Intellectual honesty on the spiritual path

 

For me, spirituality is about being consciously aligned with reality, and deepen in clarifying and living from it. 

That means that intellectual honesty is an important component. So how does that look? At least for me? 

Here are some examples: 

In immediacy, content of experience – input from all the sense fields including thought – happens within and as what I am. I can say that it’s all happening within and as consciousness, or awake space. The whole universe appears as happening within and as what I am.

It appears as consciousness (aka love, wisdom, the divine, Spirit, God). And I can go one step further and tell myself the whole universe and all of existence is consciousness. That fits how it all appears to me, but I also know it’s an assumption. It’s going one step further than what I can be more certain about. 

And the same goes for a whole range of other things. I may have direct experiences of something. Someone – great spiritual masters – tells me it is a certain way. It may fit some research. It may make complete sense to me. I may wish it to be true. All of these may align. And yet, I don’t know for certain. All I know is that some stories, some overlays of thoughts, make sense and seem helpful to me in orienting and functioning in the world. They are not the final word, and there is no absolute truth to them. 

That’s how it is with ideas about God, life beyond death, reincarnation, divine beings, angels, distance healing, awakening, ESP, and anything else. At best, they are ideas that seem to fit the data, make sense, and help us orient and function in the world. And that’s about it. That’s all I can say about it.

This is as honest as I can be about these things now. It’s as aligned with reality as I can make it for now. It’s as aligned with the divine – if I see reality as the divine – as I can make it. And there is a great freedom here. I don’t need to defend anything.

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Non-religious, or pan-religious?

 

It’s popular these days to say I am spiritual but not religious.

That partly fits me too. I don’t belong to any particular religion but I am interested in spirituality. (Of course, the word spirituality is something that means different things to different people.) 

Something else fits me as well, and that’s pan-religious. I am interested in insights, pointers, and practices of any religion. I have explored quite a few religions and their pointers and practices over time and found something beneficial in each one. 

Just to keep it fluid, I can keep going (!). 

I very much resonate with atheism. I was a self-professed atheist in elementary school since it seemed that the Christians I saw (a) believed something just because they wanted to or were told it was so, and often (b) did it for social reasons or for comfort. And although I understand the appeal, neither made much sense to me. 

I resonate with the recognition we can find in the more mature versions of any religion or spiritual tradition: Our images of God or the divine are our images. They are not what they (mean to) point to. 

And I see the value in staying within one religion or spiritual tradition over time and perhaps for life. There is a beauty in the deepening that can offer. It just happened to not be my path in this life. 

Awakening from a psychological perspective

 

From a conventional view, there is this human being and consciousness is somehow connected with it.

And logically, since it’s the consciousness experiencing we must experience ourselves as this consciousness. Whether we notice or not, we are consciousness.

The next logical step is that we can notice ourselves as this consciousness, and any and all content of experience as happening within and as this consciousness. And that’s awakening. 

It’s really super simple. Almost banal. It certainly doesn’t have to be very esoteric. And yet, I realize it can seem a bit mysterious since that’s often how it has been presented in the past, and if we don’t have a direct experience or taste of it ourselves it can seem a bit abstract.

But in reality, it’s very simple. It’s already our experience, whether we notice it or not. And there are simple ways for us to have an immediate taste of it. 

The essence of what the mystics and spiritual traditions have talked about is also true. It takes time to clarify this and make it our new conscious home. It takes time to get all the different parts of ourselves on board with it. It takes time to learn to live from it more consistently and in more and more situations in life.

And any and all of the different practices from different spiritual traditions can help us with this, whether it’s natural rest, training a more stable focus, prayer, heart-centered practices, inquiry, body-centered practices, a life of service, and so on. 

This is the psychological perspective on awakening. We can still imagine there is a physical body and world, and that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we notice that all of it – all of our current experience of this human self, others, and the world – happens within and as what we are. It happens within and as what we may call consciousness. In our immediate experience, all is one since all happens within and as what we are. 

The difference with the spiritual perspective is that here, we go a step further. We acknowledge all of this, but we may say that the world really is consciousness, and we may call it the divine, or God, or Spirit, or Brahman, or Big Mind. 

And if you are like me, then you’ll find both of those perspectives valid and useful. Which one we use just depends on what seems most helpful for ourselves or others in the situation. 

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How does The Work work?

 

How does The Work of Byron Katie work?

As with anything else in life, it’s ultimately a mystery. But we can also say a few things about it.

Here is some things I have noticed:

It’s a confession, and we are seen by another without (or with less) judgment. And that, in itself, is somewhat healing.

And then there are some elements nearly explicit in the process itself.

We get to identify our stressful beliefs about a situation, someone else, life, or ourselves. We get to pinpoint the close (proximal) cause of our stress and suffering.

We get to see that our thoughts about it may not be as true as we initially thought. Our mind opens a bit to other possibilities, and to hold it a bit lighter.

We get to see what happens when we hold onto the thought as true. We get to see the stress and suffering it creates for ourselves, and what it does to our life and our relationship to others.

We get to imagine how it would be if we didn’t hold onto it as true. We get to imagine feeling it.

We get to consider and see the validity in the reversals of the thought, and that the initial thought, as well as its reversals, all have some limited validity to them. This also helps soften our grip on the initial thought.

We get to pick one reversal and see how it is to bring it into our life and how it is to live from it in daily life.

So we get to identify and question our initial stressful thought. Our mind is invited to soften its grip on it, and consider the validity in the reversals. And, as mentioned above, we – in the best case, if we work with an experienced facilitator – feel seen, met, understood, and not judged by another human being, and that in itself is healing, and shows us that we can do the same towards ourselves.

Another way The Work works is that it can give us clarity to act on something in our life that requires our action, and to do so with more clarity, kindness, and hopefully wisdom.

Psychological and spiritual interpretations of awakening

 

This is something I have been curious about since the initial spiritual awakening: an awakening can be interpreted in a psychological or a spiritual way, and most of the data fit either explanation. Which one we chose depends on our inclination, which one seems most helpful to ourselves, and perhaps which one seems more helpful for the reciver if we point to it for someone else’s benefit.

In short, an awakening is typically experienced as a realization that all is awakeness or consciousness. Any apparently separate beings are expressions of this awakeness. They are local and temporary expressions of awakeness or consciousness, as is everything else including what appears as the physical world.

This can be interpreted in a psychological way. This awakeness or consciousness is connected to this human being, and since we are this awakeness we can awaken to ourselves as this awakeness. We – as observer, experiencer, doer, human self – and the world as it appears to us happens within and as this awakeness. This is an explanation that actually would fit within conventional psychology, although not that many talks about it this way. (Yet… I imagine more will in the future.)

This allows us to operate with our immediate experience on the one hand, where everything happens within and as awakeness, and the conventional world on the other hand, that exists and functions as before. Of course, in our immediate experience all of this, including this framework or map, happens within and as awakeness, as everything else does.

It can also be interpreted in a conventional spiritual way. The whole world is the divine, and it temporarily and locally takes itself to be a separate being, and then awakens to itself as awakeness and everything happening within and as this awakeness.

Both the psychological and spiritual interpretations fit most of the data. In the first case, we – naturally – project the awakeness onto the whole world. In the second, everything – the whole world – is this awakeness and awakens to itself as all of it.

So which one do we chose? It depends on our culture, background, and inclination. And it also depends on what is most helpful to ourselves and others. If we talk about this in a conventional psychology setting, we may choose the psychological approach. If we talk about it in a spiritual context, the spiritual interpretation makes more sense.

In either case, it’s good to be aware of these two ways of interpreting awakening, hold both lightly, and see that we can choose to use one or the other depending on what seems most helpful in the setting we are in.

I said that most data fits either interpretation, which means some data fits one better than the other. To me, what’s revealed through parapsychological research – ESP, near-death experiences, reincarnation cases and so on – fits the spiritual interpretation better. As does my own personal experiences of ESP, seeing energies and auras, distance healing, and more.

I also said, “This awakeness or consciousness is connected to this human being”. I use the word “connected” intentionally since it leaves room for both a materialistic interpretation (the mind arises from the brain) and the reverse (the mind and consciousness as primary and using the brain as radio waves uses a radio).

Why is most mainstream psychology is not yet on board with the psychological interpretation? Partly because they are not so interested in awakening, and may assume it’s just a fanciful idea and not something pragmatic and close at hand. Partly because they may not realize or have taken in that we, in our own experience, are awakeness or consciousness, and that all content of experience happens within and as this awakeness. It can’t be any other way. When this awakeness wakes up to itself, and to all its experiences as happening within and as itself, that’s what we call awakening. It’s close at hand and not very mystical or fanciful.

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What is identification?

 

What do I mean by identification?

Identification is with a thought. With a mental image and/or words that create a story, interpretation, assumption, and so on.

When the mind identifies with a thought, it takes on that perspective, it becomes that perspective in its own experience. So instead of seeing a thought as a thought, as an innocent question about the world, it becomes the viewpoint of the thought and takes it as not only solid, real, and true, but as what it is. If this identification is questioned, it can feel like it’s existence is threatened.

For instance, the mind has the thought that “he is wrong” and the mind then identifies with that thought. That means the thought is invested with energy, which – in turn – means its associated with sensations lending the thought a sense that it is real, solid, and true. The mind views the situation, the person, and even the world, from the viewpoint of that thought. It becomes, in its own experience, that viewpoint. It sees itself as the viewpoint. So if the validity of that thought is questioned, it may feel that its existence is threatened and it will fight that possibility. It will come up with evidence supporting the apparent truth of the thought and reject anything that doesn’t fit.

This dynamic is sometimes called the “ego”. I prefer to not use that word since it can be confused with the psychological ego which is more like the operating system for the mind and essential for our functioning in the world. And it also makes it sound much more solid and as a “thing” than it is.

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Our fundamental identity

 

What does it mean when we say there is “no separate self”?

Obviously, there is a human self here. A human being walking around talking, thinking, feeling and so on. That doesn’t change. (At least not until we die.)

Our surface identity may be with or as this human self with its labels and roles in the world. That identity is accurate and helpful. But it’s not our final or fundamental identity.

Our more fundamental identity is as what this human self, and any experience, happens within or as. Some call it awakeness or consciousness since that’s what it can be experienced as.

Since this is what all our experience happens within and as – including this human self, others, and the world as we experience it – there is a sense of oneness here. It all happens within and as what we are. And that’s how it is for others as well, whether they notice or not.

And since there is oneness, we can call it love. What we are, and what everything is, is love. It’s not necessarily a felt love, in a conventional sense, although that could happen. It’s more the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. It’s the love that’s reflected in views and actions because it’s all one.

Also, since there is oneness, we can call it bliss. Although I hesitate a bit to use that word. Again, it’s not bliss in a conventional sense, although that can happen too. It’s a quiet bliss inherent in existence. It’s the quiet bliss that comes from all as one, all as consciousness, all as love. It’s a quiet bliss underlying any of our usual varied human experiences and states.

And although we can say that all is consciousness, or love, or even this quiet bliss, that’s not quite accurate either. All of this happens within and as what we are. Some call this void, or even the Godhead (Christian mystics). But words don’t quite reach it.

So, in a sense, it’s not very mystical or magical. It’s quite simple, direct, and here and now. And yet, it can be difficult to notice. The mind is trained to focus on its own content – thoughts and sensory experiences – so it easily misses what it all happens within and as.

That’s one of the tricks life uses to be able to temporarily experience itself as an apparently separate being, and not just one but many of them…! That’s part of the play of existence. That’s the infinite experiencing itself as finite. That’s existence exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in a myriad of different ways. That’s lila as some call it.

There has to be a ripeness to notice it, whether it’s subtle or a spiritual opening or awakening. And when there is interest, that usually reflect a ripeness.

Note: When I say “obviously there is a human self here”, that’s meant to show that our human self continues much as before when what I write about here is noticed. Our lives don’t neccesarily change that much. It’s more the context we are consciously aware of that changes. We could also say that what we call this human self also happens within and as what we are, and doesn’t exist as anything separate or inherently substantial. (Although in a conventional sense, we could say it is both separate and substantial, and that’s true as well.)

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No self, self, and Self

 

Some in the non-dual world talk about no self, conventionally we say we have or are a self, and some even talk about Self with capital S.

What if there is some validity to each of these?

Human self. There is certainly a human self in a conventional sense. A self made up of this body, sensations, thoughts, senses, behavior and so on.

No self. There is “no self” in a few different ways. All is a seamless whole, all is the divine, all is consciousness, and we are that, so there is no separate self within this. There is no independently existing separate self. Although there certainly seems to be when there is identification with and as that self. The self from above appears as a separate self, and what we are, when there is identification with and as it.

Self. And there is a Self with capital S. A Self that’s the divine, consciousness, love, Big Mind, what everything happens within and as.

The no self view can be understood from a systems view. Or as Carl Sagan said, “we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos….”, pointing to the wholeness of existence as our real or deeper identity.

And how do we taste it? We can taste it through various forms of inquiry such as the Big Mind process, Headless experiments, and sometimes Living Inquiries.

How do we invite identification to shift out of the self and into the Self? That’s perhaps most reliably done by examining the different identifications the mind has, allowing each one to soften and eventually release. We can do this from the consciousness side through inquiry (Living Inquiries, The Work), and it can also invite these to release from the energy side (Vortex Healing).

From a conventional view, we can see that a systems view is accurate. It’s all the universe or life exploring and expressing itself in all of these ways, including as selves taking themselves as separate selves. But it may seem a bit far-fetched for center of gravity to shift into this larger perspective. And yet, mystics from all traditions describe just that, sometimes as glimpses, and in other cases as a more stable shift in (or out of) identity.

When that happens, our human self is still here and it continues to operate more or less as before. But what we experience as our “real” self is all of existence, including the void it all happens within and as. A thought can describe it as consciousness, love, wisdom, appearing as all of existence, and that’s what we actually are.

So each of the three views has validity to them. There is a human self here. That’s not what we ultimately are. And what we are can be called Self with a capital S, as some traditions do.

And all of that are words with their inherent limitations. It will be misinterpreted, and that’s OK. Until this shift happens, and there is little or no need to talk about it. (Although we try anyway.)

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In the world but not of it

 

When we talk about spirituality, the words and view often speak to a particular phase of the awakening process. It comes from a particular place too, which sometimes is the same and sometimes not.

I was reminded of this when I heard the phrase in the world but not of it.

It speaks to minds identified as a human being, but in the threshold of finding itself as something more than that. It’s an invitation to notice what we are beyond form. To find ourselves as consciousness, awakeness, Spirit. Here, there is still a duality and that’s fine. It’s a more transcendent approach and emphasis.

When this is a more stable noticing, other pointers may be more helpful. For instance, noticing that we are that which any experience – including our human self, our human experiences, and the world as this human self experiences it – happens within and as. The One noticing itself as all there is. This is more of the Big Mind and Oneness approach.

Of course, we can go directly to the Big Mind approach and many do. It just depends on inclination and what’s available to us in our culture and place (nowadays, geographic limitations are less of an issue, of course).

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How awakening is perceived by others

 

How is awakening perceived by others?

Mutual recognition. If there is awakening both places – in both people – it’s often immediately suspected, sensed, or recognized. For instance, for those of us who sense or see energy, it’s relatively easy to see the level of clarity and type of awakening in someone else. (The energy around the person mirrors the awakening – it’s clear, finer, awake, with no apparent end in space.)

To others. If not, it depends. It depends on the level of healing, maturity, and embodiment of the awakening. And it depends on the role the person has in the world. Most often, the person looks quite ordinary and lives an ordinary life. The person may or may not talk about spirituality or awakening, and may or may not have taken the role of a spiritual coach or guide.

If he or she speaks about it, it may appear as an idea or something read in a book. (Since that’s it would be for the recipient.) Or it may appear as coming from direct experience the recipient has been told it’s from direct experience.

My experience. How has this been for me? During childhood, when I had flashbacks and memories of life between lives – and all as the divine – I didn’t talk about it. I just had a sense of nostalgia and a longing for “home”. In my teens, when Spirit as all woke up to itself more fully and clearly, I initially had no words for it and no intellectual context for it. After a while, I did speak my direct experience to a few people but they were either not interested or thought it was just an idea or from a book. Even people I thought would understand and be familiar with it – a few local Buddhist teachers and students – didn’t seem to recognize it and were more interested in traditional teachings.

Eventually, I did meet a couple who immediately recognized it. As me, they saw it in the energy system. One was a spiritual guide (Jes Bertelsen’s wife at the time), and another lived a more anonymous life and became a close friend. And later, I met others who have had a similar path as me and immediately recognizes it. Adyashanty is probably the main one. It felt like communication within awakening, and at a human level as meeting a brother, when I had the opportunity to talk with him for a few hours.

Over time, I also found writings from people who expressed this awakening or at least a view aligned with it.

In my teens, I could see that Jung had an inkling about it although he kept his writing at a human level. Arne Næss was aligned with it, although mostly through recognizing the oneness of Earth. As did Carl Sagan through the oneness of the universe. Fritjof Capra was similarly aligned with it through recognizing how eastern mystics and western science – quantum physics and systems theories – described the same reality. Ken Wilber, through his mapping, had a good understanding of it from an intellectual level and through glimpses. Jes Bertelsen was aligned with it and very important to me in my teens since he was a fellow Scandinavian. Some of the old Daoists expressed it quite clearly and beautifully. Some of the Christian mystics expressed it although filtered through their tradition and a wish to not appear heretical.

Later, in my twenties and thirties, I found others. Genpo Roshi obviously knew what it was about, and his Big Mind process was a good way to help others have a taste of what it’s about. (I was a resident at his Zen center for a few years.) Adyashanti is the one I experience as most clear and aligned with how reality revealed itself to itself in my case. Ramana Maharshi was almost a bit boring to me because it seemed too obvious (!). I really enjoyed Douglas Haring and his clarity, ordinariness, and playful pragmatism. I also enjoyed connecting with Joel Morwood and the other teachers at the Center for Spiritual Sciences which was just down the road from me for several years.

And, more recently, I am grateful for having found Vortex Healing and Ric Weinman. His very detailed descriptions and maps fit nicely into my more general views and experiences. And Vortex Healing has helped me greatly in healing at a physical and human level, and in clearing up and tying up loose ends from earlier awakenings (especially the VH awakening courses).

When I am on the US west coast I regularly meet people who understand and where there is a mutual recognition. But in periods, and mainly when I am in Norway, it’s been more lonely at a human level. I have yet to meet someone here where there is the same easy mutual recognition. Most of the time, it’s OK. But occasionally, I notice some emotional issues around this – and that’s an invitation to meet it with some kindness, patience, and perhaps invite in some healing.

A note about language: As usual, it’s a little hard to find the right words talking about this. An awakening is the One awakening to itself as all there is, and that awakening somehow operates through this human self. So we cannot accurately say that a person awakens, or that someone is awakened. It’s more that the One is awake to itself as all, and that’s expressed and lived through a human being. Our ordinary language doesn’t express that very well or easily. So we have a choice between using ordinary and simple language which is somewhat misleading and inaccurate, or a language that’s more accurate and often more convoluted and awkward, or something in between. I often go for the inbetween option although that too is not always so satisfying.

A note about the One awake to itself as all. I realize that when I write “Spirit / the One awake to itself as all”, it can easily be misunderstood. It’s meant literally. All of existence is awake to itself as Spirit. Even what we experience as matter is consciousness, space, and Spirit. And in this awakening, it’s clearly revealed as that. It’s not an intellectual understanding. It’s an immediate and clear recognition that’s expressed through language.

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I cry -> there is crying -> life is crying

 

Ordinarily, we’ll say “I am going to the store” and “I feel sad”.

But in some circumstances, we may use a different language. For instance, when identification is released out of being a separate being, and we want to be more precise or highlight a certain facet of life or orientation to life.

We could say “there is crying” or “crying is happening”. When identification is released out of being a separate being, those words are accurate and reflect an immediate experience. There is the experience of crying happening – and not “to” anyone – so those words make sense. It may also reflect a slightly detached orientation. And it’s something we tend to hear more in neo-Advaita circles.

We could also say “life is crying”. Life is all there is, and right here and now it’s crying. It’s manifesting as crying. It expresses itself as crying. It’s experiencing itself as crying. This reflects a bigger picture and emphasizes the fullness and life. It may also reflect a more engaged orientation. Buddhist and mystics independent of traditions seem to use this language more.

Either of these are accurate in their own way. “I am crying” makes sense in everyday life, also because most minds experience it that way. “Crying is happening” reflects that it’s happening on its own and not “to” anyone. And “life is crying” reflects the fullness of life and a more engaged orientation.

From what I understand, for most there is a natural progression from “crying is happening” (detachment) to “life is crying” (engagement, fullness). For me, it went to “I am crying” to “life is crying”. And the “crying is happening” orientation was within the fullness of “life is crying”. Both were (are) there but one was more the context for the other.

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Psychonaut

 

psychonautics
from the Greek psyche [“soul”, “spirit” or “mind”] and naútes [“sailor” or “navigator”] – “a sailor of the soul” refers both to a methodology for describing and explaining the subjective effects of altered states of consciousness […] and to a research paradigm in which the researcher voluntarily immerses himself or herself into an altered mental state in order to explore the accompanying experiences

– from the Wikipedia article on psychonautics

I like the word psychonaut. It describes what we all do in the sense that we all, in our lives, travel through and explore the mind. We are unable to do anything else. And in a wider sense, Spirit is a psychonaut. All of the existence is Spirit expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. It’s Lila, the play of the divine.

In a more limited sense, some of us are more intentional psychonauts than others. Some of us have a passion for exploring the mind – whether it’s the human psyche, Big Mind, or both.

Of course, the word psychonaut comes with some (unfortunate?) associations from the 70s. But as history shows, we are free to redefine words. And psychonaut is one word I would like to redefine to be free of the 70s associations and instead mean an exploration of the psyche and Big Mind in a broader sense.

Whether it’s the journey of discovery we all inevitably do, or the journey of discovery some of us more intentionally engage in.

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Oneness understood in different ways

 

There are different forms or versions of oneness.

All as a system. The universe is a seamless system. Everything is evolving from, within, and as the universe. In the same way, the Earth is a seamless living system, and all parts of the Earth is evolving from, within, and as the Earth. (And, yes, that includes humans and our culture, technology, and society.) Everything has infinite causes. Our health and well being is intimately connected with the health and well being of the larger social and ecological wholes. This is a systems view of oneness.

All as consciousness. In our immediate experience, any experience happens within and as consciousness. Any experience is consciousness and cannot be anything else ever. It’s form empty of substance. Any appearance of substance of solidity comes from mental images or words combining with sensations, and that too happens within and as consciousness. (Images or words lend meaning to sensations, and sensations lend a sense of solidity to images and words.) This is something we can – if we explore it skillfully – agree on whether we come from a psychological view or a spiritual view.

All as Spirit. To us, any experience is inevitably consciousness. But is reality in itself – the whole universe – consciousness? (Or Spirit, Brahman, Buddha Mind, Allah, God.) It certainly appears that way to us, but that doesn’t mean it – in itself – is. As with anything else, we cannot know for certain. We can say that there are hints that everything, in itself, is consciousness, including synchronicities, various forms of ESP and knowing, and perhaps distance healing. But, in fairness, these can be interpreted other ways as well.

Is it so obvious? I have assumed that it’s obvious that all our experience happens within and as consciousness. I know that to many, the world appears to be made up of solid and substantial “things” that exist “out there” in the world. And yet, within one session of Living Inquiries, guided by a skilled facilitator, we can all have a taste of how the mind creates its own world. And that all of it happens within and as consciousness. A brief exploration will typically reveal it, even if most will revert to the “solid objects in a real world” experience afterward.

My view? To me, each of these three forms of oneness seems valid and useful. The systems view helps us organize ourselves so we are more aligned with reality, and it can also open for awe, gratitude, and humility, and a deep sense of belonging. The second helps relieve stress from recognizing how the mind creates its own experience. And although the third is perhaps a less needed addition, it does help us function in a more sane and mature way in the world.

Play of the divine. These three forms of oneness have an additional component for me. And that’s lila – the play of life, the mind, or the divine. From a systems view, the universe is the play of life. From the second view, our experience is the play of the mind. And from the third view, all of existence is the play of the divine. It’s life, the mind, or the divine, expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in a great multitude of ways. There is perhaps no ultimate “goal” to it all apart from the play itself, and that’s perhaps enough. Of course, within this play, there are apparent sub-“goals” or stepping stones, but it’s all happening within and as the play.

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Love and fear

 

Some will tell you that fear is the opposite of love. And in this teaching the war begins. But love has no opposite, for it is whole and without division. Love is the field in which all form comes and goes, including the temporary, wavelike appearance of fear. It is the vast, tender space in which all emotions, feelings, and physical sensations arise, play for a short while, and then dissolve. Just like passing clouds could never taint the purity of the sky, the temporary dance of fear could never stain the majesty of what you are.

Matt Licata

What’s the relationship between love and fear?

I agree that fear is the opposite of love, when we buy into that fear. When we are caught up in fear, it tends to mask love from us. And we may very well act in ways that seem anything but loving.

I also agree that love encompasses fear. The love we are already allows and even is fear, as it allows and is any experience.

And I even agree that the fear vs love idea is the beginning of war, when it’s misunderstood. If we see fear as wrong or bad or something to avoid or eliminate, that’s a war we start with reality. And that’s painful, futile, and somewhat misguided.

What is love?

 

Here is another topic I tend to revisit.

What is love?

The simplest may be to look at it in terms of what and who we are.

What we are is that which all experience happens within and as. (Variously called consciousness, awakeness, Big Mind, Spirit, Brahman etc.) Here, love is what we are. This is not neccesarily a felt love. But it is the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. They belong to the same whole, so nothing is more natural than helping out as appropriate. And that looks like love.

Who we are is our human self. Here, the love from what we are is filtered through beliefs and identifications, and that means it can look like love in an ordinary human sense, and also a lot of other things. Ordinary human love is often mixed in with a sense of lack, need, wants, insecurities, compensations, and more. Felt love is often from some of these filters.

Going one step further, we see that even what doesn’t at all look like love (in a conventional sense) comes from love. That too is filtered love.

For instance, lack comes from care for our human self. It comes from a wish, or attempt, or impulse, to take our our separate self. And that’s still love, but in a filtered form. The same goes for fear, anger, wounds, trauma, greed, insecurities, and a lot more that from a conventional view looks like anything but love. And still, when we examine it more closely, all of it can be traced back to love. It comes from care for our human self, and an attempt to take care of our human self. It’s love filtered through all sorts of beliefs and identifications.

Who and what we are go together and are inseperable. That’s why the two forms of love mentioned above are largely inseperable and mixed together in our actual human lives.

In an opening or awakening, the first one becomes more clear, and it can be lived to some extent. The more we examine and clear up beliefs and identifications, the more it is revealed and the more we tend to live from it in more situations.

Also, the more we examine filtered love, the more we reognize it’s from love, and the less we tend to battle it. And that removes a layer of additional filtering which is also helpful.

As usual, there is nothing wrong with this filtering of love. It’s just how life plays itself out through us. It’s also inherently stressful and uncomfortable, and we eventually get to a point where we wish to find another way. And that’s where we can start to find a different relationship with the filters (more kindness towards them which tends to allow identification with them to soften) and also find ways to invite them to clear and release.

An important part of this process is to find more peace with and kindness towards the filtering. We see that nothing is wrong. We see it comes from care for this human self, and love. Identification with the filtering tends to soften and even release, partly from finding more kindness towards it. And, in general, everything feels a bit easier. It doesn’t mean that the filtering is all gone, or that all identification with it is released, but it does mean it generally is a bit easier.

It’s an ongoing process, and it tends to become more enjoyable and lighter as we go along. And from the outside, it may look as if we live more and more from the what-we-are type of love. The one that’s like the left hand taking care of the right. And it also tends to look sane in a very ordinary way, and deeply human.

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Overly idealized vs more real, honest, and down to earth

 

Like a butterfly emerging from it’s cocoon,
I have been transformed inside,
All parts of myself now aligned in Truth,
I have nothing left to hide.

from mysticmamma

A friend of mine posted this quote on Facebook.

I understand that this is meant as as inspiration, or as a guide or a direction. And that can be very helpful.

There are also possible drawbacks to statements like this one that seem a bit absolute and overly idealized.

Some may see it as unachievable and give up without even trying, even if what it talks about sounds desirable to them.

Some may see it as undesirable since it may seem too sterile and in the unhealthy perfection-striving category.

Some may create a goal out of arriving at a certain state and then be done. Reality is often far more messy, and it seems more of an ongoing process of clarifying, deepening, and embodying. Also, awakening isn’t about a state – apart from perhaps a state of recognition. (What any experience happens within and as recognizing itself as that). And by setting a goal, it may be seen as out there in others and possibly in the future, and they may miss out of being more fully present, engaged with, and allowing of what’s here and now.

People can take it to mean that something is wrong. They know that their own process is messy and far from finished, so at best they are not “there” yet, and at worst they think there is something wrong with them or their process.

In some case, and especially following an opening or initial awakening, people may use these statements to tell themselves they have “arrived”. They may use it as a denial of what’s left, or to avoid what’s left.

To me, these idealized and absolute statements seem more like the “dream of the ego”, and they appeal to the dreams of the ego. They promise a future without any pain or problems, and where everything is fixed and aligned with truth.

These types of statements also seem a bit old fashioned to me. I know they are common in certain spiritual traditions. But today, it seems that a more nuansed, real, and honest description is often more helpful. And that’s a trend we see with teachers such as Adyashanti, Pema Chodron, Jeff Foster, and Matt Licata.

I should also mention that none of the “pitfalls” mentioned above are “wrong”. The mind goes to these types of ideas and ideals to find protection, and that is very natural and understandable. We all do it in our own ways. And it’s an inherently self-correcting process through the interplay between our assumptions and life, our dreams and reality. When there is a mismatch, it’s stressful and that’s uncomfortable, so we are invited to align more closely with reality.

For most of us, these types of wrinkles are part of the process. It’s part of the process of clarifying, deepening, embodying, and becoming more deeply human.

And in the bigger picture, it’s all part of the play of life.

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Images of God

 

Most of what I write about here is very basic. I often feel it’s just Life 101.

And yet, I keep seeing people speaking and acting as if it’s not, so I am drawn to writing a bit.

When people reject God as depicted in religion, as I did in elementary school, we are often just rejecting certain images of God. They don’t make sense to us, so we – often understandably – reject them.

For instance, if we have an image of God as a man with a gray beard sitting on a cloud, it will be seen as quite childish and ripe for rejection. In modern society, even images of God as a separate entity that helps and/or judges us is often seen as relatively immature and something best rejected.

I have to admit, most of the images of God presented by theistic mainstream religions seem a bit childish. So no wonder many reject these images, and in the process reject religion, God in general, and perhaps even spirituality. (Although in Norway, it seems that most reject religion but are open to spirituality and some ideas of God.)

It seems that the better our lives are in a society, the more likely we are to reject old-fashioned theistic images of God. And in places where there is more inequality and larger portions of us live in poverty and under difficult situations, we are more likely to adopt these images. (And that’s fine. It helps us, and it’s very understandable.)

I have two favorite images of God, both of which seem to work a bit better in modern society, and both of which are non-theistic.

God = reality. God = what is, whatever that may be. This includes our physical universe as described by science and perhaps more. We know only parts of reality so we cannot assume we know God as a whole.

God = Big Mind. The consciousness that everything (universe+) happens within and as, and which makes up this consciousness here that my local experience happens within and as.

A benefit of these two is that we can equally well say it, she, or he about God. I tend to it or she since he has been used so much in our culture. Or I may choose one depending on which aspect of reality we talk about.

Another benefit is that we are free to find the validity, helpfulness, and potential shortcomings of any religion or spiritual tradition. They all have some validity to them. They all may be helpful for some people, in some situations, in some ways. And they all have shortcoming and pitfalls.

So if someone asks me if I believe in God, I may say “yes” or “no” depending on who I talk to. I may explain which images roughly apply in my case. I may mention that it’s not really a “belief” but more a pointer and something to explore. Or I may ask which image of God do you mean?

Note: The painting is by Harmonia Rosales. If God can be depicted – mainly by white men – as an older white guy with a beard, so why not also as a black woman? We tend to create God in our own image.

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Talking about the healing modalities I use

 

It can be challenging to talk about healing modalities that are quite different from what most people are familiar with.

Most of the approaches I use fall into this category:

Breema bodywork looks similar to Thai massage or partner yoga, but the experience of and intention behind is markedly different. It’s deeply nourishing and helps us find ourselves as the fullness and wholeness that’s always here and always healthy, even as our body and mind may have ailments.

Inquiry can look similar to cognitive therapy, but it goes far deeper is far more all-inclusive than typical cognitive therapy. Living Inquiries is an exploration of how our mind creates its own experiences, including the stressful and painful ones. We get to explore the basic building blocks (images, words, sensations), and through separating and spending time with each one, it’s difficult for the mind to put it together again in a believable way. We also go back in time to the origins and roots of the issue, and we look at the different branches holding it in place.

Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) involves trembling and shaking, rocking and stretching, and sometimes also sounds. This is something we are all familiar with, but in TRE these all happen spontaneously and are initiated and guided by the body. We are just along for the ride. (Although we can stop it at any time, if we wish.) There is also a deepening, and a deep relaxation and sense of nourishment that happens as we do TRE regularly over time.

Vortex Healing may look similar to energy healing modalities such as Reiki, acupuncture, or chigong. It’s true it’s an energy healing modality, and yet it’s different to most other approaches in that it uses divine energy guided by divine intelligence. This is the intelligence of life or Spirit itself, so it already knows the problems and the way out of them. As a practitioner, I use my intention to support the healing, I partially guide and partially am guided through the healing session, and I allow my system to be used as a channel for the energy needed for the healing. Where other modalities often work more in a general way, Vortex Healing is especially effective when we work on very specific issues – sometimes the more specific and detailed the better. As a practitioner, Vortex Healing also speeds up and guides my own awakening and embodiment process. It’s very much an intimate partnership with the divine.

And, of course, most people are interested in if and how they can be helped, not the specific modalities. The modalities are just tools. While it’s easy to become fascinated with the tools as a practitioner, clients have a different priority. And rightly so. They are interested in what can be done for them. Can you help me with what I need help with?

In my experience, any issue can be helped by using these tools: Physical and mental health. Psychological and behavioral issues. Relationships. Awakening and embodiment. If there is a problem, there is a way out of it. And as usual, the degree we can be helped depends on many factors, mainly the willingness for change and the energy and time put into it.

Why is God love?

 

 

God is love.

Why? Why do we often experience God as love when there is a spiritual opening or awakening?

From a human perspective, we can experience God as love for a few different reasons.

When there is an initial opening or awakening and all is revealed as Spirit, there may be an experience of love towards ourselves, others, and everything. It feels like love. God feels like love.

When that realization is lived through us, we act as if from love. All is one, so helping others – as and when appropriate – is as natural as the left hand helping the right. It looks like love.

And when that realization is more stable through situations, we may realize that all is good as is. All is Spirit. What happens is Spirit. There is an infinite wisdom and intelligence behind it. Nothing is out of place. And that, to us, looks like love. The world looks like love.

The first is a felt sense of love, and the two others look like love but are not dependent on any feelings of love. And that’s why we may experience, and say, that God is love. Of course, love – and these three points – are all human concepts. It’s a human attempt at putting words on something.

The first one tends to naturally fade over time. I suspect it’s more a byproduct of an initial opening or awakening. And the other two tend to deepen over time.

Note: The photo is one I took at sunset at Venice beach in 2012.

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Mindful & Mindfull

 

I don’t usually use the word mindfulness. Mainly because I prefer the word noticing, and also because I often am more interested in other aspects of the exploration.

The way I understand mindfulness is noticing.

A noticing of content of experience, which can be differentiated into sensory experiences and imagination (mental representations of sensory experiences, words).

A noticing of how sensory experiences (and especially sensations) and imaginations come together to create experiences that seem real, solid, and substantial. A noticing how how this sense of reality dissolves when we do the forms of noticing described here.

A noticing of space outside and inside of this content of experience.

A noticing of all as awareness.

A noticing of the emptiness all of that happens within and as.

And so on.

There is another way of understanding mindfulness which I like. Mind-full = noticing the mind “full” of presence. The whole field of experience is already and always presence. (Or awareness, or awake space, or emptiness allowing all of this.) And as we notice this, the “center of gravity” can shift from being caught in content of experience to this “context” of all experience. We may even notice this presence as what we are. Content of experience is presence. (And there is an emptiness which all this happens within and as, which all also and more fundamentally is.)

Living Inquiry terminology

 

There are certain words I rarely use in the Living Inquiry context, even if they are part of the “official” terminology.

Unfindable and overcompensation are two of them. (See another post about the “unfindable” terminology and what I prefer instead.)

Overcompensation refers to when we get scared in inquiry and go into thoughts as a way to cope. We may analyze, go into stories, talk about something else, talk a lot more than needed for the inquiry, and so on. And it’s all because we get close to something “hot” in the inquiry, something that our mind tells itself is scary.

It’s completely normal. Understandable. Universal. (We all do it.)

It’s even healthy. It’s a protection against re-traumatizing ourselves. In most situations in life it’s a good and useful protection.

And in inquiry, we can gently enter that territory through (a) gaining trust in the process and the facilitator, (b) see that what initially appears scary is actually OK to look at, (c) look at the perceived threat in entering a particular area, and more.

I am slightly confused about the term “overcompensation”. What are we compensating for? It may mean that we compensate for a deficient self by going into stories. (Although that may not always be the reason we go into stories for safety.) And what means it to over-compensate? Who decides where the boundary is between compensating and overcompensating? It’s a confusing term to me and there seems to be simpler and clearer ways to talk about it.

For instance, when I or someone else goes into stories to avoid feeling something or looking at something, I tend to say that we scare ourselves, are afraid of entering a certain area, go into stories, go into intellectualizing or rationalizing, try to find safety in stories, or something similar. That seems simpler and more accurate.

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What are synchronicities?

 

It’s common for people in meaningful flow to experience synchronicities. In periods, days may even be filled with them.

I am reading a book on synchronicities right now, and it’s interesting to see different interpretations of synchronicities, and specifically how or why they happen.

Here are a few ways of looking at it:

  1. Synchronicities are created by our own perception. Innumerable events happen in our lives, and there even more possible perceived connections  between them. So out of this huge pool, we pick out the perceived connections that make sense to us and call them synchronicities. Synchronicities are created by our selective attention and interpretation.
  2. A being somehow sets it up for us (!) with some purpose in mind.
  3. We create real, actual synchronicities through our own mind, focus, and intention.
  4. Synchronicities are expressions of movements within the seamless whole we call life, reality, or the universe. Or, we are so inclined, we may also call it Spirit, Buddha Mind, Brahman etc.

Since my teens, I have seen synchronicities as a combination of 4, 1 and 3. (Number 2 seem a bit naive and unnecessary….!)

For me, synchronicities are a reminder of all as one, and a reflection that I am in flow with something meaningful to me. I am also aware that I selectively notice synchronicities and interpret them as meaningful. And at times, synchronicities are remarkable, plentiful, and obvious even to others.

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Talking about the living inquiries

 

Here are some ways I tend to talk about the Living Inquiries.

What

  • Explore how the mind creates its experience of anything – a threat, an object, a command
    • An object here can be a perceived self (deficient, inflated), others, past, future, any concept (awareness, love etc.)

How

  • By examining two areas of experience: Senses + imagination
    • Senses: sensations, sight, sound, taste/smell
    • Imagination: images, sounds, smell/taste, touch, and words = images (letters, words) + sounds (spoken words)
  • See how they combine to create an experience of…. anything.
    • Sensations give imagination (stories, images, words) a sense of substance, solidity, reality and a charge
    • Imagination gives sensations meaning (story)
  • Glued together vs separated
    • When sensations + imagination seem “glued” together, the imagination seems real (may appear as a threat, object, command)
    • When examine how the mind creates its experience of the threat, object, command, several things happen
      • Recognize imagination as imagination, and sensations as sensations
      • See that our experience of the actual “thing” we are looking for is created by our mind
      • This helps unglue sensations + imagination, and the sense of solidity, reality, and the charge is reduced or goes out of it completely

Where & When

  • Initially easier in dedicated sessions – with a facilitator or on our own
  • Then more and more part of everyday life, anywhere and any time
  • As we get more experience, we can bring it into even more intense situations and experiences

Who

  • Anyone who is interested in exploring how their mind creates certain experiences
  • Anyone who is interested in finding peace with what currently seem scary, overwhelming, outside of their control
  • Anyone ready to examine root causes of their suffering and see it go

Why

  • Get to see how our mind creates its own experience of the world
  • Get to see it’s a created experience, not “how the world is”
  • There is more “space” to intentionally relate to our experience instead of acting on it automatically. We can relate to it more intentionally.
  • How we relate to our own experience shifts, typically from seeing it as a problem or enemy to befriending it (seeing its innocence). When this struggle is removed there is more ease and comfort, ability to relate to it intentionally, and act with more clarity and heart.
  • As a side effect, the sense of reality, solidity, and the charge in anything (a perceived threat, object, command) can reduce and perhaps even fall away

Additions

  • There are little “tricks” that can help the mind get – at a more visceral level – that imagination is imagination and sensations are sensations.
    • For instance, we can imagine seeing a mental image on a wall or in a book. We can imagine pushing it further away and closer in. We can imagine stretching it. We can imagine touching its surface. We can do the same with images of words.
  • It can be helpful to notice the space around sense experiences and imagination.
    • Notice the space around the image and between you and the image.
    • Notice the space sensations happen within. Notice the same space outside and inside of the body, and outside and inside of a sensation.
    • If space seems to have a boundary, explore that boundary. Is it an image combined with a sensation? Is it a real boundary? Does that image of happen within space?
    • Noticing space in this way helps “dilute” our experience of anything. It’s similar to drinking a glass of water with a teaspoon of salt in it (intense) vs drinking water from a bucket or lake with a teaspoon of salt in it (it’s OK).
  • As a general rule, follow what has the strongest charge in the moment. Explore how the mind creates its experience of it.

Body contractions & identifications, threats, selves, compulsions

  • When sensations combine with imagination, what happens is also called velcro (Living Inquiries), a belief, or identification. (In a spiritual context, some may even call it “ego”.)
  • Since sensations give imagination a sense of solidity and charge, it seems that the mind creates sensations to serve that purpose. It tenses muscles so there will be sensations that can combine with imagination to give that imagination a sense of solidity, reality, and charge.
  • If the identification or belief is more long lasting, then the tensing and contraction also becomes more long lasting. It can turn out as a chronic contraction connected with and making possible any form of identification or belief (including a sense of threat, deficient or inflated self, or compulsion or even addiction).
  • This is why it can be helpful, and sometimes essential, to work with the body along with the inquiry. We can help release tension and contractions out of the body through therapeutic tremoring (TRE), massage or bodywork, or other body-oriented techniques.

Relationship between imagination and reality

  • Our whole world is created by sensory experiences and imagination. My experience of the world – myself, others, life, and anything – is created by a combination of sensory experiences and imagination.
  • In the moment, imagination functions as an overlay of immediate sensory experiences and helps us make sense of them, interpret, and function.
  • When we consider something that isn’t here – past, future, abstractions – then there is either just imagination or as described earlier imagination combined with sensations.
  • This imagination is essential for helping us orient and function in the world. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s only that when the mind combines it with sensations and takes it as solid and real, an additional layer of suffering is often created. (In a general sense, we can say that sensations and imagination “glued” together = identification, beliefs, velcro = suffering.)
  • When we find peace with this layer creating suffering, or it softens or fall away, we are typically much better able to function in the world. We are more able to act from clarity and with some kindness. (When the mind is caught in this suffering, the mind often tells itself that the suffering is needed for action. When the suffering softens or falls away, we see that’s not true and that we can act and function more effectively without it.)

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Living Inquiries: A different logic

 

The Living Inquiries help me explore my own experience, and see how my mind creates my experience of the world. And it does so at a basic and elementary level of the mind and experience. It looks at images, words, and sensations and how these sometimes appear glued together, as experiential phenomena.

At this level, a different logic operates than what we are used to in our everyday life. It’s the logic of velcro, of how images, words and sensations gets glued together, and (the mechanisms of) how this glue softens or melts away.

To me, this is similar to the relationship between regular physics and quantum physics. A different logic applies to those two levels of reality, and we cannot understand the elementary and basic level very well by applying the physics we know from everyday life.

Through living inquiries, we get to be more familiar with this logic, the logic of velcro. We get to see how traumatic experiences, often early in life, glued together certain images, words and sensations, and how this bundle continued to operate in our life and influence how we perceive and live our life. We also get to see how this glue dissolves and can melt away, freeing us up from being caught by these bundles.

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Forms of rest

 

The term natural rest is quite accurate, and can also be misperceived. Mainly  because the word “rest” is commonly used in a different way.

In a conventional sense, we understand rest as a break from a task, sitting or laying down, and perhaps being spaced out, or entertained, or caught in thoughts or daydreams, being half asleep, and so on.

The “rest” in natural rest is quite different. It’s noticing and allowing. Or, rather, noticing what’s already here, notice it’s already allowed, and aligning more consciously with that allowing. It’s alert and relaxed. It’s very natural. It’s just what’s already here noticing itself. And it can happen during any activity, including quite strenuous physical activity or any type of work or a conversation.

Natural rest can also be understood, or emphasized, in a few different ways.

It can be a general noticing and allowing of content of experience, as it is, and noticing this allowing is already here.

It can be a noticing of allowing of a more specific subset of content of experience, for instance a word, an image, sounds, or sensations. It’s a resting with an image, word, sounds, or sensations.

It can be a noticing and allowing which includes, or emphasizes, the boundless space this content is happening within and as. (It’s boundless since any imagined boundaries happen within that space.)

It can be a noticing and allowing which emphasizes that which all content happens within and as.

It can be a resting as any of these. As content of experience. As a subset of content of experience. As unbounded space. As that which any content happens within and as.

When I facilitate myself or someone else, I’ll usually emphasize one of these depending on the client and situation. For instance, I worked with a client a couple of days ago who has a lot of very strong (mental/physical) contractions, and I invited him to first rest with the contractions, and then notice the space it’s happening within, and it seemed to be a welcome relief for him to notice that space. Even the strongest contraction happens within and as boundless space. When we notice that, it seems less overwhelming and more OK as it is. It’s easier to rest with it, and perhaps even as it.

Taking about Living Inquiries: Get to see how my mind creates the experience of X

 

When talking about the Living Inquiries, I tend to avoid the “unfindable” terminology since it easily can be misunderstood.

People may get caught in thoughts such as “if it’s unfindable, doesn’t that mean it doesn’t exist?”, and may even scare themselves unnecessarily through that way of thinking.

Instead, I often say:

Through the inquiries, I get to see how my mind creates my experience of X. And after an inquiry, there is often a sense of lightness around it, and less stickiness and drama. (It’s not about whether something exists or not “in itself”. That’s another topic, and not really relevant or important.)

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Spirituality myths

 

Some myths about spirituality, and how they are valid and not.

I initially kept this post private as it’s written in a different tone than most. It’s more conversational, and perhaps less nuanced and balanced compared with many other posts. I’ll make it public anyway, since some of it may be useful.

Awakening or enlightenment is mysterious and distant.

It’s a noticing of what we already are, and what’s already here, in immediate experience here and now. It’s what we are – that which any experience happens within and as – noticing itself. It’s not very mysterious or far away. It’s closer than anything, since it’s what we are. (And it’s as close than anything, since anything is what we are.)

The grain of truth: Awakening or enlightenment can seem mysterious and distant, if we approach it through thought alone, and especially if we believe the thought that it’s mysterious and distant…! That’s how we stop ourselves from actually looking and exploring for ourselves, in immediacy.

Awakening or enlightenment is unachievable.

It’s actually not that difficult to glimpse or have a taste of what it’s about. The Big Mind process is one way that works for many. Headless experiments another. At the end of a Living Inquiry session it’s often quite obvious. And there is a lot of other approaches that can help us get a glimpse or taste of it. This is very helpful, since it tends to dispel a lot of myths.

From here, it’s the work of keeping noticing, and inquire into our identifications and beliefs that tends to temporarily cover up this noticing.

And when this noticing becomes more clear and frequent (or stable), it’s about deepening and living from it.

The grain of truth: Awakening or enlightenment as you think it is, may well be unachievable. What it’s actually about may be even better than what you think you want. (And what it “actually is about” keeps opening up.)

Awakening or enlightenment is a destination, an endpoint. When that happens, it’s all done.

 No. It’s an “end point” in the sense that what we are has glimpsed itself, or deepened into this noticing to a certain extent, and even is exploring how to life from it.

It’s also an ongoing process. What we are noticing itself can clarify, deepen, open up. And living from this new context is an ongoing exploration, clarification, deepening, and maturing.

There are also many facets to what we are, some of which a thought may call clarity, love, intelligence, presence. And some of which can be associated with the head center (clarity, intelligence, recognizing all as Spirit), heart center (love, recognition of all as love, a love of all as love), and belly center (emotional maturity, felt sense of all as Spirit).

The grain of truth: The recognition of what we are can happen suddenly, and it is – in a sense – an “endpoint”. Something has shifted. And yet, it’s also – equally or more – a beginning.

Awakening is the same as enlightenment.

These words are used in many different ways. Some equate them. Some differentiate them. I tend to differentiate them.

I tend to see awakening as referring to an initial awakening, or awakening to a new phase of clarity and insight, or a new facet of reality.

And enlightenment is more what we are recognizing itself, in an ongoing way, with most of the identifications and velcro that obscures this noticing having found their liberation. In a way, it’s an either/or term, and in another, there seems to be a gray zone here. What we call enlightenment continues to clarify, deepen, open up. And the liberation of identifications and velcro certainly does.

Awakening or enlightenment is what I need.

Are you sure? What do you hope to get out of it? Love? Feeling OK about yourself? Contentment? Aliveness? Authenticity? A sense of coming home?

Are you sure it’s not easier to go for those, rather than something that can seem more abstract and unachievable such as enlightenment?

Of course, these are really the same. And the approach to explore either can be the same. It’s just that it can be helpful in a practical sense to (a) identify  what you really wish for, using ordinary words, and (b) go for that.

The grain of truth: What we really want (love, authenticity, kindness etc.) may be more available when there is some awakening there, some recognition of what we are.

Awakening or enlightenment is what the world needs.

Are you sure? What about love? Practical wisdom? Caring? Isn’t that more what the world needs? And isn’t that more achievable and doable? Isn’t that something we can do here and now, each of us, in our own life?

Why not look at what in us prevents us from living more from ordinary caring and practical wisdom? Why not question unquestioned and painful thoughts? Why not find love for what’s unloved in us – what’s unloved in our experience and who we (think we) are?

The grain of truth: It probably wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Awakening or enlightenment will fix my human life.

No. It won’t. You’ll still find yourself in the same situation as before. You’ll still have to be a good steward of your own life. You’ll still have to live your life as anyone else.

If you think you need your life to be fixed, look at that. Look at the fears, the identifications. Allow those fears and identifications to find liberation now. Don’t wait for an awakening or enlightenment. You don’t need to wait.

What are you most afraid of if there is no awakening or enlightenment? What’s are you most afraid will happen with your life? What is it that’s most uncomfortable to you about your life? Look at those fears.

The grain of truth: You may recognize the OKness of what’s happening. You may have more clarity to act in a slightly more wise and kind manner. (Although even that is no guarantee. The clarity and kindness can easily be covered up by remaining identifications, hangups, velcro, beliefs, wounds, trauma.)

Awakening or enlightenment is a state.

Awakening or enlightenment is a state…. of being always happy, content, joyful, satisfied, of never experiencing any “negative” emotions or states.

That’s the “dream of the ego”. It’s much more about (a) noticing all of our experiences, as they are, are already allowed, (b) and noticing that what we already are is that allowing. It’s a shift of identification from thought-created identities to that which already allows this experience, as it is, and is this experience as it is. It’s an OKness with the experiences that’s here, including what may go against our very human preferences.

In a sense, that does come with a sense of OKness, contentment, even quiet joy. It’s all very quiet, and allows for any other human experience. So there is a grain of truth in the initial idea, but in a more differentiated sense than we may think.

It’s actually better than the initial idea or hope. It does give us that quiet contentment and joy, and also allows for the full range of human experience as before.

The grain of truth: Awakening or enlightenment is a state of what we are recognizing itself. It does seem like a state in that sense. Also, there is often that quite undercurrent of contentment, OKness, and even joy when that recognition is there.

It’s all an illusion.

Really? Why don’t you see what happens if you don’t pay your taxes, or eat junk food for a year, or act like a jerk with your family and friends? It may be that all is Spirit, and that anything you look for is unfindable, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, or that all is an illusion in an absolute sense. Our actions still has consequences, in a very ordinary and human way.

The grain of truth: It’s all Spirit, yes. Whatever I look for is unfindable. In that sense, it’s an “illusion”, but I wouldn’t use that word. It’s too easy for the mind to make it into a one-sided reality for itself, and act from it.

If I achieve X, I’ll be safe, OK, acceptable, loved.

If I get enlightened (saved, come to heaven) I’ll be OK, safe, acceptable, loved…. by myself, others, God, life.

No you won’t. But it can be better than that. You can see through the painful stories of being deficient (not OK, unloved, unlovable, unacceptable), and you can find love for the parts of you that feel that way. That’s more doable than hoping to get it through achieving some (imagined) state or realization. It’s much more available than that.

The grain of truth: Yes, if you love the unloved parts of yourself and your experience, you’ll be and feel loved. You’ll have what you sought. If you love what’s unloved, question unquestioned stories, feel unfelt sensations, you’ll find a deep sense of OKness, acceptance, even safety. And it’s because you are giving it to yourself.

I need to do X to be awakening or enlightened.

I need to eat a certain diet, read a certain book, do a certain practice, worship a certain god, study with a certain guru, dress a certain way, have a certain type of sex (or no sex), sit in a certain posture, move my energy a certain way…… to awaken or be enlightened.

Are you sure? Certainly, some things may be supportive and helpful in a very ordinary way. A reasonably good diet helps us feel and function better. Sitting mostly upright during practice (prayer, meditation, inquiry) reduces drowsiness. Some teachers may give us helpful pointers. And more. And yet, none of this will magically give us anything. It’s helpful (or not) in a very ordinary and mundane sense. It’s still up to us to actually do the work.

The grain of truth: Yes, some of these may be helpful in a very practical and ordinary way.

X will be a shortcut for me.

Shaktipat. Praying for divine intervention. Saying mantras. Whatever it may be that we think will be a shortcut for us.

Are you sure? Again, some things may be helpful in a practical sense. Some practices will work better for us than other. Some are more appropriate for us, where we are, than other, because we are more ready for them. And as before, it’s up to us to do the work.

The grain of truth: Some things may seem like shortcuts, such as shaktipat. But it sometimes comes with a time-consuming cost, and we still need to do the work – to clarify, stabilize, deepen, life from it.

This is it. I have arrived.

Not likely. It keeps opening up. It’s ongoing. The noticing of what we are is ongoing, with new facets and “layers” revealing themselves. The living from this is ongoing. And the deepening, maturing, reorganization and healing of who we are is ongoing.

The grain of truth: We can indeed “arrive” at a stepping stone, and it may seem like “it” for a while. And yet, it’s a stepping stone. Any insight, realization, clarity, healing, experience, is a stepping stone.

Understanding = realization.

Not quite. One thing is to understand something intellectually, perhaps connected to some degree of experience. Another is to be familiar with it through personal experience. And yet another to live from it, from that deepening familiarity.

If I didn’t go to understanding now, what would I have to feel? Feel it.

If I replaced the words with blah blah blah, what would be left? What’s here? 

The grain of truth: Understanding is often a helpful stepping stone to experience, it’s a pointer and invitation for exploration.

This insight is UNIQUE!

This insight that I have, this realization, this experience, is UNIQUE! Nobody has ever had it before. It’s a new realization. It’s the next step in human evolution!

Are you serious? How can you know? If you are honest, how can you know? And what are you afraid of if it isn’t? (That you’ll feel less than? Not OK? That you’ll have to feel something you don’t want to feel?)

The grain of truth: Any experience and insight is, of course, unique. It’s never happened before and will never happen again, even if a particular insight may be expressed in similar words as someone else expresses theirs.

More people are awakening today than before. Humanity is awakening.

Again, are you sure? What tells you that? What’s your evidence? (Isn’t it equally likely that it just seems that way because it’s easier to find likeminded people today through the internet, people are more outspoken about it than before (less of a taboo), and people interested in these things tend to congregate physically (workshops, talks, Bay Area). Would it seem like many are awakening if you lived in Congo, or most places in the world where few are interested in these things?)

What do you fear would happen if that wasn’t true? If you realized it wasn’t true? Question that fear.

Isn’t that what you really want? To find true freedom from that fear? From the fear that humanity isn’t really awakening? (Whether it is or not.)

The grain of truth: More people may be awakening because there are more people than before. And more information about these things is out there in the open, with valuable pointers which can support an awakening.

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How do the living inquiries work?

 

How do the Living Inquiries work?

Put simply:

Through looking at associated images, words, and sensations, feeling the sensations, and asking simple questions to see what’s actually there, there is a reprogramming of the mind. And this allows us to see the images as images, words as words, and sensations as sensations, and also more easily stay with and feel the sensations.

When sensations, images and words seem “stuck together”, the sensations lends a charge and sense of reality and solidity to the stories created by the images and words.

Through resting, looking, and feeling the sensations, this stickiness softens or release.

I also wonder if not feeling the sensations, and especially noticing and feeling them as sensations, allows something to discharge and release. The tension and “stuckness” that the initial stickiness created may be allowed to release, at least over time.

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Three centers & how I talk about it – including light and dark

 

I had a conversation with a friend today where I tried to put into words the difference between the initial awakening, and the shift that happened some years after.

During the initial awakening, it was a recognition and seeing of all as consciousness, all without exception as consciousness. (Or God, or Spirit, or the Divine.) In addition, there was a sense of the body, and all matter, as golden light. (Quite similar to one of the last scenes of The Matrix, although less dense than in that scene.)

Relatively soon after, there was a shift into recognizing all as love, a recognition of all as consciousness, intelligence, and love – without exception. All form, all in this world, is and cannot not be love. There was also a heart opening, and a loving of all as Spirit and love.

During yet another shift some years later, there was a sense of deepening and depth, and a softer sense of all matter as consciousness, love, the divine. More specifically, there was a sense of consciousness “peering out” from the inside of all matter, of all being and being inside of (in the womb of) the divine feminine, and all being and being held within a soft, velvety luminous blackness. There was a felt sense of all as Spirit. (This was followed by a process where unloved/unquestioned emotional materials has and continues to come to the surface – with an invitation for it to be seen, felt, loved, and the stories behind it questioned.)

Through Barry Martin Snyder, and his description of the three soul centers, I found that I could map the initial awakening to the head center – a seeing and recognition of all as Spirit. The second shift can be seen as relating to the heart center, a recognition of all as love and a love for all as Spirit and love. (Apart from when wounds and hangups were triggered.) And the third relates to the belly center, a shift into feeling all as Spirit. The head center can be seen as more yang or masculine, and the belly center as more yin or feminine.

When I talk about it in this way, it does reflect my experience quite closely, and yet I feel a bit uncomfortable about some of the wording. The three centers is a metaphor, with a possible physical correlation. The words masculine and feminine are used in a more traditional way, and also as a metaphor. Light and dark are similarly used as metaphors, and I see that they come from an image I have of golden light, and of luminous darkness. Before I noticed these images, it somehow seemed that the world (as matter, consciousness, Spirit, love) was inherently golden luminosity and dark luminosity. After noticing these images, I see that these are images. They may have been created by my mind to fit the experience, and based on cultural influences.

And just to make it clear, these awakenings are not “complete” or a destination of any sort. They were shifts that are still here. They are more or less in the foreground of experience at different times, and shift in “volume”. It’s an ongoing process.

Also, for me, the head and heart awakenings were relatively easy, although they did involve a great deal of reorganization of my human self. The belly shift has been far more challenging, and has involved a large amount of unprocessed (unloved, unquestioned) material coming to the surface to be seen, felt, loved, and gently questioned. It’s all happened on it’s own schedule, and it seems to live its own life, in a way.

I am trying to intentionally align with what seems to happen, and what the invitation is in each moment, although I am unable to do it as consistently as I would like. That too is part of the process. It’s a bit messy, and I am aware that it can seem cleaner and more straight forward when written out in this way. To make it clear, this process is messy. I am bumbling through it.

When difficult emotional material is surfacing, I sometimes react to it and act on it. I sometimes actively avoid it through entertainment, or talking with a friend, or going for a walk, or food. I sometimes rest with it. I sometimes inquire into it. I sometimes find love for it. At different times, I do everything on the spectrum of how humans typically relate to these kind of things.

It can be helpful to bring anything here to inquiry.

Can I find X? Light? Dark? Luminosity? Luminous darkness? Masculine? Feminine? Head center? Heart center? Belly center? Recognition? Love? Feeling?

Can I find someone who is or has X? (Any of the above.)

What’s do I fear would happen if X is not here? What do I hope (or fear) would happen if it is here? Can I find the threat? Can I find what I hope will happen?

Is there a command to find (create, hold onto, not hold onto) X?

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Cultivating the light vs meeting the dark

 

Some people talk about cultivating the light, or meeting the dark.

For me, the two go hand in hand. As so often, it depends on what we mean, and how we do it.

For me, cultivating the light means to cultivate what I wish more of. And meeting the dark means loving the unloved and examining the unexamined. It means healing the unhealed, and examining painful identifications and beliefs.

Already here, we see how they two go hand in hand. I wish to cultivate and become more familiar with loving what’s here, including what’s been previously unloved in me and my experience. I also wish to cultivate exploration of what’s here, and seeing more clearly what’s here, including how identifications and stressful beliefs are created.

This cultivation supports the meeting of the dark. And in meeting the dark, I am supported in continuing with the cultivation. (It inspires me to do so, I see it’s needed, and I get to test and fine tune my approach.)

How do I cultivate the light? Here are some practices I am familiar with:

Kindness practices, including loving kindness, ho’oponopono, tonglen, and also the Heart Prayer and the Christ meditation. Kindness towards me, parts of my experience, others, life.

Training a more stable attention also fits here, since it’s what I wish for and it supports any other activity and practice.

Natural rest. Noticing and allowing what’s here. Noticing it’s already allowed.

Prayer. Prayer for guidance. To be shown the way. For Your will be done.

Body centered practices, such as yoga, tai chi, chi gong, Breema.

Spending time in nature. Spending time in service to life.

Setting the intention to live from love, examine what’s here, rest with what’s here, live in service of life (including my life).

 And how do I meet the dark?

By finding love for the previously unloved. Finding kindness towards parts of me and my experience I have habitually ignored, rejected, or battled and seen as undesirable.

By notice and allow what’s here. Including the discomfort, anger, sadness, fear, grief, and whatever else is here in the moment.

By questioning the unquestioned. Examining beliefs and identifications. Finding what’s more true for me than the initial beliefs. Investigating how my most basic perceptions of deficient and inflated selves, threats, and compulsions are created.

By resting with what’s here. Notice. Allow. Rest with in kind presence.

It can be quite simple and straight forward.

When I use the words light and dark here, it’s mostly to connect with how some use these words. I usually don’t use the words light and dark since they are quite imprecise, there are assumptions about the world behind them that I don’t quite agree with, and I don’t even know how I would use the words so they make good sense. That’s why the use of them in this post feels a bit awkward to me.

Why is love, kindness, examination etc. light? I don’t really know, perhaps just because it’s what our personalities tends to like and prefer. We tend to like sunshine and daylight, and also certain qualities in ourselves and certain experiences, so we use the word light for both.

Why are identifications and beliefs dark? They are what creates what some see as darkness, including hate, fear, grief, compulsions, trauma, violence and more. I suppose some call them dark since they are often seen as undesirable, and they are often what we try to hide from ourselves and others, and keep “in the dark”.

Behind the surface expression of these “dark” qualities and experiences is a desire to protect the self, and deep caring and even love. A worried and confused love. That’s one reason I often avoid the word dark about these things. It only addresses and highlights one level of understanding. There is something different behind it.

These words and ideas themselves can be taken to inquiry. Any ideas of light or dark, or cultivation or meeting, or love or inquiry, or anything else that comes up, can be taken to inquiry.

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