Reversals in the dark night of the soul

 

The most intense period of that great swing-back into darkness which usually divides the “first mystic life,” or Illuminative Way, from the “second mystic life,” or Unitive Way, is generally a period of utter blankness and stagnation, so far as mystical activity is concerned. The “Dark Night of the Soul,” once fully established, is seldom lit by visions or made homely by voices. It is of the essence of its miseries that the once-possessed power of orison or contemplation now seems wholly lost. The self is tossed back from its hard-won point of vantage. Impotence, blankness, solitude, are the epithets by which those immersed in this dark fire of purification describe their pains.

– Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism

Following an initial period of clarity and honeymoon, there is a shift where what’s left surfaces. There is a shift which makes it difficult to hold onto old identifications, and there is a shift so that what has been unloved surfaces with an invitation for it to be met, understood, loved.

For me, this happened in several areas of life. Where there used to be a clear and well functioning intellect, I had trouble reading or engaging in much mental activity at all. Where there used to be a great deal of energy and passion, there was fatigue and lassitude. Where there used to be a clear guidance, there was an absence of guidance. Where there used to be a clear experience of all as God, there was an apparent absence of this too. Where there used to be an abundance of inner and outer resources, there was an absence of inner and – to some extent – outer resources. Where there used to be inner strength, there was a sense of weakness. There used to be dignity and integrity, and it now went out the door.

All of these reversals bring remaining identifications to the surface so they can be seen, understood, loved. It brings whatever was outside of my previous conscious identity to the surface, so these can be met, felt, understood, loved and included.

Among the many things that surfaced for me was, sometimes, a thought that I and my process was misperceived. Some who knew me only during this phase identified me with what they saw there and then, which to me was so clearly about this process more than any inherent and lasting characteristic of me as a human in the world. And that too is a support in this process, although it can be painful at the time. That too helps me find in myself what was previously left out of my conscious identity. They see me in this way, and can I find it too? Can I feel it? Take it in? Own it? Find a welcome for it? Find love for it?

Reversals and the Dark Night

 

I keep revisiting this topic – the dark night of the soul and reversals of states and life situations.

For me, the dark night of the soul followed a phase of initial opening or awakening. Evelyn Underhill called this illumination in her overview of this process.

During this early phase of awakening, Spirit recognized itself as all there is. And yet, it’s a honeymoon phase, or similar to early childhood. It shifts into something more mature, something similar to young adulthood. There were still beliefs there, often held at an emotional level, and these included some of our most basic and primal beliefs and fears.

During the following dark night of the soul, a good portion of these beliefs come to the surface with an invitation to be seen, felt, and loved, and find liberation from being taken as true.

And this dark night of the soul phase involves reversals in states and life situations.

What was most on the surface during the initial awakening phase, and what I was most identified with and took pride in, was reversed. For me, these included energy, passion, commitment, ambition, clarity, intellectual capacity, things falling into place in amazing ways, health, money and so on. And for each of these, there was a sense of reversal. Instead of energy, fatigue. Instead of clarity, fog. Instead of things falling into place, things falling apart. Instead of health, illness. Instead of a generous amount of money, scarcity. And where I used to find ambition and passion, there was nothing to be found. Even when there was (is) a desire or wish at a surface mind level, there is sometimes nothing to back it up or make it happen.

Life shows me what’s left. It shifts circumstances so they are exactly right to trigger what’s left to see of my beliefs, identifications and fears.

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Integration

 

In the tradition of looking at turnarounds of teachings, I thought I would look at integration.

The main teacher at Center for Sacred Sciences would sometimes say that Enlightenment has nothing to do with integration.

So in what sense is the reverse true? In what way is integration integral to Enlightenment?

One example is quite obvious. When everything is recognized as Spirit, there is a reorganization of the human self within this new context. A reorganization at physical, energetic, emotional, and mental levels, and how this human self functions in the world. In this sense, there is an integration within Enlightenment. The human self realigns with reality, and this is an ongoing process. It integrates into this new context of Spirit recognizing itself as all there is.

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Turnarounds

 

I am doing a teleconference on The Power of the Turnaround as part of the certification process for The Work, so thought I would write down a few things that are either official guidelines or what I have found useful on my own:

1. Turn the sentence around to the self, the other and the opposite. Turn around the original sentence only (not one that has already been turned around).

2. Keep the answers specific to the original situation.

3. Include the object in the statement. This may lead to more clear turnarounds. Life is unfair –> Life is unfair to me. 

4. Simple and apparently mundane examples are valuable. They help open the mind. I am sick –> I am healthy. (I breathe. Talk. Eat. Go to the bathroom. Get dressed in the morning. Enjoy movies.)

5. If I have judgments about the turnarounds or examples, I can take these to inquiry.

6. More than three examples can be helpful (of how a turnaround is as or more true than the original statement). Sometimes, it helps to keep the list going for a while. It opens the mind.

7. Turning the statement around to “not” (sick –> not sick) and the opposite (healthy) can both have value. The examples may be somewhat different. God will abandon me –> T1: God will not abandon me. T2: God will support me. 

8. Some ways to identify underlying beliefs: (1) What I fear the most about not being healthy is…. (2) Not being healthy means…. (3) I am not healthy because….

9. For should sentences, it can be helpful to think of the turnarounds as pointing to gifts. I shouldn’t be sick –> I should be sick. What’s the genuine gifts for me in being sick now? (It gives me time to explore, do inquiry, connect with friends, travel. It brings me to inquiry. It’s an invitation for empathy. It helps me see it’s not always as simple as to pull myself out of it.)

10. For sentences about the future, it may be especially helpful to identify underlying beliefs and look at these.

I will miss my plane –> I won’t miss my plane. (Yes, could happen. I don’t see any more examples right now.)

What I fear the most about missing my plane is…. I will miss out of the workshop. I won’t get the certificate. I will lose money. It will be a hazzle. People will see me as unreliable/disorganized. It’s terrible if they see me as unreliable/disorganized.

I’ll miss the plane because…. I am disorganized. I am unreliable. The traffic was too slow. I didn’t get up in time.

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Reversals, bubbles and identification

 

Draft….

Some relationships between reversals, bubbles of confusion, and identification.

Any experience – any state, any content of experience – shifts into it’s reversals. There is clarity, then confusion. Bliss then neutrality. Joy then sadness. Insights then lack of insights. Energy then tiredness. A human self here, then no human self here. And so on. This is an invitation to notice what happens when there thoughts about this – I need bliss, joy is better than sadness – are taken as true, and explore what may be more true. It’s also an invitation to notice what already allows and is it all. And it’s an invitation to ask myself if I am content of this experience, or that which it all happens within and as.

Bubbles of confusion surface. They were or are formed within confusion, and surface to be seen, felt, loved and digested and learned from. They are universally human, so this is an invitation to see what happens if I open my heart to them as they surface here or in others. There is also an invitation to notice what happens when they are resisted, and what happens when they are met – with some kindness and wisdom – as a suffering being, as I would meet any suffering being. Another invitation is to notice the fears and beliefs behind the resistance, meet those with kindness, and ask is the story true?

It’s all a process of love and manifestations of love.

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Addictions and reversals

 

This is a very simple tool for working with addictive tendencies of any sort, and it is found in Buddhism, modern psychology, and probably many other traditions.

When we are addicted to something, it is easy to only think about the desirable aspects of the experience. So why not turn it around?

Which aspects of what I am addicted to, and the experience it gives me, are neutral to me, or something I don’t like so much?

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Reversal lists

 

This has come up in a couple of conversations recently: The value of creating reversal lists.

When we experience loss of a desirable situation – health, a person, a relationship etc. – it is easy to habitually remind ourselves of what was desirable for us in it. We exaggerate what was good, and overlook what didn’t work so well. And that is a guaranteed way to make ourselves miserable.

So why not do the reverse? Why not make lists of what we didn’t like?

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Reversals

 

All of this may be obvious in general and for the stories we clearly recognize as stories, guides, pointers. Where it gets interesting and juicy is for the stories we still take as true, the ones creating friction and stress, the ones attention naturally is drawn to, the views we identify with, the basic assumptions we haven’t questions and explored yet.

Any story has a number of reversals, and each of these reversals also has validity. We can find specific examples of where each of those reversals are genuinely true for us. This is a reminder that no story has absolute validity, and it is also an invitation to explore ways to hold the limited validity of all reversals of any particular story. And then find the genuine validity in the reversals of those more embracing stories.

Any story also hinges on a number of assumptions, and each of these has valid reversals. The assumptions usually include the basic ones of space, time, objects, beings, a me, doer, observer and that these exists as real, separate, out there etc.

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God is a superstition

 

therewill

I watched There Will Be Blood tonight (as always long after it was released!).

In one of the last scenes of the movie, Mr. Plainwater has the preacher say God is a superstition, and I am a false prophet.

Of course, if we take that as not true, it would be difficult even to say the words – especially if our whole identity is built around God and being a preacher.

But if we find the truth in it, the genuine truth for ourselves, it is easy to say. It is the simple truth. There is a sense of coming home in it. A sense of fullness. A sense of relief, if I previously hadn’t found (been open for) the truth in it.

So how are those statements true for me?

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Life is a test, deceptive and a school

 

hoola_hoops1

There are many views on reality and the world out there, including seeing life as a test, deceptive and a school.

Life may be a test, and we can pass or fail, either permanently (judgment day) or temporarily (reincarnation).

Life is deceptive and full of trickery. God created – or at least allowed – the devil and evil, the devil and evil can be disguised, and it is our task to differentiate the good from the evil, the true from the false.

Life is a school where we are supposed to learn something specific, and then graduate.

All of these stories can obviously be very stressful if we take them as true.

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Double turnaround

 

Another life 101 pointer that I find helpful in daily life:

Whenever someone says something about someone or something else, I can turn it around for them, realizing that the advice – or description – is for themselves. This is especially helpful if there is some charge around what they said for me.

Then, I can do the same for me. I can find how the same advice or description is true for me. And also its reversals.

So Bush may be talking about terrorists, and I see how his descriptions of terrorists also fit with the actions of the Bush administration. (And how that may be the default view for some around the world.) Then, I find how the same is true for me. And how the reversals are true as well, for him and me.

It brings a sense of all of us being in the same boat. In my own mind, I bring him into his own business (describing and giving advice to himself) and me into my business (describing and giving advice to myself). There is a natural empathy from recognition. The charge goes out of the situation. And this leaves more clarity for action and engagement, or not, depending on what seems appropriate in the situation.

This pointer is equally helpful when someone says something about me. No matter what it is, I can turn the statement around to the person who said it. And from that place of more clarity, I can find it in myself.

Impostor syndrome

 

The impostor syndrome is apparently quite common these days, and maybe for good reasons. After all, almost no matter which area we work in, most of us know only a fraction of the knowledge that is out there, and we know very well that even all current human knowledge is only a fraction of all possible knowledge. We are only scratching a surface that is only scratching yet another surface. It was simpler when most folks were farmers, fishermen and craftsmen.

We feel like an impostor, because it is true! No matter what we do, independent of culture and setting, it is true in several different ways. And it is a perceived problem only if it is not seen through, when it is only half explored.

So one way of working with it is to more thoroughly see how it is true, with specific examples. This takes out the stress of feeling that we have to defend against the story that we are an impostor.

Then, we can explore equally thoroughly how the reverse is true, in what ways are we not an impostor. And that takes out the stress of being stuck in just one of the permutations of the impostor story.

We are freed out of the dynamic through seeing that each permutation has some truth in it, and none is close to having the whole picture.

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Synchronicity: shadow of ethics

 

I did a brief exploration of the shadow of the Buddhist precepts a few days ago, and it turned out that this was one of the topics of Arny Mindell’s class earlier today.

We each have our personal ethics, whether we are aware of it or not. And as he hinted at, it is meant for ourselves. If we don’t pick it up, it is still around, but we assume it is for others. It is the classic it happens, it can’t be for me, so it must be for everyone else.

Then he talked about the denier of the ethics, both our inner denier and those in groups who take on the role of the denier. This is the voice that asks why, how, when? The voice that criticize and question the ethical guidelines.

How do we relate to this denier? Do we squash it? Disown it? Listen to it? Find the validity of what it has to say? Find a perspective that hold the truth in the initial ethics and the view of the denier? Refine our ethics?

The voice of the denier is essential. It helps us see our ethics, question it, refine it, explore the larger landscape, and much more. It also helps us not get trapped in the shadow of the ethics, disowning in ourselves whatever doesn’t fit with our personal ethics, whether we are conscious of this ethic or not.

One way of exploring this is by noticing our personal ethics as it shows up in daily life, explore the views that criticize it, and then find ourselves as that which holds both. (Process Work has exercises that makes this come alive, and also helps us find our deeper ethics, the ones just emerging, the ones not quite conscious yet.)

Another way is to explore the reversals of our ethics, as I did with the Buddhist precepts. What is the grain of truth in them? In what ways are they sometimes better? What is the gold in these reversals?

What is the gold in the shadow of our ethics?

Reversals of precepts

 

I am enjoying exploring the reversals of teaching, finding the genuine truths in them for myself. It invites in a receptivity around it, and also helps me gain new insights from the truth in the reversals.

  1. Affirm life; Do not kill
  2. Be giving; Do not steal
  3. Honor the body; Do not misuse sexuality
  4. Manifest truth; Do not lie
  5. Proceed clearly; Do not cloud the mind
  6. See the perfection; Do not speak of others errors and faults
  7. Realize self and other as one; Do not elevate the self and blame others
  8. Give generously; Do not be withholding
  9. Actualize harmony; Do not be angry
  10. Experience the intimacy of things; Do not defile the Three Treasures

So how can I find the genuine truths in their reversals, and why it is better when they happen, in a way that is alive for me here now?

The most obvious one for me is as a practice. I can investigate beliefs that leads to killing, stealing, arrogance, and so on. I can fully allow the experience that comes up around any of these. I can take time to find in myself what I see in others around this.

I find a belief, explore what happens when I hold onto it (that is where the reversals of the precepts come in), then how it is to not hold onto it, and find the genuine truths in its reversals.

I can go into a memory of having engaged in the reversals of these precepts, or imagine doing it, and then fully allow the experience that comes up. Be with it, in a wholehearted and heartfelt way, as if it would never change.

I can find in myself, in a genuine way, with receptivity of heart, feelings and mind, what I see in others when they live and express the reversals of these precepts. I see that we share this. We are in the same boat. We are not so different.

In each of these ways, I can find the truth and gifts in going into the reversals of these precepts.

Also, I can appreciate the gifts in inadvertently living and acting from the reversals of these precepts, and then being stunned and shaken by my own actions. It shakes me out of my complacency, and invites me to explore what is going on.

Beyond the practice aspect, in a more pragmatic way, I can also find the gifts and truths in reversals of the precepts. When and how is it better that the reversals are lived?

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Book/Divine Mind analogy

 

sophie.jpg

Tim Freke used the book analogy in the longer video below.

Characters in a book don’t exist as separate entities, but only in the mind of the author. And in the same way, we only exist in the mind of the author of this story, in the Divine Mind, in God. This human self does not have any separate I associated with it, but happens within the Divine Mind, as all the other characters and all the different settings and the big stage of the universe itself.

If we look, we find that what we really are is this Divine Mind, this awakeness that this human self and anything else happens within and as.

This reminds me of what came up for me when I read Sophie’s World a while back. The book is a walk-through of western philosophy, woven into a more ordinary narrative story following a young woman and her philosophy teacher.

For the first third or so of the story, they appear like ordinary and real people, to themselves and the reader.

Then odd things start happening, they encounter fairy tale characters, the weather changes to fit their conversations, a dog speaks in human language. Gradually, it dawns on them that they are characters in a story and don’t have any separate existence.

At this point, I thought the story would end with the book/Divine Mind analogy mentioned above, illustrating the view of the mystics – and opening the minds of the readers to some radical reversals of who and what we take ourselves to be – at least as just a thought experiment.

Unfortunately, or not, the actual ending of the book went in a different, more conventional/fantasy, direction. A little anticlimactic considering the promise it had about 80% into the story.

But I did get to write my own ending in my own mind, illustrating the book/Divine Mind analogy, so in that sense I got double benefit.

I am sure a book like that must have been written. If it hasn’t, it is out there waiting for the right person to make it come alive.

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Looking at a thought from its outside and inside

 

There are two ways of releasing identification with a thought: By looking at it from the outside, recognizing it as just a thought. And by exploring it from the inside, finding the validity in its turnarounds, and releasing any sense of absolute truth in any of the versions.

In both cases, there may be clarity, nonreactivity, kindness, wisdom. In both cases, stories are seen as tools of practical value only.

At the same time, it is pretty easy to notice which teacher has worked with which approach.

The ones who clearly see a thought as just a thought, and have not explored the truths in turnarounds much, often stay with the tools of relatively conventional stories. Stories that are familiar to them, that have been passed on to them through whatever traditions they are familiar with. They may even be slightly shocked by folks who freely use the turnarounds of these stories as holding validity and useful truth.

Others, who also see thoughts as just thought, but have extensively explored the truth in reversals of common stories, have far more freedom in which and how they use stories. They are free to use the conventional ones, and also their reversals when that seems appropriate. They have a wider active repertoire of stories.

Although both come from clarity, there is a difference in flavor. The first one may seem a little safe and timid, while the second is more juicy and alive. (At least to me!)

And there is also a parallel to voice dialog and the Big Mind process here.

Just as we are more familiar with certain voices (subpersonalities), and can disown or own their polar opposites, we are more familiar with certain stories and can be familiar or not with the truths of their reversals.

And the more we own disowned voices, and find the truths in the reversals, the wider the active repertoire of our human self becomes.

Whether Big Mind is awake to itself or not, a wider active repertoire gives a richer set of options for our human self. A wider range of ways of functioning in the world. A wider embrace of the richness and fullness of the human self and how it lives in the world.

If Big Mind is not awake to itself, it at least makes for a more fun, juicy, fuller life.

And when Big Mind is awake to itself, this wider embrace translates to more fluidity and richness in skillful means.

One example that brought this home for me: Byron Katie said once that Hitler may have brought more people to God than Jesus, and I can easily find the validity in that story. (Which is a reversal of conventional stories in our culture.) When I mentioned that to a local teacher who has not worked much with turnarounds, he reacted with horror and did his best to banish any appearance of validity in that statement.

He of course saw it as just a story, as any other story, but had not explored the truth in that reversal, was not comfortable in using it, so then also missed out of any insights that may come from it. And his students then miss out of the same as well, and also any releases from beliefs that may result from it.

O’Brien’s turnaround

 

I still enjoy finding lessons in science fiction movies, and the simpler the stories are, the clearer the lessons, which makes Star Trek great material.

For instance, the episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine called whispers is a great example of reversals. O’Brien returns from a mission, notices that everyone treats him with a great deal of suspicion, and is eventually cornered by his former friends. The story is told from O’Brien’s perspective until we in the last minute of the episode realize, along with him, that the O’Brien we have followed is a replica so perfect that he himself thinks he is the real O’Brien.

For him, and us, everything is turned around. The one we took as O’Brien is not O’Brien. The one we took as our hero is really an assassin. His former friends, who turned against him and became the bad guys, were the good guys all along.

So where do we find this in our own lives?

Well, it happens all the time when our stories encounter reality and we realize our stories were way off. Sometimes, our new stories may even be reversals of our old ones.

It happens when we do The Work and find the validity in the turnarounds of our initial story. We explore the reversals of our habitual perspective, and find the genuine truths in it, which may make everything look very different.

From being identified with one particular story, denying the truth in its reversals, we find ourselves as that which holds the validity of stories and each of their turnarounds, releasing identification with any one of them.

It happens when there are glimpses of soul level or nondual awakenings.

We took ourselves to be an object in the world with solid boundaries, and now we find that we are one with God, Spirit, the Universe, Life. It is all made up of God.

We took ourselves to be an I with an Other, and now we realize that what we are is already free from both of those.

Discovering what we really are is the most radical turnaround possible, and one that has many different aspects to it.

From being a thing to finding ourselves as a no-thing. From being an object in awareness, we are awakeness with objects in it. From having a beginning and end, a birth and death, a boundary and lifespan, an inside and outside, a life in the world, we are that which all of those happen within. From it all appearing as a life-and-death matter, we realize we were never harmed by any of it.

Turnarounds in real time, and one reason we seek teachers

 

My partner and I stayed at a hot springs place near Ashland for a couple of nights, and she overheard a stressful (to her) conversation one morning, a woman complaining about Gangaji’s followers and why they can’t see how she is no better than them. (Meaning that they already have everything they see in her.)

So she first turned it around for the woman speaking, and then applied it to herself. I can’t see how Gangaji is no better than me. First, it helped her see that the woman gave advice to herself. Then, it helped her find the truth of it for herself. And in this double insight, the stress went out of the situation.

This is a great way of working with the complaints of others. Find the turnaround. See how it applies to the person talking. (The advice is for themselves.) And then see how it applies to me. (The advice is really for me.)

And there is another turnaround here: People go to see Gangaji because they know, somewhere, that she is them. They know, somewhere, that what they see in her is what they know from themselves, they want to be reminded about this, so they go to see Gangaji.

That is of course the case with any teacher or idol. We seek their company, one way or another, because we know, somewhere, that everything we see in them is something we recognize from ourselves. Being with them is a way of finding it in ourselves, whether we are aware of that process or not.

Beyond just teachers and people we admire and look up to, it is true for anyone we experience attraction or aversion to. Our attention goes to them, because we know, somewhere, that what we see in them is something we have in ourselves. Getting familiar with it out there is a way of being familiar with it, and recognizing it, right here. It is a way of becoming familiar with our own fullness.

One way of working more consciously with this is to first visualize whomever we experience attraction or aversion to, then visualize ourselves as them (body-mind-action), and take the time to feel it, allow it to sink in, and feel the fullness of it.

Fear of being the reversals

 

One of the subquestions for The Work is what do you fear would happen if you didn’t hold onto that belief?

For me, the answer is usually I would be like them, I would be what the belief is saying I shouldn’t be.

He is arrogant, and if I didn’t hold onto the belief that being arrogant is bad, I could become arrogant myself, or discover that I already am arrogant.

I fear finding myself as what my story is telling me I shouldn’t be, so I hold onto the belief to prevent it from happening.

Said another way, I fear being the reversals of my belief.

This fear may have many components. For instance, a fear of going against a should and the truth it appears to hold, of leaving an old pattern and a familiar terrain, of going against social norms and expectations, of embracing both sides of the boundary and going into a new and unfamiliar territory.

Any belief creates fear. Any belief creates a sense of I and Other, which inevitably gives rise to fear. And this fear in turn tends to fuel the belief. There is a mutuality between beliefs and fear, one supporting the other.

And this particular fear, of finding ourselves as reversals, is just one of the many flavors of this basic fear created by beliefs.

Relief of truth

 

I don’t seem to be finished with these nerdy sorting-outs, so here is one on the relief of truth…

There is a relief of truth in many different ways, including the ones we all know from daily life when we are honest with ourselves and others about things we hid in the past, or have impulses to hide even now.

In terms of practice, there are also different forms of relief of truth.

For instance, the relief of reversals, seeing the grain of truth in the reversals of any story, and especially the ones we believe in. This brings the relief of not having to defend a story as an absolute truth anymore, and also having to defend against the truth in its reversals. And it brings the relief of consciously exploring and acknowledging the truth that we already somewhere knew… the truth in reversals, and the inherent neutrality of the situation the story refers to.

And the relief of being with our experiences, fully allowing them, in a wholehearted and heartfelt way, as they are, as if they would never change. This is the relief of not having to push them away anymore, of not having to identify with resistance to them, of not experiencing them as a disturbance and intrusion.

Finally, the relief of noticing the truth of what we already are. Of awakeness noticing itself, and its content as itself too. This is the relief of not having to resist Ground, the relief of not having to overidentify with certain content of awareness (this human self) and underidentify with the rest (the wider world), the relief of not being caught up in the drama of beliefs, the relief of not having to defend against the truth of reversals, and the relief of not having to resist any experiences.

Reversals of teachings

 

Any statement has truth in its reversals, and this also goes for teachings of various sorts.

I have read some teachings of a lesser known spiritual teacher here in Norway (not that any are well known, or there are many here in the first place), and these lend themselves especially well to looking for the truth in their reversals since they are simple, and also close to conventional views.

She mentions three teachers: fear, nature and the (inner) light.

So, for instance, what is the truth of darkness as a teacher?

I can find several ways this is true.

First, darkness in a literal sense. When I am in physical darkness, especially outside and alone, fear sometimes comes up. It is a great opportunity to see how the mind creates fear out of imaginations. How I relate to fear. (Resistance, distraction, talking myself into being calmer.) What happens when I resist it? (Discomfort.) What happens if I allow it in a wholehearted and heartfelt way. (Release, relaxation.) And so on.

Then, darkness in a conventional metaphorical sense. Darkness of the mind in different ways, such as despair, pain, suffering, and so on. This can be a teacher in many different ways, including the one mentioned above. It is also an invitation for deepening into empathy, rounding off my edges, learning to turn misfortune into opportunity, and so on.

And finally, darkness in the soul level sense. This is the alive presence showing up as the rich, nurturing fertile darkness, the divine feminine, experienced directly in this way. It is a teacher in that my human self reorganizes within it, specifically in terms of trust in existence and reorganizations of my emotional level (from reactiveness to nurturing fullness).

Exploring the truth in the reversals of teachings can have many benefits, including releasing attachment to any particular teaching, and find something more interesting hidden within mainstream teachings. It also invites me to look for myself and find what is true for me here and now. And also see the limits of my horizon, even as it includes the truth of the reversals. I may not know what is outside of it, but I know it is (still) limited.

Ghosts and shadows

 

I dreamt about ghosts last night, and when I looked into it afterwards, was reminded of how our relationship with the truth in reversals often can appear as ghosts. It is there, yet at the same time is ephemeral and almost not there.

I believe a story, yet somewhere know that it is only a story, that the reversals have truth in them as well, and even that the situation is inherently neutral without the stories. And since I believe the story, these truths in its reversals may appear as ghosts. There, because somewhere I already know them. Yet not quite there, because I ignore them. Disturbing, because they upset the belief I try to make appear true for myself. Persistent, because they have truth in them.

This is of course the same with shadows in a Jungian sense. Any belief has a shadow, and this shadow is the truth in its reversals. And sometimes they appear to us as ghosts.

In my case, it may have to do partly with my image of Norway. Society has changed quite a bit since I used to live here, and not in a direction my personality likes that much. And a conversation last night brought this up for me, including how there is some resistance to admitting that my stories to myself about Norway are not as accurate as I would like.

The truth in the reversals of these stories appear to me as ghosts. There. Yet ephemeral, not quite solidified. Slightly disturbing. Persistent.

I know, you don’t

 

How are the different permutations of I know and you don’t true…?

Let’s take the most interesting ones first:

You know, and I don’t

  • In a conventional sense, there is an endless amount of things others know and I don’t.
    • They know how it is to be them, and how life is experienced over there, and I don’t. (Even if I think I do, I don’t. It can only be a projection of what I know from over here.)
    • They know skills and information I don’t know, in an infinite amount of areas.
    • They have experiences and a history I don’t have, which means they have unique insights I don’t have.

You know, and I know

  • This is true too. In an conventional sense, there are many things all or most of us share knowledge of.
    • For instance, the human patterns and dynamics are far more alike than different, so we share knowledge of those.
    • We know what happens when we believe a thought, for instance of being a separate self.
    • And we know what happens when there is friction between what beliefs tells us should be and what is. We may not know all the different ways it can play itself out, from first hand experience, but we certainly have a good idea of the general patterns.
  • In a different sense, we all know what we really are.
    • We all know, somewhere, that we are awareness and whatever arises within and as awareness. And this comes into the foreground for all of us, sometimes.
    • It may be clouded over at times as well, and that is also something all or most of us share an experience of.

You don’t know, and I don’t know

  • This one is also true. In a conventional sense, neither of us really know anything for certain.
    • We have all sorts of ideas, thoughts and maps about the world, and they work more or less well for us in a practical way, but that is about it. We can never have full certainty about anything our thoughts tells us.
  • When we find ourselves as awareness, and the content of awareness as awareness itself, there is a different not knowing.
    • Thoughts arise as just thoughts, and there is a freedom from taking them as anything more, so there is also a freedom from knowing.
    • Whether this is noticed or not, it is what is already and always here. There is already and always a ground of not knowing, and whether it is noticed or not is just the decoration on that cake.

I know, and you don’t

  • Well, also true, as a reversal of the first statement I explored.
    • I may know certain things in a conventional sense that many others don’t. (Also realizing that even if I don’t know about it, there are probably many others there with a similar insight or knowledge, and, most likely an insight and knowledge far beyond what is coming up here.)
    • Awareness may notice itself in a more clear way than for most others. (Realizing that this is just a difference of the surface ripples, on top of an ocean of us all already being awareness and knowing it at some level.)

When all of this is explored thoroughly, and becomes a lived experience, the whole sense of I know and you don’t, or of a particular identification with another one of those permutations, tends to fall away. There is an easy sense of shared life, humility, recognition, receptivity of heart and mind.

Beliefs, knots and orphans

 

What are the relationships among beliefs, identities, knots and disowned parts or orphans?

Here is a quick sequence…

  1. We believe a story. It is taken as real, substantial, somehow reflecting something inherent in the world. The grain of truth in its reversals are downplayed or ignored, and the grain of truth in the initial story is blown up and bolstered, made to appear as more than just a relative truth of practical value only.
  2. This belief creates an identity. We form an identity as someone who takes that story as true. And the content of the story may also form an identity for us. For instance, if I believe that people should be considerate, my own identity is as someone who either is, or at least want to be, considerate.
  3. Whenever there is an identification with a story or an identity, there is friction between this story/identity and how the world shows up. There is a gap between our stories of how things should be, and how they are or can be. And from here, a whole cascade of things happens, including fueling of resistance and certain emotions and behaviors. And since there is an identification with the story and identity fueling it, there will also be an identification with (most of) its effects. It is all taken as I, as intimately personal, as who I am.
  4. The belief creates friction, which in turn has certain effects, and together they all form a knot. This knot is the whole conglomerate of beliefs and identities, and the patterns of resistance, emotions and behaviors associated with it.
  5. This is where the orphans come into the picture. The obvious orphans are for instance the emotions created by the friction, which are usually resisted and disowned to a certain extent. Resistance itself may also be resisted, so this too becomes an orphan. And other orphans include the grain of truth in the reversals of the initial story and identity. Each of their reversals have a grain of truth in them, and this grain of truth it also resisted and disowned.

I believe I should be healthy, so form an identity as someone who is – or at least want to – be healthy. I am not healthy, so there is a friction between what is and what should be. This creates various emotions, such as frustration, anger, sadness, hopelessness, grief, and so on. It also fuels behaviors to avoid triggering a noticing of the discrepancy between what is and what should be, and the emotions created by this discrepancy. All of this creates a knot, and much of it is resisted to a certain extent. I try to escape it, avoid it, disown it. So the orphans here are the resistance itself, the emotions triggered, and also the grain of truth in the reversals of the initial story and identity. To welcome these orphans back into the warmth, I can be with the resistance and emotions in a heartfelt way, as if they would never change. And I can investigate the truth in the reversals of the initial story and identity.

Enemies revealed as friends

 

There are lots of reversals on the path of noticing what we really are…

There is a discovering of the truth in the reversals of the stories we take as true. There is the discovering of how we are not within time and space, but time and space (as phenomena arising, and the stories of time and space placed on top of them) is within us.

And there is also the discovery of how what appeared as enemies are really friends…

  • Discomfort becomes a pointer for noticing and inquiring into beliefs, and an invitation for being with what is.
  • Beliefs becomes an invitation into discovering what is already more true for us than the belief.
  • Thoughts are revealed as just innocent questions about the world, arising as any other phenomenon.
  • Distractions becomes a pointer for noticing and inquiring into a juicy story, one that is believed in.
  • Desire becomes an invitation to unravel the desire to its core, and find only innocence and a desire to wake up.
  • Confusion becomes an invitation to be with what is, and find ourselves as the awake clarity everything happens within and as, even confusion at the level of thinking mind.

Ground awakening – state or not?

 

It is often said that the Ground awakening, as opposed to everything else, is not a state.

And as usual, it seems to be a truth with modifications.

It is not a state as it is only the void awakening to itself, and then to itself as awake void and form, allowing any forms to come and go as they do anyway. The only difference is that now, as the void is awake to itself, any thought is seen as just a thought, and there is an absence of identification with any stories, including the one of a separate self, of an I with an Other, and any other identities used to elaborate this sense of a separate self.

(There is an absence of identification with any stories, and so with any particular content, since the void is absence, and also since thoughts and everything else are recognized as nothing other than the void itself taking temporary forms.)

It is the Ground awakening to itself, allowing any state, any form, any change in content of awareness, to come and go on their own, living their own life on their own schedule, as they already and always do.

Said another way, it is the bottom dropping out, leaving all form suspended in space with no identification. The bottom – the sense of I with an Other, falls out, leaving form – the content of awareness, absent of identification. No change in states, only a change from identification to a an absence of identification and a realization that there was never any I with an Other there in the first place.

Yet, it also is a state, in a couple of different ways.

First, it is the state of void awake to itself, and all forms as nothing other than void itself. This is not a conventional state in the sense of a change in content of awareness (bliss, absorption, clarity, oneness, etc.), but it can certainly be called a state.

Then, it can also appear as a state as seen from within time. When there is a story of time, it happens at a particular (often well defined) point in time, and it may even go away in a particular point in time (and then it is called kensho instead of daikensho).

It is really the timeless now awakening to itself, always fresh, new and fluid in its form aspect, and from here time is recognized as only coming from a story overlaid on what is. Past, future and continuity is recognized as only appearing when what is is filtered through stories.

Yet, when this gets clouded over, a sense of a separate self, an identification with content of awareness, and with this a sense of the reality of time and space, reappears. And from here, the Ground awakening appears as having happened within time and space, so also as a state.

Dreams and reversals

 

It struck me that dreams often seem to have the same function as the reversals in The Work: compensating for a conscious attitude

Just like dreams, the reversals invite us to see, explore, familiarize ourselves with, and find in ourselves, what is left out by our conscious views.

Dreams go a little further as well, showing us what is just emerging in us below the threshold of our usual attention.

Willing to pay the price to be right

 

This is another not-new insight, but one that becomes very clear through different forms of inquiry:

When I suffer, it is because I am willing to pay the price of suffering to be right.

Or rather, to be right in the sense of holding onto one story as right and its reversals as wrong, taking it as an exclusive truth.

The belief has a shadow, which is the truth in all of its reversals, and also the inherent neutrality of the situation which is revealed when the relative truths in all the reversals cancel each other out. And this shadow is what creates the suffering.

Life shows up in ways that correspond to the shadow rather than the original belief, there is a dissonance, and suffering.

Beyond beliefs

 

What is beyond beliefs? Or rather, what is beyond seeing the grain of truth in a story and all its reversals, and the inherent neutrality of the situation?

It is very simple…

If we think apathy or nihilism or laissez faire or cynicism or heartlessness or rampant egotism or putting anyone down or aloofness, it could not be further from the truth.

It is true that any of those can come from a belief in any situation being inherently neutral. Actually, any of those, or a range of other ones, are almost inevitable if there is that belief, and it is taken seriously.

But it is very different to actually go beyond beliefs… to really see and have a felt-sense of how all stories are just stories, and all of the turnarounds of each of them have truths in them, canceling each other out and revealing the inherent neutrality of the situation. Using an inquiry such as The Work, we can go beyond beliefs one at a time, seeing this shift over and over in different areas of life.

What is beyond beliefs is a differentiated clarity and a receptivity of mind and heart. We see and acknowledge the relative truth in all reversals of a story. We are free to play with any of the conventional truths, knowing they are only relative truths. We act from compassion and empathy, from a freedom to see and have a felt-sense of ourselves in others. We act from wisdom, knowing that stories are only stories, for practical and temporary use only.

We are free to meet people where they are, acknowledging the truths in the stories they hold onto, and act from that differentiated clarity, empathy and wisdom, in whatever way seems appropriate in the situation (being receptive to learn from it and see how it could have been done differently). And then not call it any of that.

There is nothing wrong with relativism… but it must be a true relativism, one that goes beyond beliefs, including any philosophy such as relativism.

It is very simple… when it is alive in immediate awareness… when it is lived.

Nothing to attain? Yes and no.

 

The final thought before the ‘breakthrough’ was the very clear realization that there was nothing to be attained. For attainment implied acquisition and acquisition implied change of content of consciousness. But the goal is not change of content but divorcement from content. Thus, Recognition has nothing to do with anything that happens. I am already That which I seek, and therefore, there is nothing to be sought. By the very seeking I hide Myself from myself. Therefore, abandon the search and expect nothing. This was the end of the long search. I died, and in the same instant was born again. Spontaneity took over in place of the old self-determined effort.- Dr. Wolff, The Philosophy of Consciousness Without An Object, p 81.

This is also a relative truth, with a grain of truth in its reversal. And exploring this can help us see the bigger picture, and even clarify the initial truth.

There is nothing to attain in terms of content, just as Dr. Wolff points out. The content can stay the same, it is only the context that shifts. Or rather, the forms are the same, although now realized as being no other than awake emptiness itself, a field of awake emptiness absent of I and Other.

That the sense of a doer goes out of it, so there is no doer there anymore that can attain anything. In addition, there is nothing in it for the personality, because it is just the void awakening to itself. And the void is just a void, nothing there.

So there is nothing to attain… in that the world of form does not need to change, there is no doer there to attain anything, and it is just the void awakening to itself, and the void is just a void, nothing.

Yet, there is something to gain. There is the conventional attainments of the human self, which are inherently neutral and no other than the play of awake emptiness as a thin surface of form. There is the attainment of flux, of something new always coming into being in the world of form (and always already having left). And there is the attainment of shifts, independent of what it is from and to.

And even here, there is nothing to attain, as all of this is living its own life, coming and going as guests, happening on its own and on its own time. Before the shift into Ground noticing itself, what is taken as an “I” can certainly do things to invite that (and other) shifts, but that is about it. We can clean the house, put out the nice table cloth and the cakes and coffee cups, put the pot on the stove, send out the invitations, but that is all. All the guests, the shifts in form (and thus content of experience) and also the shift into Ground noticing itself, they live their own life. Coming and going on their own. On their own time.

This nothing to gain/something to gain exploration is of course a play with words, but a play that reveals and clarifies distinctions.

See below for a part of the initial draft, on how there is something to attain…

(more…)