Dream: Swimming in the ocean for as long as I want

I am swimming in the ocean, mostly under water, and I am completely comfortable. I can stay as long as I want, even if the water is cold and there are large waves.

A child is here too. She is alone. Did she get lost from her parents? I decide to look after her until she finds her people. She is feisty and strong but I see that it covers a vulnerability and fear.

Water and the ocean often represents emotions. This dream may suggest that I feel comfortable swimming in and exploring my emotions, and that feels mostly accurate. Perhaps it’s telling me I am more comfortable with it than I consciously realize?

The girls seems lost. As many of my inner part feel lost because I abandoned them. I decide to look after her. I do it in a relaxed way but am very aware of where she is and am ready to step in if she is in danger or needs me for any reason.

Writing this, I wonder if this reflects the light touch approach I find helpful when joining with my inner parts and especially the lost ones.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

From pushing to allowing

I notice a (familiar) frustration with my body’s lack of energy. I want to do more but am unable to.

Along with this is a sense of pushing. Wanting to push through. Push so I can get things done. Push life so my health improves.

I notice this and know it comes from beliefs, identifications, and something that’s not felt and seen.

So I take a step back. Notice what’s here. Open to it. Allow it. Take time with it.

And notice a curiosity about what’s behind it. I notice fear. I open to this fear. Allow it. Notice where in my body I feel it and the sensations connected with it. Notice it happens in infinite space.

I also notice any fear of this fear, or feeling or opening to this fear, and include that in what I open to and allow. Whatever is here is included in what’s allowed and welcomed.

I notice a curiosity about this fear. It seems to be a fear of not being enough. Of being judged. Of not being able to take care of what needs to be taken care of. It’s a survival fear.

In the moment, this is enough. Connecting with, allowing, and befriending this more primal survival fear is enough. Something profound shifts. There is a sense of returning home, returning to what’s more real. It’s a relief. The initial frustration and pushing makes sense in a different way and identification with it softens and falls away.

I know I can keep exploring, and probably will at some point. I continue noticing any associated sensations, images, and labels. I can explore my first memories of feeling this frustration or pushing, and – more to the point – this primal survival fear.

I see it’s innocent. It’s very understandable and human. This primal fear is essential to most or nearly all living beings. It’s what has kept us alive for all these generations going back to very early organisms. It’s what has kept me alive. It’s a friend and it’s a big relief to actually and finally get to know it and befriend it.

Running away from it is innocent too and very natural. And it creates stress, pushing, a fighting with what’s here, and make me overlook the innocence in it and the primal fear behind it, and I miss out of seeing all this and making friends and peace with it.

The sweetness of being with what’s here

This morning, a strong sadness came up. I don’t know exactly where it is from or what it is about (although I do remember it from childhood mixed with a longing), and I don’t really need to know. 

My initial impulse was to wish it wasn’t there. It was uncomfortable. It brought up uncomfortable thoughts.

And then there was a kind of surrender into it. It’s here so I may as well be with it. There isn’t really much else to do. And I know from experience that initially uncomfortable experiences reveal something else if I can meet it and relate to it more intentionally. 

Notice the sadness-sensations in the body. Notice the mental images and words. Notice the (very human) reactions to it. Notice it’s all already allowed. (It’s already allowed by space, mind, life.) 

Rest attention with the sensations in the body. Notice the space around it, and it all happening within and as space. Notice it’s already allowed. Rest with it, as it is. 

I know from earlier experiences that this is the way through it, and a part of me wanted through it.

At the same time, another part just wanted to be with it. Feel it. Allow it. This is a part of me, of life. It’s visiting. It’s life meeting life.

Yet another part knows that this – the sadness and being with it – works on me. There is a deepening. Something happens and is processed, and although I don’t know exactly what it is or what’s happening, it’s welcome and feels deeply right. 

Now, a few hours later, there is a spaciousness and sweetness mixing in with the sadness. A warm fullness. Earthiness. Receptivity. A deeply felt sense of the resilience, fragility, and immense beauty of all life. 

I often don’t write about this. It’s wordless so finding the right words are difficult. At the same time, I know it’s valuable to share so I’ll do it even if it falls a bit short. 

Avoid, present with, or resolve

How do we relate to uncomfortable thoughts and sensations?

We can avoid them. Be present with them. Or invite them to resolve.

Each one has its place.

Avoiding can be useful in the short run. But nothing is resolved, the discomfort tends to return, and avoidance in itself can create problems in life.

Being present with the images, words, and sensations can be helpful. It tends to help the mind calm down. We may notice what’s there, some of the dynamics of the mind, and perhaps have some insights. But in itself, this too won’t neccesarily resolve anything.

So how do we resolve it? It can be resolved through the consciousness side or the energy side, and really through both. I’ll just mention the few approaches I am familiar with, out of the innumerable ones available.

We can identify and examine the stressful beliefs, and find what’s more true to us (The Work). We can notice and rest with the mental images, words, and sensations creating the stressful experience, allowing the mental connection between the thoughts and sensations to dissolve (Living Inquiries). We can dissolve it from the energy side while inviting in insights to support the new patterns (Vortex Healing). We can change our relationship to it through heart centered practices (tonglen, ho’o, metta).

In general, we can meet it with presence, patience, respect, kindness, and curiosity. And that curiosity is a kind of inquiry supported by certain pointers, guidelines, and perhaps practices aimed at helping us see what’s already there. The truth is kind, and it will set us free.

Another meta-skill is important for something to resolve and that’s intention. Intention for it to resolve and clear. Intention for us and the process to keep moving, to find and explore associated and underlying beliefs and identifications.

It also helps to notice that all of it – any movements and any content of experience, including the stressful beliefs and how we relate to and explore it – happens within and as presence. That’s the context for it all. And it helps us notice identfications with wanting something to change, and then notice that too as happening within and as presence. It gives it all more space and freedom to be.

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Awakening from avoidance

Awakening can be described in several ways.

The most common ones may be…..

Awakening out of identifications, and typically a set of underlying identifications that we gradually become aware of. (Human self, observer, doer, I, oneness, awakeness, etc.)

And awakening to what we are. Which we may, very inadequately, label consciousness, awakeness, love, intelligence, emptiness, mystery.

Awakening is also, in a sense, awakening from avoidance.

It allows us to more easily be with what’s here. And that’s for several reasons.

We recognize all as what we are. All as Spirit, the divine, consciousness, awakeness, or whatever label we put on it. So it doesn’t make sense to avoid something, because it’s what we are.

We recognize all not only as Spirit or the divine, but also love and intelligence.

And a couple that may require some exploration:

We recognize the wisdom and love behind all our experiences from an evolutionary and human persepctive, including the most uncomfortable experiences. They come from and are kindness and care for this human self. For instance, fear has helped our ancestors and us to survive, and there is wisdom in it. The same with pain, anger, sadness, and any human experience.

We know from experience, most likely, that avoidance = suffering and being present with = healing and resolution.

We may see that we cannot really avoid our experience. It’s already here. Trying to avoid it is the mind trying to run from itself. It’s doesn’t really work.

And one that seems built into awakening:

Our ability to avoid may be seriously weakened. An awakening or opening often involves “taking the lid off” anything we have avoided in the past so it comes to the surface. And it typically involves an inability to effectively avoid our current experience, whatever it may be.

The “dream of the ego” may be that awakening will allow us to avoid even better. And reality is that it’s an awakening from avoidance, from perceiving avoidance as neccesary or even doable.

The “dream of the ego” is a catchy phrase, but it’s also a bit misleading. It’s more what’s created when there is identification with thoughts. We perceive ourselves as this human self. We wish to avoid certain experiences since they are uncomfortable and seem scary. So we get in the habit of avoiding them. It seems to work to some extent, but it doesn’t really work and especially not in the long run.

At some point, it makes more sense to intentionally be present with what’s here, with some skill so it keeps moving and we keep moving into more clarity and deeper.

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Treat our experience as we would like to be treated

How would I like to be met when I am distressed? With kindness, patience, and presence. Listened to. Given full permission to be exactly as I am in the moment.

And that’s how the distressed parts of me want to be treated by me as well.

If they are treated with avoidance, disrespect, and wanting it to change, it only reinforces the struggle and suffering.

If they are met with kindness, patience, presence, then they tend to relax and soften.

These distressed parts of my experience are just like me. They want to be treated as I would like to be treated when I am in distress.

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How I escape meeting what’s here

When I experience discomfort, and especially if it’s strong, here are some ways I sometimes avoid meeting it:

Connecting with friends and family.

Talking about what’s happening with someone.

Internet. Videos. News. Reading.

Nature. Walking. Photography.

Inquiry. Vortex Healing. Other forms of healing modalities that I hope will reduce the suffering.

If it’s especially strong: Readings, I Ching. (To feel I know about the future.)

And longer term:

Relationships. Education. Work. Stable situation.

There is nothing wrong with any of these. Many of them are very helpful and just part of a human life. But they can be used in a compulsive way to avoid being with what’s here, to avoid feeling the uncomfortable sensations. A good way to do it is to (a) notice what’s happening. (Uncomfortable feelings/thoughts + wish to avoid.) (b) Take time to rest with and feel the uncomfortable sensations. (For a while, for instance until how I relate to it shifts and then a little longer.) And (c) then do any of these other things if the wish is still there.

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Ride it out

After listening to enough mindfulness advice, it’s easy to get into the idea that we “should” be able to be present with whatever comes up. Feel it. Rest with it. Inquire into it.

The reality is that sometimes the best we can do is ride it out, as best as we can.

And then, after a while as it lessens in intensity, we may be able to be present with it, inquire into it, and all the rest.

It’s a storm passing through, and it’s often helpful to remember that. And sometimes we don’t have the capacity to meet it as we would something less intense. And that’s OK.

It’s a reminder that we are human. It helps us see where we are at, which is the definition or real humility.

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Love and inquiry

I started writing about being with what’s here, and realize that doesn’t work so well for me anymore, not even as a starting point to add to.

Being with what’s here – emotions, discomfort, pain, exhilaration or whatever it is – is difficult if not impossible if there are beliefs behind or about what’s here, or if there is a strong charge around it. The beliefs or charge (velcro) tend to distract too much. Attention goes to where it’s needed, and that’s the knots which ask for (not really)…… attention, care, love, being seen as is, being felt as is.

If that’s the case, inquiry and love seems more helpful. Inquiring into the beliefs behind or triggering discomfort, unease, emotions or whatever it is, and the beliefs about what’s here (The Work). Or…. inquiry into the words and images associated with it (looking at them, asking some simple questions about them), and the sensations (taking time to feel them, asking simple questions about them). This makes it possible to see the words as words and images as images, and feel the sensations as sensations.

And finding love for what’s here. You are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me. What would satisfy you forever? What are you really? 

Inquiry makes it easier and more natural to find love for what’s here. We see its innocence, and that it is here to protect (the imagined) me. It comes from love. It is love.

Anything that’s here, and have been ignored or rejected (neither is really possible, but it may seem like it), wishes to be seen, felt, cared for, understood, loved. It’s just like an afraid child.

It’s very simple. It’s what we all wishes for, and long for. And these parts of us – and the world – are no different.

Surrender to what’s here

Here is one form of surrender, which I am (again) exploring more intentionally as part of the Living Inquiries.

Notice what’s here. Bring your attention to the sensations in your body. Notice the area of most tension. Allow the sensations to be here. Notice they are already allowed. Feel the sensations, as if the sensations feel themselves.

Notice the sounds, coming and going. Words coming and going. Images coming and going. Notice the space it’s all happening within.

Notice the sensations, feel them as if it’s for the first time.

This is a surrender out of being caught up in words and images, and into sensations and whatever else is here. It’s a surrender out of identification with words and images, and their identities and viewpoints, and into noticing words as words, images as images, and sensations as sensations.

It is, in a way, the simplest form of surrender. And it can be supported by the Living Inquiries, looking at how words, images and sensations are “glued” together, and how this loosens when each is examined in turn.

Meeting dullness

Sometimes, a belief creates obvious emotions such as anger, fear, sadness or joy, and there is an apparent intensification of experience.

Other times, it may go the other direction. A belief may create a sense of dullness, stagnation or numbness, and there is an apparent reduction of experience.

In either case, the sensations are something I can meet with curiosity.

I can stay with the sensations and breathe, and notice any shifts or changes, any images or thoughts behind the sensations.

I can meet it in satsang: You are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me. How would you like me to be with you? What would satisfy you forever? What are you really?

I can do a simple inquiry. What’s here in sensations? What’s here as a label? What’s here as an image, a thought (about what it is, what is means etc.) What happens when these come together, and are taken as true? What happens when I stay with the sensations alone? How is it to question the labels and thoughts? Is it really pain, fear, anger, dullness? Does it really mean something terrible has happened?

Sometimes, I invite my relationship to it to shift through ho’oponopono: I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.

For me, it’s easier to remember to meet a sensation intentionally when it’s an intensified sensation or experience such as anger, sadness, or pain. And it’s easier to “forget”, at least for a while, if it’s a reduction in experience, such as a sense of dullness, stagnation or numbness.

Meeting it is an invitation to see what’s really here. Is it really what it appears to be? Does it mean what my thoughts says it means? Is it true it’s not already allowed?

And it’s an invitation to explore how it is to shift how it’s met. What happens when mind tries to run away from it, or get rid of it, or put a lid on it? What are the fears/beliefs behind this impulse? How is it to meet it more intentionally, with curiosity and respect?

All is well vs fixing

When someone’s mythology is breaking down, she is moving from relying on the mind with its future – based trouble – shooting, “ analyze and address ” mentality to relying on the heart, on a radical and surrendered being – here in the moment and meeting what’s here in its most fundamental energetic form . It is  remarkably soothing for the client to be met by a relaxed, open therapist who has the sense that “all is well” no matter what symptoms the client is experiencing. Contrastingly, it is remarkably distressing for the client to be met by someone who is unconsciously or consciously unnerved by her condition who disguises that as being alternatively “helpful” and then frustrated when the client does not use or benefit from her suggestions.

It is tremendously useful for a client to be in the presence of a being who does not view the passage as a travesty, but rather as a necessary though painful transformation from reliance on a sense of separated personhood to a joyful reliance on God. In truth, how fortunate is the one who is besieged by the Dark Lord! Yet, t he client’s agony and desperation to solve the dark night will bring up anything that remains in a therapist that is not comfortable with simply “being here” in the unknown and embracing whatever rises. It is easy to become identified with the need to b e a “good therapist” and provide a solution, but this is exactly the opposite of what is useful. Any suggestion or hint at trouble – shooting , any desperation on the part of the therapist about the client’s situation , will further plunge the client into despair . The very mentality she has failed at applying and is leaving behind through no choice of her own is th at of fixing or troubleshooting. B y the time she has found you, she has already tried everything in her power to “fix” herself and has failed. By far the single most helpful characteristic of a therapist for such a client is the willingness to be with whatever arises without any sense that anything is wrong.

– Jeannie Zandi in Dark Night: The Breakdown of the Mythology of Me

This fits my experience as well. The people I find it most helpful to work with or talk with – including Barry and Adyashanti – all have a deep sense that all is well. They have gone through the process themselves, they know the terrain and the larger picture, and they know deeply that all is well as it is. The approaches that work well for me also comes from this “all is well” place – Breema, TRE, The Work etc. (And the ones that tries to “fix” me does not work, and tends to bring a quite strong backlash. I often end up in bed for days afterwards. These include any diagnostic oriented approaches, it seems.)

And that’s also the most helpful way for me to relate to myself and my own process. Meet what’s here with love. Notice it’s already allowed. Notice how it is, in many cases, from a wish to protect me, and innocent love. Inquire into deeply held images and thoughts about it, to find what’s more real and true.

And that includes welcoming any impulse to fix it. Notice it’s from a wish to protect and is innocent love. Notice it’s already allowed. Inquire into these images and thoughts that what’s here is wrong, and something else is better.

How is it to meet what I am escaping

When I notice a part of me that’s restless, that wants to run from an experience, I sometimes ask myself…..

Which experience am I escaping? What’s darkest and most dense here?

Can I find the part of me wishing to escape this? Can I find it’s innocent love for me?

Can I  meet this part of me with love?

Can I meet what I am escaping with love?

And some related questions:

Is it true it’s not already allowed? (The part of me wishing to escape, and what it wishes to escape.)

Is it true it’s not already loved?

What’s the story behind it? (The part wishing to escape, and what it escapes from.)

Is it true? How is it to hold it with love, and knowing it’s not true?

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Adyashanti: Meeting it with love, compassion, and the light of consciousness

It has to be met with love and compassion, and the light of consciousness.

Yes, it’s loving, yes, it’s compassion, but it also has a fiery aspect.

Now, people are very different in this regard.

If you can sit, and really do that for yourself without getting totally lost in it, then wonderful.

Sometimes, people can’t do that. They get janked out, and they are completely lost in it, and they can’t approach it. They need someone there to keep them grounded, keep them present, so the energy doesn’t pull them off completely.

But ideally, it would be really just the turning, the meeting, with that compassionate light, just right on the experience.

We have this wonderful phrase in Zen, like two arrows meeting in mid-air. It’s meeting it with that precision.

– Adyashanti, Kanuga Retreat, session 10

Interview with Bentinho Massaro

I listened to this interview with Bentinho Massaro, and especially enjoyed the part from 1:05 on.

He talks, among other things, of the question, what if I can’t escape?

What if it will be this way for the rest of life? How can I then find peace with it? How can I be OK with this?

And at 1:22 he talks about a fearlessness of experience, allowing emotions and experiences their life.

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Rumi: At the very moment you become content in affliction

Whatever God gives you, be content. At the very moment you become content in affliction, the door of paradise will open.
– Rumi

I find that too, although I would use a bit more sober wording for myself. This morning, I noticed discomfort in me, in my belly and chest area, a sense of unease, fear. Gently and quietly, I opened to it, met it, welcomed it as a friend, a lover. And it shifted. It was no longer something that the labels discomfort, unease, fear fitted. It was no longer discomfort, unease, fear.

There are many facets or layers to this.

One is to meet it, be with it, welcome it as a friend, stay with it. I can ask myself can I be with this? Is it true it’s not already allowed, already welcomed? Is it true it needs to change?

Another is to notice it shifting, changing, and staying with it, with curiosity, interest.

Another is to listen to it, let it speak to me, perhaps wordlessly, be open to what it has to show me.

Another is to let it speak to me in images and words, let it reveal the fears behind it to me, identify these fears and take them to inquiry.

Another is to explore it all in the sense fields. Where and how does the discomfort, unease, fear show up in sensations? How does it show up in images? Where and how does the me or I relating to it show up in sensations? In images? What’s the “substance” of these sensations, these images? Is it true it’s solid? Is it true it’s lasting? Is it all ephemeral? Consciousness itself?

Another is to notice that in my mind, the unease, discomfort and fear is an image, the I or me is an image, and how this I or me relates to the unease is an image. If there is battle and struggle, that happens among images. If there is peace and welcoming, that happens within the world of images. And all of this happens within and as what is, what “I” am.

And a final facet of this is to notice any impulse to want my experience to change, go away, for it to shift into something “I” desire. Is it true, I need it to change? Is it true, it would be better if it changed? Is it true, another experience is better – for me, others, the world? Is it true, I know what’s best for me? How would it be if it never changed? Could I still find peace with it, welcome it, meet it as a friend, a lover?

Sooner or later

Sooner or later, when we surrender to what we cannot control, we have to hold still & let the (inner) demons we have been running from catch up to us. There is no greater terror. But there can be no greater liberation than to face those demons held in the arms of our own compassionate nature and that which is larger than ourselves.
– Oriah Mountain Dreamer

I can see where it fits my experience, and I also see some potentially stressful thoughts to question in this quote:

I have to hold still. It’s an inner demon. There is no greater terror. It’s terror. It’s fear.

There is no greater liberation. It’s liberation.

What’s true in my experience is true for others / everyone else. (She used “we” instead of I.)


Confused, lost, unlovable

Some parts of me feel confused, lost, unlovable, shunned. And they do so because they are. They are not yet met with love and understanding. As any being who feels lost, confused and unlovable, they yearn to be met with this love and understanding. And although others may remind me that it’s possible, I am the only one who can do it. I am the one who can meet these parts of myself with love and understanding.

I also see that these may come up in a quite gentle way, less identified with, and as an obvious “bubble of confusion”, and it can also come up more strongly, identified with, and with the experience that I am confused, loved, and unlovable. In the first case, it’s easier to meet it with love and understanding. And the second case, it seems to require a more intentional shift.

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A note on letting yourself be in an emotion

A note on letting yourself be in an emotion. This may mean wallowing in it, it may not. This may mean feeling it, it may not. What I know about letting myself feel an arising emotion is that it sets me free to be authentic, real and deeply honest with myself. If I try to push it away, act like I feel nothing, pretend everything is alright, that hurts. There is nothing wrong with feeling sad, helpless, unsettled, angry, depressed, joyful, happy, excited, afraid, nasty, petty..there is nothing wrong with a single feeling we exprience. My pain arises when I judge what I am feeling to be wrong or bad or even when I judge feeling happy as good..for what am I comparing a good feeling to but a bad one. Feeling is the fire I walk through in telling my truth. If I ignore it or shove it away it costs me more than it is worth. When I search for WHY I am feeling a feeling..whoa..that is painful too..to find out what on earth is wrong with me so I can fix it..call in the suffering…there is nothing to fix..just something to feel..to experience..to arise and ultimately to drift away. All feeling is temporary..it comes and it goes..there is an ebb and a flow to it and without giving it a bad or good, right or wrong indication..it is just an experience. It is when I tell myself that I should not be feeling a certain way or that I should be feeling another way thats when I get confused and muddled and have the sensation that this..THIS particular feeling right now has been here forever and will be here forever..forgetting that it will move one..this is proven through all of my life..feelings, sensations, states..they come and they go..not one of them last forever..and to hope that they go and never come again or come and stay forever feels like absolute crap..hope is worse than fear..it is the death of experience..hoping takes me out of the feeling of the moment and leaves me open to the idea that what I am feeling should not be happening..and it IS..how could I ever argue with that.

Now this does not mean that I wallow in it..although sometimes I really, really do. It means that I give the feeling, sensation, emotion a space to live and myself the space to experience as it is…in this moment..without a reason..just FEELING. This seems to serve me better than thinking I have to stop anything that is arising in my experience or that anything could ever be wrong in my experiencing. It is somewhat like resting in THIS moment with nowhere to go and making use of the option to feel what comes. In this space there is no running, no hiding, no lieing, no manipulating, although there is nothing wrong with those things..when I allow myself to really feel..it is deep level of honesty and kindness for myself.
– SZ

An inquiry friend of mine posted this on Facebook, and I thought I would share it here – as a reminder for myself.

Staying with sensations

It’s easy to say open to the emotion, welcome it, be with it. 

And yet, the question is, how can I do it?

Here are some ways I find helpful:

1. Find fears and resistant thoughts that come up when I consider opening to an intense emotion, and inquire into these. Some beliefs may be: It’s too much. I’ll be overwhelmed. This emotions means something terrible has happened/will happen. This emotion reflects reality. The thought behind it is true. 

2. As I open to the emotion, I can ask myself: Is it true, it’s too much? Is it true, it’s overwhelming? Is it true, I cannot do it? Is it true, it’s not already allowed?

3. Find where in the body I experience the emotion, and bring attention to the sensations there. Bringing attention to the sensation side of the emotion feels more manageable, and it’s also inquiry. I notice how it is to bring attention to the sensation side of the emotion. It may show me the distinction between the sensation side of an emotion, and the image/thought side. And the automatic coupling between those two may lessen and fall away over time. As an emotion arises, I may notice it’s a sensation, and some stories about it – it’s fear, it means something terrible will happen – are simply just thoughts, innocent questions about the world, not necessarily true.

4. When I bring attention to the sensations, notice how the sensations/emotions change over time, how new emerge – perhaps with their own stories, and so on. As Brandon Bays points out, this may eventually lead into the void.

5. As attention is distracted, bring it back to the sensations. Also, notice the thought attention is distracted by/into, and perhaps thoughts about distraction itself. Make a note of it and take this thought to inquiry later. The thoughts attention is distracted by may be the same as under #1 above, and the thoughts about distraction itself may be of the self-judgment kind.

6. As in TRE and other explorations, touch can be very helpful here. Someone holding my hand, or putting his/her hands on my shoulder, or the belly, or feet, may be a great support in staying with intense emotions as they surface. It’s a reminder that someone else is here in the world, and of kindness.

7. I can also do ho’oponopono on the situation: On the person or situation the emotion appears to be about, here and now.  On the emotion itself, seen as an enemy and struggled against. On myself, struggling with how to relate to the intense emotion. And perhaps, if I trace the wound/fear/belief back, on an early childhood situation relating to what’s surfacing now.

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Avoiding vs opening to emotions and stressful thoughts

When emotions and stressful thoughts surface, I can avoid or open to them.

Avoiding really means avoiding opening to them, and I can do this in two ways: Engage in and fuel the emotions/thoughts surfacing (complain), or try to escape from them (distract). Either way, I avoid opening to the emotion and the stressful thoughts.

And opening to the emotion and thoughts means two things: Welcoming, allowing and being with the emotion (perhaps noticing it’s already allowed). And noticing and inquiring into the stressful thought to see what’s more true for me.

For instance, I may have the belief I made a mistake, and it comes with emotions of regret, grief and perhaps despair. I can avoid opening to it through fueling these thoughts and emotions. I complain about it to myself and others. I tell myself I made a mistake over and over. I imagine how my life would have been if I had made another choice. And so on. I also avoid opening to it by trying to escape from it. I cover it up with food. Distract myself by going to the internet or watching a movie. And so on.

The other option is to do a 180 degree turn and see how it is to open to the emotions. Shift into welcoming them, be with they, stay with them. Allow them their life. Notice they are already allowed. Notice how they shift, how new layers emerge. How – when they are seen, felt and loved – the energy behind them seem to dissipate. How it eventually shifts into the void. I may also notice that these emotions were only created from a belief, a thought taken as true. They are doing their job. They are innocent. They don’t necessarily reflect reality or what’s true.

I can also see how it is to do a 180 degree turn in how I relate to my stressful thoughts, and open to them. What are my stressful thoughts? What do I complain about? I made a mistake, because…. I made a mistake, and that means…. What do I find when I take these beliefs to inquiry? What’s more true for me than these thoughts? How is it to take it in, feel it, live from this new insight?

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Opening to experience

A brief follow-up to the post on The Journey:

In The Journey, Brandon Bays describes a process of welcoming and staying with whatever painful emotion is here. Welcome it, stay with it. Allow it to transform, as it naturally does (new layers of hurt/wounds emerge). Until it all drops into the void.

It’s what I find happens naturally during meditation, especially if the sessions are regular and a bit on the longer side. What’s stuffed earlier in life surfaces, and there is an experience of intense emotions burning themselves out, leaving a brilliant clarity and awakeness.

It’s also something I can explore in everyday life, for instance asking myself can I be with what I am experiencing now? (Raphael Cushnir.) I can also explore it further: Is it true this is too much? Is it true it’s overwhelming? Is it true avoiding it is easier? 

And I can identify thoughts behind my impulse to fuel or avoid the emotion/stories surfacing, and take these to inquiry. Here are some I find for myself: (a) Opening to the emotion will make it worse. It’s overwhelming. It’s too much. (b) The thought is true. It’s pointless to inquire into it. Inquiring into the thought will make it worse. (c) It’s easier to avoid. It’s more comfortable to avoid. Something terrible will happen if I open to the emotion/inquire into the thought. 

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Beliefs about surfacing wounds

As wounds and emotions surface, sometimes around something that happened a long time ago, the invitation is to stay with it, open to it, allow it to pass through, and perhaps identify and inquire into beliefs.

These beliefs may be (A) the ones creating the (apparent) wound and emotions, such as he treated me unfairly. When I notice these types of beliefs, sometimes ask myself is it true? while I stay with the contraction. I also make a note of whatever beliefs I notice for a later and more thorough inquiry.

The beliefs may also be (B) about what surfaces, and these may cause me to (a) recoil from the experience or the memory, or (b) indulge in and fuel the stories behind it. Here, I can ask myself, can I be with what I am experiencing? Is it true it’s too much? Is it true it’s easier to recoil? And I can also make a note of some of these beliefs for a later and more thorough inquiry.

These stories may be: (i) It’s too much. It’s overwhelming. It’s no use. It can’t resolve. (ii) Opening to this experience will make it worse. Opening to this experience will make it stronger. (iii) Looking at this image/thought will make it worse. What I’ll find is worse than this. (iv) This image/thought is true.  Investigating this thought is meaningless since it’s true. This experience means something terrible happened. This experience means something terrible will happen.

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Guardian of the treasure

In fairy tales and mythology, there is often a guardian of the treasure.

It may be a dragon guarding a princess or gold and diamonds, or – in the case of Greek mythology – Cererbus guarding the gates of the underworld, preventing those who have crossed the river Styx from returning to the world of the living.

And I find this in my own life as well.

My treasure is what’s revealed when I (a) meet and befriend what I am experiencing now, and (b) inquiry into the stressful thought that’s here.

And the guardian is my fear of doing just that. My fear of looking at what’s here.

My fear of meeting and staying with what I am experiencing now – whether it’s discomfort, unease, pain, joy or fear itself. And my fear of identifying and investigating the stressful thought that’s here.

This guardian, this fear, is created by additional beliefs: It will be too much. It will open a Pandora’s box. Reality is unkind. Opening to it will be worse than avoiding it. Something terrible will happen if I open to my experience, inquire into my stressful thought.

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The Backward Step

Take the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self.
– Dogen Zenji in Fukanzazengi

Dogen mentions taking the backward step.

It seems that I just wrote about one of these backward steps: Noticing and connecting with the fear that’s here, behind unease, tension, discomfort etc.

The forward step, the habitual step for many of us, is the recoil from the fear, and instead go into reactive emotions, tension, seeking comfort, over-thinking and so on. And the backward step is to instead notice and connect with this fear.

Another backwards step is The Work. Here, the forward step – the habitual one for many of us – is to take the belief and run with it, fuel it as it leads to more thoughts, emotions, a life in the world. The backward step is to notice the belief, write it down, and take it to inquiry to see what’s there.

Yet another is sense field inquiry. Or even, in a sense, ho’oponopono. Or one of the many other practices which invites us to look at what’s really here, or reverse a process of going into and fueling beliefs.

Of course, what Dogen talked about was zazen.


I am returning to being with the fear that’s here.

There is unease, tension or discomfort. I notice a fear behind it. Connect with it, feel it, allow it to have its life, meet it as a friend, meet it as a child seeking love.

Whenever there is any of the symptoms of beliefs I can do the same, and these are the symptoms I notice from question no. 3 in The Work: A sense of unease, tension, discomfort, reactive emotions, hurt, seeking comfort in food or activities, a sense of having to protect something or someone (including viewpoints, identities),  trying to find refuge or safety in analyzing or thinking or maps, or wishful or fearful images.

It seems that (a) some very basic beliefs are behind the fear, creating the fear. (b) There are also beliefs about the fear, creating an impulse to recoil from the fear and the basic beliefs behind it. (c) This impulse to recoil leads to an impulse to seek refuge and safety in the same and other beliefs. And (d) these beliefs in turn fuel fear.

It’s all a house of cards, held up by the impulse to recoil from the fear and the beliefs behind the fear.

So the medicine is to connect with the fear, feel it, be with it, allow it its life, meet it as a child seeking love. As I do this, there is a sense of connecting with the root of the fear and it doesn’t need to express itself in reactive emotions, seeking comfort in food or activities, over-thinking and so on.

And the medicine is to allow the fear a voice, writing down whatever it has to say, the stories and beliefs behind the fear, and then – perhaps later – take these to inquiry. This too, in my experience, gives a sense of coming home, of relief, even gratitude.

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A silent “no” to existence

I have had several days recently – off and on – where I experienced something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It felt mostly as a congestion at all levels. After asking for guidance, something shifted while in bed last night. I found the fear behind the experience, and felt it. And then realized that what I was experiencing was a silent, primal “no” to existence. As I saw this, something shifted further and the experience moved on. It must have been yet another very basic layer surfacing to be seen, felt, and loved.

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It is a great honour to sit with discomfort

It is a great honour to sit with discomfort, for all the mysteries of the universe lie within. As you sit with discomfort, you also meet discomfort’s best friend – the urge to escape that discomfort! Is there enough room in you for both discomfort AND the urge to escape discomfort? Of course – who you are is vast and spacious enough to hold anything. This is true meditation – no longer resisting discomfort and trying to escape to a future comfort, but discovering the ever-present, unconditional Comfort that you are, the perfect calm in the midst of the storm.
– Jeff Foster

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Variations on allowing experience


Variations on the theme of allowing experience…..

I can watch or observe experience.

I can be with it, allow it.

I can meet, welcome or embrace experience.

I can notice it’s already in awareness, it’s already allowed.

And I can be it, notice I am already it.

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Even keel through shifts

I notice shifts between three different states.

The first is into wounds, beliefs and hangups. A belief surfaces to be seen, felt, loved.

Another is into what I am, into Big mind. The veils are thinner. It’s easier for what I am to notice itself.

And yet another is a release from either, just ordinary life.

Each of these is an invitation to see, feel and find appreciation for what’s here. An invitation to befriend experience and stories, notice I am what happens and inquire into stories.

These shifts are also an invitation to find a more even keel throughout states, and one way to do that is to befriend experience and inquire into stories – especially those saying something is not OK.

And these shifts is an invitation to notice what I am throughout states. Content of experience changes – what is it that does not change?

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The unembraced seeks embrace

The dark seeks the light. The unloved seeks love. The unseen seeks to be seen. The unfelt seeks to be felt.  The unappreciated seeks appreciation.

Last night after going to bed, a stream of shadow material surfaced again. Some it is was personal, and most of it was archetypal.

It’s easy for me to resist. To get up and have a cup of tea. To listen to a podcast. To go for a walk. To find someone to talk with in another time zone.

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Allowing that which is most difficult to allow

I am going to make this simple…..

As I get more familiar with allowing experience, as is, as if it will never change (although it always does), and with kindness, I can actively seek out that which is more difficult to allow.

I can bring up the images about the past, future, or present that are most difficult for me, and find familiarity with allowing these images and the emotions triggered by them.

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House on fire

When we truly hate what’s happening, our instinct is to flee from it like a house on fire. But if we can learn to turn around and enter that fire, to let it burn all our resistance away, then we find ourselves arising from the ashes with a new sense of power and freedom.
– Rapahel Cusnir in Unconditional Bliss

Noticing and identification

When I notice something – an emotion, story, sensation etc. – there is a softening or release of identification with it. I find myself as what notices, and less as what is noticed.

It is very simple, yet with a lot of complexity as well.

For instance, I may notice an emotion – allow it as it is, be with it. Yet, if that emotion is triggered by a story – as they often are – and I don’t notice that story, it means I am still identified with the story.

So whenever I notice an emotion, I can first allow that emotion as it is, with heart and kindness. And when look for the story behind it. Which story do I – somewhere – take as true, which triggers that emotion? Is that story true? What happens when I take it as true? Who am I without it? What is the validity in its reversals?

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Exploring emotions II

Another aspect of emotions….

Some emotions are reactive and created by beliefs. They come about through friction between a belief and reality, or more accurately through friction between our stories of what should be and what is or may be. In this case they come with some of the other symptoms of being caught up in beliefs, such as tension, stress, unease, sense of separation, sense of having to protect a viewpoint or identity, sense of precariousness, and more.

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Comfort as priority

I listened to a CSS talk yesterday and a questioner brought up the topic of comfort. By looking at her own choices and actions in daily life, she could see that her main priority is comfort. (We can find our priorities by looking at our actual choices in daily life and where we spend our time and energy.)

Is it an obstacle? Yes, it can be, in all the obvious ways. By seeking comfort we may engage in mindless entertainment instead of practice, distractions instead of allowing experience and inquiring into beliefs, and so on.

But it can also be a gateway, an invitation for inquiry.

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I need to know!

When something happens I don’t have a ready explanation for, it is a good opportunity to see my need-to-know mind.

As usual, it is easier to first see this in others. And right now, I can see it in the scramble to figure out what happened to Air France flight 447 where media and bloggers elaborate on a wide range of theories in the absence of any data.

This desire to know is partly very practical. Knowing what happened can help us prevent similar accidents in the future, and that is good. But when I compulsively spin stories in the absence of data, it points to being caught up in beliefs.

From here, I can work with it in several different ways.

How do I relate to the emotions and experiences that comes up for me around it? Do I resist these? What happens when I resist? Can I instead be with these emotions and experiences? Can I allow it, as it is, as if it would never change, with kindness and heart?

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Inner peace

I just watched episode eight of NRK’s Vendepunkt (Turning Point), a TV series about quality of life. It is hosted by a psychologist (a particularly wise one), and the topics are exemplified through interviews with people who made a choice of leaving a stressful life for a simpler and more rewarding and deeply satisfying one. It is well worth watching if you understand Norwegian….!

Inner peace was mentioned several times. What does it mean? 

It can be a state, found through being in nature, connecting with good friends, through meditation and so on. But as any state it is precarious. At any moment, something can shift it into a different state. It doesn’t last. I may try to hold onto the peaceful state and push away incompatible states, but right away, I find that this activity in itself disturbs the peace.  This form of peace is ephemeral. 

There is also a different form of inner peache, one that is found through simply allowing experience, as it is. As if it would never change. Wholehearted. With kindness. Independent of the content of experience. (And if I find I can’t allow a particular experience, I can allow that as it is.) 

When I am caught up in holding onto or pushing away experiences, there is stress and a sense of being off balance. And when I find myself as that which allows experience – as it is, independent of its content, and including the impulses to hold onto and push away experience – there is a different peace. One that is independent of states. 

Here, there is stillness, even in the midst of a great deal of activity. 

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