How do I reconcile a science orientation with spirituality and distance healing?

How do I reconcile my science orientation with my interest in spirituality and distance healing?

Since childhood, I have been fascinated by and loved science and I still do every bit as much.

I also have a fascination and passion for awakening. And I do distance healing.

So how does it all fit together in my mind?

Let’s take spirituality first.

SCIENCE & SPIRITUALITY

I take a pragmatic view on spirituality.

For me, spirituality is mainly about awakening and the effect of spiritual practices.

Awakening is about what more fundamentally we are in our own first-person experience. It doesn’t require any theology or assumptions. It’s purely about what we find in our own direct noticing. And in my experience, What I find fits a wide range of worldviews, is independent of them all, and is what allows and holds and can find the validity in them all. It’s about what I find when I look with sincerity. It’s about what others report they find. (Which seems to be very similar or the same, throughout history and across cultures and traditions.) And it’s about what science finds when this is studied in a more rigorous and systematic way. (We are still in a very early phase here.)

Exploring the effects of spiritual practices is also pragmatic. This is similar. It’s about what I find and what works for me. It’s about what others find and what works for them. And it’s what we can discover through science and more rigorous research. (Here too, we are in a very early phase.)

When it comes to awakening and the effects of spiritual practices, I take a scientific approach as much as possible. I try to do it with sincerity, diligence, and intellectual honesty. As much as possible, I separate what I can know something about (how it appears to me), my stories about it (which are very limited guesses), and what’s actually happening (which I can only make guesses about, which my mind cannot really grasp, and which I cannot know anything for certain about).

SCIENCE AND DISTANCE HEALING & SENSING

What about distance healing and sensing? Isn’t that more woo woo?

Yes and no. It’s certainly a slightly different animal.

Here too, I try to take a scientific approach as much as possible. I look at the effects on animals that don’t know they are receiving healing. I look at patterns over time. I take into account different types of biases. I check my sensing with others. I compare my healing results with those of others. I differentiate what I can say something about, my stories about it, and reality (which I cannot know).

And I wish for a thorough scientific examination of distance healing and sensing, far beyond the little that’s already done.

SCIENTIFIC METHOD

The methods of science are, in its essence, our natural ways of exploring anything set into system. At least if our exploration is relatively sincere, grounded, rigorous, and intellectual honest.

Whenever we wish to explore how something works, we use approaches we also find in science.

We try something out and see what happens. And if it’s more important to us, we compare this with what others find. We explore other possible explanations. We take our own biases into account. We value intellectual honesty. We hold it all lightly, take it as provisional, and know it will inevitably look different to us with more exploration. And so on.

If something is important to us, we can learn from science and apply a more rigorous approach to our own explorations. This will support any exploration – including of awakening, the effects of spiritual practices, and distance healing and sensing.

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Michael Erlewine: The easiest dharma practice

We become aware that we have reacted, we take note that the reaction occurred, but we spend no time examining it or following it out with thoughts as to why, how, and what. We just note the reaction took place, own it as our own reaction, and right-away drop it.

(1) We become aware we reacted.
(2) We note that it is our reaction
(3) We own the reaction as ours and only ours.
(4) We drop it and move on.

As mentioned, we don’t agonize over our reaction, don’t spend time on what or who caused it, and just note that it is absolutely our reaction, and drop it.

– Michael Erlewine in The Easiest Dharma Practice

This is a wonderfully simple practice we can use any time in daily life, and that over time becomes a new habit. And, as he says, it’s pragmatic and free of any religion or dogma.

Here is the full article:

A pragmatic approach to religions and religious topics

I understand that for many, religious topics are for religions. They are a matter of belief and taking someone’s word for it.

For me, religious topics are for science.

Does consciousness, what we more essentially are, continue after the death of this human self? What data is there? What different interpretations of that data can we make? What can we say something about, and what’s unknown and/or speculation?

If a religion encourage certain beliefs, what are the effects of those beliefs at a social and individual level?

What are the effects of the different practices each religion offer or encourage? What practices works for different people, and different phases of the process? What are the drawbacks and things to keep an eye on? If we see practices as medicines for certain conditions, how effective are they?

And even…. how can we make use of the different cosmologies as a mirror? How can we use them as pointers to find what they refer to here and now?

This is how I personally prefer to relate to religions. I look at the effects of certain orientations and views. I explore the effects of the different practices. I take their cosmologies as a mirror for myself.

For instance, several religions and teachers talk about reincarnation. For me, that’s just what someone says and I put it on the “someone said it and I don’t know” shelf in my mind. I find the serious research into what may happen after this life, and reincarnation, very interesting. And I am interested in the different ways we can interpret the data they come up with.

I personally have what seems like memories from the time between lives and before this incarnation (these came in the form of flashbacks before school age), and I also have what seems like memories of certain past lives. (Especially one from Russia in the 1800s.) And these, I put in the “seems like memories but they are really just mental images and I don’t know” category.

Mainly, I use these images as pointers to find what’s here now. I can find the images here and now, and some sensations my mind associated with each of them. I can find what the images point to, here and now.

I can find what the images from between lives point to here and now – all as consciousness, a deep sense of being home, a gentle bliss, and so on.

And I can find what the Russian images point to – the kind-of-radical views, wanting to speak up against injustice, and feeling terrified of the possible consequences of speaking up. Whether or not those images were from a real past life, they certainly point to dynamics and issues in my life now and that’s more important.

In short, I prefer to take a pragmatic approach to religons and topics often found in religions. What’s the most honest way for me to see it? What can I say something about (typically very little), and what’s speculation? How can I make use of it? What happens when I engage in the different practices? What conditions is each one medicine for? How can I use the different cosmologies as a mirror for what’s here now?

And it gets a lot more finely grained than this.

Tuning the string of allowing and inviting in shifts

A traditional meditation instruction in Buddhism is to tune our attention as we would tune a string on a music instrument.

If it’s too lose, our attention wander, and if it’s too tight, we effort too much and the efforting itself becomes distracting.

This general instrument-string pointer applies to a lot of different practices.

I notice it these days in the dynamic between allowing contractions to be as it is, and inviting it to realign with reality.

I can rest in the allowing, and that in itself is healing in many ways. It helps me heal my relationship with the contraction and see it’s OK for it to be here, and it does help the contraction relax. And yet, if that’s all I do, not much more may change.

I can invite the contraction to align with reality (oneness, stillness and silence, love), and if that’s all I do, it can become a bit heavy handed. It can become, or come from, another contraction, which reinforces the whole contraction dynamic.

So it’s helpful to tune this string too, not too lose (onesided allowing) and not too tight (onesided encouragement to change).

When there is more clarity, both are here. I notice the contraction is already allowed, and consciously align with that allowing.

At the same time, I notice the distortions and confusion within the contraction, and in how I may have habitually related to it, I notice what’s more real and true, and I invite the contraction to align with reality, and also intend for it to align with reality.

In practice, I emphasize one more than the other, while both are here.

And in reality, all of this is a bit more messy and approximate, and an exploration, experiment, and learning.

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Do I have to become somebody before becoming nobody?

You have to become somebody before you can become nobody.

I recently heard this again and thought I would say a few words about it.

As far as I understand, it means that we need to develop a healthy psyche before we can start exploring what we are and how to live from that.

Is it true? As usual, the answer may be yes, no, and it depends.

YES, SOMETIMES IT’S GOOD ADVICE

Yes, it’s generally good advice if you are unusually ungrounded, unable to take care of your life very well, are dealing with a lot of trauma, and so on. In these cases, taking care of this goes before most other considerations, including exploring what we are.

NO, IN MOST CASES IT DOESN’T NEED TO STOP YOU

No, in most cases you don’t have to wait. If you are normally unhealthy and dysfunctional, you can do both. Seek out approaches that invite in healing for you at a human level, and also helps you find what you are and live from that.

There are a lot of tools out there that does both, including different forms of inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries), heart-centered approaches (tonglen, ho’oponopono, metta, prayer), body-centered approaches (yoga, taichi, chigong), training a more stable attention (good all-around), basic meditation (notice + allow), and more.

IT DEPENDS ON THE PERSON, SITUATION, INTENTION ETC.

And it depends. It depends on what you mean by somebody and nobody, the person, the situation, what you are interested in, and so on.

I assume by somebody, they mean a healthy and functioning human self. The operating system works reasonably and normally well. By nobody, they may mean finding what we are, which is what allows this somebody and all our other experiences.

Who we are happens within and as what we are, so finding what we are doesn’t at all exclude who we are. On the contrary, finding what we are can allow our human self in the world to function in a more authentic way, with more flow, and it often starts a process of a deep healing of our human self. That healing process can be challenging, which is why it’s typically easier and safer if we start out normally dysfunctionally healthy.

What can go wrong? Nothing is inherently wrong since whatever happens becomes part of our process. But there are some typical challenges that can happen if we explore what we are while our human self is unusually unstable or we are dealing with a lot of trauma.

If we have a lot of trauma in our system, and whether we know about this trauma or not, it can get released through meditation and other forms of spiritual practice. And this can be frightening, overwhelming, disorienting, and we may respond to it by creating new traumas. It’s important to work with a guide or instructor who is familiar with trauma work and signs of trauma, and knows how to help you deal with it. At the very least, the person needs to be aware of what may come up, the signs, of it, and who to send you to for further assistance.

We may also react to our pain by wanting transcendence, or by going into disassociation. We may want and hope that awakening will help us leave our human self and the pain we associate with being this human self. If this is the case, it’s good to address this early on. Finding what we are is not really about transcendence, it’s more about finding a different context for our human life.

And we cannot avoid whatever is unprocessed in our human self. It’s always there, it will always color our perception and life, we’ll always be in reaction to it one way or another, and it tends to surface on its own because it too wants release and healing.

In some cases, people may get fascinated by what they are – or the idea of what they are – to the exclusion of living and taking care of their life in the world. That happens with other things as well, including – I assume – stamp collecting. If this happens, it’s natural and to be expected if it’s relatively mild and not too long-lasting. And there may be a component of avoidance there, especially if it is extreme, and something to look at and find healing for.

In general, it’s good to focus on healing parallel with any focus on noticing and living from what we are. And it’s good to examine any beliefs we have about awakening and what we think we’ll get out of it.

Many who get into exploring what they are do so partly because they want to escape something. Again, there is a lot of potential for finding clarity around our painful beliefs here and finding healing for how we relate to our own discomfort and for the unhealed parts of us. The motivation is not wrong, it’s a pointer to something in us we can find healing for.

SUMMARY

So do we need to become somebody before becoming nobody?

In some cases, yes. If we are unusually unstable, have a lot of trauma, have a strong tendency to disassociation, and so on, it’s good to address this first. That’s true in general, even outside of this context.

In most cases, no. If we are just ordinarily unhealthy and dysfunctional, we can do both. Especially if we use tools and approaches that support healing, noticing what we are, and living from this noticing.

And as usual, it depends. It depends on who we are and what we are dealing with. It depends on the situation and what support we have. It depends on our motivation and what we are really seeking. If we just want some relief from discomfort, then healing may do the trick. If we are genuinely drawn to what we more fundamentally are, and also seek deeper and more thorough healing, then awakening is the ticket.

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How spiritual practices become ongoing

We can bring any prayer with us throughout the day. Prayers tend to become automatic over time and run in the background even if we are focused on daily life activities. They live their own life after a while. The Jesus or Heart prayer is an example, as is ho’oponopono and metta. The words may come and go, but the orientation and energy – for lack of a better word – continues. 

– from A tantric approach to spirituality

I thought I would say a few more words about this.

HOW DO PRACTICES BECOME ONGOING?

This is not a big secret. They become ongoing if they are conducive to become ongoing, and we do them enough so they become very familiar and a new habit. Our system creates and goes into a new groove.

Depending on the practice, they can become ongoing as a new habit, or as something in the background of our awareness, or they can become ongoing in that we can easily access them when needed.

HOW DOES IT LOOK WHEN THEY ARE ONGOING?

This depends on the practice. I’ll give some examples I am familiar with.

Basic meditation is to notice and allow our experience as it is. And to notice it’s already allowed, and even already noticed. This helps soften identification with what we notice, including our thoughts. And this, in turn, helps us notice what we are, which is what all our experiences happen within and as. As we get more familiar with this noticing and allowing, it become a new habit and easier to bring to daily life, and more situations in daily life.

Training a more stable attention is helpful for just about any activity. We can do this by bringing and keeping attention on something, for instance, the sensations of the breath at the nostrils, and bring attention back when we notice our attention got distracted. (The distraction is usually or always a thought with some charge to it, a thought that seems at least a bit true to us.) Over time, this becomes a new habit that benefits us through the day.

We can notice what we are, for instance, guided by some simple inquiries (Headless experiments, Big Mind process). We find ourselves as capacity for the world, as what all our experiences – the world as it appears to us – happens within and as. As we get more used to and familiar with this noticing, it’s easier to notice it through the day and in different situations.

We can examine our thoughts, for instance, guided by the structure and pointers in The Work of Byron Katie. We explore if we can know for certain it’s true, see what happens when we hold a thought as true, how it would be to not have the belief, and find the genuine validity in the reversals using examples from our own life and experience. As we get more familiar with this over time, this too becomes a new habit. We may find that our mind naturally starts examining thoughts this way in daily life. (Using the structure is still helpful, especially if we notice an especially ingrained and stressful belief. It helps us explore it more thoroughly.)

Exploring our sense fields is a traditional Buddhist form of inquiry. (Living Inquiries is a modern version.) Here, we get to see how our mind combines the sense fields – sight, sound, sensation, smell, taste, and thoughts – into our experience of the world, ourselves, and anything. We get to see that what may, at first, see very solid and real, is actually created by the mind through combining sense fields. It’s not as solid and real as it seemed. We also get to see how the mind associates certain sensations with certain thoughts, and that sensations lend a sense of solidity, substance, and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts make the sensation appear to mean something. This helps us see that thoughts are thoughts, and sensations are sensations, which softens identification with these thoughts. As we become more familiar with this, this too becomes a habit and something we bring with us into daily life. We may not be able to do a thorough inquiry, but we notice how the sense fields combine, and we are more easily see a thought as a thought and a sensation as a sensation.

Heart-centered approaches help us shift how we relate to others, situations, the world, and ourselves. We learn to befriend the images of these in our own mind, which helps us shift how we relate to all of this in our daily life. (The ones I am most familiar with are tonglen, ho’oponopno, and a Christian version of metta.)

Prayer is a certain form of heart-centered practice. When we engage regularly in prayer – for instance, the Jesus or Heart prayer – it tends to become ongoing. It runs in the background as a kind of orientation and energy. (Sorry, don’t know how to better describe it.) It’s often a combination of periods of intentional prayer with words and noticing it running in the background – through the day and even night.

A COMBINATION: INTENTIONAL PRACTICE & ONGOING

In real life, there is often a combination of intentional practice, a new ongoing habit, and intentionally bringing in the practice as needed. We have periods of intentional practice, at set times or when we find time, and on our own or in groups. We notice how these practices become ongoing in daily life. And if we notice that we get caught in an old habit in a situation in daily life, we can bring in the practice to help shift into the new pattern.

If we don’t engage in a somewhat regular intentional practice, the habit created by the practice tends to fade over time. As we engage in intentional practice again, the habit comes back and often more easily than the first time. Our system remembers.

It can be especially helpful to notice when our old habitual patterns override a practice that has become more ongoing. This usually points to a belief, identification, emotional issue, hangup, or trauma. And we can explore this further.

OLD AND NEW HABITUAL PATTERNS

Why is all this important?

It’s because our old habitual patterns often come from separation consciousness. They may create unhappiness and discomfort for ourselves, messiness in our life, and may trigger discomfort and suffering in others.

Spiritual practices are typically designed to create new patterns for our mind and life that help us in a variety of ways. These patterns mimic awakening and how it is to live from awakening. And as we keep exploring these practices and we get more familiar with them, they become more and more a new habit.

This helps us in our life. It helps us notice where we still operate from separation consciousness (beliefs, identifications, emotional issues etc.). It makes it easier for us to notice what we are. And it helps us live from noticing what we are.

A tantric approach to spirituality: Making use of situations and experiences for awakening and living from it

A tantric approach to spirituality is where you make use of any kind of situation and experience to invite in, clarify and live from the awakening. 

I rarely use that term since it seems obvious. If we are serious about this exploration and use the right approaches for this type of exploration, why not make use of any kind of experience?

I intentionally say “kind of situation and experience” since we may not make use of every single situation and experience, but we can make use of every kind of situation and experience. 

What’s the alternative? 

I guess it would be an approach where we only make use of what’s happening while we engage in meditation or another practice, and live our life without paying much attention to what we are or how we relate to what’s happening. 

How do we take a tantric approach? 

Mainly, through our orientation and the type of approaches and practices we use. 

We intend to make use of any kind of situation and experience, and we find approaches that allows us to do so. 

Most of the approaches I mention in these articles are tantric in nature since anything can fodder for them, and the orientation is to make use of anything. 

We can take any situation or experience to inquiry, whether it’s The Work, Living Inquiries, the Big Mind process, or something similar. 

We can find ourselves as capacity for our experience and the world as it appears to us, in any situation, especially as we get familiar with noticing through Headless experiments or the Big Mind process. 

Similarly, we can notice the true nature of whatever we experience – for instance emotions, thoughts, and physical discomfort. We can notice that their true nature is the same as our own. (And has to be since, to us, it’s all happening within and as what we are.) 

We can use any situation to see how it is to live from noticing what we are, especially as we get used to noticing this. 

We can bring any prayer with us through the day. Prayers tend to become automatic over time and run in the background even if we are focused on daily life activities. They live their own life after a while. The Jesus or Heart prayer is an example, as is ho’oponopono and metta. The words may come and go, but the orientation and energy – for lack of a better word – continues. 

We can use any situation to pay attention to what’s triggered in us – of hangups, beliefs, emotional issues, and trauma – and invite in healing for these, in whatever way works for us. For instance, dialog with subpersonalitites, inquiry, energy healing, or something else. 

In these ways and many more, we can make use of any kind of situation and experience to support awakening, healing, and living from noticing what we are. Most of the articles here are about this, even if I don’t use the tantric label.

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.

Spiritual practices mimic awakening

Many spiritual practices mimic awakening.

Some mimic noticing what we are, which helps us actually notice.

And some mimic living from noticing what we are.

NOTICING WHAT WE ARE THROUGH POINTERS

Pointers that help us notice what we are tend to mimic what we naturally notice when we notice what we are.

This may sound obvious, but there is more to it.

Some pointers help us notice some of the characteristics of what we are. We may notice that what we are does not have a boundary, it’s timeless, it’s what space and time happen within, it’s what our experiences happen within and as. Looking at each of these, one at a time, we get a sense of what we are. It becomes more familiar, easier to notice, and the center of gravity of what we take ourselves to be can shift more into this. The Big Mind process is an example of these types of pointers.

Some help us relate to the content of our experience a certain way, and through that notice what we are. We find that the content of our experience happens within and as what we are. Some Headless experiments do this, and some of them do the first one.

In awakening, we notice the characteristics of what we are, and that all our experiences happen within and as what we are. And these pointers help us notice this here and now. We find it for ourselves. We notice what’s already here, and notice that we notice.

NOTICING WHAT WE ARE THROUGH BASIC MEDITATION

Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here.

Notice and see how it is to allow it. See if you can notice it’s already allowed – by space, mind, life.

See if you can notice that what’s here is already noticed and allowed.

This helps us find ourselves as capacity for our experience as it is, as that which our experience happens within and as.

It softens identification with the content of our experience. We get to see it all lives its own life. And this allows us to more easily find ourselves as what we are.

LIVING FROM NOTICING WHAT WE ARE

When we find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, we notice that all our experiences happen within and as what we are. Another word for this is oneness.

There are two aspects to living from oneness. One is living from it here and now, to the best of our ability. And that includes inviting the parts of us still operating from separation consciousness to join in with the awakening.

When we notice what we are, several things tend to happen.

We find that the world, to us, is one. We are oneness.

Another word for oneness is pragmatic love. It’s a love not dependent on states or feelings, and it’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

We recognize thoughts as thoughts. They have a valuable pragmatic function in helping us orient and function in the world. And they cannot reflect any final or absolute truth.

PRACTICES THAT MIMIC LIVING AS ONENESS

Several practices mimic how it is to live from oneness, and they mimic the characteristics mentioned above.

Heart-centered practices help us shift how we relate to ourselves, others, situations, and existence in general. (Tonglen, ho’oponopno, metta, inner smile.)

Some forms of inquiry help us see through beliefs, identifications, and what creates and upholds separation consciousness patterns in us. (The Work of Byron Katie, Living Inquiries.)

Body-centered practices help us shift how we relate to our body and the sensation-component of beliefs and identifications, and through that life in general. (yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema.)

Guidelines for living help us avoid distractions and notice what in us is not yet healed or aligned with oneness. (Precepts etc.)

Whether or not we notice what we are, these practices help transform our human self to be more intentionally and consciously aligned with oneness.

PRACTICES MIMICKING AWAKENING

The practices that mimc awakening seem to have a few things in common.

They tend to be more universal, simple, and essential. Variations of them are found in many spiritual traditions. They are not overly complicated. And they focus directly on the essentials of awakening and embodiment.

They also tend to be useful through the awakening process – whether it’s preparation, noticing what we are, living from this noticing, or supporting the unawake parts of us in joining with the awakening.

See below for a couple of drafts where I lost focus and they got overly intricate. I chose to include them to show the process, and since they have relevant pointers not included in the final version.

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Adyashanti: our greatest emphasis should be on our actual spiritual practice

Far and away our greatest emphasis should be on our actual spiritual practice – committed time to abiding in the stillness and silence of our being. Nothing can take the place of this.

– Adyashanti

Dedicated time for basic meditation is a kind of laboratory. We get to explore notice and allow, and finding ourselves as capacity for our experiences.

We may notice how attention sometimes gets absorbed into thoughts with a charge on them, making them seem true and important. We may notice that any sense of an I or me or observer or doer happens within and as what we are, as any other experience.

We may notice that our experiences are already noticed by awakeness and what we are, even if our attention is somewhere else. We may notice that our experience is already allowed, even if our attention is caught in thoughts struggling with it.

And this noticing and laboratory work makes it easier to bring this noticing into daily life and daily life activities. It can become a noticing through our activities.

Sometimes, it will go more in the background, especially if our activities requires our attention. Sometimes, it may go more into the foreground. Sometimes, it may even be “forgotten” if our attention gets caught into the drama of our issues.

Through it all is the inherent noticing and allowing as what we are. And our laboratory work allows us to notice that consciously more often.

Any other forms of spiritual explorations are a support for this, whether it’s inquiry, heart-centered practices, body-inclusive practices, or anything else.

As Adyashanti suggests, the most important thing is to notice what we are and keep clarifying this and bringing the noticing into our daily life.

Demystifying awakening

Many see awakening as something mystical or even mythical, and some ideas about it are not well-grounded in reality: It doesn’t exist. It’s for a few special people. There is no way to understand what it’s about. It’s a state of endless bliss. It will solve all your problems. You need to “renounce the world”. We can’t do research on it because it doesn’t exist, it’s too nebulous, or it has no practical value.

Fortunately, we live in a period of history where awakening is demystified. Why do we see this demystifying?

Many Asian spiritual teachers ended up in California and other densely populated areas of the US in the mid-1900s. It means that some practitioners there have a lifetime of experience, some have become teachers themselves, and the teachings are adapting to the culture. And since the US culture is famously pragmatic, it’s often explored, understood, and spoken about in a pragmatic way.

Since the 90s, there is new ease of global communication. Although awakening happens relatively rarely, large numbers of people around the world are on an awakening path, and these are now able to connect, communicate, and share experiences. In the past, people would have to be in the same place or write letters to communicate, and write or read books in order to share information and thoughts. Now, we just need to go on a forum online, participate in an online conference, class, or sharing group, or connect with friends we have found around the world.

There is also more research on spiritual practices and I imagine this will only continue but grow and become more mainstream. There is even research on awakening, and I imagine this will continue and grow as well.

Secularized forms of traditional spiritual practices are becoming more widespread and used in medical and business settings. It’s not uncommon to have mindfulness classes in hospitals and workplaces. This is not about awakening, but it contributes to normalize the practices and develop a pragmatic language in talking about some of the effects.

As mentioned above, more people are using a pragmatic language to describe and explore awakening. A language stripped of traditional terminology, and one that is more easily accessible and understandable to the western mind. This goes along with what I – in other articles – call a small or psychological interpretation of awakening.

Modern forms of traditional inquiry – like the Big Mind process, Headless experiments, and Living Inquiries – can give just about anyone a taste of what awakening is about within a few minutes. It’s not distant or unapproachable anymore.

A more pragmatic and demystified view on awakening is perhaps not only inevitable but healthy and appropriate for a western culture that’s mainly secular and pragmatic.

I am personally grateful. When the initial awakening happened for me, it was in the pre-internet era and it took a long time for me to find people who understood – first in books (Meister Eckart was the first) and later with people (my friend BH and Jes Bertelsen’s then-wife). And I am grateful for the pragmatic and more secularized language. It helps us see what’s important and perhaps what’s less important (although we need to be open to the possibility that some of what we discard is important and bring it back in again).

If all language around spiritual practice and awakening would go secular and pragmatic, something essential would be lost. But there is little or no danger of that happening anytime soon. Spiritual language and understanding, and secular language and understanding, can very well co-exist and they can feed into and inform each other in a beautiful way. There is a richness in the traditions that can inform the secularized understanding. And there is a pragmatism in the secularized approach that can benefit the traditions.

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Joel Morwood: The Way of Selflessness

Praised as “a spiritual treasure” by Huston Smith, The Way of Selflessness is an authoritative guide for anyone who wishes to walk a mystical path and discover directly the truth testified to by the mystics of the world’s spiritual traditions. Drawing from the universal teachings and essential practices of the mystics from all the world’s major religious traditions, distilled and presented in generic terms suitable for all seekers, The Way of Selflessness is appropriate for both those who belong to an established religion and those who do not.

– The Way of Selflessness book description

If you are serious about awakening I can highly recommend Joel Morwood’s The Way of Selflessness: A Practical Guide to Enlightenment Based on the Teachings of the World’s Great Mystics. (I am linking to Lulu instead of Amazon since they have a better price.)

Joel was one of my teachers at the Center for Sacred Sciences in Eugene, Oregon, when I lived there. And his book shows a good and practical understanding of the awakening process, including different core practices from the main spiritual traditions in the world.

I want to add a couple of minor caveats: The book is perhaps slightly “heady”, and he doesn’t thoroughly address spiritual crises or dark nights as he may not have gone through it himself. Also, there are aspects of certain traditions and practices he doesn’t quite get (for instance koan study) since he never practiced within these traditions himself. That said, this is not a reason to not get his book. The book is an excellent overview and has many very valuable practical pointers.

For more about Joel, see his Buddha at the Gas Pump interview.

And if you are interested, Naked Through the Gate is a great read about his own life and awakening process. His process was somewhat unusual in that his main spiritual guide came to him in dreams and not waking life.

I want to end with a brief note about the title. Selflessness is conventionally understood as setting your own needs aside (for a while) to benefit others or the larger whole. In contrast, selflessness in the context of awakening refers to an absence of any separate self, and noticing and realizing it, reorienting within this new(ly discovered) context, and living from it in more and more situations.

Is spirituality timeless?

The answer is yes, and no, and it depends, and we don’t really know.

Yes, the simple essence is perhaps more or less timeless and universal. It’s all the divine. And the divine, locally as us, can discover that – and live now from it – through sincerity and basic practices and pointers.

No, a lot in spirituality (and especially religion) is not timeless. Religions come and go. Spiritual taurine come and go. Specific practices come and go. The specific context all of it is understood within comes and goes.

It depends on what we are taking about. As said before, some of the basics – in terms of understanding, practices, and pointer – seem more universal and timeless. And a lot is more specific to a time, culture, and tradition.

And more honestly, we don’t know any of this for certain. Even what seems more timeless and universal can and will change. It changes with the time we are in, our culture, and our general worldviews and understanding of really.

Is it likely that spirituality, and even more so religions, will be quite different in a distant future? Yes. Is it likely that if there is life other places in the universe, and interested in these things, they will have a different take on this? Yes. And is it still likely that the essence may be somewhat similar? I would say yes to that too.

What do I see as relatively timeless and universal?

The main is that all is the divine. Existence – including us and all our experience – is the divine exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself.

Spirituality, at least the typical human version, is about helping the divine – locally as us – rediscover this and live more from this in daily life. This too is part of Lila, the play of the divine.

And what about spiritual practices? These are a little more tied to a time, place, and tradition, but there are perhaps some universals here too.

These include:

Guidelines for our life. (For social and community reasons, but also to minimize distractions and help us mimicking view we naturally live when we are more clear and healed).

Devotional practices like song and chants, mantras, prayer, and some forms of meditation. (This includes all forms of mediation and other practices when done with devotion.)

Contemplation, inquiry and pointers.

Basic forms of mediation. For instance, notice and allow whatever is happening within content of experience. (And, with time, what it all happens within and as.)

Training a more stable attention, which helps us in spiritual practice and all areas of life.

Gratitude and forgiveness practices, and working with projections, like some forms of prayer (“thank you”), all-inclusive gratitude practice, Tonglen, and ho’oponopono.

Body-inclusive practices like dance, yoga, tai chi and chigong.

Subtle-energy practices through any form of inner yoga, and as found in traditional Indian yoga, tai chi, and chigong. (I would include Vortex Healing as an example.)

And (emotional) healing practices to remove blocks to noticing what we are and living from it.

Of course, I say these are more universal and timeless, but I am very aware that different traditions emphasize these differently, have different ways of doing each of them, and that this list reflects my own preferences, interests, and what I have found useful and helpful.

Finding healing: three basic ways

In my experience, I can find healing in three ways.

I can find healing for the issue itself, whether it’s physical, emotional, a relationship, or something else. This is the conventional approach and obviously an important one.

I can change my relationship to it. From seeing it as a problem and an enemy, I can befriend it and what it triggers in me. This, in itself, changes a great deal and is often experienced as a great relief.

I can find that which is already whole beyond the issue. This may be my wholeness as a human being, which is always here and goes far beyond any issues. It can be being part of the wholeness of the Earth or the Universe or all life. It can be being what I am, that which any experience happens within and as.

How do I go about finding these forms of healing?

Since the first is the conventional approach, the world is full of advice and opportunities for this one. I have written about my own experiences in healing from CFS and Lyme, and also in finding healing emotionally and for parts of me (using inquiry, heart-centered approaches, TRE, Vortex Healing, and other approaches).

I can change my relationship to anything that seems problematic through, for instance, inquiry or heart-centered practices. Inquiry for me is often The Work, Living Inquiries, Big Mind process, parts/subpersonality work, and dialogue with a part or actual person. Heart-centered approaches may be ho’oponopno, tonglen, prayer, gratitude explorations, or whatever else works for us.

Finding what’s already whole depends on what level of wholeness we wish to explore. In periods when I have done meditation and yoga daily, I have found an amazing sense of my wholeness as a mind-body whole. I have also found it, slightly differently, through receiving and giving Breema and especially when I have been immersed in the atmosphere through an intensive or when I gave daily sessions. The connection with (or as) the wholeness of the Earth and Universe can come through being in nature or any number of practices, for instance, the Practices to Reconnect. Finding myself as that which already allows and is any experience can happen through meditation, inquiry, heart-centered practices, and many other ways.

And really, it all depends on grace.

Getting to the point where we are able to have issues and discomfort is grace. It required this amazing universe and Earth and us as temporary parts of it. That’s an amazing grace if there ever was one.

Getting to get to the point where we are interested in finding healing, in any of these forms, is grace.

Having a glimpse of the possibility of these forms of healing is grace.

Inviting it in, through intention and exploration, is grace.

When it happens, it’s grace.

What we call grace is really just the universe or life coming together a certain way locally. Sometimes, we may see just some things (the ones our mind tells us are good) as grace. Sometimes, we may see everything as grace (because it is).

Note: In the “finding wholeness beyond the issue” section, I lumped together things I normally would keep in separate categories. Finding mind-body wholeness is quite different from finding the Earth/Universe wholeness, and those are again quite different from finding what I am, that which allows and is any experience. But that’s OK. In this context, and especially in a brief article like this, it seemed OK to group them together. And it’s a reminder that this should really be a book rather than just a set of brief articles.

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All-inclusive practices for healing and awakening

Another revisit:

I tend to be drawn to practices that invite in healing and awakening. It seems a more efficient approach since my time and energy is limited. And the two go hand in hand, one supports the other.

I also tend to be drawn to practices that are all-inclusive in different ways.

Here are some examples:

All-inclusive gratitude practice. Write a (daily) list of things in your life you are easily grateful for, or not, and start each sentence with: I am grateful for… This opens the mind for that possibility, and there is a natural curiosity for what there may be to be grateful for in situations we don’t particularly like or enjoy. (See the book “Make Miracles in Forty Days”.)

Ho’oponopono and tonglen. Helps me change my relationship to myself, others, situations, and life in general. It helps me befriend reality and life. Nothing is left out.

Notice and allow. Notice what’s here in experience, whatever it is (sensations, thoughts, sounds, smells, taste), allow it as it is, notice it’s already allowed as is, and rest with it. (Natural rest, shikantaza, just sitting.)

Inquire into anything. Any stressful belief or identity. Anything you are curious about. Anything that seems real. Anything that seems solid and substantial. (I tend to use The Work, Living Inquiries, or the Big Mind process.)

And a couple of other approaches that also have their way of being all-inclusive

Vortex Healing can be used for emotional issues, identifications, physical issues, relationships, situations, and places. As a practitioner, it works for healing and awakening. (And is the most effective approach to both I have found so far, although I still value and use the other approaches mentioned here and some more.)

Therapeutic tremoring (TRE) can be used to release any tension and trauma out of the body. Over time, this can have profound effects for our well-being and healing.

Why am I drawn to these all-inclusive practices? Mainly because reality is one. So it makes sense to find some gratitude to all experiences, or shift my relationship to everything (befriending), or inquire into any stressful belief, or question anything that seems real and true, or notice and rest with whatever experience is here whatever it may be.

Note: See other articles on this site for more detailed descriptions of these practices, or do an online search.

Why do techniques and approaches stop working?

Whether we explore awakening or healing, we may find that our trusted techniques and approaches eventually stop working.

Why do they stop working?

Here are some possibilities.

We may need to learn using it with more skill and/or a different intention and attitude.

For instance, I reached a plateau with The Work at some point, and was able to use it with more skill after attending The School for The Work with Byron Katie.

Another example is working on my kidneys with Vortex Healing, noticing that it didn’t seem to go anywhere, checking in with a fellow Vortex healer, and realizing there was an emotional issue connected with the kidneys and I had used VH to clear out whatever was there without having the intention of meeting the issue (all initially outside of awareness).

If we explore something with the main intention of changing or getting rid of it, it may work for a while, and then not. Life may instead invite us to meet it, befriend it, understand it’s perspective, be present with it, be patient with it, respect it as it is, and allow it as it is. And when we are more familiar and comfortable with allowing and being present with it, it may allow change.

We may also have fear of approaching whatever we are about to explore, and that fear may stop us in order to protect us. In that case, we’ll need to meet the fear, listen to it, and see where it goes from there.

Life invites us to explore from additional angles and perspectives. That may allow us to go deeper, discover something new, and have a more rounded experience.

For instance, we may be comfortable with basic meditation or body-centered approaches, but have overlooked inquiry. Or the other way around. So life creates stagnation with an invitation for us to explore the mind more directly and in depth, or explore basic noticing and allowing, or bringing the body in more wholeheartedly. Or we may have left out the heart, and our usual approaches stagnate with an invitation to include heart-centered practices.

In general, it’s helpful to use a well-rounded approach, including restful noticing, inquiry, heart-centered practices, energy work, body-centered practices, and attention to our social relationships and relationship to Earth and life as a whole. If we mainly focus on one of these areas, we may eventually experience stagnation which is an invitation to include and bring attention to other sides of our experience and life.

Any approach is useful for a certain phase and we may be ready for another phase. Another way to say it is that techniques and approaches function as medicine for a certain condition, and we may have moved on so it’s not so helpful anymore.

Some approaches are more phase dependent and some are less so. For instance, the most basic form of meditation – notice and allow what’s here, and notice it’s already allowed – can be helpful throughout our process.

It may be an invitation to go deeper. To question our most basic assumptions about ourselves, the world, and existence, and then find new approaches that match our new discoveries. Or find a way of doing our old approaches with our new orientation.

Eventually, it may be an invitation to step out of techniques and traditions. To take off the training wheels. To stand alone. (And that doesn’t mean that we leave them altogether. Old and new approaches may still be useful, now and then.)

It’s good to be open and curious about this. I tend to assume number one or two first, explore those, and then if it doesn’t go anywhere, explore the third. I also sometimes check in with others – peers or who are more experienced – to get a second opinion.

Note: This article is a bit messy and I plan to rewrite it. I usually start with an outline, and only write when the outline feels clear and as comprehensive as I wish the article to be. This time, I pushed it due to upcoming travelling, and the article feels a bit disorganized and messy.

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All inclusive practices

I tend to be drawn to all-inclusive practices. For instance, ho’oponopono or tonglen where we open the heart to everyone and everything, gratitude practices where nothing is left out, or inquiry where we “leave no stone unturned”.

It makes sense for two reasons. First, all is Spirit. And second, it allows for a more thorough healing, awakening, and embodiment.

Of course, it’s more an orientation than something we can completely do. But it does seem to be a helpful orientation and guideline.

The fear behind spiritual practices

For many of us engaged in spiritual practices, or any form of healing work, there is an element of fear in our motivation. That’s usually not the whole story, and sometimes not a very large part of the story, but there may still be an element of fear there.

As usual, it’s normal, very understandable, and there is nothing inherently wrong with it. The downside is that it can be stressful, and it can

It’s good to notice and be honest about any fears so we can relate to them more intentionally.

One way to explore the fear is to ask ourselves: What do I fear if I don’t do these spiritual practices? If I don’t heal? If I don’t awaken? What’s the worst that can happen?

Meet the fear with some kindness and love. With gentle curiosity. And inquire into those fears and whatever identities are threatened. How does the mind creates its own experience of the fears? What’s associated with them? How does the mind relate to it? (Living Inquiries.) What are the beliefs? And what do I find when I examine them? (The Work.)

Unless we are mainly driven by fear, this type of examination won’t remove our motivation for engaging in these practices or healing work. We’ll still do it. We’ll just experience a bit more ease in how we relate to it.

Equally important, we may be more aware of the deeper, kinder, and more genuine motivations behind it.

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Avoid, present with, or resolve

How do we relate to uncomfortable thoughts and sensations?

We can avoid them. Be present with them. Or invite them to resolve.

Each one has its place.

Avoiding can be useful in the short run. But nothing is resolved, the discomfort tends to return, and avoidance in itself can create problems in life.

Being present with the images, words, and sensations can be helpful. It tends to help the mind calm down. We may notice what’s there, some of the dynamics of the mind, and perhaps have some insights. But in itself, this too won’t neccesarily resolve anything.

So how do we resolve it? It can be resolved through the consciousness side or the energy side, and really through both. I’ll just mention the few approaches I am familiar with, out of the innumerable ones available.

We can identify and examine the stressful beliefs, and find what’s more true to us (The Work). We can notice and rest with the mental images, words, and sensations creating the stressful experience, allowing the mental connection between the thoughts and sensations to dissolve (Living Inquiries). We can dissolve it from the energy side while inviting in insights to support the new patterns (Vortex Healing). We can change our relationship to it through heart centered practices (tonglen, ho’o, metta).

In general, we can meet it with presence, patience, respect, kindness, and curiosity. And that curiosity is a kind of inquiry supported by certain pointers, guidelines, and perhaps practices aimed at helping us see what’s already there. The truth is kind, and it will set us free.

Another meta-skill is important for something to resolve and that’s intention. Intention for it to resolve and clear. Intention for us and the process to keep moving, to find and explore associated and underlying beliefs and identifications.

It also helps to notice that all of it – any movements and any content of experience, including the stressful beliefs and how we relate to and explore it – happens within and as presence. That’s the context for it all. And it helps us notice identfications with wanting something to change, and then notice that too as happening within and as presence. It gives it all more space and freedom to be.

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Welcome, God

Earlier today, I noticed some slight discomfort, sadness, and impulse for it to change.

And then welcome, God. To the discomfort, sadness, and impulse for it to change. And as a reminder to myself that it’s all Spirit. It’s happening within and as awakeness. It’s the play of life. It’s life experiencing life.

It’s also a reminder of how spiritual practices are made. Something happens spontaneously, as welcome, God did. We find it helpful to ourselves. And sometimes, it’s passed on to others. To be more useful, it’s often made into a structure or a kind of prescription. And sometimes, it’s helpful to someone else, and sometimes not.

Either way, it’s something that initially happens spontaneously. Is found to be helpful. There is an impulse to pass it on to someone else. (Often as a kindness.) It is made into something slightly more structured. And it is then helpful or not, depending on the person and the situation they are in.

This particular one is helpful if we have seen (as a glimpse) or continue to see (when we look) all as Spirit. But we sometimes need a reminder that some manifestations of Spirit – such as discomfort or an impulse for something to change – also are Spirit. So we can then try welcome, God as a reminder, and see what happens.

Note: We can say welcome, God to anything. Situations. People. Emotions. Thoughts. Whatever it may be that we initially don’t recognize as Spirit. Whatever we don’t automatically recognize as Spirit due to old habits of calling some thing bad, undesirable, or just not the divine.

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Practices = experiments

What people call “practices” I like to think of as experiments.

What happens if I do this? If I stay with it for a while? What do I notice?

This helps me have a more open mind and also approach it with interest and curiosity.

It becomes more open, interesting, fun, and enjoyable.

For instance, what happens if I do ho’oponopno towards (images of) myself at different ages? How is it if I start at birth (or before) and go along the timeline to today (or even later), staying with each age for a while – perhaps even days – until there is a shift towards genuine love towards myself at that age. How is it to include others in my life at the different ages? How is it to include my parents, friends, teachers, and others? How is it to include even those my mind has made into an “enemy”, however subtly?

Passive and active aspects of the dark night

Traditionally, it’s said that the dark night of the soul is passive, in the sense that it comes uninvited and on its own time, and when – or if – it leaves, that’s also on its own time. It lives its own life. As anything does, really.

It’s also active in that it invites us to actively engage with what’s here, to have an active relationship to it. To intentionally and actively relate to it, using whatever tools we have available, whether its kindness, love, gratitude, natural rest, presence, prayer, inquiry, service or something else, and whether it’s structured by guidelines (practices) or more natural and intuitive.

When I look a little closer, I see that the active relationship also lives its own life. That too is, in a sense, “passive”. It’s a gift. Although it can feel very much active and intentional.

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Adyashanti: What style of approaching spiritual practice works best for you?

Rikki writes:

I’ve been taught that I should “practice like my hair is on fire” and in the past I have done so. Now I feel I should relax into it, be patient. But I keep attacking myself for not being more urgent with the admonition that the more awake I am, the easier it is for someone else to find freedom. How can I relax, urgently?

Dear Rikki,

Let us throw out both of the ideas that say you must practice “like your hair is on fire” or that you should relax in your practice more. What is natural to you? What style of approaching spiritual practice works best for you? That’s really the only relevant question. What attitude works best for you? It’s not about what’s right or wrong as much as it is about what is most natural and works best for you. And you will not find this in your head, but in your body. When you are applying the most conducive attitude to your practice you will feel inspired and relaxed, questioning but not impatient or anxious. You will also feel challenged at times but still open and eager to unveil Truth.

With Great Love,

Adyashanti

 

Attending to the spine

In my teens and early twenties, I did a Taoist practice where I brought attention up and down the spine and through the top of the head. (Visualizing dark light going up, and golden light coming down, with the in and out breath.)

Now, I am doing a similar although simpler practice where I bring attention up and down the spine. Rest with it. Notice. Allow. Feel.

I notice again something I noticed several years ago. When I bring attention to the spine, I see three (or more) pictures of the spine, and they don’t quite align. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where the spine is, for that reason, and it’s more noticeable from the chest area up. My sense is that it’s connected with an incarnation trauma, perhaps the sense of being unloved and unlovable, and a sense of fragmentation. (Which is also expressed in sometimes being confused what to do next in life, and feeling split between two or more options.)

Some ways to explore this:

Continue bringing attention to the spine. Notice. Allow. Rest with it.

Find kindness towards it. See it’s there to protect me. It’s from deep caring. It’s from love. Treat it with respect. Kindness. Authenticity. (As I would like to be treated.)

Look for a threat. Where is the threat in bringing attention to the spine? In the multiple pictures of the spine? In the slight discomfort I experience when I bring attention there?

What’s the worst that can happen if this doesn’t heal or resolve? (Look for the threat.)

What’s the best that can happen if it does heal and resolve? (Look for that.)

Look for the spine. See if it’s findable.

Look at the incarnation trauma. Look for a threat there. (In the images, words, sensations associated with it.)

Kindness is not dependent on a feeling or state

Kindness is not dependent on a feeling or state.

I can act from kindness, even if I feel angry, sad, frustrated, or just about anything else.

Kindness is more of an orientation, an habit, or a practice.

It’s also something that comes from recognition. Recognizing in myself what I see in others. Recognizing that we are all in the same boat. Recognizing that I am responsible for how I relate to what comes up in me. Perhaps recognizing that we are all local expressions of (the one) life, universe, existence. Even recognizing that we – and everything – are happening within and as awareness. And all of that may be deepened through practice and habit.

Love is another name for kindness.

I often prefer thinking of it as kindness. It seems a little more approachable, especially on days like today when my feelings go more in the direction of frustration, anger, and sadness. Even on these days, I can be kind towards myself. (Gentle, eat well, meet what’s here – the emotions and reactions towards it – with kindness.) I can be kind towards the person working at the coffee shop, and others I relate to through the day.

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Keeping it simple

In my own life, and when I work with clients, I am reminded of how helpful it can be to keep it simple.

Here is the simple recipe that seems to work best for me:

Simplicity. Keep it simple.

Ongoing. Make it part of daily life.

Comfortable. Find a way to do it so you’d want to do it forever.

And another principle that keeps it simple:

Reality.  Use practices and guidelines that are aligned with reality, and helps you align more consciously with reality, with what already is.

When it’s simple, it’s…..

Easier to remember and do.

More attractive to actually do.

Easier to do when things feel more overwhelming and challenging.

Something I’d want to make part of my daily life.

Here are some practices that fits these guidelines for me:

Heart practices. Loving kindness. Ho’oponopono. Doing this towards me, others, parts of me and my experience, the world, life. (Other practices: Tonglen, holding satsang with parts of my experience.)

Head practices. Inquiry. Asking simple questions in everyday life. (Is it true this is too much? Is that image of the future the actual future? Does that sensation mean something terrible is going to happen?) Sometimes doing it in a more structured way, for instance using The Work or the Living Inquiries.

Belly practices. Feeling sensations, especially the apparently uncomfortable ones and contractions. Resting with them. Doing simple body-inclusive practices. Walk in nature.

General practices. Resting with what’s here, with my experience as it is. Notice. Allow. Notice they are already allowed. Notice all as awareness.

Most of these are quite simple. And how are they aligned with reality, or how do they help me more consciously align with reality? Other posts have addressed that question so I’ll only mention a few things briefly here.

Love and kindness feels good. It’s a relief. And it’s what we are, when we find ourselves as that which any experience happens within and as.

Inquiry helps us see what’s already here. It helps us see what’s more true than our initial beliefs. It helps us see images as images, words as words, and feel sensations as sensation. (Not jumbled together as they initially often are, creating the appearance that these images and words are solid and true.)

Feeling sensations, along with inquiry, helps us feel sensations as sensations. Initially, they may seem to mean something, perhaps even something scary. (Because images and words seem “stuck” on them.) Through feeling them, and perhaps asking some simple questions about them and the associated images and words, we can feel sensations as sensations. We recognize that they don’t inherently mean anything. We can rest with them, more as they are.

Resting with what’s here helps me shift from thinking to noticing. It helps me find myself as that which I already am. As that which any experience already happens within and as.

Slow down 

Slow down.

That’s one of the most helpful pointers for a wide range of practices.

Slow down in resting with what’s here. Looking. Holding something in kind presence. Training a stable focus.

Find a way to do it so you would want to do it forever. 

Most of us have a tendency to want to skip ahead, or avoid feeling or looking at what’s here. Slowing down is an antidote to this. If it feels threatening, include that in the rest. Inquire into it. See if it’s from deep caring (wishing to protect you?). See how it is to meet the fear or apparent threat with kindness.

How would it be to slow down, as an experiment?

Is it true it’s uncomfortable? Too much? Dangerous? A threat?

Tools to explore one or a few of the many facets or reality

There are many – innumerable – facets of life and reality.

And different practices and explorations naturally and inevitably focuses on one or a few of these.

That’s how it has to be. Practices are tools, and tools often have just one or a few functions. They do some things well, and other things not at all.

Inquiry can help us see what’s already here, and what’s not here but seemed very real initially. It can help us align more consciously with reality, which is often a big relief. It can even help us see that reality is kind.

Heart practices can help us find love for our world. For ourselves, others, parts of us, situations, life, Existence, and God.

Body inclusive practices can help us release tension, or experience ourselves as a body-mind whole, or just be more aware of what’s happening physically and energetically.

Happiness practices, as described by for instance Sonya Lyubomirsky, can help us feel more alive, excited about life, and aligned with what feels meaningful and satisfying to us.

And so on. One does not exclude another. In reality, they all work hand in hand. They complement each other. They help us explore different facets of life and existence.

I was reminded of this since I have seen some non-dual folks exclude practices that explores other facets of life and reality, for instance heart practices, or happiness practices. I assume what happens is that they (a) identify with their own practice and tradition, (b) don’t recognize that it’s tool meant to invite exploration of one or a few facets of life and reality, and (c) exclude or put down other practices or traditions which address other facets of reality and life. It’s a mistake we all can make, unless we recognize the dynamics behind it.

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Immediate results vs ongoing practice

Maybe I am naive, but I often judge practices by their immediate results. If they don’t offer any, I tend to move on to something else.

It may be that I, in some cases, am missing out of longer term benefits. But I prefer to move on if I don’t see relatively quick results. There are enough practices that do offer immediate results, along with longer term deepening and more thorough shifts.

If I stayed with everything I tried that didn’t offer immediate results, it’s likely that I would stay with much that didn’t give longer term results either. Many of these are likely to be practices that, for one reason or another, are not compatible with where I am at in my process.

Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) is a good example of a practice that offers immediate results and a longer term deepening. During and following a TRE session, I often feel deeply relaxed and alert. And there is also a deepening over time. Tension is gradually released, over weeks, months, and years of ongoing practice. After all, it does take time to release a lifetime of built-up tension. It would be too much to release all at once. Better to take it slowly.

The same goes for heart centered practices, inquiry, and a body centered practice such as Breema. All offer immediate results, and an ongoing deepening over time through ongoing exploration and practice.

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Doing one thing, recommending another 

I sometimes hear spiritual teachers advice their students to use a different approach than what they themselves used on their path.

It’s understandable. They may wish to share their current view, and what seems the most helpful advice now.

And yet, it’s a bit like someone using a boat to cross a lake, and then – when on the other side – telling the people on the other shore that a boat is not needed anymore. They themselves don’t need the boat anymore, so they assume others don’t need it.

I especially see this in people who worked hard early on in their process – perhaps struggling and “muscling through” with meditation and a wide range of other practices – and then found more simplicity and clarity. They may recommend that their students skip the “work hard, do lots of meditation” phase, and instead suggest more “subtle” practices such as natural rest or looking. That’s what works for them now, so that’s what they recommend to others, ignoring that they themselves came to it through a different path and lots of hard work.

I can’t say that this is not good advice. I don’t know. But it does seem slightly odd. At the same time, I know that people will do what they’ll do. They will follow the impulse in them, wherever it takes them. Some may hear this advice, and still try to “muscle through”, and perhaps through that arrive at a similar place as where the teacher is coming from.

Others may follow the advice, and they may indeed have an easier time with it. That’s entirely possible. I don’t have enough information (yet) to say much about it.

I am saying this partly since my early process also involved lots of hard work – hours of meditation and prayer daily – and now feels much more simple. And I also notice that I can’t unreservedly recommend others to start with what I now find most helpful. It may just be most helpful to me now because of what I did earlier. I can’t recommend others to start where I, and others who have explored these things for a while, am now. What I can do is share what’s been helpful to me at different phases in my process, and then let people go with what seems most helpful to them. They’ll do that anyway, which is a good thing. (Not that anyone has asked. And I still feel I am in the middle of my own process so others probably have much more perspective than I do.)

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Spiritual practice?

I sometimes use the words “spiritual practice”.

It’s a convenient shorthand. Most people have a general idea of what it means.

At the same time, I can’t say I like either of the words very much.

The word spiritual can refer to many different things, and be understood in many different ways.  (Most of which are different from the way I intend it.) It may sound special or something out of the ordinary. While for me, it’s more synonymous with life or existence. It’s ordinary. Simple. It’s what all already is. It’s all already Spirit. We cannot escape it, even if we try.

I also see that the word spirituality does point to a certain orientation to life, so in that sense it’s useful.

The word practice sounds a bit heavy handed to me. It may bring to mind drudgery, or something that’s overly disciplined. While what it really means, at least for me, is something that’s just part of everyday life. It’s a resting with what’s here. Finding love for what’s here. Occasionally asking some simple questions, to shift out of habitual views.

It’s very simple. Even ordinary. A part of everyday life. Ongoing. Restful.

This too is about slightly different orientations, and perhaps phases of our process. Initially, both spiritual and practice can be helpful and meaningful words. They hint at a different orientation than what we perhaps were used to, and the discipline we initially may need to shift to that orientation. After a while, as we become more familiar with the terrain, the word spiritual may hint at something that seems too extraordinary, and practice doesn’t fit either since what it refers to is just part of ordinary everyday life – a resting with what’s here, finding love for it, an inherent curiosity.

What I have found helpful during difficult times

Here are some things I found helpful during difficult times, including during (what looked like) my PTSD phase.

I did the one(s) that felt right, and most helpful, at the time. Most or all of these have stayed with me for longer periods of time, and I still find them helpful.

Many of these things may seem superficial, but I found they helped shift my mindset just a bit, which often was very welcome. And over time, they may shift things more significantly.

Remembering that thoughts and feelings are just that, thoughts and feelings. They don’t necessarily tell the truth.

Doing Ho’oponopono to myself and others. (I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.) I also do it towards parts of me.

Going for walks. Spending time in nature. Gardening. Physical activity.

Avoiding too much sugar. (It can do funny things with the mind.)

Doing shaking (neurogenic tremors, Tension & Trauma Release Exercises) now and then.

Remembering that others have gone through similar things, and came out on the other end. A typical symptom of PTSD and similarly despairing mind states is thinking and feeling it will always be like this.

Being patient with myself. (Sometimes easier said than done.)

Another thing I find helpful is writing a gratitude list. Just a few simple things that I are grateful for. (Family, shelter, food, sun etc.) I tend to favor the all-inclusive gratitude list, where I include things it’s easy to feel grateful for, and also all the rest including what feels the most challenging.
Asking myself simple questions: Is it true it will never change? Can I know for certain it will always be like this? Is it true it’s too much? Is it true I cannot take it? 
Asking myself, if this was a movie, what would the meaning be? If I was the director, how would the sequel be?
Sometimes being strict with myself when I find myself going into despair and dark states. I will remind myself that the thoughts and feelings telling me that it will never change were lying to me. (Since I can’t know for certain it’s true that it won’t change. And I know from experience things do change, including when it seems very dark and thoughts – worried love – tells me it won’t.)

Bumpy and messy

When I write these posts, I am aware that the way I write can make what I write about appear simple and straight forward. Reality is usually not like that. Reality is often bumpy and messy.

Since it’s that way for me, I assume it’s like that for many others too. Most people who speak or write about different practices make it seem clear, simple and relatively straight forward. That’s understandable. We seek to present it in a clear and simple way. And that doesn’t mean it’s always that way to us.

For me, it’s certainly been a bumpy and messy path, with lots of apparent detours, mishaps, wrecks, derailings, and more. And that’s part of the process too. That’s life.

Getting ready for inquiry

For all of us, there may be supportive practices that makes it easier for us to explore love, natural rest, and inquiry.

And if we are completely new to it, there may be practices that helps us get ready for it, and get more out of it.

Here is a list of practices I have found helpful in themselves, and as a support for – for instance – inquiry. (And inquiry, in turn, is a support for each of these. These practices are all a support for each other, in a very real way.)

Body inclusive: Tension & Trauma Release Exercises (TRE). Self-Breema and Breema bodywork. Yoga. Tai Chi. Chi Gong.

Stable attention: Training a more stable attention, for instance by bringing attention to the sensations of the breath.

Love: Ho’oponopono. Tonglen. Loving kindness.

Natural rest: Noticing. Allowing.

Physical exercise: Strength. Aerobic.

Nature: Being in nature. Moving the body in nature. Connecting with nature. (Practices to Reconnect.)

Inquiry: Some forms of inquiry may be easier to start with than others. For instance, it may be easier for some to start with the Big Mind process and The Work, and then move into Living Inquiries.

Stepping stones for what’s natural

I keep noticing how different practices are stepping stones to what’s natural.

For instance, inquiry is a stepping stone – a formalized structure – inviting us to a very natural and simple curiosity.

Prayer is a stepping stone to an equally natural and simple reverence and sense of connection with the sacredness of existence.

Heart centered practices – such as loving kindness, tonglen, ho’oponopono – are stepping stones to a simple love for what’s here, as it is, and as love already.

Movement practices are stepping stones to a simple and natural way of moving…. from our wholeness and with curiosity.

Even a specialized practice such as Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) is a stepping stone for allowing a very simple and natural shaking to release (body-mind) tension.

Stepping stones to what’s more natural

Many practices I have explored seem to function as stepping stones to what’s more natural. They take me from a disconnected and fragmented state to what’s simpler and more natural. And that includes meditation, yoga (tai chi, chi gong, Breema), inquiry, prayer, loving kindness, gratitude, precepts and shaking (TRE, spontaneous movement, dance), and a variety of other practices.

The mental body is the newest in our human evolution, so it is perhaps natural that it’s been emphasized during the last few thousand years at least. This has led to a temporary over-emphasizing of role of the mental faculties (they are important, but function best in service to the heart), the appearance of our thoughts as more real and solid than they are, and identification with and as thought. So many or most of the practices developed over this time period are aimed at remedy and balance this. They are medicines for a temporary over-emphasis of the mental body. They are a bridge from this to seeing what’s already here, and a simpler and more natural way of being and living.

Some examples:

Precepts highlight what in us – usually fears, shoulds and beliefs – that prevent us from living with a natural and simple kindness towards ourselves and others. As with the other practices, it can feel a bit artificial at first, and then it shifts into a more natural and free living from kindness.

Natural meditation (Shikantaza) is what’s already here, although attention may be drawn to the complexities and drama of the mental and emotional bodies. It’s also how the mind naturally is when it’s less identified.

Yoga helps us connect more consciously with the body and movement, and allows us to experience ourselves as the body-mind whole. The whole is already here, although it’s not always noticed. And an experience of it can be cultivated through various movement practices.

Prayer is a giving of ourselves to God, an offering of our human self to Spirit. Again, it’s already that way, and this helps us notice it. It’s also how we naturally live when mind is less identified.

Loving kindness is again what’s here when mind is less identified. There is a natural and simple love and kindness for whatever is here in myself, others and the world. It’s what I am and life is.

Gratitude is similar. It’s what’s naturally here when mind is less identified. This may be a gratitude for what it’s easy to find gratitude for (friends, family, health, shelter, good food), and also for life itself as it shows up, with warts and calamities and all.

Inquiry is an examination of our thoughts and how it relates to emotions, sensations and our lives. Again, when mind is less identified it is naturally curious and attentive of these dynamics.

Shaking is what any mammal does to relieve stress and tension. It allows the body and mind to restore itself to a more healthy state.

With all of these, it can feel a bit artificial at first. We learn a form and a method, apply it, and it can feel clumsy. It also brings up what’s in us that prevents us from living it in a natural and simple form, it brings us face to face with identifications, wounds, fears, shoulds and more. And over time, as these soften, are held in love, and are seen through, the natural way of living this is gradually revealed. Form gives way to a very natural and simple way of living. These practices is a bridge from a temporary over-emphasizing of the mental body, with accompanying identifications, to a more simple and less identified way of being and living. Read More

Spiritual practices, and their function

Spiritual practices have a couple of different functions.

Spiritual practices can help improve the dream, making our lives more comfortable, improving the life of our human self.

Spiritual practices can get us “closer” to reality, and thin the veils. All may be recognized as Spirit, while there is still some identification as a me (human self) or I (observer, doer).

This thinning of the veils is a preparation of the ground, or an invitation, for a more clear and thorough awakening. (Although a thinning of the veils is not necessary for such an awakening, as there are many examples of.)

Spiritual practices cannot in themselves “get us there”. They cannot make a clear and thorough awakening happen. At most, they can improve our human life, thin the veils, and invite in a more clear awakening.

And it’s all grace. The ability to do any spiritual practice is grace, as is reality awakening to itself.

Here are some ways different practices improve our human life, and thin the veils.

Inquiry helps us see through stressful stories, and our most basic assumptions about ourselves and life. This reduces stress in our human life, and it reveals reality more as it is.

Heart practices opens up for love, gratitude, empathy and humility, and this too improves our human life, and thin the veils. Reality is love, and these practices help reveal life as love.

Feeling sensations as they are helps releasing wounds and contractions, which improves the life of our human self, and also reduces the “hooks” for identification.

Note: This is sometimes called a gradual and direct path. A gradual path helps improve our human life. It thins the veils, which perhaps makes it a little easier for the simplicity of being to awaken to itself. An a direct path is a more direct invitation for the simplicity of being to awaken to itself, independent of everything else, and without the possible distractions and “side-tracks” of the gradual path. For most of us, there is a combination of both of these.

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My tradition is the best

Why do some think that their tradition or practice is the best?

I can think of a few different reasons:

It’s the typical in-group / out-group dynamic.

This creates a sense of cohesion within the group. We are better than them. We know how things are. We are the chosen ones.

It also makes people feel better about themselves. I am with the right group. I’ll be saved.

It may come from ignorance. People may be misinformed about other traditions, or may not know much about them.

They may have a good point. Each tradition has its strengths and weaknesses, and the strengths may well be stronger than in some other traditions.

It also seems that this attitude may be increasingly more difficult to maintain, for a few different reasons.

We are better informed about other traditions and practices.

We encounter more frequently people from other traditions and practices, and see that they are as smart as us.

It simply looks pretty stupid to think that your tradition is the best (!). Especially considering that most people know that such an assumption is typically (a) used to keep people in the tradition, and (b) is often based in fear and insecurity, and is an attempt to feel better about ourselves.

I have always been eclectic in my approach, and see the value in all the main spiritual traditions and a wide range of practices. They are all medicine for people with different backgrounds, from different cultures, and at different phases in their process. So although I seek out practices that seem the most effective for me, I also realize that they are not inherently or absolutely “better” than other practices out there. And they are definitely not better than what’s possible, and what will most likely be developed in the future.

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Basics of spiritual practice

A brief outline of a(n imagined) course on spiritual practice:

  1. What it is, and is not
    1. What it is: Training the mind (just like training the body, or training any skill)
    2. What it is not: It’s not airy fairy, or “mystical” in the sense of strange or hidden
    3. Overview of the course + tasters + Q&A
  2. Stability practice
    1. Training a more stable attention, creating a new groove for attention
    2. Bring attention to an object, for instance (a) the breath, the sensations of the breath at the nostrils or (b) a visual object
    3. Insight: Notice attention wander, being drawn into compelling stories (beliefs), bring it back (grace when notice it’s wandering)
  3. Mindfulness / Natural Rest
    1. Body scan, feel sensations, allow what’s here to be here
    2. Notice all is already allowed as is
  4. Insight / inquiry
    1. Insight that comes from the other practices
    2. Insight from inquiry, f.ex. The Work, Living Inquiries, sense field exploration, labeling, Big Mind process, holding satsang
  5. Devotion / Heart Centered
    1. Prayer – (a) Jesus/Heart Prayer, (b) Christ meditation (visualize Christ at the seven points), (c) asking for guidance etc.
    2. Ho’oponopono, tonglen, metta
  6. Body Centered
    1. Yoga, tai chi, chi gong, Breema etc.
    2. A form of stability practice + mindfulness + body awareness practice + grounding (psychologically and energetically)
  7. Life / Guidelines
    1. Simple guidelines for life
    2. Reduces turmoil and drama (suffering + distractions) + mimics a life lived from love and clarity
    3. Shows us what’s left to look at (get to see beliefs, take to inquiry)
  8. Spiritual Emergence / Emergency / Maps
    1. Map of stages and quadrants (AQAL)
    2. Spiritual emergence – definition, typical unfolding, sign posts
    3. Spiritual emergency – definition, possible triggers, types + symptoms, how to best relate to it

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What can be trained: previous blind spots in mainstream western culture

Mainstream western culture has had some blind spots about what can be trained and what cannot, and that’s already changing.

For instance, from spiritual traditions from around the world, including western ones, we know that we can train (a) a stable attention (supports almost any activity), (b) empathy and an open heart (tonglen, prayer, ho’o), (c) opening to the experience that’s here (inquiry, true meditation, tonglen, prayer, ho’o), (d) what we are recognizing itself (true meditation, inquiry, prayer), and (e) that we can inquire into our most basic assumptions and find what’s more true for us. Many newer versions of these practices are also available now, including headless experiments and the Big Mind process (what we are noticing itself), and The Work (inquiry into our beliefs, including our most basic assumptions).

And some traditions also shows us that we can train more “mundane” things such as our eyes and sight (sometimes recover from or prevent eye problems), our body so it has a good chance of staying supple and healthy throughout life (yoga, tai chi, Breema), and even our ability to notice and support a flow of subtle energy in and around our body for ourselves (chi gong) and sometimes others.

This is a training and a practice, although it’s equally much an exploration and investigation. What happens when I engage in these activities?