Moods in an awakening process

Halfdan Egedius, Lørdagskveld / Saturday Night

When I was in my teens and early twenties, moods were an important part of my life. And by moods, I mean moods with a profound sense of beauty, awe, immenseness, and timelessness.

Several situations would evoke these moods.

Being out in nature, and especially beautiful clouds moving across the sky, the always-changing sunrises and sunsets, the light Norwegian summer nights, and the infinity of the dark starry sky.

Literature, music, and visual art. For me, this was especially the visual art from the 1600s and 1800s, the literature of the late 1800s, the music of Arvo Pärt and others, the movies of Tarkovsky, the Deep Ecology of Arne Næss, and when Carl Sagan talks about how we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

These moods would also come when I was absorbed in drawing and painting, and when I engaged in spiritual practices like the ongoing Jesus prayer, Christ meditation, tonglen, and meditation.

What are these moods? I suspect it has to do with connecting not only with the beauty inherent in everything but the divine in all. It’s a kind of stepping stone from separation consciousness to noticing what we are, and it can also be a side-effect of early awakening.

What’s the role of these moods? For me, they were a carrot to stay on course. They were part of what hooked me on art and spiritual practices.

Since then, these moods are less frequent, they are brief when they happen, and they are not nearly as central. Perhaps because I am more used to noticing what I am, and it’s become more familiar and part of daily life. I also recognize moods more clearly as something that comes and goes and that they don’t mean so much in themselves.

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Mood swings in a kundalini process

It seems that mood swings are quite common in a kundalini (awakening) process, and perhaps especially if it turns into a spiritual emergency.

During the initial awakening phase, I wouldn’t really call it mood swings, but it was a sense of shifting from bliss and expansion to pain and contraction, over and over, and it was quite dramatic at times. This happened mostly in my teens and early twenties.

Then, there were several years where everything seemed more stable.

And more recently, in the darker phase of the dark night of the soul, it’s been more of what I would call mood swings. Shifting from depth of terror and dread (a couple of years back) or contraction and pain, and a sense of ease and even joy.

Most of the time, the shifts happen within the same day, each one lasting one or a few hours.

Rereading this, I see that “mood” doesn’t quite cover it. It’s more a swing between a sense of ease, joy, bliss, expansion, and pain and contraction, and the specific flavor of each has changed over time.

Of course, one invitation here is to recognize that it’s all coming and going as content of awareness, and that awareness itself is always here. Another is to meet what’s coming up, including my reactions to it, in natural rest, and with kindness and even love. And yet another is to identify and questions any assumptions I have about what’s happening. It’s easy to say, and not always so easy to do. I still don’t do it consistently, and that’s part of finding a more genuine humility in all of it.

Nostalgia for samsara

I have been pretty sick this morning, with not much energy for anything deep, so I decided to do the movie equivalent of comfort food, which meant watching an episode of Cosmos.

Up until my mid-twenties, when I got a crash course in the topic, I was somewhat of a mood junkie. I was hooked on the sense of magic, awe, wonder, beauty, love created in me through books, movies, music, art, theater, the Universe Story, conversations with friends about the big questions, being in love, having picnics in beautiful places, imagining my life in the future.

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Anchors and moods

I keep exploring how sensations provide an anchor for a sense of a separate I, and also how sets of sensations are used to create feelings and moods.

This morning, I noticed how sensations on the side of my face were used as an anchor for a sense of a separate self, because they were roughly in the right area of space (head area) and were prominent since I had been sleeping with that side on the pillow. As these sensations gradually faded, the anchor shifted to the more usual ones in the upper throat area, at the back of the upper palate, and even in the back of the nasal cavity. By amplifying (having the intention of strengthening) the sense of a separate I, I also noticed how muscles in these areas contracted, increasing the sensations, which then provide a better anchor, one that is more easily noticed and lends more of a sense of substance and solidity to the sense of a separate I.

It may seem a weird thing to explore, but I find it fascinating and it only takes a few seconds, or minutes at most, to take a look at.

I then explored moods and feelings in the same way, first looking at a mood from a dream I woke up from and finding the sensations it is anchored in. Then, amplifying the mood and noticing how the muscles in those areas tense up to make the sensations stronger. And then creating a series of other moods to explore the sensations used as anchors for these. I noticed how each mood draws on a particular set of sensations, sometimes from quite different areas of the body. And how these sensations are either brought out or strengthened by muscles tensing up in those areas, this time on the cue of thoughts inviting in certain moods.

With moods, these sensations serve as an anchor in space and lends a sense of substance to the mood, and they also provide the quality of the mood. Certain blissful moods are created from sensations in the roof of the nasal cavity when air pass by. Other, more dense moods, are created from contractions in the throat and belly areas.

And that is actually what happens with the anchors for a sense of a separate I too. These too provide a quality to it, a certain quality of density and sense of substance.

Sensations as anchor (revisited)

This continues to come up on its own (especially right after I wake up in the morning), and also to be an exploration I consciously engage in…

  • When I look for a sense of separate I, I find that it is anchored on specific sensations, usually in the upper throat area, but also sometimes in the belly area (with a sense of a “deeper” yet still separate self). There is a sensation, and then a story about how this is an anchor or platform for, and defines, a sense of a separate self. It makes it appear more real.
  • When I explore emotions, I see that they are really sensations + a story (sadness, anger, frustration, etc.)
  • When I explore moods, I find them to be sensations + a story (often a memory or images the future)
  • Exploring each of these, I see that all of them really define and create a sense of a separate self. In each case, very specific sensations in different areas of the body serve as anchors for a story, making it appear more real and substantial, and defines a separate self in a particular location in space (here, in this human self).
  • When attention is brought directly to sensations as anchor for emotions, moods or a sense of a separate self, what appeared as emotion, mood or a sense of separate self falls into its components… a story placed on sensations.
  • When attention is brought to a sense of a separate self, the sense falls apart, but may then materialize again… using a different sensation as an anchor, or even going back to the initial sensation when attention softens or goes somewhere else.

And further…

  • If the system needs to create the appearance of an emotion, mood or sense of separate self (when there is a belief, an attachment to a story), it seems to tense up muscles in certain areas to create a noticeable and more stable sensation there, which the story is then placed on.
  • A sensation + story creates a sense of a separate self, located in a particular region of space, a sense of a center in space (with the appearance of a separate self, placed on this human self, as the center), and a sense of I at this center and Other in the periphery, as the wider world. This serves as a ground for a sense of a split between I and Other, which is needed to engage more fully in the initial belief, and the appearance of emotions, moods and a separate self.

It’s a weird thing, but also very clear when explored… where others see a body I experience space, with some sensations coming up here and there… and stories are placed on appropriate sensations, creating the appearance of emotions, moods and a separate self.