A childlike orientation

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

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

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


How does a healthy child relate to the world?

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

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

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

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


How does this translate to us?

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

We can find that curiosity. Receptivity.

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

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

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

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

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

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


There are two general ways to find this childlike orientation.

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

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

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

How can we find healing for this?

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

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

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

Read More

Gospel of Thomas (v22): When you make the two into one

(1) Jesus saw infants being suckled.
(2) He said to his disciples: “These little ones being suckled are like those who enter the kingdom.”
(3) They said to him: “Then will we enter the kingdom as little ones?”
(4) Jesus said to them: “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside and the above like the below —
(5) that is, to make the male and the female into a single one, so that the male will not be male and the female will not be female —
(6) and when you make eyes instead of an eye and a hand instead of a hand and a foot instead of a foot, an image instead of an image,
(7) then you will enter [the kingdom].”

– Gospel of Thomas, verse 22

(1) Jesus comes up with an analogy he wants to share with his disciples.

(2) To enter the kingdom, we have to become like little children. We need to set aside conventional views and what we think we know about ourselves and the world, explore with sincerity and curiosity, and be honest with ourselves about what we find.

(3) Do the disciples misunderstand? Or do they get it and just want more pointers?

(4+5) When we find ourselves as capacity for the world, and what all phenomena happen within and as, then these are all aspects of oneness. Here, we directly perceive two as one, inside as the outside, above as below, female as male. They all happen within and as what we are.

(6) Not sure about this one. My own limitation? Or translation problems?

(7) When we find ourselves as what all our experiences happen within and as, we enter the kingdom. We consciously enter the kingdom that’s always here and we always are.

Byron Katie: Not knowing is the way to understanding

Not knowing is the way to understanding.

– Byron Katie

This can be understood in a few different ways.

When we set out to learn something, knowing that we don’t know much or anything about it is a very good start. We are receptive. Have some insight into our own lack of understanding. And from here can seek out learning and get experience and learn. It puts us in the right mindset for learning.

After we have a great deal of experience, understanding, and skill, it’s still this way. Knowing that we don’t know everything about it puts us in the right frame of mind for continued learning. It opens for receptivity, curiosity, and continued exploration.

We may also find that we don’t know anything for certain. This applies to even our most basic assumptions about ourselves, others, and the world, and it opens for an even wider receptivity, curiosity, and exploration.

It also opens for an understanding of the nature of knowing. We don’t know anything for certain. Any thought or map has some validity in it, we just need to find how. Thoughts are questions about the world. They help us orient and function in the world and have a great practical value. And their value is limited to the practical. Their function is not to give us any final or ultimate truth because they can’t.

Finally, it can help us to notice what we are. To the extent we grok that we cannot know anything for certain about anything, including who and what we are and what the world is, this opens up for noticing what we are. It opens up for finding ourselves as capacity for the world, for our experience of this human self and the wider world.

Not knowing is the way to understanding. When we start out learning something, knowing we don’t know puts us in the right frame of mind for learning. Even after we get far more experience and skills, the same applies. Knowing there is a lot we don’t know helps us find the receptivity and curiosity to continue to learn. Knowing we don’t know anything for certain widens this receptivity and curiosity to anything and everything. And getting that thoroughly opens us to notice what we are.

An experimental approach to healing and awakening

If we are on a healing or awakening path, experimentation will – by necessity – be a part of the process.

We may find a teacher, guide, or approach that feels right for us for whatever reason – perhaps it makes sense to us, or it’s recommended by someone we trust, or the quiet inner voice says “yes”, or a combination. And we try it out.

What happens if I follow this pointer or engage in this practice? What do I find? What effects does it have?

Does it work? Does it bring healing? Does it help me to relate to myself and the world in a different way? (With more kindness, more from oneness?) Does it give me glimpses of what I am?

If so, it makes sense to keep exploring it. If not, perhaps I need to change how I am in relation to it or try something else.

So it’s not all the tools. It’s also me and how I am in relation to the practice. How sincere am I? How wholeheartedly do I engage with the practice? Am I willing to stay with it long enough to get results? Am I willing to ask for guidance from someone more experienced and see what happens if I put it into practice?

In my experience, when something works I tend to see the results early on or immediately. Even small shifts tells me that this may be worth continuing to explore.

This is how we would go about learning most things in life, whether it’s a language, sports, music or something else. And an experimental and pragmatic approach also makes sense for healing and awakening.

Curiosity, receptivity, and trying things out help us discover, learn, and finding new sides to what we are exploring.

An almost-synonym for experimentation is a playful attitude. A playful attitude helps us have a light touch, stay engaged, and find receptivity, curiosity, and a willingness to try things out.

In my experience, good mentors and coaches encourage grounded playfulness.

Read More

Adyashanti: What the universe will manifest when you are in alignment with it is a lot more interesting

What the universe will manifest when you are in alignment with it is a lot more interesting than what you try to manifest.

– Adyashanti

Yes, and as usual there is a lot more to this.

In one way, we are always in alignment with the universe. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts and feelings of the universe. (As Carl Sagan said.) What’s here is the universe feeling, thinking, acting, doing. It’s not two.

In another way, it’s possible to be more or less aligned with the universe. When I am caught up in fears, beliefs, velcro and drama it’s difficult for me to act from kindness and clarity, and follow (the quiet) inner guidance. When there is more clarity, and less trauma/beliefs/velcro/drama, it’s much easier for me to act from kindness, clarity, and guidance.

So there is always and already alignment with the universe. It’s unavoidable. And I can be more or less aligned with the universe, through (a) recognizing what I am (what this experience happens within and as), (b) healing my human self, and (c) relate to what’s here – including unloved fears and unquestioned fearful stories – with love, presence, and gentle and engaged curiosity.

Focus, field and curiosity in meditation

In meditation, there are three dimensions I think of as field, focus, and curiosity.

Focus can be narrow or wide. Bringing attention to the sensations of the breath at the tip of the nose narrow focus. Bringing attention to lines or colors of an image, or the shapes of letters, is also relatively narrow. Bringing attention to the sensations of the breath as a whole, or a contraction in the shoulders, is wider. Bringing attention to the space a sensation, image or word happens within and as is wider. In either case, it trains a more stable attention. And a more stable attention benefits just about any activity in our life.

Attention can also be brought to any content of awareness as awareness itself. And the whole field of awareness, with its content, as awareness. The latter is an even wider and more inclusive focus.

Curiosity is an inherent part of this exploration, at least if the exploration is held lightly, and comes from a natural interest in who and what we are, and how reality reveals itself to us.

We may notice…..

How training a more stable attention allows attention to naturally stabilize over time.

How attention is drawn to identifications, to beliefs, to velcro (sensations “stuck” on words and images.)

That any content of awareness – any sensation, word, image – is awareness, it’s “made up of” awareness.

That any content of awareness, and the whole field of experience as it is, is already allowed – by life, mind, awareness.

That what we are is really this field of awareness, as it is. And looking more closely, the capacity for awareness and its content.

That identification with ideas – a.k.a. beliefs, velcro – creates an appearance of being a small part of content of experience, an I with an Other.

And much more.

Traditionally, these three are spoken of as distinct practices. We train a more stable attention. (Samatha.) We notice the field of experience, that it already allows its content as it is, and that this is what we are. (Natural Rest, Shikantaza.) We find a natural curiosity for what’s there, and explore it intentionally. (Inquiry, self-inquiry.)

It makes sense to speak of them separately, and it makes sense to begin our exploration of each of these separately. And yet, the closer I look, the more I see that they are all woven in with each other. Explore one for any length of time and you’ll notice and find the other two.

Note: I was reminded of this when a friend of mine said “those are two very different practices” when I had spoken of focus and natural rest in the same sentence. Yes, they are distinct. And yes, they also blend into each other.

Focus can be explored within the context of natural rest. We can bring attention to a sensation, image or word, notice it’s already allowed, and rest with and as it. And this focus can be expanded to include the whole field of awareness – as awareness, already allowing its content.

Read More

Befriending flatness

Over the last few days, I have experienced a sense of flatness and dullness, and also a sense of emptiness and nothingness. There has also been a relatively quiet mix of a wide range of feelings and emotions experienced all at once.

I notice how a part of me sees this flatness and dullness as a threat. It feels wrong, unfortunate, even a hindrance. And a thought says it’s always going to be that way.

It may also be that I have set aside and pushed away this feeling of flatness and dullness most of my life, and it’s now surfacing to be included, befriended, and met with love and understanding.

This flatness and dullness is also an experience, as any other experience. Why not befriend it? Meet it with curiosity? Find love for it? How is it also to befriend my fear of befriending it, and any shoulds behind befriending it?

What’s the worst that can happen if I befriend it? What actually happens?

How does this experience appear in images, words and sensations? Looking at the images, one at a time, is it flat or dull? Are the sensations actually flat or dull? What’s actually there?

From states, to insights, to recognizing it through changing states

Some states of consciousness highlight an aspect of reality. For instance, a state may turn the volume of bliss, love, oneness or selflessness up so it’s unmissable. States can also highlight and turn the volume up on aspects of delusion, such as suffering, or even how suffering is created.

Combined with curiosity, this turned up volume of an aspect of reality can give insights.

And the invitation is to take these insights as a question and starting point for inquiry in any state, and through changing states.

Here are some examples:

There is a state of bliss. An insight that consciousness is bliss, it’s inherent in reality. And an invitation to find this in any state of consciousness, including those that at first look anything but blissful.

There is a state of love. An insight that consciousness is love too. And an invitation to find love through other states, including those that do not appear particularly love-filled from a conventional view.

There is a state of oneness. An insight that reality is one, always. And an invitation to notice this oneness, perhaps especially when mind makes reality not appear one.

There is a state of selflessness. An insight that there is no I here. And again an invitation to notice this through changing states and experiences.

There is a state where the dynamics of identification, delusion and suffering is particularly clear. There is an insight into these dynamics. And an invitation to recognize this as it happens through the changing states and experiences.

 These states of consciousness are a gift in that they highlight aspects of reality. They offer insight. And this insight is then an invitation for inquiry through the changing states and content of experience. It’s a starting point for inquiry, and this inquiry may lead to further insights.

Read More

Life’s purpose

What’s the purpose of life, life with capital L, also known as reality, the universe, God?

In a way, it’s a silly question since “purpose” is only created in thought. It’s not inherent in reality.

And yet, some stories can be helpful as a way of balancing a habitual view. For instance, the purpose of life is for life to experience itself in always new ways. That fits with what we see and observe, and it gives a sense of the creativity and openness we see in life. It’s aligned with what we already see, which is that life allows what’s here in it’s infinite variety. It also fits with the idea of evolution.

If that’s a very basic purpose, there are also other layers of purpose. For instance, a though may say that the purpose of life, and specifically the life we know, is to bring what’s here into awareness. For life to discover and become conscious of what’s really here. And that happens through curiosity, sometimes combined with guidelines and tools such as meditation and inquiry. This pointer helps us release possibly stressful ideas of what the purpose may be, such as be happy, or successful, or being a good person, or maturing, or awakening, or something even more abstract. Just noticing what’s here, with some curiosity and sincerity, is much more concrete and manageable.

So here we have three facets of this question. (1) It’s a meaningless question since purpose can only be found in a thought. It’s not inherent in reality. (2) A very basic purpose of life is to experience itself in always new ways, and in it’s infinite variety and inherent creativity. (3) Another layer of purpose, perhaps more specific to our human life, is for life to bring itself into awareness, for life as it’s happening here to bring itself into awareness. What’s really here? What do I find when I look? What’s more real for me than my initial images and thoughts about what’s here?

Whoever among you becomes a child

But I have said that whoever among you becomes a child will recognize the kingdom and will become greater than John.
Gospel of Thomas, Verse 48

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Mark 18:2-4

What does it mean to become like a child?

It can mean a certain orientation of receptivity, curiosity and sincerity in our relationship with God, ourselves and practice, all within a context of don’t know. Shifting into this, and then noticing that these are already here, they are a natural expression of what we are. (When not clouded over by beliefs in images and stories.)

It can also mean to ask questions that seem silly and naive, to leave no stone unturned, to question that which seems most obviously a given and true – and especially those stories I at first don’t even recognize as a story.

Read More

Pointers for relating to the path

As with anything else here, this is basic and almost childishly simple… which most important things are. And it is what I need to explore it seems.

Some pointers for relating to the path that I find useful…

Read More

Growing and waking up, and reasons for practice

Just to summarize the previous post…

To me, right now at least, it seems helpful to differentiate practice aimed at growing up (healing/maturing) and waking up (to what we are).

If my motivation and intention is to reduce suffering and find happiness – to get/compensate for/escape from something – it seems appropriate to emphasize a practice aimed at healing and maturing, finding my wholeness as who I am, this human self.

And if my motivation is truth and love –  a quiet curiosity or love of existence – it makes more sense to aim at waking up, inviting what I am to notice itself. (And also working at maturing which aids awakening, and helps it be expressed in a more fluid way.)

It can be helpful to sincerely investigate and clarify our real motivation. Although in real life, it doesn’t necessarily make that much difference, especially if we use tools that work simultaneously at both levels. The ones that help us grow up, and invite in a waking up as well.

Read More