We create our own reality?

 

Some folks in the New Age circles say we create our own reality.

Is that true?

As usual, to me the answer seems to be yes, no, it depends, and don’t know.

Yes, we do create our own reality in the conventional sense and in two distinct although related ways.

Our perception and interpretations determines how the world appears to us – from the most basic to the most elaborate. The mind creates sensory impressions based on input from the senses. And our mind makes sense of these impressions through an overlay of mental images and words. We – quite literally – construct our own reality.

Most of this is shared by most humans and are determined by biology and culture, and some of it is more culturally dependent and individual. We can explore and work with both categories to create other ways to perceive and interpret the world that works better for us. (The second category is more the realm of psychology and the first category involves deeper inquiry and even spirituality.)

Our perceptions and interpretations obviously influence and determine our choices, actions, and responses, and this shape the situations we find ourselves in.

In another way, we do not create our reality. Everything that happens is not a direct expression of our wishes, hangups, hidden desires, or whatever it may be.

What’s happening locally is an expression of the movements within existence as a whole. Everything has innumerable causes stretching back to beginning of time and out to the widest extent of space. It’s dependent on far more than just what’s going on in our own psyche.

At the same time, we can make use of whatever happens. We can use it to notice what’s triggered in us and befriend it and invite in healing for it. We can make use of what’s happening to heal, mature, wake up, and live more authentically and more aligned with our values.

We can even ask ourselves “what if I created this, what would be the reason and what would I like to learn from it?” and use that as a gentle exploration, hold the question very gently, and use the answers as a temporary guide.

As what we are – that which our experience happens within and as – it depends. We can answer the question in a few different ways.

We can say that everything – every experience and the whole world as it appears to us – happens within and as we are.

And from here we could say that “we” – as what our experience happens within and as – creates our experience. That’s true in the most basic sense that we construct our own experience of the world.

I am careful with saying that “we” create our own reality in this context. It makes more sense to say that it’s just happening and it is life or existence itself creating our world and reality and our experience of it.

As what we are, it’s most reasonable to say that everything happens. “We” – as this human self – do not create it.

And really, it’s a mystery. We don’t know anything for certain. We can have ideas about our experiences in the world – whether the ideas are about genetics, culture, psychology or anything else – and some of those ideas can be useful for a while. The only thing we know is that no ideas can capture reality. They are, at most, helpful as a temporary and pragmatic guideline to help us orient and function in the world.

So as who we are – as this human self – we create our reality in a conventional and well-known sense. We do not create our reality in the simplistic and naive sense that whatever happens is a direct reflection of our own desires or hangups. We can also say that our reality is created within and as what we are, although it happens more on its own. And ultimately it’s all – every single bit of it – a mystery that cannot be captured by our understanding and even less by our words.

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The role of states in the awakening process

 

Awakening means what we are noticing itself as that which our content of experience happens within and as. And a more stable awakening happens when this noticing goes through changing states and is independent of any particular state. (Although we can say that this noticing is a state of noticing.)

So what is the role of states in the awakening process?

Some states may function as a preview of awakening – as a taste, or a guide. There can be a taste of oneness, or all as the divine or God, and this can function as a preview or direction for us for a while until the awakening is more clear, stable, deep, and mature.

These preview states can also function as a carrot, as can any state we see as spiritual (bliss etc.). They can keep us going. In an awakening process, it’s common to have previews and then chase these previews or states, and although it’s ultimately misguided it can serve an important function of keeping us interested, fascinated, motivated, and consciously on the path. (Although we are on the path no matter what.)

Some states highlight aspects of what we are – it can be Big Mind, Big Heart, the divine feminine, bliss and so on. These then become an invitation for us to keep noticing this aspect of what we are through the changing states, including when these more dialed-up states are gone.

And in general, changing states – which we experience all the time – is an invitation to notice what we are. It’s an invitation for what we are – that which all our experiences happens within and as – to notice itself. This invitation is always here.

So although awakening is not ultimately about any particular state (apart from the state of noticing), states of all types can serve an important role in the awakening process. Some function as pointers and guides. Some as carrots. Some as an invitation to notice aspects of what we are through changing states. And all of them – spiritual or not – function as an invitation for us to notice what we are.

What’s my experience with this? The initial awakening was a oneness awakening with a lot of side-effects (bliss, stable focus and so on). And I did chase some of these states for a while. It was one of the motivations for doing hours of prayer, meditation, and body-centered practices each day for several years. It felt really good to do it because it amplified the oneness and these blissful states. It functioned as a carrot for me, and although I could see what was going on, I was also compelled to dial up some of these states. (Probably to fill a hole in me, to try to make up for a sense of lack.)

It took some years with little or no spiritual practice and a dark night of the soul for a shift to happen out of the slightly obsessive chasing of states. I am still doing it to some extent as most of us do – even if it’s just in very ordinary everyday ways – but it feels more relaxed and less essential.

Why did I leave my spiritual practice? And what was the dark night of the soul? It’s a story better suited for a longer article. In short, I made a major life decision against my inner knowing, and this made it hard for me to continue my spiritual practice.

Each time I sat down for meditation or prayer, I was connected with the still inner voice guiding me to something that was very difficult for me, which was painful, so I ended up avoiding it. This lead to several years where I was more engaged in the world and didn’t do much spiritual practice. It was also the beginning of a dark night of the soul that has gone through several phases. It was mild for several years and took the form of feeling deeply off track, and then got much stronger and brought up a lot of old trauma.

Somehow, in the process, the state-chasing got softer and less relevant.

The prayer I mentioned was Christ meditation (visualize Christ in front, back, on each side, over the head, under me, and in the heart), and heart prayer (Jesus prayer). The meditation was basic meditation for training a more stable attention, and basic meditation for noticing and allowing whatever is here. And the body-centered practices were tai chi, chi gong, inner Taoist practices (Mantak Chia and similar), and some yoga.

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Adyashanti: Our minds aren’t conditioned to recognize the clearly obvious

 

Our minds aren’t conditioned to recognize the clearly obvious.

– Adyashanti

What are some of the obvious things Adya may refer to?

One is what we are. We are that which our experience happens within and as. It’s obvious. It can’t be any other way. It’s part of our daily experience. And yet, for most of us, our mind doesn’t recognize it. Or if it does, it dismisses it as not important – as something weird, outside of how society tells us it is, and perhaps not practical. (It may be a bit weird and outside of how others tells us it is, but recognizing it and taking it seriously can profoundly transform our perception, life, and how we relate to ourselves and the world.)

Another obvious thing is that our thoughts don’t tell us the truth. They are questions about the world. They may be practically useful as a guide. And yet, they do not hold any final or absolute or complete truth. Reality is always different from and more than our thoughts about it. And that goes for our “big” thoughts about who we are and how the world is (“I am ultimately a human being in the world”), and the “smaller” thoughts in daily life (“she doesn’t like me”, “he shouldn’t have cut me off in traffic”).

Hercule Poirot: There is nothing in the world so damaged

 

There is nothing in the world so damaged that it cannot be repaired by the hand of the almighty God.

– Agatha Christie, spoken by Hercule Poirot in Appointment with Death

This is a beautiful and unusually personal and heartfelt statement from Poirot. It’s not beautiful primarily because it’s hopeful. It’s beautiful because there is a lot of truth to it.

At a personal level, there is nothing in our world that’s so damaged it cannot be repaired by the almighty hand of God. When oneness – AKA God – finds itself, that in itself is profound. We realize that what we are was never harmed. It was never damaged. No matter how damaged our human self is, what we are – that which our experience and the apparent damage happens within and as – is never damaged.

There is another side to this. When what we are notices itself – and especially when it happens more clearly and through situations and experiences – it provides a new context for who we are which allows this to reorient and heal within oneness. Some of this can happen in the initial awakening process, and much of it happens over time, gradually, and through intentional explorations and work.

From a larger view, and using a Spiritual interpretation of awakening, we can say that everything – all of existence – happens within and as the divine, Spirit, God. No matter how much destruction and apparent damage happens within the world or the universe, it all happens within and as Oneness.

Although we as humans may be called to do what we can to prevent and repair damage to people and the world – and this is vitally important – nothing is fundamentally in need of repair because it’s all already the divine.

Adyashanti: Enlightenment is being able to simultaneously experience unity and individuality

 

Enlightenment is being able to simultaneously experience unity and individuality without experiencing any conflict.

– Adyashanti, Mt. Madonna Silent Retreat February 2019

Yes, this fits my experience as well. I notice I balk a bit at the word enlightenment because of it’s baggage and the associations some have about it. But it is appropriate in some situations and it’s also appropriate in that there is a sense of illumination – metaphorically because reality is illuminated and literally since the energy system tends to light up within an awakening and experiencing light may be a side-effect of the initial awakening.

And there are many ways to talk about the unity and individuality. When oneness notices itself, it also notices itself as this unique individual human being functioning in the world. It notices this human self as local and temporary part of itself.

When there is no experience of conflict between oneness and who we are, it’s because there are – generally speaking – no identifications as one or the other preventing the mind from fluidly noticing itself as both and both as one. It may be that there actually are identifications here but they are more in the background or dormant, or it may be that they have been seen through or have worn out.

I suspect I know why Adya felt he needed to address this topic. Sometimes, we can experience a conflict between the two, between who and what we are. And that always comes from identifications as one or the other, and ideas that they are somehow separate or in conflict with each other. That too can be part of the process. The wrestling helps us get more familiar with the dynamics of being both oneness and a human being in the world.

Although I have rarely experienced a conflict between what and who I am, I have gone through a few phases in this dynamic of being oneness and a human being in the world.

In the initial awakening phase – which didn’t feel like an awakening at all – “I” was absorbed into a witness. I was fifteen and what I experienced myself to be was absorbed into witnessing – witnessing all content of experience equally, whether it was the outer world or this human self or what happened within this human self. This happened without any forewarning and felt like something had gone terribly wrong. I visited several doctors and specialists to try to figure out what was going on. The whole world, including this human self, felt very far away.

After a year in this weird state, a more full blown oneness revealed itself. Again, it happened suddenly and without any forewarning. All without exception was revealed as God. This human self was revealed as a local part of God and any identification as this human self was revealed as the play of God. The ultimate and real identity of everything, including this guy here, was the divine. Everything is part of the oneness.

There was a long honeymoon phase, followed by a phase where my attention went mostly to sustainability and social justice work (informed by oneness), and the last several years have been a process of deeper work for aligning more parts of my human self more consciously with the oneness. Parts of me that were still living in separation consciousness have come to the surface so they can realign, wake up in their own way, and be included in my human self and the oneness more consciously.

When I look back, I see that each of these phases have lasted about a decade. I sometimes feel my process is very slow, but it’s all not only guided by the divine, but it is part of the divine, and it is the divine.

Note: It’s sometimes fun to write about something from different angles. When I say “it’s guided by the divine” it’s the divine as second or third person. When I say it’s “part of the divine” it’s closer to oneness and it highlights that the divine is far more than this speck of a human self. And when I say it IS the divine, that’s accurate as well. Each one gives a slightly different angle to it and together they create a more rich and full image.

Projections in the context of awakening

 

How do projections look in the context of awakening?

On a spiritual or awakening path, projections are important for awakening and healing in the usual way – with perhaps a couple of extra layers to them to explore.

Specific to the spiritual path may be projections onto spiritual teachers, teachings, and concepts related to awakening. The process of projecting itself is the usual one. We see something out there – in teachers, teachings, awakening, etc. – that’s already in here, in us. And it’s projected in two ways. One is that the qualities and dynamics we see out there is also in here. The other is that what we see out there is an overlay of imagination from our own mind. (What we see out there may fit consensus reality and what others agree is there, or not, that doesn’t matter so much here.)

So we see something that’s in ourselves – as a potential or already here more strongly – out in the world. We get familiar with it there. In the best case, that helps us find it in ourselves and what we are. And it’s the role of spiritual teachers and teachings to help us recognize what’s happening and find it in ourselves. (Of course, they don’t always do it for whatever reason – they may not recognize what’s happening or they have a vested interest in not helping students recognize and find in themselves what they project out.)

Layers of the projections

There are different aspects and layers of the projections.

We have what most people think of when they hear the word. We can call these “blind” projections. We see something in the world – in other people, situations, anything at all – that’s in ourselves, but we are mostly or only aware of it out there. These projections are mostly of qualities, characteristics, and dynamics. And the reason they are “blind” – that we only see it in others and not in ourselves, at least in the moment – has to do with emotional issues, beliefs, and identifications.

Then we have more conscious projections. We see something out in the world and are aware of it also in ourselves. This awareness can be a general awareness or more finely grained. We can always find more examples of what we see out there also in ourselves – in our own thoughts, actions, and how we live our life.

We can also be aware of the more basic dynamics and elements of the projections. We can notice the overlay of thought – of mental images and words – our mind puts on the world. With some experience, we can notice it as it happens. This helps us to recognize the projections, and it also helps us hold our mental overlay more lightly. (And not automatically assume it’s “true”.)

There is yet another layer. Projections – blind, conscious, and the mental overlay – happen within and as what we are. They are part of the creativity of the mind. If we are so inclined, we can even say it’s part of Lila, the play of life, the Universe, and the divine.

In general, projections can be a temporary apparent hindrance – or detour or distraction or pitfall – if they are blind. And they can be a great support for awakening and healing if we work with them more consciously and with some skills and sincerity. It’s helpful before awakening and within awakening.

Examples

This is all distilled and abstract so I’ll go into a few more details and give some examples.

A regular blind projection happens anytime I see something in someone else that I don’t acknowledge in myself. It’s often accompanied by emotional charge, defensiveness, righteousness, blame, and so on. And it can also be accompanied by admiration, longing, and a wish to have what we project it out onto in our life. Whether it’s one or the other or a mix depends on how our mind judges what we project.

Trump is an example for me. For a while after he was elected, my mind dehumanized him. I saw him as a liar, bigot, con man, and so on, and I felt upset and angry that people could elect someone like him. I was aware that this was a projection but I hadn’t taken the time to explore it as a projection. It functioned more like a “blind” projection, at least at an emotional level.

As I took time to explore it more, I could find the qualities I saw in him also in myself. I could – and can – find it in how I see him and his followers. (I am bigoted, a liar, a con man, etc. in how I see him and his followers, especially when I don’t acknowledge I have those qualities too.) And I can find examples in my life when I have done all of those things. I may not have done it in exactly the same way he does it, or to the same extent, but I can find examples – even if some are smaller and apparently more “innocent”.

Going through this process, I am more at peace with Trump and his followers. I see myself in them. We are in the same boat, in that sense. I don’t agree with most of his policies. I still think he operates mostly as a con man. I still see many of his followers as ill-informed and acting on misinformation. If I was in a position where it was reasonable for me to actively speak up about it and promote other solutions, I would do that. (Right now, I live in Europe and my energy goes to finding healing for myself.) And yet, the emotional charge around it for me is much less. I have more empathy and understanding. I am seeing the situation less as us vs. them and more as a larger us.

I have also experienced the other form of blind projections many times in my life. I admire and am fascinated by a woman (usually a partner). I see some people as awake – or perhaps unusually mature, insightful, and kind – and admire them and wish the same for myself. And so on. Again, it’s a process of allowing the projection, notice it, and find the qualities and characteristics I see in the other also in myself. Phrasing the projection and finding specific examples help a lot.

Conscious projections also happen all the time. I see someone as kind, and find it in myself. I see beautiful nature, and find that in myself. I see (imagine) the boundless nature of outer space and find that as what I am.

There is some fluidity between blind and conscious projections. It’s rare a projection is completely blind. And in daily life, we are often aware of a quality more in others or more in ourselves, depending on where our attention is. Bringing awareness to projections, and finding in ourselves what we see out in the world, is also an ongoing process. We can always find more examples. We can always expand our conscious identity to include more.

How do we get more aware of the basic dynamics and elements of projections? Working with projections in a conventional way brings some awareness into this. And we can also explore it more explicitly through some forms of inquiry, like traditional Buddhist inquiry or their modern versions. We typically need to explore this over and over – and bring it into daily life – before this noticing becomes a habit and second nature.

If I used Living Inquiries to explore how I see Trump (which I haven’t, at least not as a longer and formal inquiry), I would probably find some clues to why my relationship to him is charged (emotional issues) and how my mind creates its experience of him in general. I may find how my mind creates an image of Trump and this image is associated with sensations (tension) in my body. I may find that my mind has a lot of associations with this image and the connected sensations, going back to specific (traumatic) situations in my life and childhood. I may find how my mind creates beliefs and identifications in order to protect itself against him, people like him, and what he stands for. And so on. I get to see the emotional component and how it connects to my own experiences. I get to see how my mind creates blind projections in order to protect itself. I get to see how beliefs and identities are part of this projection. I get to meet and get to know the fears behind all of it.

When it comes to noticing how all of this happens within and as what I am, there are some modern forms of inquiry that can give us a taste. Big Mind process and Headless experiments may be most direct, and Living Inquiries gives us a taste through most regular inquiries into more emotional issues.

As usual, each of these points can be elaborated almost endlessly so I have given just give a few pointers here based on my own experience.

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Awakening solves a problem we didn’t know we had, and not the ones we know we have

 

Awakening solves a problem we didn’t know we had, and not the ones we know we have.

It’s a bit facetious but there is some truth to it.

The problem awakening solves is misidentification. We take ourselves to be something we are not (a separate being) and don’t notice what we are and always have been. When we set out on a spiritual path, we may think that our problem is suffering and we imagine that awakening allows us to still take ourselves to be this separate being, only now free of suffering. In reality, the awakening solves the misidentification problem and not the problems we imagine we have.

Is it true we didn’t know we had the misidentification problem? Perhaps in a literal sense. But many of us on a spiritual path know something is off even if we don’t consciously know exactly what it is.

And while it is true that awakening in itself doesn’t solve our regular human problems, it does provide some support – and a new context – for solving these problems. Mainly, it helps us reorient in how we relate to ourselves and the world (befriend). And it helps us invite in healing for our wounds and traumas. Most if not all of our suffering is created from struggling with ourselves and the world, and from unhealed wounds, hangups, and traumas in ourselves.

How does awakening support healing? The awakening process can bring up unhealed issues in us so they can be seen, examined, befriended, loved, and eventually recognized as the divine (temporarily taking that form). It can also help us meet the issues since we know it’s all happening within and as what we are. And it helps us invite these parts of us to shift out of their painful separation consciousness and into more close alignment with reality (Oneness).

Awakening can make it a bit easier, but working with core emotional issues and trauma is always challenging and require skills, patience, sincerity, and recognizing that the emotional issues and trauma are here to protect us (the mind creates them in order to protect us), and they are – as anything else – expressions of what we are or the divine.

Typical aspects and phases of the awakening process

 

What are some of the typical aspects and phases of the awakening process?

I’ll mention a few things here based on my own experience. Not everything is sequential in this process, nor does it all happen or happen within one lifetime. There is also some overlap in this list, and I’ll just briefly touch on each point since other articles here have addressed most of them in more detail.

The following are some of the milestones that may happen in the awakening process.

Relationship with the divine

Our conscious orientation towards or relationship with the divine changes through the awakening process. In general, it goes from perceiving the divine as Other, to a sense of oneness with the divine, to the divine (or what we are) waking up to itself – and out of taking itself as fundamentally a separate being – and realizing it was what it was looking for through it all.

Divine as other

The pre- or early awakening phase often involves viewing and experiencing the divine as Other.

It may start as an interest. Or an intuition or knowing.

There may be glimpses – perhaps of divine beings or all as the divine.

There may even be an early awakening of the divine as all, of oneness with the divine as all.

In all of these cases, the divine is Other even when the apparent division seems more subtle. The divine is beginning to wake up to itself as all there is while retaining some of the identification as a separate being.

When I use the word “divine” here, it can be exchanged with consciousness, awakeness, love, Big Mind, what we are, or other similar labels.

What we are noticing itself

Eventually, what we are – that which all content of our experience happens within and as – wakes up to itself. It wakes up out of the dream of ultimately being a separate being. The human self and anything else happens within and as what we are.

What we are living more consciously from and as itself

Stability

I hinted about this in the previous segment.

In the very early phases of the awakening, the divine may seem like an idea, something others talk about, and something we don’t have any experience with. Although we may have an intuition or knowing or experience a draw towards it.

Then, there may be glimpses of the divine – perhaps of divine beings or all as the divine. These may be infrequent.

The next phase seems to take many different forms. We may gradually sense the divine everywhere, or all as the divine. Or there may be more sudden and stronger glimpses. And this may get more stable either right away or over time.

At some, we may realize that what we are – fundamentally – is the divine, and what we took ourselves to be – this human self – happens within and as the divine, or within and as what we are.

Again, this may first be an intuition or knowing or come through glimpses, and suddenly or over time it becomes more clear. Over time, it continues to clarify and become more stable – including throughout more and more situations in our daily life.

Global to local

An awakening is generally “global”. It happens in a general sense for or as all of what we are. (It may even seem as if all of existence awakened, but that’s largely a projection and another topic.) And it may seem as if it’s inevitably stable.

After a while, we may notice that things in life trigger something in us that takes the system back into separation consciousness. One way to talk about it is to say that parts of our human self (subpersonalities) are still caught up in emotional wounds, trauma, the past, and separation consciousness. They are reliving traumatic past experiences and the separation consciousness they were created from. They are not yet aligned with the reality of all as the divine. They are not yet awake. Life situations – or our response to them – trigger these issues so they can be seen, felt, explored, and eventually awaken, align with reality, and bring the global awakening into more of these still unawake parts of our human self.

In our life, this may take the form of first assuming the awakening is stable. We then notice that life situations trigger old issues in us, and if the issues are strong enough and core enough to who we take ourselves to be, we may get caught up in them and go into and act from separation consciousness. To the extent we acknowledge and own this, and take it seriously, we can intentionally work on how we relate to these unawake parts in us, and even invite them to heal and align more closely to reality – the reality of Oneness.

Maturing in the awakening

There are many aspects to maturing within the awakening.

One is that the awakening – gradually and over time – becomes ordinary. It is both ordinary and extraordinary. We get used to it. Other things become more interesting to us, like how to befriend unawake parts of us, how to help these different parts of our human self to heal and awaken, how to live from the awakening in more and more situations, how to live so we benefit the larger whole, and so on.

During an initial awakening phase, we may emphasize what we are over who we are. This is natural since we are used to who we are and what we are seems more interesting and perhaps fascinating. As we mature within the awakening, this is balanced out and the two are seen more clearly as aspects of the same – or labels highlighting different sides of this lived Oneness.

Maturing may also mean that we simultaneously become more who we are and more ordinary. We live more from authenticity and we realize more deeply how what’s in this human self is universally human.

Early in the awakening process, we may get on a missionary kick and think others “need” awakening or need to hear about it or do meditation, etc. We may also think that more people need to awaken in order for humanity to be saved. Later on, this tends to calm down. We are obviously open to share when others are interested, but the “shoulds” tend to fall away.

As we mature in the awakening, other things tend to happen that I’ll mention elsewhere in this article. For instance, we may realize it’s an ongoing process and there is not a final or end point.

An initial glimpse or awakening may indeed come with certain states – of bliss, ease, joy, being untouched by old hangups, and so on – but these are byproducts of the initial awakening and like all states they come and go. As we mature in it, we realize it’s not about achieving a state but what we are is here through any and all states and experiences, and the noticing gradually becomes more stable through these states and experiences.

We also realize that although the awakening “solves” the most core “problem” of taking ourselves to be something we are not (a separate being), it doesn’t by itself solve any of our human challenges and problems. We still have to deal with them as any other human being, although from within a different context. In a sense, it solves a problem we didn’t even know we had, and it doesn’t really solve anything else or the problems we know we have!

Embodiment

Embodiment means to live more consciously from what we are in more and more situations in daily life. It happens through the global-to-local process of inviting unawake parts of us to heal and align more closely with reality. And it happens as part of the maturing process. As anything else related to awakening – and being a human being in the world – it’s an ongoing process.

Challenges

An awakening process is a shift of what we most fundamentally take ourselves to be. So it naturally comes with some challenges. As you’d expect, these can be experienced as mild or severe, can last for shorter or longer periods of time, and any struggle we experience is our own struggle with what’s happening.

Challenges, crises, and dark nights

Here are a few examples of the challenges, crises, and dark nights we can experience in an awakening process.

We can be disoriented, frightened, or feel overwhelmed. This can happen anytime the process enters a new phase, and it really helps to have a general understanding of the process and the guidance of someone who has gone through it and is familiar with the terrain. (Some that you’d expect to be familiar with it – like official spiritual teachers – may not be, and someone you’d not expect to be familiar with it – like an unassuming regular gal or guy – may be.)

Our energy system can go a bit haywire in an awakening process. It helps with nature, physical activity, reducing mental activity, and perhaps energy work like acupuncture or Vortex Healing. (For the first few years for me, it felt like enormous energies went through my system – as if sending high voltage through regular housing wires.)

As mentioned earlier, anything in our human self that’s not aligned with the awakening will eventually surface to be seen, felt, examined, understood, loved, and eventually recognized as the divine (temporarily taking the form of an emotional issue, hangup, trauma). If we have a good amount of trauma in our system (often developmental trauma), this can be an intense, confusing, overwhelming, and challenging process. Again, it really helps to have the guidance of someone who has gone through this process and – in this case – understand trauma. And it helps to understand that unawake parts of us surface to join the global awakeness.

Another form of spiritual crisis comes in the form of loss. An apparent loss of the divine or the awakening. (This helps us meet our neediness around it and ideas that what we are looking for is somewhere else.) A loss of motivation and drive. (Because it came from separation consciousness and needs to come back within more of a oneness context.) Perhaps a loss of status, relationships, health, or more. (Again, helps us meet whatever in us still holds onto ideas about how it should or must be.)

Some things are common for these challenges. For instance, struggle makes them more difficult and painful. And yet, struggle is also part of the process. We struggle until we learn, at a deep level, that the struggle itself is painful and – eventually – not needed.

These challenges also highlight what in us – in our human self – is not yet aligned with reality (the reality of Oneness). It’s an essential part of the awakening and embodiment process. What surfaces and how we deal with it is universal in that it’s shared by many going through this process. And since the unawake parts of us are somewhat unique to us, what surfaces and how we deal with it also takes on a personal flavor.

Pitfalls

There are many common pitfalls in the awakening process. I’ll highlight a few without going into them in too much detail.

Relationship with teachers: Unquestioned adoration of teachers and gurus. (Upside: Wholehearted devotion. Downside: Being misled, disappointed, give away our authority. Remedy: See them as temporary guides and coaches.)

Relationship with teachings: See them as set in stone, infallible, and final. (Upside: Temporary honeymoon. Downside: Misled, apply guidelines that don’t work for us, disappointed. Remedy: See them as human-made, guidelines, each one medicine for a particular person and condition.)

Relationship with awakening: Assuming it’s a state. (Upside: Carrot. Downside: Chasing a state. Remedy: Recognize that what we are is always here and notice that.) Thinking there is an end, something final. (Upside: Can temporarily function as a carrot. Downside: Chasing an imagined end. Remedy: Recognize it as an ongoing process.)

Relationship with students (if have students): Encourage projections. (Upside: Learn from the consequences. Downside: Misleading the students. Remedy: Make the projections and their problems explicit, actively discourage them.) Take advantage of student’s projections, fears, hopes, and trust. (Upside: Crash and burn and learn from it. Downside: Harms the students in an ordinary human way. Remedy: Be aware of the dynamic, make it explicit, address the wounds and neediness in us it comes from.)

Relationship with our human self: Assuming the awakening will take care of all our human difficulties and challenges. (Upside: Carrot. Downfall: Disappointment. Remedy: Recognize it won’t and address our human challenges more directly.) Emphasizing what we are over our human self and…. (a) Not addressing our human needs and wounds. (Upside: Temporary imagined relief. Downside: Ignore what needs to be taken care of. Remedy: Realize the wounds and needs are here and address them more directly.) (b) Justify unethical and harmful behavior. (Upside: Crash, burn, and learn from it. Downside: Harms ourselves and others in an ordinary human way. Remedy: Notice what’s happening, take it seriously, and address it.)

Relationship with others and the world: Using awakening to fuel a particular image and a sense of separation (e.g. tell ourselves we are better than others, more awake, in order to feel better about ourselves and try to fill a very human hole of not feeling good enough, feeling unloved, etc.). (Upside: Crash, burn, and learn from it. Downside: Is out of alignment with reality, act from instead of taking care of own wounds. Remedy: Recognize what’s happening, address our wounds, hangups, and traumas more directly.)

These pitfalls come from believing stories, and they come from acting on our wounds instead of addressing them more directly. We act on unhealed and unawake parts of us, life responds and rubs up against them, and we get a chance to meet these parts of us and invite in healing, clarity, and a closer alignment with reality and oneness. How long this process is and how much pain it entails depends on our sincerity, receptivity, and willingness to look at what’s going on.

These pitfalls are not inherently wrong. They become part of – and fuel for – the awakening and maturing process. At the same time, it’s important to acknowledge the problems and pain that may come from them, for oneself and others, and speak up with firm kindness as appropriate. That’s part of the process as well.

How we view the process

Ongoing process

As mentioned before, all of this – the awakening, maturing, healing of our human self, embodiment – is an ongoing process.

If we are caught up in unloved and unexamined fearful thoughts, we may want it to finish and we may have ideas about a final endpoint. But, as Adya says, that’s the “dream of the ego”. I find it’s easier and a relief to instead gently assume all of it is an ongoing process. It also makes it more interesting.

Small or big interpretation

As mentioned in other articles, we can use a small or big interpretation of awakening.

In both, awakening is what we are noticing itself. And what we are is what all our content of experience happens within and as. (We can call this consciousness, or Big Mind, or something else, and those labels also happen within and as what we are.)

In the small or psychological interpretation, we acknowledge that this may happen within a world as it is described by current mainstream science. It may be that the awakening “only” happens within the mind of an actual separate physical human being. The benefit of this interpretation is that it may be more acceptable to people coming from a (currently) mainstream view and understanding of the world.

The big or spiritual interpretation is the more traditional one as described by mystics from and outside of all the main spiritual traditions. Here, we take our immediate experience more at face value. Everything is the divine. Everything – all of existence – is as it appears, it is love and consciousness.

Either way, it doesn’t change anything about the awakening itself. It’s still experienced and described in the same way, it goes through the same phases, and it has the same consequences.

Notes

I had the idea of including my own personal experiences more explicitly for each point, but it would make for a longer article and I have addressed much of it in other articles tagged “autobiography”.

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I am not ultimately a separate being: What does it mean?

 

When I sometimes write that what I am is not ultimately a separate being, what do I mean?

As who I am, this human self, I am a being that’s not separate from anything. I am both a somewhat autonomous whole in myself and an intrinsic part of a larger whole. I am a part of the seamless living system called Earth and the even larger seamless system of the universe.

As what I am, I am ultimately not a being and not separate. What I am is what the content of my experience – here and now – happen within and as. (We can call this all sorts of things, and those labels also happen within and as what we are.) This human self happens within and as what I am. Any ideas of separation happen within and as what I am.

So it can be understood in at least two different ways.

As who I am, as this human being, I am a being that is not separate from anything. And as what I am, I am ultimately not a being nor separate… although both of those happen within and as what I am.

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What’s the purpose of trauma?

 

What’s the purpose of trauma?

There are several answers to this question, partly because meaning is something we create and add to life.

Creation & Maintenance of Trauma

What’s the purpose of the creation and maintenance of trauma?

At an individual level, the main purpose of trauma may be protection. The pain of trauma is an incentive to avoid situations similar to the one initially creating the trauma.

At a collective human level, it’s probably the same. Traumas serve a survival function for our species. When a situation is overwhelming and we feel we can’t cope with it, we create trauma and the pain of the trauma helps us avoid similar situations.

Healing from Trauma

What’s the purpose we find through healing from trauma?

At an individual level, we may get a lot out of exploring and finding healing for our traumas. We obviously learn from the process, we learn how to heal from trauma and perhaps emotional issues in general. We may find we are more mature and humanized. We may be more raw and honest with ourselves and others. We may find ourselves as more real, authentic, and perhaps in integrity. We may have reprioritized and found what’s genuinely important in our life. We may discover the universality of human life and that – even with our individual differences – we are all in the same boat. We may have found a different and more meaningful life path. Our life, in general, may be more meaningful to us. We may have found a deep, raw, and real fellowship with others on a healing path. We may have learned to be more vulnerable with ourselves and others. We may have discovered how the path of healing from traumas fuels, leads into, and perhaps is an integral part of an awakening path. We may discover the deep capacity for healing inherent in ourselves, humans, and life in general.

At a collective level, it’s similar only scaled up and with the extra illumination and richness that comes from the interactions of people with different backgrounds, viewpoints, and experiences. Collectively, we learn about and from healing from trauma. We realize the universality of it, and of our profound capacity for healing. We see that healing from trauma is something we do together and not just individually. We discover that much of what we thought were individual traumas are actually more universal and collective traumas. We discover that culture is not only what gives us much of what we love about human life, but the painful unquestioned assumptions inherent in our culture is what creates much if not most of our pain.

Bigger Picture

What’s the purpose of the experience of trauma in the bigger picture?

If we assume there is something like rebirth or reincarnation, then the experience of trauma provides food for our healing, maturing, and eventually awakening. It’s the One locally and temporarily taking itself to be a separate being going through a reincarnation process and through that healing, maturing, and eventually awakening to itself as the One. The One the adventure always happened within and as.

Traumas seems an important part of the dialectical evolutionary process of humanity as a species and – by extension – of Earth as a whole. The aspects mentioned above and much more go into this.

And it’s part of the play of life or the universe or the divine. It’s lila. It’s life exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in always new ways. It’s part of the One temporarily and locally experiencing itself as separate.

Note

When I use the word trauma, I mean the traditional one-time-dramatic-event trauma, and perhaps, more importantly, the developmental trauma that most of have from growing up in slightly – or very – dysfunctional families, communities, and cultures.

In a wider sense, any emotional issue, any painful belief, any identification, is a form of trauma and comes from and creates trauma. It’s the trauma inherent in the One temporarily and locally taking itself to fundamentally be a separate being.

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Do we live within a virtual reality? And the one thing we can trust

 

Do we live within a Matrix-like simulation?

We cannot really know. Even if a Morpheus comes to rescue us, we cannot know that that world is the real one.

And we do know that our perception of the world is filtered through our very limited senses, is pieced together by our brain, and is strongly colored by and filtered through our conscious and less conscious assumptions about ourselves and the world. In a very real sense, we are – collectively and individually – living within our own virtual simulation.

In short, we cannot trust any of the content of our experience. We cannot trust our senses. We cannot trust our interpretations, thoughts, and views about it.

So is there anything we can know for certain? Yes, fortunately. We can trust what we are. We can trust what the content of our experience happens within and as.

We can have fun with how we phrase this:

The content of our experience is unreliable and cannot be trusted. We can only trust what we are.

We can also say that who we are, and the world this character lives within, is notoriously unreliable and cannot be trusted. We can only trust what we are.

What is wholeness?

 

What is wholeness?

There are several forms of wholeness, all part of the main form of wholeness.

There is the wholeness of what we are. We are that which the content of our experience happens within and as, whether we call this awakeness, consciousness, or something else. This makes our experience into a seamless whole, whether we notice or not.

As soon as the mind believes its thoughts and latches onto the viewpoints of some of these thoughts, there is an experience of fragmentation and it’s more difficult to notice what we are.

The process of what we are noticing itself is called awakening. And the process of living from this in more situations in our life is called embodiment.

There is also a wholeness of who we are, as this human self. Again, the wholeness is already here. And yet, there is also a sense of fragmentation since we tend to identify with some of who we are and disown or ignore other parts of who we are. The process of finding our wholeness as who we are is what Jung called individuation.

There is also the wholeness of the world and the universe. The Earth is one seamless living and evolving system. The universe is also one seamless evolving system. And we – as human individuals and species with our culture – are an intrinsic part of those systems.

Finally, there is the wholeness of all of existence. Whether we use a small (psychological) or big (spiritual) interpretation of awakening, we can say that all of existence is one. We can also say that everything is existence exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself.

How do we explore these forms of wholeness? I have written many articles on each of them but I’ll say a few words here.

To explore the wholeness of what we are, we can use inquiry (Headless experiments, Big Mind Process, Living Inquiries, etc.), often combined with meditation (basic meditation, quiet prayer, training stable attention), and perhaps mindful movement (yoga, taichi, Breema, etc.).

To explore the wholeness of who we are, we can use psychology (parts work, shadow work, projection work), bodywork, relationship work, and more.

When we explore the wholeness of Earth and the universe, we can use systems views and integral (aqal) maps.

And what about the wholeness of all of existence? It includes all of the above, although we can most directly explore it as we explore what we are.

Note: The examples of approaches above are just the ones I have found useful. What works for you may be different, and what I use in the future will probably also change as I discover other approaches.

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Prayer to change my life vs change me

 

There are (at least!) two general forms of prayer.

One is prayer asking for my life to change.

The other is prayer inviting the divine to change me.

The first type of prayer is perhaps what many think of first. It’s the “dear God, please do this for me” type of prayer.

The second is a form of prayer that can be profoundly transformative. In its most explicit form, we find it in the Jesus or Heart Prayer, and also in the Christ meditation. Any form of spiritual practice, when done with heart and sincerity, is an invitation for the divine to work on and change us as a human and divine being. So any type of spiritual practice can become this prayer. (Including basic meditation.)

We can do it from the view of me as a human being inviting and allowing the divine to transform me – all of me, through and through. (Including what seems the most essential in me, and what “I” may hold onto and cherish the most.) And it can also, if it happens on its own, be a resting as the divine recognizing itself as all there is.

Note: I gave a couple of examples from the Christian tradition since that’s what I have the most experience with, but this goes for all traditions and non-traditions. If I use a more theistic language, I would say that there is one God and many religions and spiritual traditions, and all of them have some good pointers.

What is oneness?

 

What is oneness?

The most basic oneness is what’s here now. In immediate experience, for all of us, all our experience happens within and as what we are. The content of our experience happens within and as what we are.

We can call this consciousness or love, or awakeness, or the void all happens within and as, but those are labels. The labels tempt the mind into thinking it has got it while it’s not anything that can be gotten conceptually. It’s what we are.

Awakening means that what we are wakes up to itself. Glimpses itself. Notices itself. Notices itself more and more clearly as what any experience happens within and as, including as that which this personality and this conditioning like the very least.

Why is this not always noticed? Because mind likes to identify as parts of the content of its experience. Mind likes to take itself as a me (this human self) and an I (the observer, doer, etc.). It’s not wrong but it’s incomplete. It creates an experience of duality, of I here and the wider world out there, and that’s all there is to it.

That duality is valid in a functional or pragmatic sense. It’s helpful to take this human self as what I am, in a pragmatic sense. But it’s not the whole picture.

In immediate experience, “I” am what my whole field of experience happens within and as. That is, in a sense, a more fundamental identity. Although it’s not an “identity”, it’s just what we are.

We can see this in a couple of different ways. One is that the fundamental reality of the world is of me as a human self in the physical world, and it’s only in my experience all appears as consciousness. All appears as consciousness because that’s how it has to be in my experience since I am consciousness. This is the small or psychological interpretation and it’s a possible and valid interpretation.

The other is that reality is more directly as it appears. All is actually consciousness, all of reality is and happens within and as consciousness. We can say all is the divine or whatever name(s) we have for the divine (Spirit, the One, Brahman, Allah, Big Mind etc.). This is the big or spiritual interpretation and is also valid.

There is another form of oneness, or another oneness within the first oneness: the oneness of this universe. It’s one seamless whole, one seamless system. This system is what has formed itself into stars and planets, this living planet, and everything that’s part of this living planet (including us humans and all our experience). As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, feelings, and thoughts of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into awareness.

I should mention that within the small interpretation of awakening, the physical world – including our own physical body – appears as consciousness because it happens within and as consciousness. (Which is what we are.) In the big interpretation of awakening, the physical world actually is as it appears to us, it is consciousness.

In either case, we can investigate, with guidance, how our mind creates its own experience of the physical world, and perhaps of this physical world as real in itself, as solid, as dense and material. As we investigate this – and as we find ourselves as that which all our experience happens within and as – what we call the physical world will appear less and less solid to us and more as consciousness. In that sense, it will appear more and more as a dream (happening within and as consciousness).

How can we notice oneness and live more from it? This is, in a way, the main question of spiritual practice so it’s too big to address here. I’ll just mention that the easiest way to have a glimpse of oneness may be through inquiry (Big Mind process, Living Inquiries, Headless experiments, etc.). And Practices to Reconnect is an excellent way to deepen into the second form of oneness.

We are creating our own reality?

 

To me, healing, maturing and awakening is partly about discernment, differentiation, and clarifying in what particular ways something is true.

In modern spirituality, we sometimes hear people say that we create our own reality. This can be understood in slightly naive (misguided and less helpful) ways, but there is also some truth to it.

So how is it true for me?

In general, I see that my perception of anything is filtered through and created by an overlay of stories – of images and words. And most these are often not even noticed, unless we have spent some time exploring and noticing them intentionally.

Also, as what we are – that which any experience happens within and as – we can say that we “create” our world. Our experience of anything is an expression of the creativity of the mind.

And if we are so inclined, we can say that what we are is the divine, everything is the divine, and the divine creates all these experiences for itself.

There is a related question: are we creating the situations we find ourselves in?

Sometimes, because we live from our limited experience and perception, and sometimes our hangups, wounds, and identifications, that creates situations for us. We sometimes sit in the nest we built ourselves. This is the conventional and ordinary way of looking at it.

I mostly find it helpful to look for how I can use my current situation to heal, mature, and awaken.

It can be helpful to assume that life “wants” me to heal, mature, and awaken. Life sets up situations for me where I can see what’s left, with an invitation for me to invite in healing, maturing, and awakening for whatever in me needs it.

From a bigger perspective, we can say that life creates situations for itself that invites in local healing, maturing, and awakening through this part of itself that’s this human me.

I don’t know if it’s true in any absolute or final sense, but I find it a helpful guide.

I can also do another what if exercise. What if something in me created this situation? Which emotional issue, belief, or identification in me would create it? (This is similar to the – somewhat naive – assumption that we are creating our own situations, but the what-if angle gives it a lighter and more playful touch.)

How has this played out in my own life? This topic is current for me now in a few difficult situations. One is my health (CFS and Lyme) and another is a recent process with the government which took longer than I expected (the wait had some ripple effects).

Some may say (and have said) that I am creating the situations for myself. For instance, I have created the illness. When I try that assumption on, I find it creates stress in me and weird thought patterns. It feels more helpful to see the situation in a more conventional way and use a couple of what-if thought experiments to harvest the value in the situation.

I can look at the situation in a more finely grained way, and in a way that’s more real and honest to me. For instance:

Have I created the CFS and Lyme disease for myself? Not really as they are caused by a virus (EB) and Lyme. And yet, it may be that stress and some stressful beliefs and identifications in me weakened my system and created the conditions for these to move into a full-blown disease. It’s good to address this. It’s very helpful for me to strengthen my system in any way I am able, including through reducing stress and clearing up any chronic stressful beliefs and identifications in me.

The illness has brought to light many areas of myself where I resist my life as it is (other stressful beliefs and identifications), and it’s helpful for me and my quality of life to address these. I can use the illness and the situations I find myself in due to the illness to identify and invite healing for these parts of me.

I can ask myself what if I created this illness, where in me was it created from? (I find a victim identity, overwhelmed by life, and perhaps a desire to hide from life.)

Did I create the delay with the government process? No, I found myself in the same situation as others in the same process. The delay was caused by many social factors, including restructuring and priorities. And yet, here too, I can find stressful beliefs and identifications triggered in me by this situation and invite in healing for these. If life placed me in that situation so I can find deeper healing, which parts of me need healing? Which wounded parts of me were triggered? (Victim, hopelessness.) What did the situation say about me? (I am a victim.) And what if something in me created it, which wounded parts of me would that be? (A victim expecting things to take longer than expected.) 

In this way, I acknowledge the validity in conventional ways of looking at life. I benefit from assuming that life is conspiring on my behalf and places me in situations so I can heal, mature, and awaken and find healing and awakening for more parts of me. And I can even benefit from the angle (held lightly as a what-if question) that something in me created it.

It’s all a mystery and the mystery

 

It’s all A mystery and THE mystery.

It’s all a mystery in a conventional sense. Anything in life is something to keep exploring. How we experience it and the stories we tell ourselves (and each other) about it keeps unfolding and changing. There is always more to explore. There are always new stories about it that makes as much or more sense. There are always new contexts (sets of stories) we can see it within that makes as much or more sense to us. In that way, everything is a mystery that keeps unfolding for us.

It’s all also THE mystery. That which cannot be named. (Although we have many names for it – life, Spirit, God, Godhead, void and so on.) We can say it’s all happening within and as consciousness, but that’s a label which makes it look like we understand it more than we do. We can say it’s all untouchable by words and thoughts. We can say it’s all happening within and as that which in itself is nothing but allows and is it all. We can find ourselves in immediacy as all of that. And yet, it’s all a mystery.

Recognizing either of these forms of mystery helps us find a little more of the receptivity, awe, curiosity, and sincerity in ourselves that’s always here.

Adyashanti: People suffer terribly when they lack a self-transcending orientation

 

People suffer terribly when they lack a self-transcending orientation

– Adyashanti

Yes, and that can be several forms of self-transcending.

It can be a genuine care for someone else – a partner, parents, children, friends. It can be a genuine care for the larger society, Earth as a whole, and future generations.

It can be a sense of belonging to a larger whole – whether it’s a family, group of friends, a larger society, the Earth, or even the Universe or existence as a whole.

It can be a sense of oneness with the larger whole or all of existence, or a realization that all of existence – as it appears to us – happens within and as what we are.

What are some of the benefits of a self-transcending orientation?

Most of us have a self-transcending orientation, at least sometimes and in some areas of life. It’s more a matter of what we give our attention to. I notice that when I give my attention to the larger whole in one of these ways, there is a sense of belonging, care, and gratitude. I know who I am in an important sense.

Also, a self-transcendent orientation tends to reward us back. We serve ourselves and the larger whole, and the larger whole responds.

ltimately, a self-transcendent orientation is aligned with reality and who and what we are. We are the universe locally bringing itself into awareness. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. And as what we are (aka consciousness), we are that which existence – as it appears to us – happens within and as.

And that also gives the answer to why a lack of a self-transcending orientation creates suffering. It’s out of alignment with who and what we are. It’s out of alignment with who we are as human beings, completely interdependent with all of life and as a local expression of society, Earth, and the universe. It’s out of alignment with what we are, as that which everything – ourselves and the whole world as it appears to us – happens within and as. And pragmatically, it’s very unwise and tends to create a miserable life.

In a sense, life rewards a grounded, sane, mature self-transcending orientation. And it discourages the opposite. Life can’t help it, because a self-transcending orientation is aligned with who and what we are, and a lack of a self-transcending orientation is out of alignment with who and what we are.

Forms of self-talk

 

We talk to ourselves in different ways.

We talk to ourselves silently with words (thoughts). It’s often helpful to bring awareness to this type of self-talk and change it if it’s not supportive. For instance, in stressful situation we can intentionally talk to ourselves as a good mother would to a child (or a father would to a child, or a good friend to a friend). We can give ourselves what we wish for. This is also a part of re-parenting ourselves. (Becoming the parent to ourselves we perhaps didn’t consistently have growing up.)

We talk to ourselves through words and images we may not be consciously aware of. Through inquiry, we get to see some of these and how much they impact our perception, actions, and life without us even knowing.

Another way we talk to ourselves is through our actions. Whenever we chose something and act, we reinforce what that choice and action came from. If it came from a stressful thought, we tell ourselves that thought is real, valid, and something we have to act on. If it came from a quiet and peaceful knowing, we tell ourselves it’s OK to act on that quiet and peaceful knowing.

There is also a bigger picture. In a sense, anything that happens is the universe or existence talking to itself. It’s the universe expressing, exploring, and – through living beings – experiencing itself.

In our case, we can see our interactions with ourselves and the wider world as life talking to itself. We act and receive feedback and, in a sense, it’s the same the other way around. Any thought, feeling, sensation, sight, sound, taste is life talking with itself. Any interaction with the larger social and ecological whole is life talking with itself.

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Why befriending life?

 

Why would we want to befriend life? Why would we want to befriend our experience, including the uncomfortable experiences? Why would we want to befriend different parts of ourselves?

The simple answer is that it’s more comfortable. Struggle is uncomfortable, and befriending is comfortable.

We may not see this at first. We may be trained – by our culture, parents, and friends – that struggle is the way to deal with our uncomfortable experiences. We try to avoid, fix, or get rid of it, and we do so both in immediacy (here and now) and in our life by seeking some situations and states and avoid other (which is generally a sane strategy).

We may accidentally befriend an uncomfortable experience and notice it’s actually not as scary as it seems and it comes with a lot of benefits. (Less struggle, more sense of wholeness and comfort.) This may open up something in us and we may find curiosity about befriending our experience. We may set out to explore it more intentionally, perhaps through mindfulness, natural rest, inquiry, heart-centered practices, yoga, tai chi, or something else.

We may also discover that struggle with our experience doesn’t really work. It doesn’t really go away. And we may be put in a situation where this is made very obvious to us, at least if we are open to seeing it.

Since we wish to avoid discomfort and seek comfort, the impulse to befriend is built into us. Of course, if and to what degree we notice and explore it varies. Sometimes, we are ready and drawn to it. Other times, we may not be. (And that’s OK.)

Another way to look at this is that in our own immediate experience, we and all of existence is one. What happens within each of our sense fields happens within and as consciousness, and in our immediate experience, we are all of it. We are all of existence as it appears to us.

So when we struggle with anything, we are struggling with ourselves. We pretend there is an absolute separation. And that’s uncomfortable.

If it appears that we are not this oneness, it’s because our mind is good at creating the appearance of a self and a world, and that we are this self and not the rest of the world. I assume this has an evolutionary function and has helped humanity to survive. It’s also an expression of the creativity of consciousness.

Usually, the transition from apparent separation to a more conscious oneness is gradual and goes over time (with some glimpses, jumps, apparent setbacks, rough patches etc.). And that’s not a bad thing since we need some time to reorient and figure out how to live in the world from oneness. We need to take the best from our life as apparently separate and bring it with us while also let go of the less helpful aspects of it. We need to learn how to function well and effectively in the world while also operating from oneness.

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A hole in us: filling it, seeing it’s not there, and living the opposite

 

Many of us experience that there is a hole in us. Something is lacking or missing. We are not quite enough. Not quite OK.

This is created by beliefs we have about ourselves and the world, and identifications. And it’s rooted in our culture, our family patterns, and our own journey through life.

We can approach this in a few different ways. Tracing the sense of lack back to a belief and identity, and seeing how it (most likely) was created early in life, can be helpful in itself. It helps us see it more as an object (a part of us) than a subject (what we are). Being honest about it with ourselves and others helps for the same reason, and it helps us see it’s a universal experience.

We can dialogue with these parts of us. Get to know them. Befriend them. Listen to what they want to say to us. Be a friend to them. Give them our kindness, wisdom, and love. (Parts work.)

We can give these parts of ourselves love through heart-centered practices such as ho’oponopno and tonglen. And we can do the same towards ourselves as a whole, and towards those who trigger these parts of us now and in the past.

We can seek out situations where we feel loved and cared for, by ourselves and others. We can seek out people and communities that genuinely love and care for us.

We can increase our overall sense of well being. For instance through mindful movement (yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema etc.). Training a more stable attention (e.g. by bringing attention to the sensations of the breath). Find gratitude for our life, both what we like and perhaps what we don’t so much like (all-inclusive gratitude practices). This creates a different context that makes it easier for the not-enough parts of us to reorient and heal. (Although the healing may require one or more of the other approaches as well.)

We can identify and investigate the beliefs creating a sense of lack and not-OKness, including underlying and related beliefs. We can come to find what’s more true for us (and more peacefully true) than these stressful beliefs. (The Work.)

We can explore how our mind creates its own experience of these beliefs, identities, and stressful situations triggering them. We can see how they appear in each of our sense fields (sensations, thoughts, images, sounds, taste, smell etc.), and how the sense fields combine to make them seem solid and real to us. And through this investigation, the “glue” looses its strength and the sensations appears more as sensations without (stressful) meaning, and the thoughts appears more as thoughts without (stressful) substance and reality. (Living Inquiries.)

We can use energy work (often combined with some insights or simple inquiry) to release these beliefs, emotional issues, and identifications. (For me, Vortex Healing.)

We can even shift into what we are (that which these experiences happens within and as), and notice that it’s all what a thought may call consciousness. It’s all happening within and as what we are. Sometimes, we call it the divine or the One. (Big Mind process, headless experiments.)

So when we experience a hole in ourselves, we can fill it through befriending this part of ourselves and giving it care and love, and we can see through it and see it’s ultimately not real in the way it seemed to be. And we can also live in a way that helps us reorient and rewire and shows that these parts of us are not who we are. (Living turnarounds in The Work of Byron Katie.)

Finally, we must all find our own way through this. The examples I gave above are just examples based on what am familiar with and have found helpful. And finding our own way often includes finding someone who has gone through it themselves and can guide us through it.

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Awakening = befriending life

 

What is awakening about? There are many ways to answer that question, and one way is to say it’s about befriending life.

Befriending life can be as simple (and difficult!) as befriending our experience as it is in immediacy. And especially the experiences that my human self doesn’t like and tend to recoil from. How is it to befriend it? What happens? What fears does it bring up in me? How does it feel to befriend it, or to make small steps towards befriending it?

We can also befriend parts of us (subpersonalities), for instance through dialogue. We listen to what it wants to tell us. Get to know it. Relate to it as a good friend, as much as we can. That, and other forms of inquiry, helps us befriend our experience.

Befriending life in this way is an aspect of awakening, and it can prepare the ground for awakening, but in itself it’s not really awakening.

Awakening is when what we are – that which all experience happens within and as – notices itself. It’s when the divine recognizes all – including that which our personality likes the least – as itself. This can happen all at once, but usually happens more gradually and in steps.

For instance, the divine may take itself to be a separate self while it intuitively senses what it is or experiences it in glimpses. And then it gradually recognizes that it is the divine recognizing itself as all there is. The “center of gravity” of what it takes itself to be shifts from a separate being and more into the wholeness of what it is. As part of this, it may also find itself as capacity for all there is. And it may keep on discovering and experiencing new aspects of itself.

We can say that this too is befriending life. It’s life befriending itself as all there is. It’s life noticing itself as life. It’s life shifting its identification from taking itself as a part of itself (this human self) and into itself as a whole, and as that which content of experience happens within and as.

There are also other sides to awakening. For instance, allowing our human self (psyche, subpersonalities) to heal and align within this “new” context of all as the divine. To live from what we are noticing itself, and explore and discover how to live from it. To mature within it. All of that is also life befriending itself.

So in all of these ways, we can say that awakening is life – or reality, or the divine, or the One – befriending itself.

See Why befriending life? for more on this topic, including why (perhaps) we life in a universe where this befriending isn’t the default for us.

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Allowing a situation to transform me

 

When faced with a challenging situation, my first impulse is often to change the situation. Most of the time, that’s what makes most sense and it’s generally a good way of going about it.

And yet, sometimes, I encounter a situation that doesn’t change, or that challenges me more deeply. What makes more sense then is to ask how I can allow the situation to transform me.

To help me reorient, I may pray for receptivity, clarity, and an open heart. I pray for clarification, maturing, and finding love for what is. I pray for being more consciously aligned with reality, truth, and love.

These are wishes and prayers for myself independent of any situation. And a challenging situation reminds me and may allow me to find more sincerity in the prayers.

In addition to these prayers, I can find more specific ways to allow the situation to transform me.

And for me, this often includes….

Being honest with myself and others in the situation. As Adya says, this honesty often takes the form of a confession. It can be a confession of deep fears in me, and thoughts and wishes I feel embarrassed or shy speaking out loud.

Inquiry where I allow the situation to help me see through my initial beliefs and find what’s true for me. I am willing to allow the situation to strip me of my old beliefs and identifications.

Heart-centered practices where I allow my old orientation (of complaining, blame, see myself as a victim) to make way for befriending the situation and what it brings up in me.

Energy healing where I invite in healing for emotional issues and identifications triggered by the situation.

And perhaps noticing all as what I am, for instance through the Big Mind process or headless experiments.

What’s the outcome of any transformation that may take place? We can’t know in advance, and it’s an ongoing process. At the same time, I have hinted at some in the list above.

We may find more honesty (and real kindness) in how we relate to ourselves and others. We may befriend the situation and what it brings up in us, and more. We may find what’s more true for us than our initial stressful beliefs. We may find healing for emotional issues triggered by the situation. We may mature as a human being. We may live with a little more kindness towards ourselves and others. We may find a little more capacity for allowing discomfort, and a little more resilience in life. We may notice what we are (that which any experience happens within and as) and perhaps become more familiar with it and even find that the center of what we take ourselves to be shifts more into it.

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It’s not who you are

 

And remember, it’s not who you are.

When I worked at a clinic a little while back, one of my co-workers would say this to clients after they did the enneagram test. (We used the test so we wouldn’t overlook some possible core issues for the clients.) He would say it mostly to pique their curiosity, to counter their tendency to take the results as who they are, and also because it’s accurate.

When I find my enneagram types according to an online test, in what way is it who I am? The results do hint at how I cope with core issues from my childhood.

And in what way is it not who I am?

It’s not who I am because the test may give different results depending on when I do it and which situation(s) I have in mind when I answer the questions. So in a limited enneagram context, the results may not be who I (always) am.

It’s not who I am because I am a whole human being and the enneagram types only touch upon aspects of who I am and how I am in the world. (What it does address is partly how I typically cope with core wounds from childhood.)

I am not destined by what the test points to. Yes, I may have those dynamics in me and tend to use those coping mechanisms, but when I become aware of it, and when I find more healing for the core issues behind it, I can relate to these dynamics in me more consciously. I may find myself living differently.

Beyond the human, there is what I am. That which any experience, including what the enneagram types point to, happens within and as. In this context, I am also not limited to any enneagram type or any label at all.

And this goes for any personality test, any label, any role we have in society. It’s not who we are. It may or may not be accurate in a conventional sense. And as who (human self) and what (Big Mind) we are, we are far more, different, and not defined by it.

So what enneagram types am I? When I do the tests, my most prominent ones tend to be 9 and 1. Peacemaker and perfectionist. When I grew up, I was taught to avoid conflict (peacemaker) and that doing things well was safe (perfectionist). So by seeking peace and perfection, I can avoid conflict (which I am scared of) and also failing or being disapproved of (which I am also scared of). These types suggest that if I want to work on core emotional issues, I may do well to address conflict avoidance and fear of being unloved or disapproved of, and the early childhood situations where I learned this.

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A common-sense approach to awakening

 

Here is what I see as a common-sense approach to awakening. One that may even work for people who have a relatively conventional wordview but also curiosity and an interest in what’s true in their immediate experience.

In our immediate experience, we are consciousness and any experience we have happens within and as this consciousness.

This is the case whether we notice it or not. (If we don’t notice it, we tend to take ourselves to be this human being that happens within our content of experience, but that’s only until we have investigated it.)

And this is the case independent of what wordview we tell ourselves we have, whether it’s a religious or spiritual one, or atheist, or materialistic, or whatever it may be.

When we notice this, we have a choice. Should I still keep it uninvestigated and take myself to primarily be this human self that happens within my experience, or do I want to investigate it and see what happens? Do I want to see for myself what I find, and what transformations it may bring?

Either choice is perfectly OK. The second option is – at least so far in our culture – mostly just for especially interested people. Those who have an inexplicable draw or calling to investigate it.

If we wish to explore it, we again have a choice. Do I want to follow a more traditional spiritual path and take it as a spiritual adventure, or do I wish to explore it more as a scientist without the extras (the spiritual add-ons)?

Again, either one is perfectly OK. And we can also combine both, as I have. Use insights, pointers, and practices from a range of spiritual traditions, and approaching it more as a scientist.

When we chose to explore it, it’s all about what we find in our own immediate experience, what’s true for us in our immediate experience. It’s typically a process of….

  • Noticing what we are. (Aka consciousness.)
  • Notice that any content of experience happens within and as what we are.
  • Inviting our “center of gravity” to shift (a) out of taking ourselves to primarily be something within content of experience and (b) into that which allows and is all of it. (This tends to happen in glimpses at first, and then gradually more stably over time.)
  • Inviting all our human parts to align with this new context. This typically involves healing of these parts of us and how we relate to them. (Healing, maturing, embodiment.)
  • Live from this new context. (Embodiment.)

All of this is a process. It’s an ongoing exploration, clarification, healing, maturing, and embodiment.

I won’t go into how we can do this since most of my articles are on aspects of that topic.

But I will say that there are two ways of seeing this process.

The essence is the same in either case: Notice what we already are, notice all experience happens within and as this, invite the center of gravity of what we take ourselves to be to shift into this, invite our human parts to realign with this new context, and bring it into daily life and explore how to live from it.

We can stay close to our experience and leave it at that. In immediacy, I am what all my experience happens within and as. I am capacity for it all. Since this is what I can call consciousness, it seems that all – the whole world, all beings, the universe – is consciousness. I can even call it love, or bliss, since that’s as true as the word consciousness. (A quiet love and bliss – through and as all of what we are – is a natural side-effect of noticing what we are.)

And yet, if I am honest I know it seems that way because of what I am. I am what we can call consciousness, so everything seems like consciousness to me. That’s about all I can say. And, of course, any ideas of an I in a world, and projections and anything else, happens within and as what I am.

If we are so inclined, we can take it one step further and say that all of existence IS consciousness (and love, bliss, Spirit, the divine). This is the more poetic approach and the approach of most traditional mystics. The benefit is that it has a rich tradition, and it does fit our immediate experience. The drawback may be that it can seem less attractive to many in the modern world.

Personally, I switch between these two since both have value and richness to them. The first is a little more honest. The second a bit more juicy.

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Where is the final “I”?

 

Where is the final or ultimate “I”?

Where do I think it is? Where have I glimpsed it is? And where is it, in my immediate experience?

Is it in this human self? Is this apparently separate self the final word on what I really am?

Or is it in life itself? As this Earth? As the universe? As all of existence? As all as consciousness? As that which is capacity for it all?

There are several layers to this as well as ways of noticing.

I can have an intellectual understanding, either through western science and philosophy (Universe Story, Epic of Evolution, Ecospirituality) or from mysticism and maps from different spiritual traditions.

I can have glimpses, either without anything apparently bringing it about or through certain practices (inquiry, Big Mind process, basic meditation, practices to reconnect etc.).

And my center of gravity can shift. Perhaps it’s first as this human being in the world. Then, as the wholeness of what I am as human and soul. Or as the wholeness of existence. Or as consciousness somehow separate from the content of existence. Or as consciousness that all experience happens within and as. Or as that which is capacity for it all. Or as this capacity and all it is capacity for (consciousness and all content of experience happens within and as consciousness).

This is one aspect of what spirituality is about. Being curious about where the final “I” is. Exploring it. Noticing new layers of “I” in glimpses. And gradually, and sometimes suddenly, having shifts in the center of gravity of what I experience as “I”.

And really, it’s life exploring itself. It’s life temporarily and locally taking itself as a local “I” and not questioning whether this is the final or most basic “I”. And then being curious about it, either through spontaneous glimpses opening up to something more, or through intuition or a knowing, or perhaps through a crisis that makes it question basic assumptions. It’s life gradually gaining an intellectual understanding and seeing that it must be life itself not this apparently separate self. And it’s life gradually inviting the center of gravity of what it takes itself to be out from the local and to the whole, to all as consciousness, and to what’s capacity for it all.

I want to add a few words about using (structured) inquiry to explore what we are. We can use forms of inquiry that explicitly helps us shift into what we already are, like the Big Mind process and the headless experiments. And we can use inquiry that helps us see what we are not, and helps us see how our mind creates a certain experience for itself of what it is (through images, words, and sensations), and how it holds onto it as true in order to find a sense of safety. Both are equally helpful and they feed into each other.

Shifting into what we are highlights our old (an incomplete and ultimately false) ideas of who or what we are. And shifting out of our old ideas of who or what we are invites in a noticing of (more of) what we really are. And it’s good, and eventually essential, to question absolutely all our experiences or ideas of who or what we are, even the most “spiritual” or “enlightened” ones, and perhaps especially those. They may still be roughly accurate and serve as helpful pointers, but if we hold onto those ideas as true and our identity, we’ll eventually need to question and see through them.

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Let Your will be done

 

let not my will, but yours be done

Luke 22:43

Let Your will be done, not mine.

When I say this prayer, with some sincerity and wholeheartedness, what happens?

For me, there is a shift into that which already allows all that is. A shift into what I am. A shift into what we can call Big Mind / Big Heart.

There is a release out of my smaller views and concerns. A softening. A release out of being completely caught up in it.

And there is an opening for receptivity, gratitude, and recognizing all as already grace.

And what happens in a more specific sense?

My will is the will of the one taking itself to be a separate being. It’s what comes when I am caught up in my very human reactions. We can say it comes from (blind) identifications with thought, or when thoughts are believed, or from emotional issues and trauma, or reactivity to own experience. All those are ways of talking about what is, in essence, the same.

Your will is what is, what’s here, what happens. It’s how existence is both “inside” and “outside” of me as a human being. It’s all there is.

When I say this prayer, there is a shift in perspective, or a shift in context. There is an acknowledgment that this is already God’s will. There is a shift more into what I am, into Big Mind / Big Heart.

And within this new context, I am still responsible for my own actions as this human being. I am still responsible for being as good steward of my own life as I can. I am still responsible for my own life and my own choices and actions. Only the context has shifted.

So when I pray let your will be done….

It’s an invitation to notice that all already is God’s will.

It opens for receptivity, gratitude, and awe.

It moves my center out of this human being and more into Big Mind / Big Heart.

It helps me step back, shift out of small views, and look at the bigger picture and what is more kind and wise in the situation.

Sometimes, it requires a crisis before we do this. In our daily life, we may – without noticing – live from our will, and it works relatively well. Then a crisis comes, we notice that “our will” is no longer enough or what’s called for. So we pray let your will be done and invite in grace and everything that comes with it.

We remind ourselves of reality. All is God’s will. All is grace. And when I remind myself of this, it’s easier to shift out of my small concerns and find what’s kinder and wiser in the bigger picture.

What that is depends on the situation. Often, it involves forgiving myself. Finding gratitude for life itself. Finding some trust in life as it is. Stepping back from my small and very human concerns. Connect with my knowing and inner guidance. Perhaps find what seems the kindest and wisest for everyone involved, and in the longer run. (As far as I can tell.) And make a small step in that direction.

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See, feel, love even this as the divine

 

I keep returning to this. 

I have gone through what we can call a dark night of the soul for the last few years. I won’t go into much detail here since I have written about it in other articles. But what keeps coming up is what seems like a central invitation. And that invitation is to see, feel, and love even what’s most difficult to see, feel, and love – as the divine. 

In my teens, the divine revealed itself to itself as all there is. It was easy to see and love all – or almost all – as the divine, and even feel it as the divine. 

I said “almost all”… Some things were not so easily recognized as the divine, especially what this human self strongly dislikes, and especially strong emotional pain, and – to a lesser degree – discomfort in general. 

My dark night phase has been a series of losses – of health, relationships, money, opportunities, belongings, identities, ideas about the future and more. And that has brought up things in me. It has brought up what hasn’t yet been seen, felt, and loved. And what hasn’t yet been seen, felt, and loved as the divine. It has brought up emotional wounds, trauma, and cherished beliefs and identities created for protection and safety (as all beliefs and identities are). 

When unprocessed psychological material comes to the surface, it’s often painful. And there are often reactions to it. If I get caught in my reactions, it’s even more painful. And if I relate to it is with kindness, respect, and patience, it’s easier. It’s a relief. It can even bring a bittersweet feeling, a sense of wholeness, and a sense of returning home. 

Meeting it with kindness, respect, and patience is the portal to seeing the unseen, feeling the unfelt, and loving the unloved in me. And that, in turn, is the portal for the divine to recognize itself as even that, even the discomfort, even the pain, even the reactivity to it. To see, feel, and love itself as all of it. 

There are different types of dark nights, and even within any of our mind-created categories, each one is unique. And yet, they all seem to be about removing veils. Wearing off identifications, beliefs, and ideas about who or what we are.

In my case, one of the many beliefs life seems to wear out in me is the belief – held deeply in me and not aligned with my conscious view – that some things in my experience are not the divine. That this emotional pain, this dread & terror, this discomfort, is not the divine. That it’s somehow inherently wrong. Alien. A mistake. The child in me still reacts to it as if it is all of these things. 

There are no shoulds here. But there is an invitation to see what happens when I get caught in the reactivity to what comes up (amplifying the discomfort), and what happens if I instead remember to meet it with kindness, respect, and patience. And perhaps see the unseen, feel the unfelt, and find love for the unloved. And perhaps then, allowing the divine to recognize itself as what’s here – the emotional pain, the reactivity to it – as itself. As a local and temporary expression of itself. 

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Leonard Cohen: Dance me to the End of Love

 

It’s curious how songs begin because the origin of the song, every song, has a kind of grain or seed that somebody hands you or the world hands you and that’s why the process is so mysterious about writing a song. But that came from just hearing or reading or knowing that in the death camps, beside the crematoria, in certain of the death camps, a string quartet was pressed into performance while this horror was going on, those were the people whose fate was this horror also. And they would be playing classical music while their fellow prisoners were being killed and burnt. So, that music, “Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin,” meaning the beauty there of being the consummation of life, the end of this existence and of the passionate element in that consummation. But, it is the same language that we use for surrender to the beloved, so that the song — it’s not important that anybody knows the genesis of it, because if the language comes from that passionate resource, it will be able to embrace all passionate activity.

Leonard Cohen in an interview 

As Cohen suggests, there is a universality and passion in the lyrics that apply to a wide range of situations and that each listener will understand and relate to in their own way. 

One way to understand it is as mystics would. 

The end of love is awakening. An awakening out of ordinary ideas about love, romantic love, and love as an experience or feeling. 

Dance me to the end of love is a dance to awakening. 

God (existence, the Divine), sooner or later, dances us to the end of love. It dances itself to the end of love. 

The Divine dances itself to the end of love in all the ways we experience and live life. And we can even include romantic love here. Sometimes, the pain of romantic love helps us heal and wake up. Sometimes, we may find a romantic partner who is also a conscious partner in awakening and healing where we dance each other to the end of love (or at least some of the way!). 

As usual, I feel I need to add a few more things. 

Most forms of romantic love happens as an experience. It happens as a feeling combined with ideas. This is a beautiful form of love, but there is another form of love. It’s the love we discover in awakening, the love that comes from the One recognizing itself… as all there is without exception. This love is independent of any feelings or ideas. As someone said in Zen, it’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. Love may still come as a feeling, but the ground of love is here with or without the feeling of love. 

The love we have for a family member, friend, or lover is what we most often mean when we talk about love. When this type of love is mixed up with separation consciousness and emotional wounds, as it often is, it takes the form we often see in the world and in movies and books. It’s the love that comes with possessiveness, reactivity, and drama. When there is more awakening and healing, it comes with less of the possessiveness and drama. It’s more of a clear love where we genuinely wish the best for the other, even when it doesn’t conform with our very human wishes and preferences. 

I should add that the love we have for family, friends, and lovers can be dependent on a feeling, but it’s often not. Even if the feeling of love comes and goes, the love is there, perhaps more as a commitment and steady caring. 

When I see the end of love as waking up out of our ideas about love, it also means waking up to love as the One recognizing all as itself. And it allows any feelings of love, although with less drama depending on how clear the awakening is and how much of our human self is aligned with it. 

Am I awake?

 

Am I awake? 

Not the right question. First, as nondual sticklers will happily tell you, it is – in a way – the wrong question. What we are awakens to itself, not the apparently separate self that we may think we are. This is the smart-alecy answer, and there is something to it. It can be a helpful pointer. 

The question answers itself. If there is an awakening, the question falls away. It’s not important. So if we have the question and it seems vital and important, then the answer may be not yet. Keep looking. 

Yes and no and it depends. I can say it’s yes and no and perhaps depending on the definition. It’s not hard for me to recognize that all is happening within and as consciousness. It’s all one field. And all of that is happening within and as void or capacity for it all. At the same time, my mind does sometimes identify with thoughts. So there is usually a mix of what I am noticing itself and within that the mind partly identifying with some old identities and thoughts. And the tendency for the mind to identify with a wide range of old thoughts and identities is latent in my system, ready to be triggered by life situations. Is that awake? It’s not as awake as it’s possible to be, but it’s also not completely unawake.  

As Byron Katie says, we are awake to the thought that’s here or not. 

Love is what I really want. Also, it’s not terribly important. What’s more important for me is to meet what’s here – my experience – with kindness. To meet it with love. That’s what I really want, more than awakening. That’s what I am craving, and what the different parts of me crave. And, of course, the two go hand in hand. The more I meet my experience with kindness, the easier it is for what I am to notice itself. And the other way around. 

It’s a rich topic and there is a lot more to say about it. 

For instance, we tend to project a whole lot of things on awakening. We project what’s already here, both the awakeness that’s already here, and our hopes and fears and hangups at a very human level. Whatever I see in awakening, can I find it right here and now? (The answer is most likely yes, if I look.) 

There is already awakeness here, and “we” can notice it (it notices itself while still taking itself to be separate from it), and it can also notice itself as all there is (more clear). The Big Mind process can give some people a glimpse of this, as can the Headless experiments. 

The awakening is both a process and sometimes involves sudden shifts, and it’s not as black and white (at least as it looks to me) as it’s sometimes depicted. Yes, we can have openings and phases where everything seems very clear and awake and unobscured by any identifications. The shifts may be very clear and sudden. And yet, over time, there tends to be a mix of the awakening and remaining tendencies of the mind to identify with thoughts.

These identifications can be gentle and recognized as identifications while awakeness recognizes itself as all there is, including these dynamics of the mind. Sometimes, the identifications may take over for shorter periods of time while we in the back of the mind know what’s going on.

And in some cases, the mind may consistently tell itself that a particular identification is absolutely true, in which case the awakening is obscured in that area of the mind and life. For instance, there are classic cases of what seems like a relatively clear awakening obscured by persistent racism. This is an example of clarity obscured by cultural beliefs, and I guess that may happen quite frequently including among contemporary teachers. It’s just harder for us to notice if it happens within our own culture. (And it will be easier to notice for those outside of our culture, probably including future generations.) 

So am I awake? Well, it depends. Yes, in some ways. No, in some ways. And there is also a middle ground of maybes that I feel quite familiar with. 

And I am very open to this changing for me – the way I tell a story about awakening. I would be disappointed if it didn’t. Perhaps in a day, or month, or decade, I would write about this very differently. 

I am also very aware that this way of talking about awakening can be frustrating to some. If our mind tells us awakening is vital and essential, and there is an internal pressure to “have it”, then it may want more certainty. Our mind may want it to be more black and white. I imagine some nondual folks reading this and their minds telling itself “no, he is completely wrong, awakening is this and it’s either here or it’s not, there is no middle ground and no maybes. I know that because this teacher said it, and this other teacher said it too, and my experience tells it to me. What an idiot…!”. And that’s OK. 

Infatuated with freedom

 

This is a follow-up to the mountains are mountains article. 

In an early awakening phase, whether it’s more stable or through glimpses, we can be infatuated with freedom. We have been released from an exclusive identification as a separate being. We have discovered all is consciousness, or love, or the divine. We have realized it’s all the divine appearing as all this, including for a little while taking itself to be a separate individual. We see that all conventions and ideas are mind and human-made and have no inherent truth or finality to them. 

So it’s natural to be somewhat infatuated with the freedom that seems to be here. We feel free from our old self-imposed and imagined constraints. 

We felt oppressed by the constraints, so now relish the freedom. 

Some current non-dual teachers tend to emphasize what we are and the freedom inherent in it. And that may be the right medicine for people still very much identifying as a separate individual. 

And it’s not the whole picture. It may look a bit different when we mature into it. It also looks a bit different if we have a different orientation going into it. If we have more of an orientation towards wholeness, inclusivity, and realness. 

I tend to prefer guides and coaches who acknowledge both what we are (what everything happens within and as) and who we are (as human beings), and the infinite complexity of the interactions between the two (which are really one). And who do so with honesty and realness, and prioritize the very human messiness of the process over how it “should” look. 

Some of the ones I have found and resonate with are the ones I write about or quote from in these articles…. Byron Katie, Adyashanti, Douglas Harding, Bonnie Greenwell, Jeff Foster, Matt Licata, Hameed Ali, and many others. 

I know this post is a little black-and-white and can seem a little harsh. I notice an impatience in me sometimes when spiritual teachers emphasize the what-we-are side over the human or the interactions between the two. It can seem too idealized, or a bit immature, or even a bit misguided or misguiding.

Of course, it can be a nice carrot to get people hooked. And there is nothing inherently wrong in it. And at some point, we need to get more real. 

Loss and its many gifts

 

You will lose everything. 
Your money, your power, your fame, your success, perhaps even your memory. 
Your looks will go.
Loved ones will die. 
Your own body will eventually fall apart. 
Everything that seems permanent is absolutely impermanent and will be smashed. 
Experience will gradually, or not so gradually, strip away everything that it can strip away. 
Waking up means facing this reality with open eyes and no longer turning away. 
Right now, we stand on sacred and holy ground. 
For that which will be lost has not yet been lost, and realising this is the key to unspeakable joy. 
Whoever or whatever is in your life right now has not yet been taken away from you. 
This may sound obvious but really knowing it is the key to everything, the why and how and wherefore of existence. 
Impermanence has already rendered everything and everyone around you so deeply holy and significant and worthy of your heartbreaking gratitude.

Loss has already transfigured your life into an altar.

Jeff Foster

Loss is a gift in so many ways. 

It’s what allows this universe and anything to exist in the first place. This universe, living planet, and us and all we know is here because the universe is always in transition and changing. What was before is gone so what’s here now can be here. 

Loss – in the form of change – is how life (the universe, existence, the divine) continues to express, explore, and experience itself in always new ways. 

When we take in the reality of loss, we find that what’s here is infinitely precious. It’s a gift. It won’t ever come back in this way. It’s a unique and precious gift. Even that which our personality and mind doesn’t like very much is an infinitely precious gift. It’s how the universe (life, the divine) presents itself to itself here and now.

When we sober up to the reality of loss and change, it’s easier to live with loss. We won’t fight it as much or perhaps not at all. We may even find genuine gratitude for it. It will still break our hearts. It breaks our heart open. 

Sobering up to loss is an invitation to notice what everything happens within and as. And to notice that’s what we are. 

So loss is what allows everything we know. It’s essential to the play of life – Lila. Sobering up to it allows a profound appreciation for what’s here. It makes it easier to live with. It breaks our heart wide open. And it’s an invitation to find ourselves as what we already are – that which all content experience happens within and as. (That which we may label consciousness, or love, or even the divine.) 

Awakening: small vs big interpretation

 

This is something I have found interesting since the initial opening or awakening, and I have written about it a few times before. 

The experience of awakening is, in itself, quite simple. And yet, there are different ways to interpret it.

What do we mean by awakening?  I have found a simple way of talking about it that seems relatively accurate. What we are, which is what any experience happens within and as, wakes up to itself. We can label this consciousness, or love, or Big Mind, or the divine, or many other things, but each of these labels makes it seem that we have pinned it down more than words really are able to. What we are wakes up out of identifications with anything created by words, with any identity.

Thoughts – mental images and words – describe what happens within content of experience. And identities are created by thoughts so also happen within content of experience. They cannot easily point to anything outside of the world of experience. They cannot very easily point to what we are, what awakens to itself. 

Small interpretation. There is a small interpretation of this, and we can also call this the psychological interpretations. I assume this is the interpretation that some within psychology or academia use or will use in the future. We can assume a world much like most people perceive it. There are separate beings. We have a physical world. And the awakening happens because we are, in our own immediate experience and whether we notice it or not, consciousness.

Since we are consciousness, or that’s where the identification “lands” in an awakening, everything appears as consciousness. All of content of experience – all our sense fields including thoughts – happens within and as consciousness. So, to us, the whole world appears as consciousness. It’s a projection. 

Awakening is real, and happens much as it’s described by mystics of all and no traditions. And yet, the world as the mainstream society and academia assumes it is, is just like that. Separate physical beings exist within a physical world, and that’s it. This interpretation makes awakening more palatable to the mainstream society and academia. And the essence of awakening is still as described by mystics from all times and around the world. 

Of course, any thought of the world existing as the mainstream sees it happens within and as what we are. So we just pretend that’s how it is. It’s a strategic choice. A guess. An assumption that makes sense because it makes awakening more understandable to more people. 

Big interpretation. There is also a big interpretation of awakening, and this is the one often found in spiritual traditions. Again, the essence of the awakening is the same as described above. But here, we assume it’s all about the divine. All of existence is the divine, and it wakes up to itself locally and sees through the thoughts of being separate, being a separate being, the world inherently being physical and so on.

In an awakening, the world appears as consciousness and love taking all the forms we see in the world, and that’s exactly how it is. It is all consciousness and love, and we can call it Spirit, Brahman, the divine, or whatever else the different spiritual traditions call it. 

Which one to choose? Which interpretation do we choose? It depends on our situation, background, and inclination. If we want to approach the mainstream world, or work in academia, the small interpretation may make more sense. If we are more free agents or come from a spiritual tradition, the big interpretation may make more sense. 

And there are also some hints that can help us choose. With an awakening, there is often a whole range of side-effects. We may see auras and energies. We may pick up information at a distance. We may experience a great deal of hard-to-dismiss synchronicities. We may sense what will or may happen in the future. All of this, in my view, points to and fits better with the big interpretation of awakening or reality. All happens within and as the divine. Within and as the One. Within and as the nothingness allowing it all. 

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Nature mysticism and me

 

Nature has played an important role on my spiritual path and in my life in general. 

It feels strange to write that because I am nature, and I and humans and human civilization wouldn’t exist without nature. All of it is nature, and all of it requires the whole universe which also is nature. So to say “nature has been important to me” makes very little sense. 

As a child, before school age, nature – and especially sunlight filtered through the leaves – sometimes brought me back to life before incarnation. I had flashbacks to a life where all was (golden) light, beings and everything were formless, and all was infinite love and wisdom, and profoundly home. 

When I was around ten, I slept under the stars by Sølen, a mountain in Norway. There was a sense of infinity of the night sky, and also of the landscape stretching seemingly endlessly into the horizon. I looked at the stars and the satellites passing over, and it opened a profound sense of oneness with it all. I was the universe experiencing all of it. I was a local expression of the universe experiencing itself in its endlessness. Again, it came with a profound sense of being home, of not only belonging but being it all, and a deep sense of quiet joy and gratitude. It changed my life. 

Age sixteen, between Christmas and the new year, I walked along a gravel road at night. It was dark, the sky was full of stars, and a big wind moved through it all. This time, there was an even more full blown opening. The divine woke up to itself as all there is, without any exceptions. Even the divine locally and temporarily taking itself to be something exclusively local and temporal – a separate being – was seen as the divine, the play of the divine. This too changed my life, and even more profoundly. 

When I was 24, I went to Utah to study at the university there. (And, without knowing it in advance, to live at the Zen center there for a few years.) When I first went to southern Utah, I took my sleeping bag and walked into the desert on my own and slept under the stars and the milky way stretching from one horizon to the other. Again, there was a profound sense of being home and a quiet and deep gratitude and joy. This time, there was also the most profound sense of belonging to that particular place and landscape. (If we have several lives, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if one or more of mine where in that area – the Four Corners area – of this planet.) 

I still often feel a profound sense of belonging when I am in nature or see the night sky. A deep sense of quiet joy and gratitude. And it’s always there, low level, in the background. 

As a child and in my early teens, it was probably more of a genuine nature mysticism. A sense of the divine in nature, or – more accurately – nature as divine and sacred. Later in my teens, it became very clear that all of it – all there is – happens within and as the divine, and that that is what we and everything already are. It’s all the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself as all of this. Including when it locally and temporarily takes itself to be separate and a separate being. 

The nature mysticism element is still very much here and it plays a beautiful role in my life, but it happens in a different context. 

Note: When I say the divine, I could say consciousness, and love, and even a quiet bliss, because those labels also work. And there is the small and big interpretation of all of this, as I have written about in other posts. But I wanted to keep that side of it simple in this post. 

Note 2: The image is from Sølen from a more recent visit and overnight stay.

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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.