The beauty of meeting people where they are

I watched Life of Buddha last night, and was in particular impressed with The Dalai Lama’s ability to meet people where they are at.

He was asked what is enlightenment, and could have answered in a precise way, or a technical way, neither of which would have been much help for people not already familiar with the territory.

What he said was (heavily paraphrased)… I don’t know, I think it is an energy of peace.

At first, I was surprised. Here is someone who is deeply immersed in the most sophisticated Buddhist philosophy and practice available, and he is using vague new-age sounding terminology…?

But then I saw the beauty of it. Had he talked in a technical or precise way, it would have sounded too abstract, too removed from most people’s experience. They would not have been able to find it in themselves, and they may even have been turned off from pursuing a Buddhist practice if there was such an interest there.

Using familiar and slightly fuzzy terms, and showing that he himself is not exactly sure what it is (which is true, it is a mystery even for those clearly awakened), he allows people to find it in themselves and also see Buddhism as more approachable.

Skillful means in action.

Documentary: Who wrote the Bible?

A documentary which shows the journey of Christianity from flavored by amber (fundamentalist, authoritarian, ethnocentric) and earlier to orange (science, rationality, early worldcentric) and beyond.

For someone like me who grew up in a culture that is heavily orange, green and beyond, and where the church is mostly the same, there is nothing new in the approach of this documentary. We learned mostly about the historical aspects of the Bible and Christianity in school, including the authoring of the various parts of the Bible, the politics of selecting the final books, translation issues, and so on.

And since the culture is at orange/green+, this approach was taken for granted… maybe too much so, since there is now an influx of people there who has more of an amber minus background, which creates conflicts and problems they were – and are – not prepared to deal with.

It is still interesting to watch, and maybe especially because it is also a personal journey for the presenter, from amber to orange+ Christianity.

Thanks to Educational Television for finding and posting it!

Milarepa: The Film

Since the dream had some associations to Milarepa, I looked him up online, and found that there is a recent biographical movie on him – Milarepa: Magician, Murderer, Saint. It is made by an associate of Khyentse Norbu who made The Cup and Travelers and Magicians.

From the movie website:

Neten Chokling Rinpoche, born in Wandipodzong, central Bhutan in 1973, was recognized and enthroned by both the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa and Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, from whom he received many teachings and transmissions. Renowned as an accomplished practitioner, he is the spiritual head of the Pema Ewam Choegar Gyurmeling Monastery in India and Tibet

Neten Chokling Rinpoche’s lineage is that of the great terton (treasure finder) Chokgyur Lingpa, and traces itself back to the Tibetan king, Trisong Detsen, who invited Guru Rinpoche to Tibet.

In previous incarnations Neten Chokling Rinpoche accomplished many great activities in association with Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892), a renowned Buddhist saint who played a pivotal role in the revitalization and preservation of Buddhism in Tibet in the 19th century. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s present incarnation is Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, aka ‘Khyentse Norbu’ – the critically acclaimed film director.

Likewise, Neten Chokling Rinpoche is fascinated with the power of cinematic art and the emotional influence of storytelling through sound and moving pictures. He greatly admires the directors Yasujiro Ozu, Akira Kurosawa, Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou.

Neten Chokling was a principal actor in Khyentse Norbu’s ‘The Cup’ and assisted in his latest production ‘Travellers and Magicians’ as a stuntman, assistant to the director and 2nd unit director. The tradition of accomplishing remarkable activities with Khyentse Norbu, which dates back many centuries, is apparently very much alive and well in this century.

Neten Chokling’s rigorous training in Buddhist meditation and philosophy, combined with a deep interest in the film medium, make him well-suited to bring the teachings alive in a way that is accessible to a modern audience.

Wings of Desire

I finally watched Wings of Desire tonight, and besides being a beautifully filmed, poetic and deeply human story, it also has some parallels to some of the things I have written about here recently.

The angels in the movie bear witness to human lives, and also consoles, they provide a gentle and quiet presence. And this reflects the wakeful aspect of Spirit, as pure awareness, and also how (it seems) we experience the soul, or essence, as an alive presence, tangible, quiet, supporting, nourishing.

At the same time, there is nothing more (some of) these angels wants than to fully experience an embodied human life, and many of them do as Peter Falk mentions. And we also see one of the main characters choose a human life.

There is a desire for Spirit and soul (essence) to fuse into human life, for all three to be alive as one, in this individual life. For it to awaken to what it is (Spirit), and who it is (individual soul and human), alive, fused, deepening and maturing into and as this human life.

Headless movies

There are several headless movies at YouTube.

Here is a fragment of an interview with Douglas Harding, where he among other things says… I am absolutely, deeply convinced that Douglas is designed to let me down!

Our human self is finite, evolving, not living up to any ideals, so it is good thing to be let down by it, and be nudged to find ourselves as headless, Big Mind, as capacity full of the whole world.

Multilayered journey

After seeing the rather heavy-handed and one-dimensional use of symbolism in The Fountain last night, I thought of how it could be done differently, and also what type of stories I am more drawn to.

Mainly, they tend to be multi-layered, functioning at many different levels, the way mythology and many fairy tales do. One the surface level, they are adventures, exciting enough in themselves to hold people’s attention and interest even if the adventure level is all they are aware of. At another level, they symbolize our path through life, our relationships with others, ourselves and various life situations. They also represent dynamics within our psyche, for instance the drama between persona and shadow. And finally, the most interesting of them also represent the spiritual journey through to awakening.

More specifically, it would be interesting to see contemporary stories that dramatize the path of individualization and awakening: (a) the field of seeing and seen, (b) filtering itself through a sense of I and Other, (c) identifying in a conventional way with a human self, going about its daily life, (d) breaking out of the trance, recognizing the trance, (e) struggling with the dynamics of persona and shadow, peeling of new layers of the shadow, including (f) finding itself also as energy, soul and the formless, (g) and then die to a sense of I and any identity whatsoever, awakening as the field of seeing and seen, absent of I anywhere.

And this is, of course, the Matrix Trilogy: multi-layered, offering something for everyone, representing the hero’s journey to individualization and finally full awakening.

Neo starts out living a conventional life, as a drone in a corporate office (c). He is kicked out of the trance through circumstances beyond his control (d), and awakens to himself as far more than he had imagined. He starts embracing the positive (immediately desirable) aspects of his shadow (through the training), and is also forced to face and eventually embrace the negative (apparently undesirable) aspects of his shadow (Agent Smith et al) (e). At the end of the first movie, he also finds himself as more than just a human of flesh and blood, but also as energy and consciousness (f). Finally, through the face-off between the final remains of what appears as I and Other, he dies as what he takes himself to be, and awakens to a new life.

As traditional mythology shows us, there is no end of variations on this story, and no end of aspects of it to be explored more in detail, so there is lots of room for many more movies exploring this, even after The Matrix. Especially if they are a little more sophisticated about it than The Fountain (a good attempt, but does not quite make it.)

The Fountain

I saw The Fountain tonight, and my initial impression is that it is a strangely disjointed movie. The first hour and fifteen minutes or so were about as flat as a comic book or a computer game, with hardly any character development, and enough overdone pathos to last for several B movies without adding any depth or richness. While the last fifteen minutes blew me away.

I especially enjoyed the anthropos scene, the conquistador drinking from the Tree of Life and not being able to help allowing a whole world to grow from him. This is an image that is especially alive for me now as it showed up in a dream some days ago. The parallel is quite close, as I in the dream climbed up a mountain, was helped up the last steps by someone already up there, and then became the ground of a whole city and bay area. In the movie, he climbs up a pyramid, meets somebody there who is a gatekeeper, and becomes the ground of vegetation – of life.

And I enjoyed what seemed as a final acceptance of death and impermanence by someone who had been fighting it for centuries, which allowed him to find the real immortality. When we fight impermanence, we remain stuck in the world of form. We are closely and exclusively identified with it, and struggle within it, as one part, our human self, fighting another, time and change. When we finally accept transience and death, allowing it to be, to live its own life, we can find ourselves as the timeless, as the awake emptiness all forms arise within, to and as. That is the true immortality, the timelessness that is already and always here.

First, we need to find true wholeness as all of us, represented by the anthropos image. Then, often much later, we can find true immortality, through awakening as the awake emptiness and form that is always already here.

Of course, the ending also parallels the ending of The Matrix, and the ascension of Christ.

Draw to the primitve

I am catching up with watching documentaries I missed when they played in the theaters, or that didn’t play around here (Theremin, Derrida, Fog of War).

The most recent one was Keep the River on the Right, about a New York artist and anthropologist who lived with tribes in New Guinea and Peru.

As with all of these movies, it is the human story that is most touching and interesting to me.

And then other things coming up as well.

Fog of War and parallels to Iraq

For instance in Fog of War, some of the parallels between the Vietnam and Iraq wars.

(a) In both cases, the US got into it partly through a serious lack of understanding the historical and cultural background and filters of the Other. In Vietnam, reading into a civil war something far beyond just that: as one more body falling victim to the virus of communism, ready to spread everywhere if not stopped there. In Iraq, not taking into account its history with the British empire, and how a destabilized Iraq inevitably would go in the direction of civil war.

(b) Apparently believing in each case, or at least pretending to believe, that they can “win the heart and minds” of the people they slaughter and who’s country they illegally invade and (try to) occupy.

(c) The US going into it, in both cases, with very little support from the international community. As McNamara said, if even your friends and allies don’t think it is a good idea, maybe you should cool down and see if they have a good point. They are most likely seeing something you don’t.

(d) And finally, how an obviously very intelligent and well-intentioned person can get into trouble through setting loyalty over his own judgment.

The draw of primitivism

At some point in Keep the River on Your Right, the topic of a draw to primitivism came up, and I got curious about what it is about.

For me, what is in the foreground now when watching these types of anthropologically themed movies is just the diversity of human cultures, world views, experiences and filters. But I also remember that in my childhood and early teens, the primitive was fascinating to me in itself. What is it about?

Two things came up for me…

:: Free from beliefs

The first is a draw to a natural, unhindered state of mind. A freedom from the shoulds and rules of civilization and culture. A more open and receptive way of being, more spacious, just doing what comes up next to do.

This is of course a projection.

All cultures have believes, norms, shoulds, rules, unquestioned assumptions, including tribes living in New Guinea and Peru.

And the freedom we are looking for is available right here, by allowing the shoulds to fall into the background for a moment through dance, ritual, nature, mystical experiences, drugs, sex and so on, or more stably and deeply through questioning beliefs and allowing them to fall away.

It is not only available right here, it is here right now. It is the awake emptiness right here, which we usually don’t even notice, or just take for granted, or don’t explore enough to see what is about – how it can transform what we take ourselves to be and how we live in the world as human beings.

:: Meeting and getting to know the shadow

The other aspect is meeting and getting familiar with the shadow.

In our civilized culture, the “primitivism” we project onto these tribes is not allowed, not OK, held at bay by our shoulds, outside of our conscious or ideal identity.

Yet, we yearn to be more whole, to allow all of us into our identity, to be OK with all of who we are, so we seek out the shadow in many ways. We want to meet it, get to know it, become familiar with it, befriend it. Some of the more acceptable ways of doing this is through stories, such as movies, books, dreams, fantasies, and more consciously through active imagination.

Borat, ethnocentricity and fear

I finally saw Borat tonight, and found it far more disturbing than I had expected.

Mainly, it was disturbing to see all the ethnocentric views exposed in the character Borat and in the people he interacted with, all reflecting the ethnocentric in myself.

It also struck me how much fear is tied in with the ethnocentric. We create a strong division between us and them, which naturally brings up fear. And that was very clear in the movie, to the point of people reacting with fear (sometimes expressed as anger) even when he walked up to people to give them an innocent kiss on the cheek…!

And it was a reminder of how many in today’s world are mainly at ethnocentric, including here in the US. Not that it is a surprise (US domestic and foreign politics is rife with ethnocentrism, in a large number of areas – from homophobia to racism to islamophobia to we-are-the-greatest and everybody-for-themselves attitudes.) But in a world that is in great need (on a relative level) of worldcentric solutions, it does not look so good.

So what I am left with is a sense of how disturbing the ethnocentric can be in some of its expressions, that the ethnocentric is right here as well, and a sense of compassion for us all for having to deal with this – in ourselves and each other.

Not what I expected from this movie, but maybe more what I needed than just comedy.

Becoming whole: Star Trek, women and brains

As part my cultural education, I watched Spock’s Brain from the Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) last night.

Common themes: what to do with powerful women, and rationality and sentiment

From the few episodes of TOS I have seen, there seem to be some common themes.

In Spock’s Brain, it is powerful (although sometimes vacuous) women, and how to relate to and deal with them. In The Galileo Seven, the relationship between rationality and sentiment as played out between Spock and his shipmates.

Fascination with polarities, and how it looks in daily life when embraced

In both cases, and I am sure many others (which I would discover by watching more episodes), there is a fascination and curiosity with polarities, and an active attempt to reconcile the poles with each other.

What is the relationship between men and women, and the masculine and feminine, when women gains more power in society, when men must learn to share power with women, when women find the masculine in themselves and men ind the feminine in themselves? What is the relationship between rationality and sentiment, between head and body, and how does it look when both are included? How does it play itself out in real life? How does it look in the grittiness in our daily interactions?

Mirroring at cultural and individual levels

This is pretty obvious: those themes, and many others from TOS, were very much alive in the mid and late 1960s, at both collective and individual levels.

As a culture, the leading edge in the western world of the 60s was at green, shifting into the postmodern, pluralism, a widening circle of concern that includes women, other ethnicities, and the Earth as a whole. It was the larger scale birth of the ecology movement, the human potential movement and deepening feminism.

And along with this, as a rough parallel on a personal level, there was a shift into the centaur level, finding ourselves, in our own immediate experience and daily life, as the whole beyond and including body and psyche. This was the larger scale birth of the western fascination with and exploration of mediation, yoga, projection work, and innumerable (other) mind-body practices.

Star Trek picked this up, which may be one of the reasons there is still an active interest in the original series (apart from nostalgia, and its quirkiness and humor.)

Shift: found and worked at

Any shift from having the center of gravity in one end of a polarity to embrace the polarity as a whole, has two aspects.

:: Found

One is the discovery and the noticing of the polarity. It has always been there, it just looked fragmented when there was an exclusive identification with one end.

Men and women have always had both masculine and feminine qualities. It is just that culture and gender identity has filtered these qualities so that some come out and are embraced, and others remain hidden and excluded.

And there is always the whole of psyche and body: of rationality and feelings, of feminine and masculine, of persona and shadow. It is always there, although again may not be noticed if the conscious identification is with only aspects of this whole.

All that is needed here is just to notice what already is. Nothing needs to change, apart from this noticing.

I can just notice that there are indeed feminine and masculine qualities in me, independent of my biological sex and cultural gender. I can notice the whole beyond and embracing my whole human self, including psyche and body, the feminine and masculine, persona and shadow.

:: Worked at

At the same there, there is an aspect of exploration, discovery, testing out, seeing how it plays itself out in real life.

How does it look in society when women and men are more equal in terms of power? How does it look in my life if I find myself as the larger whole which includes the feminine and masculine, the rational and feelings, persona and shadow? What are the roles of these aspects in this new situations? How does it play itself out? How does it change and mature over time, as I become more familiar with all of these aspects, these ways of being in the world?

And this exploration is what some of the TOS episodes seem to mirror: how does it look at collective and individual levels, when we embrace more of what we already are?

Evil and elements

Although The Fifth Element is a sci-fi comedy, it does have an interesting core story. Evil is approaching, and only the four earth elements along with the fifth element, the divine, can save us.

How does that mirror what is going on right here, in me?


Where do I find evil in me? It comes when there is a strong attachment to an idea, and the world (inevitably) shows up in a different way. If the attachment is strong, and the world shows up in a very different way, there may indeed be evil… in the sense that I am willing to go far to make the world conform to my idea of how it should be.

This evil also has an alien quality, as in the movie. I become less human, more obsessive, my view and concerns narrow, I am more willing to ignore my natural empathy and compassion for myself and others.

The five elements

In the movie, the only way to stop evil from destroying earth is the five elements: earth, water, air, fire and the divine.

For me, this is the deeply and ordinarily human. The inclusiveness of all that we are, as Earthly beings composed of the four elements, and with the element of the divine included.

It is the inclusiveness that is naturally here when we are relaxed and comfortable with ourselves. And the inclusiveness that equally naturally goes out the window when there is a strong attachment to an idea and the world does not conform.

Dealing with evil

As the movie pointed out, attacking evil only makes it stronger. If we attack it in ourselves, we only amplify the narrowness and obsessiveness that gives birth to it in the first place. If we blindly attack it in others, their narrowness and obsessiveness, and anger and resentment, is only fueled and directed back at us. (A good example is of course the “war on terror” which, in its current form, only fuels resentment and hatred.)

So the only remedy to evil when it arises in ourselves is to find ourselves as a more fully human being, to connect more with the whole of us. And when it arises in others, to remain in contact with and act from our own deep humanity: our compassion and empathy, as well as our decisiveness and action. An action that comes more from clarity and less from blind reactivity.

(In dealing with terrorism, this could mean to strengthen international cooperation and use legal means, as we would do to deal with any other form of criminal activities committed by smaller groups of people.)

Fortunately, there is no lack of tools to connect with our more inclusive humanity: The many forms of body-oriented practice, such as Breema. Allowing the mind to unwind and everything come and go on its own, through mediation. The many forms of self-inquiry. And maybe most importantly, the many ways of working with projections in general and the shadow in particular.

Film Connection

I am involved in organizing a local, informal, slow paced and ongoing film series, mostly focused on sustainability issues and followed by a discussion. And a friend of mine pointed me to the perfect source: The Film Connection.

They are based in Portland, Oregon, and ship DVDs to local groups for free, with the one condition that they organize a discussion following the watching of the film. A quick browse through their collection revealed a large number of movies I personally would like to see, along with some of my old favorites such as Baraka, Escape from Affluenza, Fierce Grace, Rivers and Tides, and Dersu Uzala.

The Film Connection offers a diverse and compelling film lending library intended to inform, challenge, entertain, and gather communities together in conversation. Our mission is to promote community, civic engagement, and positive social change through film and an open exchange of ideas, opinions and perspectives.

Red in tooth and claw

I watched the BBC documentary Walking with Prehistoric Beasts last night, about the evolution of mammals from the demise of dinosaurs and up to today.

Since I was a kid, I have enjoyed nature documentaries. And since I got into systems theories in my mid-teens, I have been aware of the discrepancy between how many of them are made and what I would like to see.

Here is a simple and very general way to look at it, using the levels of consciousness outlined in the aqal model:

First tier documentaries

Nature documentaries can be seen as inherently orange or beyond. They draw on information, views, models, findings from orange level – or beyond – science.

At the same time, nature documentaries are often presented with lots of red or below mixed in, with a dramatic and sometimes exclusive emphasis on nature red in tooth and claw, dramatic struggles, everyone for themselves, and so on. (Even some of the BBC documentaries do this… which makes it look a little silly, as if twelve year old boys were the only audience for these programs.)

What we don’t see as much yet are documentaries that take a green and beyond view: looking at cooperation, partnerships and symbiosis, at whole systems dynamics, at ecosystems and ecoregions as fluid wholes of matter, energy and patterns, of which individuals are just temporary forms, aspects and expressions.

Of course, if we look at nonhuman species, we will see a lot of the early levels (in particular infrared) as that’s where they are at, so it certainly needs to be included. But it can still be presented within orange, green and second tier frameworks. A few documentaries already do this, and it may be more common in the near future.

I wonder what a blue take on nature documentaries would look? If religious fundamentalist, it would of course conform to whatever story told within their tradition.

Second tier documentaries

A second tier take on nature documentaries seems far more interesting, probably even for many first tier folks. Second tier takes on nature have the potential to easily be rich, fluid, engaging and thoroughly entertaining.

It would include a wide range of perspectives and levels, fluidly shifting among them and weaving them together into a more integral view.

It could use current science and an integral model (for instance aqal) as the overall framework.

And then include any or all of these…

Nature red in tooth and claw. The struggle for survival. The birth, survival, procreation and death of individuals.

Views on nature from various cultures and religious traditions. How do we humans relate to and view nature, filtered through a wide range of cultures and traditions?

How has scientific methodology and views shifted over time?

Cooperation, partnership and symbiosis in nature. An emphasis on communities within and among species, rather than individuals.

The views from ecopsychology and evolutionary psychology. How can an evolutionary perspective help us understand how humans function today? What role does nature play in our sense of belonging, quality of life and health?

Where is evolution going? What can we tell from past patterns? Where are current evolutionary nudges taking us as a planet and species?

A systems and holarchical view, looking at individuals, ecosystems, the Earth, the Universe as wholes within wholes. Each as temporary expressions of their subsystems and larger systems.

And if they were really brave: all of this as Ground or Spirit, as the many manifestations of Ground, as the evolution of form within and as Ground. As the form aspect of God evolving over time into more and more complex forms and expressions of consciousness. This is all emptiness dancing, and dancing in a way that appears to itself as evolution.

This is an approach that would offer something to just about anyone, and it would also offer something to each of these levels and areas in each of us.

Munich: going beyond the obvious polarity

I watched the movie Munich last night, and found it far more interesting and engaging than I had expected.

Personality reacting

For one, it allowed me to see my own reactivity surface around some of the issues in the movie.

My personality reacts to any form of blind and stupid revenge, retaliation and use of violence, especially when it is very likely to just fuel more bloodshed, so there was a wish there for the main characters to be taken out early – knowing that would not happen.

It is actually interesting how my personality tends to have reverse sympathies, often for those others don’t have much sympathy for. I guess it is the sympathy for the underdog, whomever or whatever that may be in the situation.

Shifting views

And of course, as the movie set the stage for, there was also sympathy coming up for the main characters since we got to see at least two of them (the main character and his wife) in a more relaxed universally human setting.

In the beginning, they were set up as the good guys fighting the bad guys, in the familiar way. Yet, as the movie went along, it all got more complex.

In the safehouse conversations, we got a glimpse into the views of the Others, and they turned out to be human and having some good points as well. They may even be acting exactly as I would in their situation.

And we – the audience along with the main character – started to see that maybe this strategy of killing off opponents left and right may lead to more opposition, hatred and bloodshed on both sides.

Going beyond the polarity

I thought this was one of the strengths of the movie, and where it went further than most – at least US made – movies out there. It took us from the usual polarity of us versus them, and into a place where we see the similarities between us and them.

We are not so different. If I were in their situation, I would probably do exactly what they are doing. And if they were in my situation, they would probably do what I am doing.

Similarly, in the way Israel and Mossad responded to the Munich situation, they were exactly mirroring the terrorists, their opponents. They became the mirror image of their opponents.

This is a given these days, when people are a little more psychologically savvy: We become what we hate. Or rather, I have it in me anyway, and by shutting it off in myself, seeing it just in others, and blindly reacting to it in others, I set myself up to blindly live it in myself.

And we see it all around.

Becoming the terrorists

In the way the US reacted to 911, they themselves became the mirror image of the terrorist, although with one difference: Since they have far more resources and support around the world, they only do it at a far larger scale. Instead of less than 3,000 killed, they have killed – or been responsible for the killing of – tens of thousands, maybe hundred of thousands. In the process, they predictably and effectively erode whatever sympathy is left for the US, fuel resentment and hatred against the US, and recruit new terrorists worldwide – in far greater numbers and fueled by far more hostility. It is a suicidal approach.

There are of course situations where forceful measures, even war, is needed. But this was clearly not one of them.

This is where the movie led as well: All this blood will come back to us.

In the grips of irrationality

Why does it happen? Because we are in the grips of emotions. When there is a blind projection, we have little choice but to live out whatever would rather see in others than in ourselves.

And how to loosen it up and find release from it? Through taking a sober view at what is going on. If we support violence against those we perceive as our opponents, are we not doing excatly what they are doing? If our soldiers kill large number of civilians, are they much different from the original terrorists? How am I doing what I see in them? How am I living what they are living?

In seeing this more clearly, there is a release from blind reactivity and emotions. There is the space for a more rational approach, for more sane choices. They may still involve forceful tactics if that seems needed, but now at least from a different view and with more ability to let go.

Of course, it doens’t help that the US now has a government which systematically uses this form of irrationality for their own purposes, a government that uses fear as a strategy for getting their policies through. And that the US has a media that to a minimal extent question what is going on, and function more as stenographers than anything else.


Some statements for inquiry for myself…

They shouldn’t use violence to get their way.

They shouldn’t act in a blindly reactive way.

They should see how violence turns itself towards those using it.

They shouldn’t use fear tactics to get their way.

The US media and public shouldn’t be so stupid and unquestioning.

Headless Way – now at YouTube!

See YouTube for some wonderfully simple and clear Headless experiment videos. These are from the Headless Way website, and uploaded with permission from Richard there. He also mentioned that a new website, with more videos, is coming up soon.

Have you been a borg?

I recently re-watched First Contact, a Star Trek: Next Generation feature movie featuring the borg.

When I first saw the borg – cybernetic organisms with one mission: to assimilate any species they encounter into their own collective – I was struck with the power of this image. They seem to have the same clear and resonant archetypal quality as classic creatures from ancient and more modern stories, such as cyclops, the centaur, dragons, goblins, witches, wizards and dracula.

The borg qualities

Exploring the borg image for myself, I notice that I see them as cold, inhuman, machine like, relentless, twistedly rational, single-track, without concerns for the views or interests of others.

Attachment to ideas

Where do I find these qualities in myself? When I strongly believe in an idea… When I am absolutely dead certain it is true, that I am right, and that the world does not conform to this idea.

That is when this same cold, inhuman, twistedly rational and persistent quality can arise, and the more seems to be at stake, the stronger these qualities may come up.

When it comes up

It can come up in daily life, whenever there is a strong attachment to an idea and the world does not conform. It can come up in small, apparently insignificant, situations.

It comes up in our culture, and maybe especially clearly seen in politics and religion. I see it in some progressives relationship to Bush. In Bush’s attitude towards terrorists. In some scientist’s view of religious fundamentalists. In some religious fundamentalists relationship to science. In some Americans view of United Nations.

The borg is right here

There is a strong conviction, a world that does not conform, and the ideas become more important than just about anything else. We become single-tracked, cold, relentless, machine like, with an absence of empathy and the willingness take other views.

The borg is right here. And when present, it assimilates and cover up our more human qualities. Our receptivity, flexibility and empathy. A creature emerges that is part human and part machine: relentless, cold, single-track, without concern for the views and interests of others.


That creature is any one of us, when we believe strongly in an idea. Fortunately, there are many ways to soften or disarm the borg.

We can distract ourselves with something more pleasant, temporarily shift attention away from it. We can come to the breath and the body, shifting out of the contraction.

Or we can find the thought we believe in – that which we are so attached to, that we see as so clearly true, that which holds us in its grip – and we can inquire into it.

When a belief is inquired into with some sincerity, it loses its grip. It becomes just another thought, and we are free to shift fluidly among multiple perspectives without holding any one of them too tightly. In a way, we become more human again. More organic.


It is interesting that in the Star Trek universe, the only species the borg has no power over is species 8472. They are all organic, including their space ships, which may represent a more fluid and flexible approach, more organic in a wide sense of the term.

The Sting & Reversals

I watched The Sting again last night, and was reminded of how much I enjoy well-crafted stories with surprising reversals. In The Sting, the audience is repeatedly led to believe certain stories about what they are seeing. Later on, the audience is given new information and insights which completely reverses what they see as going on.

For us humans, there seems to be a built-in delight in these forms of reversals, especially when they appear in what is clearly just entertainment. In my own life, I see that I either appreciate the reversals as they happen, or at least learn to appreciate them later on.

Reversals in awakening

In the various forms of awakenings, there are also numerous reversals. Here are some variations of just one reversal…

  • The reversal from identification as a human being, an object in the world, to that clear space and awareness within which these objects, and this human self, arises within and as.
  • The related reversal from seeing myself as an object, as finite in space and time, subject to birth and death, to that clear space and awareness these objects, space and time, and birth and death arises within and as. The clear awake space inherently free from any of these, from any characteristic, which allows any of them to arise.
  • The reversal of seeing myself as finite in space and time, to that which space and time happens within and as.
  • The reversal of seeing myself as identified by certain characteristics, to inherently being free from characteristics and thus allowing any to come and go on their own.
  • The reversal of identification as an I, to realizing that everything is inherently absent of any I.

Dance of emptiness

Seeing existence as lila, as the play of God, as God playing hide-and-seek with itself, we could see this delight in reversals as reflected in both human and divine life. And that seems accurate in a certain way.

Yet, the Ground, the clear awakeness everything arises within and as, is inherently free from any wants, any desires, any delights, any suffering, any polarities. It is free of these, so it allows any and all of them to arise within and as Ground.

And in that way, the delight in reversals found in human life, is indeed God’s delight in reversals. Although it is only a delight at the relative level, temporary, not absolute in any way, not an inherent characteristic of what is. And it exists side-by-side with the resistance to reversals, which is also found in human lives. That too arises within and as Ground, within and as clear awakeness.

Ground forms itself into delights in and resistance to reversals, and is inherently free from either. It sheds both as a teflon pan.

And that Ground is that which reads this.

Nonduality Video Snippets

I have been watching some nonduality (advaita, zen, buddhism) video snippets on YouTube. There are quite a few of them there already, and I am sure more to come. Here is one of several of Adyashanti, amazingly fresh and clear as he usually is.



Even if a part of me is somewhat embarrassed, I can’t help looking forward to this movie with a good deal of enthusiasm: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, scheduled for release in November.

Besides being very funny (to some of us), the exchanges in the movie is a good example of Spiral Dynamics orange (scientific, rational, early world-centric) or higher making fun of blue (traditionalist, ethnocentric) or lower, while also exposing the prejudices we are all holding onto in various ways.

When I see the prejudices exposed by people in the movie, I see a mirror of my own myself. I do the same, although it may look different on the surface. I even do it here now: I relate to these racist and homophobiacs as they relate to people of other ethnicities and sexual orientations. When I go into beliefs about them, I see them as wrong, sometimes as subhuman, as someone who needs a good lesson.

Here is the second trailer.

Night Watch

During the Breema intensive in Oakland, I ran out of t-shirts and went down to a second hand clothing store to find a couple to tie me over until I had an opportunity to use a washer & dryer. Among these was a black one with a mix of Russian and English words, saying Night Watch 6-26-06 on the back. I thought that whatever it refers to, it probably fits, and was curious about what it would be. After all, the world is my mirror – reminding me of what is already right here.

Looking it up in an idle moment today, I found that Night Watch is a Russian science-fiction movie, and the date refers to the release date of the computer game.

Living among normal are the ‘Others’, who possess various supernatural powers. They are divided up into the forces of light and the forces of dark, who signed a truce several centuries ago to end a devastating battle. Ever since, the forces of light govern the day while the night belongs to their dark opponents. In modern day Moscow, the dark Others roam the night as vampires and other evil nightmares, while a “Night Watch” of light forces (among them Anton, a kind of seer and the movie’s main character) try to control them and limit their outrages. [source]

And yes, that indeed fits. According to conventional views, and really any view that divide the world into “good” and “bad”, I can find both of those in me – and it is often hidden, often masked by politeness. Which ones govern fluctuates, as day follows night follows day. Nothing new there. The movie is, as any movie, a portrait of me. (How clearly and thoroughly I see it and allows that seeing to inform my life is another matter.)

The night watch itself mirrors shadow work, including in the form of inquiry – which is catharsis, shadow work, and insight meditation rolled into one.

Ken Wilber Goes to Hollywood?

I am sure this is one of the hot topics in the integral blogger world right now: Grace and Grit may be made into a movie, possibly starring Jennifer Aniston (!).

Of course, only a few movies at early planning stages come to fruition. But if it is made, it will certainly bring Wilber’s ideas and framework out to the masses in a new way.

Inconvenient Truth

I saw An Inconvenient Truth yesterday, and found it to be engaging, powerful and well enough made to shake me pretty deeply even if I am familiar with (most of) the information presented.


The movie is a good example of accurate information presented in a way that is clearly understandable and motivates people to seek changes. It speaks to the whole of us.

Definitely worth seeing… And a movie that may indeed be a catalyst for changes.

Movies as Analogy

Since I read Yogananda’s analogy of a movie screen, I have been curious about it – mainly because it does not (yet?) fit my own experience.

But lately, there has been a shift here. Maybe not so much in my experience, but in how I see it.

Using the headlessness inquiries, I can see how – in Douglas Harding’s words – the whole world of phenomena is “out there”, always at a certain distance from me, and that “I” am here, at zero distance. Or, as he also says, I am capacity for the whole world of phenomena.

This is a somewhat clumsy way of putting it, setting up a seer-seen duality which is not really there. At the same time, it is an elegant way of easing people into the experience and realization of it. It helps people shift the center of gravity into the seeing, the witness, which is a step on the way to realizing selflessness.

As we awaken to ourselves as seeing, and then to realize selflessness, there is also a sense of everything becoming more intimate, more “two-dimensional” – with no distance. There is intimacy and distancelessness, yet also clearly the conventional distance we all are familiar with. This is most likely because it really is this way. It is all God, Spirit, Ground – so there really is no distance. Yet, in the world of form there also is distance.

And there is also a sense of disidentification with any particulars of what is happening. It all comes and goes, within and as Ground. None of it is really more “I” than anything else.

So from all of this – finding myself as the seeing within which all happens, through a sense of intimacy with everything happening, of no distance, of it all being “two-dimensional”, and through the disidentification with particular content – I can see how the movie screen analogy can match some of my own experiences.

There is really a sense of (a) it all being flat and “out there”, yet also (b) of intimacy, no distance and no separation, and also (c) a sense of disidentification with any particulars of what is happening. And this could be described using a movie screen analogy.


Some aspects…

  • All phenomena as a seamless field
  • No I inherent in any segment of it
  • A sense of intimacy with everything
  • And no distance to anything
  • Yet also conventional distance
  • A disidentification with everything happening, including everything associated with this human self

… which together could be described as a movie unfolding (light dancing) on a screen.

  • It is all a seamless field. On the screen because it is just that, on the screen. In the world of phenomena because there is no I anywhere.
  • It is all “equal” in the sense that there is no I inherent anywhere. Not on the screen, not in the world of phenomena.
  • It is all up front, right there, intimate and with no distance.
  • And there is a disidentification with it. With the movie because it is just a story, with the world of phenomena because there is no I anywhere – it is just happening.

Movies as Practice

The same ruminations seem to come up over and over, which has the benefit of allowing it to sink in a little more. And they all seem to move on with time as well, which I appreciate.

A current theme for me is movies as practice.

Watching movies allows me an opportunity to…

  • Recognize some of our collective projections and shadows
  • Recognize some of my own projections and shadows
  • Notice how I relate to everything coming up in me from watching the movie – emotions, thoughts, triggered reactions, and so on.
  • Find myself more as Big Mind, that in which everything unfolds within – the events of the movie, in the room/movie theater, and from my human self.
  • Explore how the Spiral Dynamics levels can play themselves out.

And so on.

Twelve O’Clock High

For instance, in my exploration of the world of classics I watched Twelve O’Clock High a couple of days ago.

Although this movie was not quite as juicy for me as some other ones, it helped me recognize what seemed a quite healthy expression of Spiral Dynamics blue.

It seemed to be a good example of how authority, hierarchy, discipline, loyalty and other blue level qualities can play themselves out in an appropriate setting (during WW2) and in a quite healthy way.

And I also saw how I want to bring more of these qualities into my own life again, after a period where they have been more in the background. They are all appropriate, all valuable, playing themselves out in certain ways and certain areas in the tapestry of my life. How do they show up in my life right now? How and in what ways can I invite them more fully into my life? Where can they benefit me and others?

The movie also reminded me of one of the ways our shadow can become completely other, to the point not even being noticed or acknowledged to any significant extent. The Nazis in the movie, and the civilians bombed, were not acknowledged at all, apart from being marks on a map. The ones carrying the shadow for us can – in some instances – become completely ignored as living, human beings.

Of course, we have seen this recently too, in how Iraqis civilians are ignored in the US media, and how people around the world – suffering in desperate situations, are similarly ignored and left out of the media picture and the public discourse. Nowhere is this more obvious than for people in areas of Africa.

V for Inquiry

I watched V for Vendetta Sunday, and thought it was worth the time and money – although maybe not too much more. The theme is certainly relevant (governments with totalitarian tendencies playing on fear), although especially the ending was anti-climatic for me – too much of a one-man show and less emphasis on the role of the people in changing regimes.

It is interesting to note that the theme of the movie is pretty much universal – reflecting totalitarian governments at many times in history. Still, many Bush supporters apparently see it as a specific criticism of the current Bush administration. Maybe it hit a little too close to home? Maybe the rhetoric and strategies were a little too similar to that of the Bush administration? Maybe it could be taken as a mirror rather than an attack?

Going to the BK inquiry group last night brought up some things related to the movie.

Fear of death

In the movie, V takes Evey through a process where she finally looses her fear of death. And in our group last night, one of the participants went through another process on her fear of death – arriving at a place of peace with it. The outcome may be very similar, although the process is – on the surface – very different. One is brutal and uses exhaustion, the other skillful means and detailed belief surgery.

Zen and inquiry

Actually, this is not that dissimilar to the relationship between traditional Zen practice and the Byron Katie inquiries. The outcomes may be quite similar, although one can be grueling and exhausting and the other precise and playful. I have a tremendous respect and appreciation for Zen, although also see how the BK inquires offer a more precise approach for unraveling beliefs – in any thought, including that of a separate self.


Noticing the profound effects in myself of inquiry, and in others who have done it for a while – often far longer than I have, I see how it brings people to where Buddhism, Daoism, Hinduism, mysticism and many other traditions try to lead people.

To a place where they see through beliefs at a deep level, and come to the nature of mind – unfiltered by beliefs, thoughts, ideas. To a place of liberation. A place where the natural and inherent compassion and wisdom of the mind can play unhindered.

It is very impressive. And it all comes from each person’s inquiry, guided by a very simple process that even small children can and do use. There are no teachings, only each person’s inquiry – their own truth guiding them to clarity and liberation.


I recently watched Contact again, and it brings up several things for me…

Mostly, the incredible beauty and awe that comes up from realizing that we are this universe bringing itself into awareness. And the deep sense of humility and belonging that comes from realizing that we, as human beings, are infinitely small parts of this infinitely large and rich universe.

Also, the continuing de-provinsialization in our culture, as it shows up in so many areas – going towards deepening worldcentric views and experiences of the world. From anthropocentrism to biocentrism and possibly beyond. From ethnocentrism to ethnodiversity. From rights for a few to universal human rights. From seeing this planet as the center of the universe, to seeing the sun as the center, to seeing this galaxy as the center (or rather all there is), to realizing the infinite number of galaxies out there – everywhere a center to itself. And how even the thought of life other places in the universe brings us even further out of our provincial outlook, to acknowledging that this planet may be one of a large number of living planets out there.

And also, slightly disappointing maybe, the orange (in Spiral Dynamics) view on science and religion which the story is filtered through – making it appear to be a choice between the scientific methodology and faith, or maybe both although for separate realms.

In any case, when I saw the movie the first time it brought me straight into Big Mind, and it still does. It reminds me of the big picture – that we, as humans, are stardust. That we are the universe temporarily reorganizing itself into humans, human culture, human technology, cities, thoughts, emotions, feelings, sensations, animals, plants, mountains, stars, oceans, clouds, rain, rocks, beaches, trees, the living Earth, this solar system, this galaxy, and all there is. That we, along with everything else that is, are the leading edge of the evolving universe. That all this is, with a center everywhere and nowhere, one seamless unfolding process – where there are no separate individuals, no separate doers, thinkers, seers, experiencers. Everything belongs, everything is the local movements of the whole – beyond and including all polarities.

Movies as Practice

I watched Brokeback Mountain with my partner today, and while we talked about it afterwards she joked that watching movies is one of my main spiritual practices. It is actually not too far from the truth right now.

During the last two movies I watched at the theater – King Kong and Brokeback Mountain – I left the movie theater with a relatively clear sense of no “I”, of the tapestry of what is, with no “I” anywhere.

Watching movies, I am typically engaged and focused on the unfolding story, I sit still, and I allow whatever comes up – usually strong energies from emotions – to unfold withing space. And the effect is similar to doing a mediation retreat: clarity, insights, stability – and even a taste of no “I”.


I watched the latest Star Wars movie tonight. These types of movies are a good opportunity to stay in spacious awareness, and allow whatever is triggered in the personality to be triggered. The energy in the emotions helps expand, clarify and stabilize the spacious awareness. It is quite an interesting experience – the more habitual emotional patterns are triggered, the more space and presence there is.

When awareness is identified with the small self, whatever is triggered is blindly related to, in terms of fueling it further or trying to push it away. There is no space for anything else. We are blindly caught up in the drama of our own making.

When awareness awakens to its own nature, all the experiences of the personality unfolds within clear space – and the energy fuels this clarity and space. We see the drama, but there is no need to be caught up in it.

Of course, this happens in only some situations at first – typically those we are more comfortable in – and then spreads to more and more situations in our daily life. As we become familiar with the process, it becomes easier to transfer it to other situations.

This allows us to more fully engage in life, as the drama comes from a dualistic view, believing in thoughts and the reactions that arise when external/internal situations do not conform with these thoughts, and the confusion that comes from both of these. We can allow ourselves to experience whatever is triggered in the personality more fully – without fueling or pushing away. And the filters (at least some of them) fall away, and we can engage with life more directly.