Nicolette Sowder: May we raise children who love the unloved things

May we raise children who love the unloved things

May we raise children who love the unloved things-the dandelion, the worms and spiderlings.

Children who sense the rose needs the thorn

& run into rainswept days the same way they turn towards sun…

And when they’re grown & someone has to speak for those who have no voice

may they draw upon that wilder bond, those days of tending tender things

and be the ones.

– Nicolette Sowder, May we raise children who love the unloved things

Nicolette Sowder is the creator of Wilder Child and Wildschooling.

And yes, I love this poem.

I love anyone who loves the unloved things.

I love finding love for the unloved things in nature, in people, and in myself.

FINDING LOVE FOR MY OWN EXPERIENCE

For instance, it seems that any part of me that experiences stress, unease, discomfort, and so on, and goes into reactivity, does so because it’s unseen, unfelt, and unloved. Meeting it with love makes all the difference. I can meet it as I would like to be met when I feel that way. (When I identify with those parts of me.)

And to really meet it with love, I can do a bit more. I can dialog with it, listen to it, hear what it has to say, and see how I can shift my relationship with it to be more helpful. I can also find what’s more true than its familiar stressful stories, and help it find it for itself. And we can both notice that my nature is the same as its nature. We share nature. (AKA consciousness, we are both consciousness, we are the same, it happens within an as what I am.)

FINDING LOVE FOR THE UNLOVED

Finding love for the unloved – in people, nature, and ourselves – is crucial for our own well-being.

It’s crucial for creating a society that works better for everyone and especially those less fortunate.

And it’s crucial for the survival of our species and civilization. We are now facing the consequences of not doing this, and not speaking up for those without a voice, and life is showing us that our own survival depends on it.

Life is giving us a masterclass in finding love for the unloved and giving a voice to the voiceless.

It’s up to us if we realize what this class is about, and whether we learn and change and transform as needed.

Why I rarely talk about unconditional love

I rarely talk about unconditional love.

Why? Isn’t it beautiful? Something to aspire to? Something we all want?

Maybe.

IT’S OUR NATURE

Yes, it is our nature. It’s what we most fundamentally are.

To myself, I am capacity for the world, and I am what the world to me happens within and as.

I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

And another word for oneness is love.

It’s the love of oneness for itself in all the different forms it takes.

It’s a love that’s unsentimental and not dependent on fleeting feelings or states.

It’s the love of one hand removing a splinter from the other.

OFTEN CLOUDED OVER

Even if it’s our nature, it’s also often covered over by our very human and messy hangups, issues, traumas, and the ways we try to cope with life.

It’s there. It shines through.

And it’s filtered by our very human messiness. And that means it often takes a form that looks like anything but love.

ASPIRING TO UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

There is nothing inherently wrong in aspiring to unconditional love, although it often comes with some pitfalls.

We may think it’s something we need to create and not find and uncover.

We may make it into an ideology and use it to get a sense of safety.

We may use it to cover up our very human messiness.

If we aspire to live from unconditional love and talk about it a lot, it’s sometimes a sign of compensating for a sense of lack. We know we often behave like a jerk, and want to be more accepted and loved, so we use “unconditional love” as a strategy to get this. We use it as an identity to mask our humanness. We make it into an ideology. We make the idea of it into a shield.

WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?

So what’s the alternative?

Here are just a few I am drawn to…

Acknowledging that my human self is messy, confused, scared, and has a lot of issues, hangups, and traumas.

Befriending the different parts of myself and experience. Exploring how it is to meet it with more receptivity, curiosity, and kindness.

Find some authenticity and be more honest with me and others. Be vulnerable. Speak what’s true for me as a confession. (It’s often a confession about something in me my personality doesn’t particularly like.)

Notice and rest in the noticing of my nature, and allow this to work on me and transform me in whatever way it does.

Heart-centered practices help me shift my relationship with myself, others, and life.

Examine and inquire into stressful thoughts and identities.

And see what happens. How does it all unfold?

Where am I still hung up? Can I be honest about it? Can I meet it with some kindness?

The seed for this article: Seeing someone saying “It’s all about unconditional love” in an apparently defensive way and using it as an ideology.

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Byron Katie: When you walk in a dream and know it’s a dream, that’s love

When you walk in a dream and know it’s a dream, that’s love.

– Byron Katie

Night dreams and waking life both happen, to me, within and as the consciousness I am. In that sense, waking life and dreams are not very different.

And waking life, to me, is interpreted by my overlay of stories making sense of it, from the most basic stories that outline, differentiate, and label, to the more elaborate ones that tell intricate stories. This too is a kind of dream, it’s a layer of stories created by my own mind.

When I recognize waking life as happening within and as consciousness, as happening within and as what I am, there is love. It’s all happening within and as oneness. It’s a love that comes from recognition and is not dependent on feelings or states.

Similarly, when I recognize my stories as stories, and viscerally get that they are stories, it opens for love. It opens for receptivity, curiosity, and love. And this goes for any stories – about myself, others, situations, the world, life, the divine, my nature, and anything else.

Meeting my reactions with kindness

Or I can meet how I respond to anyone and anything with kindness and love, which shifts me into love for myself, others, and the world. It invites in love for myself, others, and the world. It helps me notice my nature as love.

Why would we want to do that? Because it feels good. It certainly feels better than the alternatives. And a clear heart supports a clear mind and clear actions. (We may find the three are the same.) And we may also find it’s coming home. It’s our nature when it’s unfiltered by being caught up in reactions.

How do we do it? There are training wheels. Here are some I find helpful: tonglen, ho’oponopono, the heart / Jesus prayer, inquiry (The Work of Byron Katie, Kiloby / Living inquiries), and the befriend & awaken process.

And what if I can’t always do it? Meet what comes up, the reaction to it, with kindness, and see what happens.

Our nature: From conceptual understanding to noticing to finding ourselves as it, and living from it 

This is a variation on an often revisited topic for me, in these writings and in my life since my teens.

When it comes to exploring our own nature – and what we are to ourselves, in our own first-person experience –there are several shifts that can happen. 

The main ones are from conceptual understanding, to direct noticing, to finding ourselves as it. And through it all, we have living from all of this as best we can and inviting our human self and psyche to transform within it.

CONCEPTUAL UNDERSTANDING

We can have a conceptual understanding of our nature and what we are to ourselves, in our own first-person experience.

If presented in a down-to-earth way, it can make logical sense to many if not most.

Some may find it fascinating but of no practical value and nothing to keep exploring. Some may find it fascinating and continue to explore it conceptually, and that won’t bring any real or thorough transformation. Some may use it as a starting point for a more immediate exploration. And some may first notice or find themselves as their nature, and then explore and express it more conceptually.

And any conceptual understanding is refined through our own familiarity with the terrain, and that’s also what grounds it and keeps it real.

DIRECT NOTICING

Then we may directly notice our nature. We notice it in immediacy.

We may notice our nature as capacity. Our nature is capacity for the world as it appears to us. It’s what allows any and all of our experiences to happen. It’s the nothing that allows all things.

We may notice that the world, to us, happens within and as what we are. Any experience – of this human self, others, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as (what a thought may call) consciousness.

We may notice we are oneness and the world, to us, happens within and as this oneness.

We may find that another word for oneness is love. This is the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. And it comes from noticing and finding ourselves as our more fundamental nature, and it’s not dependent on states and feelings.

With some structured pointers, many if not most can notice this, and it can happen relatively quickly. Some will think it’s too simple and look for something else that fits their preconceived ideas. Some will find it interesting but not be drawn to explore it further or explore how to live from it. And some will get t and continue to notice and clarify and explore how to live from it in daily life.

In my experience, Headless experiments, the Big Mind process, and exploring my sense fields are practices that most effectively help me find and notice my nature, along with basic meditation.

FINDING OURSELVES AS IT

Following this, there may be a shift into finding ourselves as capacity, oneness, and so on.

Our metaphorical center of gravity shifts into being our nature. This is what we already and always are, and now our conscious experience of ourselves is more aligned with our more fundamental nature.

These shifts are always grace. We cannot make it happen, although we can prepare the ground through noticing and clarifying and through our sincerity and receptivity. We can also prepare the ground through simple practices like inquiry and basic meditation.

It seems that there is always more to clarify and more to be revealed. Life keeps revealing more of itself to itself through and as us.

LIVING FROM IT

And through it all, we have living from what we notice or what we find ourselves as.

How is it to live from noticing my nature as capacity and oneness?

How is it to live as capacity? As oneness? As love?

How is that expressed here and now in this situation?

What in my human self needs to heal and mature so I can live more fully from and as this?

Living from and as our nature is greatly supported by inquiry and heart-centered practices, and also following some basic ethical guidelines which help us notice when we are out of alignment.

In general, the more our human self is psychologically healed and mature, the easier it is to live from what we notice – or find ourselves as – in more situations and areas of life.

HAPPENING WITHIN AND AS ONENESS

All of this is happening within and as oneness.

In a purely conceptual understanding, oneness takes itself as primarily this human self and doesn’t notice itself or its nature. It may have an intuition or sense of what it is, which fuels an intellectual curiosity.

When there is a direct noticing, oneness still operates from identification as a separate self and the center of gravity is in this identification, while it also notices its own nature.

Finally, oneness rests in finding itself as oneness. Love rests in finding itself as love. Capacity rests in finding itself as capacity. The center of gravity has shifted more into its more fundamental nature.

INDIVIDUAL PROCESS

How this looks is different in each case. This process is as individual as each of us.

Sometimes, the conceptual understanding is first and sometimes it comes after some of the other shifts.

Sometimes, we explore living from and as this through different spiritual practices before there is any direct noticing or taste.

Sometimes, the noticing or being is far ahead of living from it. While others may live from love and clarity based on a good heart and maturity, and perhaps only an intuitive sense of their nature. 

ONGOING PROCESS

There is always further to go in all of this. There is no finishing line.

We may intentionally explore all of this and put effort into it. And anything that happens – any interest, fascination, exploration, guidance, and anything else including apparent setbacks – is ultimately grace. 

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Some aspects of what I am: Capacity, oneness, human self, etc.

When I explore what I am in my own first-person experience, I find a few different aspects.

CAPACITY FOR THE WORLD

I find that my nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am most fundamentally capacity for any and all experience that’s here and now. I am capacity for what’s happening in my sense fields.

I am capacity for any content of experience, whether it’s what a thought calls this human self, others, the wider world, or anything else.

There is a big difference between (a) understanding this conceptually, (b) noticing this as my nature, (c) finding myself as this capacity, and (d) deepening in finding myself as this capacity.

CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE ESSENCE OF ALL EXPERIENCE

I find myself fundamentally as consciousness. To me, the world happens within and as what I am, it happens within and as (what a thought may call) consciousness.

The essence of any and all experience is consciousness. The nature of any and all content of experience, to me, is consciousness.

As some say, whatever we experience – including what our personality finds the most unpleasant and uncomfortable – is a flavor of the divine.

Again, there is a difference between (a) understanding it conceptually, (b) noticing it in a general way or when my mind is calm, (c) noticing that triggers and what’s triggered is also consciousness, and (d) finding myself as this consciousness that forms itself into all of this, including more reactive patterns.

ONENESS

All my experiences happen within my sense fields. It happens within and as what I am.

To me, the world as it appears to me in immediacy happens within and as what I am.

To me, I am oneness and the world happens within and as this oneness.

Here too, there is a difference between (a) understanding it at a story level, (b) noticing it, (c) keep noticing it when my psychology gets more reactive, and (d) finding myself more fundamentally as this oneness forming itself into all content of experience.

LOVE

When I find myself as oneness – and oneness forming itself into the world as it appears to me here and now – leads to something else. It leads to finding myself as a love that’s not dependent on any states or feelings. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

Here, the difference is also between (a) conceptual understanding, (b) noticing it, (c) finding myself as it, and (d) how wholehearted the intention and willingness to live from this is. And how our human self is put together also plays a big role. The more healed and mature this human self is, the easier it is to live from this love. This love that comes from noticing and finding ourselves as oneness, and is independent on states or feelings.

THIS HUMAN SELF

In a conventional sense, to (most) others, and to myself when I mentally take on that identify for myself, I am this human self in the world.

In a practical sense in the world, I am one part of the content of my experience. I am this human self as it appears in my sense fields, including my mental representations.

It’s not what I more fundamentally am when I look in my own first-person experience. But it is what I am in a conventional sense and to most others, and it is an interesting and fascinating identity and role to play.

Here, the difference is in how I live from the noticing above. What would love do? What would oneness noticing itself do? How is it to notice that this contraction and discomfort is a flavor of the divine? How is it to notice that what’s here now, including triggers and reactivity, is happening within and as consciousness? How is it to find myself as that consciousness? And so on. This can get more and more finely grained.

SEAMLESS WHOLE

What these words point to is all a seamless whole.

This differentiation only happens through an overlay of mental representations.

It can be done in many other ways, and the way I do it here reflects my culture, the subcultures I am familiar with and resonate with, and my current noticing and not-noticing.

ONGOING EXPLORATION

This is all an ongoing exploration.

I am very aware that I have much further to go here, especially in more consistently finding myself as all of this in challenging situations, and living from it in those situations.

And I am aware that although practices and conscious exploration are important, they only go so far. Grace is what allows for noticing and finding myself as this, living from it more consciously, and what allows old conditioning to soften and fall away so it’s easier to more consciously live from it.

This is ultimately life and consciousness exploring itself. Life and consciousness forms itself into all of this. Life and consciousness shifts when it’s ready. And these shifts are typically surprising and familiar and it takes time to get used to the new terrain that life reveals itself (to itself) as.

There is no finishing line. There is always more to clarify and deepen into. There is always more to find healing for. There is always more maturing that can happen. There are always more shifts in perception and identity that can and will happen.

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Some aspects of what we are – oneness, love, bliss, capacity, and so on

I sometimes use words like oneness, love, bliss, capacity, and so on.

How do these appear in my own immediate noticing? In what ways do they relate to each other?

OUR HUMAN SELF

In a conventional sense, we are a human self in the world.

It’s not wrong, although it may also not be the whole picture.

What are we more fundamentally, in our own first-person experience?

What do I find when I look, perhaps guided by some pointers or basic meditation?

CAPACITY

In basic meditation, we may notice that all content of experience is always changing.

Am I most fundamentally something within this changing content of experience? This human self? Any idea of being a me or I or observer or consciousness?

Or am I more fundamentally capacity for all these experiences?

How is to keep noticing this aspect of what I am?

How is it to live from this noticing?

ONENESS

When I find myself as capacity, I also tend to notice that the world as it appears to me happens within and as what I am.

I can also explore my sense fields, and find that my world happens within and as my sense fields. And from here, there is a small shift to find that my world happens within and as what I am.

My nature is oneness. It always was, it just didn’t notice.

In my first-person experience, this human self and the wider world happen within and as what I am.

WHY DON’T WE ALWAYS NOTICE OUR NATURE?

Why don’t we always notice this?

Perhaps because of the way our mind relates to its own overlay of thoughts and ideas on the world. Thoughts and ideas differentiate, and that helps this human self orient and function in the world. And when the mind holds some of these thoughts and ideas as true, it identifies with the viewpoint of these thoughts and ideas.

And this creates a sense of an I and Other. It creates a sense of being something or someone within the content of experience. It creates a sense of most fundamentally being this human self with identities and roles.

It creates separation consciousness.

DIFFICULT TO PUT INTO WORDS

This is difficult to put into words.

Not because it’s mysterious or we don’t have words for it.

The function of thoughts and ideas is to point to something within the content of experience, and this is not anything within the content of experience.

The function of thoughts is to split and differentiate, and this is what allows it all and takes the form of it all.

It’s difficult to put into words because the function of words is different. Words cannot capture the simple wholeness of what we are since they are aimed at describing things within the content of experience. Their function is to split.

LOVE

How does love come into this?

Love is what happens when we live from noticing what we are.

Love is what happens when oneness notices itself and lives from this noticing through and as this human self in the world.

It’s a love inherent in what we are, and it’s not dependent on any states or feelings. (Apart from noticing what we are and aiming at living from it here and now.) It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. It’s a pragmatic love.

This will always be somewhat imperfect since it’s filtered through this human self with its remaining hangups, wounds, traumas, and so on.

BLISS

There is a quiet bliss in noticing our nature and what we are. Or, more accurately, in what we are noticing itself.

I am not sure where this bliss comes from. It seems inherent in what I am.

Perhaps it’s the quiet joy in our nature noticing itself as all there is.

TRANSFORMATION

For most of us, most or all parts of our psyche is formed within separation consciousness. They are formed at a time when we take ourselves to most fundamentally be a separate human self.

So when we notice our nature and keep noticing it, our human self is invited to transform.

The different parts of our psyche are invited to shift from separation consciousness to oneness.

This is not always a pleasant process. It involves meeting – seeing, acknowledging, feeling, allowing – all the different parts of us operating from separation consciousness. And this includes what we label hangups, wounds, and trauma.

It’s not necessarily what we, as an imagined separate self, thought we signed up for. But it’s what we get, and it’s ultimately what allows us to live from noticing our nature in a more free, clear, and mature way.

HOW DO WE NOTICE?

How can we explore our nature? How can we find what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience?

What I have found most helpful is…

Basic meditation. Notice and allow my experience as it is here and now. Notice it’s already noticed and allowed. Aligned with the noticing and allowing that’s already here before any intention or stories come in.

Headless experiments. What am I in my own first-person experience? What do I find when I engage in these playful and simple experiments?

Big Mind process. What do I find I am when my attention is guided by a series of simple questions? Do I find I am without any beginning or end? That time and space happen within and as me? That the world as it appears to me – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as what I am?

Sense field explorations. What do I find when I explore what happens in each sense field? What do I find when I see how the mental field (mental images and words) labels, interprets, and creates stories about what’s happening in the other sense fields? How is it to be aware of the mental field activities as innocent questions about the world and not any final or full or absolute truth?

Living inquiries. What do I find when I explore how the mind associates certain sensations and thoughts (mental images, words) so the sensations lend a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations? What do I find when I trace this back to my first memory of experience a specific association? What do I find when I explore underlying assumptions and see how my mind creates its experience of those? What do I find when I explore the most basic assumptions – about myself and reality – that I operate from?

Note: I wrote this on January 8, 2022, and didn’t publish it. I found it while searching for something else and thought I would publish it now. (I often don’t publish what I write here.)

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Joanna Macy: If the world is to be healed through human efforts, I am convinced it will be by… people whose love for this life is even greater than their fear

If the world is to be healed through human efforts, I am convinced it will be by ordinary people, people whose love for this life is even greater than their fear.

– Joanna Macy

That’s what creates any change. When our love is greater than our fear. When we realize that continuing will be more painful than making a change.

Cells and oneness

Someone I talked with brought up the idea that we are like cells in an organism. Just like a cell is a part of a larger organism, we – as human beings – are part of a larger organism. We are holons in larger holarchies, just as we are a holarchy for smaller holons. We are part of the seamless system of this planet and the universe and all of existence.

This is all accurate at a story level, in terms of science, and so on.

At the same time, we are something else. To ourselves, in our own first-person experience, we are capacity for the world as it appears to us. We are what the world – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as. We are oneness and love.

These two are complementary. In the world and as human beings and at a story level, we are like cells in a larger organism. To ourselves, when we look, we find we are capacity for the world as it appears to us, and what the world happens within and as. We are oneness and love, and we are the oneness and love that – to us – the world happens within and as.

Finding our value independent of who we are, what we do, and others

In our culture, we are often trained to find our value in our roles, actions, how we appear to others, and by comparing ourselves to others. 

So how do we find our value independent of all of this? 

BABIES!

A good start may be to notice that, for us, babies have immense value even if they don’t do much in the world (apart from pooping and eating) and even if they all are more or less the same. For us, they have an inherent value. So why wouldn’t it be that way for us? And everyone else? 

FINDING LOVE FOR OURSELVES

We can find genuine love for ourselves.

We can shift our self-talk in a more kind and wise direction. (What we wish we had received as children.)

We can do tonglen or ho’oponopono with ourselves as a whole or parts of ourselves that feel unloved or we find difficult to find love for.

We can befriend the painful parts of us, listen to what they have to say, have a dialog with them, give them what they really want (often love, safety, support, etc.), and so on. Just recognizing that there are parts of us having this experience, and not all of us, can shift our relationship with it.

And we can do the same for others. Since they are mirrors for us, finding genuine love for others – no matter who they are or what they do, or what roles they have in the world – helps us find genuine love for more parts of ourselves. 

EXAMINING PAINFUL STORIES

We can identify and inquire into painful beliefs and identities telling us we don’t have value. 

We can identify and inquire into any beliefs we have around ideas of value. This helps undo the whole construct for us. 

We can notice that any ideas of value and our own value (or lack thereof) are created by the mind. They are mental constructs and can only be found in our mental field. They come from our culture. They are not inherent in the world itself, or in ourselves as we are.  

FINDING WHAT WE MORE FUNDAMENTALLY ARE

We can find what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience.

We find ourselves as oneness and wholeness and not lacking anything. We find an immense value as what we are.

We find that all beings, most likely, are the same to themselves and have the same immense value.

We find it may be easier to recognize that any and all ideas about value are created by the mind and not inherent in what we are or anything is. 

And we may find the deep transformation that can happen when we notice our nature while also noticing and holding the parts of ourselves that feel unlovable and not valuable.

A NOTE ON WHY WE WOULD WANT TO FIND OUR VALUE INDEPENDENT OF ROLES ETC.

It’s not inherently wrong to find our value in our roles, actions, etc. But it is stressful. It means we are never quite enough. We always need to chase something. If life takes a turn so we lose our roles and ability to act in certain ways, it can be devastating to our sense of self-worth. And nobody benefits from that. Finding our value independent of all of this gives us a deeper sense of rest and we are more available to life. We are more able to follow our deeper guidance and what we genuinely love, and that typically benefits all of us.

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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.

The miracle of love

The miracle of love
Will take away your pain

– Eurythmics, the miracle of love

Yes, the miracle of love will take away your pain.

And this is the love we give the hurting parts of ourselves.

It’s the love we meet our own hurt with.

That’s the only love that can heal.

That’s the only love that can touch these parts of us.

We are the only one who is in the position to give this to us.

It may seem it’s the love from others that does this – whether it’s a person or divine – but that love only reminds us of our own love. When we receive that love, we give ourselves permission to love these hurting parts of ourselves.

Living from an idea of awakening

This is perhaps obvious, as so much here, but worth mentioning.

We can live from a direct noticing of our nature and what we are. (Capacity for our world, what everything to us happens within and as.)

We can live from our ideas about this.

And we can live from a mix of the two, and one more than the other at different times.

There is nothing wrong with this. It’s natural and innocent. And the images and ideas can be used as a springboard for a more direct noticing.

At the same time, it can be interesting and helpful to examine these mental images and ideas. As we do, they may lose their charge. We learn to recognize them. And we may learn to differentiate between our mental images and the actual direct noticing.

What are some of these mental images and ideas?

It may be awakening, oneness, love, capacity for the world, consciousness, awareness, and so on.

And how can we explore them?

There are many forms of inquiry we can use, either more spontaneous and organic, or more structured. Personally, I find Living Inquiries – a modern version of traditional Buddhist sense field inquiry – very helpful.

Brutally honest? Lovingly honest?

I find it interesting that “brutally honest” has been a common expression in our culture, and lovingly honest not so much.

Why is that? It may be because of a generally cynical view in our culture suggesting that truth and reality is unkind. We had the idea of original sin, that we are born with sin. (Christianity.) We had the idea of being brutal beasts beneath a veneer of civilization. (Some early views on evolution.) We had the idea that if we explore what’s unresolved in us, what we find won’t be kind or loving. (Early psychology.)

Fortunately, these days, this seems to be changing.

What more of us discover, when we explore this for ourselves, is innocence. For instance, when I explore what’s unresolved in me, I find innocence and confused love.

So maybe it’s time to change “brutally honest” for “lovingly honest”?

After all, there are ways to be lovingly honest – with ourselves and others. We all function better when we operate from truth, and especially when framed in a loving way.

How does loving honesty look? For me, it comes from being lovingly honest with myself. And as Adya says, that often takes the form of a kind of confession.

I may find what I really want by tracing wants back to the universal essentials. I may explore a contraction and find the unmet and unloved fear behind it, and the unfulfilled sense of lack (and then give that to that part of me). I may notice that quiet inner voice that guides me, free of fear and contractions.

Aspects of what we are

There are many ways to talk about the aspects of what we are.

Most of us would say, if asked, that we are this human self. And that’s not wrong.

And yet, in our first-person experience, we may find that we more fundamentally are something else. When we look, we may find we are capacity for our world, and what all of our experiences – of this human self and the wider world – happens within and as.

SENSE FIELDS

To us, all our experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything – happens within and as our sense fields. It happens within sensations, sight, sound, smell, taste, movement, and thought, and any other sense we wish to include.

Here, there is no inherent inner or outer. It’s all part of the same field. And it’s all happening within and as what we are.

Any boundaries, labels, and stories come from an overlay from our thought field. It’s created by mental images and words. It’s not inherent in the world or what these images and words refer to.

CAPACITY

Even more fundamentally, our nature is capacity for all of this. Capacity for any and all content of experience.

We are what allows all our experiences, and takes the form of all our experiences.

Our nature is capacity, or void, or emptiness, or no-thing, taking the form of the whole world as it appears to us.

ONENESS

When we explore the sense fields, and notice it’s a seamless whole, we also find oneness. The sense fields are a seamless whole, and happen within and and as what we are.

Siimilarly, when we find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, the world is a seamless whole. It’s one.

Our nature is this oneness inherent in our experience. It’s always here, although it may be temporarily covered up if the mind takes it’s mental overlay – with its boundaries, labels, and stories – as inherent in what it refers to.

LOVE

Another word for oneness is love. When oneness notices itself, it’s naturally expressed as love.

It’s a love independent of any feelings or states. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

And it can be, and often is, covered up by the mind holding (stressful) thoughts as true. It’s always here. It can be covered up. And the covering up is, in reality, love covering itself up. It’s part of the creativity and play of love.

STILLNESS & SILENCE

The world, to us, happens within and as what we are. It’s nature is it’s nature, independent of what temporary form it takes.

It doesn’t really move, even if it takes the form of movement. It’s silent even if it takes the form of all sorts of sound.

It’s inherently still and silent.

ALL THE MANY FORMS: HUMAN SELF & THE WIDER WORLD

All of this, to us, takes the form of all our experiences. All our inner experiences that are not on display to others. And all experiences of the wider world.

It takes the form of all our sensations, sights, sounds, smells, taste, emotions, thoughts, states, and so on. It takes the form of all beings as they appear to us. It takes the form of the universe as it appears to us, in bits and pieces.

ALL THE MANY FORMS: THE PLAY

All these many forms happen within and as what we are, and are expressions of the creativity and play of what we are.

That includes the mind not noticing what’s going on and temporarily taking itself to be a separate self, and something specific within itself.

And it includes the mind catching on to what’s going on, and finding itself as what’s described here, and perhaps far more.

HOW TO EXPLORE THIS

How can we explore this?

As I often mention, for me, the most direct and effective approaches are Headless experiments and the Big Mind process. These can give us a taste, and pointers for how to keep noticing and exploring it.

Investigating the sense fields, and how they combine to create our experinece, is another way that help undo many of the mental dynamics covering up the noticing of what we are. The Living Inquiries is a modern version of traditional Buddhist inquiry, and an effective way to explore this.

We can also do other forms of inquiry, like The Work of Byron Katie.

And there are innumerable practices that supports this noticing and living from this noticing, including heart-centered approaches (ho’oponopono, tonglen, prayer), body-centered approaches (yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema), energy-sentered approaches (Vortex Healing), and so on.

As with any exploration, it’s helpful to have a certain orientation (receptivity, curiosity, sincerity, playfulness, recognizing we are our own final authority), a rough map, and a guide or guides who is familiar with the terrain.

Photo: The beach in Santa Marta by Alejandra Lobelo

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From noticing oneness comes love, and from noticing capacity comes stillness & silence

We could say that love comes out of finding ourselves as oneness, and silence and stillness come out of finding ourselves as capacity.

– from a previous post

This is where words fall short, but I thought I would say a few more words about it here.

WHAT WE ARE IN OUR FIRST-PERSON EXPERIENCE

To others, and in many practical settings, we are this human self in the world. And yet, when we look more closely in our own first-person experience, we may find that – to ourselves – we are more fundamentally something else.

In our first-person experience, we may find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us.

We are capacity for our own field of experience. We are capacity for this human self, the wider world, and anything else that happens in this field of experience.

To us, this human self and the wider world happens within our field of experience. We are capacity for it all. And it’s all happening within and as what we are.

ONENESS & LOVE

We notice that this human self, the wider world, and any other experience happens within our field of experience. We find ourselves as capacity for it all.

Here, we may also notice that this field of experience is a seamless whole. It’s one.

Any sense of boundaries comes from our mental overlay of mental images and words.

And when we notice this, we may find that another side of oneness is love.

It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. It’s a love that comes from perception, from oneness, and is not dependent on feelings or states.

Living from this love is another matter. Our human self may still have hangups, beliefs, emotional issues, and so on that color our perception and life, and sometimes kick in more strongly and temporarily prevents us from living more intentionally from oneness and love. This is where healing comes in.

CAPACITY & STILLNESS / SILENCE

Finding ourselves as capacity is finding ourselves as, literally, nothing.

We are capacity for anything in our field of experience, and the capacity itself is nothing.

When we notice this capacity, it comes with a deep silence and stillness.

And resting in and as this can be immensely transforming for us.

I find myself as capacity. I find myself as this silence and stillness. I notice that a contraction in me is also this silence and stillness. Rest with and as it. And may notice that the contraction, in a sense, finds itself as this silence and stillness and tranforms and unravels within it.

ONENESS -> LOVE, CAPACITY -> SILENCE & STILLNESS

This is all in the borderland of being too intellectual, but there is also something real here.

When I find myself as capacity for the world, I also find that the world is one. My field of experience is one, and that oneness happens within and as what I am. Here, I also find it’s love. Oneness, when it’s noticed and lived from, is love. A love not dependent on feelings or states.

When I find myself as capacity, and notice and rest with this noticing, I find myself as silence and stillness.

From noticing oneness comes love, and from noticing capacity comes stillness & silence.

ESSENCE VS SPECIFICS

At least, that’s how it appears to me now, and it’s important to differentiate the essence from the details.

The essence of this is that, in our own first-person experience, we may more fundamentally be something else than our human self, and living from that noticing can be profoundly transforming for our perception, life in the world, and for our human self.

What many report is finding themselves as…. capacity for the world, what all content of experience happens within and as, oneness, love, or whatever other aspects people notice, and using whatever labels they find helpful and may be familiar with from their culture and tradition.

The specifics about how love and stillness & silence fit into all of this may be interesting and have some practical use. For instance, in my case, I find it easier to first find myself as capacity, and then notice the stillness & silence, at least for now. And it’s less important in the big picture.

Tomorrow, or next year, or in ten years, I may write about the specifics in a different way. For instance, I can find this stillness inherent in what I am without first noticing myself as capacity. This stillness in inherent in consciousness, independent of what forms this consciousness takes.

And others who explore this will also find and report slightly different things.

After all, when we create maps in this way, we may not be completely clear about the terrain, we notice different things as we get more familiar with it, we emphasize different aspects of the terrain, we may be influenced by other maps, and we use a language we are familiar with.

And that’s part of our collective exploration of what we are. The essence of what people report seems to be mostly universal, and what we each discover, emphasize, and how we talk about it may be a bit different. It all adds to the richness of our collective exploration.

EXPLORING THIS FOR OURSELVES

If we don’t notice this for ourselves, all of this can sound very abstract and even philosophical or a fantasy.

Fortunately, we can notice and explore this for ourselves, and it doesn’t even have to take that much time or be too difficult.

We can use the Headless experiments to find ourselves as capacity for the world.

The Big Mind process can help us find ourselves as all the different aspects of what we are, how they relate to each other, how we relate to all of them (what we already are), and so on.

We can use basic meditation to notice and allow our experiences, and perhaps especially our contractions, and notice it’s already allowed (by life, mind) and it’s already noticed (in the sense that it happens within and as the ordinary awakeness that’s here). This helps us find ourselves as the capacity for it all we already are.

There are also other very helpful approaches. For instance, we can explore our sense fields through traditional Buddhist inquiry or modern variations on this like the Living Inquiries.

And in each of these cases, it helps to be guided by someone familiar with the terrain, familiar with and skilled in guiding others, and someone we trust and resonate with to a certain extent.

Stillness & silence as part of what we are

One aspect of what we are is stillness & silence.

Over the last few years, I have tended to focus on the oneness aspect of what I am, and finding myself as capacity for it all.

Before then, and perhaps especially in the years following the initial awakening shift, I did pay much more attention to the stillness & silence side of it, and somehow that got “lost” for a while.

That’s OK, and it may be time to intentionally notice it more again.

STILLNESS & SILENCE

In a sense, oneness and capacity are the two ends of the polarity of what we are. And somewhere in the zone inbetween is the silence and stillness of what we are.

We are capacity for that silence and tillness, and that silence and stillness come out of and are aspects of finding ourselves as capacity for our field of experience.

We could say that love comes out of finding ourselves as oneness, and silence and stillness come out of finding ourselves as capacity.

THE PRACTICAL SIDE OF & STILLNESS & SILENCE

There is also a practical side to finding ourselves as silence and stillness, as my friend Amy H. reminded me of.

When a contraction comes up, and I notice there is something out of alignment with oneness in how I relate to it and how it operates in me and my life, I can….

Find myself as capacity for the world. (This helps me get into it.) Find myself as stillness and silence. Notice the contraction as stillness and silence.

And rest here for a while.

In a sense, and this is one place where words fall short, this reminds the contraction of what it is. It helps the contraction find itself as this silence and stillness. And that helps it align more consciously with oneness. It helps it rest and unravel and find some peace.

A MISSING PIECE

For me, this has been a missing piece lately.

I have met these contractions in different ways… befriending, dialog, listening, finding love for, notice as part of oneness, notice their true nature is capacity, and so on.

And one missing piece has been this silence and stillness.

When I find myself as it, and the contraction as it, something different does happen. It is, as Amy calls it, a dissolver.

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Our position in our own life is unique

My position is unique.

I am the only one who can find what I am in my own first-person experience. I am the only one who can see what I am here at the center, as Douglas Harding says it.

I am the only one who can give the confused parts of me what they really want. I am the only one in the position to directly meet my experiences, and do so with respect, kindness, patience, and gentle curiosity.

I am my own final authority. I am the one who decides how to relate to what others say and do.

I am the only one who can be a good steward of my own life.

I am the only one who can live my life.

Similarly, I am the only one who can create suffering and delusion for myself.

I am the only one in the perfect position to do all of this.

And that’s how it is for each of us.

Peace or love? Finding ourselves as love

Love is pain and suffering

Kings of Convenience in Love Is A Lonely Thing from the album Peace Or Love

In the English language, the word love famously refer to several different things. While in some other languages, like the Greek, there are different words for different types of love.

I find it helpful to use three main categories of love: caring, romantic love, and what we are.

WHAT WE ARE

Unconditional love comes from what we are, and it’s always part of us.

It’s not wrong that we are this human self in the world. And if we look, we may find that we more fundamentally are something else. We may find that in our first-person experience, we are capacity for the word, and what our field of experience happens within and as.

Any sense of boundaries comes from our mental overlay of images and thoughts. Our field of experience is inherently one. We are the oneness that this human self and the wider world happens within and as.

And this is expressed as unconditional love. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. It’s a love independent on feelings. It’s not based in any fleeting feeling or emotion.

LOVE FILTERED THROUGH OUR HUMAN SELF

Whether we notice or not, we are oneness and this unconditional love. And this unconditional love is filtered through our human self and its psychology.

And our human self and psychology is inevitably wounded to some extent. It has hangups, wounds, emotional issues, and perhaps even traumas. It may feel unloved, unlovable, unsafe, and so on. It often feels a hole in itself it’s trying to fill through love and acceptance from others, sex, money, status, and so on. It partially operates from a sense of lack, neediness, and reactivity to these parts of itself.

The more our human self is healed, the more we can perceive and live from this unconditional love. We have probably all seen or known people who seem especially whole and loving, whether or not they consciously notice what they are. And even they inevitably have unexamined beliefs and unloved fears that color their perception and life, and they may go into reactivity when these are triggered.

Our fundamental nature is unconditional love, and this can’t help shine through in our life in the world. Sometimes, the wounds and hangups are more obvious. And sometimes, this unconditional love.

ROMANTIC LOVE & OTHER FORMS OF LOVE

Romantic love is one case of this.

Just as we are rooted in unconditional love, romantic love is rooted in unconditional love.

And it’s filtered through our biology and psychology. It’s filtered through our hangups, wounds, emotional issues, traumas, sense of insecurity and lack, and so on.

The other forms of love we are familiar with are the same. The love for friends, parents, children, siblings, non-human species, nature, and so on is rooted in the unconditional love we are and filtered through our human self with all its messiness.

TRAINING IN GIVING OURSELVES LOVE

An important aspect of healing our human self is training in meeting our experiences with kindness and love.

When we grow up, we learn to relate to life and our experiences a certain way. We may learn to meet some of it with love, and some with struggle and reactivity. We may also not have been met with unconditional love, so we don’t give ourselves unconditional love.

The good news here is that we can learn to meet our experiences and ourselves with more respect, kindness, patience, and gentle curiosity, and this brings in love.

We can learn to give ourselves what we most want, and give the different confused parts of us what they most wish for.

We may even discover that these confused parts of us are love. They are confused love and were created early in our life to protect us. And that makes it easier for us to meet it with love.

When we create this new habit of meeting our experiences with love, and especially the contractions and what we previously didn’t meet with love, it becomes a new way of relating to all of life.

THE TRANSFORMATION PROCESS IN AWAKENING

When we notice what we are, we tend to be more acutely aware of this dynamic between the love we are and how it’s filtered through our human self. The contrast between this love and how it comes out in our human life can be painful.

Also, there is often a transformation process inherent in awakening. We shift how we relate to our experiences to find more kindness, patience, respect, curiosity, and love. And the unhealed parts of our human self tend to come to the surface to be seen, felt, understood, loved, healed, and join in with the noticing.

This is a process of healing how we relate to life and our experiences, and it’s a process of finding healing for unhealed parts of our human self. This allows us to live from unconditional love with less distortion from unhealed parts of our human self.

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

I wanted to add a few words about unconditional love.

For many, it comes with associations to shoulds and something impossible.

In reality, it’s what we already are and we can find this for ourselves.

It’s not helpful as an ideal since it will always be distorted through the wounds in our human psyche.

It’s helpful as a contrast with how we actually live, and to highlight areas we can explore and get to know in ourselves.

And although it’s often presented as a should and directed at how we relate to others, it’s more an expression of what we are and directed towards ourselves and our experience. What we want, and what these confused parts of us want, is to be met with love. And we are the one who can do it. We are the only one in the perfect position to give us this love, and to meet our experiences and wounds with love.

(As I wrote the last sentence, I heard another lyric from the Peace or Love album: It’s love that heals the wound.)

PEACE OR LOVE?

So do we need to chose between peace or love? It depends on the type of love.

If it’s the love from what we are, then that comes with peace.

If it’s romantic love, it may not always come with peace.

And in real life, there is inevitably a combination of who and what we are. Independent of labels or setting, it’s the love inherent in what we are filtered through our human self, including the hangups and wounds of this human self.

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Each part of us wants love and acceptance, and we are the only one who can give it to them

This is what “everyone” says, and it’s accurate in my experience.

We all have innumerable parts – or subpersonalitites, voices, or whatever we want to call them.

Each of these parts wants what we want. They want love, acceptance, understanding, a partnership.

We often try to find this in the world. And although it can work to some extent, it doesn’t really work. (If it seems to work, it’s because finding love from someone else allows us to more easily give it to ourselves and these parts of us.)

We are the only one who can give these parts of us what they really want. We are the only ones in a position to give them the love, acceptance, understanding and so on that they seek.

We are the only one in a position to be a guru, friend, parent, or lover to these parts of us.

If I can’t find love for something, what is it I actually can’t find love for?

When I can’t find love for someone or something, is that the whole story?

If I take a closer look, what do I find? What is it I am actually unable to find love for?

There are several answers here, and they are all sides of the same.

The conventional view

On the surface, it can seem that we can’t find love for a person, situation, place, or something else. We perceive and live as if that’s how it is, and it will seem that way to others as well.

What’s actually happening

When I look a little closer, I find something else.

The world is my mirror. The way I relate to a quality or characteristic in the wider world is the way I relate to the same in myself. If I can’t find love for something in the wider world, I can’t find love for it in myself.

When I relate to something in the world, I am actually relating to my mental images and stories about it. I tell myself that someone or something is a particular way, that it doesn’t deserve my love, so I block my love and am unable to find the love that’s already here for it.

When I find myself as capacity for the world, and all my experiences – of anything at all – happening within and as what I am, I find something else. I find that what I am unable to find love for, whatever it is in a more conventional sense, is what I am. I am unable to find love for something happening within and as what I am. I am unable to find love for what I am, and an expression of what I am.

I can also say that I am life unable to find love for myself in that particular form. I am existence unable to find love for myself in a form I take as “other”.

We can also call this the divine or Spirit. What I am unable to find love for is an expression of Spirit or the divine, and Spirit or the divine itself. I am Spirit unable to find love for itself, in a particular form. I am the divine unable to find love for itself.

Seeing this helps me be curious about my lack of love, identify what in me clouds over the love that’s already here and I am, and perhaps open for this love that I am.

In real life

One side of this is finding myself as love and finding love for whatever.

The other side is how I live my life and how I practically relate to what I find love for in the world.

I don’t have to marry everything or everyone I find love for. I can have clear boundaries. I can take action to prevent someone from harming someone else. And so on. I can do all the conventional things to be a good steward of my life and, when necessary, protect and prevent harm.

And if I don’t, that’s another invitation for me to find what in myself – beliefs, identifications, hangups – is stopping me.

Oneness = pragmatic love

Here, we find ourselves as love. This is a love that’s not dependent on states or feelings. It’s the pragmatic love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

– from a previous article, The Importance of Love

Most people think of love as a feeling. We experience love for a partner, family, friends, ourselves, animals, and so on.

And yet, love is not always dependent on a feeling. We can have love for people without feeling it. We can be annoyed, and yet care for someone and act from that care.

Even in daily life, we know that love doesn’t depend on fleeting feelings. (Although moments of feeling love can certainly enhance and feed that deeper love.)

This is even more so when we find what we are. When we find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, as what our experiences – the world of phenomena as we experience it – happens within and as. Here, we find that the world to us is one, and when we notice this it takes the form of love.

This is a love not dependent on states, feelings, or emotions. It’s the pragmatic love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

And, of course, any love – whether from a feeling or the pragmatic love from noticing what we are – can be covered up by our painful beliefs, identifications, hangups, emotional issues, or trauma. I have written about that in other articles, including how to explore and work with it.

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.

Thomas Traherne: You are as prone to love as the sun is to shine

You are as prone to love, as the sun is to shine.

– Thomas Traherne, Centuries Of Meditations

Yes, we all love love. We love to be loved, and we love to love.

Sometimes, this is covered up by our pain and reaction to that pain, but it’s in our nature to love. Apart from the basics of survival, what we most seek may be to love and be loved.

In reality, we are even prone to love ourselves and life, as it is. We are prone to love all phenomena as they are. And this is often even more covered up, for the same reasons as mentioned above.

Ultimately, we are love. When we find ourselves as capacity for the world, we realize that to us, the world is and always was one. We just didn’t notice. And here, we find that our true nature is love. And, unless we actively examine it, this often even more covered up than the two previous ones.

So why do we love love? Because it’s what we are.

Sebastian Blaksley: tenderness is justified under all circumstances

The message of Christ was “that tenderness is justified under all circumstances… there is never reason to disconnect from the sweetness of your heart.”

– Sebastian Blaksley, Choose Only Love V

Even the simplest pointer has a lot of complexity in it, and this one is no exception.

Tenderness is justified under all circumstances

When someone acts in a harmful way, they do so out of ignorance or in reaction to their own pain, and usually from a combination of the two. And they suffer from it, whether they notice or not.

And if a situation goes in a different direction than we wanted, it’s not personal. It’s life.

In both situations, it’s far more comfortable to keep a tender heart. It’s more healing for ourselves and sometimes others. And it tends to come with some receptivity and clarity so it’s easier to make better choices.

Why don’t we always live with a tender heart?

If our heart closes down, it’s typically for two related reasons.

We don’t see the situations very clearly, and our own hangups and wounds are triggered. We close our heart as a reaction to fear in us, and we react because this fear looks scary since it’s unloved and unexamined.

Tender heart and action

We can have a tender heart and also act decisively when that seems appropriate. One doesn’t exclude the other.

Supporting a tender heart

We can support a tender heart in many different ways. For instance, through heart-centered practices, insights & inquiry, healing how we relate to ourselves and the world, and inviting in healing for wounded parts of us.

Supporting a tender heart through healing

We won’t live with a tender heart in all circumstances.

When I notice that my heart is shutting down, I can ask myself some questions. How is it to meet myself with kindness? How is it to meet this pain in me with kindness?

When we notice our heart closing in a particular situation, we can use this to identify which wounds were triggered in us and, perhaps later, invite in healing for these.

Typically, when our heart closes, it’s a way for our system to protect itself. It comes from a wish to protect this human being, it’s ultimately innocent, and it’s a form of love. As mentioned above, it’s typically a reaction to fear in us that looks scary because it’s – so far – unloved and unexamined.

So this is another way to support a tender heart: inviting in healing for how we relate to ourselves, our own wounds, and the world. And invite healing for the wounds themselves.

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Time is love

I have received several mini-healings (and some not so mini) from people in the Vortex Healing community when I have needed and asked for it. They freely give their time to help someone else, sometimes even someone they haven’t met.

It reminds me that time is love. When people freely give their time to help someone else, it’s love. When we exchange our time for money, it’s also love – for ourselves and our family. When we do something in our spare time, even if it’s something as simple as watching a movie or walking in nature, it’s how we best know to use our time in that moment and an expression of love.

In the bigger picture, time is love since it allows things to happen. This universe, planet, and our own lives would exist without time. Time is life’s gift to itself, or existence’s gift to itself, or the divine’s gift to itself.

Time is also love in that our mind creates its experience of time so it can place things in an imagined past and future, and even present. Our mind imagines a timeline and places images at different points in the timeline. It’s a crucial element for this human self to operate and function in the world, and – in that sense – an expression of love.

As I wrote this, I imagined a couple of questions:

If we waste our time, is that an expression of love? “Waste” is an idea we place on it and not inherent in the situation itself. Also, we may need to relax and that’s how we decide to do it there and then. And we may be caught up in emotional issues or habits, and whatever we do is the best we know how to do at that moment.

I get that the past and future is imagined, but is the present imagined too? Yes, we place an overlay of mental images on what’s here and now, and what we imagine is not-here and now. We place mental images on what we can see, what we know – or assume we know – is behind us, or nearby, and also anything else we imagine in the world. When I see the candle in front of me, there is a mental image of a candle on top of it so I know what it is, how it works, and what I can do with it. When I imagine the house I am in, I imagine rooms and features I cannot see right now. When I imagine the town and country and the rest of the world and people I know who are not here, that’s also clearly an imagination.

When you say “imagined” does it mean that it doesn’t exist? Not necessarily. Imagined just means that we have a mental image of it that we use to label, understand, and navigate. If I imagine a friend in another town, and I call that person, it’s likely that the person will answer if he or she can. The person is there even if I rely on my images of that person to know they exist, who they are, and so on.

Of course, there is a component of this that is imagination or fantasy in the sense that we typically use those words. We assume things about something or someone, and although there may be some validity to it, it’s also assumptions. In a conventional sense, it may be more or less accurate. And in a more fundamental sense, what these images refer to are fundamentally different from the images and what we think we know about it.

Wanting love – and seeking what we already are

When it comes down to it, what most (all?) human beings want is love. Not just to be loved by others, but to love. And not just to love someone else, but to deeply and thoroughly love their own experience. And to deeply and thoroughly love our own experience means to love any sensation, thought, and ourselves and the world as it appears to us.

Many of us are unaware of this. And many of us go about finding this love in haphazard ways. We rely on cultural and other conditioning, and on reactivity and reactions to discomfort. That’s why we often end of not finding the love we seek.

It’s not difficult to find examples of this. Trump is perhaps an especially clear one. I assume he too, deep down, really just wants love. And especially to find genuine love – compassion – for himself and his pain. The way he goes about this, through bluster, bigotry, and scams, doesn’t give him what he really wants, but he doesn’t know any other way, so he continues and doubles his effort. It’s a tragedy in the old Greek sense. It’s a setup and he is unable to escape it, at least for now and probably in this lifetime.

So what do we do? Do we choose the Trump approach of doing more of what doesn’t work? Or do we take the more direct route to find love for our own experience – as it is, and perhaps even find ourselves as love?

We are love. That’s why we seek love. We seek what we already are. We seek home. We seek to allow the uncomfortable separation between what we think we are (which comes from thoughts and identities) and what we really are (oneness, love) to be seen through and fall away.

How do we go about finding what we really are? Heart-centered practices – tonglen, ho’oponopono, tonglen, heart prayer – is a good beginning and is sometimes helpful throughout the process. Inquiry – Big Mind process, Headless experiments – can help us discover what we already are, and can remind us what we are throughout the day. Inquiry – The Work of Byron Katie, Living Inquiries – can help us see through beliefs and identifications that transfix us and distract us from noticing what we are.

How thorough is our kindness? Does it extend to ourselves?

A year ago, Ari Behn, a Norwegian author (whose books I haven’t read), took his own life. His family and friends have been very open about the suicide, how he was with friends and family, and how they experience the loss.

A common theme was how kind and encouraging he consistently was with other people, and how interested he was in them. Several mentioned that he never said an unkind word about anyone. And yet, it seems that he may not have related to himself and his own experience with the same kindness.

The question is: how thorough is our kindness?

How thorough is our kindness at a personal level? Does it extend to our own experiences? To our fears, anger, sadness, pain, wounds, traumas, discomfort, compulsions, and so on? Does it extend to the thoughts we have about ourselves and the world? Does it extend to the ideas and images we have about ourselves and the world?

Does it go to where it really counts, which ultimately is in our relationship to our own experiences and thoughts?

The situation with the author brings up a couple of other things for me.

If we repress anger, frustration, and so on, it tends to build up and can become overwhelming and unbearable. (I am not saying he did this, but it does fit the pattern of someone who never says a bad word about anyone.)

Another is that a precursor to this suicide apparently was chronic fatigue and loss of roles and identities. This is a reminder to question and see through these before we lose them (which we will), or at least do it after they are gone and find some peace with it.

Of course, I didn’t know him or his life, and all of this is just what comes up in me from that story.

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).

Byron Katie: When you walk in a dream

When you walk in a dream and you know it’s a dream, that’s love.

– Byron Katie

Just like a dream, our waking world is happening within and as consciousness. And to ourselves, we are that consciousness.

Also like a dream, if we believe our mental images and words about the waking world, the way it appears to us seems real and true.

Any lack of love comes from what we believe about our world. We take our mental images and words as true, that creates stress and struggle, and it covers up the love that’s here.

To the extent we recognize our world as a dream – as happening within and as consciousness, and our images and thoughts about it as not inherently or absolutely true – there is a release of the stress and struggle.

And what’s here is love. A love for our world as it is. A love for our world as one. A love for our world as what we are.

The most important thing

As I keep exploring the things I write about here, I keep returning to the same as so many others.

Love. It seems that it’s all about love. It all returns to love.

And in a way, it’s all love exploring itself, discovering itself, returning to itself, and never leaving itself.

Be a parent to ourselves

As part of healing and awakening, we need to learn to be good parents for ourselves. Growing up, we learn to treat ourselves and the different parts of us the way our parents treat us and each other, and we also learn these things from siblings, friends, and the culture in general.

If we happened to have relatively healthy and genuinely loving and supportive parents, then this task may be more about fine-tuning things here and there. If not, it can be a bigger undertaking.

It’s a process of learning to meet, be present with, listen to, and find love for these parts of us that may not have experienced this before.

It’s a process of welcoming what has been shunned. Be available for the parts that were abandoned. Give safety to what doesn’t feel safe. Be company for what feels alone. Encourage what feels hopeless. Give understanding to the anger. Listen to what feels not heard. Love the parts that feel unloved – and all the other parts.

How do we do this? There are many forms of parts or sub-personality work that can be helpful. And in daily life, we can notice what comes up, notice what our habitual response to it is, and see if we can find a more loving and kind way to be with what comes up.

If this pain, fear, anger, frustration and so on was a child, how would I want to be with it? If I was a child feeling this, how would I like my parents to be with me?

One way to do this is to say to these parts of us:

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

And then see if we can find this in ourselves. How is it to shift into this in relation to what’s coming up in me?

These parts of us are here to protect us. They come from care and love. When we shift into being with them, they are safe here. And when we recognize that they come from love, that they are part of us as a human being and also what we are, and that they are like scared children seeking a good parent and we are that parent, then we can find love for them.

Love is all you need – for healing and awakening?

When it comes to healing and awakening, love is really all we need. Although it’s love that takes many forms.

Love can take the form of meeting and bringing our presence into an emotional issue. Spending time with it. Allowing it to be as it is. Listening to the painful story behind it. See that it comes from a wish to take care of our human self. See that it comes from love. Gently questioning the painful story and find what’s more true for us. And so on. All of that is love, and all of that can be very healing.

Love can also take the form of noticing and allowing what’s here. Training a more stable attention. Gently inquiring into our most basic beliefs and assumptions. Shifting into love for what is through hearth-centered practices. Bringing attention to our body and its movements. Using pointers to help us notice what we are, and what we are to notice itself. And so on. All of that are forms of love, and it can set the stage for and support awakening.

In both cases, it’s love gently exploring itself and revealing itself as what’s exploring and what’s explored.

Leonard Cohen: Dance me to the End of Love

It’s curious how songs begin because the origin of the song, every song, has a kind of grain or seed that somebody hands you or the world hands you and that’s why the process is so mysterious about writing a song. But that came from just hearing or reading or knowing that in the death camps, beside the crematoria, in certain of the death camps, a string quartet was pressed into performance while this horror was going on, those were the people whose fate was this horror also. And they would be playing classical music while their fellow prisoners were being killed and burnt. So, that music, “Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin,” meaning the beauty there of being the consummation of life, the end of this existence and of the passionate element in that consummation. But, it is the same language that we use for surrender to the beloved, so that the song — it’s not important that anybody knows the genesis of it, because if the language comes from that passionate resource, it will be able to embrace all passionate activity.

Leonard Cohen in an interview 

As Cohen suggests, there is a universality and passion in the lyrics that apply to a wide range of situations and that each listener will understand and relate to in their own way. 

One way to understand it is as mystics would. 

The end of love is awakening. An awakening out of ordinary ideas about love, romantic love, and love as an experience or feeling. 

Dance me to the end of love is a dance to awakening. 

God (existence, the Divine), sooner or later, dances us to the end of love. It dances itself to the end of love. 

The Divine dances itself to the end of love in all the ways we experience and live life. And we can even include romantic love here. Sometimes, the pain of romantic love helps us heal and wake up. Sometimes, we may find a romantic partner who is also a conscious partner in awakening and healing where we dance each other to the end of love (or at least some of the way!). 

As usual, I feel I need to add a few more things. 

Most forms of romantic love happens as an experience. It happens as a feeling combined with ideas. This is a beautiful form of love, but there is another form of love. It’s the love we discover in awakening, the love that comes from the One recognizing itself… as all there is without exception. This love is independent of any feelings or ideas. As someone said in Zen, it’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. Love may still come as a feeling, but the ground of love is here with or without the feeling of love. 

The love we have for a family member, friend, or lover is what we most often mean when we talk about love. When this type of love is mixed up with separation consciousness and emotional wounds, as it often is, it takes the form we often see in the world and in movies and books. It’s the love that comes with possessiveness, reactivity, and drama. When there is more awakening and healing, it comes with less of the possessiveness and drama. It’s more of a clear love where we genuinely wish the best for the other, even when it doesn’t conform with our very human wishes and preferences. 

I should add that the love we have for family, friends, and lovers can be dependent on a feeling, but it’s often not. Even if the feeling of love comes and goes, the love is there, perhaps more as a commitment and steady caring. 

When I see the end of love as waking up out of our ideas about love, it also means waking up to love as the One recognizing all as itself. And it allows any feelings of love, although with less drama depending on how clear the awakening is and how much of our human self is aligned with it. 

Ariana Grande: thank u, next

I know they say I move on too fast
But this one gon’ last
‘Cause her name is Ari
And I’m so good with that (so good with that)
She taught me love (love)
She taught me patience (patience)
How she handles pain (pain)
That shit’s amazing (yeah, she’s amazing)
I’ve loved and I’ve lost (yeah, yeah)
But that’s not what I see (yeah, yeah)
‘Cause look what I’ve found (yeah, yeah)

There isn’t too much to say about this song because it’s all there in the lyrics.

It’s about gratitude, impermanence, and self-love. 

Everything passes – all our relationships to anything in the world, to people, things, situations. And all we can do is learn from it and say thank u, next. 

Except, one relationship doesn’t pass and that’s to myself. I can find a good relationship to myself. I can treat myself as I would want to be treated by someone important in my life. I can treat myself – and anything coming up in me, all my experiences – with love, kindness, respect, as a good friend or lover. 

It’s an important pointer. In some ways, it’s the secret to life. And it’s beautiful to see it in pop culture, and especially when aimed at younger women as I assume this one is. Although the pointer is equally valid and essential independent of our gender or age. 

This song is completely aligned with the insights we find through The Work. I won’t be surprised if this will be a regular song at future Schools. 

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Ram Dass – Fierce Grace & Going Home

I love Fierce Grace and Going Home, two documentaries about and with Ram Dass. He shows how we can use life challenges to humanize ourselves, to become more deeply human, to embrace who we are as humans more fully with flaws and everything else, and realize it’s really all about love. Any desire for awakening, healing, maturing, humanizing, freedom from suffering, or whatever it may be, is really about love.

Adyashanti: Imagine that your existence is in no way a mistake

Imagine that your existence is in no way a mistake. Imagine that you are here in your life, in your incarnation, as an act of love. Because only by being completely willing to be here as an act of love can you redeem all the hidden and painful places within your being.

– Adyashanti

Another way to say this is that we are here as an act of love. Existence is an act of love. That anything exists at all is an act of love. And when we align with that, and our fighting against it falls away, a more profound healing is allowed to happen.

Love and fear

Some will tell you that fear is the opposite of love. And in this teaching the war begins. But love has no opposite, for it is whole and without division. Love is the field in which all form comes and goes, including the temporary, wavelike appearance of fear. It is the vast, tender space in which all emotions, feelings, and physical sensations arise, play for a short while, and then dissolve. Just like passing clouds could never taint the purity of the sky, the temporary dance of fear could never stain the majesty of what you are.

Matt Licata

What’s the relationship between love and fear?

I agree that fear is the opposite of love, when we buy into that fear. When we are caught up in fear, it tends to mask love from us. And we may very well act in ways that seem anything but loving.

I also agree that love encompasses fear. The love we are already allows and even is fear, as it allows and is any experience.

And I even agree that the fear vs love idea is the beginning of war, when it’s misunderstood. If we see fear as wrong or bad or something to avoid or eliminate, that’s a war we start with reality. And that’s painful, futile, and somewhat misguided.

What is love?

Here is another topic I tend to revisit.

What is love?

The simplest may be to look at it in terms of what and who we are.

What we are is that which all experience happens within and as. (Variously called consciousness, awakeness, Big Mind, Spirit, Brahman etc.) Here, love is what we are. This is not neccesarily a felt love. But it is the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. They belong to the same whole, so nothing is more natural than helping out as appropriate. And that looks like love.

Who we are is our human self. Here, the love from what we are is filtered through beliefs and identifications, and that means it can look like love in an ordinary human sense, and also a lot of other things. Ordinary human love is often mixed in with a sense of lack, need, wants, insecurities, compensations, and more. Felt love is often from some of these filters.

Going one step further, we see that even what doesn’t at all look like love (in a conventional sense) comes from love. That too is filtered love.

For instance, lack comes from care for our human self. It comes from a wish, or attempt, or impulse, to take our our separate self. And that’s still love, but in a filtered form. The same goes for fear, anger, wounds, trauma, greed, insecurities, and a lot more that from a conventional view looks like anything but love. And still, when we examine it more closely, all of it can be traced back to love. It comes from care for our human self, and an attempt to take care of our human self. It’s love filtered through all sorts of beliefs and identifications.

Who and what we are go together and are inseperable. That’s why the two forms of love mentioned above are largely inseperable and mixed together in our actual human lives.

In an opening or awakening, the first one becomes more clear, and it can be lived to some extent. The more we examine and clear up beliefs and identifications, the more it is revealed and the more we tend to live from it in more situations.

Also, the more we examine filtered love, the more we reognize it’s from love, and the less we tend to battle it. And that removes a layer of additional filtering which is also helpful.

As usual, there is nothing wrong with this filtering of love. It’s just how life plays itself out through us. It’s also inherently stressful and uncomfortable, and we eventually get to a point where we wish to find another way. And that’s where we can start to find a different relationship with the filters (more kindness towards them which tends to allow identification with them to soften) and also find ways to invite them to clear and release.

An important part of this process is to find more peace with and kindness towards the filtering. We see that nothing is wrong. We see it comes from care for this human self, and love. Identification with the filtering tends to soften and even release, partly from finding more kindness towards it. And, in general, everything feels a bit easier. It doesn’t mean that the filtering is all gone, or that all identification with it is released, but it does mean it generally is a bit easier.

It’s an ongoing process, and it tends to become more enjoyable and lighter as we go along. And from the outside, it may look as if we live more and more from the what-we-are type of love. The one that’s like the left hand taking care of the right. And it also tends to look sane in a very ordinary way, and deeply human.

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