Outline for a book II

A few years ago, I wrote a brief outline for a possible book.

The book didn’t materialize, which is what I suspected. I tend to do what I am drawn to, and for whatever reason, I have been more drawn to write posts. (Logically, I think that a book would make more sense.) Why didn’t life move in that direction? I am not sure. Perhaps something in me wants me to clarify a few more things first.

In any case, here is a second outline for a possible book. This one, with a more personal angle. I find that more interesting, and it may also be more interesting to readers.

  • Introduction
    • Purpose, not sure, mainly for myself, and if someone else gets something out of it, then that’s icing on the cake
    • The kind of book I would have loved to come across early in my own process. These days, much easier to find this sharing and info than it was back then, living in a small town in Norway before WWW
    • Sharing my own process, hopefully without too much ideology or references to traditions, is descriptive and not prescriptive (since we all have a different process and I have limited experience and knowledge)
    • Sincere but take it with a grain of salt, have limited experience, wisdom, and knowledge
    • Read whatever you find interesting, in whatever order
  • Autobiography / my history
    • Awakening (brief)
      • 15 – absorbed into/as witness
      • 16 – oneness, all is God without exception
      • Following years, continuing to explore and get to know
    • Before and after, and how it interfaces (is part of) the awakening process
      • Out-of-body experience 3-4 months old
      • Flashbacks to the time before incarnation
      • Challenges in school/teens (outsider, frozen out, angsty teenager, etc.)
      • 15/16 – awakening shift
      • Huge amounts of energies running through the system
      • Taoism, systems views, etc.
      • Tai Chi, Chigong, Tibetan, Christian + Zen
      • Focused on social engagement/sustainability
      • Back to awakening, shift into much stronger no-self state
      • Dark night – health collapse, losses, trauma surfacing, messiness,
  • Overview and essentials
    • Who and what we are 
      • Who we are – this human self
      • What we are – consciousness, what the world to us happens within and as
    • Big and small interpretations of awakening
      • Small interpretation
        • Psychological interpretation, to ourselves we are consciousness, and the world to us happens within and as consciousness, doesn’t say anything about the world itself
        • Upside is that it’s essential, lowest common denominator, can be used by just about anyone independent on worldview
      • Big interpretation
        • Existence itself is consciousness (AKA God, Spirit), and that’s what wakes up to itself
        • Upside is that it may be more inspirational, the downside is that it makes assumptions outside of what we can easily check for ourselves
    • Awakening misconceptions 
      • Will solve all your problems, is only for special people, takes lifetimes, is a finishing line, is a state,
    • Map and terrain 
      • Usefulness and limits of mental representations
      • Thoughts are questions, help us function and orient in the world, cannot hold any final or full or absolute truth, reality is always more than and different from our stories about it
  • Phases or aspects of the process
    • Possible phases and/or aspects of the process
      • Initial 
        • An interest, intuition, draw
      • Glimpse 
      • Clarifying and getting more familiar 
        • The oneness we are noticing itself becomes a new habit
        • Exploring how to live from that noticing and as that oneness
        • Inviting our human self / psyche to transform within the noticing
      • Dark nights 
        • Many different forms
        • When our deeper identifications and beliefs rubs up against reality
        • One form is when trauma and anything unprocessed comes up, which can be overwhelming, confusing, messy, and scary
      • Getting more of us on board 
        • Our psyche may be largely formed within separation consciousness
        • So comes up to join in with a more conscious noticing of ourselves as oneness
      • From seeing to viscerally getting it 
        • Our metaphorical center of gravity can be more towards our human side (separation) or more into what we are (oneness)
        • Will naturally shift over time towards oneness
          • viscerally getting it, more clarity around it, more used to it, more of our psyche on board with it
    • Life doesn’t follow our models, so this is just a very general outline
      • Are more aspects of the process, and some or all can be present now
      • If see as phases, then it often won’t follow this sequence or pattern
        • For me, didn’t follow it, although elements of each are here even now
  • Structured explorations 
    • Some that I find useful
      • Heart-centered practices
        • Tonglen, ho’o, Jesus/Heart Prayer, Christ meditation
      • Basic meditation
        • Notice + allow what’s here, and notice it’s already allowed and noticed
      • Training a more stable attention
        • For instance, bring attention to the sensation of the breath at your nostrils, and bring attention gently back when you notice it wanders
      • Inquiry
        • Buddhist sense field explorations, Kiloby Inquiry which is a modern version of it
        • The Work of Byron Katie
        • Headless experiments
        • The Big Mind process
      • Mindful movement
        • Tai chi, chigong, yoga, Breema etc.
      • Energy explorations / work
        • Taoist practices, Vortec Healing, etc.
      • Nature
        • Be in nature, connect with your body and mind as nature
        • Practices to reconnect
        • Universe story, epic of evolution, Big History
      • Guidelines for behavior
        • Sane guidelines for behavior
        • Notice when don’t follow, find issues behind it
      • Social engagement

This is just the first draft of an outline. I will likely return to it and expand and update it. And if I a moved to do so, I may also link each section to a page where I will expand on each topic. (Perhaps using existing articles as a seed.)

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Odysseus & Calypso

I read many of the classics from around the world in my teens and twenties, and have not been able to read much the last ten or fifteen years because of brain fog (CFS). It’s been a blessing, in many ways, to not be able to read much. I used to read between one and three books a week – mostly within psychology and mysticism – and it was a big part of my identity. Now, I have to find who I am without that identity, which is another adventure. And it’s also an invitation to stand more on my own two feet without too much input from books and talks.

That said, I am reading a few graphic novels these days since it’s easier for me. Right now, it’s The Odyssey illustrated by Gareth Hinds.

Any story is a reflection of dynamics in ourselves and our lives, and so also the story of Odysseus and Calypso. She is an immortal nymph who fell in love with Odysseus. She kept him captive while promising him immortality and freedom from the suffering of sickness, old age, and death. Zeus ordered her to allow him his freedom. And given the choice, he chose to go back to his wife. He chose to abandon immortality, knowing that he would have to experience no end to struggles and sorrows, including old age and death.

What does this reflect in me?


In terms of the awakening process, we can understand this in (at least) two ways.

He found his nature. He discovered himself as what the world, to him, happens within and as. We can call this immortality in the sense that it’s what time and change happens within and as. It’s the timeless we always are, whether we notice or not, and no matter what happens with this human self over time.

The first way to understand the Odysseus & Calypso story is that he abandons the commitment to noticing and living from a conscious noticing of his nature. He goes back to the exclusive identification as a human self in the world, and noticing his nature becomes a memory.

That often happens, and it’s not wrong or bad. Our nature remains the same, whether we notice it or not. And it sometimes happens for a while and we are moved to keep exploring our nature again.

I find the other way to see it more interesting.

Here, Odysseus chooses to embrace his humanness more fully without abandoning a conscious noticing of his nature. The oneness we are notices itself and lives from and as that noticing. And yet, there is also a more full embrace of our rich, messy, and flawed human life.

This is often a sign of maturity. It appears we have a choice to remain mostly identified with and as our nature, with and as Big Mind. And we chose to abandon that identification and instead embrace all of what’s here including the flawed richness of this human and his or her life in the world.

And it’s not really a choice.

The oneness we are may identify exclusively as this human self. Then, it discovers its nature and identifies with and as a partial image of its nature. (Out of habit and out of a habitual impulse to protect itself against discomfort.) And then that identification has to go, and we have to find ourselves more nakedly and raw as what we are and what’s here, and that very much includes anything and anything that’s part of our human self and life in the world and in time.

It also and especially includes what’s part of this human self and our life that our personality doesn’t like. That too is part of the wild richness of what we are. That too happens within and as the oneness we are. That too happens within and as the timelessness we are.

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Wanting to know how fiction ends

Why do we have an impulse to know how compelling fiction ends?


I have often thought it’s a bit silly.

The story is made up anyway. It can go in a number of widely different directions.

It’s easy to imagine alternate endings that the author plausibly could have chosen. The reason the author landed on a particular ending may be because ofpersonal fascination, wanting to subvert expectations, wanting to draw in an audience, wanting to highlight a particular feature of human life, setting it up for the next part, practical or resource reasons, or something else.

Sometimes, the ending we looked forward to can even be disappointing, as we have seen in a recent TV series (GoT) and final movie trilogy (SW).

If this was the whole picture, there would be little or no reason to want to know how a story ends. So there must be something more going on.


One answer may be in evolution. We have likely evolved to be fascinated by stories since these told our ancestors something important about themselves, their community, and their world. Stories gave them a survival advantage.

It’s easy to see how this is the case with stories from real life. The way the story is told reflects community values and orientations, so the listener gets to absorb these. And the content can offer practical information about social interactions, interactions with nature and wildlife, how to deal with unusual events that may return, and so on.

To some extent, fiction – mythology, fairy tales, tall tales – did the same. Fiction also conveyed cultural values and orientations. It gave people insights into interactions within the community and with outsiders and the natural world, and so on.

And it’s easy to see that the ending is an important part of the value of all of these stories.

Taking in compelling stories, from beginning to end, gave our ancestors a survival advantage.


There is an obvious value in stories from real life. We learn through the experience of others and how they chose to tell the stories.

And compelling fiction does the same, in a heightened form. Good fiction distills the essence out of real-life stories and reflects universal human truths. They are a way for us to learn something essential about ourselves, others, and the world.


There is a fuzzy boundary between stories from real life and fiction.

When we tell stories from real life, we inevitably interpret, filter, highlight, leave out, and get things wrong. The story reflects us and what we find important, our worldview and values, our hangups and limitations, and so on. As we know, these stories are often told quite differently by others.

And compelling fiction reflects universal human dynamics and insights and has a deeper truth.

There is always an element of fiction in stories from real life, and elements of real life in fiction.


So why do we want to know the ending of fiction? Even if it’s obviously silly since the story is made up anyway?

One answer may be evolution. It gave our ancestors a survival advantage to take in stories, told by others in their community, from beginning to end.

P.S. Sorry for the lack of simplicity and clarity here. I have had a quite strong brain fog for a few weeks, and it makes it difficult to write with flow and clarity. Hopefully, I can return and clean this up a bit.

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How is it to say YES to what’s here?

I love the Headless Way, and I have tremendously enjoyed reading the graphic novel from 2016 called The Man with No Head: The Life and Ideas of Douglas Harding. The two pages above especially caught my attention.


How do we shift to actively welcoming what is and a wholehearted YES to what is?

There are several answers to this.

Here and now, how can we find this YES?

One way we can all explore it is through asking ourselves:

How is it to actively want what is here now?

Can I say YES to what’s here? Can I say YES to this feeling?

Can I say YES to the no in me?

This opens our mind to that possibility, we find some curiosity about it, and we may shift into the part(s) of us that already welcome it and say a YES to what is.

Befriending suffering parts of us

The suffering parts living in separation consciousness are what in us doesn’t welcome what is and says NO to what is. So befriending these help with finding our YES, as does inviting in healing for these parts of us.

This takes time and is an ongoing process, and it does prepare the ground for the YES to be more wholehearted, natural, and available in more and more situations.

Recognize as the divine

We can recognize all generally as the divine. And yet, when suffering parts of us surface, it may be easy to “forget” at some level that these too are the divine and get caught up in a no to the discomfort or suffering.

When this happens, I can ask the questions above.

I can ask: How is it to see this experience as a flavor of the divine?

And I can recognize that it’s all happening within and as what I am, and take time to take it in and let it reorganize something in me.

Maturing over time

Something in us shifts and matures over time – through seeing, living from it, noticing when we don’t live from it, and so on. It’s a kind of maturation process.

To the extent we stay involved with the awakening process and go beyond what’s familiar with us, it seems that we find a deeper and more sincere willingness in us to shift, to actively find a welcome for what is and a wholehearted YES.

Conscious commitment

Profound Declaration of Intent: My desire is that all shall be as it is since all flows from my True Nature.

Douglas Harding, quoted in The Man With No Head

Finally, we have conscious commitment. When we are ready, we may find and set a conscious commitment to actively welcome what is, and find a YES to it. This becomes a practice.


The two pages from The Man With No Head touch on some big themes in my own life, in addition to the YES:

There is a difference between seeing what we are and living from it.

There is a difference between generally seeing it and all our human parts being on board with it.

And there is a difference between passively accepting what is and actively wanting it and saying YES to it.

All these themes are connected.

Seeing what we are

First is the seeing. In some cases, that can be the easy part, especially if it comes through pointers and inquiry or if it comes spontaneously.

Living from it

Then it’s the living from it. That’s an ongoing and lifelong process. If all is ONE, how do I live in this situation?

What is it that makes living from it in all situations challenging? It may be that we “forget” and don’t notice what we are. And equally or more often, it’s because parts of our human self still operating from separation consciousness are triggered.

The way we perceive and interpret a situation trigger unhealed, unexamined, and unloved parts of us. A bubble of separation consciousness comes to the surface.

This is not wrong. It’s part of the process. These parts of us want to join in with the awakening. They want to reorganize – heal and awaken – within this new context.

The question is: how do we relate to these suffering parts of us when they visit? Do we try to slam the door? Do we join in with their fearful stories and reactivity? Or do we meet them as suffering beings that want healing? Do we meet them with kindness, receptivity, and understanding? Do we create a safe space for them to be seen, felt, loved, and heal?

How is it to say YES to these parts of us that say NO to what’s here?

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Jo Goodwin: A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone

A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.

– Jo Goodwin

Yes, that’s the function of a library, to represent a wide range of views including marginalized views and the ones that offend certain groups. Just like I want people I disagree with and whom offend me to have a voice in society, I want a library to have books that offend me. That’s the sign of a healthy society and a good library.

It’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.

– Judy Blume

These quotes are from A Mighty Girl on Facebook.

Joel Morwood: The Way of Selflessness

Praised as “a spiritual treasure” by Huston Smith, The Way of Selflessness is an authoritative guide for anyone who wishes to walk a mystical path and discover directly the truth testified to by the mystics of the world’s spiritual traditions. Drawing from the universal teachings and essential practices of the mystics from all the world’s major religious traditions, distilled and presented in generic terms suitable for all seekers, The Way of Selflessness is appropriate for both those who belong to an established religion and those who do not.

– The Way of Selflessness book description

If you are serious about awakening I can highly recommend Joel Morwood’s The Way of Selflessness: A Practical Guide to Enlightenment Based on the Teachings of the World’s Great Mystics. (I am linking to Lulu instead of Amazon since they have a better price.)

Joel was one of my teachers at the Center for Sacred Sciences in Eugene, Oregon, when I lived there. And his book shows a good and practical understanding of the awakening process, including different core practices from the main spiritual traditions in the world.

I want to add a couple of minor caveats: The book is perhaps slightly “heady”, and he doesn’t thoroughly address spiritual crises or dark nights as he may not have gone through it himself. Also, there are aspects of certain traditions and practices he doesn’t quite get (for instance koan study) since he never practiced within these traditions himself. That said, this is not a reason to not get his book. The book is an excellent overview and has many very valuable practical pointers.

For more about Joel, see his Buddha at the Gas Pump interview.

And if you are interested, Naked Through the Gate is a great read about his own life and awakening process. His process was somewhat unusual in that his main spiritual guide came to him in dreams and not waking life.

I want to end with a brief note about the title. Selflessness is conventionally understood as setting your own needs aside (for a while) to benefit others or the larger whole. In contrast, selflessness in the context of awakening refers to an absence of any separate self, and noticing and realizing it, reorienting within this new(ly discovered) context, and living from it in more and more situations.

Fiona Robertson: The Dark Night of the Soul

The Dark Night of the Soul: A Journey from Absence to Presence by Fiona Robertson

My friend Fiona Robertson wrote this wise, heartfelt, and insightful book that I am sure will be of help to many. It is specifically about the dark night of the soul that some of us go through at some point in our life. But the insights apply to all the many mini-dark nights of the soul that are part of our human experience. 

When I read it, I was struck by the universality of the descriptions and insights from the different people interviewed for the book. It was as if I could have said just about all of them. I was interviewed for the book so some of them are actually my own, but when I read the others I actually didn’t know if they were mine or not until I read the attribution. (Of course, the people interviewed and the quotes were selected to fit into a narrative, but there is also something often surprisingly universal about the dark night of the soul.)  

The book is a reminder of how the dark night of the soul is a deeply human and humanizing experience. And that it requires us to be real instead of holding onto identities, beliefs, and ideas about how things are or should be. It strips away layers of who and what we are not. It helps us find our wholeness in a far more gritty and real way. 

Bonnie Greenwell: When Spirit Leaps

I have enjoyed reading When Spirit Leaps by Bonnie Greenwell, published this summer. I have known her for a while, from when we were fellow Oregonians.

I can recommend this book for anyone who would like a general overview of the awakening process. The book is written in a deceptively simple style, and there is a lot of wisdom and experience reflected in each sentence. She goes through the different phases of the process, and I especially appreciate that she addresses some of the challenges in the awakening process and ways to navigate them.

Book: The Journey

I was taking a course with a spiritual teacher when, during a question and answer session, one of the students asked, ‘What do I do if an intense emotion comes up for me – how do I find the peace in that?’

She answered, ‘Just don’t move. Let yourself be completely present to the emotion. Welcome it. If a negative emotion arises, don’t run away from it; don’t run off to the refrigerator to eat some food to cover it up; don’t turn on the television to distract yourself from it; don’t call your friends to disperse its energy by gossiping about it. Just stop and feel it. Just let yourself be present to it. You’ll find if you don’t try to distract yourself from it, or push it away or, worse still, dump it on someone else; if you stay still, if you are really present to it – in the very core of the feeling you will find peace. So when you feel a powerful emotion, just let it be – DON’T MOVE. Welcome it.
– from The Journey by Brandon Bays

I looked at this book yesterday as it is about one of many practical approaches to allow, welcome and be with what’s here.

She describes a process of meeting whatever painful emotions are here, staying with it, allow it to transform (new layers emerge), until it all drops into the void.

It’s what I find happens naturally during meditation, and it’s also something I explore in everyday life through different forms of inquiry.

Skimming through her book, I noticed – or imagine – a few beliefs she may have: If I live a healthy life, I won’t get sick. People will judge me as a failure if use conventional medicine. Illness means something is wrong. Disease is terrible. Older people won’t get it. British people are reserved. (Age/nationality stereotypes.) And even if I don’t recognize these beliefs in an obvious way in myself, it can still be helpful to inquire into these and see what I find.

I also noticed a few beliefs for myself: She thinks her insights are special. It’s an universal insight. It’s too simple (to talk about). It’s too obvious (to make a big deal out of). 

Why is it a good thing it’s presented in this way? Why is it a good thing a very helpful process is presented in this packaging? She may reach a different audience than others presenting similar pointers. Some may share her beliefs (about health etc.), feel a kinship and see her as one of them, and be attracted to explore something they otherwise wouldn’t. For instance, Christians or non-Buddhists may not be exposed/attracted to Buddhist teachers pointing to the same.

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Food bubble

But whereas in years past, it’s been weather that has caused a spike in commodities prices, now it’s trends on both sides of the food supply/demand equation that are driving up prices. On the demand side, the culprits are population growth, rising affluence, and the use of grain to fuel cars. On the supply side: soil erosion, aquifer depletion, the loss of cropland to nonfarm uses, the diversion of irrigation water to cities, the plateauing of crop yields in agriculturally advanced countries, and—due to climate change —crop-withering heat waves and melting mountain glaciers and ice sheets. These climate-related trends seem destined to take a far greater toll in the future.

A quote from Lester Brown’s book World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse. Read more in The Guardian and Mother Jones.




El Collie: Branded by Spirit

Branded by Spirit is an online book by El Collie on the awakening process as it unfolded for her. Since that’s where I am myself, I especially find chapter 14 – Darkness before dawn – interesting and helpful. It’s a huge relief to know that others have and do go through a similar process and she writes about it with a great deal of wisdom and insight.

Update: I have now read all the chapters, and it’s been very helpful to me. She writes from her own experience, informed by informed extensive reading on the subject. I have to admit I am familiar with most of what she writes about from my own experience (including much unmentioned in this blog), so although I have never thought of my own process as a kundalini process, that may be one way to describe it.

Update 2021: Her old website is down, but Branded by Spirit is still available. I updated the link.

Soul Awakening: The Journey from Ego to Essence

In this time of radically accelerated evolution, the disparity between the conflict and chaos of the egoic state and the stillness of the soul has never been more apparent, both within and without. Has it ever been more important to be in touch with and live from our true, essential Self? Conscious communion with the soul is the foundation of all else in the journey of awakening.

Only the soul can:

  • Provide the limitless love, wisdom, and power to guide us through our challenges into freer, happier ways of being.
  • Embrace, heal, and re-absorb distorted ego-personality aspects.
  • Fulfill our destiny and purpose for incarnating at this pivotal time.

For two decades we have facilitated direct experiences of the soul realms. Soul Awakening relates the archetypal passages and initiations that brought us into that capacity and deepened us in the soul. Because we have lived into  everything we share here,  Soul Awakening offers a  living transmission that inducts readers into greater soul-awareness.

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The Wisdom Jesus

I am reading The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind – a New Perspective on Christ and His Message by Cynthia Bourgeault, an Episcopalian minister.

Her approach is grounded partly in current research, and partly in a view of Jesus as an awakened – and tantric – wisdom teacher. No wonder I enjoy it! Highly recommended.

The Wisdom Jesus is also available as an audio book from Sounds True.

Make Miracles in Forty Days: Turning What You Have Into What You Want

I am grateful for having found Make Miracles in Forty Days: Turning What You Have Into What You Want by Melody Beattie.

It outlines a simple practice: Write a daily gratitude list which includes situations, experiences and emotions you have the most difficulty finding gratitude for. And if you want, find a partner to share this with.

The format is Today, I am grateful for…. which is really a question. How would it be to be thankful for….?

This is a variation of the traditional practice found in many traditions of thankfulness for everything that happens, whether we judge it as good or bad. What this variation highlights, and what I find especially helpful, is specificity. When I write the list, I find specific examples of what to be thankful for, including that which I don’t (yet) feel thankful for.

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Gratitude for all

Gratitude and appreciation is a practice, and it is also a natural expression of who we are when less clouded over by beliefs.

It’s rewarding and helpful to find gratitude for what’s obviously good in my life. It helps me shift attention from my complaints to what is pretty good in life.

And it is even more powerful to include all without exception, including and especially that which I at first don’t appreciate. This helps me find the ground below likes and dislikes, and a softening of identification with my own familiar beliefs about what’s good and bad.

The simplest form of gratitude practice is to repeat thank you – to life, God, the Universe.

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Falling Into Grace: Insights on the End of Suffering

Adyashanti has a new book out, this time an introductory one. It is available only through his website until April or so.

What would it be like if you didn’t need to struggle, if you didn’t need to make an effort to find peace and happiness? What would that feel like now?
~ Adyashanti, Falling into Grace

In the same way that we fall into the arms of a loved one or drop our heads on the pillow at night, we can surrender into the beauty and truth of who and what we really are. In his first introductory book, Falling into Grace, Adyashanti invites us to let go of our struggles with life and open to the full promise of spiritual awakening: the end of delusion and the discovery of our essential being. Adyashanti has found that the simpler the teaching, the greater its power to change our lives. In this book he shares what he considers fundamental insights that will “spark a revolution in the way we perceive life.”

Become all flame

Abba Lot went to Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace, and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands toward heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”

– from The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind

Blog: The Website of Unknowing

One key, I think — coming again from the monastic tradition — is the idea of joyful repentance, which suggests that even the purgative way can be a source of delight in God. Granted, surrendering sin and opening ourselves up to transformational healing can be hard, ego-threatening work, but I see no reason why it must be miserable work. It’s like the question of purgatory: I think Protestants rejected purgatory because it was seen so much as a hellish place. But many Catholics regard purgatory as a place of great wonder and excitement, a room in heaven rather than in hell. Once you enter purgatory, the exit door leads to the great banquet hall. You are there simply to get a manicure and take a lovely bubble bath before your intimate date with your beloved. I for one cannot think of anything more delightful than taking the extra effort to clean myself up before a special evening with my wife. S0 — even for Protestants who reject the idea of purgatory — I think we can all agree that the hard work of holiness and penitence in this life ought to be an occasion for joy, if entered into in the right spirit — a spirit of trust and hope and confidence in God’s love for us, and humble recognition that everything we do to improve ourselves is ultimately a gift of grace to begin with.
– from Mapping the Journey, a post on Anamchara: The Website of Unknowing

I rarely read blogs these days, but happened to find Anamchara: The Website of Unknowing. It is the blog of Carl McColman, and every post is a gem – insightful, informed, well-written, and practical.

His new book is called The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, and will be out in August. If it is half as good as his blog, it will be well worth reading.

Book: Another Science Fiction


The years from 1957 to 1962 were a golden age of science fiction, as well as paranoia and exhilaration on a cosmic scale. The future was still the future back then, some of us could dream of farms on the moon and heroically finned rockets blasting off from alien landscapes. Others worried about Russian moon bases.

Source: NY Times, Reaching for the Stars When Space Was a Thrill

It doesn’t get better than this if you have a fascination for science fiction, early space exploration, cool retro-art, and the futurism of the 50s. Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race 1957-1962 is published in a few weeks.

Byron Katie: A Thousand Names for Joy

No one knows what’s good and what’s bad. No one knows what death is. Maybe it’s not a something; maybe it’s not even a nothing. It’s the pure unknown, and I love that. We imagine that death is a state of being or a state of nothingness, and we frighten ourselves with our own concepts. I’m a lover of what is: I love sickness and health, coming and going, life and death. I see life and death as equal. Reality is good; so death must be good, whatever it is, if it’s anything at all.
– from chapter 33 of A Thousand Names for Joy

We can only be afraid of what we believe we are-whatever there is in ourselves that we haven’t met with understanding. If I thought you might see me as boring, for example, it would frighten me, because I haven’t questioned that thought. So it’s not people who frighten me, it’s me that frightens me. That’s my job, to frighten me, until I investigate this fear for myself. The worst that can happen is that I think you think about me what I think about myself. So I am sitting in a pool of me.
– from chapter 46 of A Thousand Names for Joy

Two excerpts from Byron Katie’s this modern-day commentary on Tao Te Ching. Highly recommended, especially as inspiration for own inquiry.

Book: How to Be an Existentialist


I got How to Be an Existientialist: or How to Get Real, Get a Grop and Stop Making Excuses as a present from my cat this Christmas. She has a good taste in books. It is an easy and entertaining read, and poses some good questions to help us live with a little more honesty and integrity.

I also find that the book stimulates a lot of questions for me, often several on each page, which is a sign of a very good book.

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Book: The How of Happiness


I am reading The How of Happiness, and it seems to be an excellent book. Practical, simple, science-based and effective. I especially appreciate the emphasis on finding practices that fits ones own circumstances and interests (chapter 3), and the pointers on why the preactices work and advice on how to go about the practices (chapter 10).

The author has a column in Psychology Today, and here is a video interview with the author.

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Your Inner Awakening: The Work of Byron Katie

I am listening to Your Inner Awakening by Byron Katie, and this is another audio book I can highly recommend.

This is a great overview of The Work. Katie talks about her own story, the ins and outs of the process, how it may look when applied to the main areas of our lives, and with examples of Katie leading people through investigations of our universal stories such as I need more money. Always with an invitation to the listener to find their own answers and get a taste of the process that way.

The Way of Selflessness


The Way of Selflessness is just out, and I can highly recommend it.

Written by Joel Morwood, the spiritual director of the Center for Sacred Sciences in Oregon, it is the product of 20 years of working with students and studying the mystical core of the different traditions, all from within a clear and genuine awakening. It is practical, span the traditions, and gives pointers for what you may encounter at different points on the path.

If you take the main practices and teachings of mystics from the main traditions and boil it down, as you would if you boil an ox down to a bullion cube, you will get something like this.

For all its strengths, it may have a few drawbacks as well.

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A few resources

As of August 2009: See this page for updates.

A few resources I have found helpful…


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The End of Your World


I am reading Adyashanti’s new book, The End of Your World and find it very helpful. It is clear. Practical. And an invitation to allow our human self to live within awakening with integrity, in an always more healthy and mature way.

Since I have recently read Wake Up Now by Stephan Bodian, and they both take a similar approach, I am struck by how well the two books complement each other. Wake up Now is for anyone anywhere on the path, and The End of Your World is specifically for those where there has been an awakening, whether it is non-abiding or abiding.
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Stephan Bodian: Wake Up Now

Stephen Bodian has been a student of Buddhism (Zen and Tibetan) and Advaita for decades, is a psychotherapist, and is coming from a clear awakening, and all of that is reflected in his most recent book Wake Up Now.

It is clear. Practical. And when I read it, I am struck by how a lifetime of experience is beautifully condenced into each paragraph and sometimes each sentence. 

He is also the author of Meditation for Dummies which I read this summer and found very helpful. 

And while Meditation for Dummies – appropriately enough – emphasize making our human experience a little easier, Wake Up Now is all about inviting what we are to notice itself and living from within that context. 

I can’t think of many other books that I can recommend more warmly for both newbies and more experienced folks.

History of Mysticism available as ebook

I just received this comment on one of my previous posts:

I thought you did an excellent job of encapsulating the book. However, as you may have noticed, it is no longer available on amazon.com, as it is Out of Print. The good news is that I am offering History of Mysticism (with some additional text in the Chapter on Gnosticism) as a FREE Ebook in PDF format on my website at:  www.themysticsvision.com. Check it out. And, if possible, please publicise its availability.
Best wishes,
Swami Abhayananda (Stan Trout)

As before, I can highly recommend this book. It is among the clearest and most inspiring books on the history of mysticism I have read, and I am looking forward to reading the new sections on Gnosticism.

And what an honor to receive a comment from the author!

If you would like a copy of the free ebook, send an email with “History of Mysticism” in the subject line to abhayanand [at] aol [dot] com

Resistance within experience


Nothing special here…

Whenever I listen to music, read a book, watch a movie, or similar, I notice the difference between a resistance within and to experience.

When there is a resistance within experience, it usually makes it interesting to me. I am attracted to the experience, and there is some friction there. It feels meaty, substantial, challenging, nurturing.

This is how it is for me with music such as Jaga Jazzist, Meredith Monk, Bulgarian folks songs, and even – for instance – lounge music. Anything that is a little outside of the familiar for me (Meredith Monk), outside of my expectations (Bulgarian folk songs) or shoulds (metal!), or outside of my familiar identity (lounge).

When there is not much resistance within experience, which I experience with Mozart and some writings and movies, there is either not much interest there, or it becomes more of a – sometimes welcomed – relaxation and a vacation.

And when there is resistance to experience, it is quite different. This is when it becomes uncomfortable, and there is a sense of separation and of a separate I disliking an experience.

Buddhism for Dummies


I just started looking at Buddhism for Dummies, and it seems to be an excellent book, written in a way that honors and is faithful to the traditions, yet in a very simple and ordinary language, and always very practical.

If anyone asks me for a good book about Buddhism, I am going to recommend this one. And I am going to read it myself as I have benefited a great deal from the brief sections I have read so far.

When the tagline says “a reference for the rest of us”, I read that as “a reference for all of us”.

Book/Divine Mind analogy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dream: books being sold off

I am spending a good deal of time buying book treasures from used book stores, mostly on Buddhist and art subjects. I also belong to a Buddhist group and discover, to my horror, that they are selling these books to the public at give-away prices. I had intended only some books to be sold on, and the rest to be kept. Some of the books are rare finds, and may not even be appreciated by those buying them. Even as I try to explain the situation to the people selling them, more are sold.

This dream had a nightmarish quality… spending all that time identifying and buying book treasures, and then having them all sold off to the general public for next to nothing…!

The dream parallels two things in my life:

First, the giving away of my insights and skills freely, without asking for anything in return (including having volunteered a large number of hours for NWEI, and giving away a large number of Breema sessions for free).

The other, more specific to this retreat, a surrendering of conceptualized insights… seeing them for what they are, only thoughts. Only images and sounds created by the mind, arising and dissolving from and into nothingness.

Surrendering is inherent in the process of just seeing thoughts as thoughts, arising from and dissolving into nothingness.

Obsessiveness, apparent disasters, and waking up

Moby Dick The Matrix The Truman Show

There are many stories of obsessiveness, apparent disasters and waking up, mirroring (one version of) the awakening process.

Moby Dick is about one man’s obsessiveness with the white whale (God) which eventually drags him and his ship under (the death of a sense of separate I along with any other belief and identity), leaving only the ocean, the nondual awakening.

The Truman Show is about a man gradually intuiting that his life is a fabrication, the apparent disasters that happens when he attempts to break out (loss of identities and beliefs), and his final breaking out.

The Matrix trilogy is about a man first waking out of the conventional dream, and then through a great deal of struggle finding an awakening that goes beyond and embraces all polarities… Neo and Agent Smith (good and evil, persona and shadow), the machine world and Zion (mind and matter, also in its version of empty luminosity and form), the Matrix and the real world (deluded and awake).

Moby Dick

Moby Dick

The richest stories have many layers of meaning and can be interpreted in a wide range of ways… which is also why there is often a shared fascination with them.

Moby Dick is one of those stories, and the story can be filtered in many different ways, yielding many different meanings and insights.

  • Later, more mature worldcentric
    From a later wordcentric view, we hold both the whales and the animals inside of our circle of care, concern and compassion. We see the struggle between animals and humans as an inevitable outcome of both trying to survive, a story they are both caught up in without much (apparent) choice, almost as a Greek tragedy.
  • Early, less mature worldcentric
    From an early worldcentric view where our circle of care beings to include all of Earth, we may easily side with and have mainly compassion for the whale. The whale is innocent and only tries to protect itself, the humans evil (or at least blind) killing other species without respect and concern for their life and well-being. (Animal rights perspective.)
  • Humans vs nature
    Humans try to put themselves above nature and to subdue nature. Since nature always has the last word (it is, after all, the larger holon), this is only successful to a limited degree, and it may have dire consequences for humans. We are part of a larger living system, so when we reduce the health and well-being of the larger system, it impacts us as well. Climate change is one of many examples of this.
  • Beliefs perspective
    Captain Ahab is caught up in blind beliefs, making it appear to himself that he needs revenge and to settle the score with Moby Dick. It not only creates a split between the two and a great deal of drama and suffering for both, but it also brings the whole ship down.
  • Awakening
    Then there is the awakening perspective. Moby Dick is God (“if God wanted to be a fish, he would be a whale”, “that is no whale, it is a white god”), and Ahab is single-mindedly pursuing God, relentlessly, at any cost, obsessively (which often goes before an awakening). Captain Ahab and the ship is the small self, or more precisely the appearance of a separate self placed on this human self, and that is what is drawn under in the struggle with God. What is left is just the ocean, nondual awakening.

    This is of course an experiential truth, not a literal one. The experience is of a disaster, of dying, of a calamity as U. G. Krishnamurti liked to call it with his flair for the dramatic. It is really just the belief in a separate self that dies, but since that is taken as an “I” the experience is of I dying. The human self goes on just fine, although now without being taken as an I.

    I initially heard about Moby Dick as an analogy to awakening from a friend of mine at the Zen center a while ago, and know that it has been used by others as well. It is an interpretation that comes relatively easily to mind when we are aware of the characteristics of the awakening process.

    Then there are the reflections of a nondual awakening in the text itself (which doesn’t mean the author needed to have awakened, only intuited it), such as… Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm? But if the great sun move not of himself; but is as an errand-boy in heaven; nor one single star can revolve, but by some invisible power; how then can this one small heart beat; this one small brain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that living, and not I. (Ahab)

Tataya Mato

I am reading (or rather taking in) a book called The Black Madonna Within by Tatayo Mato.

It is a description, in words and drawings, of an amazing inner transformation of a woman who grew up in war-ravaged Eastern Europe and had a very strong inner connection to what Jung called the Self, the organizing principle that leads us towards greater wholeness, and healing, as a human being. The book is an account of a series of dreams and active imaginations over several decades, and the images are powerful for anyone on a similar journey. At least they are for me.

It is an example of the process of exploring and awakening to who we are, as an evolving individual human being. It is a tremendously rich, fertile, deep, embracing and rewarding journey. It brings deep healing, a deep sense of our shared humanity and how it shows up in this particular life, a deep sense of connection with all of humanity, a deep recognition of what I see in you as familiar here too…

It leads right up to the edge of a sense of a separate self, but not (in itself) beyond. There is still that core belief there of being a separate self, and that journey – of discovering what we ultimately are – is one that other traditions can help us with. Maybe especially Buddhism and Adveita, and the mystics of any tradition who realized selflessness… those in whom the Ground of emptiness noticed itself, and lived itself out through these human lives.

Big Mind book

I received this via email, and since it seems to be an open invitation I thought I would post it here. Seems like a great chance for those interested in supporting the publishing of this book, and the Big Mind process in general.

Dear Sangha and Supporters,

As you may already know, we’re offering a limited hardcover edition of my forthcoming book, Big Mind / Big Heart: Finding Your Way. These specially printed and bound books will be signed and numbered, and will only be available to those who order them before publication.

We are wishing to publish it ourselves, as the new Big Mind Publishing company. In this way, we will maintain full control of the editorial content and appearance of the book. My experience in having my work issued by other publishing companies has been that I have had to compromise my intent and style to please the publishers. In order to avoid this we are planning to raise enough capital for the printing, advertising and promotion, and other costs.

Our goal is to sell at least 300 copies to finance this project. As of right now we have sold just about 100 copies. So that we don’t have to go to an outside publisher, I would like to encourage you, if you haven’t already ordered one or more copies, to order now; or if you have already ordered a copy, to think about ordering additional copies as gifts.

The original deadline for ordering was the end of March, but since we haven’t yet raised enough to go to press, we are pushing the deadline forward to April 15th. We are only printing as many of these hardcover books as are pre-ordered. Afterwards it will not be possible to buy the book in hardcover; it will only be available in paperback. You can order by clicking the following link: Big Mind / Big Heart: Finding Your Way Special Edition

I am including here some short excerpts which will give you a taste of the book.

With thanks for your continued support,

Genpo Roshi

History of Mysticism by Swami Abhayananda

Strictly scholarly works on mysticism are of course necessary and useful, but it is still a relief to come upon a history of mysticism written by someone where Spirit has awakened to itself. It gives it a freshness, immediacy and clarity that is often lost in the more dry and exclusively scholarly works.

History of Mysticism: The Unchanging Testament by Swami Abhayananda (Stan Trout), is one of these books.

In going through the history of mysticism, from prehistoric to more recent times, he touches upon some of the highlights from many traditions, showing how they all describe the same realization of Spirit as emptiness and form.

(Brahman and Maya, Purusha and Prakrti, Shiva and Shakti, Sat and Asat, Vishnu and Lakshmi, Theos and Logos, Tathata and Samsara, Tao and Teh, the unspeakable Tao and the speakable Tao, El and Elat, Baal and Asherah, Yahweh and Chokmah, Haqq and Khalq, yang and yin, masculine and feminine, and so on.)

This lens gives the book a clear focus and message: there is one theme with minor variations from culture, tradition and personal flavor. It takes some of the many flavors of ice cream and shows that it is all ice cream. (If there is a minor drawback with the book, it is that it becomes somewhat predictable after a while, and that some of the interesting variations are downplayed.)

Still, highly recommended for its clarity, for its excellent overview of the history of mysticism, for its clear theme, and for its ability to inspire.

Note: The book is available for free and in digital form at The Mystic Vision.