The universality of my experience

Whatever I experience, I can be certain that it’s shared with innumerable humans. Innumerable humans now, in the past, and in the future will share this experience in a very similar way.

It may also be that innumerable beings of many different species have experienced something very similar, are experiencing it, and will experience it.

We are in it together.

SINGLED OUT VS FELLOWSHIP

If I tell myself this is only happening to me, it’s easy to go into “poor me” and “why me” thoughts. I feel isolated and alone. I feel singled out. I feel especially unlucky. I feel that others have it better than me, and I can find any number of examples. (Based on comparing imaginations of me and them.)

If I remind myself of the universality of my experience, I realize that this experience is shared by a vast number of beings. Perhaps most experience something like that at some point in their life if they are lucky to live long enough. We are in it together.

It gives me a sense of fellowship. It gives me a sense of connection. It removes the feeling of being singled out, whether my personality sees that as good or bad.

Reminding me of this naturally deepens my empathy with myself and others. They are like me. And this empathy especially deepens when this noticing becomes a habit, a part of daily life.

EXPERIENCES MY PERSONALITY LIKES AND DOESN’T LIKE

This applies to the experiences my personality doesn’t like – physical or emotional pain, overwhelm, struggle, confusion, illness, discomfort, and so on.

It also applies to the experiences my personality does like – pleasure, joy, excitement, calm, comfort, contentment, peace, and so on. This too is experienced by innumerable humans and likely innumerable beings of many different species.

This too ties us together. This too is a reminder of our fellowship. This too deepens my empathy when I notice.

WHAT IS AN EXPERIENCE?

It’s important to clarify for ourselves what we mean by “an experience”.

Our initial response may be that we know. And when we look a little closer, we may surprise ourselves.

When I explore this for myself, I find that my experience is whatever is happening in my sense fields – sight, sound, smell, taste, movement, physical sensations, and an overlay of mental representations making sense of it all. (Sometimes in painful ways.)

It’s especially the combination of physical sensations and mental representations that creates my experience.

And in this context, it’s mainly the physical sensations with most of the conscious stories stripped away.

These are what my personality responds to with likes and dislikes. (And, of course, the likes and dislikes have stories behind them, many not conscious and learned early in life.)

For me, the focus is mainly on my physical sensations and how my system responds to these. How is it to remind myself that this experience – these physical sensations and the way my system responds to them – is universal? Is shared by innumerable humans and beings?

This is the essence of this exploration, and honing in on the physical sensations simplifies and gives a more clear focus.

A SIMPLE EXPLORATION

This can be a simple exploration in daily life.

What happens when I remind myself of the universality of what I am experiencing now?

What happens when this becomes a new habit? When I do it whenever I remember through the day?

What happens if I use difficult experiences as a reminder of this? And enjoyable experiences? And more neutral experiences?

How does my relationship with myself and others shift?

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Taking refuge in a story to make ourselves feel better

Am I going into a story in order to feel better? To distract myself from an uncomfortable story and associated feelings?

Do I notice any of the telltale symptoms of doing this?

This is an ongoing exploration for me.

TAKING REFUGE IN A STORY

When I hold a story as true, I do it to find a sense of safety in it. At some level, it feels safer to hold a story as true than admitting I don’t know for certain.

This is a habitual pattern, and learned from others as we grow up. We do as we see.

These can be any story. They may tell me I am better or worse than others. They may tell me I know how I am or the world is. They may assign blame. They may take the form of ideologies, whether polticial, spiritual, psychological, or anything else.

When I hold a story as true, I identify with the viewpoint of the story and the identity created by it. I take myself as that, and not as what’s left out even if that’s also here.

The safety I seek is the safety from being faced with one of more of my uncomfortable stories and their associated feelings.

Seeking refuge in stories has many consequences. I need to remember, prop up, defend, and elaborate on the stories. They are always at risk of being disproven and shot down by my own mind or others or both. It creates contractions of body and mind. It limits the ways I have for exploring the world in my imagination and life.

There is no real safety in taking refuge in stories. The stories can be disputed. They are literally imaginations. And uncomfortable stories and feelings are still here.

THE ALTERNATIVE: BEFRIEND AND FIND PEACE WITH

There is another way to find refuge that’s more aligned with truth and reality.

And that is to explore the stories with some sincerity.

To examine the specific stories and find what’s more genuinly true for me. (That I cannot know for certain, and the limited validity in the story and its reversals.)

And to recognize the inherent characteristics of stories. (They are pointers and here to help me to orient in the world. They are different in nature from what they point to. They cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. Reality is always more than and different from any story about it.)

And befriend and find peace with the stories and experiences that are here, as they are. (For instance, through inquiry, dialog, heart-centered practices, noticing that stories and feelings happen within and as what I am, and that their nature is the same as my nature.)

IN DAILY LIFE

Knowing about this is a first step, and its real value is in exploring it in daily life.

I notice the symptoms of holding onto a story. (Defense, rejection of views, reactivity, contractions, obsession with ideologies, any form of compulsion, and so on.)

I identify the story I find refuge in.

I examine it and find what’s more true for me.

I explore how it is to hold it more lightly.

I find the validity in other views and its reversals.

I find in myself what I see in others.

I find in myself the reverse of the identity created by the initial story.

Perhaps most importantly, I find the discomfort in me I used the initial story as a defense against.

I explore the uncomfortable stories and their associated sensations.

Here, I often use some version of the befriend and awaken process.

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The Scarlet Witch and how we relate to our trauma

I watched Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness which is one of many trauma-informed stories in pop culture these days.

In it, Wanda experiences immense pain from losing the love of her life, her (imagined) children, and more. And she deals with it by reacting to this pain.

She goes into an obsessive pursuit of being with her children in a parallel universe, no matter what the cost is to herself and others, and without considering if the children of another Wanda would accept her. In her obsession, she is unable to consider and take in the real consequences of her strategy.

REACTING TO OUR PAIN

We all sometimes do this.

We go into reactivity to our pain.

And when we do, it always has an obsessive and compulsive quality.

We may compulsively do just about anything to distract ourselves from the pain, or try to find a resolution to the pain.

We may compulsively eat, work, have sex, or go into relationships. We may obsessively seek something spiritual and engage in spiritual practices. We may compulsively go into ideologies about politics, religion, or just general ideas about how life should be. We may go into blame, hatred, biotry. We may go into shame and self-loathing. We may go into depression or anxity. We may go into pursuing perfection. We may seek fame and success. We may hide from the world. And so on.

Whenever anything has a compulsive quality, it’s a good guess that it’s an attempt to escape pain.

This is not inherently wrong. It’s our mind creating this in an attempt to protect us. At the same time, it’s not the most skillful way of dealing with our pain, and it inevitably perpetuates the cycle of pain and creates more pain.

It doesn’t deal with the real issue so it’s not a real solution.

RELATING TO OUR PAIN MORE CONSCIOUSLY

Is there another option?

Yes, we can relate to our pain more consciously and with a bit more skill and insight.

We can learn to genuinely befriend our pain.

We can meet our pain with love. And this is often easier, at first, when we use a structured approach like metta, tonglen, or ho’oponopono.

We can feel the physical sensation aspect of the pain and rest in noticing and allowing it.

We can dialog with the part(s) of us experiencing the pain. We can listen to how it experiences itself and the world. We can ask what it needs to experience a deep resolution and relaxation. We can ask how we relate to it, and how it would like us to relate to it. We can ask what it would like from us. We can find the painful story it operates from, and help it examine this story and find what’s more genuinely true. (And often more peaceful.) We can find a way to work together more in partnership. And so on.

Through this, we may come to realize that the pain is here to help us, and even our reactivity to the pain is here to help us. It’s our psyche trying to help us. It comes from a wish to protect us, and it’s ultimately a form of love. And it often reflects a slightly immature way of dealing with pain. It’s the way a child deals with pain when they don’t have another option. And that’s no coincidence since these parts of us were often formed in childhood when we didn’t know about or have experience with other options.

We can also find our own nature – as capacity for the content of our experiences and what the world, to us, happens within and as. Notice that the nature of this suffering part of us is the same. (It happens within and as what we are.) Rest in that noticing. And invite the part of us to notice the same and rest in that noticing. This allows for a shift in how we relate to the suffering part of us, and it invites the part itself to untie some tight knots and reorganize.

MYTHOLOGY OF OUR TIME

Whether we like it or not, big Hollywood blockbusters are the mythology of our times – at least for large parts of the world.

So it’s wonderful to see that some of these stories are trauma-informed.

They help us notice patterns in ourselves, at least if we are receptive to it.

Yes, I am like Wanda. I sometimes go into reactivity to my pain and become compulsive about something. That can create even more pain for myself and others, and it doesn’t really resolve anything. And there is another way.

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Love denial

In a conventional sense, this is how it is for many of us. We are unaware of the love in our life, or we sometimes ignore it. We are more focused on our painful beliefs and identities that prevent us from noticing or taking in the love that’s here – from others and even from ourselves.

And in a more fundamental sense, this is how it is for nearly all of us. The mind is fascinated by painful stories and identities and overlooks or is unable to take in the love we are.

In what sense are we love? To ourselves, we are capacity for our experience of the world. The world happens within and as what we are. We are oneness. And when we live from noticing that oneness, we are love. It’s that way whether we notice it or not, and we often don’t notice because the mind is fascinated by its painful stories about us, others, life, and existence.

What can we do about it?

A good start is to notice what’s happening. Our hangups and issues often prevent us from noticing and taking in the love that’s here from others and ourselves.

Another is to become a friend to ourselves. To find genuine love and (unsentimental) compassion for ourselves and our experience whatever it is. We can do this through dialog with parts of us, and different forms of heart-centered practices (tonglen, ho’o, metta).

Yet another is inquiry. What are my painful stories and identities? What do I find when I examine these? What’s already more true for me? How is it to live from what’s more true for me? Structured inquiry like The Work of Byron Katie and the Living Inquiries can help us with this.

And yet another is inquiry that helps us notice what we are and live from this noticing. The Big Mind process and Headless experiments can be very helpful here.

Drawing: Grumpy cat protecting herself from love. Artist unknown to me.

Aspects of oneness

We can find oneness in several places.

I’ll make this short since I have gone into it in more detail in other articles.

ONENESS IN IMMEDIATE NOTICING

One general form of oneness is what we notice in our own first-person experience.

Here, I find my nature as capacity for all my experiences – for the world, this human self, and anything else as it appears to me. One place I find oneness is my nature as capacity for the world as it appears here.

Another place I find oneness is within my sense fields. All my experiences – of the world, this human self, and anything else – happen within my sense fields. Within sight, sound, taste, smell, sensations, thought, and so on. These sense fields are a seamless whole. Any sense of boundaries and any labels come from my mental field overlay. This is another oneness.

I find that all my experiences – of the world, etc. – happen within and as what I am. This is yet another aspect of oneness.

These are all aspects of the same, and all ways to explore and find oneness for ourselves.

ONENESS IN A CONVENTIONAL SENSE

We also find oneness in the world, in a conventional sense. And many of these stories of oneness come from science.

The universe is a seamless evolving whole.

All we know and see and know about is a part of this evolving seamless system.

We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

All Earth life share ancestors. We are all intimately related. We share huge amounts of DNA with a large number of species – whether we call them animals or plants.

And so on, and so on. There are always more examples of oneness in the universe and the natural world.

ANTIDOTE TO A SENSE OF SEPARATION

Why is this important?

Because it’s an antidote to a one-sided sense of separation. Especially in our western culture, it’s easy for people to feel disconnected and separate from just about anything – themselves, others, society, nature, existence.

Exploring the connections, and also exploring these forms of oneness, is an antidote to that sense of separation and isolation.

We can find the oneness already here, in our immediate experience. And we can find it in the universe and nature – which we are an intrinsic part of.

We can engage in all sorts of practices to explore this for ourselves.

We can explore the first general form of oneness through inquiry, basic meditation, heart-centered practices, body-centered practices, and so on.

And we can explore the second through deep ecology, ecopsychology, ecospirituality, epic of evolution, the universe story, big history, shamanic work, rituals, and Practices to Reconnect.

We can find these two forms of oneness for ourselves, and allow it to transform us and our life in the world.

Photo: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, spiral galaxy NGC 4651

Do I have to become somebody before becoming nobody?

You have to become somebody before you can become nobody.

I recently heard this again and thought I would say a few words about it.

As far as I understand, it means that we need to develop a healthy psyche before we can start exploring what we are and how to live from that.

Is it true? As usual, the answer may be yes, no, and it depends.

YES, SOMETIMES IT’S GOOD ADVICE

Yes, it’s generally good advice if you are unusually ungrounded, unable to take care of your life very well, are dealing with a lot of trauma, and so on. In these cases, taking care of this goes before most other considerations, including exploring what we are.

NO, IN MOST CASES IT DOESN’T NEED TO STOP YOU

No, in most cases you don’t have to wait. If you are normally unhealthy and dysfunctional, you can do both. Seek out approaches that invite in healing for you at a human level, and also helps you find what you are and live from that.

There are a lot of tools out there that does both, including different forms of inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries), heart-centered approaches (tonglen, ho’oponopono, metta, prayer), body-centered approaches (yoga, taichi, chigong), training a more stable attention (good all-around), basic meditation (notice + allow), and more.

IT DEPENDS ON THE PERSON, SITUATION, INTENTION ETC.

And it depends. It depends on what you mean by somebody and nobody, the person, the situation, what you are interested in, and so on.

I assume by somebody, they mean a healthy and functioning human self. The operating system works reasonably and normally well. By nobody, they may mean finding what we are, which is what allows this somebody and all our other experiences.

Who we are happens within and as what we are, so finding what we are doesn’t at all exclude who we are. On the contrary, finding what we are can allow our human self in the world to function in a more authentic way, with more flow, and it often starts a process of a deep healing of our human self. That healing process can be challenging, which is why it’s typically easier and safer if we start out normally dysfunctionally healthy.

What can go wrong? Nothing is inherently wrong since whatever happens becomes part of our process. But there are some typical challenges that can happen if we explore what we are while our human self is unusually unstable or we are dealing with a lot of trauma.

If we have a lot of trauma in our system, and whether we know about this trauma or not, it can get released through meditation and other forms of spiritual practice. And this can be frightening, overwhelming, disorienting, and we may respond to it by creating new traumas. It’s important to work with a guide or instructor who is familiar with trauma work and signs of trauma, and knows how to help you deal with it. At the very least, the person needs to be aware of what may come up, the signs, of it, and who to send you to for further assistance.

We may also react to our pain by wanting transcendence, or by going into disassociation. We may want and hope that awakening will help us leave our human self and the pain we associate with being this human self. If this is the case, it’s good to address this early on. Finding what we are is not really about transcendence, it’s more about finding a different context for our human life.

And we cannot avoid whatever is unprocessed in our human self. It’s always there, it will always color our perception and life, we’ll always be in reaction to it one way or another, and it tends to surface on its own because it too wants release and healing.

In some cases, people may get fascinated by what they are – or the idea of what they are – to the exclusion of living and taking care of their life in the world. That happens with other things as well, including – I assume – stamp collecting. If this happens, it’s natural and to be expected if it’s relatively mild and not too long-lasting. And there may be a component of avoidance there, especially if it is extreme, and something to look at and find healing for.

In general, it’s good to focus on healing parallel with any focus on noticing and living from what we are. And it’s good to examine any beliefs we have about awakening and what we think we’ll get out of it.

Many who get into exploring what they are do so partly because they want to escape something. Again, there is a lot of potential for finding clarity around our painful beliefs here and finding healing for how we relate to our own discomfort and for the unhealed parts of us. The motivation is not wrong, it’s a pointer to something in us we can find healing for.

SUMMARY

So do we need to become somebody before becoming nobody?

In some cases, yes. If we are unusually unstable, have a lot of trauma, have a strong tendency to disassociation, and so on, it’s good to address this first. That’s true in general, even outside of this context.

In most cases, no. If we are just ordinarily unhealthy and dysfunctional, we can do both. Especially if we use tools and approaches that support healing, noticing what we are, and living from this noticing.

And as usual, it depends. It depends on who we are and what we are dealing with. It depends on the situation and what support we have. It depends on our motivation and what we are really seeking. If we just want some relief from discomfort, then healing may do the trick. If we are genuinely drawn to what we more fundamentally are, and also seek deeper and more thorough healing, then awakening is the ticket.

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What is consciousness?

In a social media group for mainstream science, someone asked “what is consciousness” and there were a wide variety of answers.

This is partly because people define it differently. Some see it as attention or self awareness, and some a byproduct of evolution”.

Some also see it as something we have, as we have a leg or lungs. It’s attached to us, somehow. This may be the most common view.

TWO GENERAL APPROACHES TO STUDYING CONSCIOUSNESS

Few topics are as central to us as consciousness, so why not study it and see what we find?

Around the world, academics study consciousness. They study different aspects of consciousness and what different definitions refer to, they study it as an object, and they do so through numbers and qualitative data. This is all valuable and important research.

We can also explore how consciousness looks from the “inside”. What do I find when I explore my first-person experience of consciousness? What is consciousness to me?

THE ESSENTIAL QUESTION

There is an even more essential question: What am I in my first-person experience? What do I find, if I set aside what thoughts, memories, and my culture tells me?

(As I wrote that sentence, Kings of Convenience sang “don’t let them tell you who you are” in the song Rumors from the album Peace Or Love.)

A LOGICAL EXAMINATION OF WHAT WE ARE TO OURSELVES

What do I find when I look at it logically?

If we see ourselves from a third-person view, as an object, and as primarily this human self and this body, then – yes – we can have consciousness as we have a leg or lungs. It can be seen as a component of what we are.

If we look at what we are to ourselves, we may find something else.

Our experiences happen within consciousness. To us, they happen within and *as* consciousness. Our experience of anything, including this human self and the wider world, happens within and as consciousness. Even any sense or thoughts about what we are happen within and as consciousness. To ourselves, we are consciousness and our field of experience happens within and as what we are.

We can also find this when we look at our memories of our experiences. During waking life, this human self is in my experience. But during dreams, it’s not always here. Sometimes I am what’s observing a scene, and sometimes I am another person. If I took psychoactive drugs, I imagine there could be even more variations on this. In my own experience, I must be what all of this happens within and as.

This is all a logical or conceptual exploration of what we are, or must be, to ourselves. It can be interesting, although it is still an exploration of what we are as an object and as “other”. In itself, it’s not very transforming. There is another way to explore this that can be profoundly transforming.

WHAT DO WE FIND IN OUR FIRST-PERSON EXPERIENCE?

What do I find I am in my own first-person experience?

In a sense, I am this human being in the world, but I know that can’t be what I most fundamentally am to myself.

So what am I, more fundamentally, to myself?

I find that I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what my field of experience happens within and as.

I notice that any sense of boundaries comes from an overlay of mental representations. My field of experience is one, and what I am is this oneness.

And this noticing and oneness can be the context for how I live my life in the world.

WHAT ARE SOME WAYS TO EXPLORE THIS?

Since this exploration can go against our habitual ways of exploring things, and also against how we are used to seeing and perceiving ourselves, we may need some support and guidance in this exploration.

Basic mediation – notice & allow what’s here – can help us find what our always changing experiences happen within and as.

Headless experiments can help us find what we are and explore how to live from it, and it can do so relatively easily and quickly.

The Big Mind process is another form of inquiry that helps us find ourselves as Big Mind / Big Heart, as what we already are, and it can also happen relatively quickly and without any particular preparation.

Traditional Buddhist inquiry can help us examine how our sense fields combine to create our experience, and we can also use Living Inquiries which is a modern version of this type of inquiry.

The Work of Byron Katie helps us identify and examine thoughts we identify with and hold as true, and this brings clarity and, over time, can help us notice what we are.

Heart-centered practices help us shift how we relate to our experiences. It shifts us from struggle to befriending, and it’s easier to notice what we are in more situations in life without getting caught in the struggle. (This can also make our life more enjoyable, and we may be less of nuisance to others.)

These are training wheels, and it’s helpful to be guided by someone familiar with the terrain and how to guide others.

WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS?

To some, this can seem as vaguely interesting information and something to mentally store away as one of many curiosities. It can also seem as philosophizing without any real practical usefulness or application.

If we take an outside view on it, it can certainly seem that way.

And if we go into it, we find something very different.

If we explore this sincerely for ourselves, and take what we find seriously, it can be profoundly transforming to our perception and life in the world. It can be profoundly transforming for our human self.

Most of us are used to function from separation consciousness, our habits are formed within separation consciousness, and many parts of us – and perhaps especially our wounds, hangups, emotional issues, and traumas – were created and operate from separation consciousness.

What happens when all of this transforms and aligns with oneness? What happens when our life in the world, and our human self, transforms within oneness and love?

This is possibly the most profound transformation imaginable.

IT’S ALREADY WHAT WE ARE – TO OURSELVES

The good news here is that we are just exploring what we already are to ourselves.

We don’t need to look for anything outside of us or anything that’s “other” to us.

What we need is some interest, sincerity, intimacy with our experience, and perhaps a few pointers and some guidance.

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Adyashanti: You don’t have to be someone to have infinite worth

You don’t have to be someone to have infinite worth. To be bestows infinite worth upon you.

– Adyashanti

How can we find this?

The simplest may be to notice that any sense of worth comes from our ideas about it. We adopt these ideas from our culture and people around us, don’t question it too much, and we then feel that they are true. We perceive, think, feel, and live as if it’s true. Even if we cannot find worth outside of our ideas.

That’s a good start, and to the extent we examine this in detail, it can be transformative. We can examine any stressful thought we have about our own worth, see where it comes from, see what happens when we believe it, find the validity in the reversals, and find what’s genuinely more true for us.

We can also find what we are and explore how this looks from there. We can find ourselves as capacity for the world, and what our field of experience happens within and as. Here, we see that our human self is not what we ultimately are in our own experience. This softens identification with it. We also find that, to us, anything has the same true nature as ourselves. This and more helps us recognize the infinite value in whatever is here, including who and what we are.

Heart-centered practices help us find genuine love for ourselves, others, and whatever we experience. And here, we may find that we viscerally experience the infinite worth of ourselves, others, and anything.

Body-centered practices tend to help us shift how we relate to our body and ourselves. We find a more intimate, gentle, kind, and loving way to relate to our body, ourselves, and our experiences. We find our infinite worth.

To the extent this is lived and visceral, it tends to color how we perceive others and life in general. We find our own infinite worth and the same in others and life as it is.

Lao Tzu: kindhearted as a grandmother

When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.

– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

How can we become kindhearted as a grandmother?

How can we become kindhearted as a grandmother to ourselves?

Many of us have internalized an unkind way of relating to ourselves. At least to certain parts of us, and in some situations. So how can we invite this to shift into a more kindhearted way of being with ourselves?

NOTICING WHAT WE ARE

As Lao Tzu suggests, one way is to notice what we are. We can find ourselves as capacity for the world, and what our field of experience happens within and as. That’s a start.

Here, we may notice that the true nature of all our experiences is the same as our own true nature. It’s all stillness. It’s all what we can call consciousness. It’s all a flavor of the divine.

WAYS TO REPATTERN HOW WE RELATE TO OURSELVES

There are also other ways to repattern how we relate to ourselves and our experiences, and we can do this whether we notice what we are or not.

We can engage in an intentional dialog with these parts of us. We already do, and this dialog is not always so kind. So why not engage in a more conscious and kind dialog? A part of us surfaces – as fear, anger, sadness, discomfort, reactivity, or something else. We can ask it how it experiences the world. How it sees us and how we often relate to it. What advice it has for us. We may get to see that it comes from a desire to protect us, and that it comes from care and love. (Even if how it goes about it is a bit misguided, although also understandable and innocent.) When we see this, we can thank it for being here and for it’s love and care. We can find ways of dialoguing with these parts of us as a kind and wise parents would with a child. And this is a learning process, it’s ongoing.

We can use heart-centered practices as a kind of training wheel. We can use ho’oponopono towards ourselves or these parts of us, and also whatever in the world triggered these parts of us. We can also use tonglen, or Metta, or any other similar approach.

We can explore the painful beliefs in how we typically react to certain parts of us. What are these beliefs? What happens when our system holds them as true? How would it be if they had no charge? What is the validity in the reversals of these thoughts? (The Work of Byron Katie.)

We can explore our fears, identities, and compulsions around this, and how they show up in our sense fields. What sensations are connected with it? How is it to notice and allow these, and notice the space they happen within and as? What do I find when I explore the mental images and words connected with this? What is my first memory of feeling this, or having those images and words? What happens when I notice how these sensations and mental representations combine to create my experience? And so on. (Living Inquiries, a modern form of traditional Buddhist inquiry.)

We can allow our body to release tension around this, for instance through therapeutic tremoring. (Tension and Trauma Release Exercises, neurogenic yoga.)

We can find a gentler way of being with ourselves through body-centered activities like yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema, and so on.

We can learn to say YES to the NO in us. We can learn to welcome the parts of us that sometimes desperately don’t want to us to have a certain experience. These parts of us want to protect us and come from care and love.

We can learn to be with the energy of what comes up in a more gentle, kind, and loving way. With patience. Respect. Gentle curiosity. Allowing it to be as it is and unfold and change as it wishes.

We can spend time in nature. Nature shows us a gentler way. An allowing.

TRAINING WHEELS

These approaches are all training wheels.

They can help us shift from an unkind way of being with ourselves, to a more kind way.

They help us find something that’s simple and natural.

They mimic how our mind naturally functions when it’s more healed and clear.

And they do so whether we notice what we are or not.

How spiritual practices become ongoing

We can bring any prayer with us throughout the day. Prayers tend to become automatic over time and run in the background even if we are focused on daily life activities. They live their own life after a while. The Jesus or Heart prayer is an example, as is ho’oponopono and metta. The words may come and go, but the orientation and energy – for lack of a better word – continues. 

– from A tantric approach to spirituality

I thought I would say a few more words about this.

HOW DO PRACTICES BECOME ONGOING?

This is not a big secret. They become ongoing if they are conducive to become ongoing, and we do them enough so they become very familiar and a new habit. Our system creates and goes into a new groove.

Depending on the practice, they can become ongoing as a new habit, or as something in the background of our awareness, or they can become ongoing in that we can easily access them when needed.

HOW DOES IT LOOK WHEN THEY ARE ONGOING?

This depends on the practice. I’ll give some examples I am familiar with.

Basic meditation is to notice and allow our experience as it is. And to notice it’s already allowed, and even already noticed. This helps soften identification with what we notice, including our thoughts. And this, in turn, helps us notice what we are, which is what all our experiences happen within and as. As we get more familiar with this noticing and allowing, it become a new habit and easier to bring to daily life, and more situations in daily life.

Training a more stable attention is helpful for just about any activity. We can do this by bringing and keeping attention on something, for instance, the sensations of the breath at the nostrils, and bring attention back when we notice our attention got distracted. (The distraction is usually or always a thought with some charge to it, a thought that seems at least a bit true to us.) Over time, this becomes a new habit that benefits us through the day.

We can notice what we are, for instance, guided by some simple inquiries (Headless experiments, Big Mind process). We find ourselves as capacity for the world, as what all our experiences – the world as it appears to us – happens within and as. As we get more used to and familiar with this noticing, it’s easier to notice it through the day and in different situations.

We can examine our thoughts, for instance, guided by the structure and pointers in The Work of Byron Katie. We explore if we can know for certain it’s true, see what happens when we hold a thought as true, how it would be to not have the belief, and find the genuine validity in the reversals using examples from our own life and experience. As we get more familiar with this over time, this too becomes a new habit. We may find that our mind naturally starts examining thoughts this way in daily life. (Using the structure is still helpful, especially if we notice an especially ingrained and stressful belief. It helps us explore it more thoroughly.)

Exploring our sense fields is a traditional Buddhist form of inquiry. (Living Inquiries is a modern version.) Here, we get to see how our mind combines the sense fields – sight, sound, sensation, smell, taste, and thoughts – into our experience of the world, ourselves, and anything. We get to see that what may, at first, see very solid and real, is actually created by the mind through combining sense fields. It’s not as solid and real as it seemed. We also get to see how the mind associates certain sensations with certain thoughts, and that sensations lend a sense of solidity, substance, and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts make the sensation appear to mean something. This helps us see that thoughts are thoughts, and sensations are sensations, which softens identification with these thoughts. As we become more familiar with this, this too becomes a habit and something we bring with us into daily life. We may not be able to do a thorough inquiry, but we notice how the sense fields combine, and we are more easily see a thought as a thought and a sensation as a sensation.

Heart-centered approaches help us shift how we relate to others, situations, the world, and ourselves. We learn to befriend the images of these in our own mind, which helps us shift how we relate to all of this in our daily life. (The ones I am most familiar with are tonglen, ho’oponopno, and a Christian version of metta.)

Prayer is a certain form of heart-centered practice. When we engage regularly in prayer – for instance, the Jesus or Heart prayer – it tends to become ongoing. It runs in the background as a kind of orientation and energy. (Sorry, don’t know how to better describe it.) It’s often a combination of periods of intentional prayer with words and noticing it running in the background – through the day and even night.

A COMBINATION: INTENTIONAL PRACTICE & ONGOING

In real life, there is often a combination of intentional practice, a new ongoing habit, and intentionally bringing in the practice as needed. We have periods of intentional practice, at set times or when we find time, and on our own or in groups. We notice how these practices become ongoing in daily life. And if we notice that we get caught in an old habit in a situation in daily life, we can bring in the practice to help shift into the new pattern.

If we don’t engage in a somewhat regular intentional practice, the habit created by the practice tends to fade over time. As we engage in intentional practice again, the habit comes back and often more easily than the first time. Our system remembers.

It can be especially helpful to notice when our old habitual patterns override a practice that has become more ongoing. This usually points to a belief, identification, emotional issue, hangup, or trauma. And we can explore this further.

OLD AND NEW HABITUAL PATTERNS

Why is all this important?

It’s because our old habitual patterns often come from separation consciousness. They may create unhappiness and discomfort for ourselves, messiness in our life, and may trigger discomfort and suffering in others.

Spiritual practices are typically designed to create new patterns for our mind and life that help us in a variety of ways. These patterns mimic awakening and how it is to live from awakening. And as we keep exploring these practices and we get more familiar with them, they become more and more a new habit.

This helps us in our life. It helps us notice where we still operate from separation consciousness (beliefs, identifications, emotional issues etc.). It makes it easier for us to notice what we are. And it helps us live from noticing what we are.

Spiritual pointers & practices are medicine for specific conditions

This is another basic topic I thought I would revisit.

Pointers and spiritual practices are medicine for a condition.

MEDICINE FOR A CONDITION

Each one is medicine for a specific condition. That means we need some experience and discernment to see which one may be helpful in any one case.

They help us shift out of a place where we are stuck. These are places where we are stuck due to separation consciousness, and they eventually help us unstick from separation consciousness itself.

Some are more universally useful and some are more specific to specific phases and conditions. I love the more universal ones, but also sometimes use more specific ones.

The pointers are not meant to reflect any final or absolute truth. These too are medicine to help us unstick from a certain viewpoint or position.

RELATIVELY UNIVERSAL PRACTICES

Here are examples from some of the practices I find most helpful. These are all relatively universal and work for a range of different conditions and at most phases of the awakening process. They are, in a sense, the adaptogens of spiritual practice.

The Work of Byron Katie helps us unstick from holding a thought as true, and identifying with the viewpoint of the thought. Through the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet, we get to identify a number of stressful thoughts about something specific, and we are then led through the four questions and the turnarounds to examine each one. We get to see we can’t know for certain, what happens when we hold onto the thought as true, how it would be without it, and the validity in the reversals of the initial thought. Each one of these helps us unstick, and together, they can work miracles.

Living Inquiries is based on traditional Buddhist inquiry, and it helps us unstick from taking appearances at face value. We get to see how thoughts – in the form of mental images and words, combine with sensations so that sensations lend a sense of solidity, substance, and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations. Exploring this, the mental “glue” softens a bit and we get to recognize a thought as a thought and sensations as sensations, and this helps us unstick from beliefs and identifications.

We also get to see how our mental field functions as an overlay on the world, giving it all labels, interpretations, associations, and stories, and that these are thoughts and not inherent in what they appear to be about. This helps us unstick from taking our labels, stories, and associations as inherent in what they refer to.

Heart-centered practices help us shift how we relate to ourselves, others, situations, and life in general. Practices like tonglen, ho’oponopono, and metta help us unstick from an adversarial relationship and struggle to befriending what’s here.

Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here, and to also notice that what’s here – whatever is here in our experience – is already noticed and allowed. This helps us unstick from identifying too much with any particular thought and as something in particular within the content of our experience. We recognize all our experiences as happening within and as what we are, and it all lives its own life.

Headless experiments & the Big Mind process help us unstick from taking ourselves as something in particular within our field of experience (e.g. this human self) and find ourselves as what it all happens within and as. This is obviously helpful if we are not used to noticing this, and it can be helpful even if we are used to it – it can help us clarify.

RELATIVELY UNIVERSAL POINTERS

Some pointers are relatively universal and can be helpful through most or all of the awakening process.

What I see in the wider world reflects what’s here in me. When I have a story about anything in the wider world, I can turn it around to myself and find specific examples of how it’s valid. This pointer applies even when we notice what we are since our human self and the wider world are still here, even if it all happens within and as what I am.

What’s the underlying assumption? Is it true? Whenever we notice we hold a thought as true, it’s helpful to question it. And it’s also helpful to identify and question underlying assumptions, including the ones that seem the most obviously true for us. Leave no stone unturned. Again, this is helpful for us wherever we are in the process.

Our experience of the future & past is created here and now. This is helpful if we take our ideas about the future and past as the actual future or past, or reflecting an actual future or past, or that the future and past actually exist. Even if we are in the habit of recognizing this, there may still be times when we fall into old habitual patterns of taking a thought about the future or past as the actual future or past.

What would someone who loves themselves do? For most of us, our habit is to not fully or always love ourselves, and not always love all parts of ourselves or our experience. This simple pointer can help us shift out of that and first imagine how it would be to love ourselves and what we would then do in this situation, and see how it is to bring that into life.

How would it feel to be completely lovable? This is another remedy for not feeling completely lovable. It can help us shift into feeling it and making it more real and alive for us.

POINTERS FOR SPECIFIC CONDITIONS

Many pointers are for more specific conditions.

How is it to live from noticing what I am? How is it to live from it here and now? This is a universal pointer when we notice what we are, and it’s obviously not so relevant if we don’t.

How is it to notice this as a flavor of the divine? When we find what we are, and in the process notice all as the divine, this can be a helpful question. Especially if we experience something that our habitual response is to avoid or reject, for instance a particular emotion or sensation. This question can help us more consciously recognize that too as the divine, and soften out of the struggle.

What’s the true nature of this phenomenon? When we notice what we are, and still respond to some experiences out of separation consciousness habits, this can be a helpful question. It can help us recognize that what we experience, for instance an emotion, has the same true nature as ourselves. It’s all happening with and as what we are, so to us, it has the same true nature as what we are. And, as with the pointer above, this can help us soften out of our old habitual struggle with it.

SUMMARY

Each spiritual practice and pointer is a medicine for a particular condition.

Some are more broadly helpful, and some have a more narrow use.

They tend to help us unstick from a place we got stuck due to separation consciousness.

Any pointer helps us unstick from a particular view. They don’t hold any final or absolute truth.

The practices and pointers I mention here are just a few I happen to be familiar with and find useful. There are, obviously, a wide range out there that are all compatible with awakening and what we find in awakening.

Spiritual practices mimic awakening

Many spiritual practices mimic awakening.

Some mimic noticing what we are, which helps us actually notice.

And some mimic living from noticing what we are.

NOTICING WHAT WE ARE THROUGH POINTERS

Pointers that help us notice what we are tend to mimic what we naturally notice when we notice what we are.

This may sound obvious, but there is more to it.

Some pointers help us notice some of the characteristics of what we are. We may notice that what we are does not have a boundary, it’s timeless, it’s what space and time happen within, it’s what our experiences happen within and as. Looking at each of these, one at a time, we get a sense of what we are. It becomes more familiar, easier to notice, and the center of gravity of what we take ourselves to be can shift more into this. The Big Mind process is an example of these types of pointers.

Some help us relate to the content of our experience a certain way, and through that notice what we are. We find that the content of our experience happens within and as what we are. Some Headless experiments do this, and some of them do the first one.

In awakening, we notice the characteristics of what we are, and that all our experiences happen within and as what we are. And these pointers help us notice this here and now. We find it for ourselves. We notice what’s already here, and notice that we notice.

NOTICING WHAT WE ARE THROUGH BASIC MEDITATION

Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here.

Notice and see how it is to allow it. See if you can notice it’s already allowed – by space, mind, life.

See if you can notice that what’s here is already noticed and allowed.

This helps us find ourselves as capacity for our experience as it is, as that which our experience happens within and as.

It softens identification with the content of our experience. We get to see it all lives its own life. And this allows us to more easily find ourselves as what we are.

LIVING FROM NOTICING WHAT WE ARE

When we find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, we notice that all our experiences happen within and as what we are. Another word for this is oneness.

There are two aspects to living from oneness. One is living from it here and now, to the best of our ability. And that includes inviting the parts of us still operating from separation consciousness to join in with the awakening.

When we notice what we are, several things tend to happen.

We find that the world, to us, is one. We are oneness.

Another word for oneness is pragmatic love. It’s a love not dependent on states or feelings, and it’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

We recognize thoughts as thoughts. They have a valuable pragmatic function in helping us orient and function in the world. And they cannot reflect any final or absolute truth.

PRACTICES THAT MIMIC LIVING AS ONENESS

Several practices mimic how it is to live from oneness, and they mimic the characteristics mentioned above.

Heart-centered practices help us shift how we relate to ourselves, others, situations, and existence in general. (Tonglen, ho’oponopno, metta, inner smile.)

Some forms of inquiry help us see through beliefs, identifications, and what creates and upholds separation consciousness patterns in us. (The Work of Byron Katie, Living Inquiries.)

Body-centered practices help us shift how we relate to our body and the sensation-component of beliefs and identifications, and through that life in general. (yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema.)

Guidelines for living help us avoid distractions and notice what in us is not yet healed or aligned with oneness. (Precepts etc.)

Whether or not we notice what we are, these practices help transform our human self to be more intentionally and consciously aligned with oneness.

PRACTICES MIMICKING AWAKENING

The practices that mimc awakening seem to have a few things in common.

They tend to be more universal, simple, and essential. Variations of them are found in many spiritual traditions. They are not overly complicated. And they focus directly on the essentials of awakening and embodiment.

They also tend to be useful through the awakening process – whether it’s preparation, noticing what we are, living from this noticing, or supporting the unawake parts of us in joining with the awakening.

See below for a couple of drafts where I lost focus and they got overly intricate. I chose to include them to show the process, and since they have relevant pointers not included in the final version.

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The importance of love: From relationships to finding ourselves as love

We can look at love in relationships with others, in our relationship with ourselves, in our relationship to life in general, and in the context of what we are and our true nature.

Love in relationships with others

Most or all of us seek to love and be loved in a conventional sense, in relation to a partner, children, friends, family, and so on. It’s one of the most basic impulses in life, and one we share with other mammals and probably many other types of animals.

And our wish for love goes beyond this.

A loving orientation to ourselves

Without knowing it, we seek love for ourselves, for all parts of us. We want to know we are OK, lovable, and loved. If the adults in our life didn’t model this for us when we were children, we can learn to do it for ourselves. We can learn to be a loving parent to ourselves and internalize a loving relationship with ourselves, a loving orientation and internal dialog.

This takes intention, time, and some guidance, but it can be done and we just need to step outside of the conventional worldview just a bit.

Our potential for love goes beyond even this.

Love for all phenomena

We can find love for all phenomena as they are. We can find a loving orientation to all phenomena as they appear to us. This requires more work and deeper exploration.

It ultimately requires and leads us into noticing what we are.

Finding ourselves as love

We may find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, and that all phenomena – all our experiences – happen within and as what we are, and this makes it easier to find genuine love for all phenomena.

We may find that the true nature of any phenomenon is the same as ours. And we may notice that to us, all is one.

And here, we may find that we are love. What we are is love.

What we seek is what we are

We seek to love and be loved. What we seek, at a deeper level, is to be a loving and wise parent to ourselves. Beyond that, we can find love for all phenomena. And we can find that as what we are, as that which all our experiences happen within and as, we are love.

Two first two – love in relationships and for ourselves – fit into a more conventional worldview, and we are all familiar with how this love is sometimes covered up by our reactivity, fearful beliefs, wounds, emotional issues, identifications, and traumas. (All names for variations on the same.)

The next two – love for all phenomena and finding ourselves as love – go beyond a conventional worldview, at least in our European culture. And yet, it’s what we all seek at a deeper level. We seek to love all phenomena and to notice that our true nature takes the form of oneness and love.

What we seek is what we are.

Finding it for ourselves

Since they are outside of mainstream views, the last two may seem like philosophy or something unattainable.

In reality, we can explore all four for ourselves, and they all work beautifully together.

In terms of relationships, we can notice that our stressful beliefs, wounds, and so on sometimes cover up our love. So how can we relate to these differently when they come up? Can we relate to them more intentionally when they come up? Is there a way where we don’t need to act on them? And what happens when we explore these stressful beliefs and emotional issues and perhaps find healing for them?

In terms of being a loving parent for ourselves, we can explore this in a similar way. We can notice when we shift out of a loving relationship with ourselves and what’s behind it – the painful beliefs, unmet fears, and emotional wounds that makes it happen. We can learn to notice and relate to these in a different and more kind way. We can dialog with these parts of us and learn how they experience us and the world. We can come to see they all want to protect us and come from care and love.

Taking this one step further, we can learn to find love for all phenomena, and the process is similar. We can notice what sometimes prevents this love and explore it. We can notice when stressful beliefs and so on cover up the love and relate to these and the triggers differently. We can notice that all our experiences – all phenomena to us – happen within and as what we are.

And this brings us to finding ourselves as love. We find ourselves as capacity for the world. We notice that the world to us – all our experiences – happens within and as what we are. We notice that this is oneness. We notice that thoughts make distinctions, and holding thoughts as true is what created a temporary sense of being something within our experience: an ultimately separate being with the rest of the world as other. And as oneness, we find we are love. Another word for oneness is love. It’s a love that’s not dependent on any feelings or states. It’s the love that’s expressed as the left hand removing a thorn from the right.

The same practices and explorations can help us uncover this love at these four levels and in these four forms. These are the practices I have written about in many other articles, and mostly different forms of inquiry (The Work of Byron Katie, Living Inquiries, Headless experiments, Big Mind process) and heart-centered practices (tonglen, ho’oponopono, metta, inner smile).

All expressions of the same love

There is a beauty in all of this. It’s a process of love covering itself up and then discovering itself as it all.

There is a beauty in how all of these are tied together and expressions of the same love.

Ongoing exploration

I am aware that the last two may seem unrealistic. The good news is that we can explore it for ourselves. We don’t need to take anyone’s word for it, and it wouldn’t do us any good if we did.

And it’s an ongoing process. There is always more to discover and explore, and always further to go.

Even if we lived for thousands of years, there would be more to learn and discover about how to live from and as love.

Each situation is different and living from love will be different, and it will likely always be mixed in with some of what covers up love for us. And that’s one reason it’s always fresh.

In reality, it’s something that only happens here and now. If we have a memory of having lived from love in the past, that’s a reminder of seeing how we can do it now, and notice if we don’t do it and see what’s behind it. And the same if we have a thought about living from love in the future.

The inner smile

I was deeply fascinated by Taoism in my teens and read all I could find, did tai chi and chigong, and also used many of the practices described by Mantak Chia in his books.

One of these, and perhaps my favorite, was the inner smile.

I am now drawn to it again, and am reminded of how much I enjoy it and how transformative it can be.

Here is the brief description, as I remember it:

Smile in your mind to each of the organs and systems in your body. Smile to the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, brain, brain stem, nervous system, lungs, heart, kidneys, and so on. Take time with each one. Do this is the morning, and later in the day if you are drawn to it.

This is a heart-centered practice that helps shift how we relate to our body, and I notice how it shifts how I relate to myself and life in general. Knowing that mind and body are aspects of the same seamless system, it most likely also supports our health.

Shifting our relationship with ourselves

What does it mean to shift our relationship with ourselves?

At first, it can seem it has to do with shifting our relationship with ourselves as a whole and the different parts and subpersonalities in us. But it goes beyond that. It includes all our experiences, as they are, and that includes the whole world.

Ways to shift our relationship with ourselves / our experience / existence

How do we shift our relationship with our experience, as it is?

At the risk of repeating myself to a ridiculous degree, for me, the most effective approaches have been…

Curiosity and sincerity in the exploration. Our orientation to the exploration is essential and includes honesty with ourselves.

Inquiry into beliefs and identifications (The Work of Byron Katie, Living Inquiries). Beliefs and identifications are innocent and natural, and they also split our world and split what’s inherently whole.

Imagined dialog with subpersonalities, experiences, and so on.

Working with projections, using the world as a mirror. For me, inquiry is one of the most effective ways to work on projections.

Body-centered approaches (tai chi, chigong, yoga, etc.). This helps me get a visceral experience of the wholeness of who I am as a human being, including body and psyche.

Heart-centered approaches (tonglen, ho’o). This helps me befriend myself, the different parts of me, others, and the world as it is.

Inquiry to notice what I am (Headless experiments, Big Mind process). Here, my relationship to all my experiences naturally shifts. I notice all my experiences happen within and as what I am.

Basic meditation – notice and allow what’s here. This too helps soften identification with the content of experience (really, the viewpoint of thoughts saying I am this or that, or the world is this or that), and it makes it easier to find myself as what my experiences happen within and as.

When we notice what we are, there are also some variations of this. For instance, when an experience comes up and I notice my personality reacts to it and wants it to go away, I can ask… Is this too the divine/ What is the true nature of this experience? Is its true nature the same as what I find for myself? I can also ask it, what is your true nature?

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.)

How I *relate* to what’s here vs what’s here

If we exclusively focus on healing our own emotional issues, it’s an endless process. There is always more.

That’s why I like to give equal, and sometimes more, attention to how I relate to my issues and the sensations, thoughts, or whatever is here.

How I relate to what’s here is, in a sense, one. And what I relate to is innumerable. So it makes sense to focus more on the former without ignoring the latter.

What type of shift am I referring to?

For me, the shift is from seeing what’s here as a problem or an enemy to befriending it. And befriending it has many sides, including the ones I mention below.

How can we invite in this shift?

I have found heart-centered practices very helpful. For instance, doing tonglen for whatever I subtly or not-so-subtly see as a problem – whether it’s a person, situation, myself, a part of me, or an experience. I can also use ho’oponopono or metta here.

It also helps to identify beliefs behind any slight enemy-image and explore these, for instance through The Work or Living Inquiries.

I can dialog with what’s coming up. Ask it questions. Listen to what it has to say to me. Get to know it. Perhaps understand it a little better. Find a new partnership with it. If it’s an emotional issue, I can see how it’s here to protect me and it’s coming from (slightly misguided) love and is an expression of love.

I can identify any emotional issues in me behind and fueling enemy-images, and explore and invite in healing for these issues. For instance, through inquiry, heart-centered practices, dialog, energy healing, or more.

I can find myself as capacity for the world as it appears to me, and whatever I see as a (subtle) problem, and see it’s all happening within and as what I am. It’s not inherently “other” and cannot be.

A version of this is that what’s here is a flavor of the divine. It’s the divine having this experience for itself.

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Teresa of Avila: I just allow myself to be loved

When Teresa of Avila was asked what she did in prayer, she replied, “I just allow myself to be loved.”

– Anthony de Mello in Sadhana, a Way to God

This is the perfect answer. We allow our human self to be loved by Spirit, by Big Heart. And, in that, is a profound transformation.

When we open up for universal love, a love that loves all of us, we notice what in ourselves we feel is unlovable. I may feel unlovable. I may feel that parts of me are unlovable. And it can be uncomfortable at first to open to this universal love. And yet, to open to this universal love can be profoundly healing. It helps us find love for ourselves and all these parts of ourselves.

In a sense, it models the love we can find for ourselves. In another way, this universal love is what we already are. Allowing ourselves to be fully and deeply loved by the universal divine love is a step into discovering that we can love ourselves in the same way. And that’s a step into finding this same universal love for others and the world. And finding ourselves as that love.

There are many ways we can support this process. Allowing ourselves to be loved can help us see that we feel unlovable or that we feel some parts of us are unlovable. We can then get to know these parts of us. Listen to what they have to tell us. What they would like from us. How they experience us. We can identify beliefs and question them until we find what’s more true for us. We can invite in healing for the issues behind not feeling lovable, or not feeling that some parts of us are lovable. And so on.

This is an example of how a very simple practice – allowing ourselves to be loved by universal love – can be profoundly healing, can deeply shift our relationship with ourselves and others and the world, and can even invite us to notice what we are and what we are to notice itself as all there is.

I have only discovered a few simple practices that are so aligned with reality and can lead to such profound shifts: Allowing ourselves to be loved by universal love. Ho’oponopono. Tonglen. Heart Prayer. And basic meditation (notice + allow).

The experience we fight, fights back

The essence of this is basic and simple, as so much here. And as so much here, it’s something I rediscover regularly, and I keep finding slightly new and different wrinkles to it.

When I fight my experience, it metaphorically fights back.

What specifically do I fight?

When I say “fight my experience” it usually means fighting sensations in my body and thoughts associated with it. These sensation-thoughts may be triggered by a situation, but what I react to is these sensations and the thoughts my mind associate them with.

How do I try to fight it?

I can use a range of different strategies to fight it, including wanting to push the sensation away, distract myself from it, go into compulsions (the fighting itself is a compulsion), deny it’s here, try to intellectualize it away, try to transcend it, try to fix it through healing, and so on.

What happens when I try to fight my experience?

I act on and reinforce the idea that the story behind the sensation is true. By fighting it, I tell myself the scary story behind it is true and needs to be taken seriously and fought.

I reinforce the belief in me that it is scary. I reinforce the belief that I cannot co-exist with it, and that it’s dangerous to get to know it, allow it to be here, and befriend it. I reinforce the view in me that it is “other” and I keep it other.

And it doesn’t go away. It’s still here no matter how much I try to distract myself from it or change it or transcend it.

In what way does it fight back?

It fights back by remaining here. When I fight something that doesn’t go away, it easily appears to me that it fights back.

More importantly, when I struggle with it – and tell myself it’s strong and important and true and real and worth struggling with – it’s reinforced. and by being reinforced through my own struggle with it. The scary stories behind it and about it are reinforced.

What’s the alternative?

The alternative is to befriend my experience, whatever it is – even the impulse to fight it.

How can I learn to do this? It can help to use pointers and a more structured approach to get into it, at least until it becomes more familiar and second nature. And even when it is more familiar, a more structureed approach is sometimes helpful, especially when we get caught up in something strong.

Basic meditation is a way to get familiar with noticing and allowing what’s here, whatever it is. Doing this in the “labarotory” of meditation sessions makes it a little easier to do the same – notice and allow – when uncomfortable things come up in us in daily life situations.

Natural Rest is a variation of this basic meditation, and it has some pointers that helps bring it into daily life situations.

We can also dialog with whatever comes up, listen to what it has to tell us, get to know it, and find some empathy with it. This helps befriending it and shifting out of the struggle.

Heart-centered approaches like tonglen and ho’oponopono helps us reoritent towards our experiences in general, and we can also use them specifically with our own discomfort and ourselves in that situation.

We can identify and examine the stressful and scary thoughts behind the uncomfortable sensations, the situation triggering it, and about it all. (The Work of Byron Katie.)

It’s especially helpful to look at the fear of befriending our experience as it is. What do I fear would happen? What’s the worst that can happen?

We can examine how our mind creates its experience of the disocmfort, of it as scary and something we need to struggle with, the struggle itself, and any fears, compulsions, and identities connected with it. (Living Inquiries.)

We can find what we are – that which this and any experience happens within and as – which, in turn, helps notice and allow it all. (Headless experiments, Big Mind process.)

For me, it also really helps to have “wastness buddies” as a friend of mine calls it. Someone we can call when something strong comes up in us, and who can help us shift out of the struggle and into br

What’s the benefit of befriending our experience?

When we fight our experience, it ties up a lot of energy and attention, and it also tends to lead us to make life decisions out of reacivity rather than a more open receptivity. It’s uncomfortable and tiring to chronically struggle.

When we shift out of the struggle, we shift out of the battle and can find a different peace. A peace that allows what’s here, in my experience, to be here. It’s a sense of coming home. It opens for love for what’s here, as it is. It opens for a whole new way – one that’s fuller, rof being in the world.

What’s this not about?

It’s not about not fighting in life. Sometimes, it’s appropriate to fight – or fight for – things in life. It’s appropriate to fight for what’s kind and benefits life. (As we see it, from our limited perspective.)

Why do I write about this now?

The virus behind the chronic fatigue seems to get activated through physical exertion and/or stress, and that happened a few days ago. When it happens, it creates a toxic and very uncomfortable feeling through my whole system, and it also impacts my emotions. And I sometimes struggle with it and try to fight it. When I notice what’s happening, an I have struggled enough, there is a shift into allowing what’s here. And that changes everything. It’s like returning to my home and lover after an absence.

Universal themes: finding a better way, and learning to love

As I wrote this article, there were a couple of minor song-synchronicites. When I wrote about the alternative, the song said “You can learn to love me, given time”. (Sting, A Practical Arrangement.) And when I wrote about the benefits of befriending our experience, “While fighting was useful…. there has to be a better way than this.” (Sting, The Pugalist.)

I don’t really take these as a synchronicities, more a reminder that this – the dynamic of learning to love and finding a better way than fighting – are universal themes.

And, of course, that I gravitate to musicians and song writers who have a general similar orientation to life as me.

The essence of spirituality doesn’t require anything esoteric

There are many ideas about spirituality in our culture. Some see it as a refuge or something that will save them. Some see it as escapism, fantasies, and avoidance. Some see reaching the “goals” of spirituality as only for special people. In some situations, and in some ways, there is some truth to each of these.

And yet, the core of spirituality is pragmatic and secular. We don’t need to take anyones word for it. We don’t need to assume anything about the nature of existence. We don’t need to leave it to someone else. We can try it out for ourselves.

So what is this secular and pragmatic core of spirituality?

It takes two forms. One is the many effects of spiritual practices on our human life. The other is finding what we already are.

I have written articles about both so I’ll just give a brief summary here.

Finding what we are

This isn’t dependent on any philosophy or particular worldview. It’s just dependent on noticing what we already are to ourselves.

Even logically, we see that – to ourselves – we must be consciousness.

Consciousness is what’s aware of any experience at all, so that’s what we are to ourselves. Any sense of being something happens within and as this consciousness, any experience of anything at all happens within and as this consciousness. Even the idea of consciousness, the mental images and associations we have about it, happens within and as consciousness.

And we can find this for ourselves. Consciousness can notice itself as, to itself, all there is. We can find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us. We can find ourselves as what the world, as it appears to us, happens within and as.

Our habitual identification is typically with this human self which appears within and as what we are. This is a kind of “trance” as many have pointed out, and is self-perpetuating unless something comes in to help us notice what we already are, or – more accurately – help what we are notice itself.

The most effective approach to notice what we are may be inquiry (headless experiments, Big Mind process). The most effective approach to stabilize this may be a combination of inquiry and basic meditation (notice + allow). The most effective approach to live from this includes heart-centered practices (tonglen, ho’oponopno) and regular emotional healing work. And training a more stable attention helps all of this and our life in general.

Is this the awakening spiritual traditions talks about? Yes, as far as I can tell it is. It’s what we are noticing itself, and noticing itself as all its experiences. It’s oneness. It’s a waking up from the trance of being this one separate self happening within and as what we are. It’s a noticing that what we are is love. After all, oneness noticing itself is expressed as love.

Helping who we are

Traditional spiritual practices, and modern versions of these, can also help us at a human level.

Training a more stable attention supports just about any activity in our life and our general well-being.

Basic meditation – notice and allow what’s here, and notice it’s already noticed and allowed – helps us release out of struggling with what’s here, our experience as it is.

Basic inquiry – finding ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us – also helps release us out of struggling with what is. It brings a lighter touch. It creates a space for us to act a little more from clarity and kindness.

Heart-centered practices helps us reorient in how we relate to ourselves, others, situations, and life in general. It helps shift us out of a struggle orientation to befriending what’s here. And this, in turn, helps our well being and allows us to act more from clarity.

The essence of spirituality doesn’t require anything esoteric

To me, this is the essence of spirituality, and it doesn’t require anything esoteric. It doesn’t require us to believe anything or go outside of our own experience. On the contrary, if we want to take it as far as it goes, it requires us to be ruthlessly honest about our own experience and find what’s already here.

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How my meditation practice changed when the CFS got stronger

I had a long meditation practice before the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome got significantly worse some years ago. I found I couldn’t continue my practice as before, and struggled with it for a while, until I started to find my way.

So how does it look now?

I do a very simple basic meditation of noticing and allowing. Notice what’s here. Allow it as it is. Notice it’s already allowed as it is. Adyashanti has some very good guided meditations on this, and Natural Rest is another way into it that works well. It’s also the basic meditation found in Buddhism.

I find heart-centered practices very helpful, including tonglen and ho’oponopno. This helps shift how I relate to myself, others, situations, parts of myself, and existence in general.

Pointers for noticing what I am are helpful, especially Headless experiments and (a simple version of) the Big Mind process.

Sometimes, I also do some inquiry, especially simple pointers like the ones from Adyashanti. How would I treat myself right now if I was someone I deeply care about? How would truth and love view this situation? And so on.

Beyond this, I sometimes do more in-depth inquiry, for instance through The Work of Byron Katie and Living Inquiries. And I do some somatic work, especially Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) and Breema.

In general, I have found a more relaxed way of doing these practices. And it’s more about noticing what’s already here than creating anything or going somewhere.

Ho’oponopono: Healing how I relate & my world

Why do I do ho’oponopono? There are many answers. One is that I don’t really know. Another, that it feels right. And yet another is that I do it to heal how I relate to whatever I am doing it for, and to heal my world.

Healing how I relate

When I do ho’o, I do it to heal how I relate to whom or what I am doing it for. Whether it’s myself as a whole, a part of me or my my experience, someone else, a situation, the world or Earth as a whole, Life or God, or anything else.

In this sense, ho’o is similar to other forms of prayer or meditation. I do with the invitation for it to work on me and shift something in me.

I can still do whatever I can, in a conventional sense, to change situations that seem harmful or less than optimal.

Healing my world

There is another reason why I do ho’o, beyond that it helps me heal my relationships with myself, others, situations, and the world.

And that is that my world, the world as it appears to me, happens within and as me. Through ho’o, I help heal my world. I heal my images of myself, others, situations, Earth, and whatever else it may be.

I heal my mental field overlay of my world, and also whatever beliefs, identifications, emotional issues, hangups, and traumas are connected with it. It’s not necessarily a quick or easy process. But, if I am honest, ho’o is one of the quickest and easiest – and most effective.

A transformative practice

So through ho’o, I heal my relationship to whatever I do it for, whether it’s myself, someone else, a situation, a part of me or my experience, Earth, Life, God or something else. And I also heal these as they appear in my world. I heal my images of them and whatever in me is connected to these images.

It’s a profound practice. I will certainly be different in my relationship with myself, others, situations and so on. And whether something else changes in consensus reality, I leave to God or life.

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Ho’oponopono

What is ho’oponopono?

Ho’oponopno comes from an ancient healing practice from Hawaii and other south Pacific islands. It’s a powerful practice that can transform and heal our relationship with ourselves, others, and the world.

In its modern version, it consists of four sentences:

I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.

How can I explore it for myself?

Say the four sentences to anything or anyone you wish to heal your relationship with. Visualize them in front of you. Say it out loud or silently.

(This practice is for yourself so if you are doing it for someone in your life, you don’t need to mention to them that you are doing this.)

You can say it during a time set aside for this, before falling asleep or after waking up, or any time during the day. Repeat several times.

Over time, it can become a continuous and mostly wordless prayer.

You can do it for people in your life, both the ones you like and dislike. For yourself as a whole. For parts of you like physical issues, your body, emotions, emotional issues, or a repeating behavior. For challenging situations, whether they are personal or in the wider world. For Earth as a whole and all life. And for anyone suffering.

It may be easier to first do it for someone in your life you easily like and love, and when you are familiar with the process do it for yourself and anything and anyone else. It can be especially powerful and transformative to do it for anyone suffering and for whatever in your world you dislike or have trouble with.

If you wish, take it as an experiment. Try it and see what happens.

What do I do if I notice resistance?

We may notice some resistance when we do this for someone or something we have a troubled relationship with. It’s natural and part of the process. It shows us that healing is needed and – likely – happening as part of doing ho’o for it.

If the resistance is strong, you can shift and do ho’o for this resistance. When you notice your relationship to the resistance has healed a bit and feels softer, you can go back to what you initially did ho’o for.

What’s the effect?

In my experience, it helps me heal my relationship with whatever I do it for. It feels right. There is a sense of peace. It’s easier to have some understanding for myself and/or the other.

I can still take action when and as needed. I can still act to prevent harm. We don’t need to condone any harmful behavior. It’s about me finding more peace with what is and this helps me take more clear and decisive actions.

It helps me, and it also helps the world. I become less of a nuisance. I may show that there is another way of being. I may act in ways helpful to others.

Ho’o is something I do for myself and the world.

How does ho’oponopno work?

It’s mainly about trying it for ourselves and see what happens. So the question of how it works is perhaps less important but I’ll mention a few things.

It helps me shift into forgiveness and love. It opens that possibility. And that, in itself, is healing.

It helps me heal my relationship with whatever I do it for, and that feels right and healing.

As a human being, the world as it appears to me is a mirror of me. So it makes sense to take responsibility for it all and find healing in how I relate to it.

If I find healing for my relationship to someone or something in the wider world, it tends to heal my relationship to whatever is similar in myself. And the other way around.

As capacity for the world, the world – as it appears to me – happens within and as what I am. So it makes sense to ask for forgiveness when I see suffering and let these parts of my world know I love them.

How do you see ho’oponopno in relation to other practices?

Ho’oponopono is one of several heart-practices – similar to tonglen, metta, heart prayer, and more.

For me, these heart practices are central. They can be profoundly transforming, and they support healing, awakening, embodiment, and being a slightly more helpful part of the world.

How do you use it?

I have gone through periods where I use it a lot through the day and other periods where I use it now and then. When I use it a lot, it tends to become an ongoing and often silent prayer. These days, I tend to use it when I notice I have an unease relationship with someone or something.

It doesn’t mean all my relationships are healed. There is always more. And it certainly doesn’t mean I am perfect, whatever that means. But it does mean that I have a tool that can be very helpful in challenging situations. And it means I am working on a lot of what’s coming up in my life.

When something uncomfortable comes up, it helps to acknowledge any fear about it and wanting it to be different

When something uncomfortable is coming up – a suffering bubble, an emotional issue, a sensation that seems to mean something, fearful thoughts – it helps to acknowledge any fear it brings up in us and any impulse in us wanting it to be different.

This fear is often there, and it’s completely natural and understandable. A part of us is suffering and caught in separation consciousness. Another part is afraid of that first part. And there is often a wanting of one or both to be different.

Where do I feel it in the body? Notice and allow those sensations. Rest with them. Notice the space they happen within. (It may be good to explore the fear first, and then the impulse for it to be different since the two are often in different locations in the body and take different forms.)

See what happens if you let it know one or more of these…

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

Stay for as long as you want. Get as big as you want. Spread out as much as you want.

I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you. (Ho’oponopno.)

If it could speak, what would it say? Listen to it. Examine the stories. See they come from a fearful part of us. For each story, ask is it true?

Perhaps remind yourself that none of this is what we are. All of this is coming from the same place. It’s more layers of the mind.

After this, and when it feels right, we can go back to the initial issue.

Tools for emotional emergencies

When we feel overwhelmed, it can be helpful to have some emergency tools to help us deal with it.

We may can feel overwhelmed when a strong emotional issue or trauma is triggered in us. And this can happen from daily life situations. Or it can come up as part of an ongoing healing or awakening process.

I have selected a few tools for this article that I have found helpful for myself.

These are emergency tools. They won’t solve the issue themselves but they can help us relate to them differently and help us through the strongest parts of the storm.

If you are currently overwhelmed, just do something simple that helps you here and now. Ask for help. And if something in this list resonates with you, try it and see if it helps. Don’t force yourself to do anything. Be kind with yourself.

If you are currently in a more calm place, I suggest you try each tool out for yourself, see which one or ones resonate with you, and get comfortable using it so it’s easier to apply when you need it.

AMPLIFY / RELEASE

Make whatever goes on for you stronger for a few seconds. Then release, let it all go, and rest for a few seconds. Notice the difference before and after. Repeat a few times if necessary.

See if you can make the uncomfortable sensations stronger. Make the scary thoughts and images stronger. Do it for perhaps five seconds. Then release. Relax. Let it all go. Do this for a few seconds. Notice the difference before and after and repeat once or a few times if necessary.

Don’t worry if you are unable to actually make the sensations etc. stronger. It’s the intention and engaging in the trying that it’s important.

I love this tool and it can help reduce the strength of what’s going on. I assume it works because our resistance to uncomfortable experiences makes it stronger and tends to hold it in place. Using this tool, we go against this resistance and intentionally try to make it stronger. That helps us release the resistance and it also shows us that the sensations, thoughts and so on are not as scary as they seemed.

BE KIND WITH YOURSELF

Place your hands on your chest and belly. Breathe slowly and intentionally.

Say kind and soothing words to yourself, as you would to a child or a good friend. For instance: I love you. I love you just as you are. This will pass. You are stronger and more resilient than you realize. Everything you are feeling is OK as it is. This is part of the universal human suffering we all sometimes experience.

You can also say to what’s coming up – the pain, fear, panic, loneliness, anger: Thank you for protecting me. You are safe here. I love you. Repeat.

Say: I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you. Repeat several times. Say it to yourself. Or the suffering part of you. Or who or what triggered the reaction in you. (This is a beautiful Hawaiian practice called Ho’oponopno.)

SAY “YES” TO WHAT’S HERE

How is it to say YES to what’s here?

How is it to say YES even to the “no” we have in ourselves?

ATTENTION TO PHYSICAL SENSATIONS

Pay attention to the sensations in your body connected with the emotions. See if you can set aside any thoughts and mental images for a little while.

Stay with the physical sensations. Find some curiosity about them. Where do you feel it? Do they have a boundary? If you close your eyes, can you also notice the boundless space they happen within? Can you notice the space and the sensations at the same time? Do the sensations get stronger? Weaker? Do you notice sensations other places in the body?

If the sensations feel like too much, try shifting attention between sensations and the space they are happening within. Spend some time with the sensations, then some time with the space, and so on.

It can really help to learn to pay attention to the physical sensations and set aside related thoughts and mental images. It helps us ground. It helps us notice that the charge of emotions comes from body sensations. And we may notice that it’s often OK to set aside stressful thoughts for a while. We don’t need to actively fuel them.

BREATH

Slow and intentional breathing helps calm our system. There are several ways to explore this.

One is the alternate nostril breathing from yoga. Use a finger to block one nostril and take a relaxed and full in-and-out breath with the other. Switch. Repeat several times. Notice any differences before and after.

Another is to breathe out as much air as you can and allow your lungs to fill up again naturally. Repeat a few times.

And and yet another is to lie down, place one hand on the chest and another on the belly, and breathe slowly and intentionally. This can be combined with breathing as much air out as possible and then allowing the air to fill up the lungs naturally.

NATURE & PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES

Ground in simple activities. Do the dishes. Clean. Make food. Do gardening.

Spend time in nature. We belong to and evolved in nature so this can be soothing and nurturing. Walk barefoot if conditions allow.

Walk. Run. Scream. Sing. Jump up and down while landing on your heels. Do strength training. Swim. Do yoga. Shake. Use your body. Take a good bath.

Put your face in cold water or splash cold water on your face. This can help calm down your system.

BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF

Identify your stressful thoughts. Write them down. Be gently and brutally honest with yourself. What’s more true than these stressful thoughts? If your life dependent on being brutally honest with yourself, what would you tell yourself? Finding what’s more true for us is often a relief.

For instance, my mind may tell itself it’s too much, I can’t handle it. Is that true? What’s the reality? The reality is that I am still here. I seem to know how to handle it, somehow.

This one may depend on some practice with inquiry. As with the other tools here, only use it if it works for you.

MORE STRUCTURED APPROACHES

The Work of Byron Katie can be great for dealing with stressful and overwhelming thoughts and corresponding emotions. Look up the free helpline where a facilitator will help you through the process.

Another form of inquiry, the Living Inquiries, can also be of great help although it does require some ability to rest and notice.

Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) helps release tension out of the body through the natural and in-built tremoring mechanism.

And Vortex Healing can help your system relax relatively quickly. This can be done at a distance.

Common for all of these is that you’ll need an experienced practitioner to help you unless you have some experience with it (The Work and TRE) or gone through the training yourself (Living Inquiries, Vortex Healing).

NOTES

There are a lot of other tools out there. Find the ones that work for you and practice when your system is more calm so you get familiar with using them.

You may notice that many of these tools have to do with the body, nature, and our physical world. That’s not coincidence. When we go into overwhelm, it’s usually because we actively fuel stressful thoughts and mental images. This can happen more or less consciously. In either case, it helps to bring attention to something physical and here-and-now.

I have written more in-depth about some of these tools. Follow the tags to find these articles. I also have a small booklet on the back-burner with these and more tools.

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

Trauma and awakening

These days, there seems to more awareness of the different connections between trauma and awakening.

There are people more experienced with this than me. But I have some experience in working with people with trauma and from exploring the connections between trauma and awakening in my own life, so I’ll say a few words about it here.

What are some types of trauma?

Trauma comes in different forms. Acute trauma is what most of us think of when we hear the word – from violence, catastrophes, war, loss. There is trauma from witnessing others experience and living with trauma. There is developmental trauma which comes from being in an ongoing challenging situation, often in childhood.

We can also expand the definition and say that any emotional issue is a form of trauma, and any belief and identification is a form of trauma. It comes from and – depending on how we relate to it – may create more trauma.

What is trauma?

It’s often explained as how our system deals with a scary and overwhelming experience we feel we cannot deal with. The basic elements of trauma are strong stressful beliefs and identities and corresponding muscle contractions (to hold the beliefs and identities in place). And trauma behavior span a wide range including anger, anxiety, hopelessness, and compulsions and addictions.

What role does trauma play before awakening?

Trauma can be part of our drive for healing and awakening. We may wish for healing and/or awakening to find relief from the pain of trauma. Whether we chose mainly a healing or awakening path, or a combination, depends on our inclinations and what we have available.

If we already are on an awakening path, it can be very helpful to include an emphasis on emotional healing.

If we are on an exclusive healing path and are happy with it, there is not really any need to include an emphasis on awakening. Although some of the tools for awakening can help deepen the healing, and glimpses and tastes of awakening can certainly help with the healing.

What about trauma following – or within – awakening?

Awakening involves an opening of our heart and mind – and even the body. And at some point, this can include an opening to whatever unprocessed emotional material is in us.

This often happens in smaller doses and over time. We have emotional issues triggered, are unable to ignore it as before, and have to find a way to relate to what comes up that’s healing in itself and allows what surfaces to find healing.

Sometimes – and perhaps especially if there is stronger trauma in the system – it happens in a more dramatic way. When this happens, it can feel confusing, overwhelming, and unbearable. (We can see this as a certain type of dark night in the awakening process.)

How do we deal with overwhelming trauma?

The best is to get help from someone experienced in working with trauma. Find someone you trust, are comfortable with, and respect where you are and don’t push you. If the person also understands awakening, then it’s even better.

The main guideline is patience, kindness, working with the body, and using nature.

I have written other articles on this topic so won’t go into it too much here.

How do healing and awakening go together?

Emotional healing helps living from the awakening. The fewer and lighter emotional issues, the less likely we are to be hijacked back into separation consciousness when they are triggered. (Although if it happens, it shows us what’s left in us to explore and find healing for.)

Awakening gives a new context for healing emotional issues. The healing can go deeper and the process may be a little easier.

What are some tools that invite in both healing and awakening?

There are several. Some of the ones I have found helpful – and that I keep mentioning here – are different forms of inquiry like The Work, Living Inquiries, and the Big Mind process. Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE). Heart-centered practices like ho’oponopono, tonglen, and Metta. And energy work like Vortex Healing.

Note: As usual, take anything you read – anywhere – with a pinch of salt. It may be different for you.

Photo by Adrien Aletti on Unsplash

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How do we find peace?

There are many ways to find peace. Here are some approaches I have found helpful.

We can create a certain life. A life that feels right, nurturing, and meaningful. A life where we have nurturing relationships. Meaningful work and activities. A life aligned with our values and what’s important to us. A part of this is to heal and mend – as far as possible – any challenging relationships.

We can invite in healing. We can invite in healing for parts of us not in peace. We can invite in healing for trauma and emotional issues.

We can reorient. We can learn to befriend our experience as it is, including the experience of lack of peace (!). In this process, we also learn to befriend (more of) the world as it is.

We can find ourselves (more) as our human wholeness. As we find ourselves as the wholeness of who we are as a human being, there is a sense of groundedness and peace even as life and thoughts and emotions goes on. This is an ongoing process, perhaps including body-centered mindfulness and projection work, and the peace is of a different kind.

We can explore our need for peace. If we feel a neediness around peace, what’s going on? Do we have stressful beliefs about living without peace? Do we have identities rubbing up against the reality of sometimes lack of peace? Is there a trauma or emotional issue telling us we need peace? Examining this and find some resolution for whatever may be behind a need for peace can, in itself, help us find more peace.

It’s stressful to feel we need peace and fight with a world that doesn’t always give us the conditions we may think we need for peace. And it is, perhaps ironically, more peaceful to find peace with life as it is.

We can live with (more) integrity. Living with integrity gives us a sense of peace, even when life is challenging. Living with integrity means to clarify and follow what’s important to us, and to live with some sincerity and honesty – especially towards ourselves.

We can follow our own inner guidance. Following our inner guidance – in smaller and bigger things – connects us with an inner quiet and peace, even when life is stormy. We can learn to follow our inner guidance through experience. And it’s also helpful to notice when we connect with our inner guidance and don’t follow it, and examine what fears and stressful beliefs in us made it difficult for us to follow it.

We can connect with the larger whole. This larger whole comes in three related forms. One is the larger whole of who we are as a human being (mentioned above). Another is the larger whole of the Earth and the universe. We can connect with this through Earth-centered practices, the Universe Story, and more. The third is what we are.

We can explore and get to know what we are. What we are is what our experience happens within and as. As we learn to find ourselves as that, there is a different kind of peace. The peace of being like the sky that clouds, storms, clear weather and anything else passes through.

Each of these is an ongoing process and exploration. It’s not a place we arrive at for good and don’t have to pay attention to again.

The kind of peace we find in each of these ways is somewhat different. In a sense, they complement each other.

As for how to find these types of peace, there are many approaches and I’ll mention a few here.

To heal, I have found parts (subpersonality) work, inquiry, heart-centered practices, TRE, Vortex Healing and more to be helpful. To reorient, I have found ho’oponopno, tonglen, and all-inclusive gratitude practice to be helpful. To find myself as my human wholeness, I have found body-centered mindfulness (yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema) and projection work (inquiry, shadow work) helpful. To explore any neediness around peace, I have found inquiry to be helpful. To live more with integrity, it’s helpful to explore what in me (usually a fear, stressful belief, trauma) takes me away from living with integrity in any specific situation. To follow my inner guidance, it’s helpful to practice in smaller situations and likewise explore what in me (fears etc.) takes me away from it. To connect with the larger whole of the Earth and Universe, it’s helpful to use the Practices to Reconnect (Joanna Macy), Universe Story, and similar approaches. To explore what we are, I have found Headless experiments, Living Inquiries, and the Big Mind process to be helpful.

Photo: Flowers from Zürich ca. 2013.

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.

Pray “through”

This is very basic, as so much here, but the basics is often important.

When I pray for a shift in myself, healing for someone else or a situation, or something else, I stay with it until there is a clear shift, and then continue a bit longer so the shift can deepen and stabilize.

In other words, I “pray through” what often is an initial sense of lack of alignment, gruff, or things in me or the situation generally not aligned with a deep healing or flow.

And then I revisit it as often as feels needed.

Of course, I don’t always do this. But I do it when the situations feels especially important.

When I pray, my main intention is for the divine to work on me and align me more deeply with reality. (This may include emotional healing, an opening of the heart, a more genuine well-wisihing for myself and others, a more genuine receptivity, a softening or release of whatever I think “should” be, and so on.) If I pray for someone else or a situation, I may gently hold a specific outcome but mainly ask for whatever is best for the person or the situation to happen.

God is primary

I personally find it helpful and interesting to sometimes explore my connection with aspects of the divine like angels (frequently), saints (St. Francis and others), avatars (Amma) and so on.

And yet, God is always primary. God is what I always return to, including in my prayers and my gratitude.

Whether we see God as Source, the wholeness of existence, that which allows and is all, as Mother and/or Father, or something else, God is primary.

Even if emphasizing aspects of the divine can be instructional, helpful, and interesting, and sometimes easier, I remember (through grace) that God is primary and I keep returning to God in my prayers and gratitude.

This is another very simple and basic topic, and yet it’s good to remember since the basics are important.

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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Allowing a situation to transform me

When faced with a challenging situation, my first impulse is often to change the situation. Most of the time, that’s what makes most sense and it’s generally a good way of going about it.

And yet, sometimes, I encounter a situation that doesn’t change, or that challenges me more deeply. What makes more sense then is to ask how I can allow the situation to transform me.

To help me reorient, I may pray for receptivity, clarity, and an open heart. I pray for clarification, maturing, and finding love for what is. I pray for being more consciously aligned with reality, truth, and love.

These are wishes and prayers for myself independent of any situation. And a challenging situation reminds me and may allow me to find more sincerity in the prayers.

In addition to these prayers, I can find more specific ways to allow the situation to transform me.

And for me, this often includes….

Being honest with myself and others in the situation. As Adya says, this honesty often takes the form of a confession. It can be a confession of deep fears in me, and thoughts and wishes I feel embarrassed or shy speaking out loud.

Inquiry where I allow the situation to help me see through my initial beliefs and find what’s true for me. I am willing to allow the situation to strip me of my old beliefs and identifications.

Heart-centered practices where I allow my old orientation (of complaining, blame, see myself as a victim) to make way for befriending the situation and what it brings up in me.

Energy healing where I invite in healing for emotional issues and identifications triggered by the situation.

And perhaps noticing all as what I am, for instance through the Big Mind process or headless experiments.

What’s the outcome of any transformation that may take place? We can’t know in advance, and it’s an ongoing process. At the same time, I have hinted at some in the list above.

We may find more honesty (and real kindness) in how we relate to ourselves and others. We may befriend the situation and what it brings up in us, and more. We may find what’s more true for us than our initial stressful beliefs. We may find healing for emotional issues triggered by the situation. We may mature as a human being. We may live with a little more kindness towards ourselves and others. We may find a little more capacity for allowing discomfort, and a little more resilience in life. We may notice what we are (that which any experience happens within and as) and perhaps become more familiar with it and even find that the center of what we take ourselves to be shifts more into it.

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Dream: Adya speaking gibberish

I am with Adyashanti and a small group of people. At some point, he sits down and asks me if I have a question. I explain my situation with the long-lasting illness (chronic fatigue) to him, and ask what the divine asks from me. He starts speaking gibberish.

The night before, I prayed for my situation with the chronic fatigue to transform me deeply, and for the divine as me locally support this process. I remember having the question of whether the divine (as the fullness of existence) asks something specific from me or if I (as the local divine) can decide, or if there is a middle ground and dialogue.

In the dream, as Adya starts answering my question, I am aware it’s a dream and that I – my mind – need to put words in his mouth. I am also aware that I don’t know the answer. That is perhaps why he starts sputtering and speaking gibberish as a faltering Westworld robot. If I think the divine has a specific request or plan for me, I don’t know and cannot know what it is. I cannot provide the answer.

The answer is more that it’s a dialogue between the divine as the wholeness of existence and the divine locally as me. We together find the answer. It’s a process. An ongoing discovery happening within the One.

At first, the dream seemed a little disappointing. After all, instead of answering my question, Adya sputtered nonsensical sounds. And now, I see that’s the perfect answer. In my dream, I have to provide his answer, and I cannot. If I think the divine “out there” asks something specific of me, I cannot know for certain what that is. The answer is more that it’s a process, a dialogue between the divine as all there is and the divine locally as me.

This is not new to me. But I see that when I recently prayed for my situation with the fatigue to profoundly transform me, I had in mind that the divine asks it of me and has something specific in mind for me. Almost as if it’s a test, and when I more fully allow the transformation, my health may eventually return. These were not very conscious assumptions, which is perhaps why my mind (the divine locally) produced this dream, allowing me to see more clearly these assumptions and that they are not so helpful.

It’s more helpful to see it as a dialogue and an ongoing process, and as happening within the One.

Forms of prayer

What is prayer?

For me, it’s what happens when I have a prayerful orientation. When there is some receptivity and sincerity in me, a somewhat open heart, and an orientation towards all of existence as the divine.

This means any moment can be a prayer. And any activity can be a prayer.

Prayer can also happen through any form of meditation, any form of mindful movement, any form of heart-centered practice.

Prayer can also happen with words. I may pray for an external situation to shift. Or I may pray for receptivty, clarity, an open heart, and for a situation to deeply transform me.

In any case, it’s the divine locally (as us) having a prayerful attitude towards itself as the divine as the fullness of existence. It’s all happening within and as the One. It may even be a part of the process of the divine locally gradually waking up to itself as a local expression of the One.

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Prayer for receptivity, transformation, alignment

I find myself with a quite serious and lasting (at least so far) health condition (CFS), and although I sometimes do pray for assistance with my health and for my health situation to transform, there is another prayer that’s closer to my heart.

And that’s a prayer for receptivity, inner transformation, and alignment with truth, reality, and love.

If my outer situation, in this case my health, doesn’t change, something in me needs to change. How I see it, relate to it, how I am in relation to it, needs to change. It’s an invitation for me to align myself consciously more closely with reality and love.

Using Ho’oponopono as a test

I find myself often using ho’o as a test. 

I wonder how my relationship to something is, and then use ho’o towards it to see what it may rub up against.

I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you. Said with heart and repeated many times, perhaps even through the day. 

If there is anything left – of lack of clarity or emotional issues – I keep doing it until I notice a deeper shift. And I may also take it to inquiry or explore it further using Vortex Healing. 

And “something” may be another person, myself as a whole, parts of myself, someone or a situation from my past, an imagined future situation, or anything else. 

This is one of the benefits of heart-centered practices in general. They  tend to show us what’s left. 

Brené Brown: We’re hungry for more joy because we are starving from a lack of gratitude

We’re a nation hungry for more joy: Because we’re starving from a lack of gratitude.

– Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Yes, this is very true in my experience. Gratitude fills me up. It makes me content. And when there is less gratitude and contentment, I crave a variety of things including joy. 

I think this is craving is widespread in contemporary societies, and perhaps especially in the US. Modern media and advertisement intentionally instill a sense of lack and entitlement. I don’t have what I need, and I am entitled to it. And this creates a hole that needs to be filled with products, status, and experiences – including joy. Gratitude is the antidote. And not only an antidote, it’s what we really wish for. It’s what creates a more satisfying and real sense of contentment and being filled up. 

We can’t fake gratitude, and we can’t tell ourselves to be grateful. But it’s close by, and we can invite it in and more in the foreground of our experience. Some of my favorite ways are ho’oponopono, tonglen, and all-inclusive gratitude practices. Natural rest or basic meditation is another way to invite in gratitude, and really… we are “just” noticing the gratitude that’s already here and that we are. (Which is huge.) 

Let Your will be done

One of the more central and traditional forms of Christian prayers is let Your will be done

It’s an acknowledgment that we, as human beings, cannot absolutely control anything. Life has the final word. 

Also, it helps us reorient to this reality. As we engage in this prayer, it works on us. Life’s will is already being done. That’s just how it is. And by engaging in this prayer, we can allow it to work on us. We allow our conscious view and the views of all our human parts to realign with this reality.

And that makes it easier when things don’t seem to go “our way” as we see it as human beings. There is a little more receptivity. A little more curiosity. A little more opening to find the genuine gifts in what’s happening, even if we don’t initially like it very much. 

A companion prayer is I give it all up to You. I give all of what’s happening with me as a human being up to life (or God, Spirit). I give it all up to the larger wisdom and love. I give it up as compost for whatever can come out of it – clarity, insights, receptivity, or something else.  

These two prayers form a context for my life. Let Your will be done. I give it all up to You. And within that, I live my life much as before. I am still active and engaged. I still have hopes, wishes, and plans. I still try to be a good steward of my own life. I still try to fulfill my roles as best I can. 

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