Drawing and inquiry parallels

It’s usually not difficult to find parallels between different areas of life and also between different types of skills. 

For instance, in drawing, it’s important to have experience with a range of techniques and know something about what you are drawing, even if you are drawing from life. If I draw a human being, it’s important to know anatomy and have experience drawing a range of bodies in a range of positions and movements. It’s equally or more important to follow what I see, to not let what I know override what I am actually seeing. And over time and with experience, it’s important to allow my own individual flavor to come through, to draw in a way that resonates with me and feels authentic to me. 

It’s similar with inquiry. It’s important to know the skill and technique, and have familiarity with a range of different types of inquiries and topics of inquiry. It’s equally important to follow what’s here and not let what I know from the past override what’s actually here. And over time and with experience, it’s important to find some fluidity with it all and follow what’s most true for me. 

Drawing: One of my quick practice sketches from my early/mid-twenties.

Water analogy

Is it true it needs to be different?

Is it true what I am looking for isn’t already here?

Exploring these questions, there is a shift – the field of awareness/experience notices itself as a field….. and whatever happens within/as it – sensations, thoughts, the images of me and I – is recognized as happening within/as it. It’s seen in its true context, as Karen Richards puts it.

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Common sense use of tools

When we use tools in daily life, we use a good deal of common sense.

If a particular tool works for a specific task, we continue using it.

If it doesn’t seem to work, we explore alternatives – often with help from someone who is more familiar with it than we are. We may find another way of using the same tool, or we may try another tool and see if that works better.

And the same is a good approach to how we use tools for healing, maturing and awakening.

If it doesn’t seem to work, it doesn’t make sense to continue using it the same way – or with more effort! – and expect a different result.

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Adaptogens are herbs that normalize and strengthen, such as ginseng, eleuthero, rhodiola (my favorite right now), tripala, astragulus root, arjuna and many more.

These are the major herbs in herbal medicine. They are the ones most commonly prescribed and they can, in most cases, be taken throughout life.

The minor herbs, sometimes called “poisons” (!), act in one direction and are prescribed in only certain situations and for shorter periods of time.

This is a rich analogy for spiritual teachings.

First, we can see spiritual teachings and tools as medicines. Each one is a medicine for a specific condition. They have meaning and usefulness in the presence of a specific condition. And there is no “truth” to them, no more (or less) than there is truth in a shovel or lawn mover.

Then, we can look at teachings and tools as either adaptogens or “poisons”.

Some practices are quite adaptogen-like, such as shikantaza, bringing attention to sensations, inquiry and self-inquiry, prayer and so on. And just as an herbalist will most often prescribe an adaptogen to a client, a spiritual teacher (and tradition) will most often prescribe one or more of these practices. They tend to work in a gentle way, normalize, can be used at any phase of the process, and their effects are most noticeable when used regularly over time.

Other teachings and practices are more “poison” like in their effects and work in only one direction. And just as an herbalist will prescribe these herbs in only very specific situations and for shorter periods of time, a good spiritual teacher will use these teachings and tools only sparingly. Some examples here may be teachings aimed at “shocking” or shaking students out of complacency. It may be very helpful and just the right medicine in some situations, but works best if used judiciously.

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Actor analogy


The actor and role analogy is appropriate for both psychology and spirituality.

In psychology, the analogy refers to the roles we play as humans in the world, at different times in our lives and in different situations. The actor here is our human self.

And in spirituality, the analogy includes the roles we play as a me (human being) and I (doer, observer). The actor is what we are – that which all happens within and as – taking on all these temporary roles.

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I keep coming back to the same topics here…

Anything can be an analogy to some aspects of the awakening process, and so also magic.

In magic, there is an illusion. Something appears to happen that doesn’t really.

There is misdirection. Attention goes elsewhere, not to the mechanics of what is happening.

The trick may be revealed. There is insight into what is really happening.

And we still enjoy the trick. The appearances, and the skills and showmanship that goes into it.

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Book/Divine Mind analogy


Tim Freke used the book analogy in the longer video below.

Characters in a book don’t exist as separate entities, but only in the mind of the author. And in the same way, we only exist in the mind of the author of this story, in the Divine Mind, in God. This human self does not have any separate I associated with it, but happens within the Divine Mind, as all the other characters and all the different settings and the big stage of the universe itself.

If we look, we find that what we really are is this Divine Mind, this awakeness that this human self and anything else happens within and as.

This reminds me of what came up for me when I read Sophie’s World a while back. The book is a walk-through of western philosophy, woven into a more ordinary narrative story following a young woman and her philosophy teacher.

For the first third or so of the story, they appear like ordinary and real people, to themselves and the reader.

Then odd things start happening, they encounter fairy tale characters, the weather changes to fit their conversations, a dog speaks in human language. Gradually, it dawns on them that they are characters in a story and don’t have any separate existence.

At this point, I thought the story would end with the book/Divine Mind analogy mentioned above, illustrating the view of the mystics – and opening the minds of the readers to some radical reversals of who and what we take ourselves to be – at least as just a thought experiment.

Unfortunately, or not, the actual ending of the book went in a different, more conventional/fantasy, direction. A little anticlimactic considering the promise it had about 80% into the story.

But I did get to write my own ending in my own mind, illustrating the book/Divine Mind analogy, so in that sense I got double benefit.

I am sure a book like that must have been written. If it hasn’t, it is out there waiting for the right person to make it come alive.

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