Allowing the weirdness

I often feel weird in different ways – brain fog, energies moving, old issues surfacing, feeling like I am on drugs or psychedelics, and so on. Even normal food often makes me feel like I am on drugs, with a different effect on my mind and system from each type of food.

When that happens and I am with others, a part of me wants to push it away. It struggles with it and doesn’t want it to be there. This comes from a fear that others will see me as weird, reject me, and say and do terrible things to me. (My psyche internalized this fear from my parents, and it was reinforced through elementary and middle school.)

I become more weird if I join in with that resistance and fear. If I get caught up in the struggle, I inevitably start to act more weird. I become reclusive. I don’t say much. I want to hide. I become self-conscious.

When I notice and allow it all, and find some compassion for the part of me that feels scared, it’s easier to find space to relate to it with more intention. I can relate to the weirdness and the part of me struggling with it in a more conscious way.

I have explored these dynamics since my teens, and it always feels new and fresh. Even today, I had an opportunity to notice. I felt weird this morning. A part of me was scared that my wife would reject me. I partly joined in with the resistance to and fear of the weirdness, without consciously noticing. She asked me, I noticed what was happening, and was able to shift more into noticing and allowing it all. I found a more conscious way of noticing and relating to it all. Instead of creating division between us, it led to more understanding, connection, and intimacy. More to the point, the same happens in how I relate to myself – to the different parts of me and my experience.

A FEW MORE WORDS

There is always more to say about these things.

For instance, I have many different parts of my psyche that relate to this weirdness in different ways.

The one that resists out of fear is a relatively prominent and familiar one for me, and it was – as mentioned above – created in my childhood.

I can join in with it and take on its beliefs, perspective, and orientation. I can, in a sense, become it for a while.

And when I notice what’s happening and shift into allowing it, there is a shift in identification. Identification shifts out of this part of me and either into another part (allowing) or into what I more fundamentally am, which is what it all happens within and as.

I remember Adyashanti talking about how his mother used to tell him: Weird is wonderful. That’s a good pointer for me. I can be a good parent to myself and remind myself of that. Weird is wonderful.

It’s worth questioning my ideas about weirdness. Do parts of me see it as bad or wrong? Does the label really fit? What do I find when I identify and examine thoughts about it that parts of me hold as true?

I’ll do a quick inquiry now and make some notes here:

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Wanting to be saved, waiting to be saved

Hindus have been waiting for Kalki for 3,700 years.
Buddhists have been waiting for Maitreya for 2,600 years.
The Jews have been waiting for the Messiah for 2,500 years.
Christians have been waiting for Jesus for 2,000 years.
The Sunnah has been waiting for Prophet Issa for 1,400 years.
Muslims have been waiting for a Messiah from the line of Muhammad for 1,300 years.
The Shiites have been waiting for the Mahdi for 1,080 years.
Druze have been waiting for Hamza Ibn Ali for 1,000 years.

Most embrace the idea of a “savior” and claim that the world will remain full of wickedness until this savior comes and fills it with goodness and justice.

Maybe our problem on this planet is that people are waiting for someone else to come and solve their problems, rather than doing it themselves.

– Imtiaz Mahmood

Why do we feel a need to be saved? It must be because what’s here is uncomfortable, sometimes even apparently unbearable. If we envision something as big as divinity saving us, it must be because our discomfort appears equally big. (I am obviously talking very generally here.)

SAVED BY SOMETHING OUT THERE

It’s also interesting how our human mind often wants to be saved by something “out there” – somewhere else and/or in the future. It’s understandable, of course. It would be nice. And most of us did experience something similar in infancy so it is perhaps deeply ingrained in us.

There is some truth to it too. We may find something or someone that makes us feel better for a while. We may find some comfort, love, safety, and so on. That’s wonderful.

And yet, it comes with some inherent drawbacks. It won’t last. It’s dependent on circumstances. It doesn’t go quite as deep as we really wish for. And it may not happen in the first place.

SAVING MYSELF HERE AND NOW

So what’s the solution?

I can only speak for myself and as it looks to me now, and as so often, the answer may appear a bit boring and sobering.

The answer is that I am my own savior. I am the one I have been looking for. My mind is projecting this part of myself out there in space or time, while it’s here all along.

Why can it seem like a disappointing answer? It may not seem true to us. We may think there is some truth to it, but we don’t know how to do it. We try and it doesn’t seem to do much. Or perhaps our mind has invested so much energy into images of saviors out there that anything else seems pale in comparison.

Yet, it is true in my limited experience. (Our experience is always limited, no matter how much we have explored something.) And it’s also what others report.

HOW DO I SAVE MYSELF?

How do I save myself?

It depends on the situation, to some extent.

In some situations, action is required to make a change. In this case, I can (partially) save myself by taking action or asking someone to take action on my behalf. Sometimes, I save myself by asking for help.

And parallel with that, it’s in how I meet my own experience.

When I experience distress, I often ask myself: How would a good – wise, kind – parent comfort a child in this situation? What would she or he say? How would he or she meet the child? And then relate to the suffering parts of myself in that way.

These parts of us are here to try to protect me. So I say: Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me. You are allowed to be here. Stay as long as you want.

I sometimes dialog with these parts of me. How do they see me? What function do they have? How would they like me to treat them? What do they need from me? The Big Mind process is very good for this.

I have done a lot of heart-centered practices, including towards myself and these painful parts of me. Two of my favorites are ho’o and tonglen.

What I am trying to be saved from is typically stressful thoughts and associated unpleasant sensations, so I can identify and investigate these thoughts (The Work of Byron Katie) and notice and allow the sensations. I can also investigate more thoroughly how thoughts and sensations combine, and how the mind creates identifications out of it, for instance through the Kiloby Inquiries.

I invite in healing for these parts of me – the wounded, scared, traumatized parts – in whatever ways work for me.

I notice my nature and rest in and as it. I can notice that these parts of me, the scary thoughts and uncomfortable sensations, have the same nature as me. It’s consciousness, the consciousness I am, forming itself into all of it. What happens if I rest in and as that noticing?

There is usually an immediate shift from these explorations. And my experience is that it also takes time. My system mirrors a culture and family that trained me to look outside myself for solutions and did not always show me how to meet myself and my experience with kindness. So it takes time to turn the ship. It’s ongoing. But it does get fuller, deeper, and richer over time.

SAVING MYSELF IN A VARIETY OF WAYS

None of these are mutually exclusive. I can save myself in a variety of ways.

If I find some of what I am looking for in someone or something, I can enjoy that. (Knowing it depends on circumstances and may not last.)

And I can also give myself more directly what I need and be my own savior in that way. I can take action, and I can be a better friend and parent to myself and my own experience.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Dream: My twin brother

I meet someone and it is as if we see ourselves in the mirror. He looks like me, only with shaved head and face, and we also discover that we were born in the same place. We find it amusing and a funny coincidence, like each other, become friends, and are part of the same friend group.

Later, he tells me his birthday, which is the same as mine. He has realized that we are twins, and I am realizing the same. We are moved and happy and realize our lives will never be the same. We have a deep love for each other, and we will be in each other’s lives from now on.

He works with NRK (the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) and has a project with the Eurovision Song Contest. A mutual friend of ours has four free passes, and she gives one to me. We are having a lot of fun with the unusual setting and the campness of it all.

This dream may reflect (a) a wish to have a brother like that, and (b) my process of befrending and finding love for myself. (AKA the content of my experience, and all the different parts of me and the parts of me that represents me of different ages.) My twin in the dream is me, and we love each other.

What about the Eurovision Song Contest? I watch it and find it fun and enjoyable, and I did watch some clips from the Eurovision movie a few days ago. I like the campness of it, although the music is (obviously) terrible – and that’s part of the charm. I enjoy going outside of the terrain I am familiar with.

That too is part of finding love for all the different parts of me. Embracing diversity in society go hand-in-hand with embracing the diversity of my experience and myself.

In the dream, my twin looks like Jean-Marc Barr. In waking life, we are somewhat similar to each other although not like twins. I identified with him when I first saw The Big Blue in my early twenties, and the movie made a big impact on me. At some level, maybe because freediving is similar to diving into who and what we are, especially the emotional realm.

In my twenties and thirties, I had fire, passion, and focus similar to his character in the movie. (That took a nosedive when I got sick fifteen or so years ago and the dark night went into a much more intense phase.) Maybe the dream is pointing to refinding that fire and passion? In daily life, there are more moments of connecting with it these days.

Another side to this, which a friend reminded me of, is that Odd Nerdum painted a portrait of me in my early twenties, and he painted me as a twin. He painted two of me.

This felt like another “big dream”, especially as I knew that my life was changed forever.

There is also a synchronicity here: As has happened before, my wife and I had parallel and similar dreams. In this case, she dreamt she was in a romantic relationship with a woman very similar to herself. They fall out because of a misunderstanding and later begin to reconcile. That’s part of any relationship and may reflect her process of befriending sides of herself.

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Waking up parts of our psyche: Become & wake up

I have written about a “befriend & wake up” process in other articles, to help different parts of our psyche wake up and align with reality and our nature.

A variation of this is a “become & wake up” process where we take on the role of a part of us, notice our nature from the view of the part, and rest in and as that noticing to allow that part of us to align with reality.

WHY IS THIS NEEDED?

Even if we generally and “globally” recognize our nature, that doesn’t mean that all the different parts of our psyche are on board with it.

Most of these were formed within separation consciousness, and many of them will still operate from separation consciousness.

They color our perception and life in the world and sometimes get triggered more strongly.

That’s natural and there is nothing wrong with it, but it is uncomfortable and there seems to be an equally natural process in us to have these parts of us surface so they can join in with the awakening.

BECOME & AWAKEN

So how does this work?

I assume there is any number of specific ways to explore this, but the essence is the same.

Preliminary step 1: Identify a part of the psyche. Notice a part that’s operating from separation consciousness. A part that we can call a wound, hangup, or emotional issue, and is operating on an unexamined belief. A part that has taken on, and even been created by, a story. A part that goes into reactivity, defense, and contraction. A confused and stressed subpersonality. Many parts of us are, to some extent, like this. They are suffering and wish for liberation.

Optional step: Get to know the part. Examine this, if you like. Dialog with this part. Take on its perspective and get a sense of how it is to perceive and live from this view. Identify and examine its painful stories and find what’s more genuinely true for you. Thank it for protecting you. Thank it for its love for you. And so on. This can be a helpful preliminary step but is not necessary for this particular process.

Preliminary step 2: Notice your nature. Notice your nature. Find what you more fundamentally am. (Capacity for the word, what the world happens within and as.) Use headless experiments or the Big Mind process to shift into this, if needed. This is so noticing our nature comes more into the foreground.

Main step: Become & awaken: Shift into and become the part. Take on its view. And notice your nature as that part of you. Notice your nature as capacity and what the world happens within and as. Rest in and as this noticing. Allow you – as this part – to realign and shift within this noticing. Take your time. Allow it to sink in.

IDENTIFYING PARTS WITH A CHARGE

When it comes to identifying parts of me with a charge, I have a couple of favorite approaches.

One is to scan my timeline.

I go through the timeline of my life and find situations that light up, that still have a charge on them, where there is still something unresolved. Then I shift into that role, I become myself as I was then, and explore from there.

In this case, I explore awakening – noticing my nature – as the one I was then, rest in that noticing, and allow it to work on that part of me.

The past me in these situations is still a part of me. They are still here. And I find that scanning the timeline is an effective way to identify subpersonalities that still suffer and wish to join in with the awakening.

The other approach is to use others as a mirror.

Others are a mirror for me, as is anything “out there” in the world.

Whatever I see in them is something I can find in myself. I can take whatever story I have about someone or something “out there”, turn it to myself, and find genuine and specific examples of how it’s true. (It may not look the same as what I see in the world, but the essence is the same.)

I identify someone that has a charge for me, whether this is a real or fictional person or someone from a night dream. (The charge shows me that there is something unresolved there for me.) I then take on the role of that person. I imagine myself as that person.

As that person, I find what I more fundamentally am. And I rest in that noticing, allowing that part of me to align more closely with reality.

A COMPONENT OF MANY APPROACHES

I assume the “become & awaken” approach is a component of many approaches to awakening, whether it’s directly and explicitly or indirectly and implicitly.

When we do tonglen or ho’oponopno, we invite parts of us to heal. (The world is my mirror.) And, in the process, we invite them to wake up, at least if there is a general and global noticing of our nature here. We invite them to join in with the awakening.

When we do Basic Meditation, parts of us not aligned with the awakening will naturally surface. If given space, they will be recognized as having the same nature as ourselves and align with that noticing.

It’s definitely implied in the Big Mind process, and it happens indirectly as part of that process. (Some may also do it explicitly, I am not completely updated.)

In the most recent Vortex Healing class, the main teacher used a similar approach: Become the confused part of you. Do a mantra to prepare it to wake up. And as that part, ask yourself the question “What am I?” Stay with the question until something shifts and the place where the question makes sense falls away.

Using therapy as part of our process also supports this. The more we heal as human beings, the more parts of us are available to align with the oneness we are noticing itself.

Also, when we talk about embodiment in this context, it typically means to live from noticing our nature, or from the oneness we are noticing itself. And the more parts of us are on board with the awakening, the more we have the possibility to do this – more thoroughly and in more situations and areas of life.

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Taking refuge in a story to make ourselves feel better

Am I going into a story in order to feel better? To distract myself from an uncomfortable story and associated feelings?

Do I notice any of the telltale symptoms of doing this?

This is an ongoing exploration for me.

TAKING REFUGE IN A STORY

When I hold a story as true, I do it to find a sense of safety in it. At some level, it feels safer to hold a story as true than admitting I don’t know for certain.

This is a habitual pattern, and learned from others as we grow up. We do as we see.

These can be any story. They may tell me I am better or worse than others. They may tell me I know how I am or the world is. They may assign blame. They may take the form of ideologies, whether polticial, spiritual, psychological, or anything else.

When I hold a story as true, I identify with the viewpoint of the story and the identity created by it. I take myself as that, and not as what’s left out even if that’s also here.

The safety I seek is the safety from being faced with one of more of my uncomfortable stories and their associated feelings.

Seeking refuge in stories has many consequences. I need to remember, prop up, defend, and elaborate on the stories. They are always at risk of being disproven and shot down by my own mind or others or both. It creates contractions of body and mind. It limits the ways I have for exploring the world in my imagination and life.

There is no real safety in taking refuge in stories. The stories can be disputed. They are literally imaginations. And uncomfortable stories and feelings are still here.

THE ALTERNATIVE: BEFRIEND AND FIND PEACE WITH

There is another way to find refuge that’s more aligned with truth and reality.

And that is to explore the stories with some sincerity.

To examine the specific stories and find what’s more genuinly true for me. (That I cannot know for certain, and the limited validity in the story and its reversals.)

And to recognize the inherent characteristics of stories. (They are pointers and here to help me to orient in the world. They are different in nature from what they point to. They cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. Reality is always more than and different from any story about it.)

And befriend and find peace with the stories and experiences that are here, as they are. (For instance, through inquiry, dialog, heart-centered practices, noticing that stories and feelings happen within and as what I am, and that their nature is the same as my nature.)

IN DAILY LIFE

Knowing about this is a first step, and its real value is in exploring it in daily life.

I notice the symptoms of holding onto a story. (Defense, rejection of views, reactivity, contractions, obsession with ideologies, any form of compulsion, and so on.)

I identify the story I find refuge in.

I examine it and find what’s more true for me.

I explore how it is to hold it more lightly.

I find the validity in other views and its reversals.

I find in myself what I see in others.

I find in myself the reverse of the identity created by the initial story.

Perhaps most importantly, I find the discomfort in me I used the initial story as a defense against.

I explore the uncomfortable stories and their associated sensations.

Here, I often use some version of the befriend and awaken process.

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The Scarlet Witch and how we relate to our trauma

I watched Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness which is one of many trauma-informed stories in pop culture these days.

In it, Wanda experiences immense pain from losing the love of her life, her (imagined) children, and more. And she deals with it by reacting to this pain.

She goes into an obsessive pursuit of being with her children in a parallel universe, no matter what the cost is to herself and others, and without considering if the children of another Wanda would accept her. In her obsession, she is unable to consider and take in the real consequences of her strategy.

REACTING TO OUR PAIN

We all sometimes do this.

We go into reactivity to our pain.

And when we do, it always has an obsessive and compulsive quality.

We may compulsively do just about anything to distract ourselves from the pain, or try to find a resolution to the pain.

We may compulsively eat, work, have sex, or go into relationships. We may obsessively seek something spiritual and engage in spiritual practices. We may compulsively go into ideologies about politics, religion, or just general ideas about how life should be. We may go into blame, hatred, biotry. We may go into shame and self-loathing. We may go into depression or anxity. We may go into pursuing perfection. We may seek fame and success. We may hide from the world. And so on.

Whenever anything has a compulsive quality, it’s a good guess that it’s an attempt to escape pain.

This is not inherently wrong. It’s our mind creating this in an attempt to protect us. At the same time, it’s not the most skillful way of dealing with our pain, and it inevitably perpetuates the cycle of pain and creates more pain.

It doesn’t deal with the real issue so it’s not a real solution.

RELATING TO OUR PAIN MORE CONSCIOUSLY

Is there another option?

Yes, we can relate to our pain more consciously and with a bit more skill and insight.

We can learn to genuinely befriend our pain.

We can meet our pain with love. And this is often easier, at first, when we use a structured approach like metta, tonglen, or ho’oponopono.

We can feel the physical sensation aspect of the pain and rest in noticing and allowing it.

We can dialog with the part(s) of us experiencing the pain. We can listen to how it experiences itself and the world. We can ask what it needs to experience a deep resolution and relaxation. We can ask how we relate to it, and how it would like us to relate to it. We can ask what it would like from us. We can find the painful story it operates from, and help it examine this story and find what’s more genuinely true. (And often more peaceful.) We can find a way to work together more in partnership. And so on.

Through this, we may come to realize that the pain is here to help us, and even our reactivity to the pain is here to help us. It’s our psyche trying to help us. It comes from a wish to protect us, and it’s ultimately a form of love. And it often reflects a slightly immature way of dealing with pain. It’s the way a child deals with pain when they don’t have another option. And that’s no coincidence since these parts of us were often formed in childhood when we didn’t know about or have experience with other options.

We can also find our own nature – as capacity for the content of our experiences and what the world, to us, happens within and as. Notice that the nature of this suffering part of us is the same. (It happens within and as what we are.) Rest in that noticing. And invite the part of us to notice the same and rest in that noticing. This allows for a shift in how we relate to the suffering part of us, and it invites the part itself to untie some tight knots and reorganize.

MYTHOLOGY OF OUR TIME

Whether we like it or not, big Hollywood blockbusters are the mythology of our times – at least for large parts of the world.

So it’s wonderful to see that some of these stories are trauma-informed.

They help us notice patterns in ourselves, at least if we are receptive to it.

Yes, I am like Wanda. I sometimes go into reactivity to my pain and become compulsive about something. That can create even more pain for myself and others, and it doesn’t really resolve anything. And there is another way.

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The more you feel your feelings….

The more you feel your feelings, the easier it is to understand them.

As usual, I would say ”yes“ and ”no” and ”it depends”.

What do we mean with feelings? For me, it’s anything with a sensation component – what we call physical sensations, emotions, emotional and physical pain, and also states and contractions.

Crucially, beliefs and identifications also have a physical sensation component and a story component, and may be called feelings, pain, states, a contraction, and so on.

I assume the quote mainly refer to sensations and emotions we experience as uncomfortable or undesirable, although it goes for anything with a sensation component.

WHEN IT DOESN’T HELP TO FEEL OUR FEELINGS

We may feel our feelings and emotions in a quick and somewhat reactive way, and that won’t help us understand them. (Or anything else.)

We may feel our feelings and emotions without identifying the painful stories behind them. This won’t help us understand where the feelings come from or what keeps fueling them.

We may feel our feelings and emotionsand get caught up in and actively fuel (some of) the painful stories behind or elated to them, and that won’t necessarily help us examine these painful stories to find what’s more true for us.

BEFRIENDING AND EXAMINING IN A MORE SKILLFUL WAY

And we may feel our feelings and examine what’s going on in a more skillful way.

We can feel the feelings as physical sensations. Notice where in our body we feel it. Notice that they are physical sensations. Rest in that noticing. Notice the (infinite) space they are happening within. And so on.

We can welcome them. Allow them. Notice they are already allowed. (By mind, space, life, existence.)

We can shift how we relate to them through heart-centered practices like ho’oponopono and tonglen. (We can do ho’o towards the emotions or us experiencing them, and we can do tonglen towards ourselves experiencing them.)

We can dialog with the feeling or emotion. How does it experience the world? How does it experience me? How does it see me relating to it? What function does it have? What’s the deepest intention behind it? How can it genuine help and support me? How can I relate to it differently so we can have a more beneficial partnership?

Through dialog – and evoltionary psychology and our own experience – we can come to find the value in the energies of feelings and emotions. Anger, when used in a less reactive way, has energy that helps us get things done and change situations. Sadness helps us contemplate and examine past situations and our painful stories around it, and if used wisely, it may help us find a deeper resolution. Happiness shows us what our personality likes and encourages us to do more of it, and we may also discover that gratitude gives us a deeper sense of contentment and happiness independent of situations. And so on.

We may identify the story components associated with the feeling, see if it’s a painful story, and examine it and find what’s more true for us. (Which is typically far more peaceful.) .We may identify and explore different kinds of stories. For instance, the story which labels the physical sensation creating the appearance of an emotion or physical contraction. The stressful stories creating the contraction. And the stories that create a reaction to the emotion or contraction.

Through these story-level explorations, we may find that the emotions and feelings are here to protect us. They come, ultimately, from love and are an expression of love. And that may make it easier for us to meet them with kindness, befriend them, and get to know them. It makes it easier for us to genuinely thank them for protecting us and for their love for us. And it makes it easier to identify and explore the painful stories they often operate from, which are an expression of confused love, and find what’s more true for us.

We can sit with the feelings and emotions in basic meditation, noticing and allowing them as any other experience. We notice them. Feel the physical sensations. Notice they are already allowed. Notice they come and go as any other content of experience. And perhaps even use it to find ourselves as what doesn’t come and go, as the no-thing that it all happens within and as.

It’s not wrong that I am a human being in the world. That’s what the world, my passport, and my own mind may tell me, and it works relatively well in a practical sense. And yet, is it what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience? What I find is that I more fundamentally, to myself, am capacity for the world as it appears to me and what the world happens within and as. I find I am consciousness and the world, to me, happens within and as this consciousenss. That seems to be my nature. And when I explore feelings and emotions, I find that they are the same. They have the same nature as I do. They happen within and as what I am, so we share nature. This too shifts how I relate to these feelings and sensations.

In all of these ways, and many more, I can explore and get to know feelings and emotions. I can recognize them as physical sensations with a story component. I can identify and examine the story, and find what’s more true for me. I can make use of the energy within the emotion. I can notice it’s content of experience and comes and goes and changes as any other content of experience. I can use that to find myself as what they happen within and as and find my more essential nature. And I can notice that the nature of the feelings and sensations is the same as my own nature, and rest in that noticing and allowing it to work on me.

This may sound simple when written out this way, and it is simple in a way, but it can also be challenging since most of us learn to avoid certain feelings and emotions from an early age. We learn to ignore them. Pretend they aren’t there. Distract ourselves from them. React to them so we won’t need to feel them or acknowledge them. And so on. The way we react to them can take a wide range of forms, but it’s always compulsive. It can take the form of compulsive work, entertainment, relationships, sex, food, talking, thinking, going into ideologies, going into blame, shame, and victimhood, and much more.

How have I explored sensations and emotions and how I relate to them? Through all of these ways and more over a few decades – basic meditation, evolutionary psychology, Process Work, Big Mind dialog, the work of Byron Katie, Kiloby / Living inquiries, and more recently through the Befriend & Awaken process which is a combination of these.

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Meeting my reactions with kindness

Or I can meet how I respond to anyone and anything with kindness and love, which shifts me into love for myself, others, and the world. It invites in love for myself, others, and the world. It helps me notice my nature as love.

Why would we want to do that? Because it feels good. It certainly feels better than the alternatives. And a clear heart supports a clear mind and clear actions. (We may find the three are the same.) And we may also find it’s coming home. It’s our nature when it’s unfiltered by being caught up in reactions.

How do we do it? There are training wheels. Here are some I find helpful: tonglen, ho’oponopono, the heart / Jesus prayer, inquiry (The Work of Byron Katie, Kiloby / Living inquiries), and the befriend & awaken process.

And what if I can’t always do it? Meet what comes up, the reaction to it, with kindness, and see what happens.

Dune and fascination with saviors

I watched the recent Dune movie and although it seemed technically flawless, I also wasn’t too moved or captured by it. (Although I will certainly watch part two when it comes out.)

I was reminded of the fascination with saviors we collectively have, some more than others. And, in this case, a predestined and prophesized savior.

WHY ARE WE FASCINATED BY THE SAVIOR?

Why are we fascinated with saviors and the savior archetype?

One answer is obvious. We may feel we need to be saved, sometimes and in some areas of life. Life seems too difficult. We may experience a lack of direction or meaning. We may want someone else, or life, to save us instead of doing it ourselves.

Another answer is that outer saviors mirror ourselves. We have that savior in ourselves. And a fascination with saviors in the world, stories, or in the past or future, is an invitation to find that savior in ourselves. A fascination with saviors “out there” is, in the best case, a stepping stone for shifting into saving ourselves. We are the predestined savior of ourselves and this may or may not come to fruition here and now.

BEING OUR OWN SAVIOR

How do we save ourselves?

We can save ourselves in the way we wish to be saved by someone else. If I had a magic wand and could be saved by someone else in exactly the way I wish and long for, how would it look? And how would it be for me to give that to myself?

Here are some possibilities I find for myself when I explore this:

I can give myself advice as I would a good friend. I can ask for help when I need it. I can notice and follow my inner guidance, the small inner voice. I can learn to befriend myself through the kind of self-talk a good parent or friend would give me. I can learn to meet my experiences with allowing, kindness, and curiosity. I can be a good steward of my life. I can find healing for how I relate to my world – whether I call it myself, my experiences, others, situations, or life in general. I can give myself the chance to do what I have always wanted to do, or have a calling to do. And so on.

FINDING WHAT WE MORE FUNDAMENTALLY ARE

And we can save ourselves by finding what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience.

In the world, I am this human self. And if that’s all I am aware of, it will feel incomplete since it is. It will feel like something is off because it is. I haven’t noticed most of what I am.

More fundamentally, I am something else in my own immediate experience. I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. And I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I find myself as the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

And here, I find that I am – in a sense – already and always saved. Oneness doesn’t need to be saved. Anything related to being saved or not happens within and as oneness. To me, the world is already saved since it happens within and as oneness. (And that’s just one part of the picture since there is always saving to be done in a more conventional sense.)

I find the wholeness that my apparently broken self happens within and as. I find the inherent health that my illnesses happen within and as. I find the wholeness our apparently broken world happens within and as. And so on. And that doesn’t mean I won’t seek healing for my broken self, or treatment for my illness, or – as mentioned – seek healing for our society and ecosystems.

EXPLORING THE SAVIOR DYNAMIC

So I may notice our collective fascination with the savior archetype, even if it happens in a story like in Dune.

I can find this fascination in myself. I find examples of when and how I wish to be saved. When I dream of a savior to come and rescue me. (In periods of distress, I certainly notice it.)

I can identify more specifically how I wish to be saved, in specific situations when this comes up.

I can find ways to give it to myself.

I can find my more fundamental nature and where the ideas of saved or not don’t apply.

And I can still engage in support and metaphorical saving in a more conventional sense, as needed.

This is not about “doing it all myself”. This is more about finding my savior in myself, and sometimes that savior will ask others to help me.

THE BEFRIEND & AWAKEN PROCESS

These days, I find myself drawn to what I call the befriend & awaken process.

I notice a contraction in me. Contractions are uncomfortable, so these parts inherently wish to be saved and some other parts of me wish to save them.

I notice the physical contraction and where it is in my body. I rest with it. I notice it’s already allowed.

I notice it’s here to protect me. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me.

I find what the contraction wishes for, what it more deeply wants. I may try out a few possibilities, give each one to it, and see how it responds. For instance, love, a sense of safety, support, being seen, and so on.

I notice my nature, and that the nature of the contraction is the same. It happens within and as what I am. In another language, I see it as a flavor of the divine.

I invite the contraction to notice its own nature and rest in and as that noticing.

I take time with each of these explorations. I rest with it. I notice how the contraction responds and how it relaxes and unwinds when I find something that resonates with it.

This is one way to deeply “save” the parts of us that may feel they need saving.

Note: There will always be parts of me that don’t want to save these other parts of me, and they themselves are contractions that can be explored in this way.

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Anakin & Judas

I see that Anakin Skywalker plays a central role in the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series.

There is something beautiful in how Anakin is written The prequels show his journey from a gifted and innocent child and youth to someone who – through loss and trauma – descends into bitterness, resentment, and hatred. Darth Vader isn’t just a regular villain and evil character. He was the boy Anakin who later became Darth Vader through how he responded to his own loss and pain.

THE ARCHETYPES OF STAR WARS

The original Star Wars trilogy was explicitly written around archetypes, especially Luke’s hero’s journey, and that’s one reason it resonates so widely.

These archetypes mirror universal parts and dynamics in each of us in a clear and simple way that brings out their essence. We are fascinated by these stories because, somewhere in us, we want to better get to know these sides of ourselves.

WHERE DOES THE FASCINATION COME FROM?

We may be fascinated with archetype-rich stories for a couple of different reasons.

The fascination may be built into us through evolution. Fascination with archetype-rich stories helps us to get to know more about these universal human dynamics, and that gives us a survival advantage. It helps us relate to them more consciously when we meet them in the world or in ourselves.

We are also inherently whole, whether we notice it or not. Our mind seeks to bring this wholeness into consciousness. One way that happens is through a fascination with what appears as “other” while it’s in reality us. And archetype-rich stories are an especially good way for us to learn more about universal dynamics and how they may play out in our life and in ourselves.

A third reason, which rests on the two other, is that all (?) human cultures emphasize archetypal stories. We grow up with fairy tales, mythology, and other classic archetypal stories. This may even further encourage our inherent draw to these stories.

ANAKIN & JUDAS

I’ll focus on Anakin’s journey to Darth Vader here, and Darth Vader’s redemption, and leave out the other archetypal dynamics in Star Wars.

For me, Anakin is an example of how we sometimes respond to our pain in a way that hurts ourselves and others.

In the case of Anakin, he indulged in hurt, anger, and reactivity. And when this becomes extreme, some like to label it “evil”. (I don’t find it a useful label.)

Judas is a similar figure. He is an image of how we all sometimes react to our own hurt and pain by betraying our inherent kindness, clarity, and wisdom. Judas betrayed Jesus. We sometimes betray our own clarity and wisdom by how we react to our own pain.

And there is no lack of these types of figures from fiction and history. Sometimes, they are presented as just inherently evil. Other times, we are presented with a background story that presents their journey from a relatively healthy person to one who indulges in reactivity to their own pain.

ANAKIN SKYWALKER & DARTH VADER

Anakin’s story shows us what happens when we respond to our pain with reactivity, and specifically bitterness, victimhood, and so on. We all do this, sometimes and in typically less dramatic ways.

And Darth Vader is both an example of how it looks when we live from this, and that we always have an opportunity to turn it around. He turned it around at the very end of his life. He chose to meet his pain and respond to it differently, in a more honest and vulnerable way.

HOW WE RESPOND TO OUR PAIN

We can respond to our emotional pain in two general ways.

We can react to the pain. This can feel good at the moment. And it’s really a distraction from the pain, it tends to create more pain, and it also reinforces the habit of reacting to pain.

And we can befriend our pain, which invites healing for how I relate to it (reinforces a habit of befriending instead of reacting to) and it invites healing for the pain itself.

When we react to our pain, we seek to distract ourselves from the pain. And the best way to ensure distraction is to go into compulsions and a pattern of indulging. We can be compulsive about and indulge in just about anything: Work. Status. Perfection. Sex. Relationships. Entertainment. Food. Anger. Sadness. Ideologies. (Political ideologies, conspiracy theories, etc.) Spirituality. Awakening. Healing. Religion. Victimhood. Blame. Bigotry. And so on.

A MIRROR FOR OURSELVES

Anakin and Judas and a wide range of similar figures from fiction and history are a mirror for ourselves.

What stories do I have about each of these? What do I find when I turn that story back to myself? Can I find genuine examples of how and when it’s true?

How do I react to my own pain in a way that hurts myself and others? In what situations have I done it? Can I find specific examples?

How is it to befriend my pain instead of reacting to it? How is it to explore this when the pain is milder and I am in a supportive setting of exploring how to befriend it? How is it to support and deepen a new pattern in how I respond to my pain?

This is an ongoing process, and it’s important to have some compassion for ourselves in this exploration. Many of us are trained to react to our pain instead of befriending it, at least when it comes to some types of pain and in some situations. It’s often an ingrained pattern, and something we have learned from family and culture.

How is it to befriend any reactions in me when I notice I still sometimes react to my pain instead of befriending it?

SOME WAYS TO EXPLORE IT FOR OURSELVES

Most or all of the approaches I write about in these articles can be used to explore this for ourselves.

We can use tonglen, ho’oponopono, and forms of prayer to shift how we relate to this in ourselves and others. We can shift how we relate to our own pain, and what triggers our pain.

We can use inquiry to examine our beliefs about our own pain, and what triggers our pain, and find what’s more true for us. (The Work of Byron Katie.)

We can explore how our mind – largely through associating mental representations with sensations – creates its experience of all of this, including the identities we create around it. (Traditional Buddhist inquiry, Living Inquiries / Kiloby Inquiries.)

We can engage in dialog with these parts of ourselves. We can listen to what they have to say and how they experience the world and us. We can help them see things in a way more aligned with reality. We can learn to recognize them as parts and relate to them more consciously. And so on.

We can find our nature and what we are in our first-person experience. This helps us recognize all of this as coming and going and living its own life, and it’s not what we more fundamentally are. (Headless experiments, Big Mind process.)

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What is authenticity?

I listened to an interview from a few years ago about an unrelated topic, and someone said: Trump is authentic. That’s what people like about him.

I have heard this argument several times before. Is it true that Trump is authentic?

IS TRUMP AUTHENTIC?

Yes and no and not really.

If with authentic you mean reactive, then yes. He is certainly authentic with his reactivity.

If with authentic you mean receptive, honest, and speaking truth about oneself as a confession, then he is not very authentic. He seems to avoid this like the plague.

Why does he avoid it? Most likely for the same reason as everyone else, including sometimes me: It can feel threatening. It can feel easier to react to our pain than to welcome and acknowledge it, especially when reactivity to our own pain has become a habit and what we are most familiar with.

IS IT EASIER TO REACT TO OUR PAIN THAN TO BEFRIEND IT?

Again, yes and no.

On the surface, it can seem easier. It’s the easy way out.

And when we look more closely, it’s more complicated and creates a lot more stress and suffering.

When we realize and take this in, that’s when a shift can happen into committing to meeting our own pain in a more mature way.

WHAT DOES REAL AUTHENTICITY LOOK LIKE?

It looks like receptivity, vulnerability, honesty about ourselves as a confession, taking responsibility for our own life and reactions, and so on.

And what does reactivity look like?

It can look like defensiveness, anger out of proportion to the situation, chronic fear, chronic depression, blame, victimhood, addictions, and even racism, bigotry and fundamentalist ideologies. Mainly, it looks like a compulsion to something, whether it’s a behavior, emotion, state, or ideology.

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Finca Milagros - view

Befriend & Awaken: The essence of many healing and awakening traditions

The befriend and awaken process is what I use the most these days as a practice.

It’s simple, direct, and effective. It includes essential elements from traditional psychological and spiritual approaches.

And it goes straight to the heart of emotional healing, awakening, and embodiment.

It allows for healing and relaxation of parts of me caught up in painful separation consciousness. It allows more part of me to align with a conscious noticing of my nature. And it makes it easier for me to live from this noticing in more areas of my life and situations in my life.

Here is a very brief outline.

NOTICE THE CONTRACTION

I notice a contraction.

I recognize it through one or more of the telltale signs: reactivity, defensiveness, one-sided views, feeling like a victim, being paralyzed, and so on.

I notice the contraction in the body. I notice the sensations. Feel the sensations. Recognize them as physical bodily sensations.

I rest with this noticing.

A PART OF ME

I recognize the contraction as a part of me.

It’s a part caught up in painful separation consciousness. It’s caught up in and operates from painful beliefs, identifications. It’s wounded.

Although it may seem big and overwhelming when I am caught up in it or a struggle with it, it’s not even close to all of who and what I am.

THANK YOU FOR PROTECTING ME

I thank the contraction for protecting me.

Thank you for protecting me.

Thank you for your love for me.

I repeat this and rest in this noticing.

WHAT DO YOU NEED?

I explore what the essential need of this part of me may be.

Is it being seen and understood? Love? Safety? Support?

I give it these in turn and notice which ones allow it to relax and rest, and I rest with the ones that resonate.

WHAT’S THE PAINFUL STORY YOU OPERATE FROM?

What’s the painful story this part of me is operating from?

What’s the essence of it?

What are some of the underlying and more essential stories?

Is it true? What’s more true?

What happens when you believe it’s true? Is there validity in the reversals? Can I find specific examples of how they are as or more true?

WHAT’S YOUR NATURE?

I notice the contraction as a flavor of the divine.

And in more detail:

I recognize my nature as capacity for the world as it appears to me.

I am capacity for this contraction. It happens within and as what I am.

I notice that my nature is the same as its nature, and rest in and as that noticing.

IN PRACTICE

In daily life, I may not go through all of these steps in one go.

If I have time, I typically notice the contraction, thank it, notice what it needs and give that to it, get a sense of the painful story, and rest in noticing the nature of the contraction. Later, I may investigate the painful story more thoroughly, although I have done a lot of inquiry so it tends to happen more automatically.

And if I don’t have so much time, or am in the middle of an activity, I may just notice the physical sensations and thank it for protecting me. And then explore it more thoroughly later (or not).

The sequence is not set in stone, and the particular steps are not set in stone. I use whatever works.

ADVANCED PRACTICE?

Is this an advanced practice? Yes and no.

Anyone can benefit from exploring several of these steps.

And for me, I notice they rest on a lot of practice that I have done in the past.

Noticing the contractions come mostly from Living Inquiries / Kiloby inquiry.

Noticing it as a part comes from parts work.

Thanking it for protecting me comes from parts work and dialogue explorations, and it has elements of ho’oponopono.

Giving it what it needs comes from… I am not sure. It seems a part of a lot of other explorations, including Non-Violent Communication.

Identifying and exploring the painful story comes from The Work of Byron KAtie.

Recognizing its nature and resting in this noticing comes from any exploration of my own nature, including the Big Mind process and Headless experiments, along with basic meditation.

For me, this, simple befriend & awaken process rests on decades of other explorations. So I am honestly not sure how suited it is for people who are not so familiar with these other approaches. I would tend to recommend these more basic ones first, and then this one as people get more familiar with the terrain.

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Dream: Jaques Vallée & befriending the alien(ated) parts of ourselves

I am spending some time with Jaque Vallée and we are going for a walk while talking.

At some point, we get to the question of what motivates our desire to find or know about alien life.

I say that since my background is in psychology, I am biased. So for me, the question is not: “Are we alone”. The question is: “am I alone”.

For this, finding aliens is not the solution. The solutions is something we can only do for ourselves. By being with ourselves, by befriending the different part of ourselves, and especially the lonely and alien-ated parts of ourselves.

The day residue for this dream is seeing that the long-awaited documentary about the Ariel school incident (Ariel Phenomenon) is coming out later this month.

Of the different people talking about these things, Jaques Vallée is one of my favorites, not the least because of his interests in patterns and archetypes, and in looking at similarities between UFO stories and fairy tales, and so on.

The conversation is initially about the phenomena in general, and then switches to why we are interested in the topic. What are some of the motivations? A part is obviously a general curiosity and wanting to know about the world.

And for me, with a background in psychology, I am also interested in another motivation: The wish to not be alone. A wish for connection. If that’s a drive for us, it points to that we feel alone. And apart from the conventional solutions to this (making friends etc.), a root solution is to get to know and befriend the exiled, alienated, and alone parts of ourselves.

Finding aliens is not the solution to feeling alone. Befriending ourselves is. And it’s far easier and closer at hand than finding aliens.

Another side to this dream is that in waking life, I would likely not have this conversation with Jaques Vallée. I wouldn’t feel confident enough. I am much more free in my conversations in my dreams than I am in waking life.

Image: From Close Encounter of the Third Kind where the main scientist is modeled on Jaques Vallée.

Labeling emotions

How do we relate to our emotions?

And do we need to differentiate a wide range of emotions to have a healthy relationship to them?

I sometimes ask myself that question when I see people who seem a bit obsessive in differentiating and mapping out a huge number of different emotions.

LABELING EMOTIONS

It can obviously be helpful to name emotions or emotional states.

It helps communication with ourselves and others.

Labeling the emotions for myself helps me see them as an object within my experience, and that helps me disidentify from them a bit.

And when I communicate it to others, it helps them understand a bit more what’s going on with me.

HOW MUCH DIFFERENTIATION IS NEEDED?

For myself, I find just a few general labels necessary.

For instance… I feel sadness. Anger. Joy. Elation. Hopelessness. Grief. Frustration.

In order to label an emotional state, I really just need the word “emotion” or “state”. That’s enough to recognize it more easily as an object happening within and as what I am. It’s a guest. Something passing through.

And if I want to differentiate a bit further, just a few categories are necessary.

THE STORIES THAT CREATE EMOTIONS

What’s more important for me is to identify the stressful stories that create certain emotions and emotional states when something in me holds them as true. This is where I personally find differentiating and precision helpful.

Pinpointing these stories helps me recognize why I feel a certain way. And it helps me explore them further. It helps me inquiry into them and find what’s more true for me, and it helps me see how my mind creates its own experience by associating certain sensations and stories.

MORE IMMEDIATELY: BEFRIENDING EMOTIONS

For me, the most helpful way of relating to emotions doesn’t require any labeling at all.

And that is to befriend them. Get to know them. Spend time with them. Be with them as I would a frightened animal or child. Listen to what they have to say. Ask them how they would like me to relate to them. Find the stories behind them. And perhaps even notice their nature (which is the same as my nature, and the nature of the world as it appears to me.)

THE ROLE OF LABELING EMOTIONS

For me, labeling emotions in a simple way is helpful, as outlined above.

What’s more important is to befriend and get to know them, whatever label they have. And identify and explore possible stressful stories creating them.

And I am completely open for discovering that labeling emotions themselves in a more precise and differentiated way can be helpful. It’s just that I haven’t seen it yet, in my 35 years of exploring these things.

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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.

What we avoid pursues us and what we face transforms us 

What we avoid pursues us and what we face transforms us 

– attributed to D. Kessler

If we compulsively avoid something, what we really avoid is a sensation combined with a scary story.

And when we avoid a part of ourselves, it will pursue us. It seeks to join in. It seeks to be loved and understood.

When we face what we have avoided, when we befriend it and perhaps invite it to wake up, it will transform us.

Befriending and awakening contractions: How it works

I am enjoying the befriend & awaken process these days.

It’s simple. Direct. Intimate. And supports healing, awakening, and embodiment.

I have written about this before, directly and indirectly, and thought I would revisit the topic here.

How does the befriend and awaken process work?

WHAT IS A CONTRACTION?

A contraction typically has several aspects. The mind aspect can be labeled a stressful and unexamined belief, an emotional issue, trauma, an unloved part of us, and so on. The physical component is a bodily contraction or tension. And this is reflected in blocks in our energy system as well.

BEFRIENDING A CONTRACTION

The process can be as simple or complex as I wish – depending on what seems needed.

I notice the signs of a contraction. The signs of a contraction may be stress, tension, unease, discomfort, struggle, defensiveness, reactivity, and so on.

I bring attention to the physical sensations. This helps ground the attention, and it serves as an anchor so it’s easier to notice the fearful images and words without getting caught up in them. If I notice my attention wandering, or getting caught in stressful images and words, I can bring attention back to the physical sensations of the contraction. (These may and usually will shift over time.)

I thank the contraction for protecting me. Thank you for protecting me. When I have a contraction, I may not be aware that it’s here to protect me. It was formed to protect this human self and an apparent separate self. Also, I may not be very thankful for the contraction. I may see it as a problem.

Thanking it makes me more receptive to seeing if or that it’s here to protect me. Over time, as I befriend and get to know the contraction, I may find genuine gratitude for the contraction. This easier my relationship with it. I find more peace with it. I shift out of my previous struggle with it.

Also, noticing it as a contraction, noticing the physical components of it, and thanking it, helps me see it as an object. It’s a part of my experience here and now. It’s not all of what I am. It’s an object, not a subject. This helps recognize it if or when it comes up later, and it helps release identification with it.

I keep thanking it until I notice a significant shift in how I relate to the contraction, and I can return to the thanking at any point within a session or at a later time. The more I do it, with sincerity, the more shifts tend to happen.

I allow it to get as big as it wants and stay for as long as it wants. Again, I am often in a struggle with the contraction, and this struggle can be more or less conscious. I may try to contain it. I may try to make it go away. And this struggle is part of what keeps the contraction here, and the struggle dynamic is itself uncomfortable. By intentionally allowing it to get as big as it wants and stay for as long as it wants, I go against this old pattern in me. It helps me recognize the old pattern, and that something else is possible. It also helps the contraction itself to unwind and relax.

I notice the space it’s happening within. I cannot find an end to this space. I notice the space and the contraction at the same time. (I may also notice that the contraction has space within it, and perhaps that it is space.) Noticing it as something happening within (and as) infinite space helps “giving it” more space. It helps in recognizing it as an object and disidentifying with it.

I welcome it. At any point in the process, I may intentionally welcome the contraction. Parts of me typically see the contraction as a problem, and it’s not always welcome. When I intentionally welcome it, it goes against this tendency, shows me there is another way, helps me recognize that parts of me do not welcome it, and helps the contraction itself to relax.

I say I love you to the contraction. The more I see it’s here to protect me and comes from love, the easier it is to find genuine love for it. Love is the antidote to the previous struggle with the contraction.

I explore what it wants and needs, and the lack it is coming from. What do you want and need? What sense of lack do you come from? How is it to give it what it needs and wants? How is it to give it what it perceives it lacks? Here, I may explore a few universal needs and lacks.

Typically, I may try to fulfill the needs and wants through the world – people, situations, roles, labels, and so on. That works to some extent, but it doesn’t really work. It never fills the real and deeper needs, wants, and sense of lack.

The only one who can resolve this deeply, and give the contraction what it really needs and wants, is me. I am the only one in the position to do it. I am the only one who can get intimate enough with it since it’s part of me. I am the only one who can touch it.

If external pieces fall into place, I sometimes allow myself to give to the contraction what it needs and wants. I may give it love, safety, support, and so on. This gives temporary relief, but as soon as my external situation changes my relationship to these contractions may change. I may cut off my own love, support, and so on.

So why not do it directly? Why not, as Byron Katie says, cut out the middleman? Why not give to the contraction what it needs without waiting for external situations to change?

I may notice stressful beliefs and examine them. Contractions are created from stressful and unexamined beliefs, so one remedy is to notice these stories and examine them. I may do this informally as part of this process, or I write them down and examine them more thoroughly later. (For instance, using The Work of Byron Katie.)

GENERAL ORIENTATIONS

I approach the contraction with respect. This helps me allow it as it is, welcome it, find curiosity about it, and so on.

I find curiosity about the contraction. Curiosity is part of the whole befriending and awakening process. As long as I react to or act on the contraction, there isn’t much curiosity about it. Intentionally finding curiosity about it shifts my relationship to it. It helps me recognize it as an object, and it helps me explore and get to know it.

I take my time. I stay with and rest with each of these steps. I notice shifts. I notice what else may be needed. I return to some to see what happens. I may return to the whole process at another time.

This is an antidote to the typical quickness of reacting to or acting on the contraction, and the tendency to wish to not stay with it since it may seem uncomfortable and unfamiliar.

Through this process, I may find genuine love for the contraction. I see it’s here to protect me. It comes from love. And this makes it easier for me to find genuine love for it.

I allow this process to transform me. I allow the noticing and resting in the noticing to transform whatever is naturally transformed.

NOTICING THE NATURE OF THE CONTRACTION

After this, I may explore the nature of the contraction.

First, I notice my own nature. I find myself as capacity for the world as it appears to me. I find myself as capacity for any content of experience, whether a thought may label it body, thoughts, emotions, the wider world, and so on. I notice I am what the content of my experience happens within and as. (If I need the help of some structured pointers, I can use Headless Experiments or the Big Mind process, or whatever else works.)

I notice how the contraction relates to what I am. I am capacity for it. It happens within and as what I am. I rest with this noticing.

I notice the contraction is, in a sense, capacity for itself. I invite the contraction to notice its own nature and rest in that noticing and allow whatever needs to shift to shift.

Typically, I may see the contraction as an object and a thing. This noticing process helps me recognize its nature, and it invites it to notice its own nature. It’s easier the more familiar I am with noticing my own nature, and it’s much more simple and direct than it may seem from these words.

This noticing helps shift how I relate to the contraction. I notice its nature. It’s part of the field noticing itself. (There is no I or Other inherent in any of it.)

THE BENEFITS OF NAMING IT CONTRACTION

There are several benefits to calling it a contraction rather than some of the other possible labels. (Issue, belief, trauma, etc.)

It’s simple.

It points to something immediate in our experience.

It’s free of the many associations the other labels may have for us.

It doesn’t require or rest on any particular worldview or ideology.

The process itself supports psychological healing, awakening, and living from this awakening, without needing to use any of those words.

SUPPORTS HEALING, AWAKENING, AND EMBODIMENT

This process supports and invites in healing, awakening, and living from the awakening. And it does so without us having to use any of those words or even having that intention or aim.

All that’s required is a wish to notice and befriend contractions, notice its nature, and rest in that noticing and allowing it to transform me.

Emotional issues come from a stressful belief, identification with painful and unexamined stories, unloved parts of us, and so on.

If there is no noticing of what I am, it comes from holding stories as true, which in turn creates a sense of I and Other and fundamental separation.

If I don’t live from noticing what I am, it’s because I get caught up in unresolved emotional issues, beliefs, trauma, and so on.

And this process supports healing of all of that.

SHIFT FROM SEPARATION CONSCIOUSNESS TO ONENESS

The essence of this process is a shift in how I relate to the contraction.

When I operate from separation consciousness, I identify with the contraction (act on it) or react to it or both, and this creates struggle.

The befriending & waking up process helps shift out of this old pattern and into one that’s more aligned with oneness. It mimicks how I would relate to the contraction from noticing oneness, and it makes it easier to notice the oneness of it all.

ESSENTIAL AND INTIMATE PROCESS

For me, this is a very intimate process, and it goes to essence a wide range of spiritual practices.

When I look at the essence of other spiritual or healing practices, I find it’s typically something included in this befriending & waking up process.

It’s often about finding love for our experience. Examine stressful beliefs. Welcome what’s here. Notice what we are and the nature of our experiences. And so on.

And that’s what this process does in a simple, direct, and intimate way.

It doesn’t mean the other practices are not helpful. It just means that I have a simple and direct way of exploring it, and I can supplement it with any number of other practices.

Note: As I have mentioned in other posts, I have relatively strong brain fog these days (CFS) so these articles are often not as clear or well organized as I would have liked. A part of me wants to rewrite this to make it more clear and to the point, and another part of me knows that’s likely not to happen. So I decided to publish this version instead, with all its warts and imperfections. As someone said, the perfect is the enemy of the good. Or, in this case, the good-enough.

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His unresolved anger made me angry!

A while back, a friend told me how she had been chronically angry in a past relationship, and she eventually realized it was because of his unresolved anger.

Yes, that can happen, and it’s not the whole picture.

We pick up what’s going on in others, whether it’s on the surface or more hidden. We respond to it. And we may well respond to unresolved anger in someone else with our own anger.

For me, this is life inviting us to see and explore our own anger.

How do I relate to my own anger?

How would it be to befriend it? Invite it to wake up to its nature?

If I make genuine friends with my own anger, how do my relationships change? How does my relationship with angry people change?

In the case of my friend, how would her relationship have been different if she had found more resolution with her relationship with her own anger? Maybe the relationship would have ended, if the unresolved anger was a major tie or if he wasn’t able to change with her? Maybe he would have been able to shift his relationship with his own anger?

And, yes, I know it’s not always so easy. Sometimes, we have the space and availability to explore these things only long after a situation is over that brought our own issue up for us.

Note: How may it look if we genuinely befriend our anger? We’ll have an easier relationship with it. We are not caught up in fear about it. We trust we can relate to it in a more healthy and conscious manner. We allow ourselves to more consciously feel it. We may even allow ourselves to speak and act from it in some situations where it may be helpful, and use it as an energy to cut through certain situations. We continue to explore our relationship with it since there is always more to discover. We know our relationship with it still has unhealed parts and that we still have blindspots.

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The miracle of love

The miracle of love
Will take away your pain

– Eurythmics, the miracle of love

Yes, the miracle of love will take away your pain.

And this is the love we give the hurting parts of ourselves.

It’s the love we meet our own hurt with.

That’s the only love that can heal.

That’s the only love that can touch these parts of us.

We are the only one who is in the position to give this to us.

It may seem it’s the love from others that does this – whether it’s a person or divine – but that love only reminds us of our own love. When we receive that love, we give ourselves permission to love these hurting parts of ourselves.

Exploring contractions & why the term is useful

These days, I mostly explore contractions – by making friends with them and rest in recognizing their nature.

Why? The simple and honest answer is that I am, for whatever reason, drawn to it.

Another answer is that it’s direct, intimate, simple, and effective. It draws on essential dynamics I am familiar with, including through a diverse set of practices. And it supports healing, awakening, and living from awakening.

A USEFUL TERM

I like the term contraction for several reasons.

Contraction seems an accurate description of what’s happening. It refers to a contraction in our system, which is reflected in our psyche (reactivity, defensiveness, etc.), body (muscle contractions), and perhaps even in the energy system.

For many, the word contraction has less baggage than related terms like emotional issue, trauma, hangup, and so on.

It’s direct and visceral. It’s often something we can find and connect with here and now, without too much difficulty.

It gets to what’s in the way of emotional and human healing, awakening, and living from awakening.

It captures more of the whole of what’s going on, while some other terms refer to aspects of the dynamic.

It doesn’t require any reference to healing or awakening.

SUPPORTS HEALING, AWAKENING, AND LIVING FROM AWAKENING

When we work with a contraction, we work on something that distracts us – and our system – from healing, awakening, and living from awakening.

Befriending contractions opens for healing as a human being. And resting in noticing its nature supports that healing, and also makes it easier for us to more consistently notice our nature in general and live from that noticing.

A contraction is a psychological issue. When contractions come up that we haven’t befriended, we tend to act on them or react to them, which means reinforcing the contraction. We tell ourselves its substantial, that the stressful story creating it is true, and so on. We get caught up in it, and go out of a more healthy way of responding and living. And if we generally notice our nature, we tend to “forget” that this contraction too has the same nature. We get distracted from noticing our nature and living from our nature.

SOME COMPONENTS OF CONTRACTIONS

Contractions in our system are expressed psychologically as reactivity, defensiveness, hangups, compulsions, persistent emotional states, and more. They are expressed as chronic or recurrent muscle contractions in our body. And if we work with energies, we may notice them as blocks in our energy system.

In a sense, contractions are created when we believe a thought. When we identify with the viewpoint of a thought. This creates a sense of I and Other, and a view and self that needs to be defended and protected. And that, in turn, creates a psychological, physical, and energetic contraction.

ONE WAY TO EXPLORE CONTRACTIONS

There are innumerable ways of working with contractions. Any healing modality that works, works with contractions. And anything that supports noticing what we are and living from it tends to directly or indirectly work with contractions.

These days, I am enjoying a simplified way of exploring my own contractions.

I notice the contraction – perhaps in the form of reactivity, stress, discomfort, defensiveness, compulsions, or similar.

This is a remedy for not noticing the contraction (!), and for getting caught up in it or in reactivity to it.

I notice the physical sensations making up the contraction. This helps “anchoring” my attention there, while also being aware of the other aspects of the contraction.

This is a remedy for getting caught up in the stressful stories related to the contraction, and getting caught up in reactivity.

I befriend it. I intentionally allow and welcome it, and notice it’s already allowed. (By life, mind, space.) I thank it for protecting me. I allow it to get as big as it wants. I rest with each of these as long as is needed for a shift to happen into genuinely welcome, thanking, and so on.

These are remedies for how we often respond to contractions – by wanting it to go away, seeing it as a problem, wanting to contain it, and so on.

I check out what it needs and wants. This comes from a sense of lack and is typically something essential and universal like love, safety, support, being seen, and so on. I do this by saying each word and noticing how the contraction responds. Does it relax? If so, I rest with it and allow it to receive what it needs. I do this for quite a while until I feel it has relaxed more deeply.

I notice its nature. I tend to first notice my own nature, perhaps with a dip into headless experiments or the big mind process. Then notice the nature of the contraction. And that its nature is my nature and the nature of everything in my world. I rest in this noticing until I notice a good shift. And then I invite the contraction to notice its own nature and rest in that noticing.

This is the simplified version, and there is a lot more to it depending on what seems helpful for the contraction in the moment. For instance, any contraction has a stressful belief within it creating and maintaining it, so I may find this belief and see if a more thorough inquiry into that belief is helpful. And when I notice the nature of the contraction, it seems that noticing and resting with the stillness and silence aspect of our / its nature is especially helpful.

I often explore contractions before falling asleep, if I wake up during the night, and after waking up in the morning. Sometimes, I take my time and go more in-depth. Other times, for instance in daily life situations, I just do the first two or three steps. I especially find “thank you for protecting me” helpful in shifting me out of getting caught in the contraction or in reacting to the contraction.

I find that this is an effective process, it’s intimate, and I can draw on a lot of what I am familiar with from having exploring these dynamics through a range of practices.

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Thich Nhat Hanh: Embrace your pain tenderly

Buddhist meditation is based on the insight of non-duality. You are it. So the appropriate way is to deal with it non-violently, with tenderness. You embrace your pain tenderly, you recognize it, you don’t try to suppress it. “Oh, my dear little pain, I know you are there. I am here for you, I will take good care of you.” …Your fear or your anger will go down after a moment, and become a little bit less important. Every time your pain is bathed in mindfulness, it will lose a little bit of its strength. If you practice you will see that. And the next time it comes up again, you do the same thing. “Hello, my pain, hello there, my despair; I know you are there. I am here, ready to be available for you.” And you embrace it tenderly, in walking meditation, in sitting meditation, in mindful breathing…

– Thich Nhat Hanh

Befriend & awaken contractions – a simplified version

I thought I would make a brief note of a simplified befriending & awakening process I find helpful these days.

  1. Contraction
    I notice a contraction. Any reactivity, tension, stress, defensiveness, and so on.
    I notice the physical sensations – where they are etc. – and ground my attention there while also being aware of any stories and images connected with it. (Any contraction is a mind-body contractions, it has mind and body components.)
  2. Allow and thanks
    I allow it as it is. Notice it’s already allowed as it is. (By mind, space, life.)
    I thank it for protecting me. I keep thanking it for protecting me for a while. (All contractions are here to protect me, to protect this human self and this imagined separate self.)
  3. What does it need?
    I try out a few universals to see what it needs and lacks. (Contractions all have needs, wants, and come from a sense of lack.) This may be love, safety, being seen, support, and so on.
    When I find one that resonates, I stay with it. I allow the contraction to receive it here and now. (Sometimes, it’s a combination of two or three, and I may do it first in series and then combined.)
  4. What is its nature?
    I can ask it: What is your nature?
    I notice my own nature – as capacity for all my experiences and the world as it appears to me now. I notice that the world, as it appears to me, happens within and as what I am. (What a thought may label consciousness, awakeness, space, and so on.)
    I notice that the nature of the contraction is the same, it’s part of the field. I rest in this noticing.
    I invite the contraction to notice its own nature, and rest in that noticing.

Although this is the simplified version I am drawn to right now, there are a lot more possible wrinkles and variations to this process. I may have a brief dialog with the contraction. I may notice the stressful story within the contraction needs more examination. It may lead me to other contractions. I may go back to situations early in life where I first remember experiencing a similar contraction. And so on.

I often do this with contractions up and activated right now. And sometimes, I go back in time and remember a contraction, connect with it here and now, and explore it. (It won’t be as strong, but it’s here in my system, and connecting with it is enough for this process to work.)

These days, I tend to do this before falling asleep at night, if I wake up at night, and after waking up in the morning. I may also do a briefer version during the day, for instance just thanking a contraction for protecting me if it comes up in a situation.

Our inner monsters need love too

I saw this and thought it was beautiful. Monsters need love too. Our inner monsters need and want our companionship, understanding, and love. They want to join in with the awakening.

How do I relate to my monsters?

I sometimes reject them. I pretend they are not here, I push them away, I distract myself from noticing them, I try to make them go away, I try to heal them with the intention of making them go away.

I sometimes become them and take on their role, views, and behavior.

And I sometimes relate to them more intentionally, typically through recognizing them as parts of me and as a contraction.

Usually, I do some or all of the following.

I notice the physical sensations of this contraction and ground my attention there.

I welcome them. I allow them to be as they are. (And notice they are already allowed to be as they are by mind, space, and life.)

I thank them for protecting me, and for their love for me.

I have a dialog with them and listen to what they have to say.

I explore their needs and wants. I explore the lack they come from. I see what I can give them that will be deeply satisfying for them. (Often love, acceptance, safety, support.)

I notice the stressful beliefs they operate from. If needed, I do an inquiry into those beliefs.

I notice their nature. (Same as the whole field of experience.) I rest in and as this noticing. I invite them to notice and rest this noticing.

Art: NanezillaNanezilla on Instagram

Dream: Genuinely supportive school class

I sit in with a school class, perhaps 16-17 years old. I feel a little uncomfortable at first, and notice my old school-age fear of being judged coming up. I write down a dream on a piece of paper. One young man tells the class he would like to perform a song he created. He does, and a group of 6-7 other kids stand behind him to be backup singers. After this, another asks me what I wrote down, and I tell him it was a dream. He says he is very interested in learning more about exploring dreams, and seems sincere and genuine. I realize that this is a class of kind, genuine, and very supportive people, and I notice it’s a bit difficult for me to really take it in and feel it.

When I was in school, I rarely experienced this kind of authenticity, kindness, and mutual support. I experienced the contrary until perhaps high school where new people came into my class and the culture changed a bit. The class in the dream is early high school and may reflect my own experience of a culture change at that time.

In many ways, I didn’t feel much support in childhood in general. There was never any material lack, and we had regular mealtimes and so on. But this kind of authenticity, genuine kindness, sincerity, and consistent and real support was absent from my family, school, and teachers. They all seemed to operate more on fear – insecurity, and fear of judgment – and I learned to do the same.

I have more intentionally and consistently supported my inner community this summer, and that may be reflected in this dream. The dream shows me how a genuinely supportive community looks, and that a part of me is still unfamiliar with this and has trouble completely taking it in.

Finding peace with failure in advance

I have been watching Storror videos, and love one of the mental pointers they use:

Find peace with failure in advance.

In this video, they are doing a slightly scary challenge that involves falling into the water if they fail, and one of the ways they prepare is by mentally finding peace with falling into the water. That helps remove their mental struggle with failure, and it makes it possible for them to perform with less distraction from the fear.

This is an example of using our areas of passion as a laboratory. Any area of life that we delve into deeply becomes a kind of laboratory for life.

In this case, they realize that finding peace with failure in advance helps them perform to the best of their ability. They share the pointer with others watching their videos. And they and the viewers can then apply that pointer to other areas of our own life.

In what area(s) of life am I afraid of life? What specifically am I afraid of? How is it to find peace with that fear of failure here and now? What changes when I find peace with failure in advance?

Working with contractions: a puzzle where we find the shapes that fit

When we work more initmately with our contractions, it’s a kind of puzzle where we try out and find the right shapes.

I experience a contraction. I bring attention to the physical sensations of the contraction for grounding, while being aware of the images and stories connected with it.

From here, it’s really quite open. What holds the contraction in place, will be a little different for each contraction. And that means that the remedy, the puzzle piece that fits, will be a little different for each contraction.

At the same time, there are some universals, and it may be good to go through a set of universals to see what the contraction responds to and what’s needed.

A FEW UNIVERSAL REMEDIES TO TRY OUT

When there is a contraction, there is usually a part of me not welcoming it. The remedy here is to intentionally welcome it. To help shift into this, I can say to the contraction: You are welcome here.

A variation of this is that parts of me likely don’t want to allow the contraction. So here, I can intentionally allow it. And I can also notice that the contraction is already allowed. It’s allowed by mind, space, life, and I can more consciously align with the allowing that’s already here.

Parts of me likely wish to contain the contraction. So I can allow the contraction to uncontain itself. I can say to it: Get as big as you want.

Parts of me may see the contraction as a problem and up to no good. The remedy here is to recognize that it’s here to protect me, to protect the imagined separate self. It’s innocent. It’s a bit confused. It comes from care and love. It’s confused love. (This step may require some additional exploration first, unless we are very familiar with this terrain and have explored a lot of other contractions before and regularly found this.) To help connect with this, I can say: Thank you for protecting me.

Similarly, several parts of me may not genuinely love the contraction. When I see it’s innocent, here to protect me, and comes from love, it’s easier to find genuine love for the contraction. Thank you for your love for me.

The contraction has an unexamined stressful story. It’s created and maintained by one or a set of stressful stories. It can be helpful to identify and examine these, either in the moment or more thoroughly through structured inquiry.

The contraction has needs and wants, and comes from a sense of lack. What are those needs and wants? What is the lack it comes from? Can I give it to the contraction here and now? If it needs and lacks love, how is it to give it love? If it wants and lacks a sense of safety, how is it to be a safe harbour for it? If it wants and lacks a sense of acknowledgment and being seen, how is it to see it here and now?

Typically, there is a part of me that resists contractions. This part wants it to go away in any way possible, through distraction, pushing it away, trying to fix it, pretend it’s not there, and so on. This resistance is innocent, comes from unexamined and unloved fear, and is another contraction. So it makes sense to explore this contraction in the ways described above, and to do this relatively early in the process.

In general, it makes sense to check if I come from a contraction when I explore a contraction, and explore this contraction first.

Even if there is a general or global kind of recognition of our nature, I may not recognize the nature of the contraction. So how is it to recognize its nature? What happens if I notice its nature? What happens when I notice the different aspects of its nature? That it happens within and as what I am? That it’s part of the seamless whole of the field? That it has no real substance? That it happens within and as what a thought may label consciousness? That it is stillness and silence taking that particular form? That it is love taking that particular form? How is it to rest with and as this noticing?

Similarly, the contraction may not notice its own nature. How is it to invite it to notice its nature? How is it to invite it to rest in and as that noticing? What are you really? Do you know your nature? Do you know what you are made of?

EXPLORING AND FINDING EVEN MORE INTIMACY

Trying these and more out is like trying out puzzle pieces. Which one fits in this spot? And usually, it’s a set of different pieces.

There are also some orientations that are helpful here. For instance, sincerity, respect, curiosity, receptivity, playfulness, and a sense of adventrue.

It may also be that what worked in the past, doesn’t seem to work anymore. Perhaps life is asking us to become even more intimate? To explore a bit more closely? To find another angle that’s a bit different from what we are used to?

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The different parts of us have real needs, and we are the one in position to give them what they need

We all have many subpersonalitites or parts, and these are often operating from a need, want, and sense of lack.

When we identify with them, we feel that we have those needs, wants, and lack, which is not wrong since these are parts of us.

We often try to fulfill the needs and wants through something in the wider world – love and acceptance from others, success and status, and so on. This is also not wrong, ahough it’s precarious and doesn’t really give these parts of what what they need and want. And it doesn’t resolve the sense of lack.

We are the only one in the position to really give these parts of us what they need and want, and help them find a deeper resolution for the sense of lack.

ONE WAY TO EXPLORE THIS

How do we find these parts of us, identify what they need, and give it to them? And how do we help them resolve the sense of lack?

Finding the contraction

I notice a sense of unease, a contraction, or a need, want, or sense or lack. I can also bring this up by reminding myself of a situation that triggered it in the past, or through words resonating with something less than peaceful in us – for instance, “I am alone”, “I won’t have what I need”, and so on.

This is how I find the contraction.

Noticing the physical sensations

Where do I feel it in my body? What are the physical sensations? How do I experience it? (How is it to find some curiosity about it?)

In this way, I anchor my attention in the bodily sensations, while still being aware of the mental images and words connected with it.

Allowing and welcoming

I can say: You are welcome here. Stay as long as you want. Get as big as you want.

I can also notice it’s already allowe – by life, mind, space. It’s already here. All I am doing is more consciously joining with that allowing.

This helps shift out of any habitual pattern of wanting to push it away.

Finding the need and want

I can ask: What do you want? What do you need? What would make you content?

I can also explore some of the triggering situations to find what it wants and needs.

And I can go through some of the universals – love, safety, acceptance, and so on – and see which one resonates and helps it relax.

Giving it what it needs and wants

I then give it what it wants and needs.

How is it to…. Give it love? Be a safe harbor for it? Welcome and allow it? Accept it as it is? Or whatever else it may want and need?

How is it to give it to it, as I would like to receive it? As I would give it to a frightened animal? A scared child?

Finding the lack

What’s behing the need and want? What’s the sense of lack?

What’s the story in that sense of lack? What’s the painful story?

What’s my first memory of feeling that? Of having that story?

Is it true? (We can also take this to a more thorough inquiry.)

Seeing it’s here to protect me

At some point in this process, perhaps here, I notice it’s here to protect me. It’s innocent. It’s often from a child’s view on the world. It was created to protect me.

This helps me welcome it more genuinely, and it also helps me find more genuine love for it, wish to be a safe harbor for it, and so on.

Finding its nature

I notice the nature of what I am. I find myself as capacity for the world as it appears to me. I find myself as what my sense fields – including this human self, the contraction, and the wider world – happens within and as. I notice it’s seamless. I notice the inherent stillness and silence in it, and how that stillness and silence takes all these forms.

What’s the nature of the contraction? How is it to notice it? Rest in that noticing?

I can also ask the contraction: Do you know your nature?

I can allow the contraction notice it’s nature and unravel and rest in and as that noticing.

This part of the process can be supported by headless experiments (Headless Way, Douglas Harding) or a quick dip into the Big Mind process.

A NEW ORIENTATION

This process helps us find healing for our different human wounds, and it can also help us heal out of separation consciousness.

And the magic happens in doing it and exploring it. These are just pointers and medicines for specific conditions. What works for me may not be what works for you. And what works will change a bit with each process, and we’ll discover more as we keep exploring it.

It’s something we do here and now, whenever these suffering parts of us come up. (Or as soon as we have the opportunity.)

And over time, it becomes a new orientation and a new habit. It becomes a new way of being with ourselves and these facets of life. It becomes second nature, although it will always require some attention – especially when more ingrained suffering comes up.

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How contractions appear depending on how we relate to them

Our contractions appear quite differently to us depending on how we relate to them.

If we identify with them – with the viewpoint of the stressful stories within them, we feel they are us and who we are. We take on their view on the world.

If we battle with them and try to avoid or get rid of them, they appear as other and a problem.

If we meet them and get to know them, they reveal themselves to us in a very different way. We see their innocence.

In the first case, they appear as a subject, as who we are. In the second, as an object, as other. And in the third, and if we look closely, as both. They appear as an object we relate to, and happening within and as what we are.

We can look at this in a bit more detail.

WHAT IS A CONTRACTION?

First, what are these contractions? They have psychological, physical, and energetic components.

The psychological component is made up of what we can call a belief (holding a stressful story as true), identification (identifying with the viewpoint of those stressful stories), hangups, emotional issues, or even trauma. All of those are names for the same essential dynamic.

Our mind associates these stories with certain physical sensations, and the sensations lend a sense of solidity and reality to the stories, while the stories give a sense of meaning to the sensations.

The physical contractions seem to be the mind’s way to make sure there are particular sensations available to support certain stressful stories. Some of these patterns come and go, and some are more chronic and lasting (chronic muscle tension + belief).

IDENTIFYING WITH CONTRACTIONS

When we identify with a contraction, we take on the viewpoint of the stressful stories creating the contraction. In a sense, we become the contraction and the way it looks at the world. We perceive, act, and live from the contraction, and as if the stories creating it are true.

We may habitually and stably identify with some of these contractions, and especially the ones that are older, more ingrained, and perhaps supported by our culture.

And we identify with some of the only in some situations, when they are triggered, and may later feel a bit foolish and ashamed.

TRYING TO MAKE THEM GO AWAY

With some contractions, we try to make them go away. We avoid them and distract ourselves from them. We may deny they are there. We may battle and struggle with them. We may try to fix them so they’ll be gone from our life.

All of this is really creating and going into additional contractions, in opposition to the initial ones.

And it can take almost endless forms, including any form of compulsion or addiction. We may get into spending hours online or watching movies. We may go into ideologies that distract us from the discomfort of the contractions. We may scapegoat and blame. Or go into victimhood, or hopelessness, or depression. We may try to achieve status and fame. We may try to prove to ourselves we are liked and loved, in whatever way we go about that. And so on.

BEFRIENDING THE CONTRACTION

Getting to know these contractions can have several angles and layers.

In essence, we notice how we habitually relate to the contractions and how that maintains them, and then to the reverse.

We may identify with it, so we instead see if we can notice it as an object.

We may try to make it go away, so instead, we welcome it. We can say: You are welcome here.

We may wrestle with it, so instead, we notice and allow it to be as it is (as best we can), and notice it’s already allowed (by life, mind, space). You are allowed to be here.

We may try to manipulate and change it, so instead, we see how it is to meet it with respect.

We may act on or dismiss the stressful stories within it, so instead, we identify and examine them, and perhaps find what’s more true for us.

We may try to contain it, so instead, we allow it to be as big as it wants.

We are often impatient with these contractions, so instead we can find some patience with them.

We may think we know what it is, if only that it’s something to act on or react to, so instead, we can see how it how to find curiosity about it.

We may see the contractions as other, and perhaps even mostly see them in others and not ourselves. So we can find it in ourselves and as part of who we are.

The contraction wants and needs something, and instead of denying this or trying to get it from the wider world, we can give it what it needs and wants here and now. (Often, love, respect, sense of safety, patience, etc.)

We may secretly hate the contraction, see we can see how it is to find genuine love for it. It comes from a desire to protect us, and it comes from innocence. It’s confused love, and seeing that makes it easier for us to find genuine love for it.

All of this helps us shift how we relate to the contractions. It helps us get to know and befriend them, and this helps the contractions relax.

YET ANOTHER STEP IF WE NOTICE WHAT WE ARE

If we notice what we are, there is more we can do.

We may find ourselves as capacity for our experience of the world, and what our experiences – of ourselves, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as.

Our habitual pattern may be to notice ourselves, in a general way, as this, and yet not consciously or intentionally notice the contraction as this. We instead react to or on it.

The remedy here is to notice that the nature of the contraction is the same as our nature. We have the same nature. We know this intellectually, and it’s different to actually notice and rest in that noticing and allowing it to transform us.

And since all of this happens within and as what we are, we can invite the contraction itself to notice its own nature. We can ask it… Do you know what you are? Or a similar question. And we can also have a wordless intention for the contraction to notice its own nature.

This can be profoundly transformative.

MOVING AWAY FROM VS GETTING TO KNOW

So we can have the same contraction, we can relate to it in a few general ways, and the effect will be wildly different in each case.

The main two ways of relating to contractions is to move away from it or getting to know it. We can move away from it by (ironically) identifying with it, or struggling with it and reacting to it.

And we get to know it by treating it as we would like to be treated. With respect, welcome, allowing, gentle curiosity, and perhaps even for our true nature to be recognized and acknowledged.

Inviting contractions to find what they are / waking up issues

There is a simple and relatively direct way of inviting in healing. And that is to befriend our contractions, notice their nature, and invite them to notice their nature and rest in that noticing.

INVITING CONTRACTIONS TO FIND WHAT THEY ARE

What’s the essence of healing and awakening?

One answer is supporting our conscious view, and different parts of us, to align more with reality. That’s where real healing happens, and also where we notice what we are.

And one way to do this with parts of us is to invite contractions to find what they are. Contractions are created from separation consciousness and operate from separation consciousness. They are created and maintained by (painful) beliefs, identifications, emotional issues, hangups, and trauma. (All words pointing to the same dynamic.)

THE PROCESS

These are some elements of the process, and some or all can be used at different parts of the process. They are not in a strict sequence. We may visit each of these several times in any one session.

ORIENTATION. Respect, allowing, welcoming, kindness, curiosity, patience.

CONTRACTION. I can explore any contraction already here, and I can use elements of the process to get to know it. I can notice the sensations, welcome it, invite it to notice what it is, ask it what it needs and wants. In this way, I get a sense of what it’s about, and there may be layers to this until I find something more essential.

I can also evoke a contraction, by reminding myself of a situation triggering it, or using words and sentences. For instance, I can remember a time I felt alone, and I can use the words “I am alone”.

SENSATIONS. Contractions consist of physical sensations and mental representations, and I find it helpful to ground the process by bringing attention to the physical sensations. Where in the body do I feel it? How are the sensations? I find some curiosity about it.

ALLOWING. Since my old tendency likely is to struggle with the contractions, I can intentionally do the reverse to shift out of this habit, create a new one, and allow the contraction some space.

I can notice it’s already allowed, by life, space, mind. I can notice the (endless) space it’s happening within. I can explore how it is to intentionally allow it to be as it is, and give it space to change in its own time and in its own way.

I can say to the contraction: You are welcome here. Make yourself as big as you want. Thank you for protecting me. (They are all here to protect me and the separate self.) I love you.

NEED/WANT: I can ask the contraction: What do you need and want? What would make you content and happy? This is usually something essential and universal we all need and want, at a human level.

I can also explore this more in detail, and ask: How does P. (me) relate to you? What would you like from him? What advice do you have for him?

INVITE TO FIND WHAT IT IS. I can then invite the contraction to find what it is. What are you really? Do you know what you are?

These contractions have the same nature as what I am. They are capacity for themselves, they are oneness, love, stillness and silence.

When they find themselves as this, they can rest in and as it. They can sink into what they are, rest, unravel, realign, and align with their own nature.

To do this, I first notice my own nature. I find myself as capacity for my experiences, as what my experiences happen within and as, as love, oneness, stillness and silence. And then, notice the nature of the contractions – same as mine, and I invite the contraction to find their own nature and sink into it.

RESISTANCE: In this process, there is likely some resistance. It’s good to notice and do this process with the resistance first. This is also a contraction, and meeting this first can, in itself, release a lot from the initial issue and contraction.

The resistance can be in the form of discomfort, anger, frustration, distractions, and so on. And the essence is typically fear. A natural and innocent fear, here to protect us and the separate self. It’s confused love.

FINDING WHAT THEY ARE

This is about finding what the contractions are in more than one sense.

We find what at a human level, y these contractions need and want. What do they need and want? What’s the sense of lack they come from? What do they need and want from me? (In this process, through how I meet them, they are given what they want, and that’s part of how they are able to relax.)

We find their nature, and help them find their nature – as capacity for themselves, oneness, love, stillness, and silence.

And yet another is to recognize their role in this human self. They were created to protect this human self, often from a child’s view of the world. They are an expression of confused love.

INTIMACY

This is a very intimate process, and it can be difficult at first since we are used to avoiding our uncomfortable experiences. We distract ourselves from them and go into stories as a distraction or some activity that distracts us. We try to make them go away. We try to fix them. And so on.

So it helps to either be familiar with more of the “training wheel” approaches that may be a bit more formal and clunky, but help us get a bit closer to what’s happening in us and approach it in a way that invites healing.

And it also helps to be guided through this, and also have a small community of others for support as we do it and in general. (That community could be just one other person.)

SUPPORTS DEEP HEALING

This simple and essential process supports deep healing.

It supports healing of how we relate to our contractions, our human self, and ultimately all of existence. We find a more welcoming, kind, and respectful way of meeting it, and recognize that its nature is – to us – the same as our own nature.

It supports healing of the different parts of our human self. These contractions can be called painful beliefs, identifications, emotional issues, hangups, and trauma. And the real healing comes from meeting them in a more kind way, find the essence of what the contraction is about (a universal need and want), and inviting these contractions to find their nature and rest in and as it.

It supports healing out of our painful separation consciousness. We find our nature and the nature of these contractions, and allow our human self to rest in and as it, and realign with it.

It supports living from noticing what we are. These contractions inevitably color our perception and life in the world, whether they are triggered or not. And when they are triggered, we can get caught in them and perceive and act from separation consciousness. Finding healing for these parts of us allows us to more easily, and in more situations in life, live more from noticing what we are.

If we want to use those labels, we can say that this process supports healing, awakening, and embodiment.

PRACTICES MIMIC WHAT NATURALLY HAPPENS WHEN THE MIND IS CLEAR AND KIND

Most practices for healing and awakening mimic what naturally and organically happens when our mind is clear and kind. They come from someone noticing and becoming familiar with these processes and then setting them in system so they could more easily share them with others.

So they are, inevitably, a bit clunky and rigid. They are training wheels, useful for a while until we find a more natural and organic approach for ourselves.

What I outlined here, and many talk about, is an example of how it can look when we find a more natural, organic, and intimate process for ourselves. And it can be even simpler and more essential.

Some of the practices I am familiar with, and that have elements of this process, are: Chigong in working directly with energies. Basic meditation, in practicing noticing and allowing whatever comes up, including contractions. Process Work, in following in a more organic and playful way, what’s coming up and allowing it to show itself, guide us, and unravel. The Big Mind process, in finding what we are and dialoguing with the different parts of us. The Work of Byron Katie, in gently inquiring into stressful beliefs. The Living Inquiries, in exploring what these contractions really are.

And then two people: Pamela Wilson, in using a process very similar to this. And Amy Harwood, who reminded me of all of this through a recent course. She is intimately familiar with this process and very clear on the essence and how to support this process in others.

This is not something that belongs to any particular practice, tradition, person, or group of people. It’s inherent in all of us. It’s a natural way to heal, and even to heal out of separation consciousness.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

All our experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happens within our sense fields. They happen within and as what we are.

We can also say that we are, most fundamentally, consciousness, and all our experiences happen within and as consciousness.

When we find this, we also notice that our sense field is a seamless whole. What we label inside – in the sense of being our private experience, and outside – in the sense of our shared world, happen as parts of the same seamless field. Any sense of boundaries comes from our overlay of mental images and labels and holding these as more true than they are.

To us, the world is one. We find ourselves as oneness. And from finding oneness, there is naturally a love for it all that’s independent of feelings or states. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

Since all our experiences have the same nature, there is also inherently a stillness and silence as what we are. Everything is happening, and nothing is happening.

These contractions happen within and as consciousness, within and as what we are. They have the same nature as we do.

They were formed from separation consciousness, and operate from separation consciousness. They perceive and react from separation consciousness. And since they were often formed early in our life, they often operate the way a scared child sees the world.

There is nothing really magical in this process. It’s all pragmatic and understandable.

When we, as a whole, operate from separation consciousness, we tend to struggle with these contractions. We identify with some and take on their way of perceiving the world. We want to avoid others or try to fix them or make them go away. And this identification and struggle is a big part of what holds them in place.

So instead, we can notice them as objects (disidentification), and we can welcome and allow them.

We tend to either act on these contractions or react to them, without getting to know what they really are about. So we can get to know them. Listen to what they have to say. See what they are about. Get to know their needs and wants, and the sense of lack they operate from.

We tend to not give these contractions what they want. Again, we act on them or react to them, and that’s not giving them what they want. We may also try to get what they want from the world – from others, situations, positions, and so on. And that’s also not what they want. It’s too distant and it doesn’t last. We are the only one in the perfect position to give them what they want.

We often try to contain these contractions. By identifying with and acting on them, we make them contract further. And by reacting to them, we also make them contract further. The remedy here is to allow them as they are and allow them to take up as much space as they want and for as long as they want. That too helps them relax and soften.

Contractions are made up of sensations and stories, and we tend to get caught up in that mix of sensations and stories. The sensations lend a sense of substance and reality to the stories, and the stories give the sensations a meaning. So instead, we can focus on the physical sensations. We bring our attention out of the drama created when sensations and stories mix together. And we get to see that these are sensations in the body. Eventually, we get in a visceral way that the sensations, in themselves, don’t mean anything, and the stories, without the sensations, are stories.

Even if we notice our own nature, we may still react to our contractions as if they are real, solid, and scary. One remedy here is to notice that the nature of these contractions is the same as our own, and to rest in that noticing.

In a sense, these contractions operate the way they do because they too don’t notice their true nature. They themselves take their scary stories as true and the final word, and they take their form as all there is to them. By noticing their nature, and resting with them and that noticing, and by asking them what they are, we invite them to notice for themselves. We invite this part of our consciousness to notice for itself, find a deep rest there and unwind and realign within that noticing.

These are a lot of words to describe something far more simple.

MY OWN STORY

The essence of this process happened naturally following the initial awakening shift in my teens. It was generally effortless to recognize the nature of my experiences, and it was a period of flow.

Then, about ten years ago, I asked life (the divine) to show me what’s left in me. Show me what I haven’t seen yet. And within days, a huge amount of primal fear came up. This lasted at a very high level of intensity for about nine months, and at a generally less level for years.

It was so overwhelming for me that something in me shattered. Before this, meditation and intimacy with my experience was my refuge and what I enjoyed more than almost anything. And now, going inside in a very intimate way was difficult because what I met was this dread and terror.

I had to relearn all of this, in a sense. Or, perhaps more accurately, I had to learn what previously had been given to me and that I hadn’t really had to learn.

And that’s where the gifts here are for me. I get to experience how it is to flail and struggle with all of this. I get to learn how to relate to all of this in a more detailed and thorough way, including some of the steps in the process.

Note: I am writing this on my phone while at the cabin, so it’s not very well edited.

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A childlike orientation

Whenever we set out to do something in life, it’s supported by having certain orientations. And what those are depends, to some extent, on what we set out to do. 

So which orientations are helpful in spirituality? Which orientations seem especially helpful when we set out to explore our relationship with life – and perhaps what we are to ourselves, how to live from this noticing, and how we relate to life and our experiences? 

For me, the central one is a more childlike orientation.

THE ORIENTATION OF A CHILD

How does a healthy child relate to the world?

A child is often curious, receptive, free of preconceptions, honest, sincere. There is a natural humility, and a natural willingness to test out what others share.

A child is often absorbed in what they are doing, and diligent in exploring. They can do the same for hours.

They are here and now. There is no idea of not doing something because we did it in the past, or putting off something because we can do it in the future.

Children often have a natural reverence and awe for life. All is new.

WHEN WE FIND THAT CHILDLIKE ORIENTATION

How does this translate to us?

We are that child. We never left childhood, even if we are also adults. We still have it in us.

We can find that curiosity. Receptivity.

A certain innocence that sets aside, at least for a while, what thoughts and memories tell us about what we are.

Honesty about what we find, how we are, and so on.

Some diligence in exploring all of this. An ability to keep exploring, and with this, some patience.

The kind of urgency that comes from noticing, and taking in, that all I have is what’s here now. I cannot find past or future outside of my ideas about past and future.

Humility because we know we don’t know. A willingness to test out what others share with us, and especially those more familiar with something than we are.

Some reverence for life and the whole process. And awe since all is new.

HOW TO FIND THIS CHILDLIKE ORIENTATION

There are two general ways to find this childlike orientation.

We can find it in ourselves here and now since it never went away. It may have been covered up by us trying to be good adults. And it’s still here.

The other is to examine what prevents us from finding or living from it.

What in me covers it up? In most cases, what covers it up is a kind of coping mechanism we used to deal with fear. We adopted beliefs and identifications in order to feel more safe. We abandoned parts of ourselves because they seemed scary or didn’t fit who we thought we needed to be to be safe and loved.

How can we find healing for this?

These parts of us are, in some ways, like scared and confused children. So the answer is to meet these parts of us as we would scared and hurting children.

We can meet them with respect, kindness, patience, and curiosity. We can get to know them. Listen to what they have to say. Help them examine their scary stories and find what’s already more true. Be a safe habor for them. Remember they have their own process and timing.

Find love for them and their process, and for ourselves being a parent to them.

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A sweet zone for working with what comes up

I have had some strong unprocessed material come up recently, in the typical “bubbles of separation consciousness” fashion where they come up, peak, and then subside.

When these are very strong, I often shift between distracting myself and meeting what’s coming up, and it’s a way to explore how to relate to strong energies. I often don’t feel I get to explore what’s coming up in detail when this happens. (I imagine some are able to, and I sometimes am too – especially if I have the support of someone else.)

When they have subsided and gone mostly dormant again, I can still explore them although they are less alive and I may be motivated to spend my time on something else. (Again, it’s very possible to explore mostly dormant issues in-depth, it’s just that I find I not always do.)

For me, there is a kind of sweet zone inbetween these two. It has passed it’s peak, and it’s still here, so I am motivated to explore it and it’s still alive in my experience. It’s easy to connect with.

This morning, I spent some time with a couple of things that had peaked yesterday – unloved and unsafe. And it was very beautiful to explore these and hold space for them to unwind. They were still alive for me. I was motivated due to the peak yesterday. And they were not so strong that I mostly had to focus on the reactivity that came up in me in response to them.

This is just me right now, although I suspect it’s relatively universal.

At the same time, as I mentioned, it’s fully possible to explore this in-depth while they are strong, and we also get to explore any reactivity that comes up in us in response to the intensity. And it’s fully possible to explore more dormant energies and issues.

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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When I can give to myself what I want, it’s much better for me, you, and us

Earlier tonight, I noticed some restlessness and discomfort in me. My first impulse was to send a message to my partner or talk with her, or eat something. Then I noticed what was going on, I wanted to comfort myself through contact or food. And I decided to give what I wanted to myself instead and before doing anything else.

I noticed the uncomfortable part of me, and that it was, in many ways, like a little child wanting comfort. So I met it as a good friend or parent. I noticed the discomfort and how it feels. I gave it space. Said I love you. Found kindness and love for it. Respect. Patience. I allowed it to be as it is. Mostly, I met it with love at a feeling level and in how I related to it.

I also noticed it was like a confused seeker, someone seeking something without quite knowing what it’s seeking. So I met it as a guru would meet a seeker. I felt it as a flavor of the divine. Noticed my own true nature, and that its true nature is no different. I helped it to find its own true nature and rest in and as that.

When I give this to these parts of myself, I don’t need it from anyone or anything else. This helps me have a much more healthy relationship with, in this case, my partner and food. It takes out the compulsion.

All of this is a learning process. It’s approximate. I cannot do any of this fully. I am winging it. I am exploring. Playing with it to see what happens.

And that’s OK. That’s life. We learn as we go. In many ways, it’s better than if I could do any of it “perfectly”. Noticing that I am winging it and learning puts me on the level with everyone else. It’s an ongoing exploration and adventure. There is always more to learn and discover, and it keeps it playful.

Adyashanti: Anything you avoid in life will come back, over and over again, until you’re willing to face it – to look deeply into its true nature

Anything you avoid in life will come back, over and over again, until you’re willing to face it – to look deeply into its true nature.

– Adyashanti, The End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment

Why would it come back?

What we want to avoid tend to visit us again for a few different reasons.

Life is rich and diverse and the same type of situations, thoughts, emotions, and experiences tend to visit again.

Anything we want to avoid or hold onto has a charge for us. Or, rather, the idea of it has a charge for us. The thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions we have about it, and the identities we associate with it. Anything that has a charge is something the mind’s attention is automatically drawn to.

Our system seems to have a natural tendency to bring what’s unhealed to the surface so it can be seen, felt, befriended, and healed. For that reason too, the parts of us we want to avoid tend to come up again. It’s an invitation for healing our relationship with it, and for it in itself to find healing.

We cannot escape it, so we may as well face it and get to know what it really is.

How can we find its true nature?

The easiest is to first find our own true nature. If I find myself as capacity for my world, as what my experiences happen within and as, then I can notice that any of my experiences has this same true nature.

An emotion comes up. I notice the physical sensations of it, and I can notice it’s true nature is the same as my true nature. And the same with thoughts, sights, sounds, and so on.

I can also ask it what’s your true nature? And notice. (The answer is in noticing, not what a thought says.)

Our true nature vs the true nature of our experiences

If we notice our own true nature, wouldn’t we also notice the true nature of all our experiences? After all, it’s the same thing. Our experiences happens within and as what we are.

Yes, in a very general sense. But many parts of our psyche likely still operate from separation consciousness, and when these come to the surface, we tend to see what’s triggered – and often what triggered it – from separation consciousness. We revert to a separation consciousness way of perceiving it and relating to it.

That’s why Adya’s second pointer in the quote – to look into its true nature – is important.

Getting to know it

Adya goes straight to the heart of the matter, to seeing the true nature of what we – our conditioning and habits – want to avoid.

There are other ways to know it, which can support this process and give us some insights.

We can inquire into the beliefs telling us to avoid it, saying something terrible will happen if we don’t, and any other belief related to the situation.

We can inquire into how our mind creates its experience of the situation – how certain thoughts and sensations combine to create the charge, associations, and our earliest memory of this wish to avoid it.

We can do a mental imaginary dialog with the part of us that want to avoid it and get to know it, its experience of the world, what it fears, what it wants to protect us from, and seeing that it comes from a wish to protect us and from love for us.

The importance of guidance

We need guidance and experience to do all of this, otherwise we can just create additional unfruitful discomfort for ourselves.

We may need to try out different guides and approaches and see what works for us.

For me, Headless experiments and the Big Mind process seem the simplest and most effective supports for helping us notice our own true nature, which then helps us notice the true nature of our experiences – including the ones our personality wants to avoid or hold onto.

What we want to avoid

What do we want to avoid? We may want to avoid certain situations as much as we can if we wish to be a good steward of our life, and that’s a very good thing. It makes sense to avoid being hit by a train, or getting sick if we can avoid it, or going hungry for too long.

What Adya talks about is wanting to avoid certain experiences – emotional pain, physical pain, distress, discomfort, and so on. One purpose of basic meditation – notice & allow – is for these to surface, for us to see how we habitually relate to them, and for us to shift how we relate to them (befriending them) and notice and get familiar with their true nature.

May still visit

If we see its true nature, does it mean it won’t come back?

No, it may still visit again and likely will. It’s just that seeing its true nature helps us relate to it differently.

It tends to undercut the struggle we habitually have had with it, and that’s where most or nearly all of the discomfort and unpleasantness is.

This noticing happens here and now. Having noticed in the past can help as a reminder and pointer, but the noticing happens here in immediacy.

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?

Be in control of the mind?

I just wish I could be in control of my mind when I die.

– Ann McNeil in The Roaring Silence, about 13 minutes in

I am not sure exactly what she means by it, but here are some things that come up for me.

When I find myself as capacity for my world, all my experiences happen within and as what I am. It’s all revealed as the play of life, or the play of the divine. To me, that’s the most important, and there isn’t really any “control” here.

At a more human level, we can tame the mind. We can train the mind in stable attention. We can shift how we relate to others, ourselves, and all of life. We can train ourselves to notice what we are, and for what we are to notice itself.

The glib response is that we cannot control anything and there is no one here to control anything. Although that has some truth to it, it’s not nearly the whole picture. In real life, there is a lot we can do to train the mind – to notice its true nature, to have more stable attention, to relate to experiences with kindness, and so on. I assume that’s what she referred to when she said: “in control of my mind”.

To me, it’s not really “control”. It’s more that we have trained our mind to work in different patterns.

Or that life has trained itself, locally and as this mind, to work in different patterns.

Adyashanti: whatever you resist disturbs you, and whatever you accept cannot disturb you

Meditation shows you, again and again, a very simple yet powerful reality, that whatever you resist disturbs you, and whatever you accept cannot disturb you.

– Adyashanti from The Art of Meditation

Meditation is a laboratory. We get to see the patterns of how our minds work.

One of the things we notice early is that when we fight with an experience, we add to the discomfort and what we mentally battle is not going away through battling it.

And if we, through grace, find peace with what’s here, even if it’s exactly the same as what we previously fought, then we have peace with it.

The experience we either fight or find peace with can be an uncomfortable feeling, an unpleasant or disturbing memory, physical pain or discomfort, our reaction to a sound, or anything else.

We may notice this early on. We may notice that it’s grace when we find peace with what’s here, it’s not something we can decide or make happen on command. A key is to notice, allow, and accept the part of us wanting to fight with what’s here. There is always more to discover around this process. And if others are like me, then any shifts around this, in meditation and daily life, tend to happen over time and is an ongoing process. It’s not something that happens once and for all, even if some part of us wish it was that way.

We can support this process through more active inquiry, through working on related emotional issues, through noticing what we are, and through heart-centered practices.

David Steindl-Rast: May we never forget the crippled, wind-beaten trees, how they, too, bud, green and bloom

May we never forget the crippled, wind-beaten trees, how they, too, bud, green and bloom. May we, too, take courage to bloom where we are planted.

– Brother David Steindl-Rast

Everything in nature – plants, animals, ecosystems – quietly accepts their condition and circumstances and makes the best out of it.

We are part of nature. This is in us as well.

And because we are so fascinated by our thoughts, we sometimes get sidetracked. We get caught up in ideas of how it could have been or should have been, and mentally fight with what is.

Sometimes, one of the things most difficult for us humans is to remember and rediscover what all of nature, except us, already know and do, and what’s in our nature or know and do. And that is to bud, green, and bloom where we are planted, with the conditions and circumstances that are here.

After the initial struggle, most of us are able to make the best out of our circumstances. We haven’t completely forgotten. We know it makes sense. And yet, many of us also spend a good deal of time and energy on mentally fighting with what is.

I like that Steindl-Rast uses the word courage. It does take courage to shift out of this mental battle and instead allow what’s here. (It’s already allowed by life and here so it’s the only thing that makes sense.) It’s a kind of betrayal of old (apparently) useless mental dynamics learned from our parents and culture. It’s the courage to be as the rest of nature.

Fear of death & befriending fear

I am re-watching Ram Dass: Going Home, and find Ram Dass and his vulnerability and love very moving.

At some point, he talks about fear of death.

Most or all of us have fear around death and related issues like non-existence, pain, loss, the unknown, and so on.

We can explore these. We can imagine ourselves close to death and dying, see what comes up, and find some peace with it. (I did that a lot in my twenties.) We can learn about research into life between lives and rebirth. We can learn what different traditions say about it. We can actively work on whatever issues we have around death, loss, pain, the unknown, and whatever else is here in us. We can release tension and fear out of our body, and perhaps specifically focus on fear related to death. We can work on trusting life and finding more peace with change. And so on.

All of this can help release some of the fear that death brings up in us, and it can help us live our life now more fully.

At the same time, what comes up for me is that I cannot know. I cannot know if or how much fear of death is in me. I cannot know what will come up if or when I am faced with death in whatever way it comes. I cannot know what situations will come up related to death. I cannot know for certain any of these things, or what happens during or after death.

There is a humility here. I’ll just see what happens like everyone else. If fear comes up, that’s OK even if some parts of me thinks it’s not OK.

And this also reminds me that finding peace with fear is perhaps as or more important than working through anything that brings up fear in us, although the two are related.

Can I befriend fear? When fear comes up in my system, how do I relate to it? How is it to say YES to the fear and whatever I experience?

Is amplify/release a trick?

Most of the approaches I write about here fall into two general categories.

One is noticing what’s already here, for instance through inquiry. (Headless experiments, the Big Mind process, The Work, Living Inquiries.)

And the other is approaches that mimic how we function when we are more clear, for instance, heart-centered practices. (Tonglen, Ho’oponopono, Heart Prayer.)

So what about the amplify / release technique? I have often thought of it as a trick, but that may not be entirely fair.

Notice something uncomfortable in your experience. Take a few seconds to make it as strong as possible. (Intend to make it stronger if that’s all you can do.) Then release and relax for a few seconds… breathe. Repeat a few times.

I sometimes use this approach with uncomfortable sensations and the fearful thoughts creating or responding to the sensations. When I do it, something shifts – what I do it for may seem less as a problem and its intensity often lessen.

It’s easy to think of it as a neat trick. But what’s really going on?

When we experience something uncomfortable, there is often a tendency to see it as a problem and wanting it to go away. We push against it, and that’s partly or largely what gives it a charge and holds it in place.

So when we use the amplify/release approach, we go against our old habitual tendency. We instead meet and join with it. The pushing goes away, at least for a moment, so there is more peace with what’s here and its charge lessens.

There is also more going on, which I have written about in other articles.

This may look like a trick, but it’s actually mimicking how our mind functions when it’s more clear. We join with the experience rather than moving away from it.

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