The value of the lighter new age approaches

When it comes to healing and awakening, I’ll try anything and use whatever works. I have never felt bound by any tradition, and instead used whatever seems useful from each one. I know there is a great value to immerse yourself in one for a lifetime, but that has not been my path this time. And there is equal value to taking what works from wherever you can find it.

I even value the lighter new age approaches. They can be very helpful stepping stones. And calling them stepping stones is not a put-down. Everything, even the most profound, deep, and powerful approaches, are stepping stones. They allow us to take a step in the direction of healing and/or awakening. They put us in a certain direction. They open up something in us.

I was reminded of this when I told my partner about some of the early influences in my own conscious spiritual path. In my mid-to-late teens, I found great value in Shirley MacLaine’s writings (Out on a Limb), Richard Bach, and others. They opened up something in me. I saw that a different way of living was possible. They inspired me. It was just the right medicine for me at the time.

Of course, I was also – and mainly – immersed in more “serious” approaches like Christian mysticism, Taoism, Tibetan Buddhism, depth psychology (Jung), and systems views. I read a lot of C.G. Jung, Jes Bertelsen, Fritjof Capra, and anything I could find on Christian mysticism, Taoism and Tibetan Buddhism (Trungpa, Chöki Nyima etc.). And I practiced prayer, Christ meditation, tai chi and chigong, and tonglen and the basic and preliminary Tibetan Buddhist practices.

Why did I feel a need to add the previous paragraph? I could say it’s because I wanted to make the picture more complete. But more honestly, it’s because a part of me still wants to keep up a certain image. While I was mostly into “serious” and traditional mystical and spiritual practices, it wasn’t so important. But I notice that with Vortex Healing, which some may view with more suspicion (since it’s divine energy healing often done at a distance), I want to be seen as grounded, serious, and using approaches I have thoroughly tested out and know works. (Which is all true.)

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

Clarity for the sake of all

Any insight – any current guiding stories – is a stepping stone, it opens up to something else.

For instance, I may seek clarity (love, enlightenment, God) for my own sake at first.

Then, I may seek it for the sake of all beings.

Then, I may question even those stories.

In the first case, I seek clarity (love, enlightenment, God) for my own sake, and I do so because it makes sense within my world view. I may take the image of a boundary between me and the wider world as true, as well as images of me, I and a wider world. If I have additional stories, such as I am a victim, the world is dangerous, I am in crisis, then it makes even more sense to focus on clarity for my own sake. These stories appear helpful for a while, and at some point, they may seem a bit limiting.

I may notice that these boundaries and images are not as real as they first appeared, and there may even be an intentional investigation of these boundaries. I may also notice what happens when I stay in this attitude of seeking it for my own sake (at some point, it feels limiting, uncomfortable, stagnant), and how more freeing it is to seek it for the sake of all beings. I may also discover that the wider world is a mirror of me, and the way I relate to the wider world is how I relate to me. Seeking clarity for my own sake, or for the sake of all beings, is really the same.

As I seek clarity for the sake of all beings, I may still take certain stories as true, and this too may appear quite helpful for a while. I may still take stories of confusion and clarity, time and space, a me and I, a world, beings and so on as true. And at some point, these stories appear a bit limiting and confining. They used to be the next or the new step, and they are now the way I am limiting reality. As I question these stories of confusion and clarity, time and space, a me and I and a world, beings and so on, something else may open up.

And as something else opens up, there will continue to be stories and images to investigate. It can always be clearer.

New Age as stepping stone

We are all drawn to what we need in the moment, and it’s all stepping stones – phases of a continuing process of unfolding.

As so many, I went through an early New Age phase where I was into Shirley Maclaine (!), Shakti Gawain and some others. It was important to me as it opened up my world and gave me permission to be “weird”. The phase didn’t last for very long, but I am grateful for it. I even re-watched Out on a Limb again last year as it made an impression when I first saw it at the beginning of my own exploration (this time it was mildly entertaining).

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Variations on allowing experience


Variations on the theme of allowing experience…..

I can watch or observe experience.

I can be with it, allow it.

I can meet, welcome or embrace experience.

I can notice it’s already in awareness, it’s already allowed.

And I can be it, notice I am already it.

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Coming to clarity by way of delusion

The way to clarity is by way of delusion.
– Adyashanti, paraphrased

Here is a couple of ways this is true for me right now:

I find clarity by going through the shadow, by meeting (noticing I am) experience, inquire into beliefs, releasing tension/traumas out of the body etc.

And I sometimes find clarity by using delusion as stepping stones.

In a conventional way, I sometimes get caught up in a delusion which puts me on the course to more clarity. For instance, I may first meditate to change states, and through that realize the inherent discomfort in that impulse and allow the shift into allowing what is as it is. Or I may try to cultivate compassion, and then notice it’s already here – and available if it’s not covered up by the noise of believed stories.

In a more basic sense, any insight is a stepping stone for clarity. An insight serves to reorient, and is then another question and pointer for inquiry.

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From realization to being

Here is Adyashanti talking about the shift from insight to dissolution of identity, or from realization to being it.

It’s something that’s very much alive for me these days. I knew that realization and insights were just stepping stones, and now they seem to belong more to the past – at least in terms of interest. What it’s about now is being it, allowing and – as Adya says – aligning myself with the shift into being it.

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