US and Norwegian cultures

I am in the US now, and however much I love the US – and especially the landscape in the West, and the culture in the Northwest – there are things I still struggle with.

Here is a brief list:

Lack of good public transportation, except in large cities, and especially lack of good, comfortable, and fast trains. In Norway, public transportation is very often the most comfortable, fast and attractive mode of transportation.

Over-reliance of cars. Difficult if you don’t buy into the car use lifestyle. (Which I am reluctant to.) In Norway, you can easily live without a car.

Treating poor people poorly, so they live in an undignified way. Large differences between the wealthy and the poor. In Norway, there is much more of an attitude of taking care of the weakest in society, also so they can live a dignified life.

In Norway, people tend to be quiet and considerate of others, both at home and in public. In the US, more people tend to be loud, noisy, and far less considerate of others.

In Norway, public servants – including politicians and the police – are just that, public servants. They are in the service of the people. In the US, I often don’t get that impression. It seems that they often forget that their role is to be in service of the people, and people as individuals.

In Norway, people tend to care for their homes more, and make them cozy and comfortable. They also value natural materials, nature and fresh air. In the US, fewer people seem to do this. The indoor air quality in the US, especially in offices, tend to be quite poor (more toxic materials, more VOCs, poor indoor air quality). I have also noticed that in some areas of the US, people tend to close windows and doors and use air conditioning, even when the outside air is fresh and has a comfortable temperature.

Also, in California these days they seem oblivious to the upcoming water crisis. People still water lawns in areas where there would be no natural green grass. They fill their pools. They maintain large golf courses. They waste water in innumerable ways. In Norway, there has been water rationing well in advance to avoid future water shortage.

I realize that these are all assumptions and beliefs, and not the whole picture. That’s why these things still bother me. At the same time, it’s good to notice that I have a clear preference. And that’s what often has created some ambivalence in me.

I love the landscape of the Western US, the weather everywhere apart from the Pacific Northwest rain season, and the culture in the Northwest. (Especially the Bay Area.) I love the leading edge of the alternative culture on the West Coast. At the same time, I really like the Norwegian landscape, and feel very comfortable in the mainstream Norwegian culture, and also feel that it’s very provincial when it comes to many of my main interests.

In a nutshell, I feel very comfortable with the mainstream Norwegian culture, but am disappointed about their alternative culture. And I love the leading edge of the US West Coast alternative culture, while feeling very uncomfortable with the US mainstream culture.

It’s something that’s stretching me, and I have more to explore in myself around this, especially fears around missing out when I am in Norway, and discomfort around aspects of US culture when I am in the US.

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Barry: New species

One has to define awakening. If it is the head soul center alone… often minimal disruption, heart much deeper, more cathartic… including the belly – total death and rebirth… The full realization as Christ did includes all three centers and results in illumination of the translation of the body as in light body. May not make it before body dies, but that’s where it goes. New species… love, b

– Barry, in an email to me

This fits my experience. My initial awakening was of the head center, and although it was intense it also fueled my life and activities. Shortly after, it went to the heart center and there was a deeper transformation. And now, several years later, it seems to go to the belly center, and it involves a dark night of the soul and a good deal of upheavals in my life – internally and externally.

Here is a brief way of talking about it: Head center awakening = seeing all as God. (Reorganization of view, setting aside or seeing through what prevents seeing as all God.) Heart center awakening = recognize God as love, and all as love, and love all as God. (Setting aside or seeing through what prevents loving all as God.) Belly center awakening = feeling all as love/God. (Setting aside or seeing through what prevents feeling all as God.) Each one is ongoing, there is a continuing clarification, opening and deepening.

Here is my initial question to him:

It seems that for some, there is an awakening without much drama. And for others, such as both of us, the process has a major and visible impact on our lives. Do you have a sense of why there is such a difference? Is it a combination of how much needs to be cleaned out and how deep the awakening wants to go? So, for instance, if there is more childhood trauma, it’s harder. And if the awakening wants to go deeper, in my case into the belly center, it’s also experienced as harder? Do you have a sense of what’s going on in my case?

Barry: It leaves one dangling over the cliff

I empathize with the extreme and chronic vulnerability you have had to endure, as I have experienced it myself.  While the deeksha certainly seems to have been a factor in the brain issues I’m starting to feel there may be a deeper plan at work.  The old mind and it’s physical foundation in the brain need to be completely transformed to take the next step as a species.  You are one of the first to make this transition. The old brain of the “world mind” is adapted to a consciousness of separation and egoism. This has to go.  It leaves one dangling over the cliff when it comes to functioning in the world.  There is one way and you are doing it. One must let go of the ego mind and trust 100% of receiving the guidance and support from above. There is no other way. All the outer support forms from the physical world will be taken away as part of the process. I know how difficult this is. What always happens is that mysteriously, magically you are provided for in ways unseen and unpredicated. One must walk the pathless path of the mystery with total faith and trust.  You are doing it. Keep on keeping on and love and bless your brain as it is. It is birthing the new Christed mind.  Love, B

– from Barry, in a recent email to me

I see many layers to how I received this. The first response is to deeply appreciate the support, empathy and encouragement in it. I also see that these are stories, and “unfindable” in the Living Inquiry sense. What I am left with is the very practical and helpful suggestion to bless and love my brain (and mind) as it is. That’s something that feels good and right.

David White: Pain

Pain is the first proper step to real compassion; it can be a foundation for understanding all those who struggle with their existence. Experiencing real pain ourselves, our moral superiority comes to an end; we stop urging others to get with the program, to get their act together or to sharpen up, and start to look for the particular form of debilitation, visible or invisible that every person struggles to overcome. We suddenly find instead, our understanding and compassion engaged as to why others may find it hard to fully participate.

– David White, from the essay Pain

It’s a reminder for me of how humbling – in a good way – the chronic fatigue has been for me.

I see it’s not always possible to pull ourselves up by the bootstrap, as I was used to in my twenties. I found a deeper and more honest understanding for myself and others, and the difficulties we experience.

It’s a reminder that “I” am not really in control. If life doesn’t play along, what I wish or plan for doesn’t happen.

It’s a reminder that we are all dependent on each other. I am not only dependent on the whole universe in its extent and history, the history of this living planet and humanity, the global and local ecological and social systems, but also the very simple everyday kindness of those around me.

It’s a reminder that it’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to – very clearly and in a conventional sense – depend on others. It may even be a gift – to me and others.

It’s a reminder that we are all in this together. We all experience (what a thought would label) difficulties and challenges. We may all feel it’s too much, at times. We may all be brought to our knees, one or more times in our life.

I found how liberating it is to be a full human being rather than trying to live up to an image or the expectations of myself and others.

I found how liberating it is to be naked to myself and others.

I noticed who in my life was OK with this, and who were not. It naturally sorted my friends into those who stayed or came into my life, and those who left.

It helped me see that I don’t own anyone or anything. I don’t own my health, my energy, my clear mind, my engagement, my ability to follow through on what I plan. I don’t own people in my life. I don’t own my hopes and expectations for my life. I don’t own this mind or body. I don’t own this life. I don’t even own my fears. They all live their own lives.

Barry: We all have our part in this great story

We all have our part in this great story…yours has been very intense as has been mine. Karen had great intensity early and nothing lately. I watched her go through the same process of the dark night of the soul in a few days that took me years to get through.???  We can seek and find theories and reasons and they are helpful and consoling, and in the end it is the great Mystery of God, of which we are a part.
What is important is for you to come to peace and understanding in YOUR story. Asking these questions is the start.  They will be answered.  The way it was all revealed to me is that I learned to have faith and then knowing that all questions of the heart and soul are immediately responded to in the One Mind. It is only a matter of insight in the realms of time and space for each of us in our human projection to receive the answer. This too is all in divine timing and perfect.  In fact you already know the answer but are simply waiting for the moment in the story that you long ago created and is already over in the eternal to come to you in this experience of time and space.  We are God floating in God exploring possibilities just for the sake of the experience, like a child playing in a sandbox.  Yours is one strand, or thread in this great Story, a small line or sentence within it, yet critical, integral to the Big Story.  You had to do it, to play this role or the universe would not be complete…. We all came here to explore separation, fear, doubt, pain and suffering.  It was all part of God’s experience as the individuated aspect or Soul that we are…..When God as us is done with exploring this experience it simply ends and a new story begins.  Your story is ending…Enjoy the last moments of pain, fear and separation, for when they go they shall never be known again for you in all eternity…. Love, b
– from Barry, in an email to me

Longing and heartache from early childhood

As a kid, I sometimes woke up with a longing and ache in my heart area. I would get up, spend time with my parents, have a sandwich with strawberry jam, read Donald Duck comic books, spend time with friends, and nothing would work. I couldn’t find anything that satisfied the longing.

Here are some of the thoughts associated with it:

Something is missing. I am incomplete.

I need to find what completes me.

I am missing something, and I am missing how to find it.

Nobody else has it this way.

I see that when this longing and heartache comes up these days, mind sometimes puts it on situations in my more recent past, for instance my early twenties, while I also see that it goes back much further, to very early childhood. And I remember that when I had an opening (initial awakening) in my teens, there was the thought that this is what the longing was for. I can find it here and now, by finding the completeness already here. I don’t need to chase big or peak experiences to find it.

Some of the things I found when I did an inquiry on I am not complete:

TA: I am complete.

I feel complete here and now. There is a sense of fullness. Richness. Even the sensations labeled longing and heartache has a sense of completeness and fullness to them.

TA: Complete is not me.

I am much more than what the idea of “complete” can cover. It doesn’t even touch what’s here.

TA: My thinking is not complete.

When thoughts say (a) something is missing, and (b) I can find it out there in the world, it’s not complete. It doesn’t go to (c) and see if it’s already here. It doesn’t go to (c) and question those thoughts.

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Reversals in the dark night of the soul

The most intense period of that great swing-back into darkness which usually divides the “first mystic life,” or Illuminative Way, from the “second mystic life,” or Unitive Way, is generally a period of utter blankness and stagnation, so far as mystical activity is concerned. The “Dark Night of the Soul,” once fully established, is seldom lit by visions or made homely by voices. It is of the essence of its miseries that the once-possessed power of orison or contemplation now seems wholly lost. The self is tossed back from its hard-won point of vantage. Impotence, blankness, solitude, are the epithets by which those immersed in this dark fire of purification describe their pains.

– Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism

Following an initial period of clarity and honeymoon, there is a shift where what’s left surfaces. There is a shift which makes it difficult to hold onto old identifications, and there is a shift so that what has been unloved surfaces with an invitation for it to be met, understood, loved.

For me, this happened in several areas of life. Where there used to be a clear and well functioning intellect, I had trouble reading or engaging in much mental activity at all. Where there used to be a great deal of energy and passion, there was fatigue and lassitude. Where there used to be a clear guidance, there was an absence of guidance. Where there used to be a clear experience of all as God, there was an apparent absence of this too. Where there used to be an abundance of inner and outer resources, there was an absence of inner and – to some extent – outer resources. Where there used to be inner strength, there was a sense of weakness. There used to be dignity and integrity, and it now went out the door.

All of these reversals bring remaining identifications to the surface so they can be seen, understood, loved. It brings whatever was outside of my previous conscious identity to the surface, so these can be met, felt, understood, loved and included.

Among the many things that surfaced for me was, sometimes, a thought that I and my process was misperceived. Some who knew me only during this phase identified me with what they saw there and then, which to me was so clearly about this process more than any inherent and lasting characteristic of me as a human in the world. And that too is a support in this process, although it can be painful at the time. That too helps me find in myself what was previously left out of my conscious identity. They see me in this way, and can I find it too? Can I feel it? Take it in? Own it? Find a welcome for it? Find love for it?

A shift in center of gravity

Here is a shift I find difficult to put into words, perhaps because it’s not very clear to me yet.

In my late teens and twenties, Spirit recognized itself as all without exception. Yet the center of gravity was in the clarity, the light etc.. And that was also the center of gravity when looking at whatever pain or confusion surfaced. There was a slight identification as light, clarity and love, and although the rest was recognized as Spirit too, it was slightly “other” as well.

Then, in my thirties, there was a shift. Spirit still recognized itself as all, yet the center of gravity – the point of view – was more from within the confusion, identification and darkness. There was, and is, a finding of healing from within and as the confusion and pain. Spirit couldn’t anymore identify more as light, clarity and love. This shift helped point out the previous slight, almost invisible (to me!) identification and preference.

This also seems like a shift from head and heart center, to heart and belly center. A shift from a slight identification with/as the head center and it’s clarity and light, to becoming more familiar with and as the belly center, with its luminous darkness and womb-like quality.

It makes sense. Spirit is all of it – light and dark, clarity and confusion, nonidentification and identification. So even a slight identification with one or the other, with – in this case – the thought or image of being more light and clarity than darkness and confusion, is out of alignment with reality, and reality will move to correct it and bring the conscious and felt view more into alignment with reality.

And all of this is images and labels. It’s all Spirit and a thought saying a particular appearance of Spirit is light and clarity, or darkness and confusion, or nonidentified or identified mind, or a slight identification.

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Mother wound

I am seeing a pattern from early childhood, and it’s connected to the image of being alone in a crib in a dark room, crying and my parents not coming (there and then). At least sometimes, I felt I didn’t get what I wanted or needed (love, attention, a sense of security and trust), and that my cries were ineffective in getting me what I wanted or needed.

There are several facets to this:

(a) Frozen, paralyzed, numb. This sometimes makes me slow in going for opportunities in life, including in relationships. There is hesitation. Some of the beliefs here are: It’s safer to be quiet. It’s easier to be frozen. I won’t get what I want. I can’t get what I want. Related to this is a sense of shock or frozenness if something happens that a thought labels “very good” or “very bad”. And the hesitation is also a hesitation or slowness in getting into what seems good, and getting out of what doesn’t seem so good. 

(b) A belief of being unloved, which creates a sense of neediness and trying to get from others what I could give to myself (love, acceptance, trust, comfort). And a belief of being unlovable, which creates a sense of insecurity, especially in relationships. Beliefs: I am unloved. I am unlovable. I have missed out of love. She will see I am not good enough for her.

(c) A belief that what’s good will go away, and that I won’t have what’s very good in my life. Beliefs: What’s good will go away. I won’t have what’s very good in my life. It’s too good for me. He/she will figure out it’s too good for me and take it away (job, relationship).

And some ways of exploring this:

Ho’oponpono on myself, others, this pattern in me, in general and in specific situations. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.

The Work on these beliefs, focusing on the memory of specific situations.

Holding satsang with these parts of me. 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?

Connecting with Christ and asking for healing, guidance, be shown what I need to see.

Connecting with the soul space above the heart and the flame there, and bringing it all into the flame, allowing it to burn away anything not like itself (infinite love, clarity, wisdom).

Bringing attention to the densest part of my body, staying with the sensations while breathing, noticing any images or thoughts behind it (creating the sense of density, contraction), making a note of these for inquiry now or later, and bringing attention to the densest part again (the same are or another).

And perhaps most importantly, being honest with myself and others about what I feel, want and think, and – with others – especially in my relation to him or her.

Age sixteen

Adya said somewhere (in part one or two of The Ground of Infinity?) that if an opening or awakening happens relatively early in life, it tends to happen at age sixteen. And that’s how it was for me.

In my fifteenth year, there was an absorption into witness. The world seemed very distant, and “I” was only awareness. I went to many doctors that year, and nobody found any answers.

Then, in my sixteenth year, Spirit revealed itself to itself as all there is. All is God, all is consciousness, all is infinite love and wisdom. Without any exception.

I assume it tends to happen around age sixteen because our identity tends to be quite fragile at that age. We are no longer children, and not yet quite adult. We are faced with living an adult life we don’t quite know how to live. (A thought says I still don’t!) And with this fragile and shifting identity, identification has less of a solid anchor to attach to, and it can more easily release. Revealing God to itself, and all as God.

For me, this was followed by a quite intense reorganization of my human self, including at a physical level, thoughts trying to make sense of it (I had been an atheist before this happened), and figuring out how to live from this. This lasted for about ten years. I now see that the year preceding the initial opening was, in a way, a dark night of the senses. The world withdrew from me, along with it’s pull and promises. And following the initial ten years or so, there was a gradual onset of a dark night of the soul, inviting the belly center to be included along with the head and heart.

Dark nights

In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost. It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it recreates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death: but, in order to tell of the good that I found there, I must tell of the other things I saw there.

I cannot rightly say how I entered it. I was so full of sleep, at that point where I abandoned the true way. But when I reached the foot of a hill, where the valley, that had pierced my heart with fear, came to an end, I looked up and saw its shoulders brightened with the rays of that sun that leads men rightly on every road. Then the fear, that had settled in the lake of my heart, through the night that I had spent so miserably, became a little calmer. And as a man, who, with panting breath, has escaped from the deep sea to the shore, turns back towards the perilous waters and stares, so my mind, still fugitive, turned back to see that pass again, that no living person ever left.

– Dante, “Inferno Canto I:1-60: The Dark Wood and the Hill.” Translated by A. S. Kline

I keep coming back to this topic as well:

The phrase dark night can be used in several different ways.

In every day language, it can mean a difficult period in life, following a loss of health, a partner, a dream etc.

In a more technical sense, it can refer to a dark night of the soul and a dark night of the senses, and there are probably other ones as well.

The dark nigh of the soul is a process of softening/releasing/wearing off stories telling us that ultimate satisfaction is to be found in experiences. For me, this happened when I was 15 and there was – from one minute to the next – a sense of the world of form retreating and of “me” being pure awareness. Thoughts said or wondered if something was very wrong, and I went to many doctors and specialists that year. I am sure that the specifics of how this dark night happens can vary quite a bit.

This lasted for about a year, and shifted – equally suddenly – into Spirit awakening to itself as all there is, including this human self. Any ideas of inside and outside, of an I and me etc. were recognized as just that, and it was very clear that Spirit – reality – could not be touched by words, they could at most serve as pointers. And that lasted for about ten years. All was revealed as Spirit, and yet, there was something left. There was still some identification with very basic stories, identities and hopes.

The dark night of the soul is a process of softening/releasing/wearing off more basic stories of an I and so on (basic wounds, basic hopes/fears). One aspect of this is healing of basic wounds, another is meeting and befriending the shadow (finding it as part of who I am), and yet another is a wearing off of very basic and primal identifications. The early phase of this went on for about five years, and then it shifted into a more intensified phase with health problems and many losses. For me, this was – and is – a period of reversals, inviting a questioning and wearing off my most cherished identifications.

More basically than any of these, a dark night happens any time beliefs and identifications are challenged by life. Or, more accurately, a set of beliefs about how things should be is challenged by a set of beliefs about how it is, or a set of beliefs about how things are or should be are challenged by reality revealing itself to itself a little more.

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A few things going on now, much of it – I suspect – related to my sessions with Barry.

Right now:

A sense that identified mind (ancient mind, confused mind) and non-identified mind (clear mind) are the same. It’s as if the images held in my mind of the two being somehow separate are falling away. They are revealed as the same, as they are, of course. It’s one mind, and it can appear as identified (confused) and non-identified (clear) at the same time. Specifically, it appears as old wounds (beliefs, fears) surfacing at an emotional and physical level, coexisting with clear mind, and – when remembered – met with love and clarity, held in love and clarity, and with love and clarity inside of it.

There is a sense of heart surgery happening, with a quite physical soreness and achiness in the heart area. Old wounds, emotions, regrets etc. also surface. (These are not really old, they are created right here now.)

I have had periods of very strong (and inexplicable) nausea, perhaps related to something happening (releasing? working itself out?) in the belly and solar plexus area.

A few weeks now:

A sense that Christ (the divine, the light of Christ) is within and inside of all of me, including the darkest (most unresolved, most contracted) areas of the psyche. There is also a sense that the love and intelligence of this light of Christ is at work there.

An experience of Christ – the light of Christ, presence of Christ – in a more yin way, as very soft, deep relaxation, holding. During the initial phase of the awakening process, Christ was experienced as more fiery (filtered through head and heart centers). Now, it appears slightly different, as velvety soft (filtered through the belly center?).

In general, love is brought to whatever is here, when remembered, including – and perhaps especially – any resistance, fear etc. surfacing. I notice that behind the heart ache is sadness, grief and regrets, and I also notice a part of me seeking to go into blame, accusations and victimhood to protect me from feeling, experiencing and meeting that sadness. And that too can be met with love. It’s innocent, it’s there to protect me, and it’s love. Seeing that, it feels natural to meet it with love. When remembered….!

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Chronic fatigue

Some of the things I have found helpful for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS):

Walks, ideally in nature, and at least once a day.

Nurturing food. Slow cooked stews. (Current one: Beef, brussel sprouts, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, peas, barley, beef stock.) Oatmeal for breakfast. (Steel cut with coconut flakes, raisins, sunflower seeds, soaked overnight, cooked with apple or banana.) Beef broth. Local fruits, berries, seeds and nuts, nori flakes. I also take ginger and cloves capsules with each meal to aid digestion, and eat just enough so I don’t feel uncomfortably full.

Staying well hydrated. I tend to drink enough so my urine is pale to clear. I mostly drink herbals and spice teas (ginger, licorice, nettle, many from the Yogi tea company), and also at times – especially at winter – beef broth.

Reducing or eliminating certain foods. For me: sugar, dairy, wheat, processed foods. (Based on the effects I notice for myself.)

Nurturing body centered activities. For me, Breema, TRE, massage. (Also yoga, tai chi, chi gong etc.)

Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE). These invite the natural neurogenic tremors initiated and guided by the body, allowing for a gentle, gradual and eventually deep release of tension and trauma from our body-mind system. This thaws frozen areas of the body and mind, gently releases chronically held energy, and enlivens the body and mind. From what I hear, and what I experienced myself, it seems very helpful for chronic fatigue.

Taking care of myself. Saying an honest yes or no. Being more honest and transparent with myself and others.

True Meditation. Noticing what’s here is already allowed. Adyashanti’s guided meditations have been very helpful for me.

Inviting in a more stable attention. The easiest for me is to bring attention, gently, to the sensations at the nostrils as the natural (unmanipulated) breath goes in and out.

Identifying and inquiring into stressful thoughts about the fatigue and anything else in my life, using The Work.

Identifying and welcoming deficient selves, noticing they are not what I fundamentally am.

Welcoming what’s here – fears, discomfort, fatigue etc.

You are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love.

Herbs, vitamins and minerals. For me, vitamin D, magnesium, siberian ginseng (deep energy), echinacea (immune function), huperzine-a, rhodiola (mental clarity, quick energy), probiotics, and more recently Hanna Kroeger’s B.E. Kit (for chronic fatigue) and Tibetan Chulen (deep, full, soft energy). Adaptogens such as siberian ginseng and rhodiola help build energy and improves immune function.

Supporting deep, restful sleep. For me, with small doses of melatonin. Also, rest and take naps during the day, the more the better.

Nurture nurturing relationships – with my mind, body, others, life. Finding and connecting with understanding, loving and supportive friends.

Nurture nurturing and enlivening activities. For me, photography, being in nature, Breema, TRE, inquiry, reading, learning, being of service to myself and others.

Nurture a nurturing environment. In my case, beautiful, simple, peaceful, near/in nature, wood fire.

Engaging in activities that are fun, rewarding, meaningful, that spark passion and joy.

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