Mindfulness for relaxation?

 

As the modern exploration of practices from various spiritual traditions matures, so does our awareness of the upsides and downsides of these practices, and useful precautions.

For instance, it’s a bit naive to promote mindfulness for relaxation. These practices were evolved for awakening, not relaxation. Relaxation may be an initial pleasant side-effect. But mindfulness practices are liable to eventually take the lid off unprocessed psychological material, and that can be surprising (if nobody told us), frightening, and overwhelming (especially if we don’t have guidance from someone familiar with the process).

This can happen early on, in rare cases even in our initial experience with meditation. And it’s reasonably likely to happen, to some extent and at some point, if we stick with a mindfulness practice over time. This depends a bit on what type of mindfulness practice we engage in, but it can happen with even the most watered-down versions.

So what are some precautions? Participants in mindfulness courses should be informed about what may happen. (“Mindfulness” here can mean yoga, tai chi, chi gong, and various types of meditation.) The instructor should be trained in recognizing it when it happens and either know how to help people through it or send the person to someone qualified to guide them through it. And if someone has a history of trauma, including developmental trauma, they need to know that it’s more likely to happen in their case, they should be encouraged to get help to heal from the trauma, and if they still want to continue with the mindfulness practice, to take it slowly.

Why does it tend to happen? One way to see it is that mindfulness (or awakening) practices aim at opening the mind to what we are, and that tends to also open the mind to whatever in us is not yet processed. Also, mindfulness tends to invite in a healing of the mind, and that includes meeting what in us is previously unmet. Awakening tends to go into unawakening when a wounded part of us is triggered, and bringing these to the surface gives them a chance to be healed. And an intrinsic part of the awakening path is embodiment, and embodiment – living from whatever clarity, kindness, and wisdom is here – can only take place to the extent we are healed psychologically.

Read More

Trauma-related dark nights

 

Dark nights or challenging phases of a spiritual path come in many different forms.

What’s common is that life rubs up against our remaining identifications with some of our identities and beliefs. Often quite central ones, and sometimes previously un-noticed ones.

One type of these dark nights is the trauma-related dark nights. As Adyashanti says, the lid is taken off some of our remaining traumas. Our mind opens to the divine as all, or as the One, and that sometimes means it also opens to what’s unhealed in us.

Another side of this is that it happens so these parts of us can be met, seen, felt, loved, and healed to some extent. And that’s required so the awakening – whatever clarity is here – can be lived more fully in more situations in our everyday life.

As long as traumas are left, they’ll be triggered by life situations and we’ll tend to react to these traumas rather than responding from whatever clarity and love we have access to.

So there is love behind this dark night, as there is love behind any dark night. It comes with an invitation to clarify, heal, mature, and live more fully what’s realized so far.

It doesn’t mean it’s easy or painless. It often feels unbearable. It can seem like it will never end. Our minds may even tell itself that it has “lost” God or the awakening, or that something has gone terribly wrong. This may especially happen if we don’t have a guide who has gone through it on their own, or if we don’t have a community around us who understand what’s happening and support our process. And if we don’t, that becomes part of our process and comes with its own gifts.

As others have pointed out, it’s a very human process. It doesn’t feel “spiritual” at all. And it’s deeply humbling and, if we allow it, humanizing.

I am writing about this in a more general way here, but it comes from own experience. I have gone through this for the last ten years or so. First, there was an initial awakening or opening. Then, a honeymoon phase. Then, another form of awakening. And then health challenges and a trauma-related dark night (what some may call a dark night of the soul).

It has gradually become easier but I am still not quite out of the woods. Life wants more in me to be seen, felt, met, loved, explored, allowed, and perhaps healed. At the very least, there is an invitation for me to heal my relationship to it, and that’s as or more important than the healing of the issues themselves.

Read More

Adyashanti: Sometimes your deepest shadow comes up after your deepest awakening

 

Sometimes your deepest shadow comes up after your deepest awakening.

– Adyashanti, The Way of Liberating Insight

Why does it come up? We can say that an awakening is an opening to reality, and that reality includes our shadow. Or we can say that bringing the shadow into awareness is required for us to live the awakening in more situations and areas of life.

In any case, long before this happened to me, I thought this and other forms of a dark night sounded noble and a bit heroic. I thought I would be able to continue keeping what surfaced at a safe arm’s length’s distance and remain firmly centered in clarity and presence.

When it happened, it was more experienced as a complete disaster. And for me, that was part of the shadow that surfaced. I was unable to remain clear, centered, and keep it at some distance. And I had to finally admit to myself I was completely and utterly human.

Note: Healing unhealed parts of us is part of the embodiment process. As long as they remain unhealed, they will be triggered by life situations and we tend to live from reactivity to these unhealed parts. To the extent they are allowed and healed, there is space there to instead live from responsiveness, clarity, kindness, and wisdom. The shadow surfacing in the way Adyashanti talks about it is an important part of the embodiment process. It’s not comfortable. It may not be what we think we want. But it’s what’s needed for us to live more fully from the awakening.

Read More

Dread & Terror – befriending & inviting to heal

 

At some point in the dark night phase, I asked to the shown what’s left. And within a week, an overwhelming dread and terror surfaced. It lasted for about 9 months and then gradually subsided over the following years.

Of course, emotions or experiences are not a problem in themselves. They are expressions of life. They are put into us by evolution and have a function. They are expressions of – and are – Spirit, of what we actually are beyond our human appearance. They help us survive as human beings and point us to healing, maturing, and awakening.

And yet, we often struggle with our experiences and perhaps especially so with dread and terror.

The context: How we relate to our experiences. How we relate to our experiences depends on how we experience them. It seems obvious, and yet it’s easy to forget. If we struggle with them, the struggle itself will create discomfort. And if we befriend them, we have an opportunity to relate to our experiences with more clarity and kindness.

Since the dread and terror was with me for months (strongly) and years (in the background and in the heart), I have had ample opportunity to explore my relationship with it. My mind saw it as an enemy, as a problem, as something to get rid of, and created more suffering for itself that way. (And still does, now and then, with other experiences.) So I set out to explore other ways of relating to it.

I reminded myself that the dread and terror, too, is the divine. I found it when I looked.

I explored it and how I relate to it through dialogue. I found how it’s there out of a wish to protect me, out of kindness, and really as an expression of love. (Big Mind process etc.)

I investigated beliefs and identifications in me fearing and struggling with it. (The Work, Living Inquiries.)

I used heart-centered practices to see how it is to shift my relationship to the dread and terror. (Ho’oponopono, tonglen.)

And gradually, my relationship with it shifted. It seemed less an enemy, and more myself, life, and Spirit.

How I relate to my experience is the context. And by exploring it, I may befriend it and see it as myself, as life, as Spirit, and even as love. As something that’s OK as is. Something in me relaxes in relation to it.

The content: Inviting in healing. Within that, out of kindness, I can invite healing. Here are some approaches I found helpful with the dread and terror.

Therapeutic trembling. TRE (Tension and Trauma Release Exercises) has been very helpful for me. It has helped release tension and trauma underlying the dread & terror. It has helped my system relax as a whole. It takes time, and TRE works best if it’s ongoing and regular, and it has worked very well for me.

Notice and allow. Notice the sensations and images / words making up the experience of dread & terror. Notice. Allow. Give it space. Notice the space around and within it. Notice it’s already allowed. The mind – and space, life – already allows it. Rest with it, as is. Also notice and allow any reactions to the dread & terror. Notice and allow the fear, the wish for it to be different. Include that too. Rest with it, as is.

Separate out sensations. Notice the sensations making up the experience of the dread & terror. Rest with the noticing of the sensations. Notice, allow, and rest with the sensations making up any reactions to it as well. Include all sensation. Notice. Allow. Rest with the (noticing of the) sensations.

Inquiry. Identify stressful beliefs around the dread & terror. Inquire into them and find what’s more true for me. (The Work.) Explore how my mind creates its experience of the dread and terror and reactions to it. (Living Inquiries.)

Heart-centered. Explore how it is to change my relationship to the dread & terror and my reactions to it. How is it to befriend it? (Ho’oponopono, tonglen.)

Vortex Healing. More recently, I have used Vortex Healing for these issues. For instance: Do puja 5 min/ day for a while to help it shift. Hold it in the grid. Denetwork any emotional issues behind and related to it. Bring it to the issue awareness room, issue transformation room, meet your pain room etc. Use the main tools to clear conditioning. And so on.

So we have the context, which in this case is how we hold the whole situation. Do I see it as a problem, an enemy, something that really needs to change? Or can I befriend it, see it as myself, as an expression of protection + kindness + love, as life and Spirit? Something that’s OK as is?

And we have the content which, in this case, is a natural wish – out of kindness – for healing. Inviting in healing in whatever ways we are drawn to and have available to us.

The dread & terror was an invitation for healing, maturing, and awakening, as anything in our lives is. I learned about working with these types of emotional issues. I learned about how these things can happen in an awakening process. I learned how the dread & terror came up to be recognized (as Spirit), met with understanding + patience + love, and with a wish to heal. I invited in healing for those parts of me. I got to see and clear some beliefs and identifications around it.

So although it was immensely and overwhelmingly painful at times, it was also – overall – an amazing opportunity for healing, maturing, and awakening. It has genuinely been a precious gift.

As a human, I would probably not have chosen it. But life chose it for me. And in the big picture, it’s a very good thing.

There is another side to this: we rarely if ever make full use of these opportunities. There is always something left to explore, find healing for, and awake to. And that’s OK. There is always more to explore, find healing for, and awaken to. Noticing that is also a gift.

Note: I should mention that in my case, a non-dual opening/awakening that lasted for about half a year may have “taken the lid off” of old trauma. That, in addition to my “dangerous prayer”, is most likely what brought up this dread & terror. And the dread & terror, most likely, came from many larger and smaller traumas from this and past lives. If any particular issue was at the root of it, it was perhaps a raw and primal survivial fear.

Read More

Taking the lid off

 

Having a profound awakening can be like taking the lid off of a jar. All the karma that has been repressed, all the karma at the bottom of our misery that we aren’t conscious of, comes flying out because there is finally space in which it can emerge.

When it hits you in the face, you wonder where your freedom went and what went wrong. But understand that this is a consequence of the freedom; it is not a mistake.

Everything wants to come up into and be transformed by the freedom. If you let it come up into this aware space, which is love, it will reharmonize. This space that you are is unconditional love. 

Unconditional means just that: everything is welcome, nothing is cast away or set apart from it.

– Adyashanti from The Impact of Awakening

This is what happened to me after a six months non-dual transcendence/opening some years ago. I have written about it before so won’t go into much detail here. But I do want to say that this process seems to have a few different sides.

Ride it out. One is that it lives its own life, and we have to ride it out. We have to learn to live with it as it is because it often seems we cannot do much about it. I have written about practical ways to learn to ride it out, and these may include spending time in nature, finding support from others who have gone through it, having the right diet for us, rest, bringing attention to the sensations, and more.

Relate to it consciously. Another is that we can – and are invited to – relate to what’s surfacing consciously. To heal our relationship to it, and invite the unprocessed material itself to heal. To learn to meet the pain and fear with kindness. To recognize what’s surfacing as an expression of caring and love at a human level (fear, pain, anger, discomfort etc. are all here to help the human self and is an expression of caring and love), and as Spirit itself. To heal the material itself through any way that works for us.

We are invited to examine the unexamined thoughts and beliefs creating the suffering. To love the unloved. To experience the unexperienced. And it seems that we don’t really have much choice. Anything else is too painful. Although we can certainly drag our feet and prolong the struggle. And that too is perfectly understandable. That too is, in a certain way, an expression of caring and love, although slightly unenlightened and misguided.

Very human process. It’s a very human process. It’s very human material that surfaces to be loved, examined, and experienced. It’s very humbling. It’s very humanizing, especially if we let it be. Through befriending the wounds and traumas surfacing, we become more fully human.

Prerequisite for embodiment. This process, however it happens, is also a prerequisite for embodiment. What we are awakens to itself, and then needs to clear out our human self so it can be more clearly and fully expressed through this life. Our human self needs to realign to this “new” reality, and that involves a great deal of deep healing. We need to heal the wounds of, it seems, lifetimes. We are invited to mature within this process. And we are invited to embody whatever awakening is here.

Read More

Adyashanti: Having a profound awakening can be like taking the lid off of a jar

 

Having a profound awakening can be like taking the lid off of a jar. All the karma that has been repressed, all the karma at the bottom of our misery that we aren’t conscious of, comes flying out because there is finally space in which it can emerge.

When it hits you in the face, you wonder where your freedom went and what went wrong. But understand that this is a consequence of the freedom; it is not a mistake.

Everything wants to come up into and be transformed by the freedom. If you let it come up into this aware space, which is love, it will reharmonize. This space that you are is unconditional love. Unconditional means just that: everything is welcome’ nothing is cast away or set apart from it.

– Adyashanti, The Impact of Awakening

That’s certainly been the case for me.

Read More