Stories Before Emotions

 

Through the inquiry lens (and other similar ones), it is clear that beliefs come before emotions. Doing the Byron Katie inquiries, I see that over and over.

I have a belief. A situation comes up which does not match that belief. And there is an emotion coming up inviting me to look at that discrepancy. What is the belief that is out of alignment with what is? I see it, examine it, and it falls away.

Infinite Causes & Present

 

It is given, even from a conventional view, that the present is all there is. The present is all that is real. Any ideas of past and future are just that, ideas – abstractions, maps.

Believing in (stories about) past and future

But when we believe in our ideas, they seem real so past and future (or rather our stories of past and future) seem real as well. We may know intellectually that the present is all there is, but it certainly does not feel that way.

Realizing selflessness

It is only when we have a glimpse of – or or awaken to – a realization of selflessness that this becomes real and obvious. The belief in ideas fall away, including the belief in the idea of I, so now it is clear that the present is all there is. It is revealed as the Timeless Present, within which time and space unfolds in always new and fresh ways. It is the Present that always is. Ideas and stories about past and future are just ideas and stories, occuring right now along with everything else.

Past

When we go to the past to explain the present, we are going to stories about the past – maps that highlight some features, leave other out, and are inherently quite different from the terrain. It may give a sense of order and understandable patterns, but that is about it. Anything in the present, seen from the perspective of past and future, has infinite causes. Any map will be woefully inadequate in accounting for even a fraction of these.

Past as mirroring the present

What our stories about the past (and future) do, quite accurately, is reflecting the present. Or rather, they are the present – one of the way the world of phenomena unfold in the present.

One way to say this is that they are projections of what is happening right now. They reflect and are what is happening now, but appear to say something about an abstract past or future.

It is pretty obvious, and also quite beautiful. Our stories say something about what is going on right now, and are valuable as that.

Reality?

There is of course a consensus reality, one that we can more or less agree on in terms of our past, individually and collectively. This map of consensus reality help us navigate this world more effectively.

Pointing back to the present

But at the same time, the map of consensus reality is merely an abstraction – really only saying something about us right now. Other stories – dreams, those we label fiction, and so on – are as accurate in saying something about us right now, although they may be less helpful as guidelines for navigating the world.

The realization of infinite causes also brings us back to the present. Any map of the past is woefully inadequate, so the Present is all we really have.

Rushing Back In

 

Sometimes when I do inquiry, when there is a big shift in perception, there is also a corresponding energetic shift and also a sense of the whole world rushing back into me.

There is an untying of a knot in consciousness, which seems to be followed by a corresponding untying of an energetic knot.

And the whole world rushing back into me is (as it seems to me) the rushing back of my story of the world. I had it projected out there, and now realize that it is really all about me.

Inquiry :: Without Stories

 

Here’s another belief, somewhere there under the surface…

I often notice a difference between my conscious worldview (formed from first and second hand experiences, explorations of ideas, and what I would like to be true) and my beliefs (formed who knows how – probably from experiences with parents, family, subcultures, culture and so on).

For instance, my experience tells me that living without stories is a liberation and allows the inherent clarity, compassion, wisdom, receptivity and effortless effectivity of the mind to unfold. I see this over and over, in smaller and larger ways. Yet, I am also sometimes aware of beliefs in me saying something along the lines of…

Without my stories, something terrible will happen. (I will stay in situations that others see as very destructive and I am blind to.)

  1. Yes.
  2. No (Cannot know that for sure.)
  3. How do I react when I have that belief?

    Fear of what may happen if beliefs go away. Fear of not noticing situations destructive to me, of not acting, of not taking initiative. Fear of becoming complacent, a vegetable.

    What is the worst that can happen if I don’t have that belief?

    That I will get stuck in desctructive situations, without any desire to get out of it.

    What do I get from holding onto that belief?

    I get to hold onto beliefs. To not sincerely explore them. To hold back. To feel that I am stuck. To see any talk about allowing beliefs to drop as naive. To be right.

    How do I treat others when I have that belief?

    Impatient when they either contradict my stories, or I sense they want me to drop them. Defensive. Holding back. Pretending to go along, at best.

  4. Who am I without that thought?

    Free to be without stories, if that is what happens. OK with it. Able to enjoy it. Free from a sense of something terrible happening if I allow beliefs to go.

  5. (a) Without my stories, something terrible will not happen. (I will not stay in situations that others see as very destructive and I am blind to.)

    Yes, that is my experience. It frees up clarity, wisdom, compassion, receptivity, ability to engage more freely and appropriately – more from flow, from a sense of intimacy with myself, others, life, existence.

    (b) …

Relating to Thoughts

 

Nothing new here, but still something that comes up for me…

As long as we believe in thoughts – or more precisely in abstractions in any form, such as images, memories, models, theories, thoughts and so on – we will experience stress. The world will show up in a way that does not conform with our beliefs in particular abstractions about it, and the discrepancy creates discomfort, uneasiness, and suffering. Our conscious view is out of alignment with what is, and this naturally creates suffering.

And as long as we believe in thoughts, as long as they have a charge for us, we will also experience what we perceive as unwanted thoughts. Thoughts appear because that is their job. They come and go as clouds. And if we believe some of them should not, then they appear as unwanted. We interpret them as intruding, and some of them may even be labeled negative, destructive, pathological and so on.

We use many ways of trying to deal with these thoughts, including developing a strong focus (temporarily pushing them aside), shifting attention (to the breath, the body and so on), therapy, affirmations (trying to replace them with other, more “positive”, thoughts), and so on. But none of these will really work as long as we still believe in the original thoughts. For as long as they have a charge for us, they will show up and want our attention. They will come back wanting resolution. Wanting to be resolved. Wanting to be seen through.

These thoughts are completely innocent. It is only our belief in them, or in our stories about them, that gives them any charge. We attach to them because they appear real, significant, substantial, powerful, accurate and/or true.

And this belief can only hold as long as it is not thoroughly investigated. It is only the unexamined beliefs which stay beliefs and maintain their charge.

When we investigate the beliefs, through the four questions and the turnaround, and explore more in detail what is really true for us in our immediate experience, the belief naturally erodes and falls away. It is seen through. The thought loses its charge. It loses its apparent grip on us. It loses its apparent reality, substance, power, accuracy, significance and truth.

The thoughts are now revealed as what they are – completely innocent questions about the world. And as they have no charge anymore, they come and go as clouds – and with as much (or rather little) impact as clouds passing through the sky. They no longer appear intrusive. No thoughts are seen as positive or negative. No thoughts are any longer pathological. They just are.

In releasing these beliefs, we also uncover the inherent nature of mind – is clarity, wisdom, compassion, love, and effortless effectiveness in functioning in the world. These qualities are what we are, inherently, each one of us, and they are only temporarily covered up by beliefs in abstractions and the consequences coming from that. It never goes away, no matter what the surface phenomena may look like in the present.

Ultimately, we end up seeing through the belief in the idea of I, and even that one falls away, revealing the selfless nature of what is. We discover that we are not exclusively our human self or awareness, but what is – beyond and including any and all polarities. There is only the suchness. Only God. It is all the play of God, and it is all good.

It is good, far beyond even the most appealing and attractive images and hopes painted by any belief.

The Problems of Separation

 

As long as I believe in the idea of I – creating an appearance of I and Other – there is suffering. And this suffering take many forms, all the ones I recognize in my own life, see in the lives of others, and I am sure many more.

A particular subset of how this is played out is feeling that others impinge on me, for instance through their ideas, behaviors, energy, or just by their plain existence – displaying some qualities that bug me.

I talked with my acupuncturist last week, and she mentioned a healer in town who specialize in separating out other’s energies from one’s own. As any other approach to healing, I am sure it is useful and has its place. At the same time, it clearly comes from duality and also from a place of believing in stories (those two are obviously the same).

If I don’t believe in stories, then there is no problem there. There is only clarity.

Anything that could be labeled “bad energy” or “disturbed” or “confused” or “unhealthy” all comes from stories, in two different ways. First, it is obviously labeled based on a story. And more importantly, when these things come up they seem to do so due to somebody’s belief in a story.

I may believe in several mutually contradictory stories, and experience confusion. I may tell myself a story about somebody – including myself – which brings up contraction and hatred. I may believe I am not worthy and act in a way that is not good for my health. And so on.

When we see through these stories for ourselves – when we find what is more true for us in our own experience, the stories are harmless. They may come and go, in ourselves and/or others around us, and they have lost their charge. They come and go with the same innocence as as clouds.

The “bad energies” and “unhealthy tendencies” apparently from others are (a) recognized in ourselves and (b) the thoughts behind them are seen through and revealed as harmless.

When I can see through my own stories, and how patterns unravel when these stories are seen through, I can also see through the stories when they appear in others. They are harmless, either way.

I see the complete innocence in myself and others.

Space & Time

 

In Anatomy of Miracles (on Sat Nam Rasayan), Subagh Singh Khalsa mentions something that seems quite obvious when pointed out: when we shift our attention from one object to another, it is inevitably accompanied by a sense of space and time.

To say it in a different way…

When there is an identification with any segment of what is, when I believe in the idea of I and place it on a segment of what is, then my identity narrows down to an object in the world, to something finite, appearing in space and time. I apparently am – in my own experience – “trapped” in space and time.

So identifying with focus of attention is one example of this. When I identify with focus of attention, I see how it moves – or I move – from location to location, one after another, and this gives a sense of being trapped on the “inside” of space and time.

When the belief in the idea of I drops, there is only what is – beyond and including all polarities, including space and time. If I call this “I”, then I can say that space and time unfolds within me.

Original draft…

When I look at it, I see that it is not the shifting of attention itself which gives rise to this experience of space and time. It seems to be the identification with the focus – and sometimes the content of the focus – which brings this about. As soon as this focus becomes “I”, then there is space and time. “I” becomes the one moving around bringing first one thing, then another, into focus of attention. “I” am the one travelling from destination to destination, one after another.

Going one step back, I see that this comes from the belief in the idea of “I” as a segment of what is. And in this case, the “I” is placed on the focus of attention (and maybe other things as well, such as the object of attention, intention, awareness, thoughts, and so on).

If there is no identification with anything happening, there is also no identification with space & time. Everything is just happening in an always fresh and eternal present.

Here, the focus of attention can move around as it naturally does, and space and time unfolds as it does, yet there is no identification with either – so no contraction of identity down to ay segment of it, such as focus of attention and/or space & time.

Kaleidoscope of Stories

 

Earlier today, Jen and I walked around the Saturday & Farmer’s market downtown, in the beautiful spring weather. We waited for green light at an intersection, and a man came walking down a sidewalk with his dog.

During the few seconds we waited and I watched him and his dog, I saw again how stories play themselves out.

Two stories…

First, there was the story of him being either mentally ill and/or a drug addict, yanking the leash of his beautiful and patient golden retriever. I felt a great deal of sadness for this dog, and also for him for the misery of his life.

Then, it shifted fluidly into another story. This one of the beauty of their relationship, how nurturing it is for them both, and how lucky they are to have each other.

and none

Then, a shift into an absence of any (obvious) story. And here, there is just a man and a dog walking down the sidewalk in the spring sun. Without even this overlay of stories, there is just life happening – in a particular form.

Fluidity

There was a clear sense of how each of these stories functioned as an overlay to the situation, as colored glass I saw it through. And also of how fluid they are when they are not believed in. As Byron Katie says, they function more as innocent questions than as any solid statement about the situation. And then noticing the clarity and presence when the stories are allowed to drop.

There is a beautiful fluidity here between the various stories functioning as questions, and then also coming to what is without the overlay of stories.

Deepening into absence of stories

There is also a deepening into the absence of stories.

At one level, there may not be a belief in any particular story about the man and the dog, but still a belief in the story of there being a man and dog – with all the associations I have around those ideas.

There may also be the belief in the story of I and Other, of me as an I – placed on my human self or the seeing, and of Other placed on everything else.

Without a belief in even these more fundamental stories – of the ideas of man, dog, spring and sun, and of I and Other, something else is revealed. And this is Spirit forming itself into all these temporary forms, the ground appearing as these forms, God’s play, emptiness dancing.

As the belief in stories fall away, everything is revealed as God.

Aging & Stories

 

Aging is another example of how stories have real life consequences.

Some myths about aging…

  • We’ll have less energy and passion
  • The body goes downhill
  • We don’t bounce back and recover as when we were young
  • Life becomes drugery and less juicy
  • We can’t learn as well as before
  • We are stuck in old patterns

Still, just looking at aging from common knowledge about health in general, and all the research on aging in particular, we see that none of these are necessarily true.

If we eat poorly for years and years, is that not going to have an effect? If we are chronically sleep deprived, maybe for several decades, wouldn’t that impact our ability to bounce back? If we continue to accumulate thoughts to believe in, are we not going to rigidify and create a prison for ourselves? If we continue to not seek out learning new things, is that not going to create stagnation? If we don’t explore what is meaningful for us, and engage in meaningful activities, is that not going to lead to despair and hopelessness?

So much of what we associate with aging is just the cumulative effects of behaviors we know are detrimental to our health. And when it goes on for years and decades, the effects are going to be quite noticeable. We may take it as aging, but large portions of it are easily explained by the accumulated effects of poor diet, lack of sleep and exercise, not continuing to learn new skills and knowledge, and continuing to believing in thoughts which imprison us.

And some of the things we know helps keep us fluid and life juicy for us…

  • Having a good diet, appropriate for us and our current situation. This also includes being well hydrated.
  • Regular physical activity.
  • Get enough sleep regularly.
  • Learning new skills and knowledge, especially in areas we have not explored earlier. (If we have a desk job, then learn to dance, yoga, go hiking. If we do landscaping, then develop our cognitive skills and learning. If we interact with people a lot, then do meditation or sit quietly and watch the sunrise. If we are quiet, then interact with others more.) Challenging ourselves and learning and doing something new grows new connections in the brain, and we also continue to learn how to learn. This also gives resiliency in many areas of our health.
  • Finding and nurturing rewarding relationships with others.
  • Finding and nurturing meaning and meaningful activities.
  • And, if we are lucky enough to learn forms of inquiry that works for us, then inquire into our beliefs – allowing our mental prison to unravel one thread at a time, and eventually in larger chunks.
  • In short, nurture nurturing relationships in all areas – body, mind, social, ecological – and spiritual as well.

Kids are naturally curious about the world, always learning something new in all areas of their lives – socially, physically and mentally. Instead of seeing this as a product of youth, it can equally well be seen as that which maintains youthfulness – a childlike relationship with the world.

Positions & Discomfort

 

I talked with a friend on the phone this morning, and noticed that whenever I took a (temporarily fixed) position, there was a good deal of discomfort associated with it. The discomfort was actually stronger, more in the foreground, than anything else.

Exploring the discomfort, I see that it comes from taking a particular position, and in particular from justifying and defending it, making it appear right and other positions wrong. It all comes from belief in a story, including the story of my identity.

And there are several ways this brings up discomfort…

  • It creates a sense of I and Other.
  • It creates a sense of separation from others.
  • It creates a sense of separation from myself, from those perspectives and qualities in me placed in the Other category.
  • I become more rigid, less fluid. I paint myself into a corner.
  • I experience a need to protect and defend a particular position, even if some part of me know that other positions are as valid.

And the reason it comes up so strongly now is most likely doing more of the Byron Katie inquiries. A part of me knows that taking and defending any position comes from an unexamined belief.

Of course, I do need to take a variety of positions throughout my daily life. I couldn’t function without it. And if I know they are just temporary and functional positions and do not reflect any absolute truth, then I am free from having to stick to and defend them. There is more fluidity, more easy, more sense of intimacy with ourselves, others and life.

Split Screen

 

Over the last few days, the contrast between living without a story and from a story has been quite vivid for me – throughout the day.

A situation comes up, and I can see quite clearly how it will play itself out if I attach to and fuel a story about it, and also how it is if there is no story. It is like a split screen, and the choice is usually not difficult given the two different scenarios.

I have engaged more with the Byron Katie inquiries over the last few days, so that may be why this is coming up so strongly now, in real time.