My meditation history

I thought I would write a few words about my meditation history, and I’ll include a brief mention of other spiritual practices since they go hand-in-hand.

CHILDHOOD INTEREST

In my childhood, I was fascinated by yoga and meditation and wished to explore both but I couldn’t find anyone who could guide me. Not much was going on in my little town in Norway at the time. (These days, it’s easy to find.) The closest I came was doing yoga from a book I found in the library.

INITIAL EXPLORATIONS

During the observer-observed shift when I was fifteen, I remember trying some forms of meditation based on what I picked up from a movie I watched, but it didn’t make much sense and wasn’t very satisfying. (I think it had to do with focusing on a candle flame.)

TAOIST, CHRISTIAN, AND BUDDHIST PRACTICES

When I was sixteen, there was a shift into oneness that turned everything upside-down and inside-out. This sparked a more intentional exploration of my nature and the nature of existence. (And also of healing since my human self was still quite messy and with lots of trauma.)

It led to first engaging in the Taoist practices described by Mantak Chia, which felt natural to me and I could sense the energies moving. It led to getting involved with a local Tibetan Buddhist center in Oslo and the Ngöndro practices. It led to exploring Christian practices like the Heart/Jesus prayer and the Christ meditation (visualizing Christ in the six directions and the heart). And I also did Tai Chi and Chigong.

I had a passion for these practices and did them for at least two hours daily and often longer. Just like drawing and painting, it didn’t require discipline. Something in me wanted to do it more than anything else.

I should say that the Taoist and Christian practices felt very familiar and natural to me, and I loved them completely. I also loved the Tibetan practice of Tonglen and did it daily for long periods of time.

Some of the other Tibetan practices were more challenging since they seemed to encourage the energy and attention to go “up” and made me feel more ungrounded, and the teachers I talked with about this didn’t seem able to relate to it and didn’t give me helpful pointers.

During this time, I also discovered the books by Jes Bertelsen, which I deeply loved since they incorporated Depth Psychology, Taoism, Buddhism, and Christianity, and I did also explore and engage in the practices described in some of these books.

ZEN PRACTICE

When I was twenty-four, I went to Salt Lake City to study psychology, moved into the Zen center there (Kanzeon Zen Center, Genpo Roshi), and lived there for about three years. Here, I obviously engaged in basic Zen practice. (Training more stable attention, Shikantaza, Koan practice.) If I remember correctly, I think the official meditation practice was 3-4 hours a day during quiet periods and double or triple during more intensive periods. Although I loved my time there and the practice, the more formal practice did feel constricted and constricting compared to the previous Taoist and Christian practices. It felt less alive.

THE BIG MIND PROCESS

After a while, Genpo Roshi developed the Big Mind process which I also loved since it incorporated what had revealed itself during the initial oneness shift and my passion for psychology and parts/subpersonality work. (I was there when I first came upon it and started developing it.)

MORE FOCUSED ON COMMUNITY

After my marriage and moving to another state, it was difficult for me to engage in my inner exploration as I had before. Instead, I got far more involved in community projects – mostly related to sustainability. This lasted for about five years and was deeply rewarding in its own way. (We used a solution-focused and partnership-oriented approach, and I was the coordinator for the organization.)

RETURN TO PRACTICE

In my early- to mid-thirties, my passion for exploration returned.

I trained in Breema, practiced Breema daily for years, and also instructed.

I got back into training a more stable attention.

I found and loved the Headless experiments.

I continued exploring the Big Mind process for myself and with others.

After a few years (2-4?) of these explorations, there was another shift. This time, into a sense of complete absence of any separate self. It was all just existence experiencing and living itself, and this human self somehow living its own life as a small part of that. (The shift itself was triggered by doing one of the Headless experiments, likely supported by all the other practices.)

And this was followed by a collapse of my health and a dark night of the soul that has lasted years. (I have written about this in other articles so won’t go into it here.)

A NECESSARY SHIFT

After my health took a dramatic turn for the worse (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome later combined with Lyme disease), I had to shift how I engaged in these explorations.

Before this, I had relied on my passion and fire. And now, I had to find a more gentle and effortless way of exploring and noticing. (Which is a blessing.)

For instance, I had to use a distinction in basic meditation more intentionally. Basic meditation is to notice what’s here in my field of experience and allow it as it is. And really, it’s to notice it’s already allowed and already noticed. Noticing what’s already here is more effortless and easier, and it’s also a bit closer to reality.

I continued with The Work of Byron Katie, did two “Schools” for The Work, and did most of the certification process. I continued with Ho’oponopono. I got certified in Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) and the Living/Kiloby Inquiries. I did each of these daily or close to daily for some years, with some overlap. (The Work, Ho’o, and TRE during the same time, then Kiloby Inquiries and TRE.)

HUMBLING

I had taken some pride in my practice, ability to keep a stable focus almost indefinitely, and ability to meet my experiences with some intention and equanimity. All that went out the window when the dark night started several years ago. (It came following my health crash.)

My ability to meet my experiences with intention and equanimity went out the window, and a huge amount of unprocessed psychological material came to the surface. It was the most difficult period in my life, and it’s still here to some extent.

THESE DAYS

How do my exploration and noticing look these days?

It’s more a natural part of daily life. I rarely sit down with the intention to practice. I also know that sitting meditation has many benefits and wish and hope to get back into it.

I notice that what’s here in the field of experience is already allowed (by life, existence, mind) and that it’s already noticed (by mind and before consciously reflected upon).

I notice that the world, as it appears to me, happens within and as what I am.

I notice that my more fundamental nature is as capacity for any experience, for anything appearing in my sense fields.

When I notice it would be a helpful medicine, I engage in ho’oponopono, prayer, TRE, and similar practices.

WHAT’S THE EFFECT OF THESE PRACTICES?

I am honestly not sure.

I notice some are quick and eager to point to all the beneficial effects their practices have had in their life. As for me, I cannot say I know. I only have this one life. There is no control group or comparison. I don’t know how my life would be without it.

What I can say is that training more stable attention certainly seemed to have an effect. I had laser attention during the time I practiced this daily, and that supported many activities and my life in general. (The stable attention also came with the initial oneness shift and the transformations that followed.)

The heart-centered practices certainly seem to have an effect when I do them. My orientation shifts.

I have discovered a lot through the different forms of inquiry.

The essence of the Big Mind process and the Headless experiments, combined with the oneness shift in my teens, makes noticing my nature close at hand and effortless.

Have I somehow transformed through these explorations? I don’t know. With the dark night, my capacity to relate intentionally to what’s here was reduced and a lot of unprocessed material has come to the surface. It’s easy to think of this as a backward step, although it’s equally an invitation for deeper healing.

A FEW WORDS ON MEDITATION AND OTHER SPIRITUAL PRACTICES

WHAT IS MEDITATION?

The word is used to refer to several different explorations.

Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s already here in the field of experience, notice it’s already noticed and allowed, and rest in and as that noticing and allow it to do whatever it does with us. Here, there are also some insights that tend to come over time. For instance, we may notice that attention tends to get distracted, and it does so whenever thoughts have “glue” on them and what they tell us seem real and important. And that any and all content of experience comes and goes, including who or what we think we are. If that too comes and goes, what are we more fundamentally? What are we in our own first-person experience?

Training a more stable attention is also often categorized as a meditation practice.

Inquiry is an exploration of what’s already here, and is often done as a meditation. As is several forms of body-oriented practices like Tai Chi and Breema.

WHAT’S THE PURPOSE OF MEDITATION AND OTHER SPIRITUAL PRACTICES?

That’s a good question. Mainly, it depends on the practice and the person.

Heart-centered practices help us shift our orientation and relationship with our experiences. (AKA ourselves, others, life, situations, and parts of ourselves.)

Training more stable attention supports a wide range of activities, our life in general, and also other spiritual or healing practices.

Inquiry helps us see how our mind creates its experience, and it can help us see through the misleading quality of many of our mental representations.

Some forms of inquiry can also help us notice our nature. (Headless experiments, Big Mind process.)

The purpose of basic meditation is especially interesting here. On the one hand, the purpose is to notice the changing nature of our experience, find ourselves as what it all happens within and as, and also allow that noticing to work on our human self and psychology. On the other hand, there is no purpose. It’s just resting in and as what we are.

WHY WRITE ABOUT THIS?

Why did I write about this here?

It’s partly because I may find helpful insights, pointers, or reminders for myself now.

And it’s partly because it may be helpful to others on a similar path. I have often learned a lot from others. (That includes reminders of what doesn’t resonate with me which clarifies my own path.)

Failing in basic meditation and finding what’s already here

Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here in the field of experience.

FAILING IN BASIC MEDITATION

I try to notice and allow what’s here.

I notice I am unable to do it through intention or effort. At best, it’s a kind of approximation. My attention gets distracted, and I am unable to consciously allow every experience without sometimes go into struggle, avoidance, or reactivity.

As some meditation instructors will point out, that’s the point of that practice. We are meant to fail. Our human self cannot do it. Failure is built into it.

And through that failure, we may find another way.

NOTICING WHAT’S ALREADY HERE

We may notice that what’s here in our field of experience is already noticed and allowed.

It’s already noticed by consciousness even before it’s consciously noticed and reflected in thought. It happens within and as consciousness, so is inherently noticed.

It’s also already allowed – by space, mind, life, and existence. Whatever is here is already allowed. Putting effort into allowing is like trying to artificially create something that’s already here.

We can then rest in noticing that what’s here is already noticed and allowed. That’s much more simple. It’s closer to reality. It’s a noticing of what’s here and nothing needs to be fabricated. And since it’s already here, it’s something we can always return to. (When grace allows us to remember.)

SHIFT IN CENTER OF GRAVITY

Through this, we may find ourselves as what already notices and allows what’s here. We may find ourselves as capacity for anything that happens in our field of experience. We may find ourselves as what it all happens within and as.

Over time, there may be a shift from noticing and seeing it to finding ourselves as it, both during these explorations in daily life.

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Keith Jarrett on CFS & music creation

I was saying to the disease: I know you are here and I have accepted your presence, but I am still going ahead with this work. To start it I have to make it as intimate as possible.

As soon as it got complex, I stopped. I wanted to stay close to the song, to sing it. So I was turning my disease into a song.

The disease taught me a lot. The greater the experience, the deeper the simplicity. Time is the most complex part of that simplicity.

– Keith Jarrett from the documentary “The Art of Improvisation”, 2005

In this quote, Keith Jarrett talks about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and how it helped him simplify and become more intimate with the music. He didn’t stop making music, he changed his relationship with making music.

I love what he says here. It mirrors how my relationship with spiritual practice shifted when my CFS dramatically worsened some years ago. I also had to simplify and become more intimate with it.

For instance, basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here. Instead of intentionally noticing and allowing, I shifted into something more simple and intimate. I notice that what’s here in my field of experience is already noticed and allowed. It’s already allowed. (By space, mind, life, existence.) It’s already noticed by consciousness before any conscious noticing. I align with what is already here instead of trying to manufacture anything or achieve something through effort. It may not look like a very big shift, and yet it makes all the difference. And it is more closely aligned with reality.

I was aware of and explored this difference long before this happened, but the CFS motivated me to be more simple and intimate in this noticing, and more diligent in finding the most simple and effortless way to notice.

And that’s happened in other areas of life as well, including in my connections with others. I have had to drop a lot of pretense and facades and be simple and more intimate, especially in my more close relationships.

The logic of what we are (awakening)

There is a logical inevitability to what we are.

There is a logic to what we are in our own first-person experience.

There is a logic to what we find when we are guided, and when we set aside thoughts telling us what we are.

THE CONVENTIONAL VIEW & WHAT I FIND

The conventional view is that we are this human self in the world. I am a human being in the world that has consciousness. That’s not entirely wrong. It’s an assumption that works relatively well in daily life.

But is this what I find when we take a closer look in my own immediate experience? Here, I find I more fundamentally am something else.

I find I more fundamentally am capacity for any and all experience. I find am what any experience happens within and as. And I find there is a logical inevitability to this.

THE LOGIC OF OUR WHAT WE ARE: THE SIMPLE VERSION

Why is there a logical inevitability to what we are?

The simple version is that if we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we have to BE consciousness.

The world, as it appears to us, then has to happen within the consciousness we are.

And we and the world, as it appears to us, have to have the characteristics of consciousness.

THE LOGIC OF WHAT WE ARE IN MORE DETAIL

I’ll go into this in a little more detail.

(1) If we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we have to BE consciousness.

Consciousness is not some appendix we happen to have. (The only way it can look that way is if we: (a) Assume we most fundamentally are an object in the world with consciousness somehow attached to it. And (b) don’t examine it very closely.)

If we “have” consciousness, it means that we perceive “through” that consciousness. It means that all our experiences happen within and as that consciousness. It means that what receives any and all experiences is that consciousness. And that means that, to ourselves, we have to BE that consciousness. There is no other option.

(2) The world, as it appears to us, then has to happen within the consciousness we are.

The world, to us, happens within and as consciousness. We are that consciousness.

That means that the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are.

And by “the world” I mean any and all content of experience including the wider, this human self, thoughts, feelings, states, and so on.

Anything that appears in any sense field – sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought – happens within and as the consciousness we are.

(3) And we and the world, as it appears to us, have to have the characteristics of consciousness.

Here are some of these characteristics:

Oneness. The consciousness we are is one. And the world as it appears to us happens within and as the oneness we are. Our experience of anything and everything inevitably happens within the oneness we are. (If our system is invested in a perception of separation, we may not notice that oneness, but that’s another matter.)

Timeless. To ourselves, our nature is timeless. It just is. And since the world happens within and as what we are, that too is timeless to us. Time happens within and as what we are. It’s not fundamental to what we are.

Spaceless. Similarly, to ourselves, our nature is spaceless and the world appears spaceless. Any sense of space happens within and as what we are, it’s not fundamental to our nature.

Love. We can also say that our nature is love. Love is a natural expression of the oneness we are recognizing itself. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. It’s a love that’s not dependent on feelings or states. (It’s always here but it’s dependent on not being too obscured by our separation-consciousness hangups to be expressed.)

Not a thing. As consciousness, we are not a thing. And since the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are, that too – to us – is not a thing. It’s all happening more like a dream, within and as consciousness, than anything else. (Again, being caught up in separation consciousness can make the world appear very much as a thing, and there is some truth to that too.)

Ephemeral. Any and all experience is ephemeral. It’s gone before we consciously realize we have noticed it. In this way too, everything is dreamlike. (Any sense of permanence is created by the overlay of our mental field.)

Capacity. As consciousness, our more fundamental nature is capacity. We are capacity for any and all experiences. We are what allows it all. We are what all happens within and as.

Always here. Our nature is, inevitably, always here. It may not recognize itself, but it’s here. It’s what we already are.

NO IDEOLOGY OR SPIRITUALITY REQUIRED

No ideology or spirituality is required to explore this. It’s just what we find (or not) when we look.

What we find is what mystics throughout history and from any tradition have described. And yet, it’s not dependent on any religion, spirituality, or ideology.

If anything, it reveals that any religion, spirituality, and ideology is human-created, it’s created by our mental field. At most, and in this context, it reflects a direct noticing and can offer some pointers for how to explore it for ourselves.

HOW CAN WE EXAMINE IT FOR OURSELVES?

So how can we examine it for ourselves?

I’ll mention a few approaches I have found especially helpful.

Headless experiments and the Big Mind process are two of the most simple, direct, and effective approaches I have found so far.

Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here and notice it’s already noticed and allowed. Over time, we realize that any and all content of experience comes and goes, including what we may take ourselves to be. So what are we more fundamentally? Are we what it all comes and goes within and as? How is it to notice that? How is it to explore living from that noticing?

And there are also many approaches that support this noticing or support living from it, including other forms of inquiry (sense field explorations, Kiloby inquiries), heart-centered practices (prayer, tonglen, ho’oponpono, metta), training more stable attention (including body-centered practices), and ethical guidelines (reduces distractions, highlights what in us operates from separation consciousness).

WHY IS IT COVERED UP?

If this is our nature, why don’t we notice? Why is it covered up?

The simple answer is that as we grow up, we do as others do. We see others operate from separation consciousness, assuming they most fundamentally are an object in the world, so we do the same. And we don’t find a good reason to question or examine it. Or we don’t have access to good tools and guidance to examine it.

HOW IS IT COVERED UP?

How is it covered up? What are some of the mechanisms?

In short, it’s covered up when our mind holds onto mental representations – mental images and words – as accurately reflecting reality.

As soon as consciousness holds a story as true, it identifies with the viewpoint of that story. It becomes an “I” with an “other”. To itself, it becomes something within the content of experience. (1)

It temporarily takes itself to be one part within itself, and everything else as “other”.

That’s how separation consciousness is created, and it can seem very real.

If we grow up with separation consciousness, as most of us do, then many parts of our psyche are formed and operate from separation consciousness. That’s how emotional issues, traumas, hangups, ideologies, and so on are created.

Even when the oneness we are recognizes itself, it can still have many parts operating from separation consciousness, and it can take time to get all of these onboard with a more conscious noticing of oneness.

WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THIS?

Why don’t more people talk about this?

Well, some do. Many Asian spiritual traditions talk about this. Mystics from all traditions and times talk about it. Many spiritual coaches and teachers talk about it. Some psychologists and philosophers talk about it.

And yet, most psychologists and philosophers don’t talk about it, and few in academia explore it in any serious way.

Why do they ignore it even if it has logic to it? Why do they ignore it even if this has profound practical implications? Even if it can be profoundly transforming for anyone engaging in these kinds of explorations?

I am not sure.

Perhaps some lack curiosity or interest? (Which is fine. Our fascination is our calling, and there is no lack of things to be fascinated by.) Perhaps they haven’t investigated the conventional “have consciousness as an appendix” idea? Perhaps they are concerned to get lumped in with mystics, spiritual people, and weirdos?

I assume it’s not because this is not an important topic, because it is. It’s not for lack of information or guidance, because that can be found. It’s not because they cannot explore it for themselves, because they can. And it’s not because there is no logic to it, because there is.

IS OUR NATURE THE SAME AS THE NATURE OF EXISTENCE?

Is our nature the same as the nature of all of existence?

If we find our own more fundamental nature, it’s natural to assume that the nature of existence is the same. After all, the world to us happens within and as what we are, so it will appear that way.

And yet, do we know? Not really.

I cannot know for certain. I can find what appears as my more fundamental nature, I can explore how to live from that noticing, and so on. And yet, I cannot honestly say I know for certain that’s the nature of everything.

THE SMALL AND BIG INTERPRETATIONS OF AWAKENING

This is where I differentiate between the small and big interpretations of awakening.

This article is written from the small interpretation of awakening. It doesn’t rely on spirituality or religion. It’s about what we can find for ourselves through direct noticing.

It’s about our own nature, in our own first-person experience, not the nature of reality or existence.

From here, we can go one step further and say that our nature IS the nature of existence and reality. Reality IS consciousness. It is what we traditionally think of as the divine, as Spirit, as God.

Each of these interpretations has its place and value.

The small interpretation is more accessible to more people, it points more directly to what we can find for ourselves, and it goes to the heart of what mystics from different times and traditions describe. As I see it, it’s also more intellectually honest. And it may appear a bit dry and boring.

The big interpretation fits more what the main religions and spiritual traditions describe, it can be more inspiring, and it can open us up more. In some cases, it’s also a bit intellectually dishonest (presenting fantasy or speculation as reality), fanciful, and misleading. And there are several hints that the essence of it is more accurate in the bigger picture.

LILA – THE PLAY OF REALITY

All of this can be seen as play.

We can see it as the play of consciousness, reality, or even of the divine.

In the big interpretation of awakening…

It’s the divine exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

It’s the one experiencing itself as many. It’s oneness experiencing itself as separate. It’s love experiencing itself as what looks like anything but love. It’s consciousnes experiencing itself as an object in the world. And so on.

It’s the dance of reality or Spirit.

In the small interpretation of awakening…

It’s much the same. It’s the oneness we are experiencing itself as separate. It’s the love we are experiencing itself as anything but love. It’s consciousness taking itself to be an object in the world.

And here, we can see it as play or something that’s just happening.

In either case, we can see it as the dance of consciousness, reality, or the divine.

And any ideas of purpose or meaning are ideas and not inherent in reality itself.

(1) Said another way, the consciousness we are creates a lot of identities for itself and identifies with these. It takes itself as a human, a gender, an age, someone with certain characteristics, and so on. None of this is necessarily wrong, but it is limiting and it’s not accurate in a more real sense.

If we look more closely we may find another mechanism. The consciousness we are associates certain thoughts with certain sensations. The sensations lend a sense of solidity, substance, and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations. And the consciousness we are may create chronic tension in the physical body in order to have ready access to sensations lending substance to certain thoughts.

If we have chronic beliefs, about anything, it’s a good bet that these are connected with chronic tension somewhere in the physical body.

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Finding an easier way: chronic illness as a guide

Some years ago, my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) shifted into a more severe phase. That meant I had to find an easier way to do many things in life.

How can I do this in a way that’s more comfortable? Require less energy? Take my situation into consideration? Is kind to me and hopefully others?

Here are some examples.

FINDING MY VALUE

I have explored and found my value independent of my actions and activities in the world. Before this happened, I put at least some of my value on my actions and what I produced. (After all, I am a child of the western culture where this is a feature.) Where is my value if all I can do is rest? If I cannot produce or do much?

One answer is that we see a baby as having value, and they mostly eat, poop, and make sounds. If a baby has value, why is that not the case with me and anyone else independent of age and production?

Another answer is in noticing my nature, and that the world to me happens within and as what I am. Here, nothing is missing. It’s complete as it is.

And yet another answer lies in examining any stressful thoughts around lack and finding what’s genuinely more true for me. (As I did for several years through The Work of Byron Katie.)

ASKING FOR HELP

I learned to ask for help.

Before this, I took pride in not asking much for help and created an identity around it.

After this happened, I had to ask for help. And it helped me soften that identification and see the value and beauty both in receiving and giving and in allowing others to give. (Especially as long as they feel free to say no.)

I am not doing this perfectly, whatever that means, but I am exploring and learning.

FINDING A YES OR NO BY NOTICING MY BODY’S RESPONSE

I have learned to find a more genuine yes and no, not only through inquiry but also by noticing my body’s response.

For instance, if I am wondering whether to do an activity or not, I can say to myself: I can choose to do this or not, and I chose to do it. And then notice my body’s response. Does it relax? Does it sigh in relief? Then I say to myself: I can choose to do this or not, and I choose not to. And again notice my body’s response.

The genuine yes is reflected in my body relaxing, in a sigh of relief. Sometimes it’s a yes to the activity, and sometimes it’s a no to the activity.

(How does this work? It may be because the more unfiltered and honest part of my mind is intimately connected with my physical body. Or more accurately, because any tension in my mind is reflected in tension in my physical body, and tension always happens when we are not completely honest with ourselves.)

FINDING ESSENTIAL NEEDS AND MOTIVATIONS

What are some of my surface wishes and motivations? Taking one of them, what do I hope to get out of it? And what do I hope to get out of that? And that? What’s the most essential wish and motivation behind it? How can I give that to myself? In life? How is it to give it to that part of me here and now, within myself? (From Adyashanti.)

This is another way to simplify my life. On the surface, I have innumerable wishes and motivations. And when I trace them back to their essence, I find just a few and perhaps really just one.

This helps me prioritize and find and give myself what I really wish for and need.

It also helps me differentiate my genuine needs and motivations, and the strategies I use to find and give it to myself. It helps me explore a variety of ways to give it to myself. (NVC.)

For instance, I may have a surface wish for money. When I trace it back, I find it’s more essentially a wish for safety. Can I offer a sense of safety to the part(s) of me that wish for safety? Can I find ways to feel safer in life? (I can also explore ways to be a good steward of my life in terms of finances. What are some ways to have more stable finances? What are some ways to have a little more money in my life?)

I may have a surface wish for ice cream. When I trace it back, I find it’s more essentially a wish for love, comfort, and enjoyment, and even more essentially love. Can I give love to those parts of me wishing for love? Can I give comfort to the parts wishing for comfort? Can I give enjoyment to my inner community? Can I find ways to give this to myself in life? (And I can, of course, still eat ice cream if I wish.)

SIMPLIFYING MY LIFE

I have always loved simple living, and leading simple living groups was part of my actual job for a while. CFS has encouraged me to simplify even more.

What can I prune in my life? What can I say no to? (Which is a yes to me.) What drains energy? What do I really enjoy? What gives me a boost? What’s worth spending energy on, even if it has a cost?

What has life pruned for me? And can I join in with it? Can I find where it’s a genuine gift?

FINDING PEACE WITH SAYING NO

Like many in my culture, I have been programmed to think I should say “no” as little as possible. A part of me wants to please others to avoid discomfort. I should answer calls. I should say “yes” if I am invited somewhere.

So I have had to explore this and find more peace with saying no, and sometimes really enjoy saying no.

As Byron Katie says, a genuine “no” is a yes to me. Right there, I find more peace with it and even joy.

I see the benefits of learning to say no. It helps me take care of myself and my health. It helps me prune away activities (and sometimes people) that don’t feel right to have in my life. It leaves room for what’s more enjoyable, nourishing, and meaningful. I find that the space itself is enjoyable, nourishing, and meaningful (!).

Feeling free to say a genuine yes or no is easier through good communication and some education. I am working on being better at explaining my situation to people in my life. The more they understand, the easier it is for all of us to have our needs met. We can more easily find strategies that work.

FINDING AND GIVING TO MYSELF WHAT’S NOURISHING

What’s deeply nourishing for me?

In my case, I find it’s a wide range of things and activities.

Bone broth (!) is deeply nourishing for my body and thus for all of me. Whole food low on the food chain is typically the same. (I find refined foods draining.) Warm herbal tea, and sometimes spice tea, is often nourishing, along with dark miso broth.

Nature and being in nature is deeply nourishing for me. (It can be just sitting in a garden, enjoying the sun, clouds, wind, chirping birds, the sound of the wind in the trees, and so on.)

Some relationships are deeply nourishing, especially at certain times.

This type of exploration is nourishing to me, when I have the energy.

Some input – podcasts, interviews, articles, videos, movies, and music – is nourishing for me, at the right time.

Breema is deeply nourishing for me, whether it’s receiving, giving (when I have enough energy), or doing Self-Breema.

Receiving Vortex Healing for energizing is deeply nourishing for my system. It especially helps if I feel very drained or in a crash.

MORE EASE IN THE EXPLORATIONS: BASIC MEDITATION AND MORE

I used to put extra effort into my meditation practice, whether it was training a more stable attention, noticing my nature, or something else. In my teens and twenties, I would often meditate or hours at a time. I would go fully into the Tibetan Ngöndro practice. I would practice as if my hair was on fire, as they say in Buddhism. I found I couldn’t do that anymore. I had to find an easier and simpler way.

What was this easier way? I have mostly focused on basic meditation, noticing and allowing what’s here, and noticing that any content of experience is already noticed and allowed. By noticing what’s already here, I scale back the effort to the essentials.

I found that the essence of the Headless experiments is also helpful since that too is about noticing what’s already here.

Also, I kept some simple heart-centered practices like tonglen and ho’oponopono.

And I have, in periods, done simple forms of inquiry like the Big Mind process, and The Work of Byron Katie, the Kiloby/Living inquiries.

INQUIRY AND HEART-CENTERED PRACTICES

Inquiry and heart-centered practices help me find more ease.

Stressful stories are only partially true and my system is spending a lot of energy maintaining them and reacting to them. Identifying and examining these stories, and finding what’s more genuinely true for me, opens up space for more ease and presence. I find The Work of Byron Katie and the Kiloby/Living inquiries most helpful for this.

Heart-centered practices shift how I relate to anything – discomfort, myself, others, situations, life, and more. (And really, my images of all of these.) They help me shift from seeing them as enemies, struggling with them, and so on, to genuinely befriending them and perhaps even finding genuine gratitude for them. This too opens up space and opens up for more ease and peace with what is. The practices I am most familiar with are tonglen, ho’oponopono, and the Jesus/Heart prayer.

FINDING WHAT I AM

Finding what I am helps me find an essential simplicity.

In the world, I am this human self in the world. That’s not wrong.

Is that also what I am in my own first-person experience? I find I more fundamentally am capacity for the word as it appears to me, for any and all content of experience. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

And here, there is an essential simplicity. It’s the simplicity that allows and takes the form of all the richness of experience. It’s what’s free of tension and stress, and is free to take the form of what a thought may label tension and stress.

THE NATURE OF MY EXPERIENCES IS THE SAME AS MY OWN NATURE

This is perhaps a bit obscure and marginal for most but important to me.

When I experience discomfort, the habitual response in my system is to react to it. To try to push it away. Distract myself from it, often by going into compulsions. Make it go away, sometimes by healing and transforming it away. And so on.

My system responds as if it’s “other”. As if it’s a kind of enemy or problem. As if is a foreign element.

In reality, I am capacity for it. It happens within and as what I am.

Noticing this, and resting in that noticing, helps to shift out of this pattern. And that too gives more of a sense of ease and peace. It initially takes a bit of effort, and it really frees up a lot of energy tied up in the struggle from the old habitual response.

How do I do that? The easiest for me is to remind myself of my headlessness, notice my nature directly, and then notice and rest in the noticing of the nature of (what my thoughts label) the discomfort.

INVITED TO BE MORE SINCERE AND THOROUGH

Very little of this was new to me. These were all things I have explored since my teens or twenties. But the more severe phase of the CFS invited me to be more sincere and thorough in the exploration of all of it. Life created a kind of boundary for me and I needed to go deeper within that boundary. I could get away with less. I couldn’t so easily get away with being approximate and sloppy. I needed to be more sincere and precise.

It almost goes without saying, but a part of this sincerity is to find what’s genuinely true for me. Tricking myself doesn’t work since a part of me (all parts, really) know what’s going on. It has to be genuine to have any value.

OFTEN MESSY

By writing it like this, it can look as if I have it all sorted.

The reality is far more messy and human. I am not by any means perfect in any of this, whatever we imagine “perfect” means. I am winging it. I am learning a few things as I go along, often slowly. I forget and then remember again. I have a lot of issues and traumas that sometimes obscure and confuse any clarity that’s here. I don’t have any final or full answers. And as with most of these posts, I am writing this as a reminder to myself. As an invitation to myself to bring it alive here and now and explore it further.

It’s all very much a work in progress. And an adventure.

Note: What I have written here applies to some extent to many forms of chronic illness. This includes different forms of long-covid, some of which are similar to CFS. Long-covid is a post-viral disease and CFS is often a post-viral disease.

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What is it that doesn’t come and go?

In basic meditation, we notice and allow any experience that’s here.

We notice it’s already allowed and noticed.

And we may notice that any and all experience comes and goes, including what we take ourselves to be.

So what is it that doesn’t come and go?

If we are asked that question, our mind will likely look for something within the content of experience. After all, that’s what we are used to looking for, and the word “what” may also suggest we are looking for a kind of thing.

But this what doesn’t refer to a thing. It refers to what our experiences – the world as it appears to us – happens within and as.

And although it’s what we inevitably are most familiar with, it’s also ephemeral and unpinnable. It cannot be pinned down by thoughts or concepts.

Our mind will create mental representations of this and call it oneness, love, consciousness, or something else. Our mind may also mistake these mental representations for what they point to. So it’s helpful to be aware of these mental representations and examine them and notice that these too happen within and as what we are.

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Byron Katie: If the voice in your head is you, who is the one listening to it?

If the voice in your head is you, who is the one listening to it?

— Byron Katie

This is a very good question, and it can be difficult to explore without some guidance.

Most people would answer “me” without examining very closely what that actually means.

If we explore it, we may find that we refer to an image of ourselves, and often a set of different images, and often images connected with certain words and sentences and that these images and words are associated with sensations in the body.

What the question points to is what all of this is already happening within and as. It refers to what the world to us – any content of experience – happens within and as. To ourselves, that’s what we more fundamentally are. That’s our nature.

And to find that, we typically need more guided pointers and explorations.

Byron Katie, of course, gives people these pointers in the form of The Work.

We can also do other forms of guided and structured inquiry like the Kiloby (Living) Inquiries, based on traditional Buddhist inquiry.

We can use Headless experiments or the Big Mind process.

We can explore Basic Meditation regularly over time, and find that any content of experience – including the images, words, and sensations we may take ourselves to be – come and go. And we may eventually find ourselves as what it all happens within and as.

And so on.

And here, when it’s noticed, there is an invitation to keep noticing and explore how it is to live from this noticing. And also keep exploring any hints of our mind continuing taking itself as images, words, and sensations in new and more “spiritual” or “awake” ways. (As “emptiness”, “consciousness”, “love”, “oneness” and so on.)

I don’t know the context for Byron Katie’s words, but they were probably said to someone ready to hear them and make use of them. Someone ripe for noticing.

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Basic meditation: Notice and allow what’s here, and notice it’s already noticed and allowed

Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here – in the content of our experience – as it is.

We notice and allow whatever is here whether it’s sensations, sounds, sights, and so on.

This also and especially applies to noticing and allowing any resistance, discomfort, and any experience we tend to habitually reject.

TRYING AND FAILING

At first, this may seem like something we intentionally do, and that’s not wrong. We may intentionally notice what’s here and seek to allow it as it is.

And we’ll inevitably fail. We’ll notice we are not always noticing what’s here because we get caught up in stories. We cannot intentionally notice everything in our field of experience. And we sometimes struggle with allowing what’s here as it is and instead go into resistance and distractions.

All this is normal. It’s what humans do. It’s what the human mind does. It gets distracted. It struggles with its own content.

NOTICE IT’S ALREADY NOTICED AND ALLOWED

After a while of this trying and partial failing, we may notice that what’s here is already noticed and allowed.

Consciousness already notices what’s here before it’s reflected in any intentional and conscious noticing.

And what’s here is already allowed even before any intentional allowing. It is already allowed – by mind, life, and existence.

When we rest in this noticing, we can more consciously align with the noticing and allowing inherent in what we are, and we can allow the noticing to work on us and do its magic with us.

In our nature, there is no failing in basic meditation. Our nature inherently notices and allows.

A FEW MORE THINGS WE MAY NOTICE

This inherent noticing and allowing even allows apparent distraction and resistance.

This inherent noticing and allowing is our nature and, over time, we get familiar with it as our nature.

There is a kind of center of gravity for what we take ourselves to be, and this may gradually shift. (It shifts from something particular within the content of experience to what’s capacity for all of it and what it all happens within and as.)

Any sense of being anything within content of experience is part of what’s noticed and allowed and not what we must fundamentally are. 

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Adyashanti: If we’re not trying to control so much, a lot of the meditative experience is actually naturally occurring

If we’re not trying to control so much, a lot of the meditative experience is actually naturally occurring.

– Adyashanti, The Boundless Awakened Heart

What does Adya mean by meditative experience? I am not sure, but I assume it may be basic meditation – to notice and allow what’s here and rest in that noticing and allowing.

In general, the more we try to control our experience, the more we are distracted by that attempt at control, and the less available our attention is to notice what’s here.

And the less we try to control our experience, the more free and available our attention is to notice what’s already here.

So what may we notice if we relax trying to control our experience?

BASIC MEDITATION

As mentioned above, basic meditation is about noticing and allowing what’s here.

If we intentionally try to notice and allow, we may find it’s not really possible. Our attention is too distracted. We get caught up in efforts to control our experience.

After struggling with that for a while, we may find that the noticing and allowing is already happening. We may find that basic meditation is more essentially about noticing the noticing and allowing that’s already here.

The experience that’s here is already noticed by consciousness, effortlessly and naturally, and before any thought comes in commenting on it.

And it’s already allowed. It’s already here so it’s already allowed – by existence, space, mind.

Basic meditation is essentially about noticing that our experience is already noticed and allowed, rest in that noticing, and allow it to work on us. To shape and transform us.

And all of this is easier the less we engage in trying to control our experience. Trying to control binds our attention. Relaxing that effort frees our attention to notice what’s already here.

INQUIRY

What I mentioned above is already a basic form of inquiry, and it can lead to further insights.

We may consciously try to notice and allow, and find we cannot really do it, or can only do it very imperfectly.

We may then notice that the noticing and allowing is already happening, and we can invite that noticing to work on and transform us.

We are built conscious and open for the world. We cannot escape it.

This is already a form of inquiry. We notice certain basic things about what’s here and how the mind works.

As mentioned above, when we try to control our experience, our attention tends to be caught up in that effort. And the less we try to control, the more attention is available to notice what’s already here.

What are some of the things we may notice?

We may notice that trying to control our experience is ultimately futile. The content of our experience – thoughts, emotions, sensations, reactivity, and so on – lives its own life. It’s already here before we even consciously notice and can relate to it or make up a story about it.

We may notice the overlay of mental images and words that our mind puts on the world. The constant commentary. And how this commentary brings us into certain states. That it’s really just innocent questions about the world. That it’s not ultimately true. It’s different in nature from what it comments on. And even within the realm of stories, it’s not any final or complete story.

We may notice the changing nature of our experience. All content of our experience is always changing. Nothing stays the same. If all of this is always changing, including any experience of being this human self or an I or me, is that what I more fundamentally am?

We may find we more fundamentally are capacity for the world as it appears to us, including this changing experience of this human self and the world. We may find we more fundamentally are what all of this happens within and as. And that any attempt to give it a label or to pin it down is ultimately futile and misleading.

We may explore what happens when we keep noticing our more essential nature. Does it allow our human self to reorganize and transform within that noticing? We may find that this is an ongoing process with no finishing line.

All of this is a natural and essential form of inquiry, and it’s something built into us. We are naturally curious about these things, and we naturally notice if we allow that noticing to take place.

SUMMARY

By not trying to control so much, attention is more available to notice what’s already here. And what’s already here is the essence of basic meditation. It’s more a question of noticing that it’s already here and resting in and as that noticing.

Within this is a natural and simple inquiry. We may notice some of the dynamics of the mind. We may notice the noticing and allowing that’s already here. We may notice it’s built into the mind and what we are. We may notice the changing nature of all content of experience, including anything within the content of experience we may take ourselves to be. We may notice what we more fundamentally are, in our own first-person experience. We may explore what happens when we rest in that noticing and allow it to work on us. And so on.

We may find that all of this is an ongoing process with no apparent finish line.

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Adyashanti: When you welcome all of experience into your awareness, a certain type of stillness starts to emerge organically

When you welcome all of experience into your awareness, a certain type of stillness starts to emerge organically.

– Adyashanti

All of my experiences already happen within and as what I am. So when I welcome it all more consciously, I am more aligned with what I already am.

That, in itself, brings in stillness. It’s the end of my struggle, at least for now.

And equally important, what I am is stillness. It’s the stillness all activity happens within and as. So when I am more aligned with this, I more easily notice the inherent stillness of what I am.

Adyashanti: Simply rest in the felt sense of being

Simply rest in the felt sense of being. Don’t think about it. Do it. That is the key. Grasp at nothing, push nothing away. Simply rest in the felt sense of being. Practice it every day. By abiding in being you are taken beyond it to the absolute. It may sound simple but that is where its power lies, in its straightforward simplicity.

– Adyashanti in Experiencing No-Self online course

Imperfect practice and noticing what’s already here

Maezumi Roshi, and I am sure many others, pointed out that we can only do approximate shikantaza. We can only imperfectly do the basic meditation of noticing and allowing.

It’s that way with many practices. We can only do it imperfectly.

And there is a great blessing in this, in more than one way. It keeps us humble, and it invites us to find the nature of what we already are.

BASIC MEDITATION

Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s already here in our experience. As a human being, this is something we can do only imperfectly.

Why can we only do it imperfectly?

The simple answer is that it’s not humanly possible. We’ll get distracted. We cannot intentionally notice everything happening in our field of experience. We cannot fully allow it all, or do so all the time. And we are always one step behind what’s already happened.

And the more real answer is that the premise is already out of alignment with reality. There is ultimately nobody doing it, and basic meditation cannot be “done” or manifactured.

So what’s the solution?

We can practice more. We can get more familiar with and fine-tune our practice. That is part of the answer and very valuable.

And the more real solution is to notice that basic meditation is already happening. What’s here in my experience is already allowed – by life, space, mind. I can notice it’s already allowed. And I can notice that what’s here in experience is already, in a sense, already noticed. It’s already happening within and as this (ordinary) awakeness.

Both of these perspectives have validity. In a sense, there is a human being here engaging in this practice, and perhaps fine-tuning it through experience. And ultimately, there is nobody doing it and the practice cannot be successfully done or manifactured. All we can do is notice it’s already happening. It’s our natural state.

The nature of what we are is to allow and notice what’s here, and it happens no matter what this human self is doing or distracted by.

When we do basic meditation, we mimic what our nature already does and is.

At first, it may seem unfortunate that we can only do approximate basic meditation. And, in reality, it’s a blessing since the only real solution is to notice the nature of what we already are.

FINDING WHAT WE ARE

Finding more directly what we are, through pointers and noticing, is similar. As someone doing it, we can only do it imperfectly.

When I find myself as capacity for the world, or oneness, or stillness & silence, do I actually notice this? Or do I notice my mental representations of being capacity, or oneness, or stillness & silence? Or is there a combination?

Also, when I find myself as this, is there some part of my sense field that’s not included in my noticing, and that there is still some identification with?

In my case, there is likely a yes to all of these questions. There is some actual noticing. There is some noticing of the mental representations, and these are partly mistaken for what they refer to, and they are partly used as pointers to notice what they refer to. And there is sometimes a part of the sense field that is identified with, and especially some sensations and mental images in the area where the head is.

For these reasons, and because my attention is not always stable or fully on, this noticing is imperfect.

Of course, practice helps, especially when combined with honesty and sincerity.

And what really helps is to go beyond what’s done and manifactured.

Can I notice the capacity that’s already here, and that allows all this doing and noticing?

Can I notice the stillness & silence that’s inherent in this field of experience, independent of any noticing and doing?

THE GIFTS IN THE IMPERFECTION

As I mentioned, there are real gifts in this imperfect practice.

One is that it keeps us humble at a human level. I cannot really do any of these practices. I can only do it imperfectly, and – in a sense – fake it.

And the other is that the only real solution to this is to notice what’s already here. To notice the allowing & noticing inherent in this field of experience. And notice the capacity, stillness & silence, and oneness inherent in this field of experience.

At first, we may assume that the practice is to do it and manufacture something. And after a while, we may find that it’s noticing what’s already here.

As so much, it seems obvious. And yet, for a mind used to complexify things, it’s so simple and natural that it’s easy to overlook.

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Om å finne flytsonen, og det vi egentlig er (oppvåkning på fint)

Man glemmer seg sjøl, man er bare.

– Lars Monsen: Mitt liv, s. 169 i uinbundet utgave

Lars Monsen beskriver en ganske vanlig opplevelse for mange. Vi glemmer oss selv. Vi bare er. Vi er fullstendig tilstede, fungerer bra og gjør det vi skal, er en i slags flytsone, og vi glemmer oss selv. Vi fungerer bra kanskje nettopp fordi vi glemmer oss selv.

Vi søker denne opplevelsen på ulike måter. Gjennom natur, fysisk trening, sport, dans, musikk, sex, meditasjon, yoga, fjellklatring, tegning og maling, og mer.

Vi ser at det meste har å gjøre med kroppen, og å ta oppmerksomheten ut av innholdet til tankene. Selv meditasjon er overraskende fysisk, og dreier seg å legge merke til tankene istedet for å gå (for mye) inn i det de forteller oss.

HVORFOR SØKER VI Å GLEMME OSS SELV?

Hvorfor søker vi denne opplevelsen?

Det er et par ulike grunner.

På den ene siden er det behagelig. Vi glemmer oss selv. Vi glemmer vårt liv og våre identiteter. Vi bare er. Vi er som en del av naturen og alt annet som er.

På den andre siden er dette det vi allerede er. Vi allerede er rom for verden som vi opplever den. Vi er den våkenheten som allerede er her, og som vi allerede kjenner svært godt. Vi er det som rommet dette mennesket og resten av verden. Vi er det våkne rommet alt dette skjer innen og som tar form som alt dette. Og alt lever sitt eget liv. Dette mennesket og resten av verden lever sitt eget liv.

Uten at vi kanskje gjenkjenner flytopplevelsen som dette, og uten at vi helt vet hvordan vi kan gjenskape det eller finne det mer permanent, så merker vi hva vi er. Vi kommer hjem. Vi oppdager at her hvor vi allerede er, er hjemmet vårt.

Vi glemmer oss selv som et spesielt individ med spesielle identiteter, ønsker, håp, og problemer. Og vi finner oss selv som det vi allerede er, som det våkne som rommer verden og dette mennesket.

Eller, ihvertfall, det våkne som rommer vår opplevelse av dette mennesket og resten av verden.

HVORDAN KAN VI FINNE DETTE PÅ EN MER FORUTSIGBAR MÅTE?

Vi kan sette oss selv i en situasjon hvor vi kan komme i flytsonen, men det er uforutsigbart og varer ofte ikke så lenge. Så hvordan kan vi finne dette på en mer forutsigbar måte?

Det dreier seg om å legge merke til det vi allerede er. Det som allerede er svært kjent for oss, men som vi kanskje overser, ikke ser på som så viktig, som er i bakgrunnen i vår opplevelse, og som vi kanskje ser på som ikke oss selv.

Og det er nettop det vi opplever i flytsonen: et våkent rom som vår opplevelse av dette mennesket og resten av verden skjer innen og som tar form av disse opplevelsene.

Når vi finner oss selv som dette, så merker vi at dette mennesket og resten av verden lever sitt eget liv. Ingenting innen var opplevelse – dette mennesket, resten av verden, den som gjør eller observerer – er det vi dypest sett er. Vi er dypest sett kapasitet for vår opplevelse av alt dette.

Det finnes metoder og pekepinner som kan hjelpe oss til å finne hva vi allerede er.

Grunnleggende meditasjon er å legge merke til og å tillate opplevelsene våre som de er, inkludert de sidene av oss som vil noe annet, og å se at alle våre opplevelser allerede er tillatt (siden de er her) og allerede er lagt merke til (siden de skjer innen bevisstheten). Vi legger merke til tankene istedet for å gå inn i de og de historiene de forteller oss. Dette hjelper oss til å finne oss selv som det som rommer alt, og som tar form av alle disse opplevelsene.

Vi kan også utforske hva vi er gjennom å følge pekepinner fra, for eksempel, Big Mind prosessen og Headless eksperimenter. Dette er ofte den mest direkte or raskeste veien til a få en smak av det, og finne det igjen når vi ønsker det eller husker på det.

Og vi kan utforske det gjennom Buddhistisk gransking av sanseområdene våre og hvordan de kombineres for å danne våre opplevelser, eller moderne varianter av dette som Living Inquiries.

DETTE ER BEGYNNELSEN

Selv om ryktene sier dette er vanskelig, er det ofte ikke så veldig vanskelig å oppdage hva vi er, særlig om vi bruker metoder som de jeg nevnte ovenfor, og om vi blir veiledet av en som er kjent med terrenget og som har erfaring og riktig lynne for å veilede andre på den måten.

Hovedprosessen er å finne ut av hvordan vi lever utifra fra dette. Om jeg finner meg selv som kapasitet for min verden, hva betyr det for hvordan jeg lever livet mitt og forholder meg til den situasjonen jeg finner meg i her og nå?

Når vi finner oss selv som kapasitet på denne maten, så oppdager vi også at verden – alt som er i vare sanser og tanker – skjer innen hva vi er og at det vi er tar form av alt dette, og at enhver adskillelse kommer kun fra vare mentale forestillinger. For oss er alt ett, og vi er den enheten. (Dette er en direkte og klar opplevelse og ikke bare en ide eller floskler.) Så hvordan lever vi fra dette? Hvordan forholder vi oss til livet og den situasjonen vi funnet oss i utifra enhet?

Dette er stort sett ikke bevisste tanker eller spørsmål, men det er underliggende spørsmål vi lever med og utforsker i hverdagen og livet vårt. Og om vi tar det alvorlig kan det føre til en dyp omgjøring av hvordan vi ser verden, hvordan vi lever i hverdagen, og hvordan vi er som menneske.

LITT OM ORDBRUK

Alt dette kalles ofte oppvåkning og, på engelsk, embodiment (vet ikke helt hva det kalles på norsk). Jeg bruker innimellom de ordene siden de er korte og greie og folk har en viss forståelse for hva det dreier seg om.

Men jeg liker helst å unngå de, siden vi alle har en del assosiasjoner som ikke er gunstige og som kan være misvisende.

Dette dreier seg om noe som er mye mer vanlig, nært, og hverdagslig enn det oppvåkning og lignende ord kan få det til å virke som.

Befriending life… through befriending our contractions

How do we respond to and meet contractions in ourselves? Do we struggle with them? (Avoid, join in, try go make go away.) Or do we befriend them? (Notice, allow, welcome, get to know.)

And what are these contractions? They are body-mind contractions. They are muscle contractions and have a physical component. And they are mind contractions, in the form of beliefs, identifications, hangups, wounds, and trauma. (All names for the same dynamics.) The two go together and come from the same overall contractions.

THE STRUGGLE

If we struggle with these when they surface, they tend to be reinforced. We relate to them as if the stressful stories within them are real and true and possibly threatening, so we reinforce the impression that they are real, true, and threatening.

And we can struggle with them in many different ways. We try to avoid them, distract ourselves from them, pretend they are not there, and so on. We join in with them and their stressful stories, and fuel and elaborate on the stressful stories and see the world from their view. We try to make it go away by fixing and healing it, and do from a compulsive place.

We meet contractions from a contracted place, and that reinforces the contractions all around.

THE BEFRIENDING

If we befriend these contractions, they have the opportunity to relax and unwind.

How do we befriend them? By noticing, allowing, welcoming, and meeting them with respect, patience, and a gentle curiosity, as we would a suffering friend, child, or animal.

We notice they are here. We accept they are here, since they already are here. We allow them to be as they are, and notice they are already here as they are. We can actively welcome them. (“You are welcome here”.) We can treat them with respect. We can honor them as they are. We have patience with them. They have their own processes and life.

We can have a gentle curiosity about them. We can listen to what they have to tell us. (“If it could speak, what would it say?”) We can listen for their advice. (“What advice does it have for X? (X=this human self.)) We can find the stressful story or stories behind it, and find what’s genuinely more true for us.

We can recognize that they are here to protect us, to protect this human self. Many of them were created in childhood, to protect us, and they were created from that child’s way of looking at the world. They come from innocence. And they come from care and love. In a very real way, they are confused love.

Through seeing they come from love, we may more easily meet them with genuine love.

We may notice they are created by sensations and mental images and words. The sensations give a sense of solidity and even truth to the stories, and the stories give a sense of meaning to the sensations. If we pay attention to one side of this at a time, we learn to differentiate the two and the “glue” holding them together tends to weaken and soften.

We may notice they happpen within and as our sense fields. They happen within and as what we are. They have the same true nature as ourselves. (They are capacity for themselves, they are awake space.)

LIKE CREATES LIKE

When contractions are met from a contracted place, they are reinforced. We reinforce their scary nature for ourselves.

And when they are befriended, they are allowed to relax and unravel.

WHAT A CLEAR AND KIND MIND NATURALLY DOES

When we befriend our experiences, and especially the contractions in our system, we meet them as a good friend, as a good parent meets a scared child, as we would meet a frightened animal.

We also meet our experiences as awakening naturally does. As we do when we notice what we are, and notice these contractions as happening within and as what we are. We are mimicking something that naturally happens within awakening.

This is all a very natural process, and since most of us don’t always do this naturally – for instance, when especially scary contractions come up in us – it’s often something we need to explore more intentionally.

We need to get familiar with how to befriend our experiences, and especially the more (apparently) scary ones.

We may even need some training wheels, in the form of specific practices. And then, as we get more familiar with it, it gets simpler and more natural. It gets more intimate.

HEALING OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH LIFE

This is a very simple process (although not always easy!) that heals our relationship with our experiences, and it invites in healing for our human self.

And if we are interested in noticing what we are, it helps us notice that even these contractions are what we are. They happen within and as our sense fields. They happen within and as what we are, and we share the same true nature. And this makes it easier to notice what we are even when these contractions surface.

Befriending our experiences, and in particular our contractions, in this way… is simple, natural, heals our relationship with our experiences, invites in healing for our human self, and supports noticing what we are.

We find healing for our relationship with life, all around.

Life finds healing for its relationship with itself.

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How it works: Basic meditation

I have an informal series of articles called “how it works”. These are my own experiences with different practices.

So what about basic meditation? How does basic meditation work?

THE ESSENCE

The essence of basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here in our experience.

We notice. Allow. Notice the space it all happens within. And so on.

When attention gets caught up in the content of thoughts, we may – through grace – notice and go back to noticing and allowing. We again notice the thoughts as thoughts.

NOTICE IT’S ALREADY ALLOWED AND NOTICED

After a while, we may notice that what’s here in our experience is already allowed. It’s already here. It’s allowed by life, the mind, and the space it happens within.

We may also notice that it is, in a sense, already noticed since it’s already happening within consciousness.

If we assume we notice and allow, we are one step behind. So we can instead notice it’s all already allowed and noticed. We notice what’s already here.

INSIGHTS INTO THE DYNAMICS OF THE MIND

Noticing and allowing can give us innumerable insights into the dynamics of the mind.

For instance, we may find that the essence of this practice is, in a sense, to notice thoughts instead of getting caught in the content of thought. That’s what allows the magic to happen.

We may notice that when we get distracted, we get distracted by the content of a thought. Our attention gets fascinated by and goes into the stories the thoughts tell us. Our attention gets drawn to it because the stories seem real and important one way or another. And that happens when they have a charge for us.

During this practice, we may notice that our attention is distracted and we bring our attention back to noticing and allowing. This is grace. We didn’t make this happened. It just happened.

We may find that noticing and allowing is ultimately what’s most comfortable, even if our impulse is to get caught up in what’s surfacing. We can notice and allow even those impulses.

We may notice that as we get more used to noticing and allowing, it gradually becomes a new habit. It becomes easier. Our mind deepens a new groove. We can train our mind. Life trains itself.

TRAINING A MORE STABLE ATTENTION

We can train a more stable attention by placing our attention on anything, notice when our attention gets distracted, and then bringing attention back to the object. In Buddhism, this object is often the sensations of the breath in the nose.

Most (all?) spiritual practices involve some discipline and will inherently train a more stable attention, and basic meditation is no exception.

When it comes to basic meditation, this doesn’t come from placing attention on something specific. But it comes from the discipline inherent in noticing what’s here in our experience rather than having our attention to get caught up in the content of thoughts.

NOTICING WHAT WE ARE

Through noticing and allowing, we may notice that all our content of experience comes and goes and lives its own life. Thoughts come and go. Emotions come and go. Sounds come and go. Sensations come and go. And so on. Nothing stays. It all lives its own life.

We may then find that what we most fundamentally are is what all of this happens within and as. We are capacity for it all.

We may have taken ourselves to most fundamentally be this human self, and we find that we more fundamentally are what it all – our whole field of experience – happens within and as.

Here, we also find that our field of experience – which includes this human self and the wider world – is a seamless whole. It’s one. Any boundaries come from an overlay of mental images and words and are, quite literally, imagined.

UNPROCESSED MATERIAL

When we notice and allow, we’ll notice unprocessed psychological material coming to the surface. Old memories come up. Old emotions. Old painful thought patterns.

These always surface, and while in daily life we can often distract ourselves, that’s less easy during a noticing and allowing practice. We may try to distract ourselves, but we are – at the very least – more aware of what’s going on.

If we can sit with this, and we do this over time, we may discover a few things.

We may notice that we shift between several different ways of relating to what’s surfacing. We’ll get caught up in it. Try to distract ourselves from it. Try to push it away. Get curious about it. Befriend it. And we’ll likely keep shifting between these and more ways of relating to it.

We may gradually viscerally get that struggling with what’s surfacing isn’t really working. What we struggle with will keep coming back. And getting caught in the struggle only adds to the discomfort.

We may find that noticing and allowing even this unprocessed material is what’s ultimately most comfortable, even if our instinct is to struggle with it. And that we can notice and allow even our impulse to struggle with it.

We can find a yes to the no in us that comes up in relation to this.

This helps us befriend and find healing for how we relate to uncomfortable experiences. And it helps this unprocessed material to find healing – through it surfacing and us noticing, feeling, befriending, allowing it, and allowing its transformation. (Additional practices and work can help and deepen this process.)

BRINGING INTO DAILY LIFE

As we get more used to noticing and allowing, it becomes a new habit.

And that means we may find ourselves more often doing it in our daily life, outside of any more formal practice. It becomes a new way of being.

Sometimes, we need to get engaged in the content of thought in our work, when we talk with people, and so on. We may sometimes still get caught up in the stories of stressful thoughts. And more often, we may find we relate to stressful thoughts as thoughts instead of getting caught up in their stories.

BASIC MEDITATION

Why is it called basic meditation?

I assume it’s for several reasons.

It’s an essential and simple practice.

It’s useful at any phase in our process, from the beginning to the end (death).

It’s a central practice in several spiritual traditions. (In Zen, which I am most familiar with, it’s called Shikantaza.)

Some say that the purpose of basic meditation is for us to find and become familiar with our true nature, and that’s not wrong.

And whether or not we notice what we are, it does a lot more. We gain insights into the dynamics of the mind. It trains a more stable attention. It allows unprocessed material to surface, be befriended, and find healing. Noticing and allowing can become a new habit we bring with us into daily life, and this helps us more often notice thoughts as thoughts without getting caught up in the content of their stories.

NOTES

As with anything else, this reflects my own experiences, biases, and limitations. It’s also inevitably informed by what I have heard others say about this and other spiritual practices, although I have only included what I have found in my own experience.

Zen teachers like to just give the basic instructions, and this allows us to discover for ourselves without being too colored by expectations. There is a lot of wisdom in that approach. The other side of this is that us westerners like transparency, which is why I am writing this.

Basic meditation: Notice & allow is one step behind

Over time, basic meditation will also help us notice what we are. Here, we notice and allow whatever is here in our experience, and notice that when we intentionally notice and allow, we are one step behind since it’s already noticed and allowed. 

– from The experience of no-self

I thought I would say a few more words about this.

Basic meditation is to notice and allow whatever experience is here. We notice, allow, get distracted, and – through grace – notice again. Over time, we get more familiar with noticing and allowing, and it can become a new habit.

At first, the noticing and allowing can seem quite intentional. It’s something we feel we actively do and make happen.

After a while, we may notice that what’s here is already allowed. This experience is already allowed by mind, space, and existence. “I” don’t need to intentionally allow it. All I need to do is notice what’s here is already allowed, and this tends to invite my conscious orientation to join with this allowing.

We may also notice that what’s here is already noticed. It’s already happening within this awake space, even before it’s more intentionally noticed.

This may lead us to see that our intentional noticing and allowing is one step behind. We are intentionally trying to create something that’s already here.

And here, we may find that it’s enough to notice that what’s here is already noticed and allowed.

It becomes a bit more relaxed and effortless. We are more consciously aligned with what’s already here.

This is similar to noticing that our mental representations of our experience is always one step behind. It’s about the past, what’s already gone.

I have to admit I hesitate in writing about this. It’s something we naturally discover as we explore these practices. And hearing about this too soon can just get the mind jumbled and make a simple practice of noticing and allowing more effortful and confused. At the same time, it’s OK to say something about it and invite people to do the practice in a simple way and see what they find over time. And who knows, for someone reading this it may be just the right timing for this pointer.

How spiritual practices become ongoing

We can bring any prayer with us throughout the day. Prayers tend to become automatic over time and run in the background even if we are focused on daily life activities. They live their own life after a while. The Jesus or Heart prayer is an example, as is ho’oponopono and metta. The words may come and go, but the orientation and energy – for lack of a better word – continues. 

– from A tantric approach to spirituality

I thought I would say a few more words about this.

HOW DO PRACTICES BECOME ONGOING?

This is not a big secret. They become ongoing if they are conducive to become ongoing, and we do them enough so they become very familiar and a new habit. Our system creates and goes into a new groove.

Depending on the practice, they can become ongoing as a new habit, or as something in the background of our awareness, or they can become ongoing in that we can easily access them when needed.

HOW DOES IT LOOK WHEN THEY ARE ONGOING?

This depends on the practice. I’ll give some examples I am familiar with.

Basic meditation is to notice and allow our experience as it is. And to notice it’s already allowed, and even already noticed. This helps soften identification with what we notice, including our thoughts. And this, in turn, helps us notice what we are, which is what all our experiences happen within and as. As we get more familiar with this noticing and allowing, it become a new habit and easier to bring to daily life, and more situations in daily life.

Training a more stable attention is helpful for just about any activity. We can do this by bringing and keeping attention on something, for instance, the sensations of the breath at the nostrils, and bring attention back when we notice our attention got distracted. (The distraction is usually or always a thought with some charge to it, a thought that seems at least a bit true to us.) Over time, this becomes a new habit that benefits us through the day.

We can notice what we are, for instance, guided by some simple inquiries (Headless experiments, Big Mind process). We find ourselves as capacity for the world, as what all our experiences – the world as it appears to us – happens within and as. As we get more used to and familiar with this noticing, it’s easier to notice it through the day and in different situations.

We can examine our thoughts, for instance, guided by the structure and pointers in The Work of Byron Katie. We explore if we can know for certain it’s true, see what happens when we hold a thought as true, how it would be to not have the belief, and find the genuine validity in the reversals using examples from our own life and experience. As we get more familiar with this over time, this too becomes a new habit. We may find that our mind naturally starts examining thoughts this way in daily life. (Using the structure is still helpful, especially if we notice an especially ingrained and stressful belief. It helps us explore it more thoroughly.)

Exploring our sense fields is a traditional Buddhist form of inquiry. (Living Inquiries is a modern version.) Here, we get to see how our mind combines the sense fields – sight, sound, sensation, smell, taste, and thoughts – into our experience of the world, ourselves, and anything. We get to see that what may, at first, see very solid and real, is actually created by the mind through combining sense fields. It’s not as solid and real as it seemed. We also get to see how the mind associates certain sensations with certain thoughts, and that sensations lend a sense of solidity, substance, and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts make the sensation appear to mean something. This helps us see that thoughts are thoughts, and sensations are sensations, which softens identification with these thoughts. As we become more familiar with this, this too becomes a habit and something we bring with us into daily life. We may not be able to do a thorough inquiry, but we notice how the sense fields combine, and we are more easily see a thought as a thought and a sensation as a sensation.

Heart-centered approaches help us shift how we relate to others, situations, the world, and ourselves. We learn to befriend the images of these in our own mind, which helps us shift how we relate to all of this in our daily life. (The ones I am most familiar with are tonglen, ho’oponopno, and a Christian version of metta.)

Prayer is a certain form of heart-centered practice. When we engage regularly in prayer – for instance, the Jesus or Heart prayer – it tends to become ongoing. It runs in the background as a kind of orientation and energy. (Sorry, don’t know how to better describe it.) It’s often a combination of periods of intentional prayer with words and noticing it running in the background – through the day and even night.

A COMBINATION: INTENTIONAL PRACTICE & ONGOING

In real life, there is often a combination of intentional practice, a new ongoing habit, and intentionally bringing in the practice as needed. We have periods of intentional practice, at set times or when we find time, and on our own or in groups. We notice how these practices become ongoing in daily life. And if we notice that we get caught in an old habit in a situation in daily life, we can bring in the practice to help shift into the new pattern.

If we don’t engage in a somewhat regular intentional practice, the habit created by the practice tends to fade over time. As we engage in intentional practice again, the habit comes back and often more easily than the first time. Our system remembers.

It can be especially helpful to notice when our old habitual patterns override a practice that has become more ongoing. This usually points to a belief, identification, emotional issue, hangup, or trauma. And we can explore this further.

OLD AND NEW HABITUAL PATTERNS

Why is all this important?

It’s because our old habitual patterns often come from separation consciousness. They may create unhappiness and discomfort for ourselves, messiness in our life, and may trigger discomfort and suffering in others.

Spiritual practices are typically designed to create new patterns for our mind and life that help us in a variety of ways. These patterns mimic awakening and how it is to live from awakening. And as we keep exploring these practices and we get more familiar with them, they become more and more a new habit.

This helps us in our life. It helps us notice where we still operate from separation consciousness (beliefs, identifications, emotional issues etc.). It makes it easier for us to notice what we are. And it helps us live from noticing what we are.

Shifting our relationship with ourselves

What does it mean to shift our relationship with ourselves?

At first, it can seem it has to do with shifting our relationship with ourselves as a whole and the different parts and subpersonalities in us. But it goes beyond that. It includes all our experiences, as they are, and that includes the whole world.

Ways to shift our relationship with ourselves / our experience / existence

How do we shift our relationship with our experience, as it is?

At the risk of repeating myself to a ridiculous degree, for me, the most effective approaches have been…

Curiosity and sincerity in the exploration. Our orientation to the exploration is essential and includes honesty with ourselves.

Inquiry into beliefs and identifications (The Work of Byron Katie, Living Inquiries). Beliefs and identifications are innocent and natural, and they also split our world and split what’s inherently whole.

Imagined dialog with subpersonalities, experiences, and so on.

Working with projections, using the world as a mirror. For me, inquiry is one of the most effective ways to work on projections.

Body-centered approaches (tai chi, chigong, yoga, etc.). This helps me get a visceral experience of the wholeness of who I am as a human being, including body and psyche.

Heart-centered approaches (tonglen, ho’o). This helps me befriend myself, the different parts of me, others, and the world as it is.

Inquiry to notice what I am (Headless experiments, Big Mind process). Here, my relationship to all my experiences naturally shifts. I notice all my experiences happen within and as what I am.

Basic meditation – notice and allow what’s here. This too helps soften identification with the content of experience (really, the viewpoint of thoughts saying I am this or that, or the world is this or that), and it makes it easier to find myself as what my experiences happen within and as.

When we notice what we are, there are also some variations of this. For instance, when an experience comes up and I notice my personality reacts to it and wants it to go away, I can ask… Is this too the divine/ What is the true nature of this experience? Is its true nature the same as what I find for myself? I can also ask it, what is your true nature?

The same remedies for everything?

Why do I tend to suggest the same tools for a variety of hangups, issues, and identifications?

It’s because what I write about is a limited range of topics – mainly emotional healing and awakening.

It’s because I have limited experience and knowledge, from just a few decades of exploration.

It’s because the tools I write about tend to work universally within a certain category of things we may want to work on.

Also, it’s because the tools I write about tend to be helpful from the beginning to wherever we are on the path, whether we (in our own experience) move to or within Spirit.

Some of my favorite tools

The Work of Byron Katie can be very effective for working on beliefs, identifications, and all the issues that come from these – emotional issues, trauma, stress, and so on.

Living Inquiries can be used for the same, and also to get a better insight into how the mind creates its experience of anything. Living Inquiries is a modernized form of traditional Buddhist practice for noticing how the sense fields come together to create our experience of the world.

Headless experiments and the Big Mind process is an effective way for us to notice what we are.

Heart-centered practices (ho’o, tonglen, metta) are amazing for shifting how we relate to the world – to specific people, situations, and ourselves.

Practices to Reconnect work very well for deepening our connection with Earth and past and future generations.

Vortex Healing works better than just about anything I have found for physical and emotional issues, and also for supporting awakening and embodiment. (Although I would still use it with inquiry.)

Heart/Jesus prayer and Christ meditation help us open up to Spirit as everything, they tend to help us shift our relationship with the world and ourselves, they help us notice what we already are, and they help support embodiment.

Practicing a more stable attention (samatha) helps us in just about any area of life.

Noticing and allowing what’s here, and notice it’s already allowed, helps us notice what we are and soften identification with thoughts (shikantaza, basic meditation).

Remedies for certain conditions

The approaches mentioned above can be seen as tools for certain types of tasks, or remedies for certain conditions. If applied when appropriate, and with a bit of experience and skill, they work well.

We all have limited experience, insights, and knowledge. I am sure there are tools out there I would love if I only knew about them. And there is an infinite potential for developing new and equally or more effective tools than we humans currently know about.

Within my limited experience and knowledge, the tools above are the best ones I have found, and I am very open for finding new ones that are as or more effective.

How my meditation practice changed when the CFS got stronger

I had a long meditation practice before the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome got significantly worse some years ago. I found I couldn’t continue my practice as before, and struggled with it for a while, until I started to find my way.

So how does it look now?

I do a very simple basic meditation of noticing and allowing. Notice what’s here. Allow it as it is. Notice it’s already allowed as it is. Adyashanti has some very good guided meditations on this, and Natural Rest is another way into it that works well. It’s also the basic meditation found in Buddhism.

I find heart-centered practices very helpful, including tonglen and ho’oponopno. This helps shift how I relate to myself, others, situations, parts of myself, and existence in general.

Pointers for noticing what I am are helpful, especially Headless experiments and (a simple version of) the Big Mind process.

Sometimes, I also do some inquiry, especially simple pointers like the ones from Adyashanti. How would I treat myself right now if I was someone I deeply care about? How would truth and love view this situation? And so on.

Beyond this, I sometimes do more in-depth inquiry, for instance through The Work of Byron Katie and Living Inquiries. And I do some somatic work, especially Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) and Breema.

In general, I have found a more relaxed way of doing these practices. And it’s more about noticing what’s already here than creating anything or going somewhere.

Adyashanti: our greatest emphasis should be on our actual spiritual practice

Far and away our greatest emphasis should be on our actual spiritual practice – committed time to abiding in the stillness and silence of our being. Nothing can take the place of this.

– Adyashanti

Dedicated time for basic meditation is a kind of laboratory. We get to explore notice and allow, and finding ourselves as capacity for our experiences.

We may notice how attention sometimes gets absorbed into thoughts with a charge on them, making them seem true and important. We may notice that any sense of an I or me or observer or doer happens within and as what we are, as any other experience.

We may notice that our experiences are already noticed by awakeness and what we are, even if our attention is somewhere else. We may notice that our experience is already allowed, even if our attention is caught in thoughts struggling with it.

And this noticing and laboratory work makes it easier to bring this noticing into daily life and daily life activities. It can become a noticing through our activities.

Sometimes, it will go more in the background, especially if our activities requires our attention. Sometimes, it may go more into the foreground. Sometimes, it may even be “forgotten” if our attention gets caught into the drama of our issues.

Through it all is the inherent noticing and allowing as what we are. And our laboratory work allows us to notice that consciously more often.

Any other forms of spiritual explorations are a support for this, whether it’s inquiry, heart-centered practices, body-inclusive practices, or anything else.

As Adyashanti suggests, the most important thing is to notice what we are and keep clarifying this and bringing the noticing into our daily life.