“I don’t know” is the only true statement?

“I don’t know” is the only true statement the mind can make

– Nisgaradatta Maharaj

These type of pointers is meant as medicine.

In this case, it’s medicine for the tendency to take thoughts – or some thoughts – as true.

And as with any thought, it’s not entirely accurate. It leaves something out.

Mental representations are questions about the world, whether we notice or not. They are maps of the world and help us orient and function in the world. They are different in kind to what they are about. (Unless they happen to be about mental representations.) Reality is always more than and different from these maps. And they cannot contain any full, final, or absolute truth.

And that goes for Nisgaradatta’s statement as well. His statement also has limited validity, and there is validity in its reversals.

We can know certain things. We can notice our nature directly. (Our nature can notice and “know” itself in that sense.) We can know things in a provisional, limited, and conventional sense, although these are not final or absolute truths.

His statement is not the only true statement. It doesn’t hold a final or absolute truth any more than any other thought.

In general, I find it helpful to explore pointers in this way and especially pointers from the non-dual world. What are they meant as medicine for? What’s their validity? In what ways are they not so valid? What’s the validity of their reversals?

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The most important person

In daily life, I am the most important person to my partner. And when I talk with someone, I am – at that moment – most likely the most important person for her or him.

I am also often the most important person for our cat and dog. When I interact with them, my being and actions fill up their world. Just as my being and words and actions fill up the world for anyone I interact with.

I find this is a helpful reminder. It helps me shift out of a (sometimes unquestioned) assumption that I am not that important and my life doesn’t play that much of a role. 

At the moment I interact with someone, my life – and my words and actions – play a huge role for that being. I fill up a significant part of their world. I have a big impact on them and how they experience themselves and their life. 

This is, in a way, obvious and many live from this naturally. But for me, being used to seeing my own life as not that important, it’s an important reminder. It helps me shift my orientation. It helps me orient a bit closer to reality and what’s actually going on. 

It’s medicine for the assumption that my life doesn’t matter that much, and for acting as if that’s how it is, when it’s clearly not always true.

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Demystifying and pointing out the mystery as needed

I like to demystify what’s unnecessarily shrouded in mystery. And point out the mystery in what we assume we know and understand.

DEMYSTIFYING

So what is surrounded by unnecessary mystery when it could be more clear?

One example is awakening.

There are relatively simple ways to talk about awakening that demystify it.

And, more importantly, there are relatively simple ways to help people have a direct taste of it for themselves.

POINTING OUT MYSTERY

We also like to assume we know several things for sure.

So here, it’s helpful to remind ourselves of the mystery inherent in everything.

In a conventional sense, there is always more to learn about anything. What we know is a drop in the ocean compared with what there is to know.

There are always new contexts to understand something within. And sometimes, these contexts make a lot more sense and completely change how we see something.

Any story we have about anything is incomplete. The map is different from the terrain. It’s different in nature from the terrain. And it – by necessity – simplifies, highlights, and leaves out. Reality is always more than and different from our stories about it, and sometimes also far more simple.

This also goes for who or what we assume we are. Can we be certain our ideas are true? What do we find if we look more closely in our own first-person experience?

And what about the greatest mystery of it all: How come there is something rather than nothing? For me, this stops my thoughts and there is nothing that comes up in me in response, apart from awe.

MEDICINES

These two are medicines.

Demystifying is medicine for assuming that something is more of a mystery than it needs to be.

And pointing out the mystery is medicine for assuming we know how something is.

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Adyashanti: There is only watching and/or observing

In truth there is no self, watcher, or observer. There is only watching and/or observing. There is awareness but no owner of awareness, no someone who is aware.

– Adyashanti, Experiencing No-Self online course

This is something we can explore for ourselves, both at a story level and in our immediate noticing.

AT A STORY LEVEL

If we explore it with sincerity at a story level, what are we to ourselves? Independent of our general worldview, we find that to ourselves, in our own first-person experience, we have to be consciousness. To us, any and all experience happen within and as this consciousness. And our more fundamental nature is consciousness.

This consciousness forms itself into all our experiences, including this human self and a sense of being this human self. It also forms itself into a more essential idea of a self, watcher, and observer, and a sense of being any or all of these.

Mind may tell itself it is a self, watcher, observer, and so on and that works well in daily life. At the same time, it does come with some inherent and inevitable stress, discomfort, and a sense that something is off. And that may invite us to take a closer look and explore it a bit further and with sincerity.

We may discover that, to ourselves, we are consciousness. We are what allows any and all experience – of this human self, the wider world, and anything else. And we are what transforms itself into all of these experiences.

In a sense, there is no real self, watcher, or observer. There is only watching and observing.

Whatever is here, whether it’s a sense of self or a noticing of this sense of self as created by the mind, happens within and as what we are.

Finding this at a story level doesn’t itself bring much if any transformation. Our center of gravity will still be the same, which typically is in a sense of being a separate self. And yet, it can be an excellent start for exploring what we are in our immediate noticing, and this can be profoundly transforming.

IN OUR IMMEDIATE NOTICING

What do we find if we explore this in our immediate noticing?

We may discover something we can put into more or less the same words as above, and yet the immediate noticing is primary and profoundly transforming for our perception and and life in the world. It can be profoundly transforming for our psyche as it invites the different parts of our psyche to align more deeply with this noticing.

We may find our nature is capacity for the world as it appears to us. Our nature is capacity for all our experiences, whatever they are.

We may find we are what all our experiences – of the world, this human self, and anything else – happen within and as. What we are transforms itself into all of these experiences. What we are is what experiences and what’s experienced and that distinction is only created when we put it into words.

There is the appearance of self, watcher, and observer, created by our mental field. And more fundamentally, we are what all our experiences – including the idea of self, watcher, and observer, and of watching and observing – happen within and as.

POINTERS

Adya’s words are pointers. They are for us to explore for ourselves, see what we find, and allow it to work on us and transform us.

They are medicine for a certain condition.

In this case, they show us the next stepping stone from taking ourselves to most fundamentally be a self, watcher, and observer.

From here, we may notice that in our own first-person experience, we more fundamentally are watching and observing.

And from here, we may notice that all of it – self, watcher, observer, watching, observing, and even mind and consciousness – happen within and as what we are. We are capacity for all of it. The appearance of all of it is created by our own mental field. And we are more fundamentally not any of it.

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The fluidity of choice: Making use of our assumptions about choice as medicine

When we go back one or a few steps, we get to a place where there is no choice.

– from a previous post, A pandemic among the unvaccinated

I wrote that sentence a few minutes ago and it makes sense in the context I wrote it, but it’s not what makes the most sense in all situations.

In general, it may be best to not think too much about choice unless it comes up related to something we discover and directly notice.

We can also make practical use of certain assumptions of choice. We can use specific assumptions of choice as medicine for our own habitual – and perhaps unhelpful or somewhat stuck – orientation.

DAILY LIFE ORIENTATION

In our daily life, it generally works best if we assume we have choice in a very ordinary and normal human way. That may help us be a bit more careful in what we choose and how we live our life, and take responsibility for how we relate to life and live our life in the world.

And in some cases, it’s helpful to consider some things related to choice. We can use certain assumptions about choice as medicine.

ANTIDOTE TO JUDGMENT

If I find myself judging someone else, it helps to remember that they – ultimately – don’t have much if any choice. They follow their programming, as we all ultimately do. How we perceive and live our life has innumerable causes – parents, culture, subculture, past experiences, biology, the evolution of our species and pre-human ancestors, the evolution of this planet, and so on. And if I find I am judging myself, reminding myself of the same can be good medicine.

ANTIDOTE FOR AVOIDING RESPONSIBILITY

If I notice I avoid taking responsibility for some of my choices and actions, it’s helpful to remind myself that I have a choice. I made these choices and actions. Taking responsibility in this way helps me examine what’s behind my actions if they seem to come from a place in me that’s less than clear and kind. It helps me shift from blame and into identifying and exploring hurting and unhealed parts of me.

Of course, I can still identify and examine whatever unhealed parts of me led to certain actions in my life, even if I don’t assume choice. But assuming choice can be a shortcut to bring in a shift into looking at it.

A PRAGMATIC APPROACH TO CHOICE

This is a pragmatic approach to choice.

The question of whether and how we have choice can be vaguely entertaining or interesting. And there are more pragmatic ways of approaching it that are more useful and perhaps even get more to the point.

We can use the question about choice as a mirror for ourselves, we can explore the effects of different assumptions of choice, and – as touched on above – we can use different assumptions as medicine.

Where does the question come from? Why is it important to me? The question may come from some unquestioned beliefs in me, or a sense of need or want or lack. If I have the question, and it has some charge for me, I can use it as a pointer to identify and explore this.

What are the effects of the different assumptions of choice? How do they color my perception? How I see others and myself? How I live my life?

How can I use different assumptions of choice as medicine? How can I make use of them as medicine when I notice I go into an old habitual orientation? I may find that if I go into blame, it can be helpful to remind myself that we are all programmed and don’t have much if any choice. And if I avoid responsibility for my own actions, I can assume that I have choice and look at where my choices come from – especially if they come from something unhealed in me.

WHAT’S THE TRUTH ABOUT CHOICE?

This is all fine and good, but what about choice itself? What’s the truth about choice?

If we operate from an assumption that we are, most fundamentally, this human self, then the question of whether we have choice or not can seem relevant and make sense.

And if we find what we more fundamentally are, in our own first-person experience, it may look different. Here, I find that the question doesn’t make so much sense anymore. It only happens within my own mental field, and I cannot find choice or no choice in any other place.

Also, this human self and the wider world happen within my sense fields, and there is no inherent separation. To me, they are part of the same whole. Here, it’s easier to hold any ideas of choice much more lightly.

We may recognize that any ideas about choice are ideas and not inherent in reality, that there is some validity to each of them, that each one leads to certain ways of perceiving and living our life, and that each one can function as an antidote to a certain fixed mindset.

The reality of choice is, as just about anything else, likely different from any of our ideas about it, and more than and less than any of our ideas about it.

Note: I wrote this on my phone in the wilderness so I haven’t edited it as much as I would like. It’s a bit disorganized, and that’s OK too.

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Waking up issues: medicines for a condition

In the process of healing from separation consciousness, we use medicines for particular conditions. We use pointers and approaches to help us unstick from stuck places.

We use certain medicines to heal from separation consciousness as a whole and in general, through noticing what we are and exploring how to live from it. The main medicine may be basic meditation combined with certain forms of inquiry, supported with a range of other practices (prayer, other forms of inquiry, heart-centered practices, and so on.)

And we use medicine to help different parts of us to join in with this general noticing, and helping them heal from the separation consciousness they operate from and are stuck in.

Even if we generally notice what we are, we likely still have parts of us operating from separation consciousness – parts that don’t notice their nature and are caught in painful beliefs, identifications, emotional issues, traumas, and so on.

I’ll here focus on the second part: awakening issues.

REMEDIES AND CONDITIONS

What are some of the conditions that keep parts of us operating from separation consciousness? And what are the remedies for these conditions?

I have gone into this more in detail in other articles, so will just give an overview here.

BEFRIENDING & ALLOWING TO RELAX

The first several ones help us befriend the issue, get to know it, allows it to relax, and make it easier for us to notice that it has the same nature as we do.

Rejecting and struggling with an issue holds it in place, so instead, we welcome it.

Instead of trying to make it go away, we allow it.

Instead of trying to contain it, we invite it to get as big as it wants.

Instead of getting caught up in the sensation-thought mix, we bring attention to the physical sensations.

Instead of avoiding or joining the stressful thoughts within it, we examine them.

Instead of secretly hating the issue, we find genuine love for it. We notice it is here to protect us, and typically was created early in life and from a child’s view on the world.

The issue has neediness and comes from a sense of lack, so instead of trying to feed it through other people and life situations, we directly give it what it needs (love, attention, safety, etc.).

Instead of getting caught up in resistance, we notice and examine the resistance. We may find we sometimes, without noticing, identify with and act on the scary stories within it. And we may find that behind the surface form of the resistance – distraction, frustration, anger, hopelessness – is unexamined and unloved fear. We meet it as another contraction and scared part of us.

NOTICING THE NATURE OF THE CONTRACTION, AND INVITING IT TO NOTICE THE SAME

And then a couple more directly about noticing the nature of the contraction, and inviting it to find it for itself.

Instead of distracting ourselves from noticing the nature of the contraction, we notice the nature of the contraction. We notice it has the same nature as we have – capacity, oneness, love, stillness and silence. We rest in this noticing.

The contraction doesn’t notice its own nature, so we invite it to notice its own nature. We allow it to notice and find peace and rest in it, and unravel and realign.

NOT JUST ISSUES

We can do this with any part of us, not just issues.

For instance, I have symptoms from the CFS (and possibly past Lyme), so I do the same with these symptoms. I notice the physical sensations. Welcome and allow them. Notice they have the same nature as me, and invite them to notice and rest in that noticing.

We can do this with any part of our body, energy system, or anything else.

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Spiritual pointers & practices are medicine for specific conditions

This is another basic topic I thought I would revisit.

Pointers and spiritual practices are medicine for a condition.

MEDICINE FOR A CONDITION

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

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

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

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

RELATIVELY UNIVERSAL PRACTICES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RELATIVELY UNIVERSAL POINTERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

POINTERS FOR SPECIFIC CONDITIONS

Many pointers are for more specific conditions.

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

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

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

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

The same remedies for everything?

Why do I tend to suggest the same tools for a variety of hangups, issues, and identifications?

It’s because what I write about is a limited range of topics – mainly emotional healing and awakening.

It’s because I have limited experience and knowledge, from just a few decades of exploration.

It’s because the tools I write about tend to work universally within a certain category of things we may want to work on.

Also, it’s because the tools I write about tend to be helpful from the beginning to wherever we are on the path, whether we (in our own experience) move to or within Spirit.

Some of my favorite tools

The Work of Byron Katie can be very effective for working on beliefs, identifications, and all the issues that come from these – emotional issues, trauma, stress, and so on.

Living Inquiries can be used for the same, and also to get a better insight into how the mind creates its experience of anything. Living Inquiries is a modernized form of traditional Buddhist practice for noticing how the sense fields come together to create our experience of the world.

Headless experiments and the Big Mind process is an effective way for us to notice what we are.

Heart-centered practices (ho’o, tonglen, metta) are amazing for shifting how we relate to the world – to specific people, situations, and ourselves.

Practices to Reconnect work very well for deepening our connection with Earth and past and future generations.

Vortex Healing works better than just about anything I have found for physical and emotional issues, and also for supporting awakening and embodiment. (Although I would still use it with inquiry.)

Heart/Jesus prayer and Christ meditation help us open up to Spirit as everything, they tend to help us shift our relationship with the world and ourselves, they help us notice what we already are, and they help support embodiment.

Practicing a more stable attention (samatha) helps us in just about any area of life.

Noticing and allowing what’s here, and notice it’s already allowed, helps us notice what we are and soften identification with thoughts (shikantaza, basic meditation).

Remedies for certain conditions

The approaches mentioned above can be seen as tools for certain types of tasks, or remedies for certain conditions. If applied when appropriate, and with a bit of experience and skill, they work well.

We all have limited experience, insights, and knowledge. I am sure there are tools out there I would love if I only knew about them. And there is an infinite potential for developing new and equally or more effective tools than we humans currently know about.

Within my limited experience and knowledge, the tools above are the best ones I have found, and I am very open for finding new ones that are as or more effective.

Chronic fatigue syndrome & the pandemic

There are several connections between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and the current Covid 19 pandemic, and I have written about it in previous posts. Here is a brief summary.

Long covid was predicted and predictable

CFS is also called a post-viral syndrome since it often follows a viral infection.

Those of us familiar with post-viral syndromes and CFS predicted that we would see many post-viral syndrome cases following the covid 19 infections.

There would be a pandemic within the pandemic. First, those who got acute covid 19 infections. And then, those with the post-viral syndrome and CFS following these infections.

I wrote about this a year ago, at the very beginning of the global pandemic.

Research into CFS & post-viral syndromes

The slight silver lining in this situation is that long-covid may lead to the medical field and governments taking post-viral syndromes and CFS, in general, more seriously. We may see the beginnings of this.

The main symptoms of long covid and CFS are the same: fatigue, PEM, and brain fog. Although there may also be some unique symptoms of long covid, including visible damage to the lungs and other organs.

A missed opportunity

The medical world has largely ignored CFS. It’s often not been taken seriously as a biological disease, and there has been minimal research into it.

That’s doubly unfortunate.

It’s unfortunate for those of us who have CFS and know it’s a real and serious disease.

And they missed a golden opportunity to be prepared for long covid.

We knew a pandemic would come and that we were on schedule for a new one.

And we knew that viral infections lead to a significant number of post-viral syndromes.

So why didn’t they take the opportunity to prepare by learning about CFS and possible causes and cures? Why didn’t they take the opportunity to nip the predictable current upsurge in post-viral cases in the bud?

In the coming decades, ignoring CFS will go down in medical history as an injustice to those with CFS. And also a missed golden opportunity to learn more about CFS before the predictable pandemic upsurge in people with post-viral syndromes AKA long covid.

This pandemic may be a triple pandemic. The first is the viral and medical pandemic. The second is the social cost. And the third is the large numbers of those with long covid.

If researchers and governments had the foresight, they could have prevented the third. Now, they are instead playing catch-up.

Feel it as a flavor of the divine

Pointer in spirituality are medicine for a particular condition.

Some pointers are more universally helpful. And some are more specific for some people and some situations.

One that’s specific to where I am now is this:

Feel it as a flavor of the divine.

Sometimes, something comes up – a sensation, discomfort, emotion – and my old pattern is to react to it. My mind tells itself that this is not good, it’s not the divine. So avoid it or make it go away.

When I remind myself that this is a flavor of the divine, there is a shift.

I remind myself that this too is the divine. It’s a flavor of the divine. I notice it is the divine. It’s happening within and as what I am capacity for. It’s happening within and as – what the mind may label – consciousness, awakeness, love.

This morning, I woke up feeling material from an old issue – perhaps going back lifetimes if my sense is right and that of others who have sensed into it. It felt very uncomfortable and I did wrestle with it for a few minutes and felt grumpy. Then I remembered this pointer, and it helped my relationship to it to shift. The symptoms are still here but there is no longer any need to struggle with it. I notice it as a flavor of the divine and that makes it much easier.

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This too is the divine

This too is the divine. 

Any pointer in healing or spirituality is medicine for a certain condition. 

If our condition happens to be that (a) we have recognized all as the divine – either in glimpses or ongoingly, and yet (b) we don’t always see, feel, and love some experiences as the divine, then this can be a helpful pointer. 

This too is the divine. 

This is where I have found myself for a while. I know deeply that all is the divine. I can see it. I can feel it. I love it as the divine. 

And yet, when some experiences come up – strong discomfort, emotional pain, physical pain, wounds, trauma – I don’t always see, feel, or love it as the divine. Old reactive patterns take over. (And that’s OK since that too is the divine, it’s a local and temporary expression of the divine.) 

It’s really a question. Is this too the divine? Sit with it. Let it sink in. Let it guide noticing. Let it work on you. (There is no need to answer with words.) 

I find this one helpful. It’s the right pointer for me right now. It probably wasn’t some while ago, and won’t be at some point in the future. But now, when my attention gets absorbed in what’s triggered in me and I temporarily don’t recognize what’s here as the divine, it’s the right medicine. 

It’s not the right medicine if we don’t easily recognize most as the divine. Then it just becomes intellectual and not helpful. And it’s a not needed medicine if we habitually recognize even that which our personality doesn’t like as the divine. 

Most of the time, I focus on remedies and pointers that have more universal use such as different types of inquiry and heart centered practices. And yet, sometimes, more narrowly applicable remedies are just what’s needed. 

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Spiritual teachings as medicine

Spiritual teachings are medicine.

The general spiritual teachings are aimed at meeting most people where they are, and nudge them in the direction of love and reality.

And specific spiritual teachings are aimed at a particular person, with the intention of correcting hangups and one-sidedness of that person.

If most people were very familiar with Big Mind but not their human self, reverse of how it tends to be today, then the teachings would tend to be reverse as well. Mainstream spiritual teachings would say: “Look, you have this human self, and a world, and it’s important you take care of this human self and your life and your world. It’s not all about basking as Big Mind and Big Heart (and Big Belly). It’s also about how you live it through this human self.” And, of course, some teachings do say that, because some people are at that place. It’s one of the typical phases of a spiritual development or awakening to be temporarily identified more as Big Mind and Big Heart, and less as the human self.

In general, spiritual teachings can be grouped in a few different categories. (a) Living according to certain guidelines (morals), and developing and living from love. (a) Inviting Big Mind/Heart/Belly to recognize itself. (c) Recognize all life as Big Mind/Heart/Belly. And (d) how to live from and as Big Mind/Heart/Belly through this human life in the world. Each of these is a medicine for people at specific phases on the path.

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Medicine

Any pointer, practice or insight is medicine.

It’s medicine for a stuck view, for what’s covering up innate wisdom, love and guidance.

And as with any medicine, it’s helpful for a certain person in a certain situation, and that’s it.

For others, it may not be helpful. And it may not be helpful before or after.

Medicine, and medicine for the medicine

Don’t Take Anything Personally:  Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
– from The Four Agreements

I don’t know much about the Four Agreements, but saw this quote on facebook.

It is medicine for a certain fixed and habitual viewpoint, in this case, of taking whatever happens too personally.

But this view, intended to dislodge a habitual and fixed view, can itself be taken as an exclusive truth. The medicine needs its own medicine.

I find that I can take things too personally in two ways.

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The Sun: Who will heal the healers?

The most important therapy I deliver is a human relationship. I’m not doing anything controversial or woo-woo. I never thought of myself as practicing alternative medicine until a colleague pointed out that spending time with patients is now “alternative.” We live in a world with all this electronic communication, but is anyone sitting down for an hour and making eye contact and talking, relating on a spiritual, emotional, and physical level? When patients come into this office, it’s a refuge from the frenetic outside world. They tell me things they might not have told anyone else in their lives — not even their spouse. They open up to me.

From an interview with my medical doctor in The Sun Magazine. Well worth reading.

Note that the full interview is only in the paper version of the magazine.

Inquiry: They are irresponsible

They are irresponsible. (And misinformed. Not receptive to research. Not receptive to reality. Caught up in irrational dynamics they are not aware of. Living out their hangups. Acting in ways that can harm their children and others in the community. They live out immature views, putting themselves and others at risk.)

The anti-vaccination folks.

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Reversals

All of this may be obvious in general and for the stories we clearly recognize as stories, guides, pointers. Where it gets interesting and juicy is for the stories we still take as true, the ones creating friction and stress, the ones attention naturally is drawn to, the views we identify with, the basic assumptions we haven’t questions and explored yet.

Any story has a number of reversals, and each of these reversals also has validity. We can find specific examples of where each of those reversals are genuinely true for us. This is a reminder that no story has absolute validity, and it is also an invitation to explore ways to hold the limited validity of all reversals of any particular story. And then find the genuine validity in the reversals of those more embracing stories.

Any story also hinges on a number of assumptions, and each of these has valid reversals. The assumptions usually include the basic ones of space, time, objects, beings, a me, doer, observer and that these exists as real, separate, out there etc.

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Adaptogens

rhodiola1

Adaptogens are herbs that normalize and strengthen, such as ginseng, eleuthero, rhodiola (my favorite right now), tripala, astragulus root, arjuna and many more.

These are the major herbs in herbal medicine. They are the ones most commonly prescribed and they can, in most cases, be taken throughout life.

The minor herbs, sometimes called “poisons” (!), act in one direction and are prescribed in only certain situations and for shorter periods of time.

This is a rich analogy for spiritual teachings.

First, we can see spiritual teachings and tools as medicines. Each one is a medicine for a specific condition. They have meaning and usefulness in the presence of a specific condition. And there is no “truth” to them, no more (or less) than there is truth in a shovel or lawn mover.

Then, we can look at teachings and tools as either adaptogens or “poisons”.

Some practices are quite adaptogen-like, such as shikantaza, bringing attention to sensations, inquiry and self-inquiry, prayer and so on. And just as an herbalist will most often prescribe an adaptogen to a client, a spiritual teacher (and tradition) will most often prescribe one or more of these practices. They tend to work in a gentle way, normalize, can be used at any phase of the process, and their effects are most noticeable when used regularly over time.

Other teachings and practices are more “poison” like in their effects and work in only one direction. And just as an herbalist will prescribe these herbs in only very specific situations and for shorter periods of time, a good spiritual teacher will use these teachings and tools only sparingly. Some examples here may be teachings aimed at “shocking” or shaking students out of complacency. It may be very helpful and just the right medicine in some situations, but works best if used judiciously.

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Already know

One of the many teaching tools is to say that I am reminding you of what you already know.

And as for any teaching, the question is when it may be helpful, and when not.

First, this pointer is obviously a supplement to other pointers. It gives a slight tweak to other pointers, inviting us to notice what is already here and not expect it somewhere else – in the future, in others, in the past, in a different state and so on. What I am looking for is already here, I just need to notice.

In that sense, it can be very helpful in many different situations.

There may be an awakening here, but not quite clear and embodied, and the pointer you already know is an invitation to notice and then trust what is already here. What we are looking for is not in the future, others, in a different state, but right here now. Other pointers give us more specific guidelines for inquiry, and this one is an invitation to sincerely look at – and trust as sufficient – what is here in immediacy.

Also, something may be true for us but we don’t act on it due to a (contrary) belief. In this case, you already know may be just the encouragement we need to trust it a little more and eventually act on it. (True for me right now.)

And if there has not been any awakening yet, you already know is – again – an invitation to look here. To not expect it in the future, in a different state, and so on.

Then, when may it be less helpful?

As with any teaching, it may be less helpful as soon as it is taken as anything else than a question and an invitation to explore for ourselves. For instance, if I take it to mean that my stories about anything at all are true and valid, it is obviously a sidetrack. A very understandable sidetrack but still a sidetrack. It is a distraction from a more sincere and honest inquiry into what is here in immediacy.

So as with any teaching, it all depends on how it is received. And when students are likely to receive it in a helpful way, the statement may be just right. If not, something else may be more helpful. Or this one may still be helpful if presented in the right context.

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Bias against simplicity

Dr Olivier Ameisen, 55, one of France’s top heart specialists, says he overcame his own addiction to alcohol by self-administering doses of a muscle-relaxant called baclofen.

He has now written a book about his experience – Le Dernier Verre (The Last Glass) – in which he calls for clinical trials to test his theory that baclofen suppresses the craving for drink. […]

Further investigation uncovered research showing that the drug worked on rats to cut addiction to alcohol or cocaine

But, strangely, Dr Ameisen found that baclofen was unknown to specialists on dependence.

In March 2002 he began treating himself with daily doses of five milligrams.

“The first effects were a magical muscular relaxation and baby-like sleep,” he says. Almost immediately he also detected a lessening in his desire for drink.

Gradually, he increased the daily dosage to a maximum of 270mg, and found that he was “cured”. Today he continues to take 30 to 50mg a day.

“Mine is the first case in which a course of medicine has completely suppressed alcohol addiction,” he says.

“Now I can have a glass and it has no effect. Above all, I no longer have that irrepressible need to drink.” […]

However, many specialists fear that media excitement over Dr Ameisen’s theory is obscuring the complex nature of alcoholism.

“Encouraging people to think that there is a miracle molecule is to completely misunderstand the nature of alcoholism, and is extremely irresponsible, ” says Dr Michel Reynaud of Paul-Brousse hospital in Paris.

Source: BBC.

This story illustrates a bias against simplicity that sometimes occurs, in this case among academics and medical doctors.

All phenomena are of course infinitely complex. We can always explore it further within familiar frameworks, within new or different frameworks, and in terms of how they all may fit together in a larger and more comprehensive picture. And all of that is often quite helpful.

But that doesn’t mean that there can’t be simple solutions. Sometimes, there are simple solutions to complex problems.

In this case, there is a chance that they found a simple solution for alcoholism, at least in some cases. So when there is some receptivity there, we can investigate and see if, when and to what extent it works, and go from there. It may not take care of all of it for everyone, but even if it works for some, it is a great blessing.

And as always, it can be a supplement. Something that works along with other approaches – including helping people meet and come to terms with whatever they try to escape, and find what they seek in alcohol in other ways and areas of life.

This is also the case in psychology and spirituality. It can be of practical use to explore and be familiar with maps and tools. In the best case, they function as temporary pointers for us.

But sometimes, it is tempting to create an identity for ourselves that is based on an intricate knowledge of maps and theories. We use it to form in groups and out groups, and a sense of being right and on the right track. In short, we use it as a buffer against not really knowing.

And we overlook the simple tools. The ones that may not be very flashy, but still quite helpful.

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Teachings as medicine

Teachings can be seen as medicine.

We have a fixed position, which creates wounds, immature behavior and a sense of an I-Other. And the teaching is designed to nudge us out of that fixed position, either directly or through offering us a tool which invites the shift when applied.

That is one reason why there are so many – apparently contradictory – teachings. They each are designed to invite us out of a particular fixed position and belief. (There are of course other reasons for teachings, but this is an important one.)

From this, it is easy to see a “good teacher” as someone who is fluid among a wide range of views and positions, and can take any one of them according to what seems most helpful in the situation. And that is certainly true from a conventional viewpoint.

But I also find that teachers who take a somewhat fixed and rigid position can be very helpful. Maybe more helpful, in some ways, because they bring my attention straight to my own hangups.

I may have an expectation of the teacher being fluid, so get to notice and inquire into that belief. I may agree completely with the teacher, which then feels a little stale after a while, so I get to inquire into the stories I agree with. And I may disagree with the teacher, which is stressful, so here too I get to notice and inquire into my fixed positions.

In the first case, the teacher is fluid and models it for me. I get to see my own fixed views in contrast to the fluidity of the teacher, and am inspired and invited to move in the direction of a similar fluidity.

In the second case, the teacher is rigid, which in different ways also brings my attention right to my own fixed positions. And here, I have to do the work myself, which in many ways is more powerful.

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