The high of openings or awakenings

 

A spiritual opening or awakening can come with a high, especially if it’s the first time. That high may be a gentle wave or very obvious, and it may last briefly or for weeks, months, or even years. That’s all natural and nothing is wrong if it happens.

Although if it happens, it’s good to check in about a few things.

Does the high mask something? Perhaps something still unhealed, unmet, and unloved in me as a human being? If it does, that’s very common and very natural, and it’s also good to be aware that something may be masked and may resurface later on.  That’s OK and natural as well. It’s just good to be aware of. We can also prepare for what may surface and know and practice how to relate to it more intentionally.

Do I use the high to avoid something? Do I latch onto the high (or the awakening itself) in order to avoid a certain feeling, emotion, or painful story about the world or myself? If I do, can I allow myself to rest with whatever I try to avoid? What do I find if I investigate how my mind creates its experience of the fear and whatever it fears meeting?

Beyond that, what does this opening or awakening point to about reality and what I am. What does it reveal that I can notice and explore through any state and experience? Perhaps including when I experience what my habitual mind says is a “bad” experience. Can I find what it points to even in a contracted state, emotional or physical pain, discomfort, or resistance to my experience?

In short, an opening or awakening can be used to avoid certain emotions, painful thoughts, or states. Or it can be used as a support to meet and perhaps befriend what we may have spent a lifetime avoiding.

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Resting with and investigating an uncomfortable feeling

 

I woke up from a slightly uncomfortable dream and with an uncomfortable feeling in my body. I know from experience that discomfort is created by my own mind, so I can explore it and see what’s really there.

So I rest with the sensations. I notice where I feel the uncomfortable feeling, and notice the sensations making them up. I notice these sensations are already allowed. I take time feeling them. I say “welcome home” to them. I continue resting with them – noticing and allowing.

Then I see if there are any images connected with it. I notice a dark texture overlaid on an image of my upper body. I notice and rest with that image.

I check for words, but none come.

I check for resistance to the uncomfortable feeling, or any other experience that’s here now. Do I want it to go away or change? Where in my body do I feel that want? I do find some resistance to the uncomfortable feelings, a wish for it to change or go away. I notice it in my upper chest and face, and especially the jaw. I notice, allow, and rest with those sensations.

Rest and inquiry can be used throughout the day, in just about any situation. And it can be quite simple, and doesn’t need to take a long time. (Although watch for the tendency to want to shorten it to avoid feeling or meeting an experience.)

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Slow it down 

 

When we do inquiry or any exploration of our own experience, the impulse is often to speed it up. And when we do, it’s often to avoid something, and that comes from unmet fear. We are acting on a compulsion to avoid resting with our own experience. And that, in turn, comes from a fear of meeting and resting with our own experience.

When we notice this impulse to speed it up, we can take it as a reminder to slow it down, and also look at our own fears. Where in my body do I feel the fear of slowing down? What happens when I slow it down and rest with the sensations of that fear?

I can also ask myself some simple questions to see what’s there. What do I fear would happen if I slow down? If I rest with my experience as it is now? What’s the worst that can happen?

And I can also explore….. What sensations and imaginations (images, words) create this fear? What happens when I take time and rest with each of these? 

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Wanting to feel better is healthy, although look at the compulsion

 

Wanting to feel better is natural and healthy. It’s built into us through the generations, and it’s a form of self-care and kindness to ourselves and those around us.

Compulsively wanting to feel better is a bit different. That’s a way to avoid something. It’s a way to avoid our current experience. To avoid feeling certain uncomfortable feelings and looking at the scary thoughts connected to them.

When we compulsively seek healing and awakening in order to avoid our current experience, it adds another layer of suffering. Compulsively seeking to escape is inherently uncomfortable.

So we can welcome this compulsion and explore it with gentle curiosity. We can meet it with kindness and see how our mind creates this compulsion to avoid our current experience. And that allows the compulsion and the charge in it to relax.

What’s left is still a natural wish for healing and feeling better. And we know that a component of that is to welcome and rest with our current experience as it is. And that includes welcoming and resting with any wish for our current experience to be different.

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Bubbles of pain surfacing

 

At some point in a healing and/or awakening process, it’s as if the lid has been taken off the emotional pain that previously was safely tucked away. That happened for me some years ago, and the pain that surfaced was intense and felt overwhelming for quite a while.

The pain still comes up strongly at times, although there are more calm days and when it surfaces it tends to be less intense.

Today was one of those more painful days, and it was triggered by a situation that in itself was very minor.

I sometimes feel like a little kid when small situations are enough to trigger this deep pain in me. Although it’s also something to be grateful for since it’s surfacing to be met, felt, loved, and gently looked at, and why not have it surface based on a smaller situation. In my case, it often seems to be a disappointment and crushed expectations that are the trigger.

So how to relate to this emotional pain when it feels overwhelming? Here are some ways that are helpful to me:

Talk with a friend who can meet your experience with kindness without buying into the stories.

Sit with a friend who can hold space.  Sit in silence. Allow and feel the physical sensations of the emotional pain.

Eat some protein and nutrient rich food. Drink plenty of water.

Go for a walk. Use the body. Get fresh air. Spend time in nature.

Rest with the physical sensations. Notice if images or words come up, and rest with them if they do. Return to the physical sensations.

Notice any wish for the experience to be different. Find where you feel it in the body, and rest with and allow those sensations.

Identify and write down the painful stories connected to the emotional pain. Take these to inquiry. (The Work.)

Relate to yourself, the parts of you in pain, and the painful sensations, with kindness. Use ho’oponopono, tonglen, or something similar as a support.

Let the painful stories be true for now. Allow and feel the emotions surfacing.

Remind yourself about what’s happening. The pain is old and not about the current situation. The stories come from the pain and have only a very limited validity.

Ride out the pain. It’s a storm passing through. Look at the pain when it has subsided some and it’s easier to feel the sensations and explore the imaginations connected with it. With time, your capacity to do this will grow and you can do it while it’s more intense.

Treat yourself as you would treat a dear friend, child, or animal in pain. Treat yourself with that kindness.

Treat the pain as you would like to be treated when you are in pain. Meet it with presence, kindness, patience, respect.

Sometimes, like today, it’s often a combination of going for a walk, getting fresh air, eating a nutritious meal, talking with a friend, sitting with the feelings and sensations in silence with support of a friend, resting with the sensations on my own, identifying stories for inquiry, and also riding it out some.

It’s a humbling process. Apart from the healing that can come if I meet the pain with presence and patience, there is also a deepening sense of universality about this emotional pain. We are all in the same boat here. We all experience it at some point in our life.

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Resting with surface experience vs each component

 

Resting with the surface experience can help it rest but it doesn’t get to the root of how the distress or discomfort is created. Isolating out and resting with each of the components is the next step and goes further. And adding in some inquiry questions can help clarify and release even more. I tend to use the questions sparingly, but they are very helpful.

– from a previous post

I am writing a separate post on this topic this since it is essential to inquiry.

Resting with the surface experience of discomfort can make a big difference when what we are used to is fleeing from it. By surface experience, I mean how the combination of sensations and imaginations making it up appears to us before we differentiate and separate out the different components.

Resting with each component, one at a time, helps clarify and release further. We rest with the sensations. Notice an image or words associated with it, and rest with that image or those words. Rest until they fade on their own, if they do. Then, return to resting with the sensations, wait, and see if any images or words surface. Repeat.

Adding in simple questions can further help with the clarification and release. I can ask if the image I am resting with is a problem or a threat. If it is, then rest with the sensations making it feel that way. If I rest with an image of the future, I can ask if that image is the actual future. I can ask if certain words (the images or sounds) is a threat. And so on. I can also ask

I can also ask mining questions to see what additional images or words are connected with a sensation. If the sensation (body contraction) could speak, what would it say? What does it mean? What’s my earliest memory of feeling that way? What does it need from me?

Each of these three are in themselves very helpful. And the second and third tend to allow for a deeper release.

Resting with an experience allows it to rest

 

Resting with an experience allows it to rest. It may be discomfort, distress, or suffering in any form. For instance restlessness, fear, anger, sadness, grief, emotional pain, physical pain, or a compulsion.

Resting with the surface experience of it helps a bit. Resting with the combination of sensations and imaginations making up an experience.

Resting with each of the components helps more. Resting with the sensations, images, and words, one at a time. Isolating them out, noticing what’s there, resting with it.

Resting with each component and at times ask a few gentle inquiry questions about it may help even more. We can ask simple inquiry questions to see more clearly what’s there, and we can ask mining questions to see what more is there.

Resting with the surface experience can help it rest but it doesn’t get to the root of how the distress or discomfort is created. Isolating out and resting with each of the components is the next step and goes further. And adding in some inquiry questions can help clarify and release even more. I tend to use the questions sparingly, but they are very helpful.

Resting here means noticing and allowing, whether it’s the surface experience or each of the components making it up. Notice it’s already allowed (by mind, awareness, space, life). Notice the (boundless) space it’s happening within. And it comes with an orientation of kindness, rest, and patience.

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Kindness to the resistance

 

There is often some resistance to our experience, some fear, some wish for it to be different.

There is unmet, unloved, and unquestioned fear about some part of our experience, and that takes the form of resistance and wanting it to be different. It’s completely innocent, understandable, and nearly universal. It may happen for most of us most of the time, even if it’s subtle.

If the resistance is not noticed or explored, then there is often unconscious identification with it. We take on the perspective of that resistance and the fear behind it, and we may not even notice it’s happening.

The remedy is to notice and have some gentle curiosity about it.

Is there any restlessness, any wish to be somewhere else or do something else, any compulsion to think or do something else? Is there any wish for parts of my experience to be different?

Where in my body do I feel it? Rest with those sensations. Notice the space it’s happening within, and that’s also within the sensations. Notice any images or words connected with the sensations, rest with these too, and return to the sensations.

Rest with it in kindness.

You are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me.

I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you. (Ho’o.)

We can also do some gentle mining.

If the sensation could speak, what would it say?

What do the sensations mean?

What’s my earliest memory of feeling that way?

Often, I will just rest with the sensations and whatever images and words come up. If it seems helpful, I may ask a few simple inquiry questions just to clarify what’s here. For instance, an image may come up, I sense it feels like a problem or a threat, so I can ask if it is.

When the fear underlying the resistance is unmet, unloved, and unquestioned, there is that unconscious identification with it and its scary story about my experience, myself, and the world. As soon as the resistance or fear is noticed, there is some distance to it and some disidentification. There is room to relate to it more intentionally and with kindness and curiosity. There is room to give it what it wants, which is often to be met with kindness, allowed as it is, held in presence, understood, treated with respect.

Note: I realize I took the reasons for exploring this as a given, and only addressed it indirectly above. I see two reasons. One is that being unconsciously identified with scary stories means I perceive through this filter and live as if these scary stories are true, or at least somewhat true. That can create some problems in my life. I may live and act in ways I wouldn’t if there was more clarity around the fear. Also, being identified with scary stories is in itself uncomfortable. Resting with what’s there, and see more clearly the components making it up, allows it to soften and relax.

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Let it run its course

 

When I rest with an energy or body contraction, I sometimes remind myself let it run its course.

Here are some things I notice subtly happening.

It invites patience.

It’s a reminder that it’s temporary. It will pass as any experience does.

It’s a reminder that it may just need to run its course. If it has been shunned in the past, what it needs is partly to be rested with in presence and with patience.

Sometimes, a gentle pointer like this invites a small shift, and that’s all that’s needed to support me in resting more wholeheartedly with the energy or body contraction.

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What’s the difference between sitting still and meditation?

 

What’s the difference between sitting still and meditation?

Sitting still.

If we just sit still without any particular intention, most of us will look for something to do or think about. This tends to just reinforce our habitual patterns of doing and thinking. There are no real shifts.

And if we sit still regularly, the mind tends to get still too. (I noticed that through all those hours of sitting at the Zen center. My mind got still and clarified even if I didn’t always intend to do a particular practice.)

Meditation.

There are many forms of meditation, including natural rest (notice, allow) and training a more stable attention. Other things we can do while sitting still includes heart-centered practices and inquiry.

These practices tend to shift our habitual patterns. Mainly, out of being caught in thinking (the stories, the content of thought) and into noticing thought, from a scattered attention to a more stable attention, and from being caught in occasional enemy images to befriending our experience. If we practice inquiry, there may also be a shift from taking units of sensations and imaginations at face value, to recognizing their distinct elements.

Also, many of these practices become more natural and habitual with time. They become our new normal, and they can be brought into more and more situations in daily life. Sitting still creates a container that reduces distractions and helps us go deeper with the practices, and this is helpful early on in our practice and also at any time later on. But we don’t need to sit still to engage in these new habits. They tend to enter the rest of our life as we go about our daily activities, and eventually even those situations that initially strongly pulled us into our old patterns.

So, yes, there is quite a difference between sitting still and engaging in various types of meditation. Unless you are a cat. I suspect cats naturally meditate while sitting. (Most animals probably do since they are less prone to be caught up in thinking compared to the human animal. Without the distraction of compelling thoughts, they are likely to be naturally inclined to notice and allow their experience in the moment.)

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Anthony De Mello: Loneliness is cured by contact with reality

 

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Loneliness is not cured by human company. Loneliness is cured by contact with reality.

– Anthony De Mello

Yes, in a few different ways.

The reality of what that loneliness wants and needs.

The reality of how the loneliness is created by our mind.

The reality of what we are and what loneliness is.

And in more detail.

The loneliness may want to be met in presence, patience, and rest. When I shun it, it feels isolated and more lonely. When I am present with it, it can come home. I can find support in doing this through Natural Rest, ho’oponopono, tonglen, or just a simple gentle presence and kindness.

The experience of loneliness is created by sensations combined with imaginations. It’s created by beliefs. And I can explore these and see how my mind is creating it. I can explore this through different forms of inquiry.

When what I am notices itself, and notices loneliness as that too, there is a sense of relief and coming home. Presence (awakeness, love) recognizes itself as all there is, including loneliness and any other content of experience. Loneliness recognizes itself as presence, awakeness, love. This can come through natural rest and inquiry, and other forms of explorations as well.

As Jesus said, the truth will set you free. And the truth is found at several different levels. Another one, not mentioned above, is that loneliness is here to protect the (imagined) self and comes from love. Recognizing that in itself can be a relief.

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Awakening and healing go hand in hand

 

Awakening and healing go hand in hand.

What is awakening and healing? Awakening can be seen as what we are recognizing itself to some extent. And this “what” can be called presence, awakeness, consciousness, and behind that void. Healing means a healing of who we are, this human self.

It may be worth mentioning that what we are is not in need of healing since it cannot be harmed. And who we are can’t really awaken since an awakening means that what we are awakens out of an exclusive identification as who we are.

How do they hinder each other? When there is more healing to be done, it means there is velcro and beliefs in the system that can be activated by current situations. When these are activated, there is a strong pull towards identification. And that makes for a less stable or thorough awakening. Conversely, when there is no awakening or has been no openings, there is a deeper level of healing that’s less available. That deeper layer of healing happens when the trauma and it’s components (sensations + imagination) is recognized as presence itself, or love, or even void. What we are recognizes it as itself.

How do they support each other? A deeper and more thorough healing of our human self allows for a more stable and deepening awakening. There is less charge that can be activated, creating a strong pull towards identification and out of recognizing what we are. An opening or awakening allows or a deeper healing of our human self, partly through recognizing trauma and its components as presence, love, or void. And also through making it easier to meet shunned parts of our experience with kindness, rest, and love.

So awakening and healing go hand in hand. That’s partly why I am drawn to tools and explorations that invite in both healing and awakening. It makes sense to include both since they are so intertwined, and are really two sides of the same coin.

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What is attention?

 

What is attention?

It’s guided by mental images. For instance, it can be guided by mental images of a circle overlaid on visual input or a mental image mapping out the body or the environment. This circle guides attention to mostly stay within the circle.

It’s a conscious noticing of what’s here, of (mostly) content of experience. It’s a taking in of what’s here in a more conscious way.

It can be narrow or wide, just like a light beam. It can be as narrow as the sensations at the very tip of the nose from breathing, and as wide as the whole field of experience.

It can be trained to be more stable, to gently rest on something for a long period of time. When attention is trained to be more stable, it benefits just about any activity in our life: work, learning, socializing, recreation, being a partner or parent, and more. It also tends to make us feel better since attention is less prone to get caught up in any random thought. We feel more centered.

Attention often goes to the content of thoughts, to the stories, rather than noticing thought as mental images or words. This is essential for our functioning in the world. It helps us navigate and operate in the world. And when it gets compulsive, it can also create a lot of stress.

Attention can feel heavy-handed or gentle. If it feels heavy-handed, it’s usually because of “shoulds”, ideas of how we should use attention. If it’s gentle, it’s usually much more comfortable and it feels easier and more restful.

Attention can go to space, the space all experiences happen within and as. This, quite naturally, tends to give a sense of spaciousness. It can make it easier to rest with sensations and imaginations that initially seem uncomfortable.

When attention widens to include the whole field of experience, including the space it all happens within, there is often a sense of relief. For instance, if attention is only on physical pain, this physical pain can seem to fill our whole world. When attention widens and also notices the boundless space these sensations happen within, the sensations tend to feel less dense. It’s similar to diluting a teaspoon of salt in a cup of water or a lake. The more water, the more diluted.

Attention is a gift. It’s a gift we can give to neglected parts of ourselves, and to others. Attention can be very nourishing when it’s gentle, restful, allowing, and kind.

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Including the restlessness

 

Attention is like a light beam. It can be narrow or wide.

If it’s narrow, say resting on a body contraction, sometimes something will come up outside of this narrow field of attention. It may be restlessness, fear, a compulsion to think, a desire to be somewhere else or do something else. And if that happens, I find it helpful to notice where I feel that restlessness, fear, or compulsion in my body, and expand my field of attention to include those sensations. I include it in the noticing, allowing, and resting.

If it’s not noticed and acknowledged in this way, it’s easy to become unconsciously identified with it. I feel that “I” am restless, or want to do something else. There is very little space to intentionally relate to it, and instead, I may just act on it by getting up and do something else.

If it is noticed, acknowledged, and included in the noticing, allowing, and resting, then there is a shift. It’s recognized more easily as content of experience, and as a combination of sensations and imaginations. There is less identification with it. It’s also helpful to notice the space it’s happening within, and the space within the sensations. Through this, and by being gently and kindly acknowledged and rested with, it tends to relax.

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