Fire & Brimstone

 

Life has some sobering aspects to it, and so does spiritual practice, and absence of spiritual practice.

Life.

Everything that can be lost will be lost.

This experience is gone as soon as it’s here, whether I like it or not, whether I try to hold onto it or not.

We inevitably get what we think we don’t want, don’t get what we think we want, and lose what we have that we think we want.

Everyone and everything I cherish will be gone. My loved ones will die. I will die.

Earth will end. Humanity will end. The Universe will end.

We are heading straight into an ecological bottleneck of our own making. We are getting the consequences of a worldview and way of life that doesn’t take ecological realities into account.

There is war. Suffering. Illness. Death.

No spiritual practice.

When mind identifies with thought, and takes it as true, we perceive and live as if it’s true. Suffering is inherent in this, and even synonymous with it.

Living from a perception of mainly or exclusively being this human self creates and is suffering.

Spiritual practice.

Awakening includes having to face ones wounds, traumas, and a very primal dread and terror.

Awakening  includes life setting up situations that requires us to live from our realization. If we don’t, we get the consequences and still can’t avoid having to do it at a later point.

Awakening requires us to chose our guidance over our shoulds and fears. Here too, we get the consequences of not doing it, and can’t escape having to more consistently living from our guidance at some point.

Seeing this, we also see that there is “no way out” but to find peace with what’s here. Allow it, and notice it is allowed. Welcome it. Find love for it, and notice it is love. And see through it. See how the mind creates the appearances, and the nature of delusion, and the nature of reality.

Also, each of these ideas are here to be questioned. Can I find the validity in the reversals of these ideas, with concrete and real examples from my own experience? Can I find life, death, suffering, illness, pain – when I examine immediate experience?

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Sobering process

 

I usually don’t use the word spirituality, and I see that most of what I explore and write about here can be given that label.

Spirituality as an escape. Spirituality – as anything else – can be used to find comfort or as an escape, and I do that sometimes. I find comfort in “spiritual” images of reality or the future. I distract myself from uncomfortable feelings, thoughts and situations through “spiritual” things such as prayer, meditation, inquiry or writing here. And there is nothing wrong there. It’s innocent. It’s confused love. And what I can do is notice my stressful thoughts, inquire into them, and find what’s more true for me.

Spirituality as sobering. Spirituality can also be quite sobering. If I see Spirit as reality, then spirituality is a conscious alignment with reality. It’s an exploration of what’s honest for me in an ordinary human sense, and in my immediate experience.

The Work is often quite sobering. It helps me see how I have lived my life from believing a thought, how may life may be without it, and I find my own practical advice for how to live my life. All of it is sobering.

It’s sobering to meet and open to certain experiences, such as physical pain or uncomfortable emotions. I may have avoided these for most or all of my life, and now there is a 180 degree turn to opening to them. That too is often quite sobering. I get to see my tendency to avoid certain experiences, how I have lived my live by avoiding them, and what’s there to feel and experience.

It’s sobering to find love for my “enemies”, for people, situations and experiences I believe my thoughts about, and wish were not there. I may find love through ho’o, prayer, tonglen, the Big Mind/Heart process, and other approaches, and may also notice it’s all already love. I get to see how I have lived and live from confused love (resentment, anger, frustration, grief). I get to see how it’s to live from a more clear love, and perhaps from recognizing myself and all as already love. And I get to see my fears and beliefs in shifting from the former to the latter, and can take these to inquiry.

It’s sobering that experiences – states, emotions, situations – always change. It brings my fears and thoughts to the surface. I get to see thoughts telling me some things as good and desirable, and other things as bad and undesirable, and the struggle I create for myself when I believe those thoughts.

It’s sobering that people, situations and life itself appears to “require” something of me. Again, I get to see what’s left. I get to see my own wounds, fears and beliefs. I get to see which thoughts I still hold as true, even if it’s mainly at an emotional level.

It’s sobering that reality already allows it all – this situation, these emotions, this pain, these images and thoughts, this identification. Seeing this, I get to see where I am not consciously or emotionally aligned with reality. I get to see what’s left for me. I get to see my wounds, fears and beliefs. The thoughts I hold onto as true, which makes me think that what’s here is wrong, it’s not good, it’s not Spirit.

If spirituality is a more conscious alignment with reality – with all as Spirit – then spirituality is, by definition, sobering.

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Sobering process

 

I keep coming back to how the process of growing and waking up is a process of sobering up as well.

It is a process of clarifying stories, of finding what is more true for me than beliefs. And in this process, there is a falling away of hopes and fears, of illusions of stories having truths in them other than as practical guidelines, helpful sometimes and not so helpful other times.

It is a process of maturing in the most ordinary ways.

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Sobering

 

I am reading Daniel Ingram’s book Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, which is a sobering experience for me. At a general level, nothing is new, but the level of detail and practicality is beyond what I have found other places. Also, it reads far more as a manual exclusively for awakening than most other books, which is refreshing.

And when he asks the reader to examine their own attitudes about some of the topics he writes about, I find everything he points to as less than helpful views. How did those get formed? For me, I think it happened because I have looked for teachers and teachings who can address things at this level of specificity, but have not quite found it. (Or maybe I didn’t see it, or wasn’t receptive to it.)

This goes especially for the dark night, which – according to what he writes about it – could run its course much faster with right guidance and practice. I had neither when I went through it, and didn’t even know it was a dark night or that others went through it as well.

It is easy to tell myself stories about how it was necessary and so on, which is true of course. In the inner/outer situation I was in, it couldn’t have been much different, and there are certainly gifts in what happened.

But it is also true that with the right guidance and practice, the process could have unfolded with much greater speed and ease.