Duration and intensity of a dark night

 

Some factors that may play a role in the duration and intensity of a dark night (and probably any spiritual emergency):

Struggle vs. welcoming. The more struggle with what’s happening, the more difficult the process may be experienced. It adds a layer of suffering, and it’s possible that it prolongs the process (I don’t really know if it does or not). This struggle comes from beliefs and identifications, and the release of these is one of the things that tends to happen in a dark night. So there is nothing wrong with struggle and resistance. It’s just a surfacing of what’s left, with an invitation for us to see through it. Conversely, the more genuine welcoming there is of the process, the more there is an aligning with it, the less struggle and suffering there tends to be. And we can support this welcoming through various forms of inquiry. For instance, what do I find when I look for my ideas of resistance or struggle? Is it really what it initially appears to be? Also, is there really a separation between a me or I and what’s happening? Is it true it’s too intense? Is it true that I know better than life how things should be?

Depth of process. It’s also possible that the “depth” of the process influences how the dark night is experienced. If it’s mainly about the head and/or heart center, it can be intense enough, but it seems that the belly center opening requires even more of us. That has certainly been the case for me. (The dark night preceding the head and heart center openings lasted a few years, with one year that was quite intense. The current dark night, which seems to have to do more with the belly center, has lasted much longer and is far more intense and demanding.) For each center, I assume there may also be several “dark nights” as there is a deepening. And speaking of “depth”, there is probably a lot here I am unaware of as well, including what’s ahead in the process.

Trauma and old patterns. The third factor seems to be the amount of trauma and old patterns we each bring with us, from this and possibly past lives. It seems that I am in the mid-range when it comes to trauma, and the amount that’s come up here has already been quite difficult and at times overwhelming. As someone said, “there is no easy trauma”. Again, the more we can align with and support the process, the easier we make it for ourselves.

Finally, we don’t know. These may all appear to play a role, and they may be helpful practical pointers. And they are really only an overlay of images and words, and assumptions and interpretations.

So how to we support and more consciously align with the process? What I have found helpful includes:

Taking care of myself through diet, moderate exercise, spending time in nature, seeking support from friends and family.

Doing various forms of inquiry to see through my stories of what’s going on.

Seeking support and guidance from people who have gone through it themselves.

Seeking healing for the trauma and wounds that are surfacing.

Staying with the sensations rather than going into the stories of what’s happening, with the support of inquiry (seeing through my stories). Noticing that the sensations are already allowed.

Meeting what’s here with love, with the support of ho’oponopono, tonglen, placing myself in the heart flame, meeting what’s here in satsang. Inquiry is also helpful here, recognizing what’s surfacing as already love.

Gaining just enough knowledge and understanding of the process for navigating it a bit more skillfully, and finding more peace with it.

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Scott Kiloby: We only suffer for one reason

 

We only suffer for one reason: we don’t want to FEEL. And so the remedy for all suffering is to feel in the most barenaked, thought-free way.

– Scott Kiloby

Yes, that fits my experience. Suffering is the experience that’s created when I try to run from sensations.

When words and images are, in my mind, stuck on sensations to make them seem scary.

One solution is to try to feel sensations in spite of the stuck-on words and images, or try to set these words and images aside for a while. This may or may not work, and is only a temporary solution.

A more satisfying solution is to examine the words and images stuck on the sensations, one at a time, and see what’s really there. In this way, the glue itself softens or dissolves completely, leaving the sensations as sensations.

Without stuck-on words and images, sensations are OK. They are just sensations. There is no need to run from them. And there may even be a genuine curiosity there, a deep willingness and interest in feeling them.

After all, after a lifetime of running, there is a huge relief in just relaxing with what’s here. Noticing it’s all already allowed. It’s all already OK. It’s all already life.

Sensations without words and images

 

One of the effects of the Living Inquiries is to un-velcro words and images from sensations.

When there is an emotional charge in a group of words, images and sensations, it’s difficult to allow and be with the sensations. There is often a pull or push there, and it’s sticky all around. Attention is brought to the sensations, and it triggers associated words and images, and the sense of charge, and this tends to draw attention into the charged story.

When this charge has released – through examining the words, images and sensations one by one – it’s much easier to be with and allow the sensations. They are recognized as just sensations. The sensations are noticed, felt, allowed to live its own life, and allowed to move through.

Staying with sensations

 

It’s easy to say open to the emotion, welcome it, be with it. 

And yet, the question is, how can I do it?

Here are some ways I find helpful:

1. Find fears and resistant thoughts that come up when I consider opening to an intense emotion, and inquire into these. Some beliefs may be: It’s too much. I’ll be overwhelmed. This emotions means something terrible has happened/will happen. This emotion reflects reality. The thought behind it is true. 

2. As I open to the emotion, I can ask myself: Is it true, it’s too much? Is it true, it’s overwhelming? Is it true, I cannot do it? Is it true, it’s not already allowed?

3. Find where in the body I experience the emotion, and bring attention to the sensations there. Bringing attention to the sensation side of the emotion feels more manageable, and it’s also inquiry. I notice how it is to bring attention to the sensation side of the emotion. It may show me the distinction between the sensation side of an emotion, and the image/thought side. And the automatic coupling between those two may lessen and fall away over time. As an emotion arises, I may notice it’s a sensation, and some stories about it – it’s fear, it means something terrible will happen – are simply just thoughts, innocent questions about the world, not necessarily true.

4. When I bring attention to the sensations, notice how the sensations/emotions change over time, how new emerge – perhaps with their own stories, and so on. As Brandon Bays points out, this may eventually lead into the void.

5. As attention is distracted, bring it back to the sensations. Also, notice the thought attention is distracted by/into, and perhaps thoughts about distraction itself. Make a note of it and take this thought to inquiry later. The thoughts attention is distracted by may be the same as under #1 above, and the thoughts about distraction itself may be of the self-judgment kind.

6. As in TRE and other explorations, touch can be very helpful here. Someone holding my hand, or putting his/her hands on my shoulder, or the belly, or feet, may be a great support in staying with intense emotions as they surface. It’s a reminder that someone else is here in the world, and of kindness.

7. I can also do ho’oponopono on the situation: On the person or situation the emotion appears to be about, here and now.  On the emotion itself, seen as an enemy and struggled against. On myself, struggling with how to relate to the intense emotion. And perhaps, if I trace the wound/fear/belief back, on an early childhood situation relating to what’s surfacing now.

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Get a load off my chest: Body-related metaphors and inquiry

 

Metaphors are images in my mind, and they can be taken as true or not.

To the extent they are taken as true, they influence my view, feelings and life. I perceive, feel and live as if it’s true.

And that’s true for body-related metaphors as well.

I have a weight on my shoulders. Cotton in my head. Butterflies in the stomach. It was as getting a knife in the stomach. I want to get a load off my chest. I feel lighter. A weight lifted from me. 

An experiment

This morning, I noticed my mind felt a bit slow, and was reminded of the cotton in my head metaphor. As an experiment, I labeled it cotton in my head and intentionally solidified the experience. How would it be if I take the story of cotton in my head as true and real?

I noticed the sensations that made up the experience, and then the image that went with it. The feeling of cotton in my head seems entirely made up of (a) certain sensations in my head area, especially a slight pressure/tension at the temples and forehead, and (b) an image of wooliness or cotton in and a bit around the head. Outside of that, I cannot find it. It’s quite funny, in a way, how it’s only sensations and an image that create the experience.

I have explored this before, with this and other body-related labels, so cotton in my head doesn’t feel real or solid anymore, even when I don’t intentionally investigate it this way.

Before investigating, the experience of cotton in my head and other labels – including the more basic ones of pain, hunger, dizziness and so on – seem quite real and solid. I have stories of what it means, and tend to take these as true as well. When these metaphors and labels are investigated – perhaps several times and over time – they don’t seem so real, true or solid anymore. It’s clear that it’s made up of a set of sensations, and – if it even comes up – a label. The label may come up only when it seems helpful, for instance in conversation. And even then, it’s not taken as true.

With this, the stories of what it means tends to fall away as well. And it can also be helpful and interesting to investigate these. I have cotton in my head, and that means…. (I won’t function as well, I will have to avoid mental tasks). I have cotton in my head, because…. (I have cf, I didn’t sleep well). 

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Staying with sensations

 

What do I mean when I tell myself I stay with the fear behind discomfort, unease, tension and so on?

I am really just staying with the sensations of fear, the sensations my images and thoughts tend to label fear.

And how can I more easily do that?

I find that inquiry is very helpful, for instance inquiring into the thoughts creating the fear (I won’t have enough money, she won’t like me), thoughts about the fear itself (it’s overwhelming, it means something terrible will happen), and the label fear itself (it’s fear).

Training a more stable attention is also very helpful, for this as for so much else, and the simplest way to do this may be to bring attention to the sensations of air as it flows in and out of the nostrils. Allow the breath to be as it is (or notice it’s already allowed), and bring attention to the sensations at the nostrils. As attention goes somewhere else, usually into thoughts taken as true, notice and bring it back to the sensations again. (This is also an inquiry practice, noticing the tendency of attention to go into thoughts taken as true, and then bring attention back to the sensations, and notice any beliefs about this and perhaps later take these to inquiry.)

Staying with sensations seems helpful at any time. It helps me see that what I label warm, cold, pain, hunger, unease, agitation, joy, excitement are all sensations with an overlay of images and thoughts labeling it in these ways. Is it really true? Is the label true? Does it have an as clearly defined boundary as these images suggest? What does my thoughts tell me are the implications of these labels (it’s pain and that means….)? What do I find when I take these to inquiry?

It also helps attention stay with something quite simple – sensations – instead of getting lost in labels, interpretations and stories about these sensations or other aspects of life.

It’s all an experiment. What happens if attention stays with sensations here and now? What happens if there is that intention? What are my thoughts about it? What do I find if I take these to inquiry?

Breathe, feel, turn it over

 

When something I tend to see as “other” comes up – a feeling, a thought, pain, discomfort, I can…..

1. Breathe – stay with the sensations of the breath.

2. Feel – stay with the feeling of whatever comes up in the body.

3. Turn it over to God – to the divine, infinite intelligence, infinite love.

As so many simple pointers and “practices”, this is an invitation to notice what’s already here.

When attention is brought to the sensations of the breath, it goes out of stories – out of being caught in the content of stories.

When whatever is here is felt, there is a softening of the sense of “I” and “other” – it may even fall away, revealing the field of experience as a seamless field. A seamless field  within which any sense of I and Other appears within and as.

When it’s turned over to God, there is an invitation to shift attention to what’s already here – the field of experience/awareness/no-thing it’s all already happening within and as, and out of content of stories. There is an invitation to see what happens when whatever is here is consciously, intentionally turned over to this field.

Note: Breathe, feel, turn it over comes from Barry Martin Snyder and Karen Anderson, and is described in their book Soul Awakening.

What do I do in my body to believe a thought?

 

What happens in my body – what physical sensations are here – when I believe a particular thought? (A question from The Work.)

Or, said another way, what do I do in my body to believe a thought? (A question from TRE.)

Although each belief comes with a particular pattern, here are some general and common ones I notice for myself:

In general, I tighten the calf muscles. This reduces blood flow and sensations in my legs, which in turn reduces a sense of “grounding” so it’s easier to go into – and get caught up in – stories.

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Breath as inquiry

 

Breath practice can also have an element of inquiry, either as a natural side-effect or as a result of more intentional focus.

Using the breath as an object of attention, attention is invited to calm down and stabilize.

In the process, I may quietly and wordlessly notice some of the dynamics around it

I usually bring attention to the sensations at the tip of the nose, but it could also be on the expansion of the belly front-and-back, the expansion of the chest, or the sensation of the cool air flowing through the nose and into the lungs.

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Welcoming the fear behind beliefs

 

Another exploration I find interesting right now…

Notice a belief. A story that seems true. A fixed position. An emotional attachment.

What is the experience of that belief?

Where do I find it in the body? What are the sensations?

Quietly meet those sensations. Welcome them as they are. Allow them to be here, with a friendly interest and curiosity.

Is there a fear behind the belief or emotional attachment?

If so, quietly meet that fear. Welcome it as it is. Allow it to be here with a gentle interest and curiosity.

What happens to the impulse to create a belief or go into an emotional attachment? Does it stay? Fade? Fall Away? Whatever happens is OK. Just notice and stay with that too.

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Flavors of allowing

 

I find it fascinating to explore the different flavors of allowing experience: Shifting into Big Mind or headlessness. Choiceless awareness. Asking myself can I be with what I am experiencing right now? Shifting into gently and quietly meeting experience as it is. Bringing in a sense of kindness and the heart. And so on.

When I shift into allowing experience, I see, feel and love it as it is, for its sake. And the emphasis on each shifts between and within each form of allowing.

In Big Mind, headlessness and choiceless awareness, it seems that the seeing of experience is in the foreground, with feeling it anywhere between background to foreground, and the possibility of loving it is there are well – coming and going.

When I intentionally bring in the heart, the love for experience as it is comes into the foreground.

And there is also a way of being with experience where the felt sense is in the foreground. The sensations are invited in center stage, and welcomed there as they are.

Each one has its own flavor, and each one can be a helpful and valuable exploration. What happens when experience is resisted? What happens when it is allowed and welcomed? What happens when the seeing of it is in the foreground? The felt sense? Love and kindness?

In each case, a shift from (being caught up in) resistance to allowing is a shift from a sense of separation to that field which holds it all. When the felt sense is brought in, I “get it” with the body. I feel the difference. When love comes in, there is a sense of appreciation and gratitude for experience, as it is and for its sake.

And in terms of healing and maturing as who I am, this human self, that seems to be invited in when the felt sense and kindness is in the foreground.

A felt sense of allowing

 

There are many flavors and slight variations in shifting into allowing experience.

One is a gentle and simple meeting of what is here, with the bodily sensations in the foreground.

What do I experience now? Where do I experience it in the body? What sensations are there? What happens if I meet it? Welcome it? Notice if it changes. Can I meet and welcome that too?

As with any of these explorations, it can sometimes be helpful to have someone else provide the container and ask the questions.

What does this exploration do? Well, if there is a habit here – even a slight one – of resisting experience, this is an antidote. It is a help to try something different, gently meeting experience as it is and see what happens. To feel what happens when there is resistance (caught up in resistance), and what happens when experience is met, as it is.

And when the felt sense is in the foreground, I feel the difference between resistance and allowing. I “get it” with the body. It sinks in a little deeper.

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Sensations as a test

 

Some teachers use how we experience sensations as a quick test for where we are.

Bring attention to where your foot meets the ground. (Or your hand on your thigh, or anything else.) What do you experience? Do the sensations belong to the body, with the floor on the other side of the boundary? Do they appear in space?

It seems that there are at least three possibilities for how these sensations are experienced.

Sensations may appear in space, with not much else happening. There is no sense of an I with an Other associated with it.

Sensations appear in space, but with an overlay of mental field activities such as an image of the body and the foot, and an image of the ground. But these mental field activities are seen as just that, imagined boundaries to aid our human self function in the world. They do not have substance.

Sensations belong to this foot, with the floor on the other side of that boundary. There is a strong sense of an I with an Other, and of the sensation/mental field gestalts (body, foot, floor) being real and substantial.

So to summarize: Sensations can appear in/as space, and that’s it. There are sensations, and mental field activity seen as just mental field activity. Or sensations are entangled with the mental field, and the gestalts are not seen as gestalts.

For me, I see that when I bring attention to it, sensations appear in and as space – with or without a mental field overlay, and although both are awareness itself, they are also distinct from each other. But sometimes in daily life, there is still the habit of taking the gestalts as real. (Beyond just a gestalt.)

Feel awareness

 

Some teachers emphasize to feel awareness. It may sound funny, but there is a deep wisdom behind it.

When I shift into Big Mind, finding myself as what I am, feeling awareness is an invitation to bring attention to what is happening to my body. I bring attention to the felt-sense, to what is happening with my felt-sense when what I am notices itself.

(I can invite this shift in through the Big Mind process, headless experiments, exploring the sense fields, allowing experience/choiceless awareness, or by following a number of other pointers. And the noticing of what I am can be more or less clear. But the felt-sense will still shift along with it.)

What I notice is a deep relaxation of the body. When it is no longer taken as an I with an Other, it is free to release the tension that comes from being taken for an I with an Other.

Bringing attention to the body, in the context of what we are noticing itself, is also an invitation to the body to reorganize within this new context. It is an invitation to deepen into the felt sense of what we are noticing itself, and to allow the body – and our human self as a whole – to reorganize within it.

And if the heart is brought in, there is a whole new flavor to it, and the relaxation and reorganization goes even deeper.

I shift into Big Mind, invite in Big Heart, a kindness and well-wishing towards anything within form, bring attention to the body and embrace the body, and allow the body – and my human self as a whole – to deeply relax and reorganize within that awareness and love.

Free from the tension and stress of being taken for an I with an Other, and within being seen, felt and loved as it is, here and now.

Sensations as anchor

 

I was reminded of this a couple of times in recent days, waking up with a sensation in the body that I didn’t have a ready story about, and then trying out different stories to see how they would fit. Is it a mood? An emotion? A body symptom?

This is a good example of how thoughts combine with sensations to create a gestalt, a new whole that seems very real and substantial in itself, until we see how it is made up of just a sensation and a thought.

In this case, I could tell myself it is a mood, and how it must have come from a dream or maybe something going on in my life. I could probably have found something in my life that fitted the mood, almost whatever the mood might be, and then go into and fuel those stories, which in turn would fuel the mood. (Nothing wrong in that, we do it all the time.)

I could tell myself it was an emotion, find something in my life that would be a likely trigger for the emotion, and go into stories about that in a similar way.

Or I could tell myself it was just a body symptom, from whatever germs are living the high life in my body this week, or maybe something I ate a little too close to bed time the night before. And if I did that, I would most likely just leave it alone, without going into many stories about it apart from many a reminder to myself of not eating too late in the evening.

I could also, as I did, notice what was going on. A set of unusual sensations in the body, a set of stories being tried out to see which one fits, and then seeing those stories as just innocent questions. Is it a mood? An emotion? A body symptom? Is there anything I need to do about it, whatever it may be? No, it seems quite innocent whatever it is.

Approximate stability practice

 

I know there are lots of guidelines and maps about stability practice out there, based on the cumulative experience of thousands (millions?) of practitioners, and I am neither very familiar with it or very experienced on my own. As with everything else here, this is just a snapshot of what is alive for me right now, and each statement if followed by a question mark even if it doesn’t show up on the screen.

It seems that many practices are, most of the time, approximate. It is approximate shikantaza, approximate allowing experience, and also approximate stability practice, an approximately stable attention on something.

Here are some of the things I notice which makes my stability practice only approximate. In this case, using the sensation of the breath at the nostrils as the object of attention, with or without counting.

  • If I count my breaths, I notice that attention is often split between the sensations of the breath at the nostrils, and the number thoguht. Attention also tends to shift between the two, with one in the foreground, then the other.
  • If I have my eyes partly open, even with a soft gaze, I notice attention being split between the sensations of the breath at the nostrils, and the focus of the visual field. (It may be subtle, but still a noticeable split.) This happens whether I count, in which case attention is split four ways (imagined bulls eye as guide for attention, thought of a number and through of sequence of numbers, focal point of visual field, and sensations at the nostrils), or not.
  • When I bring attention to the sensations of the breath at the nostrils, I use a visual thought – almost an imagined bulls eye – as a guide for attention. So attention is split between these two as well, with one in the foreground then the other. Even without counting, and with eyes closed, attention is split between these two.
  • Sensations themselves flicker inn and out of existence. When they flicker out of existence, the imagined bulls eye remains so attention shifts there. When they flicker into existence, attention shifts back to the sensation. (This rapid flickering happens during inhalation and exhalation, and the sensations also fade in and out of existence during the in/outbreath and the pause in between.)
  • Any belief tends to catch attention, in obvious or more subtle ways, either by attention going on the inside of a thought and following it, or by just a flicker of interest when the thought arises. (Belief here means identification with a story, any story.)
  • These flickers of interest also happens with non-discursive thoughts, such as image thoughts overlaid on the sense fields. (Imagining what the sounds are, where the sensation is located in the body, and so on.)

So this is one way stability practice, in itself, invites in insights.

Through stability practice, we gain insight into some of the dynamics around a stable, or in this case not so stable, attention.

We may notice the sense of clarity that often comes as a side effect of a more stable attention.

We may notice the sense of energy that comes with it, and other side effects such as a sense of luminosity (even visually) and so on.

We discover how it is much easier to observe and notice what is going on when we can place attention more stably on something alive here now. A more stable attention helps insight directly.

We may notice how thoughts, as anything else, lives its own life, coming and going on their own schedule.

We may notice the difference between attention seeing a thought as a thought, and getting absorbed on the inside of a story. In the first case, allowing it to come and go as a simple thought. In the second case, fueling and elaborating it into a more complex story, and often getting lost in it.

We may notice how attention is more easily drawn to stories we identify with. Stories that seem true, real, important. Stories that define who we, temporarily, take ourselves to be.

We may notice how the activities of thoughts naturally quiet down when attention rests stably on the breath, or something else.

We may notice how the effects of the different layers of thoughts fall away when identification is released out of them. When identification goes out of discursive thought, drama falls away and there is a sense of quiet presence. When identification is released out of more basic layers of thought, such as those creating a sense of extent and continuity, this falls away, and whatever happens in the different sense fields happens without being mapped onto space or time. When identification goes out of a sense of I with an Other, this field of awakeness and its content is revealed as inherently free of an I with an Other, inside and outside, center and periphery.

(The discursive layer is needed for daily functioning, but only to a limited extent, and when identification goes out of it, drama goes out as well. The layer creating a sense of extent and continuity is obviously needed for daily functioning, but it can be interesting and helpful to explore during sitting practice. And the final layer, of a sense of a separate I, is not needed for the functioning of our human self.)

We notice the ephemeral nature of sensations, rapidly flickering in and out of existence, and the ephemeral nature of any sense field.

We may notice sensations, and any sense field, as awakeness itself.

We may notice how the content of each sense field comes and goes, but something does not come and go. What is it that does not come and go? Am I the content of the fields, or that which does not come and go? Are they really separate?

And this is just scratching the surface. Something as simple as stability practice is fertile ground for exploration, going right back to the core of what we really are.

Sensations as anchors for subject and object

 

Sensations serve as anchors for a sense of subject and object.

For instance, if I bring attention to sensations in my belly, these become an anchor for a sense of object, and sensations in my head area (upper/back of mouth cavity, neck, sensations on the skin of the head) become an anchor for a sense of subject.

If I see this, and bring attention to the sensations serving as anchor for a sense of subject, there is a shift. Now, some of the same sensations still serve as an anchor for a sense of subject, but they are displaced in space to an area just outside of the head.

In this way, the sensations previously serving as an anchor for a sense of subject now become an anchor for a sense of object, and some of them still serve as a (slightly different) anchor for a sense of subject. Now, the subject appears more above or around the head rather than inside of the head, but still anchored in sensations.

And if I see this, there is a chance that there is a release of identification with sensations altogether. I see all sensations as happening within space and awakeness, and none of them are an “I” anymore.

I see the sensations that served as a sense of object, and the ones that served as a sense of subject, and identification is released out of all of it.

Anchors and moods

 

I keep exploring how sensations provide an anchor for a sense of a separate I, and also how sets of sensations are used to create feelings and moods.

This morning, I noticed how sensations on the side of my face were used as an anchor for a sense of a separate self, because they were roughly in the right area of space (head area) and were prominent since I had been sleeping with that side on the pillow. As these sensations gradually faded, the anchor shifted to the more usual ones in the upper throat area, at the back of the upper palate, and even in the back of the nasal cavity. By amplifying (having the intention of strengthening) the sense of a separate I, I also noticed how muscles in these areas contracted, increasing the sensations, which then provide a better anchor, one that is more easily noticed and lends more of a sense of substance and solidity to the sense of a separate I.

It may seem a weird thing to explore, but I find it fascinating and it only takes a few seconds, or minutes at most, to take a look at.

I then explored moods and feelings in the same way, first looking at a mood from a dream I woke up from and finding the sensations it is anchored in. Then, amplifying the mood and noticing how the muscles in those areas tense up to make the sensations stronger. And then creating a series of other moods to explore the sensations used as anchors for these. I noticed how each mood draws on a particular set of sensations, sometimes from quite different areas of the body. And how these sensations are either brought out or strengthened by muscles tensing up in those areas, this time on the cue of thoughts inviting in certain moods.

With moods, these sensations serve as an anchor in space and lends a sense of substance to the mood, and they also provide the quality of the mood. Certain blissful moods are created from sensations in the roof of the nasal cavity when air pass by. Other, more dense moods, are created from contractions in the throat and belly areas.

And that is actually what happens with the anchors for a sense of a separate I too. These too provide a quality to it, a certain quality of density and sense of substance.

Transparency of thoughts

 

I continue to explore thoughts through the practice of labeling the different sense fields: sound, sight, taste, smell, sensations and thoughts.

It is a great help in differentiating perception and thought, exploring the different interactions between them, and also how thoughts are really just another perception, mimicking the other sense fields and arising as anything else in the sense fields.

Some things I notice…

  • When I close my eyes, I notice how thoughts create images of what is in the space around this body, and of the body itself. In fact, thoughts create the whole experience of space, when the eyes are closed and also when they are open. An overlay of thoughts organize and makes sense of perception, creating a sense of space.
  • Attention is guided by thoughts in terms of sense field, location and boundary. For instance, with eyes closed or open, thoughts guide attention to any sense field, any location, and an area of any size. It can guide attention to sensations of my whole body, or the toe, or sounds from the street, or anything else.
  • Thoughts label perception, often just as an image or also with associated sounds, tastes, smells, sensations. Something arises, it is placed somewhere within the image of space, and an image guessing what it comes from is placed on top of it. For instance, there is the sound of a car from the road, it is located in relation to the space image, and an image of a car is placed there. This happens all the time, with most or nearly all sense perceptions.
  • Thoughts mimic the other sense fields: sounds, sights, taste, smell, sensations. It creates an imagined world that mirrors the world of perception, whether it is overlaid on or separate from perceptions arising here and now. In the first case, it is often not noticed. In the second case, we call it imagination or daydreaming or thinking about the past or future.
  • Thoughts create a sense of continuity. Thoughts mirror perceptions that just left, anticipate what may be about to happen, and string them all together into an appearance of continuity. There seems to be a funny mix of thoughts of past (perceptions from a while ago), present (perceptions that just left), and future (anticipation), and of perceptions arising here now, all together creating an appearance of continuity and time.
  • Through the labeling of nearly all perceptions, thoughts trigger responses and reactions. For instance, there is a thought of hunger (image/sensation), a thought of food in the fridge, and then the response of getting up to make some food and eat it. Or an image of me as man, someone else as a particular type of woman, images of a potential combination, and attraction. Or rain, me miserable in rain, and aversion. Without these thoughts, and an identification with them, none of it would happen. The whole world of attractions and aversions is created in this way, through these overlays of thoughts.
  • Thoughts create the basic organization of perception, such as extent/space and continuity/time, and also a sense of I and Other, with a particular boundary and content of each. The field of perception is filtered into Other, which is typically whatever arises as not this human self, and I, which is typically whatever is associated with this human self such as sensations, sights of this body, sounds made by this body, thoughts, and so on. Combined with this imagined I-Other boundary, there are thoughts of inside and outside, center and periphery, and so on.
  • The sense of I is anchored in whatever arises in the field of perception that falls inside of the I-Other boundary, and some of these more than other. For instance, within the sense field I notice how – for me right now – the sense of I is especially anchored in sensations in the upper neck/lower head area.
  • Thoughts also filter perception to create a sense of a doer. Something arises, and is seen as happening on its own or through the actions of someone else, of the wider world, of Other. Or it may happen within the boundary of this human self, and still for some reason be filtered as Other. Something else arises, filtered to appear within the boundary of this human self, of I, and of I as a doer, and there is a sense of this I being a doer of whatever happened.

And the interesting thing about all this is that it can be seen as it happens. Simply. Clearly. And in that way, thoughts appear transparent, and there is also a transparency in a different way in terms of how this whole sense of an I with an Other is created.

Feldenkrais and body image

 

I am getting back into the Feldenkrais lessons/explorations again through a friend studying to become a Feldenkrais practitioner and also classes just down the street.

These sessions are great opportunities to explore body image and how this mind creates an image of the body and uses it in different ways.

Some of the things I notice…

  • Thoughts create a visual image of the body. This one is most easily noticeable when the eyes are closed, but can also be noticed as an overlay over the visual perceptions when the eyes are open.
  • This image provides mapping for sensations
  • It is used for anticipating or remembering movements, visualizing what can be or was
  • It serves as a guide for attention, for instance when we are instructed to bring attention to our left foot
  • And it also serves as a map for a sense of subject and object. Each of these are located in different areas of space and the body, creating a sense of distance between the two, which also makes it possible to differentiate the two. Without a sense of distance between them, no subject or object.
  • When I explore the sense of subject and object, I notice the visualization of a fuzzy boundary around the head area serving as a location for a subject, seer, and doer. And the rest, such as other locations of the body and also the wider world, then becomes object and seen. If attention is brought to this sense of subject, the boundary shifts (usually to slightly in front of and above the head) and what previously appeared as subject now becomes an object. The specifics of how this works is probably different for different people, and changes over time as well.
  • All of this happens on top of basic visual thoughts of extent or space, which allows us to experience perception as spread out in space and located in different areas of space. These are basically visualizations of space, which allows us to map perceptions on top of it.

Going to the mind and body for truth

 

Adyashanti often talks about how we go to the mind and body for the truth, and when I explore that for myself, I find the same.

Going to the mind for the truth is pretty obvious. We rely on thoughts to tell us how the world is, what is true, and how to behave.

Going to the body for truth is maybe a little less obvious. (I wrote about this one in the previous post.)

I find that I go to the body for truth, relying on two different signs. One is emotions, which are really just sensations and a story about these sensations. And the other is sensations such as tension, discomfort, shallow breath, and so on.

And I find that the bodily sensations I rely on for truth are the ones coming from beliefs. Any beliefs trigger reactive emotions, muscle tension and changes the breathing pattern, especially when it clashes with life as it unfolds or may unfold. These beliefs are, by definition, taken as true. So I associate these bodily changes with not only a story, but a true story, a truth. The outcome of all this is that reactive emotions, muscle tension and changes in breathing patterns are all taken as indication of truth.

Or more precisely, I see that beliefs all have to do with shoulds, with how life should be. So these bodily signs tell me that life is showing up differently than it should.

Somebody acts in a certain way, which triggers these bodily signs of reactive emotions, muscle tension and shallow or forced breathing. I notice these bodily reactions, and take them as a sign that life shows up differently from how it should, and that this person acted differently from how he or she should. And from there, I look for a story behind it, a story also telling me that life is wrong, life is unfolding differently from how my story and body tells me it should.

My body tells me it is true, so it must be

 

Beliefs have many effects, including certain emotions and sensations in the body.

I believe that there should be peace, so when there is not, I experience fear, distress, anger, sadness, my breath becomes shallow, my muscles tense. I believe people should be honest, so when they are not, some of the same reactions come up. And so on, with a whole range of beliefs.

Since they are beliefs, we take them as true. And since they are always accompanied by these different emotions and bodily reactions and sensations, we come to take these as signals that something is true.

It is a circular logic, which we most of the time don’t notice.

  1. There is a belief
  2. When it clashes with what is it creates certain effects such as reactive emotions and different bodily reactions and sensations
  3. We notice the association between our belief, which appears true to us, and these effects
  4. So when we notice these effects, we take them as an indication that our belief is true

More generally, we take these effects as an indication that something is not right. That life shows up in a way it shouldn’t. And then we look for a belief to go along with it, which may or may not be the one that triggered the effects in the first place.

So it goes both ways. The belief triggers effects which are taken as proof for the belief. And effects are sometime triggered without us knowing what belief is behind it, so we go looking for a belief to explain it.

Something happened, and I had reactive emotions and tension in my body, so what happened must not be right. It shouldn’t happen. Why shouldn’t it happen? I am sure I can come up with a story around it.  

Exploring labeling-images

 

Just before falling asleep, and after waking up, I have take some time to explore labeling-images. It is an interesting phenomenon, although maybe not exactly earth shattering.

The job of the mind is to produce thoughts, and one category of thoughts are these labels that take the form of images.

Labels of sounds are usually quite clear cut. There is a sound, and then an image of an appropriate airplane surfaces. Another sound, and an image of a section of road and a car. Another sound, and the image of a person (as a shadowy outline) walking on gravel. The image labels surface with a suggestion of what the sound most likely represent, and there is an appropriate response (which usually is no response) to the image (not the sound itself). Most of the time the image surfaces outside of conscious attention. It is there, has effects, but is not necessarily noticed itself.

Where the labels of sounds typically represent the most likely physical source of the sound, labels of sensations are a little more complex.

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Stories added to sensations

 

I notice an unusual sensation in the stomach, and I see how different stories can be added to it.

One is of it as a sense of dread or uneasiness about my life or the world, which then creates that mood and atmosphere. Another is of having eaten an unusual combination of foods which made my stomach unsettled.

If I don’t pay attention, the first story surfaces, and other stories may be added to it to support the sense of uneasiness about my life or the world. And there is no lack of secondary stories which may support it and justify it.

If I pay a little more attention to what is going on, I see that it is far more likely that the sensation is coming from an unusual combination of foods. It is physical, and expected considering what I have been eating.

And if I look even closer, I see that either of these are simply a sensation + a story, a sensation with a story added to it.

Not seeing it, the sensation + story conglomerate seems very real… there is really an upset stomach there, or an uneasiness about the world. The sensations give a sense of substance to the story. Seeing it more clearly, the conglomerate falls into its components… simply sensations and a story, living their separate and distinct lives.

Looking at how the sense of substance is created, I see that it goes both ways: the story adds a sense of substance and reality to the sensations (holding them in place, solidifying them) and the sensations gives a sense of substance and reality to the stories (lending their own quality of substance to the stories).

Resistance to Ground, etc.

 

Just a quick summary of what I am exploring these days, as it happens in immediate awareness. What came out below is not very well organized…

  • The Ground, here now, is the field of awakeness, of awake emptiness and whatever arises. It is inherently free from any center and any separate self. It is just one field, beyond and embracing seeing and seen, awareness and its content, this human self and the wider world of form.
  • This Ground is is what is here now, for each of us, only absent of a sense of I and Other. Imagine the content of your awareness, and the awareness itself, as it is, only with a sense of I and Other subtracted from it.
  • When there is resistance to Ground as this field, there is an appearance of I and Other.
  • This happens when there is a belief in a story, when thoughts are taken as anything more than innocent questions, when they are seen as absolutely true.
  • A story becomes a belief when another story is added to it, saying it is true.
  • A story becomes a belief, also when it combines with a sensation. Sensation+story=belief.
  • When a sensation is combined with a story, it gives a sense of a center located at a particular place in space, specifically at the sensation, somewhere within the physical boundary of this human self.
  • This center also allows for a split of space, and a sense of I here and Other out there.
  • This split allows for placing one end of any polarity here, somewhere in this physical body, and the other end somewhere out there in the wider world.
  • This placing of ends of a polarity here and out there, is also how projections work. If, according to how I place a polarity (which in turn is decided by beliefs and identities), one end of a polarity should be out there, then when it arises, it is interpreted as out there. For instance, if I believe I shouldn’t be angry, and have an identity as someone who is not angry, then when anger arises, I have now choice but to filter it so it appears out there in the wider world, placed on appropriate targets (the ones I place it on may indeed experience and act from anger, which only makes them better projection objects).
  • Any belief automatically creates resistance… to the truths in its reversals, and what doesn’t fit the identity that goes with it.
  • The split of space allows for resistance to what is. It filters the appearance of what is allowed and not allowed into different locations of space… what is allowed appears to be in the region where there is a sense of I, and what is not allowed appears as if in another region of space. (What is allowed/not allowed is determined by beliefs.)
  • The sensation a story is combined with serves as a base for a split of space into I and Other (providing a fixed point in space to define the boundary), and also for resistance to parts of what is arising.
  • The sense of density, substance and reality of a sensation provides a sense of the same, of density, substance and reality, to the story it is associated with.
  • If a belief needs to be amplified, it can be amplified in two ways. One is to amplify the sensation it is placed on, which in turn allows for a stronger belief, a sense of more substance to the belief, and a stronger sense of split between I here and Other out there. Another is to engage in and develop supporting beliefs.
  • If a story needs to be combined with a sensation (to create a belief and a split in space), and an appropriate sensation is not available, muscles tense up to create appropriate sensations.
  • A belief also amplifies tension, because it creates a sense of I and Other, and something to protect (a truth or an identity), which in turn creates mental and physical tension.
  • Any belief creates a split in space, of something that is true here and false somewhere else, so also a sense of I and Other.

Tension allowing for, and amplifying, beliefs

 

I find it very interesting how tension allows for, and amplifies, beliefs.

A sensation combined with a thought, allows for a belief.. a story taken as true… in several different ways.

  • It creates a sense of a center in space, located somewhere in this physical body.
  • This sense of center allows for a split of space, into I here and Other out there. I is now somewhere in/around this physical body, and Other is the rest of the world of form.
  • This split also allows for the appearance of “right” here (in what is now me) and “wrong” out there (in what is now life, the world, others)
    • And in addition to right/wrong, it allows for any polarity to be split, with one pole here and the other out there… male/female, good/bad, desirable/undesirable, and so on.
    • It also allows for the appearance of I as a thing, and no-thing (void) as Other, and even awareness as Other (something that is somehow possessed by this human self)
  • The sensation also gives a sense of base for action in the world (including resistance to experiences), which in turn supports a sense of an I here and Other there, and the appearance of a doer placed upon the doing

If an appropriate sensation is not available, the appropriate muscles tense up to make it available.

And if the sensation/story complex needs to be amplified, it can be done by tensing up further to amplify the sensation, and also by amplifying the story through additional supporting stories.

(Also, a sensation, when amplified by tension, creates a sense of density in space… a sense of something solid and substantial, which provides a more solid companion for the story, which in turn allows the story itself to appear as more solid, real and substantial.)

As I have mentioned before, it seems almost comical when seen… which is also why the whole appearance of a belief (and the content of the belief, such as a separate self) tends to fall apart when clearly seen in this way.

Exploring how sensatins and thoughts combine through labeling practice

 

How can we explore how sensations and thoughts combine? Or put another way, how sensations serve as anchors for beliefs?

Maybe the simplest and most effective, and the way I got into it, is through a labeling practice.

When sounds arise, notice and label them “sound”. Stay with this for a while. And then do the same with sights, smell/taste, sensations, and thoughts.

This helps us differentiate each of them, and also see how sensations are combined with thoughts to create the appearance of emotions, moods, and even a sense of a separate self.

When each component is recognized, and they are differentiated from each other in this way, the appearance of an emotion, mood, or even a sense of a separate self, tends to fall away… it falls into its components.

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Mutuality of (physical) tension and beliefs

 

I am exploring an interesting mutuality of tension and beliefs…

Through The Work, I see how beliefs create tension… both mental and physical. Any belief brings a sense of something to protect (an apparent truth or identity), which in turn brings tension.

And through labeling practice, I see how sensations combine with stories to create the appearance of emotions, moods, and even a sense of separate self. If an appropriate sensation is not available for a particular story, the body tenses up to make it available. And if the sensation needs to be amplified, the body tenses up more right there, which in turn allows for an amplification of the story.

The sensation/story complex allows for a sense of a center in space (located somewhere in the body), which in turn allows for a split of space, with an I here and Other out there. All of which is essential for the existence of the belief.

So beliefs create tension… by creating a sense of something (a truth or an identity) to protect, which naturally brings tension.

And tension allows for the belief… by creating (and amplifying) sensations which the story can combine with. When sensation and story combine, it creates an appearance of a separate self, emotions and moods, all of which are essential for the appearance, and maintenance, of the belief.

Beliefs amplify tension, and tension amplify beliefs.

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Sensations as anchor

 

I keep coming back to this throughout the day, and especially as I fall asleep in the evening… The exploration of the sense of a separate self placed on sensations, and combined with certain thoughts.

It can sound abstract when I try to put it into words, but it is very alive in immediate experience.

I see how there is a vast of rich landscape of combinations happening… shifting anchor from one sensation to another, and attaching thoughts and stories to each one… richly, fluidly.

It is amazing to see how a whole world is created in this way, or rather a rich and changing interpretation of this world.

Some sensations, typically in the throat and calf areas, are used as anchor for stories that trigger stress and a sense of resistance. Other sensations, especially in the nostril area, are used as anchor for a sense of an atmosphere (often a sweet one.) And there is also more stable background stream of a sense of a separate self, placed on sensations in the center of the upper throat/lower head area.

It even seems that if there isn’t an appropriate sensation ready as a requested anchor, then it is made through muscle contractions. Tension in certain muscles create particular sensations, used as anchor for certain stories or even a sense of a particular atmosphere.

It is strange to observe, but also clear… all happening in an differentiated way, right here, within the wide open space of awake emptiness and form.

Sensations as anchor for beliefs II

 

Before falling asleep last night, I explored further how sensations are used as anchors.

  • I noticed how a sense of searching and looking was associated with slight movements of the eyes (even when they are closed.) Combined with a sense of a separate self, it creates a sense of “I am searching” or “I am looking”. Belief in idea of separate self + searching/looking + slight eye movements = “I am searching.”
  • The same seems to happen with thoughts. Thoughts were associated with slight movements of the throat (as if speaking) and combined with a sense of a separate self it becomes “I am thinking”. Belief in the idea of a separate self + thoughts + sensations in throat area subtly mimicking speaking = “I am thinking.”
  • A sense of a sweet atmosphere was associated with the sensation of air coming in and passing over the roof of the mouth.
  • A sense of a separate self was placed on various sensations in the throat, neck and (inner) mouth area. Whenever I looked at the sensation it was currently placed on, the sense of a separate I was disengaged from that sensation, and automatically placed on another sensation in a slightly different area of space.

In all of these cases, the conglomerates seem very real and substantial when they are not explored. But as soon there is the noticing of them being simply sensations used as anchors for thoughts, searching, a particular atmosphere, or a sense of a separate I, the illusion falls away. It is similar to seeing how a magic trick is performed – the spell goes out of it.

The conglomerate, which looked so convincing as a whole, falls into its separate parts. They are recognized as distinct from each other.

Sometimes when I do this, the conglomerate creating the appearance of a separate self falls away. It pops, revealing Big Mind, headlessness, awake emptiness and form clearly absent of any separate self anywhere. Last night (and for the last few days) it remains, just shifting to similar sensations nearby. Both are of course fine – equally interesting to explore in their own way.