Seeking and inquiry

 

Some folks seem to reject inquiry because they see it as seeking, and – apparently – seeking is bad ūüôā

For me, a few different things comes up for me around this:

Inquiry mainly helps me see how my mind operates. It helps me see how my mind creates its own experience of the world.

Inquiry helps me release or soften seeking. I get to see how what I seek, and the lack I perceive in myself or my life is created by my own mind. This tends to soften the seeking, and sometimes it even falls away.

Inquiry helps me find peace with what’s here, whatever it is. It helps me see that it doesn’t need to change. In these cases, I seek – to some extent – finding peace with what’s here, or some form of resolution that comes from seeing more clearly what’s here.

Sometimes, I do inquiry because I notice I suffer and I know from experience that I suffer because I don’t see very clearly what’s here. Inquiry helps me see more clearly what’s here, and there is less suffering, and sometimes it falls away completely. In these cases, I seek a relief from suffering, I may seek some sort of resolution. And that seems OK too. It seems very natural¬†and very human. It’s even kind.

Seeking seems to be a natural part of human life. Right now, I seek to write this. Just before, I sought to eat (a very delicious) dinner. Soon, I’ll seek to sleep. When I do inquiry, it’s often out of curiosity to see what’s there, so there is a seeking to see what’s there. Humanity wouldn’t exist, and wouldn’t survive, without seeking. Of course, heavy handed seeking creates suffering. And inquiry helps me soften the seeking so it becomes milder and often more playful.

When I hear people rejecting inquiry because they see it as fueling seeking, I can see their point. Inquiry can indeed be used to seek something, and it can fuel seeking. And yet, that’s only if inquiry is not applied¬†to explored that seeking. If it is, we get to see how the ideas of something to seek and of a lack are created, and that seeking tends to be more transparent, and perhaps soften or fall away. Also, it may not appear as a problem anymore.

Also, it brings to mind how nondual ideas can be made into an ideology or a religion, and even used in a “good” vs “bad” fashion. It’s good to not seek, and bad to seek…! Of course then we seek not to seek, so the seeking is still alive and well, just applied in a different way than most of us applies it.

Idealism is often just another way to try to find safety, and it comes with it’s own shadow side.

It is curious to me why seeking would be seen as bad. Is it because it shows we are unenlightened or unclear? If so, what’s so wrong about that? It seems that empathy and kindness would be more helpful. Is it because seeking can create suffering? That’s clearly true, and yet it also depends on how heavy or light handed that seeking is.

As I mentioned above, to me, it’s far more interesting to see how my mind creates the dynamics around seeking, including the idea of something to seek and a deficiency in me or my life. And at least for now, inquiry is the best tool I have found to explore that.

Seeking and its underlying assumptions

 

Behind seeking of any kind, is a basic assumption:

What’s here is not OK. This experience, who and what I am, life…. is not OK.

Seeking reinforces that assumption, since I would only act on it if it seems true to me.

I can continue to seek, and reinforce the assumption. Or I can notice and question this assumption, and perhaps other assumptions behind the seeking. I can question the unquestioned assumptions, feel the unfelt sensations, and love the unloved I am trying to avoid and escape from.

There is nothing wrong with seeking. A form of seeking is essential for our functioning and survival. And yet, compulsive seeking often comes from a sense that what’s here is not right, not good enough, not OK. And what I seek is a wide range of things: Feeling better. Escape. Enjoyment. Food. Entertainment. Achievements. Approval. Love. Acceptance. Money. Status. Enlightenment. Understanding. Safety. Coming home.

It’s good to notice.

It’s good to notice that compulsive seeking can take many forms, and also that the mind can easily tell itself the seeking is not compulsive. If I wonder, I can ask myself, what would I have to feel now if I didn’t seek? If my attention didn’t go “out there” to what I imagine I need from another experience, another situation, another life?

It’s also good to notice that the compulsive seeking comes from deep caring. And that questioning, feeling, and finding love for what’s here perhaps is a way to more reliably find what I really seek. There is no should here. (And if there is, that’s another seeking which I can explore in a similar way.)

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Seeking

 

Seeking is a natural part of being human.

It has an evolutionary function. It helps us survive and even thrive.

At the same time, seeking can create suffering when it becomes too serious and heavy. When we think we really need what we seek in order to be content, or happy, or whatever else we think it will give us.

It sometimes feels like a matter of life and death.

For me, there are the usual (these days) ways of exploring it.

Resting with it. Resting with the sensations, words, images, of (a) seeking, or (b) what I seek, or (c) what I am afraid would happen if I don’t have it. Notice. Allow. Notice the space within and around it. Notice it’s happening as and within awareness.

Meeting it with kindness, love. Holding satsang with it.

See if I can find (a) seeking, or (b) what I seek, or (c) what I am afraid will happen if I don’t have it. Can I find it, outside of words, images, sensations? Is it there, in the way it initially appeared to be?

Some things I am (sometimes) seeking: Love, approval, feeling OK. Peace. Enlightenment. Contentment. Clarity. Insight. Understanding. Respect. Flow. Ease. Connection. Relationships. Friendships. Love or friendship from someone attractive and popular. (Since it means I must be OK.) Food. Money. Entertainment. Enjoyment. Status. Income. Satisfaction. Safety.

What I am afraid would happen if I don’t have it: I’ll be broken. Unhappy. Unsatisfied. Disliked. Hated. Ignored. Alone. Miserable. Crazy. Tormented. Shun. Doomed.

So I can give myself what I seek. I can give myself – my own experiences, my images, words, sensations – kindness, love, approval, friendship, respect, welcome. I can see that it’s not what it initially appears to be. I can try to find it outside of words, images, and sensations, and perhaps not find it. All of that softens the seeking. It becomes lighter. More fun and enjoyable.

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Seeking Enlightenment

 

Seeking Enlightenment.

Why do some of us seek enlightenment?

It may be to avoid suffering. Or to find peace/love/joy. Or from love of love and truth, and a wish to live from love and truth.

It can also be to seek the ultimate approval – from life, Universe, God, and then also other people. To gain respect, love, and confirmation that I am OK.

None of these are wrong. It’s very natural, and very human.

And it’s good to notice.

How is it to give myself – here and now – what I seek?

Is it true that what I am seeking is not already here?

When I look, can I find what I seek for – outside of words, images, and sensations? Is it findable?

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Compulsive seeking

 

Nothing new here, and it’s something I have noticed from myself and also seen in others.

Compulsive seeking comes from trying to escape from (or fix) an uncomfortable feeling. And behind that feeling is a body contraction.

The seeking can take any form….. a seeking of comfort, understanding, status, love, enlightenment, being saved, money, house, and anything else.

None of these are wrong. And even when the compulsive seeking finds rest, and the feelings are felt, and the contraction perhaps softens or dissolves, we¬†will still aim for a good life, and do the “inner” and “outer” work needed. Although now from a different and more restful place.

Seeking as a way to avoid pain

 

One reason for seeking – whether it’s seeking enlightenment, money, love, insights, the perfect partner, sex – is to avoid pain.

Or rather, to avoid the experience of pain. We are, at least in our culture, trained to avoid the experience of pain. We are in the habit of avoiding pain, and teach that to our children through our example. We teach that that’s how we live here.

And one of the ways¬†we¬†avoid pain¬†is to medicate it with….. any number of things, including seeking insights, clarity, and enlightenment. It’s all innocent. It’s worried love.

There are a few ways of exploring this. Here are some I find helpful:

Meeting the pain, and the part of me wanting to escape it, with love. Ho’oponopono can be helpful here. I can also hold satsang with it. (You are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me. I love you. What would satisfy you forever? What are you really?)

Looking for the pain. The seeking. What I am seeking. The one in pain. The seeker. Can I find it, outside of images, words and sensations? How is it to look at each image and word that comes up around this, and feel the sensations?

When we examine this, meet what’s here with love, and feel what’s here, something shifts. We see it’s possible to experience what’s here without escaping it. And it’s actually more satisfying. Far more satisfying. And if we can do this individually, it’s at least conceivable that we can create a culture where this is the norm, and this is what we teach – through¬†the way¬†we live our life – our children.

We already are it, that’s why we want it

 

We already are what we seek, and that’s why we seek it.

Some – including Adyashanti – point this out. What does it mean?

We already are whole, peace, love, contentment.

We sometimes don’t recognize it (as what we are), so we seek it in all the ways we see in our own life and that of others. (Through circumstances, people, experiences…. food, vacations, lovers, money, status, identities, spiritual experiences, and more.)

I know this may sound nonsensical, but it’s how it seems. We wouldn’t seek it unless we weren’t it already.

One way to test this is to ask myself a question:

Is it true that what I seek is not already here?

It may appear to be here in the way I think I want it, but does that mean it’s not already here?

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Seeking and addictions

 

I have explored a simple variation of (what I imagine is) Scott Kiloby’s approach to exploring seeking and addictions.

(1) Identify a seeking (seeking Enlightenment, relationships, money, status, security, pleasure, approval, love, acceptance etc.), an addictive tendency, or an addiction (food, sugar, alcohol, sex, or even one of the above). This seeking, addictive tendency, or addiction may be to anything, and perhaps the only addiction is really to taking certain images and thoughts as true.

(2) What do you hope to get out of it? What’s the perceived need you are hoping to fulfill?

(3a) Imagine having it. How does it feel in your body? Stay with that feeling for a while.

(3b) Imagine the seeking dropping away, for no reason or any reason. (Perhaps because there it no longer the thought you don’t have it.) How does it feel in your body? Stay with that feeling for a while.

(4) Are you open to finding that feeling in your body the next time you notice this seeking, addictive tendency, or addiction?

This shows me that what I seek is available here now, and I can find it directly rather than go the way of sugar, approval from others, money or whatever else it may be. In addition to this simple process, I can inquire into any images or thoughts that seem to be behind the seeking or addiction.

Some additional addictions: Seeking. Being a victim. Drama. Being a helper. Being of service. And, again, it’s all really just an addiction to taking images and thoughts as true.

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Clarifying intention

 

When I explore intention, I find that it helps in daily life and also in growing and waking up.

And although it may seem to help to change or form intentions, all I really need is to clarify the ones already here. I can work with what is here, instead of against it.

I notice an existing intention in whatever form it takes. Desire. Wish. Want. Attraction. Aversion. Seeking.

I trace it back. What do I hope to get out of it? And what do I hope to get out of that? What am I really looking for? What would be the most satisfying? (This is an inquiry Adyashanti suggests.)

By doing this, I find – for myself and for now – that any initial intention comes back to seeking to avoid suffering and to find happiness. No matter how mundane or crude the surface expression of the intention seems, when I trace it back I find that it is really innocent.

In daily life, clarifying intentions helps me prioritize, focus, stay receptive to opportunities and so on.

In terms of growing up, it helps me experience myself in a more unified way and as a whole. And it also helps me see that we are all in the same boat here. We all seek to avoid suffering and to find happiness, no matter how that is filtered and expressed. (Often through a bit of confusion.)

In in the context of waking up, it helps me recognize that all my intentions already are in the direction of waking up. I just need to notice.

And one way to notice is to trace my intentions back, over and over, so I get to see and feel its essence, the way it is expressed in my life right now (often filtered through confusion), and what happens when it is filtered in a confused way and when there is more clarity around it. And through that, there is a genuine appreciation and love for it all, as it is.

This is a topic that is endless. For instance, an aspect of many spiritual practices is to clarify intention. To helps us see that our one wish – appearing in all the different ways desire and intention appears in our life – is to wake up.

And it is also helpful to recognize the validity of intentions as they appear at different places in the chain back to their essence.

The surface desire may be for a hearty soup, which may be entirely appropriate to fulfill at the human level. Looking a little closer, I find a desire for something nurturing which I can also find through relationships, in nature, through Breema, and more. And when I trace it even further back, I find a desire for avoiding suffering and finding happiness, which is a desire for growing up and Рif I take it that way Рfor waking up.

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Dream: needs to work itself through

 

I see what is left to be worked through, represented as a black rectangle with some substance and thickness.

This was a dream image that stayed with me after I woke up.

It has a sense of something that needed to be exhausted through practice and effort. And also that they exhausting itself is the point of it.

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The most materialistic, and the most spiritual

 

When we go out to one end of a polarity, we often meet the other end right there. For instance, by fully allowing an experience, there is a freedom from it right there (through reduced identification with resistance to it, and the beliefs and identities giving rise to the resistance). By going to the end of one end of the allowing-freedom from polarity, we find the other end.

Another example is the polarity of materialism and spirituality. There is a relatively easy co-existence of these two in some areas of the world, such as northern Europe, delegating them simply to different realms of existence. And in other areas, such as the US, these two are often (peculiarly?) seen as opposed to each other.

But there are also other ways to look at their relationship.

And one is to notice how the most materialistic shares many features with the most spiritual, which I see here as the nondual spirituality of Buddhism, Adveita and other traditions.

  • Infinite causes and infinite effects. Both see the world of form as infinite causes and infinite effects. Anything happening has infinite causes, going back in time to the beginning of the universe and out in space to the extent of the universe, and also has infinite causes. It is the local expression of the movements of the whole world of form
  • No free will. This comes out of the previous one. Everything happening has infinite causes and infinite effects, so there is no room for free will. There is no free will at the level of our human self. As hard-nosed as conventional science is, they usually don’t put it in such crass terms, but the nondual traditions often hold less back here.
  • No separate self. This too comes out of the first one. The world of form is a seamless whole, and any appearance of boundaries are only created in thoughts. If we separate out this human self, we see that it is maintained in structure and content by a continuous through flow and exchange with the larger whole. It is relatively easy to recognize at an abstract level, but as long as there is a belief in a separate self, then our experience of it will be of a separate self. The only way to recognize no-self, in immediate experience, is for Ground to notice itself. First, we may find ourselves as the witness, and all form – including what initially appeared as an inside and outside – as a seamless whole. Then, there may be the recognition of even this witness as absent of any separate self.
  • No inherent meaning. From a materialistic science, and also existentialistic, view, there is no inherent meaning in the universe or our human lives. And this too is what the nondual traditions report, and what we can find through our own exploration. Here now, there is just awakeness, inherently free from any particular content or form, yet allowing any and all form. And any sense of meaning comes only from a story, appearing within and is overlaid on content and form. There is no inherent meaning anywhere, since awakeness is stainless and independent of content, and also since any sense of meaning only comes from a story. And this freedom from stories and meaning allows for a free play of any sense of meaning, coming from any story. Existence already allows any sense of meaning and any story, and when we find this in ourselves, we are aligned with – and find ourselves as – that. So we are free to play with the stories that makes most sense to us, that has a practical value, fits the data more or less, and also supports – as best as we can tell – the life of ourselves, our community, and earth as a whole.
  • (more to come)

One of the reason there is such as easy coexistence, and so many parallels, between these two, is that the spiritual side of it involves a recognition of Ground, of God as awakeness inherently void of any characteristics, so then allowing and being Ground for itself manifesting in the vast variety of forms we know from our own experience. On the one hand, there is a separation of Ground (awake void) and the world of form, and on the other a recognition of the two as both expressions of existence, of God. And both of these allows for the world of form to be exactly as it is, including however it is experienced by us and described by science.

This is what we find at the extreme end of the spirituality side of the polarity (as defined for the purpose of this argument).

If we go a little further in from this end, we find forms of spirituality mainly concerned with the content of awareness, with the world of form, and not much about Ground at all. And since science is mostly or all about the world of form, they find themselves sharing the same turf, so there is more possibility for conflict. One way to resolve this is to delegate areas, and this is what we see quite often. We agree on science dealing with one area of the world of form (what we can see, touch or measure with instruments) and spirituality with another area of the world of form (what we cannot measure, such as souls, afterlife, and so on).

Aspects of seeking, longing and wanting

 

Another rambling post, this one of some of the things that come up for me when I explore longing in my own life…

Resolved at three levels

Seeking, longing and wanting can be resolved at (at least) three levels.

First, they can be met, and partially and temporarily resolved, at our human level.

Then, they can be met, and more deeply resolved, at our soul level.

Finally, they can be ultimately resolved at our Spirit level.

And these three are in no way mutually exclusive.

What we seek

Some of the things I find myself seeking include sense of belonging, sense of home, intimacy, love, acceptance, allowing, wealth, abundance, fullness, peace, rest, excitement, being fully alive, experience and live life fully, freedom from suffering, joy, happiness, fulfillment, understanding.

Examples of resolution at three levels

So how is any particular longing resolved at the three levels?

A longing for intimacy

Is partially and temporarily met and resolved at my human level in three ways: through intimacy with others, with the larger whole (nature, earth, universe), and with myself. It can take the form of friendship, intimate relationships, physical intimacy, transparency, sharing of more of all of me, connection with nature, exploring and embracing more of what I am.

At my soul level, it is more deeply met and resolved in two ways. First, when the alive presence surfaces as 2nd or 1st person (you or I/me) there is inherent a deep and profound sense of intimacy there (I am not sure how to describe it more clearly, but it is certainly there.) Then, as there is an awakening of the soul level, there is also a deep and profound sense of intimacy with the wider world as well, with others, nature, the universe as a whole. It is all shimmering with and as alive luminous presence. And this alive presence, right here, in this individual, this personal presence, is of one piece with the alive presence out there, the personal alive presence of others, and the impersonal alive presence everywhere throughout nature and the universe.

And as with any other longing, it is ultimately resolved at the Spirit level. It arises from a sense of I and Other, of separation, which gives a sense of lack, of something missing (which is true.) So when the field of what is, of seeing and seen, of awake emptiness and form, when this field awakens to itself as a field, without any center, without any separate self anywhere, then any longing is resolved. There is only identification with longing when there is a sense of separation. In the absence of separation, there is also an absence of identification with longing (it may still arise, but without identification.)

A seeking of a sense of belonging

Is partially met through all our human ways we find belonging, such as belonging to a place, a community, a landscape, a family, a culture, a nation, a planet, an universe.

Is more deeply met and resolved through awakening of soul as alive presence and all the other ways it arises. In second person, there is a deep sense of belonging, and as first person, it deepens even further. There is a recognition that this is who I really am, at an individual level. In my immediate experience, am far more truly this soul, this alive presence, than I am this human self and personality.

And again, at the Spirit level, there is a more ultimate resolution. Here, I find myself as awake emptiness and form, and as the Ground of all form. It is complete. There is no Other anywhere that can add to it. There is no Other that can provide any further sense of belonging.

Soul level

I could go through a large number of longings, and the ways they are resolved at our human level is pretty obvious from our own experience, and the way they are resolved at Spirit level is always the same (absence of I and Other)…

But the ways they are resolved at our soul level is more interesting to me right now, maybe especially since my formal background is mostly from Zen, and this seems to be largely left out of Zen.

At our soul level, either finding soul as second or first person, all the longings I have explored so far, for myself, are naturally resolved. The many qualities of the soul is exactly what I long for…

The alive presence seems to be filtered through the three centers in different ways, as light split through a prism. It is filtered through the belly center as fertile darkness and a luminous blackness, deeply nurturing, holding, allowing anything in this human self to be composted. It is filtered through the heart center as an alive presence in the heart, infinitely loving, intelligent, receptive, responsive and personal. It is filtered through the head center as clarity, awake emptiness, form as no other than awake emptiness.

Through the belly center, there is a deep sense of stillness, nurturing, healing and maturing. Through the heart center, a deep sense of God as personal (whether second or first person) and infinite love. Through the head center, nondual wisdom and a release from suffering.

Together, there is a deep sense of aliveness, belonging, nurturing, acceptance, allowing, peace, rest, stillness, fullness, wealth, richness, excitement, intimacy, understanding.

Embracing all three levels

The alive presence – in all its many aspects, as this individual and the wider world – really fills all my needs, it is everything I ever was looking for. And yet, it does not preclude also finding it at my human level, and it does not preclude finding the ultimate resolution at the Spirit level.

There is a deeper longing which is the embrace of all three levels, of finding what we seek at our human, soul and Spirit levels. Why leave anything out?

And some other aspects of this…

Surrender

There has to be a sense of surrender at each of these levels.

One form of surrender has to do with impermanence…

At our human level, it is obvious. Everything is in flux. Things happen. I may seek something particular, and it doesn’t come along. I have what I want, and it goes away. Something comes along I don’t want. That is just human life.

And so it is also at our soul level. The alive presence may be very much present in some phases in our life, and then retreat and seemingly be completely gone. That is the relationship with our soul, at least in the early phase.

The same is the case for the Spirit level. We may have glimpses of various clarity and duration, and then they are gone. Again, this is our relationship with Spirit, until it awakens fully to itself.

Another form of surrender is of what we take ourselves to be…

At my human level, I may find myself as more than or different from what I thought I was, and particular identities are surrendered. I may have ambitions that do not come to fruition. I may find in myself things I didn’t want to see. I may have gifts I didn’t know was there. Ways of being I was not aware was there come up in different situations and emerge over time.

Finding myself as soul, my exclusive identity as a human being (and with the personality) has to go.

And finding myself as Spirit, any identifications has to go.

Each of these is a death, and a rebirth. We die as what we thought we were, and are reborn as something else.

Adyashanti’s inquiries: tracing back, and not already here?

It is helpful to clarify what we seek and long for, and one way to do it (recommended by Adyashanti) is to make a list of everything we want, from the most grand to the most petty, from the most spiritual to the most mundane. Then, go through each item and ask what do I hope to get from this? And continue until you find the seed want (for me, it usually ends up as happiness, and freedom from suffering.)

Then, ask yourself is it true that this is not already here? Usually, I can find it present, at least as a grain, at each of the three levels. Any longing presumes that it is not already here, so this is a way to notice that it may already be here.

Spirit, soul and human self

If we awaken to ourselves as what we are, as Spirit, then everything is rest, peace, even in the midst of great activity and turmoil. There is the I without the Other, so automatically rest, a sense of completeness, of nothing missing. No matter what happens at our individual soul and human levels, the peace and sense of completeness is there.

If we awake to ourselves as soul, to any degree, then there is a continuous sense of alive presence, of profound and vibrant aliveness, nourishment, richness, fullness, sweetness, intimacy, being home. And this infuses our human life, no matter how this human life shows up (if it goes bad, this gives comfort and relieves some of the suffering, and if it goes well, this gives an added sense of vibrancy and aliveness.)

Seeking and nonseeking

 

Adyashanti likes to talk about what happens when wanting falls away: We want something, get it, and experience the fullness and contentment that is there when the wanting goes into the background for a while.

Of course, his point is that the absence of wanting is what gives this sense of fullness and contentment, not getting what we (think we) want. What we think we want may be an object, but what we really want is to experience the fullness and contentment always here, and coming into the foreground when the wanting is in the background.

What do I really want?

One way to explore what we really want behind our surface wants is to make a list, and then for each want ask what do I hope to get out of this? And then the same question, until we arrive at something that is not reducible to something else.

A simple sequence may look something like this: I want money >> security, safety, freedom >> happiness, freedom from suffering, freedom from and not victim of circumstances.

Is it true it is not already here?

Having found this, we can ask ourselves is it true that what I seek is not already here?

Happiness: yes, I can find that right here. When there is a simple quiet being with whatever is experienced, there is a quiet happiness and bliss here, independent of whatever else is experienced. Freedom from suffering: yes, I can find that too here. There is something here always free from suffering and any other content. Something not touched by content. A wakefulness, clarity, capacity for everything to arise within. Seeing free from any of the particulars of the seen. Freedom from circumstances: yes, that too is right here, in the same stainless wakefulness and seeing.

Big Mind process

Through the Big Mind process, we discover the same but with more differentiation.

We see how seeking mind is immensely useful in many ways, including on a purely practical human everyday level. Yet, if seeking mind is typically in the foreground, there will be a chronic sense of dissatisfaction. There is always something to seek that is just around the corner, just over the next hill, just into the future or over there.

When nonseeking mind comes into the foreground, there is a sense of fullness, quiet, contentment. Here, we notice that what we seek is already here.

They both have their functions: Seeking mind on a practical relative level, and nonseeking mind as a reminder of the absolute.

In the relative, there may indeed be lack and something to gain. In the absolute, there is nothing missing. Both are needed.