When I am the most important one for another

Merlina, our beloved cat, helped me get something more viscerally.

For her, I was one of the two or three most important beings in the world. When I was with her, I was the most important being in her world. It was very clear2.

How can that not wake up a sense of awe, reverence, and responsibility in me? How can that not change my behavior to be more attentive and wanting to make her life the best possible?

I AM THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON TO THE ONE I AM WITH

That’s how it is in my life in general. I am the most important person for my spouse. When I talk with someone, I am (very likely) the most important person in the world for that person at that moment. They are giving me their precious time and attention. They chose to give their attention to me over all other beings in the world. I become an important presence in their world.

If I am getting this viscerally, how does it change how I am with that person? Am I more present? More attentive? More interested in them and their world? Less distracted by my plans, agendas, and hangups?

I am far from “perfect” in this, but realizing it and getting it more viscerally is doing something with me, and I wish for it to change me and how I am with others.

THE OTHER IS CONSCIOUSNESS TO THEMSELVES

The other wing on this bird is realizing and getting viscerally that the other is fundamentally consciousness like myself. To myself, I am consciousness operating through and as this body1. The world as I perceive it happens within and as the consciousness I am. That’s very likely the case for all beings.

We are all fundamentally consciousness to ourselves. We operate through whatever body is here – human, cat, insect, or whatever it is. To us, the world happens within and as the consciousness we are. We are a world.

That too opens up a sense of awe, reverence, and curiosity about myself and the other. It does something to me. To the extent I stay with this noticing and deepen into it, it transforms me and how I am with others and in the world.

ONGOING EXPLORATION

As usual, this is an ongoing exploration.

There is a lot of room for deepening and maturing into it, in my case.

And that’s part of the exploration and the adventure.

DIRECT NOTICING AND IMAGINATION

This is an example of a combination of direct noticing and imagination, as so much is.

I notice my nature. I am fundamentally consciousness and the world to me happens within and as this consciousness. That’s the direct noticing.

I imagine that others are that way too, whether they notice or not, and stay with that imagination and let it work on me. That’s the imagination part of it. It’s making use of projections.

It’s similar to being the most important person to the other. It comes from noticing that it’s that way for me. When I am with someone, that person is the most important being in the world to me whether I want to or not. That’s the noticing. And I imagine it’s the same for others. That’s making use of imagination and projections.

(1) This body happens to be human with a particular identity but it could be any other body of any species. That realization itself is transformative. The consciousness I am could, if things were a little different, function through and as any of the bodies out there. In some ways, it does since consciousness – pure consciousness – is very likely the same everywhere.

(2) Maybe it was more clear because she was not an imagination-fascinated human. She was more here and now. She didn’t get lost in her imagination about the past or future. She was here with me. I was her world.

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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How I visualize the future

I notice I use visualizations of the future in a few different ways.

In daily life, I regularly visualize future scenarios to help me orient and function in the world.

I sometimes intentionally visualize a particular future to find what resonates with me, what feels deeply right for me, and what feels alive and juicy for me. This is a kind of communication with myself.

The third is outside of regular psychology. I visualize a particular future to sense if life is moving in that direction, to get a sense of how much traction it has in life. This one is more about sensing and receptivity.

Yet another is a combination of the two previous. I test out something juicy and alive for me to see if life seems to move in that direction. If there is some traction, I may stay with it for a while as a kind of prayer. As a kind of invitation for life (and me) to move in that direction.

A. THE ONE THAT HAPPENS IN DAILY LIFE

I visualize the future as part of functioning in daily life. It helps me orient, plan, and explore options and possibilities. I see myself making lunch. Writing an email. Going for a walk. Taking a trip. If I am drawn to do it, and I don’t see a good reason to not do it, I do it.

If an imagination about the future has a charge and seems stressful, I recognize it as imagination. It’s not the future. It’s created by my mind. If it has a charge, it means it is fueled by my fears and/or hopes and comes from something unresolved in me. Sometimes, I also do a more thorough inquiry into them to find what’s genuinely more true for me.

B. VISUALIZATIONS TO FIND WHAT RESONATES

Since my teens, I have – off and on – also engaged in intentional visualizations about the future.

For instance, I sometimes sit down to visualize an ideal day one or five years into the future, from waking up to going to sleep. This helps me connect with what’s juicy for me and helps me come alive. It opens options for me in my mind. It’s a way for me to explore what’s in me.

C. RECEPTIVITY AND FINDING WHERE LIFE SEEMS TO MOVE

This one goes outside of regular psychology and is more about receptivity and sensing.

I try out different visualizations of the future and sense where life seems to move. It’s a sensing that’s similar to sensing what’s going on with others at a distance, which I regularly use when I do distance healing. Some options don’t seem to have traction and some do.

This is usually quite accurate, although the future is always in movement so things change – as a little green wise guy once said.

D. VISUALIZATIONS AS A KIND OF PRAYER

There is also one that’s a combination of the two previous.

I find what resonates with me and feels juicy and alive for me. I test it out, and if there is a sense of some traction there, I may stay with it for a while. It’s a kind of prayer. An invitation for life – and me – to move in that direction, if it’s in the cards.

AN EXAMPLE

Here is a simple example of using visualizations to sense where life seems to move.

In my mid-twenties, my right-hand thumbnail split. I wasn’t able to fix it through conventional means or healing, and when I visualized it healing the visualization didn’t seem to have traction. Life didn’t seem to move in that direction.

One day in my thirties, I noticed that the visualization suddenly seemed to stick. It had traction for the first time. So I stayed with it for a while to invite it in and give that possibility more intention. (As a kind of prayer.)

A few days later, I went to the cabin and soon experienced strong pain under that thumbnail. I went to a small emergency room nearby, and the doctor dismissed my concern. I went back to the cabin, and the pain grew stronger. It was strong enough so I had trouble sleeping. One or two days later, the thumbnail fell off. Turns out, an infection under the thumbnail had put pressure on it so it eventually detached. When it grew back, it was in one piece as it was before the injury.

The sense of the visualization having traction turned out to be accurate. Life was moving in that direction, although I couldn’t have foreseen how it would happen.

This is a small example, but I like it since it’s clear and concrete and did not do anything to make it happen. I just sensed and stayed with the visualization, and then life unfolded in a certain way.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Coming to my senses

Why do we say “coming to our senses”?

Likely because there is a sanity we can find by literally coming to our senses, and people throughout time have noticed it and found the expression useful and insightful.

GOING OUT OF OUR SENSES

We inflict suffering and discomfort on ourselves by going into fantasies and taking them as true. We imagine a painful past, a scary future, something uncomfortable happening somewhere else. We even put a layer of interpretation on what’s right here.

Right now, I am sitting in a quiet room with sunlight through the window, a candle on the table, and a cup of warm tea. And I can imagine painful past experiences and childhood. I can imagine something terrible happening in the future. I imagine others living a better and more happy and fulfilling life. And I can imagine that all of those imaginations are real and true and define who I am, and I can get lost in all of it.

COMING TO MY SENSES

Instead, I can come to my senses. I can notice the room I am in. The textures, colors, flickering light, smells, the sensation of my legs on the seat and my feet on the floor.

I can notice what’s here in my senses. I can notice what’s here in my imagination. And I can notice the difference between the two. I can notice that what’s here in my mental field is literally imagination. It’s a collection of labels, interpretations, stories, and so on. It’s full of questions about the world. It’s not reality itself. (Although it can become a reality for me if I get lost in it.) None of it is a final, full, or absolute truth. Reality is always different from and more than my imaginations.

That brings a kind of sanity. It helps me ground in what’s here. It helps release charge out of the imaginations.

EXPLORING IT MORE THOROUGHLY

And it may help to investigate this more thoroughly. I can explore what’s in each of my sense fields and how my mental field creates an overlay of labels, stories, and so on, and how those are all questions about the world to help me orient and navigate. They are not anything more. I can also investigate specific stories more thoroughly and find what’s already more true for me (and more peaceful).

THE WISDOM IN COMMON SAYINGS

There is something a lot of wisdom in common expressions.

In this case, “coming to our senses” is a direct pointer to how we can ground, find more sanity, and be more kind to ourselves and others.

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The multiverse of sanity: Healing through alternate realities

The idea of alternate realities – alternate history, parallel worlds, the multiverse – has been popular in fiction for a while and sometimes also in imaginative science.

And we can make use of alternate realities for healing as well.

Here are a couple of examples from my own process:

NEW PARENT DYNAMICS

In our consensus reality, my parents have been married since well before my birth.

And for a while now, it has come to me to imagine my parents as divorced for a long time and with new families, and explore how that is for me and how I am in that context.

Here, I find myself new as well, and I am enjoying it. I feel lighter. Freer. With input from more adults in my life. With a richer and more varied extended family. More people to connect with. More free from the strong dynamic between my parents that has been difficult for me since my childhood.

I enjoy feeling into it and allowing it to work on me and perhaps even transform me.

As with so much else, this exploration is something that emerged on its own and I have consciusly joined in with it. It may have emerged because I have inquired into how it would be if my parents divorced early in my life. I imagine it would be OK and perhaps even good for me in some ways.

Since I don’t live with them, my inner world is where they mostly live. And in my inner world, they can be anyone. So why not choose something that feels healing and live in that world for a while and allow it to work on me? (And, in reality, to me it’s all in my inner world no matter what.)

HEALTHY SCHOOLMATES

When I was in elementary and middle school, I was in a class with a good deal of bullying – mostly of the psychological variety. And I experienced being on the receiving end of it, along with others. (Including my favorite teacher who had a breakdown and disappeared for several months.)

This impacted me and created or reinforced social anxiety, general anxiety, low social self-esteem, and so on.

So it’s something I have been working on, including through a kind of alternate reality.

I see and feel myself back in elementary school. I visualize the bullies, and I visualize them as completely whole and healthy, and kind and wise. I visualize them as the most whole and healthy and even awake version of themselves. (This is a potential they have in them so it’s not that much of a stretch.) And I interact with them and dialog with them here and listen to what they have to say.

For instance, some of them talk about having a difficult situation at home, and they take out their pain on others, including me since I seemed to have a much easier life. (I was good at school, I could answer the teacher’s questions, my family had money and resources, we had a good house, I was athletic, fast and strong, and so on.) Others talk about feeling intimidated by the same people, and joining in with them in the bullying so they themselves would avoid being a target. They all say they love me, are genuinely sorry for what happened, and see the potential in me for full healing from it.

HEALING THROUGH ALTERNATE REALITIES

As mentioned above, to me the world and the past happen within me. So why not explore some alternate realities? Why not feel into how it is for me and how I am in that world? Why not stay with it for a while, revisit it now and then, and allow it to work on me and see what happens?

This is a kind of exploration that reflects and is reflected in our culture’s current interest in alternate realities, alternate history, parallel worlds, and multiverses.

A FEW ADDITIONAL NOTES

I imagine some may see this as “just fantasy” and for that reason not having any effect or being a flight from reality.

For me, it’s different.

It certainly has an effect when I imagine it and explore how I am in that reality and allow it to work on me. It may not be enough in itself for deep and thorough healing, but it’s a piece of the puzzle. It pulls in the right direction. It creates a new context that’s very conducive to deep healing.

And it’s not that separated from this version of the world. My parents very well could have been divorced. And these classmates had and have the potential for being whole, healed, kind, wise, and even awake. I am just connecting with those versions of the world.

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Stewart Brand: This present moment used to be the unimaginable future

We cannot accurately imagine the future for two reasons.

One is that our imagination is made up of mental images and words. These are different in nature from what they refer to. And they are, by necessity, very simplistic while what they refer to is immensely rich and complex. They are as different from what they refer to as a map is different from the terrain.

Our individual and collective lives, and the world and this universe, is so rich and complex we cannot predict the future with any certainty. And much of what happens is something we didn’t and couldn’t have imagined.

This present literally used to be our unimaginable future.

All made up

Sometimes, I hear someone say it’s a made up word. What they mean, of course, is that someone recently made up the word. And really, it’s just a reminder that all words are made up. And that all ideas are made up as well. Anything imagined – including all words and images and all abstractions and ideas – are made up.

All religions, philosophy, science, worldviews, self-images, stories about anything and anyone, are made up. It doesn’t mean they may not be meaningful, or useful, or work well to help us orient and function in the world. Many of them do some or all of those things for us.

But it does mean they are made up. They don’t reflect any absolute or final truth about the world or ourselves or anything else. And they are passed on through generations making up culture, religion, and worldviews that is shared by most or many in a society, and are then made to look final and absolute since so many take them for granted.

Through inquiry, we can begin to undo this sense that these ideas are final or absolute. We get to see how our mind creates and recreates them for itself here and now. We may get to see how imaginations combine with sensations where imagination gives a sense of meaning to sensations, and sensations give charge and a sense of solidity to the imaginations. We get to see how they must have been initially imagined by someone, perhaps a long time ago. We get to see how they are passed on from parents to child, and society to individual. We get to see how they can seem real and absolute just because they are shared by many in a society. We may find that we can relate to them more intentionally and use them more as seems appropriate. The charge in them may even lessen or fall away.

Sensations combined with imagination

Imagination gives sensations a meaning. Sensations that are not associated with a story are easily recognized as sensations. And sensations associated with a story seem to mean something.

Similarly, sensations give imagination a sense of substance, solidity, and reality. Imagination that’s not associated with sensations are easily recognized as imagination. When imagination is associated with sensations, it seems real, solid, and substantial. It has a charge.

Any stress, trauma, deficient or inflated self, perceived threat, compulsion, and attraction or repulsion is created in this way. That’s why – in the Living Inquiries – it’s helpful to look at each image and word making up whatever we explore, and notice and take time to feel the associated sensations.

That’s how the mind reprograms itself. That’s how it shifts from (a) taking the collection of imaginations and sensations making up an experience as real, solid and unquestionable, to (b) recognize the separate elements as just that – distinct and separate. That’s how the charge softens or is released. That’s how healing happens. That’s what gives more clarity.

Through this, we also get to see the process from sensations appearing to mean something, to sensations being revealed as sensations inherently without meaning. And we get to see how imagination that seems real and solid is revealed as imagination without an inherent reality to its story.

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The imagination of my senses

When I am caught in thought, I am – in a sense – caught in the imagination of my senses. I am caught in the story created by mental images (sight), words (sight, hearing), and mental imaginations of sound (hearing).

– From a previous post.

It’s as if the mind borrows from the sensory input, and makes it into an imagination on order to process, explore, and navigate the world. Each sense is mirrored by imagination, and used to think – not only in words, but also in images and reflections of other senses.

I imagine that, for instance, a bat may imagine using a reflection of sonar senses. It may even dream using imagined sonar input. And possible beings from other places in the Universe may have their own quite different senses, and use an imagination of these to process, navigate, and think.

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Playfulness, wisdom and a toy piglet

Towards the end of his life, Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss had a toy piglet. It is perhaps a little odd for a grown and respected man to have a stuffed toy.

What is even more odd is that he and his wife treated it as a child, and wrote a book about him.

It is easy to dismiss it as the folly of an old man. But is that all?

Playfulness was always central in his life, and his playfulness in relating to his piglet is a teaching in itself. It is an invitation for us all to find more playfulness in life, including in how we use our imagination.

And there is also wisdom here.

When we interact with others, we usually assume we interact based on who they are. But we are really interacting with them based on who we imagine they are. When Arne Næss treated his piglet as a living being, it becomes clear that he is really interacting with his imagined piglet. This is an invitation for us to take a closer look at this in our own life.

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Knots and reimagination

stringbagdiagrams

There are many ways to work with knots.

I can allow the experience that comes up, as is, with kindness. I can inquire into stories around it and find what is more honest for me. I can act with more integrity in the world.

And if the knot is particularly sore, I can also reimagine my response in situations that triggered the knot. I can imagine myself in the situation, now acting from more clarity, wisdom and kindness.  (This is similar to revisiting a dream through active imagination). When I do that, I notice a further shift into a sense of clarity, honesty, relief, and alignment with what is more true for me.

What is a knot?

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Own world of images

The world I see and relate to is my own world of images. It is what happens in the sense fields, with an overlay of images to help this human self orient and function in the world.

This mental field overlay creates a sense of extent (space) and continuity (time) and places whatever happens within that sense of space and time. It creates images of a me as this human self, and images of others and a wider world. And it creates images of a separate I as a doer or observer.

All of this is my own world of images, helping this human self to make sense of and function in the world.

And I can notice it as it happens. I can notice that overlay of time and space. Of a me relating to other people and the wider world in general. Of an I doing as this human self, or observing as awareness itself.

I also notice how all drama happens within this world of images. It comes from images of me/I relating to images of others and the wider world in a certain way. It comes from relationships between images of me and the wider world, when these relationships do not align with images of how it should be.

It is amazing and beautiful.

And I notice how I see myself in three ways here…

I see and relate to my own world of images, whether I recognize them as an imagined overlay or take them as true.

I see qualities and dynamics out there, in the wider world and the past and future, that are also here, in this human self.

And all I see is awakeness itself. What happens in the sense fields and the overlay of images, including the images of me and I, is all the play of awakeness.

There is a great freedom in noticing this, especially as it happens in daily life. I notice that all I relate to is my own world of images. So I can make use of it a practical way. I can use this world of images as a temporary guide for this human self in the world. But I don’t have to take it seriously. I know it is only my own world of images. There is no truth in it.

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A world of images

Exploring the sense fields, it is pretty easy to get a sense of how we imagine the world.

The mental field creates an overlay of images of what is here (in the other sense fields) and what is not here.

And that world of images is – in a very real sense – my world, when they are taken as true.

Whatever drama I experience all comes from the characteristics and relationships among these images. It comes from the characteristics of each image, and how it relates to all the other images.

In the beginning, it may be easier to notice this through a sense field exploration session. Sitting or lying down, and notice how the mental field creates image overlays on each of the other sense fields (interpretations), and also how the past and future is imagined in the same way.

After a while, this happens throughout daily life as well. As I go about my daily life, I notice the image overlay on the other sense fields (interpretations of what is happening) – and also the image overlay that is free from the other sense fields. (Images of past, future, what is not present in a physical sense.)

Again, it is pretty simple, but can have a profound effect when recognized throughout daily life. I notice – in an immediate way – how the drama is created and happens within my own image overlay.

It is, quite literally, imagined.

If it is not recognized as imagined, there is a sense of being caught up in drama. The image overlay – including that of a doer and observer – seems very substantial and real.

When it is recognized as imagined, the layer of drama tends to weaken or fall away. And what is left is the image overlay as a very helpful – and essential – tool for my human self to function in the world.

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Imaginary

Our world is imaginary. Again, it is simple but there is still a lot to explore there.

My world is imaginary. The world I relate to and function within is imaginary. It is my mental field creation.

There are sense impressions – sound, sight, smell, taste, sensation and even thought itself – and then a mental field overlay of images. Interpretations. Questions. Stories.

It is essential for our human self to function in the world. And it is – quite literally – the world my human self functions within.

If these overlays are taken as real and substantial, there is stress and drama. And when they are recognized as overlays, as they happen, they are revealed as simple tools. The drama falls away.

It is simple. And there is also no end to the complexity I find when I explore it in more detail.  

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