If a story is stressful, go deeper

 

If a story is stressful, go deeper.

We sometimes have initial stories about ourselves, others, or the world, that are stressful. And that’s a reminder to go deeper. To look again. To find an interpretation that’s as or more true, and more kind.

If we have a difficult time finding such a story, there is always inquiry. The Work of Byron Katie may be the best approach for this.

It’s interesting that in our culture, we tend to have a suspicious view of reality. We think it’s perhaps not kind. But by exploring this, over and over, we may get to see that the kind stories we find are as or more true as the unkind. In other words, to us, reality becomes kind.

I wrote a much longer initial draft on this topic which can be found below.

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Spirituality = ?

 

What is spirituality?

It’s a term used to mean many different things, as Ken Wilber has pointed out.

So what does it mean to me? How do I use it here?

To me, spirit = reality, and spirituality = exploring and aligning more consciously with reality.

In a Christian culture, this may seem a bit odd. Christianity came to create a dualistic worldview that sees spirit as mostly separate from this world. And that, in turn, meant that spirituality came to mean something impractical, mysterious, indefineable, and irrelevant to the daily lives of most of us. It became something we encountered briefly and occasionally in church and perhaps at Christmas, Easter, baptisms, weddings, and funerals.

For me, since spirit = reality, it means that spirituality is practical, relevant to daily life, and doesn’t have to be that mysterious. It’s something that can be understood and described in practical terms.

And what is reality? It’s our everyday reality, in addition to the aspects of reality we are not yet familiar with and haven’t explored or described yet (either individually or collectively). Our experience of life or reality is, obviously, very limited. And our interpretations and maps are tentative, only useful as pointers, and have no absolute or final truth in them.

There are many ways to explore reality. Everyday life and science are perhaps the most common ones in our culture. Spirituality is yet another way of exploring life and reality. And the tools of this particular approach happens to include prayer, meditation, body-mind practices, inquiry, energy work, transmissions, and more.

So science and spirituality are two ways to explore life and reality. They compliment each other. And they even use many of the same guidelines and methods. Scientific methods and guidelines very much apply to spiritual explorations.

And how do we use spirituality to consciously align more closely with reality? We do so through an honest exploration of what’s real. For instance, through inquiry I may see that thoughts or images I hold as real and true are not. They are created by my mind. Other thoughts and images about the same are equally or more valid. And none of them hold any final or absolute truth.

This is an ongoing process, and if I am honest with myself and have some basic skills, it will help my view and life gradually align more closely with life and reality.

How does that look? It looks very ordinary. It looks like normal clarity and sanity. It looks like living life as a more mature and sane human being, in a very ordinary sense.

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Healing & awakening = aligning with reality 

 

Healing and awakening is all about aligning with reality – at all levels of our being.

That’s a tall order. And it’s already what’s here.

In brief:

We are a local part and expression of life. We are already reality so from this perspective, no alignment needs to happen. We can’t align with what we already are.

And yet, as human beings, we are typically out of alignment in many ways. There is room for alignment and this alignment is an ongoing process of exploration and inquiry, healing and maturing as human beings, and embodying our discoveries and realizations.

How did we get out of alignment? We got out of alignment by holding our thoughts as solid, real, and true. We aligned with our thoughts more than being receptive to life as it is. We came to identify and experiencing ourselves as a being separate from the rest of existence. (Consiousness identified in that way, and took itself to be a being within the content of itself.) And this process built on itself so we came to create wounds, trauma, dynamics leading to some physical illnesses, relationship problems, and a culture and society out of tune with the larger living world.

Nothing is wrong. It’s all life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. And yet, it is uncomfortable so at some point, there is a motivation to coming back into alignment with life so we can find a sense of home, being in tune with reality, and being more at ease.

How do we get back into alignment? We do so by noticing what we are. That we already are (this local expression of) life and a whole that always is whole. We do so by healing and maturing as human beings. We do so by an ongoing process of clarifying and embodying.

That’s the short version.

And in more detail:

Already reality. We are, in a sense, already 100% aligned with reality. We are life, this local part of the Universe, all of us is already Spirit. We cannot help being 100% reality. We are more than aligned with reality, we are reality. We are this local thinking, feeling, experiencing part of reality. As what we are, we are already reality.

Room for realignment. And it’s a tall order. It’s an ongoing process. We’ll need to face a great deal that may be uncomfortable to us, mainly because we have habitually pushed it away and seen as scary. As who we are, this human being, there is a lot of room for realignment.

Out of alignment. How did we get out of alignment?

One answer is that we, as human beings, tend to believe our thoughts. We hold some of our thoughts as real and true representations of reality and perceive and live as if that’s the case. That inherently creates a sense of separation and of being a separate being, and temporarily veils what we already are. (Life experiencing itself through this local body and these local thoughts, feelings, and experiences.) This – combined with meeting difficult life situations – is also what creates contractions, wounds, and trauma, and the accumulated effects of different types of contractions.

Another answer is Lila, the play of the divine. It seems that Existence has an inherent drive to experience itself in always new ways. The universe is life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways. And one aspect of that is creating beings and energetic/consciousness veils that create a temporary and local experience of separation. Nothing went wrong. There are no lessons to be learned, no redemption to be earned. It’s just the temporary play of the divine.

Into alignment. So how do we get back into alignment?

We get back into alignment by noticing that we already are life and whole as we are. We already are a wholeness that’s always whole. We can understand that in different ways, and the easiest may be to notice that all happens within and as awakeness or consciousness. And that’s always whole and undivided.

We also get back into alignment through healing and maturing as human beings. And by consciously living from whatever realizations we have about life, what we are, and who we are (aka embodiment).

Both of these are ongoing explorations. As what we are, we keep noticing and clarifying. As who we are, we keep healing, maturing, and embodying. And it’s not at all a linear path.

A few additional notes:

Christianity. I thought I would say a few words about Christianity. In some cultures, the idea of aligning with reality for healing and awakening is natural and comes in from birth. I assume Buddhist cultures, Taoist cultures, and many native cultures are this way.

In other cultures, and specifically Christian and perhaps Abrahamic or theistic cultures in general, it’s different. Here, nature, life, and reality is viewed with some ambivalence and perhaps suspicion.

In Christinanity, there is the idea of original sin which makes us question our own nature, we are suspicious of our natural drives (sex, eating, resting etc.). We may also be trained to be suspicious of nature and life since it can lead us into temptation. In a Christian culture, or one that was Christian for a long time, it can seem odd or questionable to want to align with reality. If we and nature is more or less inherently sinful, why would we align with it?

Maybe it’s better to push it away as much as we can? Or maybe it’s better to transcend? We may try transcending, and find it works for a while, but reality is whole so we are inevitably brought back here and now with what’s already here.

In this case, it’s good to take small steps. Try it out and see what happens. We can explore this through inquiry where we question stressful thougths and find what’s more true for us. We can also explore it through body-centered practices such as Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises where we use the natural and inherent mechanisms of the body to find healing. Through these explorations, we may see that aligning with nature and reality is healing and can give us a sense of coming home.  We gradually build trust.

Healing, awakening, & sustainability. As shines through what I wrote above, healing, awakening and sustainability are all about aligning with reality. That’s why the three – for me – are inseperable. The seeds of dis-ease, an unawakened experience, and a society out of tune with the larger living world, are all the same. And the basic remedy is the same as well – align with life and reality.

For healing, we can align through inquiry, TRE, Breema, yoga, meditation and more. For awakening, we can align through inquiry, meditation, prayer, and more (whatever helps us ripen). For sustainability, we can align with life through philosophical and economic frameworks that takes ecological realities into account (which none of the current mainstream ones do), and a generally worldview that does the same.

Psychotherapy. I intentionally left out psychotherapy from my (brief) list of ways we can find healing. That’s because psychotherapy can be healing or not depending on who’s doing it (the therapist) and the approach they are using. If the therapist’s view is inherently skeptical about life and reality, then any healing won’t go very deep. It may even be traumatizing. If their view and life is more deeply aligned with life and reality, and they have a deep trust in life, then the healing can go quite deep. Process Work is an excellent example of an approach that’s inherently trusting of and aligned with life.

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Keeping it simple

 

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

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

Simplicity. Keep it simple.

Ongoing. Make it part of daily life.

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

And another principle that keeps it simple:

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

When it’s simple, it’s…..

Easier to remember and do.

More attractive to actually do.

Easier to do when things feel more overwhelming and challenging.

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

Here are some practices that fits these guidelines for me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reality

 

What is reality?

There is probably no end to how far we can go in exploring this in immediate experience and through (other forms of) science. It seems that it keeps opening up and revealing itself in new ways, sometimes within our existing framework and sometimes in ways that challenges and changes – if we allow it – our most basic views and assumptions. I assume that both of these will continue for us as individuals and collectively, as long as we are around, are curious, and – at least somewhat – honest.

For me, the practical basics seem quite simple:

In immediate experience, all is consciousness (AKA awareness, awakeness). All happens within and as awareness. When I have inquired into what seems the most solid, I have found that too to be awareness. It’s a form within awareness. All the forms of I and me, others, the wider world, emotions, thoughts, identifications, situations…. it’s all happening within and as awareness.

The story of a “physical” reality is helpful and has practical use. As I inquire into this story, I find it allows me to hold it more lightly. (Including the story of a me/I in the world, living in the world, inquiring into or holding a story.)

As a practical guideline, this seems to work for me now…..

Inquiry into my immediate experience to see what’s really there, and how the world (including what appears as a me and I and mine) appears in immediacy. I can do this through the Big Mind process, the Living Inquiry, headless experiments or other forms of inquiry.

In daily life, and for practical reasons, live as if there is a world more or less as it appears to me, explore how it appears to me, and use practical wisdom to discern how to live and which guidelines to use in different situations and for different purposes. Through questioning these too, I hold them more lightly. And still use whatever stories and imagined boundaries that seem most helpful and kind in the situation I am in.

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Meaning

 

What creates a sense of meaning?

How does my mind create a sense of meaning?

Here is how it appears to me now, as I look…….

When words and/or images combine – in my experience – with sensations, there is an appearance of meaning. The words and images appears real and true. The sensations associated, and apparently “stuck” on the words and images lend a sense of reality to the words and images.

Words and images alone are recognized as words and images, free of meaning. They can be helpful and practical pointers, but not inherently “true” or “real”, or conveying a real or solid “meaning”.

Sensations alone are recognized as sensations, free of meaning.

Only when words and images appear “stuck” to sensations do they appear real, true or conveying a real or true meaning.

And they can only appear stuck together when they are unexamined. That’s the only way there can be the appearance of a real and solid truth or meaning.

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Gods and people

 

It’s said that men may not be the dreams of Gods, but that the Gods are the dreams of men.

– Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Words – including any form of philosophy – can be helpful (a) as a way to identify beliefs, and (b) as pointers for own exploration.

So I can say that reality (God) dreams up a world, this world, what’s here. That dream includes images of being a human and identification as that image. And as this apparent human, reality dreams up a wide range of Gods, all images and projections of what’s already here.

And that’s not really helpful until I explore it for myself, for instance through The Work, sense field explorations, or the Living Inquiries.

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Reality, love, wisdom

 

I notice that what’s here – this physical pain, this emotion, this fatigue, this resistance, this fearful image – is already allowed. By intentionally welcome it, I join with what’s already here. I intentionally join with reality.

You are welcome here.

I notice that what’s here – the pain, the emotion, the resistance, the fatigue, the fearful image – is here to protect me.

Thank you for protecting me.

I see it’s devoted to me. It comes from love.

Thank you for your devotion to me. Thank you for your love.

In this, there is a noticing of what’s already here. There is wisdom in recognizing the nature of illusion, at least to some extent. And there is love. It loves me, I find love for it.

It’s all very quiet. A very quiet noticing. A wordless inquiry. A silent draw to and interest in what’s real.

What’s real

 

Some folks in spiritual circles like to use words such as reality, imaginary, illusion and so on.

What do these words mean? What do they refer to?

Changes. It’s subjective, in a sense, since what appears to use as real/illusion is different for each of us, and changes over time for each of us. To a friend of mine, it may appear very real that she needs more money. To me, it may appear a little differently. Also, what appears as real for me a few years ago, doesn’t in the same way now.

Real. What’s real? (a) In one sense, what’s real is God – Spirit, Big Mind/Heart, Brahman. It’s this awakeness that everything happens within and as. (b) In another sense, if something is real to me, if it appears real because I believe my thoughts and images, then it is real in my world. It’s real to me. I perceive and live as if it’s real.

Imagined. I like this word because it’s meant quite literally. There is a sound, and then an image of a man with a leaf blower down the street. There is an image of a me and I. An image of a world. An image of beings. An image of time. An image of past, future, present. An image of space. Sometimes, these are overlaid on sensory experiences, and sometimes they function on their own. This world of images is my world, it’s the world I live in and from. I may take some of these images as real and true, or at least representing something real and true “out there” in the world. Or I may recognize them as images. And in any case, it’s all imaged. It’s all imaginary.

Illusion. Taking an image or thought as real, I see, feel, think and act as if it’s real. I live as if it’s true and real. Later, I may come to see that the image or thought wasn’t as true as I had thought anyway. And I may tell myself, it was an illusion. I believed in an illusion. I took it to be real, in my innocence.

Reality and the rest. One way to talk about this is that God is the only reality, and the rest are appearances within and as God. It’s the play of Spirit. It’s lila. When images and thoughts are taken as true, they may appear very true, and yet it’s still not really true.

Onion. It can be a bit like an onion. What at one time appears real and true for me, is later revealed as not so true. I thought the label suffering was real and true, and yet when I questioned it I found something else. I thought I was a Norwegian citizen, a man, a certain age, and when I look, I find something else. I thought there was a me here, and when I look, something else is revealed. I thought I was awareness aware of the world, and something else was revealed. And so on. Taking an image or thought as real, it appears real to me. Investigating a bit further, and something else may be revealed.

The usefulness of the imagined. What’s imagined can be very helpful. It helps me navigate and function in the world. And I also see that when I take what’s imagined to be real or to represent reality, it’s painful. And when I see it’s imagined, it’s a relief.

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Reality

 

A quick note on the word reality:

When I use the word reality here, it’s meant in the simplest and most ordinary way. Reality, what’s real, is what’s here. A sense of discomfort. Joy. Pain. Resistance. Thoughts. Memories. Fear. A sense of contraction. That’s how Spirit shows up right now. That’s Spirit. That’s what may notice itself as Spirit, or not. That’s what’s aligned with when there is a closer conscious alignment with reality.

Aligning with reality

 

Reality is what awakens to itself.

And reality already allows – and shows up as – what’s here, whatever it is: these emotions, these thoughts, this experience, this world.

So I can explore this a few different ways.

(a) To explore if reality already allows what’s here, I can ask myself:

It is true this – this emotion, thought, resistance, pain, experience – is not already allowed? 

Is it true it’s not already awareness?

(b) And I can identify resistant thoughts, write them down, and take them to inquiry.

What are my fears and thoughts about what’s here? 

What do I complain about? Wish was different? Hope for? 

The first is an exploration of God’s will, what’s already here. The second is an exploration of my will. And my will – thoughts taken as true – may then be revealed as God’s will along with everything else.

I may first notice that reality already allows what’s here, and then find myself as it – that which already allows what’s here, including images of me and I, identifying with these images or not, and anything else.

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The dark side of the sacred

 

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

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

Definitions of Sacred and light/dark

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

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

Aspects of the Sacred

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

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

The dark sides of the Sacred as inquiry

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

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

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

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

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

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Reality is enough

 

In inquiry, I find that simple, clear and genuine examples are enough. As I find and take these in, they create a context where there are no footholds for beliefs. And if there are, I can take these to inquiry.

Reality is enough.

Some related beliefs:

Reality is not enough. (For finding peace, happiness, contentment.)

I cannot trust reality. Reality is not to be trusted.

Reality is not good. Reality is not friendly. Reality is scary to me.

Reality needs to be enhanced. Reality needs my help.

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Beliefs vs reality: Advice from Big Mind

 

Just to keep noticing. Notice how you close yourself off from love, trust, gratitude and compassion. You are the one doing it. [….]

It’s really simple. The only reason it seems difficult is that your culture has told you otherwise. Keep noticing, and it will become second nature to you. First nature, actually, since this is who and what you are. You are love, only taking certain stories as true prevents that from being obvious to you. You already know this. You notice it each time you shift into Big Mind/Heart. You notice it each time you inquire into a thought you take as true, and find what’s on the other side.

I’ll tell you one secret: When you *try* to believe this, it doesn’t work. You already know. All that’s needed is to look at your own experience. Trying to believe it is trying to trick yourself, and that’s not going to work. You know when you try to trick yourself too. By trying to trick yourself, you start distrusting what’s already true for you.

Just notice that too. What happens when you try to believe? What happens if you instead look at experience? At simple, honest, clear examples?

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Coming into alignment with reality

 

I keep seeing this, and each time I do it is surprising and seems new.

When I am out of alignment with reality, there is stress and discomfort in any flavor.

When I come into alignment with reality, there is relief and a sense of coming home.

And this alignment with reality is as who I am in an ordinary human sense, and as what I am.

As who I am, I come into alignment with reality when I find what’s already true for me. I was the one who made that choice, I cannot blame circumstances or anyone else. I am exactly what I see in her. I do what I complain about them doing. My advice, which I thought was for him, is really for me.

As what I am, I also come into alignment with reality when I find what’s already true for me. Am I content of awareness? Or am I what it all happens within and as?

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Fundamental view on ourselves and reality

 

What is our fundamental view on ourselves and reality? That is one of the key questions in our lives, and a basic assumption that colors how we perceive and act in the world.

Our conscious view is certainly one aspect of the answer. But even more important is our very basic images and feelings about ourselves and the world.

Do we have a basic trust and faith in ourselves and the world, or is there instead a basic sense of distrust and fear?

If we feel that the world cannot be trusted at a fundamental level, we will naturally tend to get lost and caught up in escape, wishful thinking, sentimentality, and so on. We seek refuge in beliefs.

If we experience a deep trust in reality, we will equally naturally tend to allow experience as is, and seek to find what is more honest for us than any one viewpoint. We seek refuge in reality.

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Befriending reality

 

The process of growing and waking up is also a process of befriending reality. Of sincerely and honestly find what is more true for us than any story.

Reality is almost a dirty word in some circles, and rightly understandably so if it means to cling to stories as true, and it happens in the “I get it, you don’t” context.

But it can also be what is found through that sincere and honest exploration. What is more true for me than any particular story? How does it look for me to live from it?

I may find that when I find what is more true for me than any belief, there is a liberation. The story is liberated from being taken as true. Who I am is liberated from being limited by the identity created from that belief. What I am is liberated from being limited by that belief. As someone said, the truth will set you free.

And I may also find other things… and each of these stories are their own questions, and what they point to are their own beginnings of inquiry.

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Aligned with reality

 

What does it mean to grow and/or wake up?

A simple answer is that it is an alignment with reality.

Growing up as who I am, as this human self in the world, has several aspects. And each of these has to do with aligning a little closer with reality.

I learn to find here what I see out there, in the wider world and in past and future. And this can be a gradual process. I find more and more here of what I see out there. I become more and more familiar with it. My human identity embraces and includes more and more of it. I become more comfortable with it.

I realize that I don’t know. I don’t know anything for certain. This too can be a gradual process. I can realize that I don’t know in more and more areas of life, and with more clarity.

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