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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We are not separate beings?

 

In neo-Advaita circles, people sometimes say you are not a separate being

That’s true enough since our more final identity is as what it all happens within and as. 

And as with any pointers, it can be misleading if taken too literally. 

In my experience, I am both and more. 

I am a separate being as this human self in the world. I walk around. Do things. Am vulnerable. Was born and will die. I am dependent on the kindness of those close to me and society as a whole. I am dependent on a functioning ecosystem. I am dependent on this living planet. 

I am part of society, ecosystems, this living planet, and the universe as a whole. I am a local expression of all of this. 

And I am, in my immediate experience, that which all of this – the sensory inputs and my ideas about it – happens within and as. 

All of this is valid in its own way. All of it contributes to the richness of what I am and this local expression of life itself. 

And all of it is an overlay of ideas. Ideas that right now seem helpful. Ideas that serve as a pointer. Ideas that have temporary value at most.

The seed of this article came from how I ended the previous:

I wanted to say a few words about these parts of us operating from separation consciousness. They are formed at a time when we operated from separation consciousness, typically in our childhood. They reflect this idea that we are (only) a separate being and view and act as if that’s the case. And they are formed from, and form, a wound or trauma, even if this wound or trauma is very gentle. These parts of us can also be called beliefs (in the The Work sense) or identification (with and as the viewpoint of a thought).

It’s not wrong that we as human beings develop within the context of taking ourselves as a separate being. We are, in a conventional sense. We need to live partly as if we are, and the different parts of us need to develop within that recognition. But it’s not all of what we are. And when we notice what we are (as that which content of experience happens within and as), that serves as another context that can allow us to heal more deeply. 

We live within multiple contexts: As a separate human being. As parts of larger social and ecological wholes. As an expression of life and the universe. And as that which our sense fields – sensations, taste, smell, sound, sight, and thoughts – happen within and as. 

Trancendence vs reorientation

 

The word awakening is used in different ways. 

Sometimes, it refers to a temporary release of identification as a whole. This is also called transcendence since our center of gravity temporarily shifts from human to Big Mind.

Sometimes, it refers to a stable release of identification as a whole. A more stable resting in and as Big Mind, and a fluid shifting between Big Mind and human perspectives. 

And there are a couple of more wrinkles to this.

Our conscious center of gravity can be as Big Mind, but some of our human parts are not quite on board with this yet. They are still stuck in separation consciousness. (They were formed within separation consciousness so they are aligned with this experience of the world.) These parts may be transcended most of the time (inactive, dormant), and sometimes they are activated and take over so our center of gravity shifts back into separation consciousness. It may also be that we mostly operate from Big Mind but in areas of our life operate from some of these parts and their separation consciousness. 

Another way of talking about this is what Byron Katie says. We are awake to a thought or not. We can be awake to the thought that’s here, or not. If we are, we recognize it as a thought and are free to act in a more kind and wise way. If we are not, we are caught in the belief that the thought it true so we perceive and act as if it is.

Almost all of us are enlightened to some thoughts and not others, we are only aware of a fraction of the thoughts we are not awake to, and some of these are more or less permanently activated and partly run our lives. (Similar to Freud’s unconscious.) 

We can also talk about this in terms of wounds or trauma. The parts of us aligned with separation consciousness are, in a sense, wounded or traumatized. So we can invite in healing for these, one at a time, as they surface in daily life and we get to know them. 

And another aspect of this is how we relate to these parts of ourselves. To the extent we see them as a problem (or bad, embarrassing, wrong, not fitting our image), we’ll tend to get caught in identification as soon as they are activated. We’ll get caught in the view of these parts, or in the parts reacting to them.

To the extent we have befriended them and recognize them as innocent (and even beautiful, humanizing, and an invitation for continued healing, maturing, and clarification), we tend be less caught in identification when they are activated. 

This means that our awakening continues to stabilize, clarify, and deepen as more and more parts of us are aligned with Big Mind. It means that our healing and maturing as human beings is ongoing.

And it means that the mix that’s what (Big Mind/Heart) and who (our human self) we are as a whole is not only an ongoing and continues process of exploration, clarification, healing, and maturing. But also of failing and messing things up in a very human way and sometimes even learning from it. There is no end point. In a sense, the exploration itself is the point. 

A couple of quick notes: In this context, there isn’t any failure since it’s all part of the overall process. I am just using the word in an everyday conventional way. 

I also wanted to say a few words about these parts of us operating from separation consciousness. They are formed at a time when we operated from separation consciousness, typically in our childhood. They reflect this idea that we are (only) a separate being and view and act as if that’s the case. And they are formed from, and form, a wound or trauma, even if this wound or trauma is very gentle. These parts of us can also be called beliefs (in the The Work sense) or identification (with and as the viewpoint of a thought). 

Enemy images and the divine

 

Almost all of us create enemy images in our minds. It can be of ourselves, parts of ourselves, others, situations, life, God, and just about anything.  

We invest these with energy so they seem more real and true, and we identify with the viewpoint of these enemy ideas. We view the world through them. 

This creates stress, discomfort, and inner and outer conflict. So there is a built-in motivation for us to eventually, when we have had enough, find another way. 

That’s the simple and down-to-earth way of talking about it.

The other side is that if all is God, then these enemy images are part of the play of the divine, they come with the built-in mechanism mentioned above, and that eventually leads to the divine recognizing itself as the divine and all there is.

It’s all part of the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways, including by temporarily and locally taking itself as a separate being that creates enemy images of parts of the world, invests these with energy, perceives and lives as if they are true, notices the discomfort inherent in it, and explores ways to resolve the enemy-image situation, and eventually recognizes itself as the divine again and as all there is. 

How can we explore enemy images, find a different way or relating to them, and perhaps even invite them to resolve? 

In general, we do it one image at a time. We notice an enemy image and notice the effects it has in our life. We can reorient towards what the enemy image is about through heart-centered practices. We can investigate the enemy image through inquiry. We can find healing for the emotional issue(s) behind it. These are the approaches I find most helpful right now, although there are a lot of other ways to explore enemy images. 

Here are a few more details about enemy images: 

If we can form an image of something, we can make it into an enemy image.
It can be ourselves (not good enough, unlovable etc.), a part of ourselves (too easily angered), someone else (she insulted me), a group (Republicans are cynical and uncaring), an illness, a type of food, a species (cats are weird), life (life is cruel and too hard), or God (God fucked up my life). 

We believe our own stories telling us something is bad, wrong, a problem, and should be avoided or go away. We perceive and act as if it’s true. We experience discomfort and conflict because of it.

At a more elemental level, our minds associate enemy-thoughts with certain sensations in the body where the sensations give a sense of reality and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts give meaning to the sensations. Our mind can also create more chronic body contractions so these sensations are more readily available, stronger, and seem more solid. 

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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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Healing and awakening: more ordinary, and more ourselves

 

Over time, with both healing and awakening, we tend to become more ordinary and more ourselves. 

In what ways do we become more ordinary

As we heal as human beings, we tend to feel more ordinary and we have less of a need to appear special. We recognize the fuller range of human qualities in ourselves and others, and we are more OK with it. 

As there is an awakening, what we are recognizes itself as all there is (we can call this consciousness). It recognizes itself over there as itself, and although it’s amazing and extraordinary it also becomes ordinary after a while.  

At the same time, we tend to become more ourselves

As we heal, we are more familiar with the different parts of ourselves and more comfortable with them. We are freer to be who we are in a relaxed way. (And with an eye on what’s appropriate in the situation, what’s kind and wise.) This means that although we may feel ordinary in our own experience, we may or may not be seen as ordinary by others. 

As we awaken, we know ourselves as what we are, as what the content of our experience happens within and as (aka consciousness). As what we are, we notice we are inevitably ourselves. 

So we feel more ordinary and have less need to appear special. We are more at home in our own skin so we can be more ourselves. We recognize all as ordinary (and amazing) expressions of the divine, and we recognize that as what we are we are always ourselves.

And in the middle of the ordinariness and being more ourselves, there are, of course, actual differences in a conventional sense. 

So, in real life, we are aware of both what’s shared and what’s different about ourselves. We recognize all in us as universally human. We recognize all – everyone and the world – as the divine. We recognize our unique human strengths and weaknesses. We recognize that consciousness hasn’t woken up to itself in all human beings. And yet, the differences happens within and as the universal. And, to the extent we are clear, no value judgment about it is taken as real, inherent, or final. It’s all part of the play of life or the divine. 

There is a lot more to be said about this. 

For instance, early on in the healing or awakening processes, we may feel more special for a while. We use what’s discovered to feed our need to be special, OK, and good enough. And if the healing and clarification continues, that tends to fall away. We tend to find the relief in being ordinary and ourselves as we are, and even the amazing beauty of it. 

Although there is a sameness in all of it, the differences are innumerable. We are different in development in many areas of life. We have different levels of healing and maturing in different areas of life. Most of us are free from one set of thoughts and still get caught in some other thoughts (involuntarily identified with). Each species experience the world in a quite different way from other species. And so on. 

Why do we feel more ordinary as we heal more? As said above “We recognize the fuller range of human qualities in ourselves and others, and we are more OK with it”. We see ourselves in others, and others in ourselves. The whole world becomes a mirror for us in this sense. We see a characteristic out there in the world, and recognize it here, and the other way around. And we are more OK with it. We are able to relate to it in ourselves and others more intentionally, and perhaps with more clarity, kindness, and even wisdom. (We are OK with whatever is here, in us and others, being here as it is. And that doesn’t mean we always act on what’s in us, or allow others to get away with acting on whatever.) 

Why did I write “amazing and extraordinary“? When what we are recognizes itself as all there is, there seems to be an ongoing and always new sense of amazement. Everything is ordinary in the sense that everything is consciousness (or Spirit). And everything is also experienced as amazing and astonishing. It’s amazing that something, anything, is at all. It’s amazing it’s Spirit. It’s amazing it’s in the form it is. 

And as I often write, the most accurate way I have found to talk about what we are is to say that we are that which experience happens within and as. It can be called consciousness, or even Spirit or the divine, and that can be useful but it also can make it sound more solid or substantial than it is, and it can make use feel we get it even if we just get the words and don’t notice it in the moment.

When what we are notices itself, no interpretation is needed. Although curious minds will interpret. We can interpret it in a psychological way, assuming that we – as consciousness – operate within a physical human being in a physical world and that the experience of all as consciousness is a projection. Or we can interpret it as they tend to do in spiritual traditions, and assume that everything – the physical world and so on – is consciousness and something we can rightfully call the divine, Spirit, God, or Brahman.

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Healing, awakening, and aligning with reality II

 

I thought I would continue the previous post on this topic. 

What do I mean by reality? The larger context is what we are, which is that which any experience happens within and as (aka awakeness, consciousness, even the divine). This is the nature and more basic identity of everyone and everything. It’s all the divine taking temporary forms,  (sometimes) temporarily and locally taking itself to be a separate being, and it’s all the play of the divine. Everything else flows from this.

If we are out of alignment with this as a whole (consciously) or in our parts (they are aligned with ideas reflecting separation), we’ll create psychological issues, stress, discomfort, interpersonal issues, and our attention is sufficiently distracted by all of this so it doesn’t notice what we really and already are. (All of this is part of the play of the divine so there is nothing inherently wrong about it.) So healing and awakening require a realignment with reality. 

Here are some examples of how we can realign consciously and invite our parts to realign as well.

Heart-centered practices invite us to recognize all as the divine, to shift from enemy images of others, the world, or parts of ourselves to befriending it, finding genuine appreciation for it, and see it as a support for healing and awakening. This, in turn, opens up the possibility of recognizing all, without exception, as the divine. 

Inquiry invites us to notice how the mind creates its own experience (connecting sensations with thoughts to give them substance and a sense of reality, connecting thoughts with sensations to give them a sense of meaning), and this invites in both healing and awakening (Living Inquiries). We can also use inquiry to examine beliefs allowing them to unravel (The Work). We can use it to shift into the perspective of different parts of ourselves, including what we are, and explore their relationships to each other (Big Mind process). And we can use inquiry to notice what we are and how who we are happens within and as what we are (all the previous ones and headless experiments). 

Through each of these forms of inquiry, we align more consciously with reality, and we invite parts of us to align more closely with reality as well. 

Energy work, such as Vortex Healing, can invite the energetic structures holding psychological issues in place to unravel, allowing for healing. (Vortex Healing can do the same with the energetic structures holding the separation experience in place, allowing for awakening.) This too allows for a closer alignment with reality. 

I mentioned it briefly in part one of this article: one of the things that can make it difficult to align more thoroughly with reality is a distrust of reality. This is largely cultural, and it seems especially prominent in our Judeo-Christian culture. We distrust nature and reality. Initially, it was rooted in a view of nature and ourselves as sinful. Now, it’s mainly the distrust that remains even if we cannot explain the reason for it very well.

This distrust is one of the possible sources of fear when we enter into inquiry or other practices. Whenever fear comes up, it’s good to acknowledge it and include it in whatever exploration we are doing. In general, see how it is to acknowledge and befriend the fear. Thank it for protecting you. Identify the sensations in your body and notice and allow them and rest with them. Treat the fear with respect, patience, and curiosity. Allow it to have a voice. If it could speak, what would it say? What is the fear about? And if it feels right, explore the fear through inquiry, heart-centered practices, or whatever other approaches you are using. 

Healing, awakening, and aligning with reality

 

Healing, awakening, maturing, and embodiment all have to do with aligning with reality. 

Of course, everything is reality so everything is already aligned with reality. But sometimes, we are consciously and less consciously aligned with our ideas about reality rather than reality itself, and these ideas can be a bit weird. So our alignment is a bit weird. Which means we create stress for ourselves (and others), and life situations will rub up against this conscious alignment which is an invitation to notice and realign.

Misalignment creates emotional wounds, hangups, and trauma. And more simply, it creates and comes from identifications, and these identifications create both stress and emotional wounds, and distractions so the mind doesn’t notice what it already is. Identification here means that the mind identifies with, and becomes in its own experience, the viewpoint of certain thoughts. This creates a sense of being a separate self. 

A few things make a thorough realignment a bit difficult. The misalignment goes through all of us (mind, body, energies) and is a living system, and as any living system, it adjusts to preserve itself. It also makes it difficult to know what reality is, or what’s more real, so we may not have a good internal guide. (Unless there is a spiritual opening which can provide such a guide.) We may have been taught to mistrust reality. (Especially in our Judeo-Christian culture.) And unless life rubs up against our misalignment quite strongly, we may not be motivated to invite in changes. (Life may invite it in anyway although it can take time.) 

I have written about the details of this misalignment in other articles, and also how we can invite in alignment in the form of healing and awakening. I have written less about maturing and embodiment since those tend to come over time and from experience, although I may write more about them in future articles. 

See part II of this article

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Everything that happens has a meaning?

 

Does everything that happens have a meaning?

When something apparently unfortunate happens in our life, does it have a meaning?

Yes. We can give it a meaning. We can use it to learn, grown, mature, be of service and so on.

No. Nothing has an inherent meaning in a conventional sense. Any meaning comes from an overlay of thoughts. (And a felt sense of meaning comes when these thoughts are associated with certain sensations in the body.)

Yes. If everything is the play of the divine, then that’s the underlying meaning of everything. The play itself is the meaning. The divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

So we can give what happens a meaning for us. We can notice that it’s inherently free from meaning since any meaning comes from an overlay of thought, sometimes connected with certain body sensations that make it a felt sense of meaning. And, in some ways, the meaning of anything is that it’s the play of the divine.

The first helps us orient. The second helps us hold any ideas of meaning lightly. The third is something we may find for ourselves through our own exploration and it can give us a sense of the underlying OKness of what’s happening.

Note: The third one can be talked about in two different ways. One is that everything happens within and as what we are. It’s the play of awakeness as form. The other is what I wrote above, that this can be seen as the play of the divine.

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Does God evolve?

 

Does God evolve?

If all is God, and the universe evolves, the answer clearly is yes.

It seems obvious from this view. (We could call it a panentheistic or even nondual view informed by modern science.) And yet, I realize it’s perhaps not so obvious if we are used to a theistic view that sees God as somehow separate from creation.

What doesn’t evolve is the basic – and useful although thought-created – distinction between who and what we are. As who we are, we develop and change and we are an intrinsic part of an evolving living planet and an evolving universe. And we find that who we are and the world we experience, as any content of experience, happens within and as what we are. No matter how much or in what ways creation evolves, it still happens within and as what we are.

And what does evolve is anything in form, the whole universe, and even the world of subtle energies if that’s part of our worldview. This means that the way we come into awakening may slightly change and evolve over historic time. (As is a common view in some forms of modern spirituality.) The content of awakening, meaning what’s noticed and lived from, may also slightly change.

And yet, the essence of awakening remains the same and is timeless. It’s still the divine awakening to itself as all there is and all of it as the play of the divine. The divine expresses, explores, and experiences itself as all of existence including this evolving universe, this living planet, and each and all apparently separate beings. Sometimes, it temporarily and locally takes itself to be a separate being. And sometimes, it wakes up to itself as what all of this happens within and as.

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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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Sometimes, dull is good

 

A friend of mine (LL) showed me her ring yesterday and explained that the jeweler damaged the original stone and replaced it with a less spectacular stone. She was naturally disappointed, but since our connection is through Breema, our conversation naturally switched into how dull sometimes is good.

In what ways is dull good? The main one that comes to me is that dull is less distracting. It leaves space to notice. For instance, it may help me pay more attention to what someone is saying, or to relationships or people, or to what’s meaningful to me and so on. It can also help me notice what I am.

Also, for instance in Breema class, I notice that whether the instructor is charismatic or not doesn’t matter. The essence is still conveyed. The atmosphere, the sequence. In that sense, dull is good because it shows me that I don’t have to be charismatic. I actually typically enjoy and benefit from classes where the instructor is not.

I notice the same with writing. Sometimes, dull writing is good. If it’s concise and to the point, less flashy or eloquent writing helps me focus on the content. It helps me explore it for myself. I don’t get distracted by the form.

Dull times can be good. If I don’t have so many distractions, it helps me notice what I really want in life and what’s more meaningful to me, and it allows me to find my own creativity and initiative. For instance, being at the cabin can be dull because there are fewer distractions. But it does give me the opportunity to read books, write, swim, go hiking, and have good conversations. And it does help me notice, clarify, and find excitement for what I wish for myself in my life.

Sitting in a meditation retreat for hours, days, and sometimes weeks can be dull. And that dullness is good. It helps me notice the dynamics of my mind. It helps me change my relationship with the content of my experience and befriend it. It helps my mind bring content to the surface so it gets to be seen, felt, and attended to.

When it comes to awakening, a dull experience is good. If the content of my experience is less distracting, it’s easier for me to notice what I am. It’s easier for me to notice myself as that which this experience happens within and as. (As Adya sometimes says, there is a reason why flashy experiences fade and we come back to our ordinary experience. What awakening really is about is here independent of content of experience, and dull experiences are excellent for noticing what we are.)

And more mature spiritual teachers can sometimes seem a bit dull. The flashy ones are often earlier in their awakening and human maturing, and the more mature ones can seem more ordinary and even slightly boring. I would take a boring mature guide or coach over a more flashy one any day.

Dull isn’t better (or worse) than exciting. But it certainly has its own value and gifts.

Note: I think it’s clear from the context but I’ll mention it anyway. Here, I am using dull in the sense of unspectacular or even boring. Not in the sense of a dull mind, one that doesn’t pay attention. The value of something unspectacular is most easily found through noticing and attending to what’s here.

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Adyashanti: If there is an egoic self, it exists within who you are

 

If there is an egoic self, it exists within who you are. That’s different than thinking it’s who you are.

– Adyashanti

This is a very good pointer. There may be an “egoic self” here – identifications with certain stories at conscious or more visceral levels – and, as any experience, it happens within and as what we are. And we can notice that. That gives the mind some distance to it. It softens the identification a bit. And that’s big. That’s a new way of being. That opens the mind up to something very different.

We can also say that who we are happens within and as what we are, and independent of whatever form who we are takes we can notice it happens within and as what we are. Who we are may just be this human self operating on its own. It can be identification as this human self. Or it may even be who we are at more subtle energy levels, for instance as a soul. In either case, we can notice that who we are happens within and as what we are. And over time, this can be an ongoing noticing.

A note on terminology: This human self operating on its own can be called the psychological ego. This is the human operating system and it’s something we want to be as healthy as possible. Identification with a self – whether it’s human or soul or something else – is what’s sometimes called ego in a spiritual context. And that tends to lessen as we keep noticing that it happens within and as what we are.

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Healing, maturing, and awakening – and how we see others and ourselves

 

As we mature and heal as human beings, we tend to more and more experience the sameness of all of us while also discerning differences. And the same tends to happen as we continue to clarify and mature in recognizing all as the divine.

We all have blind projections, and the more is unhealed and unawake in us, the more blind projections we tend to have and the stronger they may be. We see something – qualities, characteristics, dynamics – out there in others and the world and not in ourselves, and the other way around. These projections inevitably have a charge, and that charge often comes in the form of emotions and value judgments that feel solid, true, and perhaps even final.

At a human level, as we recognize in ourselves what we see in others and the world and “own” it, the charge tends to lessen or go out completely. We see something in others, know it from ourselves, and although it’s useful and valuable information, it comes with less or no charge, and any value judgments (from habit) tend to not feel very solid or inherently true or absolute.

And the same happens as we deepen in our experience of all as Spirit. Here too, there is discernment and differentiation as it helps us function and orient as human beings in the world. But any value judgments tend to seem less true and solid. We recognize them as coming from our human conditioning. And they tend to weaken and perhaps fall away over time, as we mature as humans and as Spirit recognizing itself as all there is.

Note: When I talk about value judgments, I mean any sense of something or someone being inherently better or worse – in a solid, final, and absolute sense – than something or someone else. These judgments may still come up for us, but as we integrate and become more familiar with our projections, and as we deepen in recognizing all as Spirit, they now seem less solid, less about any final or absolute truth, and more as just human conditioning. It adds to the richness of our human experience while less and less holding any inherent truth for us.

I should also mention that experiencing the sameness of all of us goes for all of us as humans, and all of us as beings – whatever type of beings that may be. There is a deep sense of the fellowship of all life, and beyond that, of all of Existence. And this only deepens as we heal and mature as human beings, and deepen in recognizing all as Spirit.

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What reincarnates?

 

Another revisited basic topic:

If there is no separate self, what reincarnates?

There is clearly a human self here, and although we have a human identity, that’s not our most basic identity. We are that which any experience – including that of our human self and of being a human self – happens within and as.

So even if something carries on between lives, whatever we want to call it (e.g. incarnating being), that too is a temporary identity. It’s not what we really are. It’s not our most basic identity.

At one level, we are this human self. At another, we may be a being that keeps on incarnating for a while. And at a more basic level, we are that which all of this, and any temporary experience, happens within and as.

This may sound a bit abstract, or far-fetched, or mystical. But it’s something we can discover and explore here and now. The quickest ways to have a taste may be through the headless experiments (for some), or the Big Mind process (seems to work more consistently and for more people).

Adyashanti: Trying to get out of the illusion is the greatest illusion of all

 

Trying to get out of the illusion is the greatest illusion of all.

– Adyashanti

As any pointer, it’s meant as a helpful nudge. It can help us shift out of a stuck view. It’s medicine for a particular condition.

What condition is this a remedy for? The condition of believing we are absolutely stuck in an illusion and what we seek is somewhere else – instead of already here and already what we are.

And as usual, there is some truth to this and to the reverse.

What’s the truth in the reverse? That, yes, it’s actually worth trying to get out of the illusion. We are indeed caught in an illusion if we believe our thoughts and perceive ourselves as (only or mainly) a separate human being. And although there is great value for life in that illusion (helps life experience itself as limited and separate), it’s locally uncomfortable. So it comes with a wish for a release from this discomfort and the temporary illusion.

The trick is to do this skillfully. At one extreme, we may think that our existence as it is now is a mistake and / or that what we seek is somewhere else and different from this. We may wish for a dramatic shift that solves all our apparent problems. At the other extreme, we may not consider that something else is possible – or we think change is impossible. Either one is, of course, perfectly fine. There is nothing inherently wrong with these views, and both are quite common.

But there is a middle ground. We can recognize that what we are is what all happens within and as, including any temporary illusions created from believing thoughts. And that noticing that is the release we are wishing for. It won’t solve our very human challenges, but it does provide a different context for our human life and experiences. It does offer a certain relief from blind suffering and discomfort.

And there are ways to invite in this shift. One is healing of our human self, which is a relief in itself (and, at one level, often what we really wish for). Another is various forms of inquiry that can give us a glimpse of what we already are (Big Mind process, Headless experiments), or a release of beliefs and identifications creating the temporary illusion (The Work, Living Inquiries). We can also engage in different forms of meditation, including noticing and allowing what’s here, or noticing that we are the still presence all our experience happens within and as. Or, since all of this has a consciousness and energy side, we can invite in or support these shifts from the energy side (Vortex Healing).

So, in a certain context, Adya’s pointer is just the right medicine. It can help us shift out of a stuck view and find curiosity for what may be more true for us. It can help us reorient. And that path of discovery is rich and deep and somewhat unique to each of us.

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It’s not what I am?

 

It’s popular in non-dual circles to say it’s not what you are, referring to emotions, thoughts, this body, and anything else we take ourselves to be in the changing world of experience.

There is some truth to that, it’s reverse, and also in the more conventional views.

From the view of what we really are, we can say….

It’s not what I am (I). Experiences – including emotions, thoughts, sensations, this body, my experience of the wider world  – come and go, and I seem to be something that doesn’t come and go. I am that which all of this happens within and as. Or, we can say I am the whole, or the awakeness, or even the void all of it is happening within and as.

It is what I am (I). At the same time, we can say that whatever is happening is what I am. Whatever is my current experience – with sensations, emotions, thoughts, this body, the wider world – is what I am. It’s unavoidable. It’s happening within and as what I am.

And we can also look at this from a more conventional view.

It’s not what I am (II). Changing states and experiences are not what I am, in a conventional sense. They may be part of me. But they come and go. As a human being, I am both more than these and something more stable. (Although that more stable, a more stable personality, also changes over time.)

It is what I am (II). In a conventional sense, not negated by the (I)s above, I am this human being. To others, I am this human being in the world. In a pragmatic sense, I am this human self in the world.

We can use any of these as a pointer. The not what I am pointer can be helpful if the mind habitually identifies as content of experience. The I am what’s here pointer can be helpful if we are more identified with or as (our ideas about) awakeness.

The not what I am (II) pointer is helpful if we are not ready or ripe for the first ones, and it speaks to the parts of us functioning within a conventional experience. And the is what I am (II) pointer is equally valid and helps us function in the world.

Using each of these, and additional ones, can help us stay a bit fluid and not get stuck in any one particular view. Or, more accurately, we can use these pointers to see where we tend to reside and see how we can unstick a bit.

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Altered states: We are already living it?

 

I personally have not been very interested in “altered states” in a conventional sense. Perhaps it’s because I define it differently for myself.

So how do I see it?

We are always experiencing altered states. Our experience is always new, fresh, different. And, at least as I experience it, obviously so. It’s inevitable and doesn’t require us to do anything.

From another perspective, altered states seem easily induced by ordinary experiences, including food, nature, engagement in current activity, and so on. For instance, I just had a cup of hot cocoa and ginger (nothing else added) and it significantly changed my state and experience of myself and the world.

And from yet another perspective, the ultimate altered state is our ordinary human experience. The base state for existence is awake oneness. So when life (the divine, Spirit, the One) moved towards experiencing itself as separate, it created the ultimate altered state for itself. We are already living it, just by having the ordinary human experiences. As do Spirit when it temporarily made itself into innumerable beings – as part of this planet and possibly elsewhere – and the temporary experience of being a separate being.

So we are already living altered states. It’s inevitable. Our experience is always new, fresh, and different. Any activity creates a different and new state and experience. (We just need to notice.) And our ordinary human experience is the ultimate altered state for the divine, and all is the divine.

The only reason we would seek an altered state – as the term is used conventionally – is if we don’t notice the magic in our ordinary experience. And, of course, we are set up so many of us overlook that magic. That too is the divine experiencing itself through an altered state. That too is the play of the divine. That too is the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

Note: I am aware I wrote this from a slightly arrogant view. But, somehow, that was fun. I may do that more. Others sometimes point out that I often make myself small, so writing in a more direct way and revealing myself more is interesting.

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Healing as a motivation for awakening?

 

People who express a desire for awakening typically have a range of motivations, some of which they are conscious of and some not.

One of these is healing. We wish for healing. It may seem a tall order. So we wish for something as apparently dramatic as awakening to cure us. And, again, this may be conscious or not.

How do we identify our deeper or original reasons for wishing for awakening, or anything else? One is to follow the chain of “what do you hope to get out of X”. What do you hope to get out of awakening? Peace. What do you hope to get out of peace? etc.

And what if healing is a central motivation for wishing for awakening? If we identify that motivation, it can help us reorient in a couple of different ways.

One is to find and use approaches that invite in healing and awakening. I tend to take this approach, which is why I have spent time exploring inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries), heart centered practices (ho’oponopono, tonglen), therapeutic trembling (TRE for healing and embodiment), Breema, training a more stable attention, natural meditation (notice and allow), and more recently Vortex Healing.

If we find that healing is our main motivation, we may change our focus to healing and leave the awakening aside for a while. It may be more likely to give us what we really want, and perhaps the awakening interest returns at some point or not. Either way is fine.

In either case, it’s helpful to clarify our motivations and reorient accordingly. What do we really want? How do we most effectively invite it in? And that’s an ongoing process.

Also, we may find that some of our motivations for awakening come from fear or a sense of lack. If so, we can explore these and invite in healing for these parts of us. In my case, I have used the approaches listed above, but there are many helpful approaches out there.

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Dread & Terror – befriending & inviting to heal

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Mapping experience: type, strength & frequency, engagement

 

How do we map our day-to-day experience?

It depends on the purpose. But a good starting point may be to include these facets.

The type of experience. Sad, happy, angry, content, elated etc.

The strength of the experience. Is it strong or weak? Overwhelming or barely noticeable?

The frequency of that particular experience. Daily. Every few days. Every hour. Every few years. Never. Once?

The level of engagement. How engaged are we with it? Do we engage and struggle with it and spin it into a number of other stories and emotions? Is it easy to see that it’s just passing and visiting, and allow it as is?

Type, strength, and frequency can be helpful to pinpoint emotional issues to find healing for. And the level of engagement shows us how wrapped up in it we tend to be. If it’s just something that’s passing, it doesn’t really bother or impact us much. But engagement with it may influence our experience and life quite a bit.

In everyday life, there may be faint sadness from reading a story in the news. It’s allowed, passing, and not engaged with. In a conventional depression, there may be frequent and strong sadness that’s strongly identified with. And in a healing or awakening process, there may be strong emotions and thoughts but they are allowed, welcomed, and not engaged with much. They are recognized as living their own life and passing.

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At home everywhere

 

The initial awakening or opening was surprising in itself. And there were several surprises that came with it. One of the surprises was that now everywhere was home.

I was at home everywhere because everywhere is God (Spirit, what I am). Spirit as me is visiting Spirit as a place. Anywhere I went was home.

There are a couple of other sides to this.

My very human preferences are still here adding flavor to my experience. So although any place is home, in a more real sense, I still have preferences. I still like the western half of the US over the other half. I still especially like Iceland and the English west country. I still like the Netherlands and Switzerland more than Germany.

And there is also something that happens as we mature and heal as human beings. The more we heal and mature, the more we feel at home in ourselves. So the more we feel at home in the world, just about anywhere.

This is also true for how I experienced people. When I met a person, it was Spirit as me meeting Spirit over there. Me over here met me over there. And as above, this coexists very well with my human preferences. And as I get to know myself more as a human being, and heal and mature, there is also a very human sense of recognition when I meet just about anyone.

So there are several flavors to my experience of places and people. One is of Spirit meeting itself. Another is my human preferences. A third is recognition and feeling at home from healing and maturing as a human being.

And yet another flavor is that in me that still doesn’t quite recognize this. The parts of me that haven’t yet healed or awakened. So when I don’t (notice that I) feel at home somewhere, it can be a pointer to parts of me not yet healed or awake. And when I don’t recognize myself in someone, or see that person as me over there, it’s the same. It’s a pointer to something in me that’s not yet healed or awakened.

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Using practices to get rid of things

 

In healing work, there is a balance between (a) noticing we are that, (b) exploring our relationships with it, and (c) healing it. Whatever “it” is. Whether it’s an emotional issue, physical issue, or situation.

Of course, for some (a) is not so relevant. It’s not where they are at. But for all of us, it’s helpful to explore our relationship to “it” as well as inviting in healing for it.

Here are a few words about each.

(a) Notice we are that. For those interested, any apparently troublesome issue is an invitation for us to notice we are that. It’s “me over there”. Healing our relationship to it is a good start. That, in itself, softens the mind-created boundary. And other forms of inquiry can help us see it more clearly, for instance the Big Mind process, Headless experiments, or The Work or Living Inquiries.

(b) Our relationship to it. If I want something to change, it’s helpful to explore where that comes from. Often, it’s fear and a sense of lack. And, really, that this fear and sense of lack is unloved. So we can explore this in inquiry, and also change our relationship to it, befriend it, find genuine love for it. We can heal our relationship to the troublesome issue. A great deal of distress is created from seeing something as an enemy and something to struggle with. So when we find more peace with it, there is often a relaxation and sense of liberation.

(c) Inviting in healing for it. This is an healing of the issue itself, and in this framework it happens within the context of (b) and (a). It can happen within noticing it’s “me over there”. It can happen within a context of befriending it and what it brings up in me. And the healing of the issue itself can happen through any number of ordinary healing practices, including medicine and psychotherapy.

It’s natural for us to want certain things to go away. We may focus on making it go away and forget about (a) and (b). There is nothing wrong in that. It’s natural and understandable, and for most people, it may even be appropriate.

But if we wish to have a more conscious and intentional relationship to life, and we wish for a deeper healing and awakening, we can’t really avoid (a) and (b). They need to be included.

There needs to be some attention on each so that (b) and (a) becomes the context for (c). A more friendly relationship to the issue, and perhaps noticing it as “me over there”, becomes a context for inviting in healing of the issue itself.

That’s how we invite in deeper healing and awakening. That’s how we align ourselves more consciously with life as it already is.

It’s all already happening within and as Spirit and life. An adverserial relationship doesn’t have real substance to it, and doesn’t make sense in that context. And inviting in healing of issues and situations comes from kindness. It’s what naturally happens when it’s all recognized as Spirit and life.

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Present with being on autopilot

 

When we notice what’s here, what do we notice?

Mostly, we notice sensory experiences and this human self doing, feeling, thinking, and so on.

We may notice it’s all happening within and as awareness.

And we may also notice a range of other things. One of these is that this human self is on autopilot in two different ways.

He is on autopilot in that he is doing things on his own. He operates on his own. The more mind has released identification as being this human self, the more he is seen as operating on his own. He is on autopilot. This can be a disconcerning discovery, but as we get used to it it’s a relief.

He is also on autopilot in a more conventional sense. A lot of daily tasks are automated. They don’t require a lot of scrutiny. This is evolution’s way to help us free up resources to the occasional tasks that do require more intention and effort.

We are present with this human self. And this human self is operating on his own. And a lot of daily tasks are automated. So in both of these ways, he is – in the best possible way – on autopilot.

In this context, being on autopilot does not mean being distracted or absent minded. It means being present with this human self while he is on autopilot in these two ways.

Note: How do we discover that this human self is operating on his or her own? How is identification released? It can happen in different ways. Sometimes, glimpses of all as the One helps soften and release identifications. Sometimes, it comes through active investigation and exploration – for instance inquiry, healing work, and energy work.

And a personal note: For me, it was disconcerning to discover that this human self operates on his own. There was a bit of fear coming up. If “nobody is there” to take care of business, how can he function? But he does. He knows very well how to function. Life lives his life. The One lives his life.

It’s always that way, for all of us. Life or the One lives our lives. And the initial noticing may bring up slight worry.

The second form of autopilot is a no-brainer. We need to automate a wide range of tasks in daily life to even be able to function. It’s evolution’s gifts to us.

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Walking through myself

 

I am walking through myself.

Whether there is a spiritual opening, or a more stable shift in identity, or a taste through explorations such as the Big Mind process or Headless experiments, that’s a common noticing.

I – as a human self, am walking through myself – as the One (aka Big Mind, Spirit, Buddha Mind etc.). When I walk, I walk through myself. When I drive a car, I drive through myself.

I move through myself as this space I am moving through. This room. This landscape.

And as mentioned above, we can notice this through a spiritual opening where our identity is temporarily shifted out of our human self and more into what we are. Through explorations inviting in a similar temporary shift. Or through a more stable shift of identity out of identification as a separate self allowing our more real identity as the One to shine through or come more to the forefront.

And, for some reason, even if this can be noticed anywhere in any setting, it seems easier to notice when we are in a car and the landscape moves past us a bit faster than usual.

We can also experience being still and the landscape moving through us. That’s another aspect of this noticing. We are that which this human self moves through, and what the landscape moves through. We are all of it – the human self moving, the landscape moving, and what it all moves through.

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Happiness, meaning, contentment

 

There is a difference between happiness, meaning, and contentment.

Happiness tends to come from events matching our desires and wishes. We get what we want. The good thing about happiness is that although – or since – it’s fleeting, it’s often pretty easy to come by. A good movie, a nice walk, a delicious meal, a beautiful sunset, spending time with people we like, getting anything we want, and much more can trigger happiness.

A sense of meaning may require a bit more work. It’s requires some engagement, intention, and clarity about what’s meaningful for us. It can be contributing to society or life, creating and sharing something, developing connections with loved ones, bringing up children, a spiritual path, and much more. A sense of meaning tends to be more lasting and less dependent on circumstances. (Apart from what we “pay into it” through our engagement).

Contentment is a bit different from both happiness and meaning. There are many ways to talk about or explain contentment, and here are some that come to mind for me. It can come from integrity and following the inner guidance, the quiet voice. It can come from a sense of wholeness as who (as a human being) and what (Spirit, Big Mind) we are. It can come from a basic (stable) awakening. It can come from having healed whatever temporarily covered up the contentment that’s always here. As with meaning, contentment is somewhat independent of life circumstances. And to the extent there is awakening, embodiment of that awakening (realignment of our human self), healing, and maturing, it’s more independent of life circumstances.

We are born with a certain baseline for respectively happiness, sense of meaning, and contentment. And at the same time, we can invite in each of them. We can arrange our life so we have more moments of happiness. We can engage in meaningful activitites and bring more sense of meaning into our life. And we can explore healing, maturing, awakening, and embodiment and find a deepening sense of contentment that way.

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Always coming back to here

 

I have noticed a slight disappointment recently. I have done and experienced a great deal, but always return here – to what’s here. It’s as if it all didn’t happen.

As Adyashanti points out, there may be a reason it’s like this. There may be a few different reasons, depending on how we see it.

What’s here, this, is the one constant. What any experience happens within and as – aka consciousness, awakeness, presence etc. – is the one constant. It’s what’s here independent of any particular experience or state. It’s what we are and everything is. It’s also what has the potential to create identification as as something within it’s content, for instance this human self.

Any past experiences or accomplishments are gone. They are here only as a memory. An image or thought, sometimes connected with a sensation. They are truly gone.

Any identity, anything we see ourselves as, similarly only exists as a mental image or thought sometimes connected with a sensation. We may have built up identities and roles through past experiences, but they don’t exist as anything more solid or substantial than a mental image or words associated with certain sensations.

If we take “here” as a more neutral state, as it has shown up for me in the moments mentioned above, then this more neutral state has gifts. It allows me to notice that just about any state is already here. It’s here as a potential, and also – often – as a trace. Also, a more neutral state makes it easier for me to notice what’s here in terms of what “I” already am – what these experiences and states happen within and as. There may be a reason why, for most of us, this more neutral state is the “default” state and what life tends to return us to. It gives us an opportunity to notice what’s here – in terms of traces and what we are – without the distractions of stronger experiences.

So there are many reasons why I return to “here”. It’s all there is. It’s what’s left and here when I notice the past as an image, and identities and roles as images. If it’s a more neutral state, it’s what allows me to notice what’s already here.

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No self or other?

 

It’s common – in some circles – to hear people talk about “no self and no other”.

It can sound very cryptic and mysterious if it’s not our immediate experience. And it’s very simple and obvious when it is.

This human self, others, and the world is still here. And yet, it’s all happening within and as awakeness.

When awakeness is identified with or as the human self, it’s really identified with certain thoughts and mental images saying (a) there is a human self and (b) that’s what “I” am.

And that identification happens through thoughts being associated with certain sensations. The sensations lend a sense of solidity, substance, and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations (they mean “I am this human self”).

That makes it appear as if there is an “I” that’s this human self, and there are others who also are “I”s in their own experience, and a world full of objects and things. It seems very real and true. And it is, in a certain sense.

When awakeness is not identified with or as this human self, it’s all revealed as happening within and as awakeness. This human self, other beings, the whole world, happens within and as awakeness. There is no “I” in any of it. It’s all life happening as life.

This release of identification can happen temporarily as a transcendent experience (which will then turn into a memory), or it can happen more stably and thoroughly through a clear seeing through the mental dynamics holding the identification in place, and through a corresponding release of the energetic “veils” holding identification in place. When we explore this, we can work on it from either side – for instance through forms of inquiry (e.g. Living Inquiries, The Work) and energy work (e.g. Vortex Healing).

This is very simple, and it’s also an infinitely rich topic.

Realignment. For instance, as long as there is identification as this human self, it will align itself with the experience of separation, and that can be quite traumatic. So when there is a softening or release of identification, this human self is invited to realign with this “new” context of all as awakeness. And that realignment includes healing, maturing, and embodiment.

Whatever is unhealed is invited to heal (which can be quite challenging when unprocessed psychological material surfaces). Whatever is unloved is invited to be loved. Whatever is unseen is invited to be seen. Whatever is unfelt is invited to be felt.

There is also an invitation for this human self to life from this “new” context more consciously, stably, and in more and more situations. And there is an invitation for it to mature in a very ordinary and human sense, and the healing and embodiment is part of that maturing.

Localized. Awakening is, in a sense, localized. Everything is happening within and as awakeness. And yet, that “everything” is (mostly) sensory information received through this human self. In that sense, the awakening is localized.

Independent of traditions. This is independent of traditions. Spiritual traditions may talk about and offer insights and practices to help us explore this, and perhaps have a taste of it or invite a more thorough and stable awakening. But this is about reality and traditions are human made. They can offer pointers, at most. This is more than and different from any tradition, or anything we can put into words.

Ripening. Any opening or more stable awakening happens through ripening. That ripening can be invited through conscious explorations – through various forms of prayer, inquiry, meditation, body-oriented practices, relationships, social engagement, and more. And it seems that most, and really almost all, of the ripening happens outside of conscious awareness.

The ripening happens for innumerable reasons and with innumerable influences, and we are aware of only a tiny part. We could say that our conscious practices is only a small part of the influences on this ripening. We could also say that our conscious practices is an expression of this ripening that’s already happening.

And this ripening is living its own life and happens on its own schedule. How it looks and how fast it happens is independent of how our minds tells us it should be, and it’s often very different. It can be faster or slower, and is almost always very different in character.

Ongoing. Awareness of and releases of identifications is ongoing. Identifications may be released out of what’s more individual, and shift into something more universal. And that keeps happening. Reality keeps revealing itself to itself.

Different labels. There are different labels for what I here called “awakeness”. We can also call it Spirit, Big Mind, Buddha Mind, Brahman, Life, the Universe, or whatever else resonates with us. None of the labels are very accurate. They are all just pointers.

Lila. Is there a goal of “us” awakening? Is life a “school”? Not really, as far as I can tell. To me, this all seems more like the play of the divine. It’s life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways. Identifications is part of it. As is a desire to awaken. And awakening itself. It’s all part of the play. Any other “reasons” for all of it happens within and as this play.

And any thoughts or ideas we have about it, including anything and everything written here, are all human notions. Reality doesn’t conform to our ideas. It’s more than and different from any of our ideas, however smart or intuitive or traditional or innovative or resonating they may seem.

Very ordinary. What happens to our human life in the world in all of this? There can be disruptions for different reasons (dark nights etc.). But mostly, and in the longer run, our human self continues to live it’s life in the world. And it tends to look very ordinary. It looks like an ordinary life, and ordinary healing, maturing, and whatever measure of clarity and wisdom is there. It’s all very ordinary and human. That may initially seem disappointing. And then, it may seem deeply fascinating, rich, and awe inspiring.

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The body wakes up

 

What is awakening?

We can answer that question in many different ways.

For instance, it’s what we are – that which our experience happens within and as – waking up to itself. An early awakening is when it notices itself. And a more stable awakening is when the “center of gravity” shifts there, when that’s what it takes itself to be more consistently.

That’s roughly accurate, in my experience.

Another way to say it, which is perhaps a bit more accurate, is that the body wakes up. The consciousness doesn’t need to. It’s what happens within experience – within and as what we are – that wakes up. And that is the body, including the energetic “bodies” (aka etheric, emotional, mental, spiritual etc. bodies).

It’s in these bodies the experience of being a separate self is created. It’s here consciousness is filtered so it creates an experience for itself of being a separate self. And when these filters are either transcended or lost, what it’s able to (effortlessly) notice what’s more real. It’s noticing itself as its whole experience, whether it’s labeled self or world, matter or consciousness, or anything else.

So awakening happens through the body, or – more accurately – through the bodies. It may happen through practices aimed at aligning the bodies (the self) more with reality. It may be boosted by transcendent experiences offering a glimpse of what’s more real than the apparently separate self. It happens through grace, and explorations preparing the ground for grace.

When it happens, there is still a self in the sense of these bodies. They are still here, and they operate much as before. And there is no self, in the sense that the experience of a separate self is revealed as created by the filters. It’s a temporary experience. It’s life exploring itself through the experience of separation, for a while.

The “filters” have an energy and consciousness side. And the thinning and loss of them happens as a process. (Although the loss of each one may happen suddenly, after a time of preparation and ripening.) As there

As there is spiritual practice, often combined with transcendent glimpses and/or loss of the filters, there is a gradual realignment and reorientation of the bodies. They gradually align more with reality. This is a process that typically include some wrinkles and detours, and these are all integral to the process. It’s a process of clarification, healing, maturing, and embodiment – learning to live more from what’s revealed.

And from the outside, from the perspective of the world, this process often looks like someone becoming a bit more sane, grounded, healed, and mature in a very ordinary and human way. It is very ordinary and human. It is a healing and realignment of the human self, of all the bodies.

I should also mention that when the bodies wake up, when the filters are lost, it’s as if the whole world wakes up. The real body is the whole world – the physical world and everything else that exists at different energetic levels. And all of that is revealed as Spirit. It’s all the play of Spirit as all of it, the whole world and all that is.

That is what wakes up to itself, as that, and it wakes up through loss of the (temporary) filters of this (temporary) self that has a physical body and a set of energetic bodies.

That’s why the historical Buddha said “I and the whole world awoke”. And that’s also why it didn’t happen automatically through the other bodies since the filters there were (and are) still in place.

As with anything else here, these words are meant as pointers for own exploration. There is nothing absolute or final about it. It’s just the way of looking at it that makes the most sense to me right now, based on own experience and how I have heard others talk about it. (And these include Buddhism, Ken Wilber, Adyashanti, and – more recently – Ric Weinman and Vortex Healing.)

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