Choice from more clarity

 

Something else that seems basic when we are more familiar with the terrain, but may be less so in the very beginning…

All of what I write about here – allowing experience, inquiry, gratitude, empathy and so on – is for myself. There is more clarity and invites identification to shift out of stories and identities. 

And that release of identification allows for a wider range of stories that I can use as temporary guides for action.

I more easily recognize stories as temporary guides for action. And there is more freedom to use whatever experience, insight, knowledge and kindness is available to me in chosing a story to use as a temporary guide for action in any particular situation.

It may look like yin kindness. Receptive. Empathy. Allowing. 

Or it may look more like yang kindness. Cutting. Strict. Clear boundaries. 

(To the extent there is a release of identification, there is a freedom in chosing among these stories. Which means that there is often a mix… there may be some release of identification with some stories, yet still identification with other stories.)

Then there is the receptivity in watching for feedback. Learning. Modifying. 

I can look for where I am still caught up in beliefs. And I look for ways to act that is a little more skillful in different situations.

Listening for the genuine question

 

I am impressed by spiritual teachers/coaches who can meet people where they are, especially when that “where” means a confusing web of stories.

It seems that the best teachers listen – with genuine interest and patience – for the spark within and behind those webs. What is the student really asking? What is alive for them behind the confusion?

I notice for myself that even when I get caught up in stories, there is a genuine question inside of it. And that is the question that skilled teachers are able to uncover and respond to.

Of course, some are smart and make it easy on themselves and their students, such as Adyashanti who asks his students to sit with their question for a while and allow it to distill and clarify over time, before it is asked. That way, some of the layers of additional stories fall away and a more essential and genuine question is left. And the student may find some insights for themselves too in the process.

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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.

Wisdom

 

There are many ways to define or talk about wisdom, each one revealing our own personal bias on what is important in our human life.

One way to define it is that wisdom happens when head (view, insight), belly (felt-sensed nurturing fullness), heart (love), and action (skillful means) come together.

Or said another way, it happens when there is receptivity and engagement at each center.

At the head center, there is receptivity to the truth in the reversals of any view and perspective, there is engagement in actively exploring these, and the freedom to use any one of these more actively in a situation.

At the belly center, there is a receptivity which allows for a sense of nurturing fullness. The emotional level goes from reactivity to a stable sense of nurturing fullness, and of trust.

At the heart center, there is receptivity to all of existence, however it shows up. Our heart stays open, or at least can be invited to open.

And our actions reflect skillful means, from experience and brought forth by the receptivity at the three centers, engagement in situations, and the freedom to stay engaged without getting blindly caught up in whatever happens.

Of course, this all gets hopelessly abstract to the point of being pretty useless. But there is a real experience behind all of it, and each of these points can be explored in more detail so they come more alive for us. We can find it in our own life, even if it is only a tendency and not caricatured and full-blown as described here.

When I look at my view, I can find many times there were rigidity there, and with a rigidity of view – attaching to one particular view as true and denying the truth in its reversals – there is not much wisdom. If my view is more fluid, and I actively explore the grain of truth in each reversal, there is sometimes a sense of wisdom, especially if the heart is included, and even more so if there is a sense of nurturing fullness, and it all is reflected in actions.

Looking at my heart, again I see that when my heart is closed, there is not much wisdom available to me. I act from habits at best, and more likely also from reactivity. But if my heart is open to life – to myself and others involved – there is sometimes a sense of wisdom there, especially if the view is included, and even more so if the nurturing fullness and actions are there as well.

In terms of the emotions, I find that when there is reactivity there, there is most often reactivity in view as well, and my heart is closed off. None of those allows much wisdom to be present. But if there is a stable nurturing fullness there, this fullness and the sense of trust that comes with it allows for receptivity at the other centers. My view can be more fluid, my heart more open, my actions more receptive to and engaged with the situation.

The same with my actions as these reflect what is going on at the three centers. If my view is receptive and fluid, my heart open, my emotions nurturing, and this comes out through actions informed by experience and whatever skillful means available to me, there may be some wisdom reflected there as well.

Of course, wisdom is relative to where we are at in terms of insight, receptivity of heart, nurturing fullness, and experience. It reflects how healed, mature, and developed this human self is. Sometimes, we act from less wisdom than what is available to us, and other times – when these centers are more receptive and engaged – we can act more from whatever wisdom is available to us, wherever we are in terms of healing, maturing and development.

We can always go further. Whatever we do, there is always room for improvement. And I guess that is another aspect of wisdom: acknowledging that we are acting from a limited insight and set of experiences, and looking out for feedback to learn from. Here too, in terms of learning from our actions, there is receptivity, engagement and freedom of the three centers.

Seamlessness of psychology and spirituality, practice and daily life

 

Another topic that is pretty obvious…

Before Ground awakens to itself, it makes sense to do practices that invites Ground to notice itself and also makes it easier to be who we take ourselves to be. Why leave one out?

And after Ground awakens to itself, it makes sense to continue with practices that allows who we took ourselves to be, this human self, to continue to mature and develop. After all, it is who Ground-awake-to-itself is expressed through in the world, and part of the exploration and development of skillful means.

Some practices focus on one or the other, and that is fine and useful. And other cover both areas seamlessly.

Among those covering both areas…

  • Being-with of whatever arises
  • The Work
  • Big Mind process
  • Headless experiments
  • Heart practices such as gratitude and rejoicing in others happiness.
  • Stability practice and meditative inquiry

Each of these (a) makes it easier to be who we take ourselves to be, (b) makes it easier for Ground to notice itself, and (c) makes it easier for our main tool for skillful means following awakening, this human self, to continue to mature and develop.

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Quadrant: Beyond & embrace, noticing & working with

 

It is always fun to play around with quadrants, partly because four field is just enough to make some interesting differentiations and also few enough to grasp right away.

Three that comes up for me is (a) inner/outer, one/many (as Ken Wilber has popularized through is aqal model), (b) self/other, human/spirit (practice), and (c) beyond/embrace, noticing/working with (path).

When I explore the last one, I see that…

I can go beyond and include polarities in two ways: by noticing and also by working with it.

In general, I notice that life is already beyond and includes any and all polarities. And I work with it in my own human life, exploring how it arises and is expressed in this life.

And I can filter it further through each quadrant…

I go beyond and notice by noticing that life is already and always beyond any and all polarities. First, the world of form is a fluid seamless whole beyond any pole and polarity. (When I find myself as Witness, as pure seeing, this is alive in immediate awareness. Whatever arises, here and now, is revealed as aspects of one fluid seamless whole.) Also, when I find myself as awake void I also go beyond polarities, and when I notice the world of form as nothing other than this awake void, I similarly find the world of form beyond polarities.

I go beyond and work with it by finding in my human self whatever I see out there in others and the world. I allow my identity at my human level to embrace both ends of any polarity. I familiarize myself with it, and include it in my active repertoire. All this is a process with no end point and takes work. This includes letting go of beliefs and identities, and allowing a fluidity of views and a more inclusive human identity. This human self deepens and matures into its own unique and universal humanity.

I include and notice by noticing that this fluid seamless whole of form already and always includes any and all poles and polarities. And also by noticing that the play of awake void as form likewise always and already includes any and all poles and polarities.

I include and work with by familiarizing myself with each pole and polarity in this human self, and how they arise and are expressed in this human life, and how they can be expressed. As before, this is an ongoing process, and involves a maturing and development of this human self.

As usual, there is a mutuality among all of these. Working with one makes it easier to work with the three others.

By noticing that which is already and always beyond and embracing any polarity, I can more easily work with it in my own human life

And by working with it in my own life, I can more easily notice that which – in its form and void aspects – already and always are beyond and includes any polarity.

The noticing part has to do with Ground awakening, with Enlightenment.

And the working part has to do with the maturing and development of this individual human and soul, which makes it easier to be who we take ourselves to be before Ground awakening, and is an intimate part of skillful means following a Ground awakening.

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Three centers and skillful means

 

One way of looking at the three centers, which fits nicely in with Buddhism and other traditions, is through Ground awakening and skillful means.

The head center awakening, when it is full, is Ground awakening. Awake void awaking to itself, as awake void and form, inherently absent of any I with an Other.

And the heart and belly awakenings, the loving and felt-sense of all as Spirit, is part of the skillful means, how this Ground awakening is expressed in the world through this particular human self.

Before head center awakening, the heart and belly awakenings makes the shift into Ground awakening a little more likely, and also makes it easier to be who we take ourselves to be. After a Ground awakening, they become part of the skillful means in how it is expressed in the world. In either case, it is part of the unfolding evolution of the form aspect of God.

Deepening into who and what we are (clarified)

 

When I refer to deepening into who and what we are, what does that really mean?

Simply put, it is the individual at the human and soul levels that deepens into itself, as who it is. And it is Ground noticing itself, as what it is. And then, the individual reorganizing within the context of Ground awakening to itself.

And within that simplicity, there is a lot of wrinkles and complexity…

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U. G. Krishnamurti and meeting people where they are

 

U. G. Krishnamurti Byron Katie 17th Karmapa

When Ground awakens to itself, and is still functionally connected with a particular human being, its expression is flavored by that human being… its personality, its likes and dislikes, its inclinations, its history.

So when Ground awakened through U. G. Krishnamurti, it came to be expressed in a very clear and uncompromising way. So uncompromising that, as far as I know, he didn’t really give people many pointers for how to invite that awakening for themselves, or how to notice that Ground is always and already there. He stayed close to the absolute in how he expressed it, and didn’t exactly go out of his way to meet people where they are.

Byron Katie has the same uncompromising quality, never straying far from the absolute when she talks, but she also knows how to meet people where they are, and she has a very simple practice to offer, one that also meets people exactly where they are.

And then at the other end of the scale is, for instance, Tibetan Buddhism with its wealth of approaches and practices, all within one consistent and comprehensive framework. It always has the absolute as its ground and framework, yet also has developed a plethora of practices and ways of talking that meets people where they are, in terms of their understanding and familiarity with the terrain, almost no matter where that may be. If you want a taste of Ground, they have ways to invite that in. If you want to ease your suffering, they have tools for that. If you want a second person worship more than meeting the Buddha as first person, yes, that is also OK (that is also valid and helpful in its own way).

Each of these are helpful in different ways, and each one meets different people right where they are. For some, U. G. Krishnamurti is the guy, for others The Work, and for some, a selection of the practices within Tibetan Buddhism.

The beauty of meeting people where they are

 

I watched Life of Buddha last night, and was in particular impressed with The Dalai Lama’s ability to meet people where they are at.

He was asked what is enlightenment, and could have answered in a precise way, or a technical way, neither of which would have been much help for people not already familiar with the territory.

What he said was (heavily paraphrased)… I don’t know, I think it is an energy of peace.

At first, I was surprised. Here is someone who is deeply immersed in the most sophisticated Buddhist philosophy and practice available, and he is using vague new-age sounding terminology…?

But then I saw the beauty of it. Had he talked in a technical or precise way, it would have sounded too abstract, too removed from most people’s experience. They would not have been able to find it in themselves, and they may even have been turned off from pursuing a Buddhist practice if there was such an interest there.

Using familiar and slightly fuzzy terms, and showing that he himself is not exactly sure what it is (which is true, it is a mystery even for those clearly awakened), he allows people to find it in themselves and also see Buddhism as more approachable.

Skillful means in action.

Buddha maturing

 

The conception of the awakened Buddha is maybe a glimpse of our Buddha nature, or an intuition of it, or even just an interest in it. Through the gestation period, there may be more and more glimpses of it, or explorations of it through headless experiments, the Big Mind process, meditation and other practices. And the birth of the Buddha is Buddha Mind awakening to itself, as a field of awake emptiness and form, absent of any separate self anywhere.

(It is usually not as clean cut as this, but it may be a useful generalization.)

The Buddha growing up

The Buddha is born, and may realize its own nature clearly, but it still needs to grow up and mature in its expression in the world. Its vehicle in the world – this human self – has to reorganize and relearn how to function in the world and live its life within this new context of realized selflessness.

Compassion arises

The first thing that happens is that it realizes that it has awakened to itself, yet also not. In the world and the lives of individuals, there are many examples of Buddha Mind not having awakened to itself, and of Buddha Mind experiencing confusion and suffering. So compassion arises naturally, and a desire to help – both with alleviating the suffering itself and in removing the causes of the suffering (if, when and to the extent they seek and want the help.)

Refining its instrument in the world

To do this, the vehicle for Buddha Mind in the world – this human individual – needs to be refined. It needs to continue to heal, mature, develop, and learn skillful means.

Deepening into the fullness of this human self

The more this human individual matures and deepens into the evolving fullness of what it is, the more it can connect with others where they are. It recognizes in itself what it meets in others. It becomes more deeply and thoroughly human, without having to defend or attach to any particular identities. It can allow the evolving wholeness of itself, with all the weaknesses and imperfections that goes along with being human.

Playing the game

Maybe most of all, Buddha Mind awakened to itself has to play the game. It has to take the experiences of Buddha Mind, when it is confused and suffers and takes itself to be just a small part of its own form, seriously. It has to play along, meeting people where they are, even when it is clear that it is all just the dance of the awake emptiness. When awakened to itself, this dance is free enough to play along in whatever ways arise.