A hole in us: filling it, seeing it’s not there, and living the opposite

Many of us experience that there is a hole in us. Something is lacking or missing. We are not quite enough. Not quite OK.

This is created by beliefs we have about ourselves and the world, and identifications. And it’s rooted in our culture, our family patterns, and our own journey through life.

We can approach this in a few different ways. Tracing the sense of lack back to a belief and identity, and seeing how it (most likely) was created early in life, can be helpful in itself. It helps us see it more as an object (a part of us) than a subject (what we are). Being honest about it with ourselves and others helps for the same reason, and it helps us see it’s a universal experience.

We can dialogue with these parts of us. Get to know them. Befriend them. Listen to what they want to say to us. Be a friend to them. Give them our kindness, wisdom, and love. (Parts work.)

We can give these parts of ourselves love through heart-centered practices such as ho’oponopno and tonglen. And we can do the same towards ourselves as a whole, and towards those who trigger these parts of us now and in the past.

We can seek out situations where we feel loved and cared for, by ourselves and others. We can seek out people and communities that genuinely love and care for us.

We can increase our overall sense of well being. For instance through mindful movement (yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema etc.). Training a more stable attention (e.g. by bringing attention to the sensations of the breath). Find gratitude for our life, both what we like and perhaps what we don’t so much like (all-inclusive gratitude practices). This creates a different context that makes it easier for the not-enough parts of us to reorient and heal. (Although the healing may require one or more of the other approaches as well.)

We can identify and investigate the beliefs creating a sense of lack and not-OKness, including underlying and related beliefs. We can come to find what’s more true for us (and more peacefully true) than these stressful beliefs. (The Work.)

We can explore how our mind creates its own experience of these beliefs, identities, and stressful situations triggering them. We can see how they appear in each of our sense fields (sensations, thoughts, images, sounds, taste, smell etc.), and how the sense fields combine to make them seem solid and real to us. And through this investigation, the “glue” looses its strength and the sensations appears more as sensations without (stressful) meaning, and the thoughts appears more as thoughts without (stressful) substance and reality. (Living Inquiries.)

We can use energy work (often combined with some insights or simple inquiry) to release these beliefs, emotional issues, and identifications. (For me, Vortex Healing.)

We can even shift into what we are (that which these experiences happens within and as), and notice that it’s all what a thought may call consciousness. It’s all happening within and as what we are. Sometimes, we call it the divine or the One. (Big Mind process, headless experiments.)

So when we experience a hole in ourselves, we can fill it through befriending this part of ourselves and giving it care and love, and we can see through it and see it’s ultimately not real in the way it seemed to be. And we can also live in a way that helps us reorient and rewire and shows that these parts of us are not who we are. (Living turnarounds in The Work of Byron Katie.)

Finally, we must all find our own way through this. The examples I gave above are just examples based on what am familiar with and have found helpful. And finding our own way often includes finding someone who has gone through it themselves and can guide us through it.

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I am not good enough, original sin, and marketing

I am not good enough. I am broken beyond repair.

These are core beliefs for many people.

Where do they come from?

The immediate cause may be childhood experiences and what the mind does with them to protect us.

The broader cause is to be found in our culture. For instance, the marketing industry intentionally reinforces our experience of not being good enough and then promise that their products will make us good enough – at least temporarily. They create a problem and then sell a product to fix it.

And it may reach all the way back to the Christian idea of original sin. In Christianity, we find the same strategy of creating a problem (original sin) and then selling a product to fix it (Jesus as a savior). Christianity has permeated our culture for a couple of millennia so it’s natural that the underlying beliefs and assumptions in Christianity still operate in our culture, even if many or most no longer consider themselves traditional Christians.

As usual, there is a lot more to explore here. For instance, is the core identity of “not good enough” found only in our culture or in all cultures? (I would guess it’s cultural more than inevitable.) It’s also clear that the marketing industry intentionally play on and reinforce people’s low self-esteem so it’s easier to sell them products and services.

There is also the issue of how to tackle this issue. When we work with individuals, it’s helpful to do inquiry on this and help people find freedom from this identity, and it’s also good to help them see the bigger picture and where it comes from in terms of marketing and culture. Working at a group level, we can support critical thinking and media literacy at all school levels, and also work with the marketing industry. (Media literacy also includes being critical to what’s sold by Christianity and other religions.) Ultimately, we need to shift out of a consumerist economy and into one that’s healthier for all of us, including ecosystems and future generations.

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Fill vs feel

When we feel empty or lacking, we feel empty and lacking.

It’s a sensation which thought gives meaning to, and that meaning is that we are empty or lacking.

The common response is to try to fill up with something outside of me: someone’s love or company, buying things, entertainment, eating, drugs, or just about anything else. Here, we react to the feeling – to the sensations and associated stories, and we react by trying to fill up and/or distract ourselves from or full the feeling.

Another response is to feel, to feel the sensations. Instead of reacting to them, feel them. Also, notice the stories giving these sensations meaning. Notice the images and words associated with the sensations. Identify them as images and words. Look at them. Ask simple questions about them to get a clearer sense of what’s there. When you can’t find more stories, feel sensations as sensations again. Identify them as sensations. This helps unglue the images and words from the sensations.

So when we feel empty and lacking, we can try to fill up or numb out, or we can feel the sensations and investigate the images and words associated with them. The first is what most of us have been trained to do by society. The second is a 180 degree turn, and it requires some combination of trust, desperation, and skill (either your own or from a facilitator).

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A golden child, and then all fell apart 

I thought I would share some of the painful stories that come up for me to be seen, loved, rested with.

These are very basic stories, and they come up without much filtering these days, partly because I seem unable to filter or set aside much.

These seem related to elementary school experiences:

I am a victim, unsupported, under siege.

In elementary school, friends would turn against me when certain other kids were around. I felt unsafe, scared, confused, unsupported (by family, teachers, school mates), under siege. All of these still come up now and then. I feel like a victim of life and circumstances (especially with my health, brain fog, divorce, loss of friends, lost opportunities, things continuing to fall apart). I feel under siege (noise, chemicals, lack of support, no place to call my own).

In elementary school, I couldn’t fight or flee, so I froze. I became paralyzed. And that’s still showing up in some situations in my life. (Being passive where it would be more helpful to be active.)

And a more overarching story:

I was a golden child, then all fell apart.

I had amazing opportunities and inner and outer resources until I got married and left my guidance (by physically moving away from many things that felt deeply right to me). Then it all started to fall apart. I lost opportunities. Lost friends. Lost health. Lost education and career opportunities. Lost support. Lost inner and outer resources (health, clarity, confidence, capacity, house, money).

And another story:

This is a dark night of the soul. I went through the initial awakening and illumination phase, and now it’s the dark night of the soul. (Very similar to how Evelyn Underhill describes it in Mysticism.) It’s a heroic journey.

This one may be partly valid, and can – to some extent – be comforting. And it’s also unhelpful if I go to this story instead of looking at what’s really here, in immediacy.

There is also an earlier story, which came up more strongly a couple of years ago but is still here:

I am unloved. I am unlovable.

My parents would leave me alone in a dark room in my crib. I cried, and they didn’t come. So I gave up. (I froze.)

Before incarnation, beings showed me that it was time to incarnate and the essence of how this life would be and why (for my own maturing, and to do my little bit to help shift humanity). I agreed because I saw it was good, and didn’t voice my hesitation. (I had glimpses of memories of this even as a very young child.)

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Spirituality as a strategy to be loved, acceptable, good enough

For some of us, spirituality can be a strategy to be good enough.

We feel deficient in some ways. Not good enough. Unlovable. Unloved. Unacceptable.

We think that if we engage in spirituality, we’ll finally be acceptable. We strive to be good, we wish for enlightenment, we hope to come to heaven.

And when that happens, we’ll be good enough. We’ll be lovable. We’ll be accepted – by ourselves, others, life, God.

So why not question those assumptions? I am not good enough, is it true? I’ll be more acceptable in the future, is that true?

Can I find someone who is not good enough? Unlovable? Unloved? Can I find that person, outside of my images, words, and sensations? Can I find acceptance? Love? Enlightenment? A good person? Heaven? (Living Inquiries.)

Maybe it was all created by my own mind in the first place. The sense of being deficient, and the idea that spirituality – or anything else – will finally make us whole and good enough. And it doesn’t help to “know” or think that, or attach to that idea. I really need to look. Leave no stone unturned.

Deficient and inflated selves

Deficient and inflated selves often seem to go hand in hand.

For instance, I take myself to be inferior to others. I see myself as less than. There is a deficient self here.

At the same time, there is an inflated self, one that’s better than others. A superior self. This too is created in a similar way. It’s the twin or mirror image of the inferior self.

In inquiry, it’s good to look at both.

Can I find a threat?

What do I fear will happen if the self sticks around?

What do I fear will happen if it goes away?

Can I find X? The deficient self? The inflated self?

Can I find X? Me, the one who is that deficient/inflated self?

What’s the first situation I can remember where I felt X? Look for the threat/self.

Is there a command to be X? Inferior? Superior?

Is there a command to not be X?

What do I find when I look at the all the associated images, words, and sensations that comes up around each of these selves?

I may first look at/for the deficient self, and when that seems unfindable and untriggerable, I can look for the corresponding inflated self. Although there are no fixed rules here.

Note: In a more conventional view, we can say that the inflated self is created to compensate for and balance out the deficient self. That may be true in some ways, and we may even see something about how this happens through inquiry, and yet it’s not necessary to emphasize this. All we need to do is to look at both sides of the polarity and see what we find.

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Regrets and a sense of lack

All of us experience regrets sometimes.

When it becomes recurrent and strong, it may be worth taking a closer look at what’s going on.

Regrets wouldn’t be here in that way unless there is a sense of lack. A sense that I am missing something, and that what I lost gave me what I am missing. It filled the whole in me. It completed me somehow.

And that sense of lack comes from a painful identity and a set of painful beliefs.

It could be: I am unlovable. I am unloved. I am not enough. I am not whole without a partner. I am not loved/lovable without a partner. I don’t have the right education. I don’t have enough money. I am not safe.

Those unquestioned stories can be questioned. Those unloved stories and deficient selves can be loved. Those embattled stories and feelings can be rested with.

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Not enough

It seems to be quite common to feel “not enough”.

And it may be behind a wide range of compulsive and seeking behavior, including (compulsively) seeking love, relationships, money, status, safety, respect, approval, and even Enlightenment. (Which, in some of our minds, is perhaps the ultimate approval from life or the Universe!).

The flavor of “not enough” may be different in each of these cases, but they are variations of not-enoughness.

And it’s true. If we don’t recognize the wholeness of who we are, if we are not meeting our experience with love and kindness, if we don’t recognize what we are, we are – in our own experience – not quite enough. We suspect and feel that something is missing. And that’s true, in a way.

It’s missing because we are not noticing it, and not more consciously living from it.

What’s the remedy? Here are some I have explored:

Heart centered practices. (a) Finding kindness for these parts of me – the not enoughness, the seeking. Finding love for it, perhaps through loving kindness, ho’oponopono, or tonglen. (b) Seeing that these parts of me wish to protect me, they come from deep caring, they come from love. (Even if they seem confused, or in pain.)

Living Inquiry. See if I can find “not enough”, or what’s missing. Can I find it, outside of words, images, and sensations?

Is it true that what’s missing – whatever it is – is not already here? Is it true that love is not already here? Peace? Wholeness? (Adyashanti.)

After doing this – finding love for these parts of me, and perhaps seeing how these experiences are created, and finding what’s missing here – I can still work on healing, clarifying, accomplishing etc., but now from a more peaceful place.

And if the neediness, or compulsiveness, comes, that’s OK too. There is nothing wrong with it. It’s very natural. It’s part of being human. I can notice. Allow. Welcome. Rest with it. Perhaps ask simple questions about it, so I can see more clearly what’s really there.

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Emptiness feeling

Many experience a feeling of emptiness. I remember it especially from my late teens and early twenties, and I still have feelings of lack come up now and then (which is a type of emptiness).

I would guess it comes from some sort of neglect early on in life. And most of us have experienced that at some point in time, in one or more areas of life. We didn’t get our needs met. Even if our parents were caring and healthy, we may still have experienced a sense of neglect at some point.

Parts of us feel neglected because they were, usually by others when we were small and felt dependent on them. And these parts may still feel neglected because we continue to neglect them. We try to distract ourselves from them when they come up, because they feel uncomfortable, and we do so through work, entertainment, analysis, food, love, sex, and so on. We continue the pattern of neglect, which continues the sense of lack, or feeling of emptiness.

There are a few different things we can do when the emptiness feeling is here.

We can meet our needs, in an ordinary and conventional way. If I feel alone, I can seek company. If I feel unloved, I can seek out someone who loves me. If I feel un-nurtured, I can do things that nurture me. This is very natural, and very sensible.

Another is to reverse our tendency to neglect this neglected part of us. I can meet it. Allow it. Notice it’s already allowed. Rest with it. See its innocence. See that it comes from love. See it’s worried love. Find love for it.

I can also do explore it through inquiry. While resting with it, I may notice sensations as sensations, the images connected with it as images, and the words connected with it as words. I can ask simple questions about these. For instance, does the sensation really mean what images or words says it means?

 If I only do the first, the neediness behind it may create trouble. If I only do the second or third, I am neglecting some very basic human needs. If I do the second without the third, I may continue to perceive the emptiness and lack as real, solid and true.

Evil, pain, confused love

When we see actions that seem less than loving in ourselves and others, we interpret it in different ways. And these interpretations are based on our experience, understanding, and assumptions about people and life.

Behavior: Theft, lying, killing etc.

Surface psychology: Greed, anger, jealousy.

Moralistic, metaphysical: Evil.

Evolutionary: Behavior that, in some situations, helps us survive and bring up children.

Cultural and social perspective: Learned patterns. Learned ways of dealing with pain, fear, being a human in the world.

Family dynamics: A natural and understandable reaction to certain family dynamics.

Ordinary psychology: Coming from pain, wounds, trauma, reactivity.

Fear perspective: Reaction to unloved and unquestioned fear. Or, more precisely, unloved fear and reaction to the fear, and unquestioned assumptions behind the fear and the reaction to the fear.

Love and inquiry perspective: How we sometimes live when parts of us and our experience are unloved and unquestioned.

Living Inquiries: Deficient self, trying to protect an identity and/or fill a perceived hole.

The Work: The natural consequences of beliefs and identifications.

Satsang inquiry: Worried love, confused love, misguided love. An expression of love for the imagined self, trying to protect the imagined self.

Self-inquiry: Unquestioned assumption of being a separate self. Unexamined experience of (a) this seamless field of experience (b) being split, and (c) identifying with one part (me, I), and seeing the rest as “other” (others, the wider world).

Awareness: The play of awareness/awakeness.

Spirit: Divine play, lila.

Trading integrity for love

This is a recurrent topic in my life, and one that’s familiar to most of us in one variation or another.

  1. There is a deficient self. I am unlovable. I am not enough. I am not OK.
  2. I try to get it from others.  I need her love. I need her approval. I need her company. I need her validation.
  3. Since I take myself to be deficient, it sometimes feels like a life and death issue.
  4. So I compromise on my authenticity, what feels right, and following my guidance. I set this aside so I can get what I think I need.
  5. This makes me feel off track and that something is wrong. I miss opportunities. I find myself in situations that don’t feel right.
  6. So I feel regret and anger. And I blame others, life, and myself.

When I look at the situations in my past I still have regret about, this is the pattern that unfolded. For instance, at one point I left my life – and most of what was important to me – for a relationship, so I could feel loved and validated.

So what can I do?

I can meet this unloved part of me with quiet presence and love.

I can meet this unexamined part of me with gentle curiosity and inquiry.

I can see if I can find the unlovable one, or unloved one, or the one who is not enough, or not OK. (Living Inquiries.)

I can see if I can find love, approval, validation, company – as a real thing.

I can question my beliefs about it. (The Work.)

Note: When I call this post “trading integrity for love” that’s not literally accurate. It’s how it’s experienced in the moment, and love and validation from another does feed something in us, but what I am really looking for – and the only thing that will completely satisfy me – is to find that love for myself, and specifically for the previously unloved parts, and also to see that these things are really unfindable.

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The nature of illusion

A few things about the nature of illusion.

It’s created from mind holding an image or thought as true, often at an emotional or even energetic level.

This image or thought held as true comes with an identity and a perspective on the world.

It also creates a deficient self, or a sub-personality or voice.

This deficient self is suffering. It’s in pain. It’s in fear. It seeks – even without knowing it – liberation from this suffering. The image or thought held as true seeks, in a sense, liberation from being held as true.

The impulse to hold an image or thought as true comes from a desire to protect or support an apparent me or I. It comes from devotion to this apparent me and I. It comes from love for this apparent me and I. It’s innocent love.

There is wisdom in this love. There is intelligence in it, in a conventional sense.

It’s often innocently misguided as well.

These deficient selves may run and operate even if the nature of reality has been realized in a general sense. There may be a general and global realization of the nature of reality, and at the same time, there are these deficient selves here which still live in confusion.

These deficient selves are often habitually rejected, pushed away, made wrong (even as they are identified with). They feel lost, rejected, isolated, unloved, because they are. And that makes the global self – what I take as me – feel lost, rejected, isolated, unloved.

They wish to be seen, felt and loved, as they are. They wish to be welcomed. They wish to be recognized for what they are: devoted to the apparent me, loving the me, innocently holding onto images and thoughts as true, in an attempt to protect and support this me. They wish to recognize themselves as this.

They wish to be recognized as awakeness and presence, taking these forms, and they wish to recognize themselves as awakeness and presence.

They wish for the apparent me – what I take as me – to see, feel, and love them. Welcome them, as they are. Recognize them for what they are. And through that, they can do the same for themselves. Through that, they can find liberation.

A sage will see, feel and love others for what they are, as they are, and this allows them to meet themselves in the same way. And these deficient selves are no different. They wish me – what I take as me – to be a sage for them, to see, feel and love them as they are. Meet them, as Pamela Wilson says, in satsang.

So how can I do this? It’s more a recognition than a doing. It’s a recognition of what’s already here.

The hurt self comes up. There is an image of a hurt self. There are thoughts coming up along with it. There is sadness. Heartache. A sharp sensation in my heart. A heaviness. For each of these, and for the whole of it…..

Can I find where it’s already allowed – by life, by awakeness, by presence? Can I find where I wish to intentionally join with this allowing? If so….

You are welcome here.

Can I find where its here to protect me? Where it wishes the best for me? Is so….

Thank you for protecting me.

Can I find its devotion to me? Its love for me? If so….

Thank you for your love for me.

Can I find where I have made it into an enemy in the past? Where I have rejected it?

I am sorry for having made you into an enemy.

Can I find its strength? (For instance in resistance.) If so….

I need your strength. I don’t wish it to go away.

Can I find the intelligence and wisdom in it? (In a conventional sense.)

Thank you for your intelligence and wisdom.

Can I find where it’s perhaps (also) innocently misguided?

Thank you for your love.

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Relating to deficient selves

Some ways of relating to deficient selves:

(1) You are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love. (I need your strength.)

(2) Notice how it’s made up of images, thoughts, emotions, sensations. For each of these, I see that what I am, fundamentally, as that which doesn’t come and go, is not that.

(3) Inquire into these images and thoughts, see what’s more true for me.

(4) Notice it’s love, it’s devoted to me, there to protect me. (And it’s strategy may be innocently misguided.)

(5) Notice it’s love, awareness, presence. It’s no different from anything else, including any appearances of a me or I it’s happening to or that’s noticing. It’s all happening as awareness, love, presence.

(6) Dialog with it. (i) Ask it for it’s wisdom. What would you like to share with me? How would you like me to relate to you? What can you contribute to my life? (ii) Ask it for it’s fears. What do you fear? (These can be taken to inquiry.)

It’s all about noticing what’s already here. It’s here to protect me. It’s devoted to me. It’s love. It’s strategy may be innocently misguided. It’s made up of images, thoughts, emotions and sensations. What I am – fundamentally, as that which doesn’t come and go – is not this deficient self or it’s components. It has genuine wisdom to share with me. And it has fears to share with me, which can be taken to inquiry to find what’s more true.


Unlovable self, unloved self, the self that missed out, the self that’s not love

These three of my deficient selves are closely connected: The unlovable self, the unloved self, the self that missed out, and the self that’s not love.

Here are some images and thoughts for each of them:

The unlovable self

I am unlovable.

Situation (i): Alone in a crib in a dark room as a baby. My mother doesn’t love me because I am unlovable. (Underlying thoughts: I am alone in a crib in a dark room, and that means that my mother doesn’t love me. There is something wrong with me.)

Situation (ii): Whenever life doesn’t go “my way”. God doesn’t love me because I am unlovable. (Underlying thoughts: Life didn’t go my way. Life didn’t go my way because God doesn’t love me. God doesn’t love me because I am unlovable. There is something wrong with me.)

The unloved self

My mother doesn’t love me. (Alone in a crib in a dark room.)

My father doesn’t love me. (When he got very angry at me at a summer vacation.)

God doesn’t love me. (Any time life doesn’t go “my way”.)

He doesn’t love me. (Class mate who gave me dirty look when I answered the teacher’s question in elementary school.)

She doesn’t love me. (Friend from my early twenties who broke connection when she got a boyfriend.)

The self that missed out

My life would have been better if I had been in a relationship with [E, B]. (From early twenties.)

My life would have been better if I had married M. (More fulfilled, richer, fuller, more love, more joy, more support, more alive.)

I missed out. (Of a fuller, richer, more joyful, more supported life.)

The self that’s not love

I am not love. Love is different. Love is not what I am. Love comes and goes.

Deficient selves

I am exploring Scott Kiloby’s Unfindable Inquiry, and as part of that identify deficient selves, perceptions of myself as deficient in different ways – surfacing in different situations. Here are some of them:

Lost, adrift, fuzzy, not well, unsafe, unloved, hopeless, helpless, victim, paralyzed, numb, insecure attachment – selves.

The left behind, alone self.

The unsafe self. The insecure self.

The unlovable self. The unloved self. The self that missed out. The self that’s not love.

The one who is not getting what he wants. The one born against his will. The one mistreated by life.

The alone self. The isolated self. The lost self.

The suffering self. The victim self. The hurt self.

Fatalistic self. Powerless self. Victim of circumstances/others/life self. The leaf in a storm self.

The overwhelmed self. The panicked self. The self that wants to check out. The self that wants to be saved by someone else. The self that wants to die.

The sensitive self. The psychic sponge self. The self that’s influenced by others.

The restless self. The needy self. The self that sees what’s not here as better.

The vengeful self. The self that wants others to suffer. The self that wants me to suffer.

The resistant self. The procrastinating self. The negative self. The complaining self.

The spiritual self. The self-improving self. The self trying to do it’s best. The good self. The bad self.

The self that’s afraid of being an adult. The self that’s not measuring up. The self that’s not up to the task.

The self that’s holding back. The paralyzed self. The numb self. The shocked self.

The self that wants others to envy me. The self that wants to be better than others. The self that wants to be admired.

The self that cannot trust life. The self that doesn’t trust God. The self that doesn’t trust others.

The martyr self. The self giving up what feels deeply right.

The drama queen self. The self delighting in drama.

For each of these, I can explore it from a particular situation triggering it, and using a set of very simple questions:

Images & thoughts

Can you find images and thoughts associated with the deficient self? What images and thoughts are there?

Can you see these as images and thoughts?

Are these images and thoughts who you are? Are they who you really are, fundamentally? As that which doesn’t come and go?

And then the same set of questions for emotions, and sensations.

When these deficient selves operate unconsciously or partly consciously, they may seem quite real and substantial, and mind is identified with them. As they are looked into more closely, and what’s really there is more clear, there isn’t so much to identify with anymore. The mind is unable to identify with it in the way it used to.


Unloved by myself, others, women, God/life. Unlovable by myself, others, women, mother/father, God/life.