Awakening in Vortex Healing and in other contexts

 

Vortex Healing is a path of healing and awakening.

When I first encountered Vortex Healing (VH), I was curious about how awakening within the Vortex Healing context is similar to and differs from other traditions I am more familiar with. I still have that curiosity, and here is some of how it looks to me now.

Similarities 

Same awakening. What’s described as awakening in the VH context is the same as how it’s described in the many spiritual traditions of the world. It’s Spirit awakening to itself and out of its temporary identification as a separate being. (Spirit = consciousness, awakeness, empty awakeness etc.)

Gradual. Awakening is a gradual path. There is a continuing clarifying and deepening. There is an awakening out of identifications, and as the fullness of existence beyond and including all polarities.

Sudden. Basic awakening is sometimes sudden. It can happens in a flash.

Embodiment. Awakening requires embodiment. It requires our human self to realign with this new reality. It requires healing, maturing, and realignment.

Ripening. Awakening requires a readiness and ripening. And we can set the stage for and support this readiness and ripening. There are certain things we can do to invite it in.

Work. Awakening requires work. Ripening, clarfying, and embodiment requires attention, sincerity, and work. That’s the same for all paths I am aware of. (The type of work can be somewhat different, although much is similar.)

Differences

Reliable and consistent ripening. Ripening happens in a relatively predictable way through any serious path, but it does seem to happen in a more reliable and consistent way through VH than what I have seen from other paths.

In VH, the ripening happens thorugh the courses we take as VH students, and it happens in a predictable way so all have basic awakening after a certain number of courses. I am very aware that this sounds like a naive assumption, and I was extremely skeptical for a while. Now, I have seen and experienced enough to say that it seems accurate.

Basic awakening happens at a certain predictable phase of the process, and it happens for everyone who makes it that far. (And it’s not even that far into the process. It can easily happen within two years.)

Unique paths. Each unique path brings something unique. The practices we engage in builds a certain set of skills, insights, and experiences. And we bring those with us into and within the awakening. For instance, in VH, we practice attention, intention, sensing, surrender, being guided, and transformative magic. (I know the word “magic” can be off putting. It was for me in the beginning, and I still rarely use the word. I guess I am getting somewhat used to it, and I also see that it’s a pretty accurate way of describing what’s happening.)

I should also say that in VH, the basic awakening is very precise and limited to releasing the core sense of self or an I. In other traditions, a sudden awakening may clear out a good deal more in the process. In VH, that clearing tends to happen more gradually through taking the courses and receiving healing sessions from oneself and others.

One of the things I find very helpful about VH is the gradual ripening and healing. It’s a gentle process, for the most part. I feel in safe hands. And it’s helped me heal things that went a bit haywire from earlier openings and awakenings.

I know that this can be a bit upsetting to some who have invested a great deal of time in traditional spiritual practices. There is another path where they can have basic awakening within two years? And it’s easy to dismiss it, as I did at first. It seems to easy. And yet, it’s not really. To be attracted to the VH path, we have to be pretty ripe already. Other traditions have a great deal of gifts in them. And it’s not one or the other. Most people combine other paths and practices with VH in their lives.

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Feminine inquiry tradition

 

A friend of mine mentioned that we both belong to the feminine inquiry tradition.

I hadn’t heard that term before, and hadn’t really thought of it that way. But I see how it fits.

Here are some of what’s been important to me lately (most of it for a while), that can be seen as feminine:

An emphasis on love. Finding love for what’s here, for this experience, for this part of me and my experience I previously pushed away or ignored. Recognizing that identification (velcro, beliefs) come from love, from a wish to protect, and deep caring.

An emphasis on allowing. Allowing what’s here, this experience as it is. Notice it’s already allowed. Allowing even resistance, contractions, fear and more.

An emphasis on resting with what’s here. Notice. Allow. Rest with even discomfort, tension, resistance, contractions.

An emphasis on feeling. Feeling the sensations that are here. Feeling what I have to feel if I don’t do the compulsive behavior that’s coming up for me to do. Feeling what seems most uncomfortable, here and now.

And the inquiry part:

Inquiring into all of this. Inquire into what’s here. Notice the images, words, sensations. Ask simple questions to see more clearly what’s already here.

So yes, this is a feminine inquiry tradition. It’s love oriented. Feeling oriented. Inquiry oriented. It’s gentle, in a way. And also unsentimental and direct.

It’s even disillusionment oriented. And that too can be seen as feminine. That’s what a mother will do when it’s needed for the welfare of her children and family.

Of course, the reason we may see this as feminine is our stories about it. And these are adopted from tradition and culture. It’s a label. And it doesn’t need that label, which is partly why I haven’t thought about it this way, and may not use that term again in the future. (Unless someone else uses it, and I join in because it fits and helps us connect.)

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Tools to explore one or a few of the many facets or reality

 

There are many – innumerable – facets of life and reality.

And different practices and explorations naturally and inevitably focuses on one or a few of these.

That’s how it has to be. Practices are tools, and tools often have just one or a few functions. They do some things well, and other things not at all.

Inquiry can help us see what’s already here, and what’s not here but seemed very real initially. It can help us align more consciously with reality, which is often a big relief. It can even help us see that reality is kind.

Heart practices can help us find love for our world. For ourselves, others, parts of us, situations, life, Existence, and God.

Body inclusive practices can help us release tension, or experience ourselves as a body-mind whole, or just be more aware of what’s happening physically and energetically.

Happiness practices, as described by for instance Sonya Lyubomirsky, can help us feel more alive, excited about life, and aligned with what feels meaningful and satisfying to us.

And so on. One does not exclude another. In reality, they all work hand in hand. They complement each other. They help us explore different facets of life and existence.

I was reminded of this since I have seen some non-dual folks exclude practices that explores other facets of life and reality, for instance heart practices, or happiness practices. I assume what happens is that they (a) identify with their own practice and tradition, (b) don’t recognize that it’s tool meant to invite exploration of one or a few facets of life and reality, and (c) exclude or put down other practices or traditions which address other facets of reality and life. It’s a mistake we all can make, unless we recognize the dynamics behind it.

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My tradition is the best

 

Why do some think that their tradition or practice is the best?

I can think of a few different reasons:

It’s the typical in-group / out-group dynamic.

This creates a sense of cohesion within the group. We are better than them. We know how things are. We are the chosen ones.

It also makes people feel better about themselves. I am with the right group. I’ll be saved.

It may come from ignorance. People may be misinformed about other traditions, or may not know much about them.

They may have a good point. Each tradition has its strengths and weaknesses, and the strengths may well be stronger than in some other traditions.

It also seems that this attitude may be increasingly more difficult to maintain, for a few different reasons.

We are better informed about other traditions and practices.

We encounter more frequently people from other traditions and practices, and see that they are as smart as us.

It simply looks pretty stupid to think that your tradition is the best (!). Especially considering that most people know that such an assumption is typically (a) used to keep people in the tradition, and (b) is often based in fear and insecurity, and is an attempt to feel better about ourselves.

I have always been eclectic in my approach, and see the value in all the main spiritual traditions and a wide range of practices. They are all medicine for people with different backgrounds, from different cultures, and at different phases in their process. So although I seek out practices that seem the most effective for me, I also realize that they are not inherently or absolutely “better” than other practices out there. And they are definitely not better than what’s possible, and what will most likely be developed in the future.

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Spirituality and the dream of the ego

 

Religion and spirituality serve different functions for different people, such as social control, a source of ethics, a sense of community, guidance, solace, or tools for spiritual practice.

One thing is quite striking: The public side of most religions and most forms of spirituality reflect the dream of the ego. They often offer or promise a life that’s just what we think we want lasting forever (heaven, Enlightenment, Nirvana, Valhalla). The term ego here refers to what happens when a thought is take as true, such as I need to be happy, I need to control my life, I need to know my future will be as I want it. It’s confused love, and innocent.

There may be many reasons for presenting this version. The people promoting it may want it for themselves and others, out of confused love. It may be a hook to get people interested and involved. They may give people what they think they want.

This is also found in more intentional spiritual practice. Traditions and teachers may offer a Sunday school version of the path and what it involves. They may talk in absolutes (complete, lasting) and present things in black-and-white. They may talk as if a state, insight, recognition or shift is permanent, as if they know the future and anything is stable. They may leave out that it may be a messy and confusing process, or the details of how it may look. They forget to mention the possibility of dark nights, and not knowing in advance how dark it may be. They may make it sound as if there is a single shift and everything is easy and fine after that. They may not mention the ongoing process of healing, maturing and realignment of the human self in the world, and how whatever is not aligned with reality (wounds, fears, confusion, beliefs) tends to surface so it can align more consciously with reality. They may leave out that it can always be more clear.

There may be many reasons for this as well. Some teachers may not want to scare people away. They may conform to a traditional way of presenting it, which deals in absolutes and sanitized presentations. The specific teacher may not have explored or gone through this him- or herself. They may think it’s better to mention it in private when or if it happens for any one student. They may not want to set up expectations for something that may not happen.

As so many others these days, I cannot help thinking that presenting an intentionally sanitized version is doing people a disservice. The ones who are sincerely drawn to it will do it anyway, because there is no real choice. Some who are less committed may leave, which is not a problem since there are so many other approaches out there. It provides a more realistic map for students. It gives a sense of transparency and honesty which invites trust. And it may be a great relief for teachers to be honest and open about it, not feeling they need to censor or leave anything out.

And if this is taken on as a belief, I notice it feels uncomfortable and a bit “off”. It seems more attractive to look at any stressful thoughts I see around this, in both directions, and find more clarity that way.

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Continuing institutions

 

Here is something that was brought more to the foreground during my time at the Zen center:

The main purpose and function of institutions is to keep themselves going, and that also goes for religious or spiritual organizations, including Zen and Buddhism.

That’s of course very good. It provides continuity and stability, and makes the resources, experience, and knowledge in these institutions available to new generations.

The drawbacks are equally obvious: It means that those who are willing to play the game (follow the rules) tend to be promoted and will eventually lead the institutions. And change tends to be slow. There is a certain inflexibility and slowness in taking up new approaches and insights, and adapting to or aligning with current needs and worldviews.

For some, institutions feel a bit confining for a variety of reasons. And one of these is that truth may be more important than institutions or traditions. The teachers I am most drawn to belong to this category. Adyashanti struck out on his own after his traditional Zen training, and Byron Katie was tradition-free from the beginning.  The value in this approach is the ease of drawing from any tradition and teacher, there is freedom to follow what seems most true independent of traditions, and some new perspectives and insights can come out of it – which may even feed back into the traditions. The drawback is of course a possible lack of guidance from traditions.

And although I may have set it up that way here, there is of course no inherent opposition between institutions and truth. Some fit into and continue institutions in an excellent way, and are also sincere in exploring what’s (sometimes more) true for them.

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Opening up or closing down

 

Again, it can seem obvious:

How I receive life opens it up for me, or closes it down.

And that is true for spiritual practices and traditions as well.

When they are taken as questions and an invitation for exploration, they may open up the world.

For instance, precepts can be a wonderful opportunity for exploration.

What happens when I encounter the precept? When I try to follow it? When I can’t follow it? Do I notice the symptoms of triggered beliefs? What do I find when I investigate those beliefs?

What are some of the layers I find when I work with a precept? What are some of the ways I can understand and apply it in daily life? How does this change over time?

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Living our history

 

We live our history, before and even within awakening. We can’t help it since that is all our human self has to go by.

And when others live from a conditioning that is quite different from my own, it is easy to notice that we all live from our own history.

Here is a good example for me:

Two spiritual teachers appear to sometimes live from the story they should have told me. In one case, they should have told me about no-self. (That it can be recognized.) In the other case, they should have told me about the dark night. (How stark it can be.)

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Offering tools for working with beliefs directly

 

Vince has a good post on ways teachers and traditions sometimes speak about enlightenment, and what types of dynamics it may set up in the group.

The verbal level is of course important, partly because it sets up maps people use to navigate by.

Yet, something else is as important: The tools we are given. First, to have an immediate taste of what we are. Then, to work with beliefs and stories directly, no matter what they are about.

The tools I am familiar with here are the ones I have written about many times before.

Some tools for inviting in a taste of enlightenment include headless experiments and the Big Mind process. These give a taste of what we are and ways to explore it for ourselves, although obviously not with the same clarity as a full blown awakening. Doing this can be helpful in letting go of some of the more exotic ideas about enlightenment. What we are is something that is quite simple, available to be noticed here now, and not really out there in others or the future.

And there are also good tools available to help us unravel beliefs and stories about enlightenment, teachers or anything else. The Work helps us explore the effects of beliefs, and find what is already more true for us. And exploring the sense fields helps us see thought as thought, and how an overlay of thought on each of the sense fields create gestalts. It also helps us find ourselves as what we are, outside of what any story tells us.

At least for me, having and using these tools – with some sincerity – is far more important than any models, mainly because they first help me explore the terrain for myself, and then because they help me unravel beliefs and attachments to any story and identity.

Also, any model can become a belief, an identification with a story. So it is helpful to work with any model we are presented with – or come up with on our own – in this way, no matter how accurate it appears to be. In a conventional sense, some models are more accurate, meaning they have more practical value. But really, all models are equally far away from what they appear to be about.

I also see that I personally prefer practices aligned with awakening, but with an emphasis on the practical and day to day aspects of it. So in that sense, I would be more in the “no need to talk about it too much” camp. (Although I obviously explore it quite a bit here, but that is on my own.)

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Transparency and control

 

Different teachers (and traditions, and each of us on our own lives) are at different places in terms of transparency and control.

Some are transparent about just about anything. They give it all away in terms of their insights and teachings. They voice whatever concerns come up for them, as they come up, including about own teaching style and how what they say and do may be interpreted and taken by their students. They give a behind-the-scenes view to their students, which is maybe the greatest gift they can offer.

Others take another approach and hide certain aspects of their insights, the tradition, and their concerns about how they teach and how it is received by their students. They keep their cards closer to their chest. And this tends to lead to a perceived need to control quite a bit. They need to control what information comes to their students. They need to control how it is received by the students. They need to keep students and junior teachers in check. They need to deal with the fall out when something goes awry. And so on. There is often a lot of drama coming out of this approach, including the drama of things going on behind the scenes, partly in the mind of the teacher (trying to keep it all together according to their idea of how it should be) and the students (trying to figure out what is going on behind the scenes), and between teachers and students when the students need to be put in place.

The first that comes up for me is that the path of transparency is more appropriate today. It tends to create far less room for drama, and it is also a path of trust. Trust in students being in charge of their own lives. Trust in the teaching being honest and clear enough to survive being out in the open. Trust in whatever happens as God’s will, and offering insights for everyone.

The path of secrecy tends to fuel drama in many ways, including distrust at many levels. The teacher does not trust the students to be able to receive the teaching. The teacher does not trust that even if the student receives it in an unintended way, that too is perfect, that may be exactly what the student needs to gain more experience, refine their understanding, and mature. It requires the teacher to assume that he or she knows what is ultimately best for the student. The teacher takes to some extent on a babysitting role, treating the student as a child. And it can create a great deal of drama and stress for both teacher and student, including unchecked shadow projections either way. (Where there is something hidden, either by teacher to student, or the other way around, shadow projections often have free reign.)

Of course, it is not quite as black-and-white as this.

Often, it is appropriate to portion out the teachings over time, and also target it to where the student is at. But that does not mean that what is temporarily is left out needs to be hidden.

And to hide and control certain things brings, inevitably, up a lot of projections on the part of the student, which helps them see these more clearly. It may be a valid approach, but life itself does a good job in this area anyway, and doesn’t seem to need our help.

Explorations and goals

 

Many of the spiritual traditions are heavily goal oriented. There is a shorter term goal of living a life that works better for oneself and others, in terms of reducing suffering. And a longer term and over arching goal of Ground awakening to itself, at least in some parts of the traditions.

There is nothing wrong in this, but it is also only part of the picture, and can create some problems if taken as all there is to it.

For me, it is much more of an exploration process. I am curious about this life and existence in general, and am happy to explore whatever comes up and wherever life takes me. And a part of that wider terrain, which is formed as we go along, is Ground awakening to itself. But it is only one small part of the terrain, and not by any means any “goal” or end point. At most, it is something that happens in glimpses, and then as a more stable shift, and all the other explorations happens – in a conventional view – before and after it, and always within and as what awakens to itself or not.

Ground awakening to itself is not inherently better or more desirable than Ground not noticing itself. The only difference is that in one there is clarity and freedom from suffering, and in the other there is confusion and suffering, so when there is an identification with a separate self, there is naturally a desire for Ground to awaken to itself.

And eventually, when this confusion is thoroughly (or not so thoroughly) explored, when aspects of that terrain is familiar, there is a point where Ground cannot help but to awaken to itself. The sense of a separate self and its identities are so clearly seen as coming just from a thought, from imagination, that it loses any grip. And right there, Ground notices itself as inherently free from anything imagined.

Existence, universe, life, this always evolving form aspect of God, seeks (or, more accurately, moves in the direction of) diversity. And so too in awakening.

If we follow a set path, it is likely to work, at least to some extent. It has many benefits. And although it is a well trodden path, what is brought to it is always somewhat unique and different, so it will have its own flavor.

But why not allow this process, unfolding here now, to lead us? To have an open curiosity, about where this path goes? It is always unique anyway, a unique expression of life and God, so why not allow it to be unique, to willingly allow it to add to the diversity of existence.

It does anyway, so we may as well embrace it, although when there is resistance to it, trying to fit into a tradition and set path, that is also part of its unique flavor.

For me, all of this leads me to embrace both ends of the polarity.

I follow traditional practices, because they work. But I am also very much aware of what can come out of too much of a goal focus… more clashes between stories of what is and should be, more stress, more struggle, and so on. There can also be too much of an expectation of the outcome of practices, which creates, in another way, resistance to what is and struggles with the process and where it wants to go.

But I also follow a more open exploration… I am willing to try anything that comes up, when it comes up for me to try it, like for instance diksha. And I engage in more open inquiries as well, where I have no idea where it will go, such as in Process Work and journeying or tracking. If there is any expectation, it may be surprise over what comes up. Sometimes, it is entirely new dimensions of existence beyond what my thoughts thought was possible.

So there is a more free exploration of any aspect of the always changing and evolving terrain. And as part of this, there is an exploration of what is so clearly mapped out by the many traditions, such as realized selflessness.

God, in its form aspect, evolves in an infinitely rich way. So why not consciously join the process? We don’t need to abandon the traditions, we only need receptivity to and curiosity for a terrain beyond them. This terrain includes what is covered by each of the other traditions, goes beyond this, and is also always unfolding and evolving in new ways.

Dream: in a new place

 

I am in a new place, and am going to be there for a few years. It is beautiful, rural, with rolling hills and relatively sparse population. Its most characteristic feature is its many spiritual centers, each one representing the best of a particular spiritual approach, presented in a very clear way. I have time to explore each one, including the one of realized selflessness. It is clear that if I stay with that one, which I am about to, the shift will happen.

I had this dream during an afternoon nap, after a visit to the Center for Sacred Sciences library… a place that is much like the village in the dream. In general, being alive today is a great deal like the dream, having the best from many traditions available.