My meditation history

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

CHILDHOOD INTEREST

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

INITIAL EXPLORATIONS

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

TAOIST, CHRISTIAN, AND BUDDHIST PRACTICES

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

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

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

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

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

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

ZEN PRACTICE

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

THE BIG MIND PROCESS

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

MORE FOCUSED ON COMMUNITY

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

RETURN TO PRACTICE

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

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

I got back into training a more stable attention.

I found and loved the Headless experiments.

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

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

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

A NECESSARY SHIFT

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

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

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

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

HUMBLING

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

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

THESE DAYS

How do my exploration and noticing look these days?

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT’S THE EFFECT OF THESE PRACTICES?

I am honestly not sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A FEW WORDS ON MEDITATION AND OTHER SPIRITUAL PRACTICES

WHAT IS MEDITATION?

The word is used to refer to several different explorations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHY WRITE ABOUT THIS?

Why did I write about this here?

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

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

Your eyes are beautiful: A healing-related synchronicity

I optimized my eyes this morning using Vortex Healing, went to a coffee shop, and noticed this message from the barista after I had finished the cup.

Pedro – tus ojos son muy bellos / Pedro – your eyes are very beautiful

It’s definitely a synchronicity – a meaningful coincidence.

It could be that optimizing my eyes made them more beautiful. Optimizing any organ or system helps them function better, energizes them, and clears any blocks in the energy channels in and to that organ or system.

It was certainly a beautiful message to receive. It’s a reminder of how much apparently small acts of kindness can mean to others and oneself.

And it’s also an encouragement for me to continue optimizing and using Vortex Healing in other ways for myself (and others when that comes up).

I have experienced these kinds of synchronicities several times before.

One memorable experience was when I lived in Oregon and spent a period deepening into the Christ meditation and the ongoing Jesus / Heart prayer. When I do that, the presence of Christ throughout my system becomes very noticeable. One day on the bus, the woman in front of me turned around without having looked at me first and asked “Are you Jesus?”

I laughed and said “No” and immediately realized it would have been more useful and validating to say “No, but I have done a lot of prayers lately so I sense that Christ is here”.

Christ wakes up to itself as all of it

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to be part of a beautiful healing session. My partner and I did an in-person session with a client, and since the client asked for Christ to be invited in the healing, that’s what we did.

At one level, Christ is an expression of divinity and a symbol of oneness (what we are) and our wholeness as a human self (who we are when more healed and clear). At another level, Christ has a very distinct quality and energy, different from any other expressions of the divine.

I shared the traditional Christ meditation where we visualize Christ in our heart, in front of us, at the back of us, at either side of us, above us, and below us (about 1.5m out), and rest in that noticing and the presence of Christ. (This visualization of Christ can be as a light, the figure of Christ, or the presence, or whatever else resonates with us.) We all did this during the healing session.

I chose to do the healing as I did it in my teens before I had any exposure to how others did it.

I tuned into her system and saw it as Christ. All of her system – with the kind of wounds, identifications, hangups, and more that we all have, and the specific ones she wanted to work on – is all Christ. It’s all Christ taking all of these forms, as Christ and the divine takes the form of everything we know and all there is.

And I invited Christ to wake up to itself as all of it and rested in that noticing and invitation.

Nothing needs to change. Christ and the divine can wake up to itself as all there is in our system. And that, in itself, is deeply transforming.

It was a powerful session for all of us. And our client told us the following day that continuing to do the Christ meditation had been very helpful for her.

I feel deeply grateful for this session for several reasons. One is the opportunity to rest in the presence of the divine with others in such a clear way. Another is that it reminded me of my love of this Christ meditation in my late teens and early twenties, and of the simplicity of the healing I did then. Now, it’s again coming back – as it has several times – and I love it as much.

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The same remedies for everything?

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

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

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

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

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

Some of my favorite tools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remedies for certain conditions

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

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

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

Transubstantiation

Transubstantiation is, according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, “the change of the whole substance of bread into the substance of the Body of Christ and of the whole substance of wine into the substance of the Blood of Christ.

Wikipedia

As far as I remember, Douglas Harding (Headless Way), mentioned transubstantiation. I hold bread or a glass of wine, I move it into my mouth, and it disappears. It becomes what I am, which is awake capacity for it all. It becomes Spirit.

It’s perhaps more accurate to say it never was not Spirit. To me, the bread and wine always is what I am, it’s awake capacity temporarily taking the form of bread and wine. It happens within and as what I am.

So the real transubstantiation happens within us. It’s the shift from taking bread and wine as only bread and wine, to recognize we are capacity for it, and they happen within and as what we are.

There is ultimately no real transubstantiation since it never was not that. It never did not happen within and as what we are. It never did not happen within and as Spirit.

Bread and wine here stand is for all of existence, they are metaphors for all there is as content of our experience. And Christ here stands for what we are, for our true nature and possibly the true nature of all existence. (There is also a unique quality or characteristic of the Christ energy/consciousness, which we can get to know through Christ-centered practices like the Heart/Christ Prayer and Christ meditation.)

Awakening and the directionality of the Divine: Where is Spirit? Above? Below? In us? Outside?

In our culture, we tend to imagine Spirit or the Divine up – above us, in the sky, in the heavens. It is purely cultural. In some other cultures, it seems they imagine the Divine in the Earth and plants and all around them.

When there is an awakening, these imaginations are revealed as cultural and we realize that all is the Divine – everything in all directions. Spirit is not more up than it is down, or to one side more than another, or inside this human self more or less than in the wider world.

Some spiritual practices reflect this and help us re-imagine and notice the Divine in all directions. For instance, in one of the basic meditation practices both in Tibetan Buddhism and Eastern Christianity, we visualize an expression of the Divine – Buddha or Christ – in our heart, above and below us (ca. 1.5 meters), to either side, and in front and behind us. We sit in the presence of the expression of the Divine in our heart and around us in all directions – and allow it to work on us. Which it does.

This reminds me of this prayer, attributed to the Navajos:

Beauty is before me, And beauty behind me, Above me and below me Hovers the beautiful. I am surrounded by it, I am immersed in it. In my youth, I am aware of it, And, in old age I shall walk quietly The beautiful trail. In beauty it is begun. In beauty it is ended.

And it also reminds me of the Deer’s Cry, beautifully put to music by Arvo Pärt.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in me, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me,
Christ with me.

Prayer to change my life vs change me

There are (at least!) two general forms of prayer.

One is prayer asking for my life to change.

The other is prayer inviting the divine to change me.

The first type of prayer is perhaps what many think of first. It’s the “dear God, please do this for me” type of prayer.

The second is a form of prayer that can be profoundly transformative. In its most explicit form, we find it in the Jesus or Heart Prayer, and also in the Christ meditation. Any form of spiritual practice, when done with heart and sincerity, is an invitation for the divine to work on and change us as a human and divine being. So any type of spiritual practice can become this prayer. (Including basic meditation.)

We can do it from the view of me as a human being inviting and allowing the divine to transform me – all of me, through and through. (Including what seems the most essential in me, and what “I” may hold onto and cherish the most.) And it can also, if it happens on its own, be a resting as the divine recognizing itself as all there is.

Note: I gave a couple of examples from the Christian tradition since that’s what I have the most experience with, but this goes for all traditions and non-traditions. If I use a more theistic language, I would say that there is one God and many religions and spiritual traditions, and all of them have some good pointers.

How it works: heart-centered practices

How do heart-centered practices work?

It depends on the particular practice, but here are some general things I have noticed.

They help me reorient. To shift from seeing something as a problem (an enemy, wrong, bad) or neutral, to befriending it, finding kindness towards it, and seeing it as a support. And this goes for anything from a situation, to another person, to myself and parts of myself, to life in general, and God.

My energy systems comes more alive and brightens.

It’s experienced as an opening of the heart. And with that comes an opening of the mind. There is more receptivity, sincerity, curiosity, and interest. (And less rigid, defensive, and fixed views.)

It helps me notice what in me is not quite on board. It helps me notice parts of me where there is still wounding, trauma, identifications, and unfelt feelings, unloved lovables, and unexamined beliefs. I can meet these, allow, rest with. Relate to them with respect, patience, and light curiosity. If it feels right, I can do the heart-centered practice for these scared and unloved parts of me. Or I can explore them through inquiry. Or invite in healing through whatever healing practices are available to me.

These shifts are naturally reflected in my life. I notice when and how this happens. And if it doesn’t, that’s OK and also an invitation to see what’s going on. Something in me may be triggered that temporarily clouds over a more clear and kind way of being.

What are some examples of heart-centered practices? The ones I am most familiar with are ho’oponopno (Hawaii), tonglen (Tibet), heart or Jesus prayer (Christianity), and perhaps also the Christ meditation. (See other articles for descriptions of these.) And there are many more from many different traditions. Heart-centered practices can be profoundly transformative, and that’s something people from all cultures and times have paid attention to.

And what’s the main reason heart-centered practices are so transformative, healing, and central to most spiritual traditions? It’s because they help us align with reality. If all is the divine, then holding onto enemy images brings us out of alignment with that reality. It creates discomfort, stress, and suffering at an individual level, and also social and even ecological problems. Reorienting helps us align with reality, which brings a sense of peace, clarity, kindness, aliveness, and a natural engagement.

Note: I have deliberately used a more conventional language some places here. For instance, everything described here is part of the divine play. It’s the divine temporarily and locally taking itself to be a separate being, and a being that sees parts of the world as an enemy (a problem, bad, wrong etc.). There is nothing inherently wrong in it, but it does create distress and suffering. And that’s the call back to a more conscious alignment with all as the divine.

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Flame above crown of head

I usually don’t write about things peripheral to awakening, embodiment, maturing, and healing. Mainly because it’s often a distraction. But I’ll make a few exceptions since it could be helpful for a few out there.

In my late teens and early twenties, I had a period where the Christ meditation and heart prayer were my main daily practices.

The Christ meditation is where you envision Christ 2-3 meters in front of your body, behind, on either side, above, below, and in the heart (in all six directions and the center). I usually envision Christ as a light. Rest with this visualization for as long as you want, usually from a few minutes to an hour or two. (I was pretty gung-ho and often did it for 1-2 hours at a time, mainly because it felt profoundly like coming home.)

The heart prayer is where you say “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” with the breath and heartbeats. (I have given more details in other articles, and it can also be found in books and other online articles.) This is often done for dedicated periods, and also throughout the day. Over time, it becomes an ongoing prayer and it can even continue – as an intention and energetically – through the night and sleep.

Before this, I had noticed I could see auras and energies. I initially saw it around leaves of trees, and then around everyone and everything. Even nonliving things have an aura, although it’s simpler than for living beings. For people where there is a higher level of awakening, the aura becomes very subtle and extends out indefinitely. These days, I usually use it to see where spiritual teachers are at.

In the periods where I engaged in the Christ meditation and heart prayer, I noticed a light above the crown on my heart. (Yes, surprisingly enough, auras can be seen in the mirror.) And I then realized that this is exactly how the descent of the Holy Spirit is traditionally depicted, as a flame above the head. It was quite astonishing and created even more of a sense of connection with the (alive) Christian tradition and early Christians.

So, at least in my experience, what art historians and others may see as a symbolic representation may actually be meant as a literal depiction of what is going on in the aura of those with a strong connection with Christ, and which can be seen by those able to see energies and auras.

Note: This article on Women at Pentecost has several beautiful depictions of this flame. The mosaic above this article shows the flame a bit higher up than how I experienced it. It’s really touching the top of the head.

Since the paintings depict Pentecost and the disciples, it shows a group of people with this flame. And that reflects how it’s not limited to a few select people but accessible to (I assume) anyone with some sincerity and dedication, and it’s more about a community of people with shared aim and connection than separate individuals.

Note 2: When I mention the “alive Christian tradition” I mean the thread within Christianity that’s alive in a spiritual sense. Christianity as a whole is less alive in that sense but there are many exceptions.

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Giving it over to God

For the first several years after the initial opening, my practices were simple and heartfelt. They consisted of resting with what’s here, notice all as awakeness (Spirit, the divine, intelligence, love), gratitude for whatever happened, prayer, Heart/Jesus prayer, Christ meditation, tonglen, and giving it all over to Spirit. All of these happened very naturally.

Then, I got “sidetracked” by traditions and teachers with ideas of how things should be done.

And now, I am hoping to find back to a more natural and simple approach. For instance, giving it all over to the divine.

Notice. Notice what’s here – emotions, stories, the fear or wounds behind them.

Rest with what’s here. Take time resting with and as it.

Give it all over to Spirit. To the divine.

There is a beautiful simplicity in this. It’s a reminder that all is Spirit. And it doesn’t exclude any other approach or exploration.

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Rune Cazuli: Be the love you never received

Be the love you never received .

– Rune Cazuli

Be that love for yourself.

For you experience here and now.

For the content of your experience, as it is now.

How do I do it? Through the support any heart centered practice, such as ho’oponopono, loving kindness / metta, heart flame, Christ meditation, heart prayer etc. Through the support of inquiry. Through natural rest, and noticing, seeing, feeling what’s here which in itself is a form of love.

Cultivating the light vs meeting the dark

Some people talk about cultivating the light, or meeting the dark.

For me, the two go hand in hand. As so often, it depends on what we mean, and how we do it.

For me, cultivating the light means to cultivate what I wish more of. And meeting the dark means loving the unloved and examining the unexamined. It means healing the unhealed, and examining painful identifications and beliefs.

Already here, we see how they two go hand in hand. I wish to cultivate and become more familiar with loving what’s here, including what’s been previously unloved in me and my experience. I also wish to cultivate exploration of what’s here, and seeing more clearly what’s here, including how identifications and stressful beliefs are created.

This cultivation supports the meeting of the dark. And in meeting the dark, I am supported in continuing with the cultivation. (It inspires me to do so, I see it’s needed, and I get to test and fine tune my approach.)

How do I cultivate the light? Here are some practices I am familiar with:

Kindness practices, including loving kindness, ho’oponopono, tonglen, and also the Heart Prayer and the Christ meditation. Kindness towards me, parts of my experience, others, life.

Training a more stable attention also fits here, since it’s what I wish for and it supports any other activity and practice.

Natural rest. Noticing and allowing what’s here. Noticing it’s already allowed.

Prayer. Prayer for guidance. To be shown the way. For Your will be done.

Body centered practices, such as yoga, tai chi, chi gong, Breema.

Spending time in nature. Spending time in service to life.

Setting the intention to live from love, examine what’s here, rest with what’s here, live in service of life (including my life).

 And how do I meet the dark?

By finding love for the previously unloved. Finding kindness towards parts of me and my experience I have habitually ignored, rejected, or battled and seen as undesirable.

By notice and allow what’s here. Including the discomfort, anger, sadness, fear, grief, and whatever else is here in the moment.

By questioning the unquestioned. Examining beliefs and identifications. Finding what’s more true for me than the initial beliefs. Investigating how my most basic perceptions of deficient and inflated selves, threats, and compulsions are created.

By resting with what’s here. Notice. Allow. Rest with in kind presence.

It can be quite simple and straight forward.

When I use the words light and dark here, it’s mostly to connect with how some use these words. I usually don’t use the words light and dark since they are quite imprecise, there are assumptions about the world behind them that I don’t quite agree with, and I don’t even know how I would use the words so they make good sense. That’s why the use of them in this post feels a bit awkward to me.

Why is love, kindness, examination etc. light? I don’t really know, perhaps just because it’s what our personalities tends to like and prefer. We tend to like sunshine and daylight, and also certain qualities in ourselves and certain experiences, so we use the word light for both.

Why are identifications and beliefs dark? They are what creates what some see as darkness, including hate, fear, grief, compulsions, trauma, violence and more. I suppose some call them dark since they are often seen as undesirable, and they are often what we try to hide from ourselves and others, and keep “in the dark”.

Behind the surface expression of these “dark” qualities and experiences is a desire to protect the self, and deep caring and even love. A worried and confused love. That’s one reason I often avoid the word dark about these things. It only addresses and highlights one level of understanding. There is something different behind it.

These words and ideas themselves can be taken to inquiry. Any ideas of light or dark, or cultivation or meeting, or love or inquiry, or anything else that comes up, can be taken to inquiry.

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Did Jesus exist?

Did Jesus exist?

The reality is that we don’t know. There are hardly any historical sources suggesting that he did exist, apart from Christian sources.

Looking at the data, it seems that it’s very possible that he didn’t exist.

And yet, most historians and theologians seem to gloss over this question. They don’t mention it, or perhaps say of course he existed, don’t be silly. (As one theologian did when I asked.)

Why this lack of intellectual honesty and courage? It’s perhaps because aspects of Christian theology, as it was created in the centuries after Jesus may have lived, depends on Jesus having existed as a historical person.

And yet, maybe there is another way. A way where we can be intellectually honest about the historical question, and still benefit as much if not more from the Jesus story, and Jesus’ teachings.

The Jesus story is, as many have realized and pointed out, a metaphor for the awakening process we all may go through. Adyashanti’s Resurrecting Jesus is a clear and insightful book on this topic.

Jesus’ teachings applies to us whatever label we put on ourselves – Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist or whatever else it may be. As any good wisdom teachings, they are pointers. Questions. Experiments.

And, it seems, we can connect with the Christ energy whether or not we know if Jesus existed as a historical person. The Christ presence responds, as it seems to have done for centuries or millennia, to prayer and Christ meditation. (I experience it quite strongly, and know that many others do too.)

Note: Was Jesus a Pagan God, by Freke and Gandi, is an interesting exploration on this topic.

Note 2: Some say that the mutual disagreements between the texts in the New Testament is an indication that Jesus didn’t exist, but that seems a weak argument. Disagreement between historical sources is expected and inevitable, even if they refer to something that did happen.

Also, some point to the striking similarities between the Jesus story and stories from religions and mythologies in the middle east prior to Christianity. It almost seems that someone did a cut & paste job when they created they Jesus story. Again, that doesn’t seem that this is a good argument for the non-historical Jesus.

Finally, there is the Shroud of Turin. From what we know about it today, it’s possible that it’s real. Science can only determine if it’s a fake, and haven’t been able to conclusively do so yet. In any case, it’s an interesting question.

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Love is the answer

Love is the answer.

At least at a certain phase in the process, and to certain questions.

What am I? What’s the meaning of life?

How do I heal? How do I deal with pain and discomfort?

What am I really looking for? How do I find it? 

To all these, love is one – and perhaps the main – answer.

And this is the quiet simple love for what’s here. Meeting what’s here – this experience – with a quiet presence and love. Perhaps aided, for a while, by practices such as loving kindness, tonglen, ho’oponopono, the Heart Prayer, Christ meditation, holding satsang with what’s here, and more.

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Love is the universal healer

Love is the universal healer.

If it doesn’t heal the situation (an illness, circumstances), it heals our relationship to it. And that’s the healing we all deeply crave.

Love can be a feeling, and this can be found through practices such as prayer, loving kindness, tonglen, ho’oponopono, Heart Prayer, Christ meditation, heart flame visualization, and more.

Love can also be independent of feeling, through a falling away of delusion, and Spirit recognizing itself as all there is. This love is a lived love, independent of fleeting feelings.

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Inviting my soul, Christ and Spirit to work on me

In my teens and twenties, before my Zen days, one of my main practices was to invite and allow my soul and the divine to work on me. I gave myself – my human self – over to my soul and the divine. And I often did this through the Heart Prayer and the Christ meditation.

Looking back, I see that leaving myself started – in some ways – as I decided to let go of much of what really worked for me so I could be a “good Zen student”. So now, it feels like it’s time to return to what worked back then, in my days of “innocence” and before I tried to fit into a tradition.

How is it to invite and allow my soul, Christ and Spirit to work on me?

Love your enemies – as medicine

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. – Matthew 5:44.

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. – Luke 6:27.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. – Luke 6:35.

Love your enemies. It sounds like a should, but it’s really medicine. It’s a prescription for finding wholeness and well being of myself, which in turn benefits those around me.

Who or what are my enemies? It’s anything in my world I don’t like. Anything I see as undesirable, bad, that shouldn’t be there. It can be an emotion, pain, discomfort, a person, an illness, war, delusion, a political party, noise, or anything else.

How do I find love for it? I have found these helpful:

I wish you love. I wish you ease. (Loving Kindness, Metta).

Tonglen. Ho’oponopono.

Holding satsang with 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?)

All-inclusive gratitude practice. I am grateful for…. (Anything in my life, including and especially that which I don’t at first like.)

Placing myself in the heart flame. (When it’s something in me I perceive as an enemy.)

Christ meditation. Visualizing Christ at the seven points (in my heart, above and below me, in front and back of me, either side of me.) I sometimes also do this for others, and the Earth.

Inquiry into anything – any stories, perceptions, assumptions – that I use to close down my love for myself and others. Any stories of enemies. Any stories of love not being here. Any fearful stories about love.

What’s the effect of finding love for my enemies? For me, it’s a sense of wholeness and love for myself and others. A sense of coming home, and of deep well being and nurturing.

Why does this work? If life is love already, and we are life and love, then this is a way for us to come home to ourselves.

In a very real sense, love may be the medicine we are all looking for. If we had a choice, would chose to be free of a particular situation or illness, or find deep and genuine love for it? Perhaps a healing of our relationship to ourselves and the world is the healing we really wish for. (It’s not one or the other. We can find deep love for an illness, and still go to the doctor and follow her prescriptions. We can find deep love for a person, and still not allow him to hurt others if we can help it.)

Finding deep and genuine love for what’s here may even open up for our natural fearless wisdom and intelligence, allowing us to act with more kindness and clarity in the world.

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Purgatory and love

A dark night is a form of purgatory, a cleansing out.

And it’s as much or more about love.

What’s surfacing seeks to be recognized as love, and met with love. It seeks a loving presence.

It seeks to be seen, felt and loved.

It seeks for the believed stories that created it and maintains it to be seen through.

It seeks to be felt as is, and for it’s sensation component to be felt as sensations.

It seeks to be recognized as love, coming from confused love and a wish to protect the apparent separate self, and to be met with love.

It seeks it’s own liberation.

What’s triggering these wounded parts of us also seeks love.

Any situation in the world bringing these parts up in us also seeks love. It seeks to be recognized as love, and met with love.

Any person bringing this up in me comes with an invitation to be met with love.

Any perceived challenging situation is a potential purgatory, in this sense. It comes with an invitation for us to see through our stories about it, feel it, and find love for it.

It comes with an invitation for me to see through any of my stories about it. (Head center.) Recognize it as love, and find love for it. (Heart center.) And feel it. (Belly center.)

And for the heart facet of this, simple practices can be very helpful.

Prayer. Prayer for guidance. Prayer for the well being of myself and others. Prayer for love for me, suffering parts of me, and others. Prayer for receptivity. Prayer for support in meeting what’s here with love.

A simple loving kindness practice. I wish you love. I wish you ease. Said to myself or parts of me (my heart, pain), and others.

Tonglen. Ho’oponopono. (With me, parts of me, others.)

All-inclusive gratitude practice. I am grateful for….. (anything, what’s its easy to be grateful for, and especially what it’s less easy to find gratitude for.)

Seeing myself in the heart flame. Seeing others, and the world, in the heart flame. (Fanning the heart flame with my attention and devotion. Then seeing myself – body and mind – inside of it, allowing it to burn away anything not like itself, anything not real, anything not like clarity and love.)

Christ meditation, visualizing Christ in my heart, above and below me, in front and behind me, and on either side of me.

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Darkening of the faculties

A dark night of the soul is sometimes described to include a darkening of the faculties – a dampening of the will, intellect and perhaps even morals.

Since I have done the Christ meditation the last few days, I am again more aware of a peculiarity I have noticed for a while.

It’s as if the body from the heart down is light (lightness + light), and from the heart up there is still lightness but it’s also dampened, darker and obscured.

I also notice there is a clear “no” to invite light into this area. I assume it dampened so a needed process can take place with less interference from the personal will and intellect.

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Christ Meditation

In my teens and early twenties (before my Zen days), I used especially two Christian practices daily.

One was the Jesus or Heart Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”, with the heart beats and breath. (Inbreath: “*Lord *Jesus *Christ”. Gentle pause: *. Outbreath: “Have* Mercy* On* Me*” Gentle pause: *. The * are heart beats.) It’s very powerful. And it’s purpose is to open to Christ, allow Christ to work on me, and give my life over to Christ.

I didn’t use the Heart Prayer so much after I moved to the Zen center, since I wanted to do Zen completely and see its effects on me.

Now, I feel drawn to more Christ centered practices again. The Heart Prayer feels a bit too much for me now. It’s very “fiery” and tends to open me further, increase the energy, and bring the energy up. It also activates the crown chakra very strongly. Neither of those feel right for me now, as I am still in a “spiritual emergency” of sorts.

The other practice was the Christ Meditation. (It may have another name.)

Visualize Christ at the seven points: In the heart, above the head, below the feet, in front and back of the heart, and either side of the heart. Christ can be visualized in different ways. For me, it’s often a golden light. Visualize Christ in the heart, and about 1 meter outside the body at the six other points. This is a silent meditation. A silent opening to Christ, a silent allowing of Christ to work on me, and a silent giving of my life (my body, mind, actions) to Christ. This one feels more right for me now, and I may do it and see what happens.

With both of these, I notice that they become “automatic” after a while. I may sit and do it intentionally and formally once or twice a day, or whenever it comes to me. (In bed, on the bus or train, while walking in nature, etc.) And I notice that it tends to keep going on its own in between these more formal sessions. It lives it’s own life, as I live my daily life. It keeps working on me.

Note: I learned about these practices from reading Wilfred Stinissen, and also The Way of the Pilgrim (Heart Prayer) and other Orthodox books.

Note II: These practices tend to bring up material for inquiry. That’s one of the reasons practices are helpful. For instance, if not much happens, what does it say about me? If something happens -such as all revealing itself as consciousness & love & light, heart opening, seeing a “flame” on top of the head and more – what does that say about me? What deficient selves are triggered, or compensated for, or filled up, through what’s happening? What’s the worst that can happen if the practices don’t work? What’s the best that can happen through these practices? What do I find when I take this to inquiry?

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Ways through the dark night III

Another way of organizing some of what can be helpful in a dark night of the soul.

Head center. Inquiry into our stories about what’s happening, who we are, and the nature of reality. Seeing through these stories helps us find equanimity (no need for drama when we see they are stories), and helps us be a loving presence for what’s surfacing. Inquiring into stories about what’s surfacing (emotional and physical pain, discomfort) is a support in feeling sensations as sensations, without getting (too much) caught up in the associated stories.

Heart center. Heart center practices helps us recognize what’s here as love, and meet it as love. These include prayer (for guidance, support), giving it all over to the divine (our body, mind life, pain, pleasure), metta (to ourselves, the suffering self, and also friends, enemies, the world), tonglen (same), ho’oponopono (same), all-inclusive gratitude practice, Christ meditation, and more.

Belly center. Breathe, feel the sensations, allowing them to move through. Notice any images or words “stuck on” the sensations, and inquire into these. That makes it easier to feel sensations as sensations. Also, body-centered activities and practices can be helpful such as walking in nature, gardening, or Breema, yoga, tai chi and more.

Support. Find support from friends, family, people who are in the same process as yourself, and guides who have gone through it. Eat well. Rest. Get plenty of sleep. Drink plenty of water. Find a nurturing environment. Engage in nurturing activities. Learn about the process. (Spiritual emergencies, dark nights.) Give yourself a break, when you need to. See if you can find patience, and trust in the process.

Also, if you are drawn to it, notice what makes it difficult to do any of the things that seems supportive and helpful, and take it to inquiry.

This is obviously a very simplified outline, and a great deal more can be said about each point. I wrote this mostly because it’s interesting to see how the practices can be organized according to the three soul centers. I also see that Buddhist traditions tends to emphasize the head, while also including the heart and belly, and theistic traditions tend to emphasize the heart, with head and belly sometimes included. It seems that it may be possible to go through a dark night emphasizing practices from any one of the centers, perhaps with support from one or both of the two other.

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Arvo Pärt: The Deer’s Cry

 

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,

Christ in me, Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,

Christ in the eye that sees me,

Christ in the ear that hears me,

Christ with me

– 0 –

The sacred Lorico or Deer’s Cry was composed by Saint Patrick in the year 433. Knowing of an ambush to kill him and his followers, St. Patrick led his men chanting it as they passed through a forest. They were transformed into a deer and twenty fawns, and thus St. Patrick and his men were saved. Pärt composed the work in 2007 and it was first performed in Louth the following year.

– 0 –

This is one of the most beautiful songs I know. And it reflects a common practice in several different spiritual traditions. For instance, both in Christianity and Buddhism, one of the basic practices is the visualization of Christ / Buddha above and below us, on either side, in the front and behind, and in the heart. And there is also the “walk in beauty” prayer attributed to the Navajo.

Christ as what comes & goes, or is always here

Two ways to approach Spirit is (a) as a state, as what comes and goes, and (b) as what’s always here, and both have their place.

Especially in the beginning of the process, it seems common – and perhaps helpful – to explore Spirit as a state, as an experience, as something that comes and goes. It gives a glimpse of the reality of all as Spirit, it provides inspiration for further exploration, it gives trust that reality is perhaps quite different from how it appears when filtered through our beliefs.

At some point, this approach may get a bit old. Experiences come and go, and it’s clear that Spirit is reality itself, it’s what doesn’t come and go. So can I find Spirit right here, in the midst of and as any experience – as the person I am with, as the experience that’s here?

Christ can be seen as equivalent to Spirit, the Divine, Buddha Mind, Big Mind/Heart, Brahman, life and reality, and that’s true in my experience. Christ consciousness is life recognizing itself, releasing identification out of the story of I. And Christ does also have a particular quality, a fiery, heart centered and action oriented quality, at least in my experience.

When I explore Christ through the Heart Prayer – Lord Jesus Christ, Have Mercy Upon Me said with the breath and heart beat so it eventually is continuous day and night, or the Christ Meditation – visualizing Christ in my heart, above and below me, at both sides of me, and in front and back of me, I initially explore Christ as what comes and goes. There is a strong presence of Christ, my aura brightens up, there is a fiery quality in my heart and on top of the head, and there is a “flame” that appears in my aura on top of the head. This can in itself be important for transforming my human self and inspiring trust and faith, and it can also shift into recognizing Christ as what’s always here – independent of any particular states or experiences.

And this exploration – of Christ as what’s always here – can be continued through asking myself how is it to meet the person I am with, and the experience that’s here, as Christ? And perhaps, is it true this person, this experience, is not Christ? 

 

Christ Meditation & Prayer

When I lived in Norway, I engaged in the Christ meditation and heart prayer daily, along with sitting meditation, and appreciated it very much. The effects were powerful and blissful, and gave a passion and zest to my life.

Since then, I have focused mostly on sitting practice, and over the last few years have felt the passion fade. Today, I engaged in the Christian meditation and prayer again, and the passion returned almost immediately and is brought into the rest of my life.

Both practices are wonderful, simple and powerful.

The Christ mediation consists of sitting in meditation posture or on a chair, with the hands at the heart – holding the heart, in Christian or Buddhist prayer position, or with the heels of the hands at the heart and opening up as if receiving something poured down. I then visualize Christ – in the form of light – in my heart, and five feet in front of me, behind me, at either side of me, below me, and above me. Music such as Arvo Part’s Passio (or other compositions) and Rachmaninov’s Vesper is a great help in coming to a prayerful/receptive atmosphere.

The Hear Meditation is similarly simple, and can be done any time. It follows the heart beats and the breath. On the inbreath and with the heart beats, say (loud or within you) Lord (1) Jesus (2) Christ (3), and on the outbreath and with the heart beats Have (1) mercy (2) with me (3). Pause for a few heart beats, then repeat. This practice is described in “The Way of the Pilgrim”. My experience in Norway was that after a relatively short while, this prayer becomes continuous – day and night. A part of the mind recites it with the breath and heart beats – continuously.

With both practices, I experience a golden/clear light throughout awareness and in/around the body, especially centered in the heart and the crown. There is a passionate, fiery and joyful energy, and a deep humility and gratitude, that is quite different from what I experience in regular sitting meditation. Today, possibly because it is so long since I engaged in either practices, I experienced a shot of golden light coming down from the point above me during the Christ meditation. It shot down through the crown and into the heart, followed by a rain of golden light. My crown area has been very active since then.

For me, sitting practice is very good for resting in the part of me that is not this body/personality, for spaciousness, clarity, insights in the nature of mind, and for equanimity (from allowing experiences to unfold within spacious awareness).

Christ meditation and prayer brings something else in. It has the same effect of allowing me to rest in that part of me which is not the body/personality, but adds passion, joy, love and fire. It seems more directional and engaged. There is a stronger sense of passionate fullness and richness.

The combination is wonderful.