This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on healing, awakening, and personal things. These are more spontaneous and less comprehensive than the regular articles. Some may be a little on the rant side. And some may be made into a regular article in time.
DOES AWAKENING HAVE TO TAKE A LONG TIME?
Yes and no.
The taste or glimpse of what awakening is about can happen within minutes, for instance through the Big Mind process and Headless experiments. Most people can find it pretty quickly and many can even learn to notice it in daily life.
And the process of clarifying, learning to notice in more and more situations in daily life, and exploring how to live from or within it takes time. It takes (at the very least) a lifetime and is ongoing.
Is a glimpse of what we are – through inquiry or something else – really awakening?
Again, the answer is yes and no and it’s a bit more complex.
The noticing is often real. And there may be more to clarify and notice and certainly more to stabilize and living within it to do. Although that’s how it often is for any awakening.
The image many have about awakening is something that comes suddenly and perhaps without much forewarning. Those certainly happen and they tend to be more dramatic and often with bells and whistles. The drama and bells and whistles are side-effects. They not essential for the awakening and can even be distracting.
So a more apparently mundane noticing – with the help of inquiry – has some upsides. It’s less dramatic and that is, in a way, its advantage. It helps us notice what it really is about and that special or unusual states are not a requirement at all. We can notice it in daily life, in our most mundane states. We are less distracted by drama and states and bells and whistles.
DRAMATIC AND QUIET AWAKENINGS
To continue a theme from the previous post: Awakenings can be dramatic or more quiet, and we often go through both types at different phases in the awakening process.
Each one comes with upsides and downsides.
What’s the upside of the more dramatic awakenings? They certainly get our attention. And they can create lasting and big shifts in how we perceive ourselves and the world. (As can any other form of noticing.)
What’s the downside of the dramatic awakenings? They come with side-effects, including the intensity, strong awe, bliss, and so on. And it’s easy to be fascinated with these side-effects and states and seek to experience them again. We can even take the awakening to be about these side-effects.
What’s the upside of the quiet noticing and awakenings? It’s easier to notice that what it is about is what’s here independent of states and experiences. It’s a simple noticing of ourselves as capacity for ourselves and the wider world. Our ordinary mundane experience is perfect for us to notice what we are.
And what’s the downside of the more quiet noticing? It can be almost too ordinary and quiet, especially if we have an image in our mind of it needing to be more dramatic to be a “real” noticing and awakening. If we have this conditioning, it can seem too simple, ordinary, and unremarkable and we may dismiss it or see it as not it. (This comes from a lack of maturity and may fall away with time.)
One is not “better” than the other. The dramatic ones can get our attention and may be just what we need in some parts of our process. The quiet ones helps us notice what we are through any states and experiences, including the apparently very ordinary and mundane ones, and is exactly what we need in other phases of our process.
JUNE 1, 2020
I love the Headless Way of Douglas Harding. It’s simple and clear, and made accessible to anyone.
Douglas Harding saw the others exploring Headlessness as friends. To me, that’s one of the things about the Headless Way that feels good.
With the right pointers, it’s not difficult to notice what we are. So it’s more an exploration of how to live from it. And that’s something we can do among friends. We can all share and be inspired by each other.
HIERARCHICAL SPIRITUALITY VS FRIENDS
Traditionally, spirituality has been shared in an hierarchical fashion. We have a teacher who sits on the wisdom and dispenses it to the students as he – and sometimes she – sees fit. And the students are expected to lap it up and not question it too much. Sometimes, they are even expected to abdicate being their own final authority.
The upside of this is that it’s a system people follow and become part of. It’s more predictable. It works to some extent. It tells everyone who to listen to and who not to listen to. It does give authority to someone who has gone through some training, and it does avoid the sometimes messy confusion of a flatter approach.
The downsides are also several. People in a teacher role may be more or less qualified and sometimes less qualified than the role suggests. People in a student role may have a lot of insights and experiences of value to others and don’t get to share because of the role they are in. It can lead of abuse of power.
When I lived at the Zen center in Salt Lake City in the ’90s, I saw all of this. Yes, the teachers did generally have more experience than the students. There was some ease that came from operating within a clearly hierarchical system.
And yet, many in a student role had a lot of insights and experiences that others didn’t get to benefit from. Some students were promoted to a teacher role far sooner than they should have just because they happened to have a prominent role in society (a judge comes to mind). Some students who would have been great in a teacher role were not promoted because they were “nobodies” in society.
And there was abuse of power. The teacher and his wife lived in a luxury house in the hills paid for by the students who lived very humble lives and often had to share rooms. Questioning of authority and how things were run, including financially, was not accepted. (People were kicked out for less.) The main teacher’s new wife was immediately put on the board and had a big influence in how the center was run even if she had little to no experience with Zen or running anything.
So what’s the alternative? What’s the alternative in an era and society that value transparency, accountability, and hearing all voices?
One alternative is to keep the hierarchical structure while putting in place ways to have more accountability, transparency, and hearing the concerns, insights, and experiences of all participants. Many Buddhist groups in the west, and probably across the world, are doing this. If it’s done well, it generally works well.
Another alternative – which I am partial to – is the approach of Douglas Harding and the Headless folks. We are friends. Headless friends. And we all share our experiences, insights, discoveries, and questions.
It may be that this approach works well for the Headless approach since it’s simple, non-dogmatic, and uses pointers that are simple and effective and helps people notice what they are without any preparation. It’s more a question of remembering to notice and discover how to live from it.
Of course, some people have more experience with this and some may take on a natural and informal leadership role. And yet, the friends orientation guides even this.
If a tradition expect people to go through a set process – with certain practices, progression and so on – it makes more sense with a hierarchical approach. If the approach is simpler, like the Headless way, a friends-approach seems more natural.
One is not inherently better than the other. It depends on what’s a good fit for us and that may change over time.
Psychological diagnoses are not much part of my world, and I am grateful.
Of course, they can serve a purpose – for insurance or something else. They can point to something to address.
And as we all know, they don’t define a person. We are far more than any label or diagnosis. We are living, breathing, complex human beings.
At most, a diagnosis points to what someone – a psychologist or psychiatrist – thought would be a fitting label of one limited dynamic at one point for someone. It may or may not be accurate in that context. It doesn’t define who we are. It doesn’t define our value. It can change over time. And we are far more and different from any diagnosis.
When I initially said that psychological diagnoses are not part of my world, I meant it in two or three ways. I don’t use them myself. I haven’t had one put on me. And when I relate to others, I relate to them as human beings and not a label.
This is obviously a big topic, but here are a few things that can make relationships easier, more enjoyable, and a source of healing and awakening.
Invest in the relationship. Invest time, attention, love.
Show affection, love, and gratitude. Say it even if it’s obvious. Show it through your actions.
Listen to the other person. Take his or her thoughts and feeling seriously.
When it’s rocky, apologize, take responsibility for your side, find one genuine thing you could have done differently and want to do differently going forward and share it.
Don’t assume your interpretations about the other is correct. Especially the stressful ones. Ask. Check.
Learn about trauma. Learn to recognize the signs of reactions to trauma in yourself and the other. Learn – over time – to not take it personally when it comes up. (Trauma informed.)
Recognize that the other is a mirror for yourself. The other shows you your own hangups, insecurity, and emotional wounds. Recognize when you react rather than take responsibility for your own pain. Learn to take responsibility for your own issues and how you relate to them when they come up. (Mirror informed.)
Don’t expect the other to be a mind reader. Say what you want or need or what you feel.
Share how you feel and what’s coming up for you. Share it as a confession.
Don’t expect perfection from the relationship, the other, or yourself. We are all flawed human beings. And that’s perfect.
We are all ultimately responsible for ourselves. We are responsible for our own life and how we relate to it. Don’t take that away from the other by trying to do it for them. Don’t give away your responsibility for your own life to someone else. (Not that we can but we can live as if we can.)
Use the relationship to heal. When things gets triggered in you, make a note of it and explore it in the moment and/or later.
If you are on an awakening path, use what comes up in the relationship to support the awakening. Notice yourself as capacity for the world in daily life situations and more and different types of situations. When something gets triggered in you, notice that too as happening within and as you. Feel it as a flavor of the divine.
We all have our insecurities and fears. We don’t always know what others go through. (Or what we are going through!) We will all die. Be kind.
HOLARCHIES AND SPIRITUALITY
We can see reality as a holarchy where each whole is a part in a larger whole. For instance, matter is made up of atoms which are parts of molecules which are part of cells which are part of organs and systems, which are part of a human being, which are part of a society, which is part of Earth, which is part of the solar system, which is part of the galaxy, which is part of the universe. And all of these are parts of a seamless whole.
We understand something partly by understanding its parts, partly as understanding it as a whole in itself, and partly by understanding it as a part in a larger whole.
This also applies when we explore who and what we are. We can explore at different levels of the holarchy, and it’s good to keep in mind that it is a holarchy.
We can explore at the finely grained levels of the sense fields. What’s happening in each sense fields here and now? Can I notice how the mental field creates an overlay over the other fields to organize and make sense of them? Can I notice that the ideas of past, future, and present happen only within the mental field? What do I find when I explore how charged ideas are created? What happens when I explore how thoughts and physical sensations combine to create charged ideas? (Beliefs, identifications, compulsions etc.) What happens when I rest with respectively the sensations and the thoughts for a specific charged idea?
We can go one or two levels up and investigate the content of thoughts. What do I find when I examine what happens when I belive a thought, how I would be and act without it, and the validity in the reversals of the thought?
We can also explore ourselves in relationships, including with others, the world, and ourselves. How do I relate to it all? What does it show me about what’s left in me to heal and awaken?
And we can explore ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us.
These are just some examples. This can be filled out in almost infinite detail.
A SORT-OF SYNCHRONICITY
I told a friend about replacing our inner representation of our parents through a Vortex Healing protocol.
When I had my inner mother replaced, I and the Vortex Healing practitioner who had done the process for me both experienced my new inner mother as an African woman.
A few minutes, I mentioned to my friend that this was surprising although felt deeply right. As I wrote “felt right” I heard the lyrics on the song Spotify was playing from a new-to-me playlist: “She is your mother and she is looking good”.
I thought that was a fun synchronicity and went back to check the lyrics. Turns out, I had misheard the lyrics and they actually said: “She is a model and she is looking good”. (The Model by Kraftwerk.)
It’s not so weird that I misheard the lyrics to fit what was on my mind. Although the actual lyrics fit as well. Our inner mother is our model for how a mother is.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING WRONG
In our culture, there is a common belief that it’s better to be right than wrong. And that may not be entirely correct (!)
It’s obviously good to be informed and have a mostly realistic sense of how something is. And yet, one of the ways we learn, grown, and adjust our perceptions is through being wrong. We put something out there, and have some receptivity to feedback and flexibility enough to make adjustments and change our views. We allow reality and new information and insights to inform us.
This is the conventional view. And if we look more closely, the idea of right and wrong itself may not be as they first seem.
Our thoughts are have a practical function. They help us navigate and function in the world, and they are – in reality – questions about the world. They are not here to give us any final or absolute answers because they can’t.
When we see this, it’s not so much about right or wrong anymore. It’s more about finding the ideas and maps that works the best for us right now, in a practical sense, knowing that it will change.
THE LABEL SPIRITUALITY
I don’t really like the label spirituality but I sometimes use it since it gives people a general context.
Why is it useful?
It gives people a rough idea of what it is about – something to do with reality or oneself and exploration or something like that. It places it very roughly on the map of all the different things we can be interested in and write about.
How can it be misleading?
It can be misleading for the same reason. We all have a rough idea of what it’s about and we all have our own associations and more specific ideas, and those may or may not be correct in any one case.
What do I mean when I use the word?
Most of what I write about here fall under that category.
I could perhaps say it’s an exploration of what I am and of reality that goes beyond most mainstream concerns. I want to take a closer look and see what I find. For me, it’s a pragmatic exploration. I want to be guided by what I find more than any ideas or expectations or hopes and wishes.
And this tends to lead me into a terrain traditionally called spirituality. What’s my true nature? How does the nature of reality appear to me?
For instance, my world appears within and as what I am, and I can call that consciousness or awakeness, and that falls in under spirituality as some traditions define it. It’s similar to what mystics of different religions or spiritual traditions report finding.
Is there a better term?
I would prefer to call it an exploration of myself and reality. If I lived in a culture where a first-person in-depth exploration of this was common, then I probably would just call it that.
In our culture, using that description tends to bring up ideas of psychology, and although that’s part of it this exploration goes beyond what conventional psychology is concerned with. So spirituality is perhaps the best quick label we have for now.
Disillusion is essential for awakening and emotional healing.
Not the disillusion that makes us disappointed or cynical, but the disillusion that helps us align more closely with reality and find deeper peace.
The disillusion that comes from seeing through the illusions created from taking our own (often stressful) thoughts as true.