Action gives hope

Action gives hope. When I act to support life and create a more life-centered civilization, in however small ways it may be, it gives me hope. I feel I can make a difference. I feel we all can make a difference.

This is one of those things that seems obvious when we know it from our own life and may not occur to us before we experience it.

As usual, there are a lot of wrinkles here.

COMING TO TERMS WITH DEATH

It’s also helpful to come to terms with death – the death of ourselves, our loved ones, this civilization, and even humanity. What comes together falls apart. Death is what allows anything to be. Death and impermanence is what gives space and birth to all we know, and all that was and will be. We wouldn’t be here without it. For all the grief and pain we may experience because of it, it’s also an immense and immeasurable blessing. It helps to let all of that sink in.

COMING TO TERMS WITH DEATH + FINDING HOPE

We can come to terms with death, even the possible near-term death of our civilization and humanity, and also find hope. They are not mutually exclusive. We contain multitudes.

And we don’t know what’s going to happen. We can only put one foot in front of the other and do our best. We can be a good steward of our own life and our role in the world.

NOTICING OUR NATURE

When we notice our nature, and examine our relationship with thoughts, hope is not as important anymore as it may have been before. We don’t really need hope. We have here and now, which is more than enough, and hope is revealed as a story about the future we cannot know anything for certain about.

MY EXPERIENCE WITH THIS

I have explored these things since my teens.

I have taken action to make my life more life-centered and sustainable in different ways, and also worked on community projects (through Sustain Dane and other organizations). Even small actions make a lot of difference. These days, I find myself helping to reforest and regenerate 15 hectares in the Andes mountains, which is immensely meaningful to me.

I have spent quite a lot of time coming to terms with death and impermanence, and finding genuine appreciation for it. (Although it often also brings up grief, sadness, and despair in me.)

I have explored my relationship with thoughts, including within the context of my nature noticing itself and through structured inquiry.

Image created by me and Midjourney

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Images of the divine: holding onto images of awakening and Spirit for comfort

We all have images of the divine, and we relate to them in different ways. We can recognize them as images, or we operate from them without noticing what’s happening. We can use these images to comfort or scare ourselves or we dismiss them as fantasies. We may think they reflect something out there or use them as a mirror for what’s here now.

The most obvious images are the ones we know from the different religions. God is a blue boy, an old man with a beard, a fertile woman, and so on. Sometimes, we recognize these as metaphors and images and as reflecting what’s here now. Other times, we take them more literally.

Images of the divine in the awakening process

In an awakening process, we also have these images.

Our images may be of awakening and Spirit as something particular. For instance, we may imagine awakening will solve our challenges and discomfort. And we may imagine Spirit or the divine as what we at a personal level like (peace, joy, insights, clarity) and not so much the rest (discomfort, illness, confusion, challenges). We may even know it’s not like that, and still cling to some of these images – almost without noticing – as a kind of comfort and promise of something better in the future.

The awakening process is, among other things, a process of continued disillusionment.

One of these disillusionments is recognizing we are holding onto hopeful images of awakening and the divine, that we hold onto them for comfort and to avoid what’s here now, that this doesn’t work in the long run, and that there is a way that’s kinder and more aligned with reality.

How do we work with this?

A good start is recognizing the images we have and partially operate from. For instance, that awakening means that we arrive at a place without discomfort, challenges, and unpleasantness. And that although Spirit is all, it’s not so much the discomfort, pain, and suffering.

I using these examples since this is something I am looking at for myself these days.

Just by looking at those images, we may see that they don’t quite make sense. For instance, if Spirit is all, then it’s ALL – including what I at a personal human level don’t enjoy so much. Including what’s here right now that my personality doesn’t like.

How would it be to embrace all of what’s here as the divine?

Can I say YES to it as it is?

Also, how would it be to intentionally change my images to include all?

And what do I find when I examine these images, for instance through Living Inquiries?

Wait a minute, are you saying you recognize all as the divine and don’t at the same time?

Yes. I can easily recognize all my experience as happening within and as what I am. It’s all happening within and as this awakeness.

At the same time, parts of my personality sometimes struggle with my experience – with certain scary thoughts and sensations, and the life situations triggering these. And this is supported by the images mentioned above, which are sometimes conscious and sometimes less so.

It’s part of the messiness of being human and the embodiment process.

Byron Katie: Hope means intentionally using the idea of a future to keep you from experiencing the present

Hope means intentionally using the idea of a future to keep you from experiencing the present

– Byron Katie

Hope as an alternative to getting caught up in worries

Conventional wisdom says that hope is good. In difficult times, we need hope to keep going.

That’s not wrong. If the alternative is to get buried in fears and worries, then hope is much better.

And as with anything out of alignment with reality, there are downsides to hope.

The downsides to hope

Somewhere in us, we know that hope is a fantasy that we invest some reality in to comfort ourselves. We know we cannot know what will happen in the future, and that any ideas we have about the future are – quite literally – a fantasy. We can never convince ourselves completely to hope even if we try.

Also, by overly relying on hope, we may not take care of the current situation to the extent we are called to.

As Byron Katie says in the quote, we use hope to avoid experiencing the present. We use it to avoid scary thoughts about the past, present, or future, and we use it to distract ourselves from sensations connected with these scary thoughts.

The alternative to hope

Fortunately, there is an alternative to both hope and getting buried in worries.

We can examine our scary stories and find what’s more true for us. (This is, almost inevitably, more peaceful.)

We can see how it is to say YES to the scary thoughts and sensations and the situation triggering them.

We can befriend the triggered – scared and worried – side of us. We can listen to what it has to say. Find the genuine care and love behind it. Create more of a conscious partnership with it.

We can find ourselves as capacity for it all – what’s triggered in us and the triggering situation. It’s not inherently “other”.

Through this, we may find we don’t need hope anymore. We don’t need to rely on it to avoid what’s here since what’s here seems less scary.

Putting fear and hope out there

It’s sometimes easy to put fears “out there” in others, or the future. And also to do the same with hope.

And we do it in many different ways, including these:

It’s difficult now, but it will lead to something good, because…..

A woman will save me. A good job will save me. More money will save me. God will save me.

Technology will save us. Sustainability will save us. God will save us.

One I know from myself……

I am in a dark night of the soul, a kundalini process, an awakening process. It’s difficult now, but will lead to something good sometimes in the future.

And another from people into new age thinking:

Humanity is in an awakening process. It’s difficult now, but it will lead to a bright future.

Human evolution will bring us into a golden age, one of peace and prosperity.

When I notice I do this, I can ask myself: What is it I don’t want to feel right now? What would I have to feel if I didn’t go into these stories? And then feel it, rest with the sensations.

Also, I can see if I can find this future anywhere in immediate experience. Can I find it outside of these images, words, and sensations?

I can ask myself: Is it true? Can I know for certain it’s true?

I can examine what happens when I believe those thoughts. How do I live my life? What is it I avoid feeling or doing?

I can turn the statements around, and find specific examples of how that may be as or more true. For instance, what are some of the specific and realistic options for what may happen to humanity, ranging from what I hope for and fear the most? Can I really know? And does it really matter if I cannot know?

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Hope

A couple of things about hope:

Hope, in a conventional sense, is often (a) images and words, (b) associated with sensations, (c) which makes it appear real and solid, as if it’s about a real future. It rests on an experience of time and the future as real and “out there” somewhere, and what’s imagined in that future as real as well.

There is another form of hope. It’s when we see that future and what may be in the future – to me – is created by images, words and sensations, and I cannot find it outside of these. And also when the ways I stop myself as recognized in a similar way. That gives a sense of curiosity, openness, interest and a quiet natural confidence.

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Fear/hope life will show up outside of the boundaries of beliefs

From the previous post:

… any belief creates boundaries for life, for what can and should happen. So when life shows up outside of these boundaries, or even when we fear/hope that life may show up outside of these boundaries, there is also stress. When there are beliefs, we get stress from two sources.

This is something else to explore about beliefs: when we believe a story, when we take it as an absolute truth, there is both hope and fear that life will show up outside of the boundary created by the belief.

We hope, because somewhere we know that no story represent an absolute truth.

And we fear, because we have invested time and energy into the belief, and we (think we) are not familiar with the landscape that opens up without it.

Hope, fear and wishful thinking

After having done The Work for a while, it becomes even more clear how hope and fear are two sides of the same coin, and also how any belief is stressful, no matter its content.

In some evolutionary spirituality groups, they see human evolution as moving towards a larger-scale awakening to who (as individuals) and what (as spirit) we are. Humanity as a whole is evolving, and we are evolving towards awakening.

In some groups, they see us evolving towards God awakening to itself through groups and even humanity as a whole, or even as the Earth awakening to itself through humans.

And yet another flavor emphasizes how everything will change. Not only will all problems go away, but we will shift into another dimension etc.

It is a tricky landscape to navigate, if we want to have a differentiated view and not blindly accept or reject it (both of which are from blind beliefs and wishful thinking).

The questions to ask of any relative truth

Of course, as humans in the world, it is useful to have maps and frameworks. They help us orient and navigate. But there are also some questions to ask about these maps, before we adopt them: (a) Is it necessary? (b) What are the effects of having this map? (c) What is my motivation for wanting to adopt and use it? (d) And finally, is it valid?

Is it necessary?

In the case of seeing us evolve, on a large scale, towards awakening, as far as I can tell, it is not necessary at all. A not-knowing mind seem quite sufficient, and far more practical. It keeps my thinking receptive and responsive to changing situations.

What are its effects?

What are the effects of these beliefs?

Complacency is one possibility. Everything is taken care of, so I can just sit back and relax. A related one is denial. It will all be OK. Just trust the process. I know it will happen, and nothing can make me change my belief.

Fear and compulsion is another. What is my role in this awakening? What if I don’t discover my role? What if I am left out? Maybe I will be the only one who doesn’t get it, who is left behind? Maybe I will be the Neanderthal in this evolutionary shift? What if humanity screws it up? What if it is all planned out, and we do something to derail it?

Cognitive dissonance is yet another. I know that it will all work out, but it certainly doesn’t always seem that way. There are still lots of huge problems in the world, and not much movement in the right direction. Also, I know that it is only an idea, so it feels false to try to make it appear as anything more than that. Something in me knows the deception in trying to make a relative truth appear absolute.

And eventually, hopelessness and disillusion. I thought it would happen by the magic year 2012, but it didn’t, so what now? My one hope fell through, maybe even my whole worldview.

(Of course, all of these are really gifts. They are invitations for us to examine what happens when we cling to ideas as more than just a relative truth, and see that every belief – no matter how nice and supportive it looks on the surface – has stress and suffering built into it.)

What is my motivation for adopting it?

And why would I want to adopt it? The only reason I personally can find is to feel better about myself and our collective situation, or in other words wishful thinking.

Is it valid?

There is certainly data to support evolution, but not much solid data to support the idea of larger scale awakening. And in any case, the future is always wide open. Trends do not equal certainty of outcome.

Any amount of support still leaves not-knowing mind

Since any idea, including any map, has only a relative truth, it is something to hold very lightly. It can, at best, have practical and temporary value. There is nothing absolute about it.

I may have amazing visions showing me the future. I may have solid research, showing clear evolutionary trends. I may have the most sophisticated and refined theories and explanations about it. I may have the support from the most respected scientists or gurus.

Yet, what it comes down to is that it is only a map. Only an idea.

The idea of gravity has lots of support. I have a great deal of experience with it. It seems consistent. It has the support of science (although they don’t know exactly what it is.) Yet, it still remains only an idea. And if I believe in it, a belief. The idea and belief tells me that if I hold a ball out and release it, it will fall to the ground and it may even bounce a few times. But if I am honest, I cannot know what will happen. It may stay suspended. It may float away. It could happen. I don’t know. No amount of evidence can tell me for certain what will happen in the future.

It is true for gravity, and it is even more (and far more obviously) true for our human and planetary evolution.

It is a nice idea that we will evolve towards becoming more awake to who and what we are, but that is all it is. If solid data seems to support it, then it may help us navigate that terrain. But if data does not seem to support it, then we can let it go.

Personally, I cannot see much solid data for it yet, in spite of all the anecdotal support from certain groups and people. At best, it seems flimsy, and also as wishful thinking. (It may also be one of the side-effects of an initial awakening process, a projection out there of what is more truly going on right here.) We believe in it, because we want it to be true. And we do so without exploring the consequences for ourselves and others of that belief.

As an idea, as a map clearly seen as having only limited and temporary value, it may turn out useful, but maybe not yet. And as a belief, it brings stress and dissonance as any other belief.