will help people feel safer?
What can we do at a social level? A good start may be universal healthcare. Good social safety nets. Trauma informed teachers, doctors, and parents. Reduced economic inequality. Reduced poverty.
And what can we do as individuals, for ourselves? A good start is to explore how to be a safe place for the parts of us that don’t feel safe. Give love to the parts of us that feel unloved or unlovable. Listen to the parts that has not been listened to. Be there for the parts we have run away from.
You are the recipient, not the creator, of experiences– Adyashanti
Everything happens on its own. And then there may be a thought saying “I did that”.
This is an ongoing exploration and noticing for me.
Within stories, I see that everything – including feelings, thoughts, actions, identification and so on – has innumerable causes. I take one thing, find a cause, and can find one more, and one more. Everything that happens is a local expression of movements within the whole. Everything that happens has causes stretching back to the beginning of the universe (if there is one) and to the greatest extent of the universe.
In immediacy, I notice a thought happen, an emotion happen, an action happen. They happen within and as awakeness. (The normal awakeness everyone experiences.) They happen on their own.
I may also notice a thought saying “I did it” and a sensation that seems connected with it. And that happens on its own too.
I can pay attention to one sense field at a time – physical sensations, sounds, sight, smell, taste, thought – and notice how things appear in each one. They appear and vanish without a trace. (Apart from perhaps reflected in thought.)
With Living Inquiries (based on traditional Buddhist inquiry), I explore identities – the thinker, the doer, the observer, and so on.
With The Work of Byron Katie, I can explore thoughts – I did that, I am the one creating this feeling, I am the one creating this thought, I am the one who created this action.
I can also explore the thought that “everything happens on its own” and see what I find. Is there something in me that want to hold onto the thought? Rehearse it? That get more attached to the thought than noticing what it refers to? Does that thought too happen on its own?
Our minds aren’t conditioned to recognize the clearly obvious.– Adyashanti
What are some of the obvious things Adya may refer to?
One is what we are. We are that which our experience happens within and as. It’s obvious. It can’t be any other way. It’s part of our daily experience. And yet, for most of us, our mind doesn’t recognize it. Or if it does, it dismisses it as not important – as something weird, outside of how society tells us it is, and perhaps not practical. (It may be a bit weird and outside of how others tells us it is, but recognizing it and taking it seriously can profoundly transform our perception, life, and how we relate to ourselves and the world.)
Another obvious thing is that our thoughts don’t tell us the truth. They are questions about the world. They may be practically useful as a guide. And yet, they do not hold any final or absolute or complete truth. Reality is always different from and more than our thoughts about it. And that goes for our “big” thoughts about who we are and how the world is (“I am ultimately a human being in the world”), and the “smaller” thoughts in daily life (“she doesn’t like me”, “he shouldn’t have cut me off in traffic”).
Enlightenment is being able to simultaneously experience unity and individuality without experiencing any conflict.– Adyashanti, Mt. Madonna Silent Retreat February 2019
Yes, this fits my experience as well. I notice I balk a bit at the word enlightenment because of it’s baggage and the associations some have about it. But it is appropriate in some situations and it’s also appropriate in that there is a sense of illumination – metaphorically because reality is illuminated and literally since the energy system tends to light up within an awakening and experiencing light may be a side-effect of the initial awakening.
And there are many ways to talk about the unity and individuality. When oneness notices itself, it also notices itself as this unique individual human being functioning in the world. It notices this human self as local and temporary part of itself.
When there is no experience of conflict between oneness and who we are, it’s because there are – generally speaking – no identifications as one or the other preventing the mind from fluidly noticing itself as both and both as one. It may be that there actually are identifications here but they are more in the background or dormant, or it may be that they have been seen through or have worn out.
I suspect I know why Adya felt he needed to address this topic. Sometimes, we can experience a conflict between the two, between who and what we are. And that always comes from identifications as one or the other, and ideas that they are somehow separate or in conflict with each other. That too can be part of the process. The wrestling helps us get more familiar with the dynamics of being both oneness and a human being in the world.
Although I have rarely experienced a conflict between what and who I am, I have gone through a few phases in this dynamic of being oneness and a human being in the world.
In the initial awakening phase – which didn’t feel like an awakening at all – “I” was absorbed into a witness. I was fifteen and what I experienced myself to be was absorbed into witnessing – witnessing all content of experience equally, whether it was the outer world or this human self or what happened within this human self. This happened without any forewarning and felt like something had gone terribly wrong. I visited several doctors and specialists to try to figure out what was going on. The whole world, including this human self, felt very far away.
After a year in this weird state, a more full blown oneness revealed itself. Again, it happened suddenly and without any forewarning. All without exception was revealed as God. This human self was revealed as a local part of God and any identification as this human self was revealed as the play of God. The ultimate and real identity of everything, including this guy here, was the divine. Everything is part of the oneness.
There was a long honeymoon phase, followed by a phase where my attention went mostly to sustainability and social justice work (informed by oneness), and the last several years have been a process of deeper work for aligning more parts of my human self more consciously with the oneness. Parts of me that were still living in separation consciousness have come to the surface so they can realign, wake up in their own way, and be included in my human self and the oneness more consciously.
When I look back, I see that each of these phases have lasted about a decade. I sometimes feel my process is very slow, but it’s all not only guided by the divine, but it is part of the divine, and it is the divine.
Note: It’s sometimes fun to write about something from different angles. When I say “it’s guided by the divine” it’s the divine as second or third person. When I say it’s “part of the divine” it’s closer to oneness and it highlights that the divine is far more than this speck of a human self. And when I say it IS the divine, that’s accurate as well. Each one gives a slightly different angle to it and together they create a more rich and full image.
As soon as you move out of truth, you feel it, kinesthetically; you feel it in your body when you’ve disconnected.– Adyashanti, Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic, chapter 6
One of my current favorite ways of exploring this is the “I can if I want” test.
I can […] if I want, and I want. I can […[ if I want, and I don’t want.
Say each one to yourself and see how your body responds. Does it tense? Does it relax? (Tension is a “no”, relaxation and relief is a “yes”.)
In the last few days, I have had a slight dilemma on whether to use antibiotics or not. I try to avoid it as much as possible, but I have had an infection over several days that didn’t get better. So I said to myself I can take antibiotics if I want, and I want and noticed how my body responded, and then checked I can take antibiotics if I want, and I don’t want. The first one felt like a relief in my body, and the second tension and stress. So I went with my body, got the antibiotics, took it and it felt like a relief. (Of course, my doctor’s advice is primary in this case, but he had left it open for me to decide so I did.)
This is obviously a much bigger topic. It’s not just about everyday or life decisions. It’s also – and perhaps mainly – about the stories we tell ourselves and how we take them. Whenever we tell ourselves an untrue story – a stressful or painful story – our body tenses up. And when we find what’s truer for us, our body relaxes and it’s a relief.
And yes, I know that can sound a bit naive. Most of us would say that some true stories are stressful. And yet, this is what I have found over and over through – for instance – inquiry. The more true stories and interpretations feel like a relief. Something falls into place. My body can relax.
I have written a lot about this in other articles so I won’t go into it much here. But I’ll say that one relief-giving insight is that no story reflects an absolute or final truth. I can hold all of them lightly, as a question. And there is always some validity in the reversals of any story, and seeing that is also a relief. And we have to discover this for ourselves, by examining one specific stressful story at a time.
Why does the body respond in this way? My take on it is that somewhere, we always know when we tell ourselves something not (entirely) true, and when we take it as more true and final than it is, and that is reflected in the body. Our mind tenses up, and so does the body.
We know what we tell ourselves is not true in the way we tell it to ourselves, the seamless whole of our mind-body tenses up, and that’s a sign we are telling an untruth to ourselves and an invitation to find what’s genuinely more true for us.
Gertrude Stein found late in life that she had read every great book, or nearly every one. She began to fear there was nothing left for her to read. Then a neighbor of hers in the French countryside died, and she bought his library, which contained many mediocre books. Stein discovered that she enjoyed reading bad books as much as she did masterpieces.Sparrow in My Book Life, Sun Magazine May 2019
I suspect this is a common part of maturing. It certainly has been for me (although I don’t consider myself that mature!). I was much more concerned with high and low, good and bad and so on in my teens and twenties. Now, I am happy to find enjoyment, insights, and value anywhere – whatever labels people may give it.