“I went against God’s will”

I wrote about this before but thought I would revisit it to see what comes up.

FOLLOWING MY GUIDANCE

In my late teens and early twenties, I discovered I had a strong and clear inner guidance. When I followed it, things fell into place in amazing ways. The following path wasn’t always easy or carefree, but it felt deeply right and life brought me to places – including physical places and communities – that felt deeply right.

I explored following it in daily life, including in the smallest of ways to see what would happen, and also so I got to see what in me feared following it.

In what situations was it more difficult for me to follow it? Not surprisingly, it was typically when other people were involved and my social anxiety, desire for approval, fear of disapproval and anger, and so on came up.

In my mid-twenties, I studied psychology at the University of Utah on a student visa. (I am from Norway.) During a semester off, I went to Nepal and India and met someone literally from around the corner from me in Salt Lake City. (We had mutual friends so it wasn’t as much of a coincidence as it sounds like.) We got into a relationship, and when my student visa later ran out, we had a choice of splitting up or getting married. We chose to get married.

That felt OK, although the decision was confused by several emotional issues surfacing in me: Fear of being alone. (Although I loved that too.) Fear of losing the community at the Zen center I lived at in Salt Lake City. Fear of losing the cool things in the US culture I couldn’t find easily in Norway. (Including psychology classes on ecopsychology, environmental psychology, health psychology, and systems theories.) Fear of losing my beloved Rocky Mountains and desert. (I felt a profound belonging to that land.) And so on.

LEAVING MY GUIDANCE ON A MAJOR LIFE DECISION

But what felt very strongly not OK with my inner guidance was moving to Wisconsin. My wife got into the graduate program there, and I didn’t want to be the one preventing her from following her dreams. Here too, issues came up: I didn’t want to be selfish, I didn’t want to be the reason for her resentment if she didn’t follow her opportunities.

Although I loved a lot about being in Madison – the community, working with sustainability – it also felt deeply wrong to be there. My inner guidance was there always telling me that this was wrong. And that obviously also impacted our relationship. That too started feeling not right and not as aligned as I had wished.

Even after moving to Oregon, which felt far more right for me, the sense of something fundamental being off was there. My inner guidance told me that the relationship was not right. And I still stayed, likely because of a combination of convenience (it was good on the surface and comfortable in a conventional sense) and my issues (unprocessed fears). My guidance was still there, always, telling me that this was not right.

LEAVING THE SITUATION

After some years of this, I did move away and got divorced. And although my outer life now feels much more aligned, my inner sense of alignment is still not quite there.

I still feel an inner sense of being lost and I am not sure if that’s from childhood issues or going against my guidance for so long, or – more likely – a combination.

“I WENT AGAINST GOD’S WILL”

Throughout all this, the discrepancy between my inner guidance and my active choices was deeply uncomfortable and painful for me.

And I added to that discomfort by telling myself I had gone against God’s will. God had plans for me. God told me what to do through my inner guidance. And I went against it. I ruined my life. This was quite traumatic for me.

It took time for me to process this and clarify this more deeply. Through The Work of Byron Katie, I found more clearly that I hadn’t gone against God’s will. It’s not possible. What happens is the divine. It’s God’s will. Even going against my guidance was God’s will.

IT’S ALL TRUE

It’s not something I wish to repeat. It did create a lot of problems in my life. I did get off the track that felt deeply right for me. In some ways, it did ruin my life. I did go against my clear inner guidance. And yet, I did not go against God’s will.

All of this has validity.

The conventional view is true. And it’s true that I didn’t go against God’s will.

FINDING COMPASSION FOR MYSELF

I also find gifts in this.

I got to experience what happens when I go against my inner guidance on a major life decision. (It’s the same that happens when I go against it on smaller decisions, it’s just that it has a bigger impact on my life.)

I got humbled and humanized.

I got to see that it’s possible to recover from this. It’s possible to again follow my inner guidance and get my life back on what feels more deeply as a right track. (I am still in that process.)

I find compassion for myself. Yes, I made a mistake in a conventional sense. Yes, I did it from unprocessed issues. (Passed on possibly for generations.) Yes, it had consequences. And that is very understandable. I was caught up in issues. I didn’t have the outer and inner resources to make a better decision. How is it to meet that with kindness? How is it to meet what comes up in me around this with kindness?

More than that, it’s very human. I got to experience something very human.

And would I have done it differently if I could have? Yes.

The world in me

There are – at least – two ways the world is in me.

And I can find both here and now in my own direct experience.

FINDING A PART OF ME THAT MIRRORS WHAT I SEE IN THE WORLD

If someone asks me if I feel or experience something, I almost always can find it and say “yes”. (And in the past, before I learned to not assume that everyone understands this, that has gotten me in trouble.)

Why is that?

It’s because I find that my psychology has innumerable parts. Whatever I see in the world, I can find in myself here and now.

There is always one part of me that has the characteristics I see out there. There is always one part that right now is experiencing what I see out there. It may not be very strong but it’s there, and it’s there at the very least as a potential.

I discovered this first in my teens, and since then daily and over and over.

And it also makes sense. If I imagine a characteristic or experience in someone else, it’s because I can connect with it in myself here and now. I am already connecting with it as soon as I imagine it in others.

Sometimes, what I see out in the world may be somewhat unfamiliar to me. I am not used to finding it in myself, and then the exploration may have to be a bit more thorough and detailed. Sometimes supported by a form of structured inquiry like The Work of Byron Katie or the Kiloby Inquiries.

So the world mirrors me. I can find what I can see in the world in me here and now.

THE WORLD IN ME

There is also another way I can find the world in me. And that is to see that the world is literally in me.

In one sense, I am a human being in the world. That’s not wrong. And when I look more closely, I find I more fundamentally – in my own first-person experience – am something else. I find I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

I can also find this by examining my sense fields. I notice what’s in each sense field. (E.g. sound, smell, taste, sensation, thought.) I notice that any experience happens within one or more sense fields. (And that the sense fields are all one, the distinction between them happens only in my mental field.) I find that the world, to me, happens within and as the sense fields. I find that the world, to me, happens within and as what I am.

Said another way, and a little more from the logic side, to myself I am consciousness. If I think “I have consciousness” it means that to myself, I am consciousness. And that also means that the world, to me, happens within and as consciousness. It happens within and as what I am. It happens within and as the oneness I am.

When someone says “I am not in the world, the world is in me” or talks about “oneness”, then that’s something I don’t need to take anyone’s word for. I can find it here and now in my own direct noticing.

THE EFFECTS OF NOTICING THIS

This is about noticing what’s already here. Nothing needs to be fabricated. We don’t need to tell ourselves any stories about it, or rely on or trust those stories. We can find it here and now.

Our imagination may tell us we are separate. We may have images of ourselves as separate, and those images are inherited from our parents, teachers, and ultimately the culture we live within. We are told we are separate, and that we most fundamentally are this human self, so in our innocence and from our kind heart, we take it on. We do as others do. We learn to pretend that’s how it is.

And that has consequences. We naturally feel somewhat isolated, alone, separate from others, perhaps separate from our body and nature, we learn to be defensive, and so on.

Noticing that the world is in me, in the two ways mentioned above, and noticing it here and now, also has consequences.

Using the world as a mirror helps me get in touch with more of the natural richness I am. It opens up for recognizing in myself what I see in others in more situations, and that opens for a natural empathy.

Finding the world in me helps me see I am not most fundamentally this human self. It helps me relate to any content of experience a little more consciously. It helps me live a little more from this noticing and from the oneness I am.

Mostly, this noticing is a kind of seed and who knows what comes out of it. There are no formulas here. It’s an adventure. It’s something parts of us already and naturally are curious about and even fascinated by.

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Holding onto overly simplistic views for safety

It’s quite common for folks who get into healing and spirituality to hold onto simplistic views for safety.

We hold onto it to try to find some distance from the discomfort we are experiencing, created by deeper, more visceral, and stressful beliefs and identities.

PHYSICAL HEALTH AND EMOTIONAL ISSUES

One of these simplistic ideas is that our physical health challenges are created by our emotional issues.

I have this illness, so it must be created by an emotional issue. Working on that issue is the answer.

The reality is often far more complex. What happens locally is the result of movements within the larger whole. The small things we think we grasp are drops in the bucket of what’s actually going on. Innumerable things influence our health and our emotional issues are just one of those.

Yes, it makes sense to explore that aspect of it and see what happens. Most of the time, it won’t hurt, and it may help.

And it also makes sense to recognize that innumerable factors influence our health. Our health is an expression of what’s happening in far larger and more complex systems.

HOLDING ONTO SIMPLISTIC VIEWS FOR SAFETY

Holding onto views, identities, and stories for safety is inherently stressful.

I find it helpful to identify these and explore them.

What is the story? And some underlying and supporting stories?

What do I hope to get out of holding onto it? A sense of safety? Predictability? Having answers?

What happens when I hold onto it? In this case, do I overly narrow my options for how to explore and view my own health? Do I apply it to others and tell them their physical health issues are held in place by emotional issues? How does it impact my relationship with myself and others?

What’s the genuine validity in the reversals? Is it true that my physical health may have other causes as well? Or that the main cause could be something else?

How would it be to hold the initial story more lightly? How would it be to explore the emotional components and see what happens? And also explore other avenues? (Including finding more peace with my health and body as it is?)

WE ALL DO IT

In one way or another, we all hold onto overly simplistic views for safety. It’s what we humans seem to do, at least so far.

And, in reality, any view, identity, and story are overly simplistic.

Any mental representation is different in kind from what they are about. (Unless they happen to be about mental representations.) The terrain is always different from and far more than any map.

What we think we grasp is a tiny part of what’s there, no matter what it’s about.

And what we think we grasp tends to change over time. It’s provisional. It’s not final or absolute.

Noticing our nature while holding onto images for safety

At some point in the awakening process, we may find ourselves in a kind of in-between state.

We notice our nature directly, at least when we pay attention to it.

And we also still hold onto some ideas about what we are and identify as these.

THE BACKGROUND

To ourselves, we are consciousness and the world to us happens within and as that consciousness.

We are oneness and the world, to us, happens within and as that oneness.

This oneness learns that it is this human self happening within itself. It’s this human self that it can only see in the mirror or in photos and videos, can only see partially directly, that others and our passport say we are, and that it senses and lives in the world through. This is how most onenesses operate.

At some point, this oneness may become curious about its nature. It may intuit itself as oneness and consciousness. It may have glimpses of itself as that. It may learn how to notice its nature, and to do so more often through daily life.

NOTICING AND HOLDING ONTO IMAGES OF ITS NATURE

At this point, it will often both notice directly its nature, at least when bringing attention there. And it will create and hold onto some mental representations of its nature.

These may be mental representations of oneness, void, capacity, love, consciousness, and so on. And perhaps even Big Mind, Brahman, Spirit, and more.

IT’S NATURAL

This is a natural part of the process. It’s innocent. There is nothing inherently wrong with it.

The oneness we are is used to holding onto mental representations of who or what it is. It’s what it has learned from others. It’s how it finds a sense of safety, although it also brings friction with reality.

Also, when it discovers its nature, it can feel like a treasure and vitally important, so it tries to remember and hold onto it by creating and holding onto mental representations of it and even identifying as these mental representations.

This too comes with inherent discomfort. It’s something we feel we need to remember, rehearse, and even defend. And that’s a motivation to explore further and find a bit more clarity.

SOME WAYS TO EXPLORE THIS

What are some ways to explore this?

We may need some structured guidance, and here are a few I find useful:

Headless experiments help me notice my nature as capacity and what the world, to me, happens within and as. Here, it’s easier to notice the contrast between a direct noticing and my mental representations of what’s noticed.

Kiloby Inquiries helps me explore any identifications still in my system, including of capacity, oneness, love, and all the other identifications we may create for ourselves.

And the same goes for The Work of Byron Katie. This too helps me identify and explore any ideas I have of what I am.

A SPECIAL CASE OF AN UNIVERSAL DYNAMIC

As suggested above, this is a special case of something much more universal.

The oneness we are notices its nature. It recognizes itself as all it knows. To the oneness we are, the world happens within and as itself.

And it will still, very likely, hold onto a variety of mental representations of who and what it is. It will, at least to some extent, identify as these.

As mentioned, this happens out of old habits and because it feels safe. It’s a natural part of the process. And it comes with discomfort which is an invitation to explore what’s going on and find a bit more clarity around it.

What are some of these mental representations? They typically include a wide range of relatively universal ones. For instance: Gender. Nationality. Political orientations. A sense of lack and not being good enough. A sense of separation. All sorts of shoulds about ourselves, others, and life. And so on.

These are not necessarily wiped out by our nature recognizing itself. Usually, they remain in our system.

And that’s part of the process and adventure.

They are inherently uncomfortable, so we are invited to explore what’s going on, find a bit more clarity around it, and shift how we relate to it.

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From seeing to visceral

For some years, inquiry was the center of my focus and something I did daily, whether it was The Work of Byron Katie, the Kiloby (Living) Inquiries, the Big Mind process, or just old-fashioned Buddhist sense field exploration inquiry. (This was mostly from around 2000 to 2018.)

I’ll still do more formal inquiry when I am drawn to it, but my focus these days is more on direct noticing and energy healing.

And I also notice a shift. For instance, when I did The Work on a topic in the past, it was sometimes a seeing of what was more true for me a certain topic, and my visceral experience hadn’t quite caught up. These days, I more often notice the visceral experience.

I imagine it may be more of my system catching up to the seeing, and it happens and deepens over time.

For instance, I saw the “I know everyone loves me, I just don’t expect them to realize it” quote from Byron Katie this morning, and I notice it resonates viscerally with me. Not with all of me since there are still psychological parts that don’t realize it, but more of me get it viscerally. The overall experience is of getting it more viscerally. When I first saw that quote many years ago, I remember seeing the truth of it but not getting it so viscerally.

And, of course, there is always further to go. There is a lot I haven’t examined yet, and there are many parts of me that have not caught up with the seeing.

I am my own final authority

I find that I am my own final authority, and it’s always that way whether I notice it or not.

CHOICES AND ACTIONS

In terms of my actions and choices, I am my own final authority.

I may tell myself I am doing something because of circumstances, or someone told me, or I was forced to, and so on. And, in reality, I am the one making the decisions. Nobody makes them for me.

Even if I think I did it because others told me to, or because of circumstances, or because I was forced, I was still the one making the decision.

NOTICING MY NATURE

Similarly, when it comes to what I more fundamentally am, I am my own final authority.

Others can tell me. I can read things in books. I can make up any number of worldviews and maps telling me different things.

And I am my own final authority. My own noticing is my own final authority.

What do I find if I set aside what I have been told, and what I am telling myself?

What am I more fundamentally?

What am I in my own direct noticing? What am I when I look in my first-person experience?

A LIBERATING REMINDER

I find it’s liberating to notice I am my own final authority.

I don’t need to get too caught up in blaming circumstances, others, life, and so on for my own choices and actions. I did it. I chose it.

And I don’t need to get too caught up in what others tell me my more fundamental nature is supposed to be. I can look for myself.

GUIDES FOR FINDING IT FOR OURSELVES

How do I discover and clarify this for myself?

For me, different forms of inquiry have been very helpful.

The Work of Byron Katie really brings it home to me that I am my own final authority in my choices and actions.

And the Big Mind process and Headless experiments, along with the Kiloby/Living inquiries and The Work, help me notice and explore living from my more fundamental nature.

Synchronicity: Losing my wallet

Eleven years ago, I went to Findhorn for an inquiry workshop on money.

The workshop was led by two experienced facilitators in The Work of Byron Katie which I was deeply immersed in at the time. And I went partly as an excuse to experience Findhorn, a place I had heard and read about since my teens, and partly because it was an opportunity to do inquiry with others.

Findhorn is an intentional eco-community that developed in the 70s and 80s and it has a near-mythological status among many in the new age and eco-community world. I loved being there and hope to visit again.

To get there, I flew to Inverness and then took the train to the closest train station to Findhorn where I was picked up by the small Findhorn buss. At Findhorn, I met one of the workshop holders, signed in, and as I was about to pay, I discovered that my wallet was gone. This was quite stressful for me since I was traveling and had my money and credit cards there.

The facilitator gave me excellent advice: Before doing anything else, sit down and put all your stressful thoughts on paper. As I was about to finish this list, the bus returned to Findhorn from another run. I looked under the seat I had used, and found my wallet hung up on some of the metal under the chair. (It was placed so it was safe from others, and only I – who knew where to look – would have found it.)

I spent the workshop doing inquiry mostly on the juicy stressful thoughts on that list.

For me, this was a beautiful synchronicity. I lost my wallet just as I was arriving to an inquiry workshop on money. I wrote down my real and juicy stressful thoughts about losing the wallet and my money. And I got to use that as food for the workshop.

Set aside looking for God and explore your own experience instead

There are many paths to God, and the two main ones may be devotion (prayer, surrender) and inquiry (investigation). Each one may be important at different times in our process. Both are equally valid and important. Each one offers something unique. And each one can be medicine for the other.

The statement above reflects the inquiry approach, and how the inquiry approach can be medicine for some of the potential pitfalls of an exclusively devotional approach.

WHAT WE MAY MISS ON A DEVOTIONAL APPROACH

If we are exclusively on a devotional path, we may look for God as something far away and out there, unfamiliar and extraordinary. We may get caught up in ideas about God, reality, and ourselves, and perceive and live as if they are true. And we may miss out on recognizing how our mind creates its own experiences.

INQUIRY AS MEDICINE

One medicine for this is inquiry. Through inquiry into our own experience, we may clear up a few misconceptions. We may explore what we more fundamentally are in our own direct experience, and find something we can call Spirit and qualities we associate with the divine.

WHAT WE MAY FIND THROUGH INQUIRY

We may find ourselves as what the world, to us, happens within and as. We may find ourselves as oneness and the oneness the world, to us, happens within and as. We may find ourselves as without any inherent characteristics allowing for the experience of any and all characteristics and experiences. And so on.

We may realize that our nature is already what we can call Spirit, and it has always been what’s the most close and familiar to us, and for that reason also the most ordinary. We may find that all we have ever known is our own nature since the world to us happens within and as what we are.

TWO WINGS OF A BIRD

Clearing up this, we may still enjoy a devotional approach. The two are not exclusive.

As they say in Buddhism, devotion and inquiry are like two wings of a bird.

THE REVERSE – AND GENERAL ORIENTATIONS

We can also find this in the reverse. An exclusive inquiry approach can be one-sided and a devotional approach can be the cure.

And there are some general orientations that guide and support both devotion and inquiry: Receptivity, curiosity, sincerity, diligence, authenticity, and so on.

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“I am picking up feelings that aren’t mine”

Some people on a spiritual path experience that they are picking up feelings that aren’t theirs, and feel some distress around it.

In a limited and conventional sense, it may be true they are picking up something from others.

We can sense what’s going on with others, to some extent. Either through picking up signals or even at a distance without any obvious connection.

If this is a pattern and feels overwhelming, there are several ways to work with it. We can practice respecting the boundaries of others, and setting our own boundaries more clearly. We can explore different ways of grounding. We can energize our system so it’s in better condition to deal with what’s happening in our surroundings. We can strengthen our etheric field. (The energy field closest to the body.) And so on.

And there is also another side to this.

THE WORLD IS MY MIRROR

The world is my mirror. Whatever story I have about someone else, or even a particular feeling, I can turn it to myself and find specific examples of how it’s true – here and now and in the past.

When this happens, it’s an opportunity to get to know more sides of myself, and often sides I have shunned in the past.

BEFRIENDING

When people say these things, it’s often because they find the feeling uncomfortable.

So this is an opportunity to get to know the feeling and whatever stories we have about it.

How is it to meet and allow the sensations?

What does this part of me want to tell me? How does it see me? In what way is it trying to help me? What advice does it have for me? How can we find a better partnership?

What story do I have about the feeling? What do I find when I examine this story?

EXAMINING STORIES

Beyond this, what stories do I have about the other person? The one the feeling supposedly comes from? What do I find when I examine these?

Is it true the feeling comes from the other person? What do I find when I examine this story?

What other stories do I have about this situation? And what do I find when I examine them?

HAPPENING WITHIN AND AS WHAT I AM

Whatever happens in my world happens within and as what I am.

Whatever happens in others or the wider world, to me happens within and as what I am.

Whatever happens here in this human self happens within and as what I am.

Most fundamentally, I am capacity for all of it and it’s all happening within and as what I am.

All of it has the same nature. It’s all what a thought may imperfectly call consciousness, Spirit, and so on.

It all has different forms and it’s all “one taste”.

Note: This article is originally from one of the Brief Notes posts.

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Byron Katie: If the voice in your head is you, who is the one listening to it?

If the voice in your head is you, who is the one listening to it?

— Byron Katie

This is a very good question, and it can be difficult to explore without some guidance.

Most people would answer “me” without examining very closely what that actually means.

If we explore it, we may find that we refer to an image of ourselves, and often a set of different images, and often images connected with certain words and sentences and that these images and words are associated with sensations in the body.

What the question points to is what all of this is already happening within and as. It refers to what the world to us – any content of experience – happens within and as. To ourselves, that’s what we more fundamentally are. That’s our nature.

And to find that, we typically need more guided pointers and explorations.

Byron Katie, of course, gives people these pointers in the form of The Work.

We can also do other forms of guided and structured inquiry like the Kiloby (Living) Inquiries, based on traditional Buddhist inquiry.

We can use Headless experiments or the Big Mind process.

We can explore Basic Meditation regularly over time, and find that any content of experience – including the images, words, and sensations we may take ourselves to be – come and go. And we may eventually find ourselves as what it all happens within and as.

And so on.

And here, when it’s noticed, there is an invitation to keep noticing and explore how it is to live from this noticing. And also keep exploring any hints of our mind continuing taking itself as images, words, and sensations in new and more “spiritual” or “awake” ways. (As “emptiness”, “consciousness”, “love”, “oneness” and so on.)

I don’t know the context for Byron Katie’s words, but they were probably said to someone ready to hear them and make use of them. Someone ripe for noticing.

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Synchronicity: Contacted by the one I did inquiry on

A little over a decade ago, I participated in The School for The Work with Byron Katie in Germany. One afternoon, I did The Work on a kid from elementary school I experienced as unfriendly to me. (I think one statement was: He is a bully.)

Through the inquiry, my experience of the situation was turned on its head. I realized that I had been looking down on him, so no wonder he reacted toward me as he did. I felt a great deal of compassion for him and also myself. He was someone I had minimal contact with back then, and no contact with for decades.

On my way to my room that evening, I checked social media, and there was a message from him!

At the very least, this was a remarkable synchronicity, a meaningful coincidence.

And it may also point to something else. Perhaps he picked up on me having him in mind and shifting how I relate to him, and felt drawn to send a message?

Befriend & Awaken: The essence of many healing and awakening traditions

The befriend and awaken process is what I use the most these days as a practice.

It’s simple, direct, and effective. It includes essential elements from traditional psychological and spiritual approaches.

And it goes straight to the heart of emotional healing, awakening, and embodiment.

It allows for healing and relaxation of parts of me caught up in painful separation consciousness. It allows more part of me to align with a conscious noticing of my nature. And it makes it easier for me to live from this noticing in more areas of my life and situations in my life.

Here is a very brief outline.

NOTICE THE CONTRACTION

I notice a contraction.

I recognize it through one or more of the telltale signs: reactivity, defensiveness, one-sided views, feeling like a victim, being paralyzed, and so on.

I notice the contraction in the body. I notice the sensations. Feel the sensations. Recognize them as physical bodily sensations.

I rest with this noticing.

A PART OF ME

I recognize the contraction as a part of me.

It’s a part caught up in painful separation consciousness. It’s caught up in and operates from painful beliefs, identifications. It’s wounded.

Although it may seem big and overwhelming when I am caught up in it or a struggle with it, it’s not even close to all of who and what I am.

THANK YOU FOR PROTECTING ME

I thank the contraction for protecting me.

Thank you for protecting me.

Thank you for your love for me.

I repeat this and rest in this noticing.

WHAT DO YOU NEED?

I explore what the essential need of this part of me may be.

Is it being seen and understood? Love? Safety? Support?

I give it these in turn and notice which ones allow it to relax and rest, and I rest with the ones that resonate.

WHAT’S THE PAINFUL STORY YOU OPERATE FROM?

What’s the painful story this part of me is operating from?

What’s the essence of it?

What are some of the underlying and more essential stories?

Is it true? What’s more true?

What happens when you believe it’s true? Is there validity in the reversals? Can I find specific examples of how they are as or more true?

WHAT’S YOUR NATURE?

I notice the contraction as a flavor of the divine.

And in more detail:

I recognize my nature as capacity for the world as it appears to me.

I am capacity for this contraction. It happens within and as what I am.

I notice that my nature is the same as its nature, and rest in and as that noticing.

IN PRACTICE

In daily life, I may not go through all of these steps in one go.

If I have time, I typically notice the contraction, thank it, notice what it needs and give that to it, get a sense of the painful story, and rest in noticing the nature of the contraction. Later, I may investigate the painful story more thoroughly, although I have done a lot of inquiry so it tends to happen more automatically.

And if I don’t have so much time, or am in the middle of an activity, I may just notice the physical sensations and thank it for protecting me. And then explore it more thoroughly later (or not).

The sequence is not set in stone, and the particular steps are not set in stone. I use whatever works.

ADVANCED PRACTICE?

Is this an advanced practice? Yes and no.

Anyone can benefit from exploring several of these steps.

And for me, I notice they rest on a lot of practice that I have done in the past.

Noticing the contractions come mostly from Living Inquiries / Kiloby inquiry.

Noticing it as a part comes from parts work.

Thanking it for protecting me comes from parts work and dialogue explorations, and it has elements of ho’oponopono.

Giving it what it needs comes from… I am not sure. It seems a part of a lot of other explorations, including Non-Violent Communication.

Identifying and exploring the painful story comes from The Work of Byron KAtie.

Recognizing its nature and resting in this noticing comes from any exploration of my own nature, including the Big Mind process and Headless experiments, along with basic meditation.

For me, this, simple befriend & awaken process rests on decades of other explorations. So I am honestly not sure how suited it is for people who are not so familiar with these other approaches. I would tend to recommend these more basic ones first, and then this one as people get more familiar with the terrain.

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Awakening described in five levels of difficulty

I keep seeing YouTube videos where people explain something at different levels of complexity. 

So why not do it for awakening? 

How may it look if I describe it from the essence and then increasingly add more detail and differentiation? Here is my first go:

What is awakening? 

LEVEL 1 

At the simplest level, it’s about exploring what we really are in our own experience. 

To see what we find and see how it is to live from it. 

It’s as simple as that. 

LEVEL 2 

We can add another layer of detail. 

In one sense, we are this human self, a being in the world, and so on. That’s not wrong. 

And yet, when we look, what is it we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience? 

This involves setting aside any ideas others tell us we are and we tell ourselves we are. Engage in a sincere and often guided exploration. See what we find in our own first-person experience. 

And then see how it is to live from that noticing and what it does with us. 

LEVEL 3 

This can be understood in a psychological or spiritual context. 

In a psychological context, awakening is just about discovering what we are in our own first-person experience. 

We have mental representations of this human self in the world, and we need those to orient and function in the world. And yet, when we look more closely, we may find we more fundamentally – to ourselves – are something else. 

Conventionally, we may say we “have” consciousness. And in our own first-person experience, we are this consciousness and all content of experience – including this human self, the wider world, and anything else – is happening within and as this consciousness. What we are forms itself into any and all our experiences. 

In that sense, all we have ever known and will ever know is what we are. All we have known and will ever know is our nature. 

In a spiritual context, we can go one step further. We can say that all of existence is the divine, and we are the divine first taking itself as a separate being and then reminding its own nature and oneness. 

The upside of the psychological interpretation is its simplicity and that it doesn’t require any particular worldview. It can help us ground our approach to awakening and living from and as oneness. 

The upside of the spiritual interpretation is that it *may* be more accurate in the bigger picture, and it can be more inspiring. 

LEVEL 4 

What may we find when we explore our more fundamental nature? 

We may find ourselves as capacity for all our experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything else. 

And we may find ourselves as what any and all experiences, and the world to us, happens within and as. 

Noticing this is the first step. And it doesn’t necessarily involve a long and complicated process. 

Simple guidance from someone familiar with this terrain may be enough, for instance using the Big Mind process or the Headless experiments. 

The next step is to keep noticing this in more and more situations in our daily life, and over time deepen the groove of this new noticing habit. 

And to explore living from it. How is it to live from noticing my nature? How is it to live from noticing that the world and all of existence, to me, is one? 

What does this do to me? What does the noticing do to where my “center of gravity” is in terms of what I most fundamentally take myself to be? What does it do to me to intend to live from this noticing in more situations and more areas of my life? 

The noticing itself is relatively simple. It doesn’t ask that much from us. 

And to keep noticing it and to live from it asks everything from us. 

It involves a profound transformation of our most fundamental identity, our perception, our life in the world, and our human self and psyche. 

And it requires a deep healing at our human level. It requires deep healing of all the different parts of our psyche still caught up in separation consciousness, and emotional issues, hangups, beliefs, and traumas. 

We can notice our nature and even, to some extent, live from it, while also having many parts of us still operating from separation consciousness. These parts of us will inevitably color our perception and life, and they will sometimes be more actively and obviously triggered. 

In an awakening process, they’ll come up metaphorically asking to join in with the awakening. Asking to reorient within the context of finding ourselves as oneness. And find deeper healing through that. 

LEVEL 5 

A couple of things here are relatively simple. 

It doesn’t necessarily take much for us to notice our nature, especially with skilled guidance. 

And it doesn’t take that much to understand all of this, to some extent, at a story level. 

Both of those are good starting points. And the real work is in living it. 

The real work is in keeping noticing our nature, exploring how it is to live from it, and inviting the many parts of us still operating from separation consciousness to align more closely with oneness. 

There is always further to go in the noticing, living, and realigning of the many parts of us. 

It’s an ongoing process. 

What are some of the many things we may discover or experience? 

We may go through dark nights. As I see it these days, these are phases where our system holds onto deeper assumptions and identities and life puts us in a situation where these don’t work anymore. There are many types of dark nights, including one I am familiar with where deep trauma comes up to heal and align with the awakening. 

We may engage in different forms of structured inquiry and explore certain processes more in detail. We may notice what happens when our system holds onto a specific belief, examine this belief, and find what’s more true for us and how it is to live from this. 

We may explore our sense fields. We may notice how our mental field is a kind of overlay on the rest of the content of our experience to make sense of it all. Our mental representations help us orient and navigate in the world. 

We may see how our mind associates certain mental representations (mental images and words) with certain bodily sensations. The mental representations give a sense of meaning to the sensations, and the sensations give a sense of solidity to the mental representations. This is how the mind creates beliefs and identities for itself, and also emotional issues, hangups, and traumas. 

This is also how the oneness we inherently are creates an experience for itself of I and Other. It’s how separation consciousness is created. It’s a relatively basic mechanism behind separation consciousness. 

We may find that mental representations (thoughts) are questions about the world. Their function is to help us orient and navigate in the world. They are different in kind from what they point to. They simplify. In a conventional sense, they are more or less accurate. And they cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. Reality is always more than and different from any thought, and also – in a sense – far more simple. 

As we explore this in more detail, we may discover more places where our systems hold onto identities and assumptions about ourselves and the world. We may find an identification as an observer, as consciousness, as oneness, as love, as capacity for the world, and so on. In each of these cases, the mind creates a mental representation for itself, associates it with certain physical sensations, and identifies with the viewpoint of that mental representation and its story. 

This is an ongoing process.

ABOUT THESE STEPS 

These steps are obviously somewhat arbitrary, and they turned out to be more about adding another layer of detail than explaining awakening in different levels of complexity. If I did it again, I may be able to follow the assignment more accurately…! 

I would likely also include more about the heart and energetic aspects and more about the dynamics of living from noticing our nature.

I am also aware of how these steps roughly mirror my own process. During the initial awakening shift in my teens, oneness woke up to itself. I wasn’t aware of the more detailed mechanisms and so on. All that came through different forms of inquiry and other practices later on. 

Note: If I wanted to point to it more directly in the first level, I could say: “It’s the one pretending to be two and then refinds itself as one and many simultaneously”. This is not wrong, but I prefer to emphasize the questions and exploration since it more clearly leaves the finding up to the person. Pointing to it more directly can give some a sense that they get it even if they only get it at a conceptual level. As mentioned above, that’s a good first step but it’s not what this is about.

Photo: A snapshot I recently took from the land that chose us in the Andes mountains.

We are fictional characters

In fictional stories, we are aware that these are fictional characters, even if they sometimes feel real and may capture many human dynamics accurately and with insight. 

To us, other people are – in a sense – fictional. We make up stories about them, and we relate to these fictional stories about them. 

And to us, we ourselves are – in a similar sense – fictional. We make up stories about ourselves and relate to these stories about ourselves. We create stories about our past, our possible future, our identities, our likes and dislikes, and so on. 

These stories about ourselves and others are more or less accurate in a conventional sense. And they are ultimately fictional. They are created by our mind. They are mental representations. 

If we don’t notice this, we may perceive and act as if these stories are true, and possibly even the full, final, and absolute truth. And since that’s not accurate, it tends to create struggle and drama. 

And to the degree we notice this fictional aspect of how we see ourselves and others, we can relate to it all more intentionally. We can notice our mental representations. Notice they are just that, with the inherent limitations in these images and words. And know that reality about others and ourselves is different from and more than any of these representations. 

This is something we all, at some level, know. We know we make up these stories. We know they sometimes are not accurate in a conventional sense, even if we may have held them as accurate before we got more information. We know the downfall in holding them as true because we likely have experienced it. 

What we may not know is how to explore this more thoroughly, and that’s where different forms of inquiry come in. 

Note: The title of this article can be misunderstood. I don’t mean that we – and others – don’t exist. I just mean that the images and stories we have about ourselves and others are fictional. They are made up. They are more or less accurate in a conventional sense, different in kind from what they supposedly point to, and ultimately guesses.

Note 2: I saw an article with a similar title to this one, and wrote this based on what came up for me from the title. Because of my brain fog, it’s difficult for me to read these types of articles these days, but I can use titles and short quotes as starting points for my own exploration.

Putin as a mirror

Anything in the world is a mirror for ourselves.

What stories do I have about Putin? If I turn these stories around, can I find specific examples of how these stories are true about me? Now and in the past?

HE IS UNHINGED

I see him as unhinged from reality.

When I am unhinged from reality? When I go into reactivity in how I see him and the war, my views inevitably get more one-sided and polarized. They may not be wrong, but I may miss out on the bigger picture. For instance, I may miss out on remembering that many or most Russians may not want this war, and many or most of the Russian soldiers may not want it.

HE IS HEARTLESS

I see him as heartless and prioritizing his own ambitions over the suffering of others.

How do I do that now? When I go into reactivity in how I see Putin and the invasion of Ukraine, I tend to lose my compassion and empathy. I may indulge in my own anger and reactivity, and forget about the suffering of the many impacted by this war – the Ukrainians and also the Russian soldiers and their families. I distance myself from this suffering. I don’t allow my empathy for their suffering to work on me and transform me. (To open my heart and mind.)

HE IS REACTIVE

I see him as reacting to his own pain in ways that creates pain for others.

When do I do the same? Again, when I go into reactivity in how I see the Ukrainian invasion, I get more rigid in my views and more heartless. My mind and heart close. And that inevitably creates some pain and suffering for me and those around me. It may just be that I am a bit more cold, distant, and distracted in my interactions, and that impacts me and others.

Whenever I react to my own pain instead of meeting it and examining it, I tend to create more pain for myself and others. My views get more rigid. I act from that rigidity. I am less receptive. I have less empathy and compassion for myself and others. I am less wise. I am less kind.

WHAT THIS EXAMINATION DOES AND DOESN’T DO

Finding in me what I see in Putin does not in any way make what he does any more right. It’s still a crime. It’s still deeply immoral. It’s still deeply unnecessary. It’s still profoundly reckless and puts the whole world at risk. It’s something I will act to prevent or change, to the small extent I can.

Also, finding in myself what I see in him doesn’t mean it’s not also there in him, and sometimes expressed in a more extreme way. In a conventional sense, he does seem unhinged from reality. (Judging from his justifications for invading Ukraine, and as most authoritarian leaders after years in power.) He does seem heartless. (Prioritizing his personal pet plans over the suffering of millions.) And he does seem reactive. (Looking at how he describes a world opposing his actions, and footage showing how he treats his subordinates.)

And this examination may help me respond and act a bit more from clarity and kindness, and less from reactivity. And that’s more than worth it.

Note: This is a very simplified version of The Work of Byron Katie, and doing it more thoroughly – with the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet and the four questions and turnarounds, allows the process to work on us far more deeply.

Why did I choose this picture of Putin? Because Putin seems to – for whatever reason – hate what he sees as weakness which for him includes feminine men and gays. So why not depict him as a drag queen? It’s a reminder that he has those sides too, as we all do. If he felt freer and embraced more of himself, perhaps that’s what he would do instead of waging war?

Happy because he doesn’t have thoughts saying blindness and cancer is wrong

This is Rafael. He is a sweet old dog we adopted last month.

A few weeks ago, he was abandoned in a shopping center in a nearby town, perhaps because he is old, mostly blind, and has cancer. We happened to be there, saw him at the information booth, and decided to adopt him if nobody came for him. The first few days after he came to us, he seemed sad and mostly rested.

And now, he is now doing much better. He has received successful treatments for cancer, he is happy to be with us and have a new home, and he has much more energy.

HAPPY BECAUSE HE DOESN’T HAVE THOUGHTS SAYING IT’S WRONG

One thing that’s very obvious is that even if he is mostly blind, he is still very happy and friendly. And he is very excited to go for walks, even if he bumps into things occasionally.

He is happy because he doesn’t know anything is wrong.

I shouldn’t be blind. I should see. I am worse off than others who can see.

He is incapable to have those thoughts. They don’t exist for him. So he is happy.

OUR OPTION: FIND WHAT’S HONESTLY MORE TRUE

We are capable to have those types of thoughts, and most of us do. So what can we do?

We cannot choose to not have them. But we can choose to investigate them thoroughly and sincerely and find what’s honestly more true for us. And here, there is a similar peace.

If we are incapable of having a stressful thought, it’s peace. If we are capable of having it, and do, and hold it as true, there is stress. And if we investigate and find what’s more true for us, there is again peace.

And for most of us, that investigation continues throughout our life. We have adopted a large number of stressful thoughts from our culture and society so new ones may crop up. And it does become easier over time. The weight of thoughts lightens, we become familiar with more categories and types of thoughts and recognize them when they come up, and we are more familiar with how to investigate the news ones that surface.

CLARITY OPENS FOR KIND ACTION

One of the stressful thoughts we may have adopted from society is:

If I am OK with what’s happening, I won’t do anything to change it.

If we pretend we are OK with what’s happening without actually being OK with it, then that may be the case. We may use ideologies and shoulds to pretend we are OK with something when we are not, and we may misguidedly go into inaction.

Clarity is different. In my experience, when I find more clarity, I am more at peace with what is, and I am more available for kind action. I am more receptive to what the situation calls for.

In this case, I am OK with Rafael having cancer and being blind. It’s how life plays itself out in that case. At the same time, I take him to treatment for cancer every week and follow the instructions from the veterinarian. And when that’s done, we’ll take him to an eye doctor to see what can be done for his eyes.

He is OK with being blind. We are OK with him being blind. And wouldn’t it be amazing if he could see again?

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The conspiracy that’s actually here when we take conspiracy theories as true

Sometimes, there is a conventional conspiracy behind conspiracy theories. Someone – an individual or organization – creates and/or promotes a certain conspiracy theory, and does so because they get something out of it, whether it’s emotionally, financially, politically, or something else.

And always, if we believe a conspiracy theory, there is a kind of conspiracy inherent in it.

Our mind conspires to hold the conspiracy theory ideas as true and to perceive and live as if it’s true.

The mind tells itself it’s true and makes it feel true for itself. It works to perceive as if it’s true in a myriad ways, including through believing supporting stories and denying falsifying stories. And it lives, as best as it can, as if it’s true.

At a more finely grained level, it associates certain sensations in the body with the stories so the sensations lend a sense of substance and reality to the stories, and the stories give a sense of meaning to the sensations.

This is one of the ironies of conspiracy theories. If we hold them as true, we are our own victim of our own conspiracy to hold them as true.

And that goes for any story we hold as true, whether partially or as an absolute, full, or final truth. Our mind conspires to hold it as true, to make it appear true for itself, and to perceive and live as if it’s true.

Of course, in a conventional sense, there may be some validity in any story or not. And it’s always good to take it a step further. We can examine the story, see what happens if we hold it as true, and find what’s already more true for us. We can examine how our mind creates its own experience of it as true if it does. And we can see how it is to hold the story far more lightly, whatever the story is.

Labeling emotions

How do we relate to our emotions?

And do we need to differentiate a wide range of emotions to have a healthy relationship to them?

I sometimes ask myself that question when I see people who seem a bit obsessive in differentiating and mapping out a huge number of different emotions.

LABELING EMOTIONS

It can obviously be helpful to name emotions or emotional states.

It helps communication with ourselves and others.

Labeling the emotions for myself helps me see them as an object within my experience, and that helps me disidentify from them a bit.

And when I communicate it to others, it helps them understand a bit more what’s going on with me.

HOW MUCH DIFFERENTIATION IS NEEDED?

For myself, I find just a few general labels necessary.

For instance… I feel sadness. Anger. Joy. Elation. Hopelessness. Grief. Frustration.

In order to label an emotional state, I really just need the word “emotion” or “state”. That’s enough to recognize it more easily as an object happening within and as what I am. It’s a guest. Something passing through.

And if I want to differentiate a bit further, just a few categories are necessary.

THE STORIES THAT CREATE EMOTIONS

What’s more important for me is to identify the stressful stories that create certain emotions and emotional states when something in me holds them as true. This is where I personally find differentiating and precision helpful.

Pinpointing these stories helps me recognize why I feel a certain way. And it helps me explore them further. It helps me inquiry into them and find what’s more true for me, and it helps me see how my mind creates its own experience by associating certain sensations and stories.

MORE IMMEDIATELY: BEFRIENDING EMOTIONS

For me, the most helpful way of relating to emotions doesn’t require any labeling at all.

And that is to befriend them. Get to know them. Spend time with them. Be with them as I would a frightened animal or child. Listen to what they have to say. Ask them how they would like me to relate to them. Find the stories behind them. And perhaps even notice their nature (which is the same as my nature, and the nature of the world as it appears to me.)

THE ROLE OF LABELING EMOTIONS

For me, labeling emotions in a simple way is helpful, as outlined above.

What’s more important is to befriend and get to know them, whatever label they have. And identify and explore possible stressful stories creating them.

And I am completely open for discovering that labeling emotions themselves in a more precise and differentiated way can be helpful. It’s just that I haven’t seen it yet, in my 35 years of exploring these things.

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The same principles used in magic tricks apply to how we unawake ourselves

How do we unawake ourselves?

The main principles are very similar to the principles of magic tricks.

Of the ones Penn & Teller demonstrate here, several are specific to sleight of hand, and a couple is more universal.

MISDIRECTION

Misdirection means to direct attention away from where the real action is happening.

The magician may direct attention to another part of their body or stage, or use verbal misdirection (say something that’s not true), or some other form of misdiretion.

How does this apply to how we unawake ourselves?

Mainly, it happens through directing attention to the content of stories and away from noticing what we are. When attention is absorbed into stories, it’s difficult to (also) notice what we are. It’s difficult to notice our nature as capacity for our world, and ourselves as what any content of experience – including the stories – happen within and as.

Another misdirection is when attention goes to the content of stories and away from how our mind creates its own experience. Attention get caught up in the stories and we don’t notice how our mind associates particular sensations with certain stories, and how sensations allows the stories to seem more substantial and true, and how the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations.

For many of us, these two forms of misdirection are so ingrained that we may never notice what our attention is drawn away from. In order to notice what we are and how our mind creates its own reality, we may need structured inquiry or some other form of disciplined practice.

SIMULATION

Simulation means to make something appear a certain way, and often in a way we are familiar with, when something else is actually happening.

For instance, we see a head and feet sticking out of two ends of a long box, and assume the head and feet belong to the same person. In reality, they may belong to two different people, or the feet may be fake. The magician simulates a single whole person.

Similarly, our mind simulates a great deal. It takes a diverse range of sensory information and creates it into a simulation of a world. It adds thoughts to this to tie it together further and create another dimension to our experience.

Our mind simulates the world as it appears to us, and we tend to take it at face value. This is part of how we unawake ourselves. Sensory information happens in our sensory fields, and together with thought, our mind creates it into a mostly unified and coherent experience of a world.

If we examine each sensory field and how the mind combines them, the illusion is somewhat seen through. We may see that we cannot take any of it at face value. The world, as it appears to us, is constructed. And the world, as it appears to us, happens within our sense fields.

From here, we may also notice that our world and any content of experience happens within and as what we are.

LIFE’S MAGIC TRICK

Life sometimes takes itself – locally and temporarily – as ultimately something within content of experience, as a separate being. In order to do so, it has to play a magic trick on itself. And it does so through some of the same principles as conventional magic tricks, including misdirection and simulation.

The most impressive magic trick of them all may be that we often don’t even notice that these magic tricks occur.

Life tricks itself without even noticing, until it does.

SEEING THROUGH THE TRICKS ADDS ANOTHER DIMENSION TO THE EXPERIENCE

For me, it adds to the experience to know how a magic trick is done.

I get the enjoyment of experiencing it without knowing. I get the enjoyment of figuring out or learning how it’s done. And I get to enjoy the skill of the performance.

It’s similar with life’s magic trick. We may first enjoy the illusion. Then the process of discovering how the trick is done. And we get to recognize how it’s done while it’s happening. We may also be in awe of both the simplicity and complexity of the illusion, and that it’s happening in the first place.

EXPLORING LIFE’S TRICK

How do we explore life’s magic trick?

How do we investigate and learn about how our mind unawakes itself?

I mention this in most articles here, and will briefly list some of the approaches I find most effective and helpful:

The Work of Byron Katie to investage thoughts we hold as true.

Living Inquiries to explore how our mind combines sense fields (including thought) to create its experience of us and the world.

Headless experiments to find our nature and what the world is to us. (To find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, and that this world happens within and as what we are.)

The Big Mind process to do the same, and explore the interplay of the innumerable parts of us.

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The play of life (lila) & finding ourselves as capacity for our world

If we more thoroughly explore lila, we are invited to find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us. And finding ourselves as capacity makes it easier to notice all as lila.

Our maps and descriptions of the world reflect something in ourselves. They say something about who we are, as a human being in the world, and they may say something about what we are. And so also lila – the play of life or the divine.

THE CREATIVITY OF THE MIND

Our mind is almost infinitely creative. It takes sensory input from a range of senses and creates the impression of a world. It uses mental images and words to create stories of all kinds, from labels to stories about ourselves and the rest of the world. It can hold these stories as true or not.

It can pretend, for a while and to some extent, that its imaginations about this human self and the wider world are true. It can perceive and live as if these stories are true.

It can recognize itself as capacity for all the content of experience. As what our content of experience – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as.

Everything we know and experience is the mind expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

This is the lila of our mind, of what we are to ourselves.

THE CREATIVITY OF THE WORLD

We know the lila of the mind since that’s what we are. And we can imagine that the actual wider world is the same.

We can see the evolution of the universe metaphorically as an expression of the creativity of the universe, the play of the universe. Everything that’s ever existed, everything we know, and everything we are individually and collectively, is an expression of the play of the universe.

We can also frame this differently. If we like, we can say that everything – all of existence including all we are and experience – is the play of the divine. It’s the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

MAKING USE OF THE IDEA OF LILA

Whether we see lila as the play of the mind, or the play of the universe or existence, or the play of the divine, it reflects something here and now.

How can we explore this for ourselves?

There are many ways, and I’ll mention just a few.

We can use the story of lila to frame our experiences – and existence in general – as the mind and existence expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways. This can help us hold it all more lightly and approach it with more curiosity, receptivity, and even playfulness.

We can also explore the particular creativity of thought and how it colors our perception, choices, and life.

For instance, we can explore what happens when a belief is believed, and what happens when we recognize a thought as a thought. (The Work of Byron Katie.)

And we can explore how the mind associates inputs from different sense fields and creates an experience for itself. For instance, it can associate certain thoughts with certain physical sensations so the sensations give a sense of solidity and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts give apparent meaning to the sensations.

LILA & FINDING OURSELVES AS CAPACITY

There is a mutuality between exploring lila and finding ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us.

If we explore lila, we’ll recognize that all content of experience is part of the play. In this, there is an invitation to find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us.

And finding ourselves as capacity makes it easier to notice all as lila.

In a bit more detail:

If all content of experience is part of the play of mind and existence, including any sense experiences and ideas we have about this human self, we may see that this human self cannot be what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience. So what are we, more fundamentally, and in our own experience?

We may find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, and what our experiences happen within and as. (Perhaps aided by structured inquiries like Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.)

This, in turn, allows us to more clearly see all content of experience – including this human self and any thoughts and mental images – as the play of the mind and existence.

LESS DEPENDENT ON ANY PARTICULAR WORLDVIEW

Seeing lila this way makes it less dependent on any particular worldview.

If we are more psychologically inclined, we recognize it as the play and creativity of the mind, and something we know here and imagine onto the rest of existence.

If we take a more cosmological view, we may see it as the metaphorical play and creativity of the universe.

If we have a more spiritual view, we may see it as the play of the divine, and the divine exploring and experiencing itself as all there is and in always new ways.

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The spiritual path & comparing ourselves with others

Comparing ourselves with others seems relatively universal although I am sure it plays out differently in different cultures. It’s also part of what fuels our current consumer culture, and advertisers know how to make use of it.

TWO WAYS TO COMPARE

There are two ways to compare ourselves with others.

One is for pragmatic reasons. It can give us useful information.

The other, which is often overlaid on the first one, is to make ourselves feel better or worse than others. This is not so useful. It can feel good to compare ourselves with someone and make up a story that we are somehow better than the other. But it’s a temporary victory since it means we inevitably are worse than someone else in the world, on the same scale, and we’ll inevitably be reminded of it. And it’s hollow since we know – somewhere in us – that it’s just a mind game.

In terms of spirituality, we can tell ourselves we are more advanced, sophisticated, or mature than someone else and it may feel good for a while. At the same time, we know we are less advanced, sophisticated, and mature compared with some other people. And we know, whether we acknowledge it or not, that it’s a mind game.

We cannot know for certain where people are in their process. We know we are comparing to make ourselves feel a bit better about ourselves. And we know it’s a losing game in the long run.

OUTSIDE VS INNER VIEW

When we compare ourselves with others, we often compare the public image of someone with our inside knowledge about ourselves.

We all have a public persona, which is more or less polished and inclusive. We present a certain image to the world and often leave out a lot of the confusion, pain, and unsavory attitudes and behavior. At the same time, we are often very aware of all the confusion, pain, and unsavoriness in our own life.

So it’s inherently an unfair comparison, and it tends to make us feel not so good about ourselves.

Often, it looks like the spiritual path and insights of others is clean, easy, and perhaps even joyful. And we know that our own spiritual path is windy, confused, didn’t go as planned, and so on.

HOW WE TALK ABOUT OUR SPIRITUAL PATH

The pain of comparison is greatly enhanced or diminished depending on the culture (or subculture) we are in.

If we are in a culture where spiritual practitioners and teachers like to present a glossy image of their own path, and of the spiritual path in general, it can lead to a more unfavorable impression of our own path.

If we are in a culture where spiritual practitioners and teachers are open about the messiness of their own path, and the spiritual path in general, it can help us see that we are all in the same boat. My own messiness is less painful since I know it’s similar for others.

And if we are in a culture that encourages us to work with projections, then…

MAKING USE OF THE TENDENCY TO COMPARE

…we can make good use of the tendency to compare. We can use it as material for our own exploration, and to invite in healing and maturing, and even awakening and living from the awakening.

We can make a practice of finding in ourselves what we see in others. (And in others what we know from ourselves.)

We can identify and examine our painful comparing-thoughts and find what’s more true for us. (Often, that the story is not absolutely true, and that the reversals have validity as well.)

We can explore how the comparing appears in our sense fields. What are the sensation components? The mental image and word component? What happens when I differentiate the two and rest with each? What do I find when I follow the associations, for instance back in time to my earliest memory of having that feeling or thought?

Instead of indulging in thoughts and feelings relating to the messiness of our own path, we can take a pragmatic approach and make use of whatever comes up.

THESE DAYS

I am grateful that these days, in our culture, there is more transparency and openness about the messiness of the spiritual path. People seem to feel more free to share all aspects of their experience. And many work intentionally with projections and inquiry, which also helps.

A glossy image of the path may serve as an initial carrot. But in the longer run, it seems far more helpful to be open about everything that can – and often will – happen on a spiritual path, warts and all.

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Byron Katie: Notice the moment when love is exchanged for chaos

Notice the moment when love is exchanged for chaos in your world.

– Byron Katie

When love is exchanged for chaos in my world, it’s from getting caught up in reactivity. I operate on old unquestioned beliefs and assumptions. And when I notice that, I have several choices.

I can keep creating chaos for myself, which sometimes happens and there is something to learn there. If nothing else, I learn it’s exhausting, uncomfortable, and doesn’t get me anywhere.

I can also take a step back. I can notice what’s happening. Disengage from the impulse to react, to the extent I am able. And I can also use any number of approaches to shift how I relate to the situation and explore what’s happening.

The different practices I write about here, including The Work of Byron Katie, can all be very helpful here.

These days, I am mostly exploring becoming more intimate with the contraction I am caught up in a struggle with, as I have described in recent posts.

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Identifying with a role

I listened to a podcast with two actors from a 90s TV-series. One of them seems consistely reflected and mature, and talks about his character as “he” or by name. He keeps a healthy differentiation between himself and the character he played. The other seems a bit less mature, and talks about his character as “I”. He seems more identified with the role.

I have noticed this in general. The more reflected actors differentiate between themselves and the characters they play. And the less reflected seem to more often identify with their roles.

And that’s how it is for all of us. It’s typically more healthy to differentiate between the roles we play in life and who and what we more fundamentally are.

DIFFERENTIATING THROUGH LANGUAGE

We can start by differentiating in our language. For instance, we can say: As a husband, I see it this way. As a father, this is how I experience it. As a Norwegian, it looks this way. As a Muslim, I see it a certain way. As a human, it looks like this. And so on.

All of this helps remind us that these are roles we play in life, and that each role has a certain perspective.

ROLES AND WHO AND WHAT WE ARE

Who are we without any of the roles? Can I find my value independent of any role? Can I find who I am without any role?

Many of our roles come and go. And although some may be more lasting, like gender and species, those too are roles.

The roles don’t define all of who or what we are. All they define is our role in the world while we are in those roles.

WHO WE ARE WHEN STRIPPED OF MANY OF OUR HUMAN ROLES

We can find who we are independent of most of those roles. As a human being, we are someone even if we are not in a particular role in terms of work, relationships, and so on.

Some of us experience losing many of these roles, for instance through illness. And life invites us to find our inherent value and who we are even when we don’t play those particular roles.

THE WORLD IS MY MIRROR

Beyond this, everything I see in the world reflects parts of who I am. Whatever story i have about someone or something in the world, I can turn it back to myself and find genuine examples of where is true. Here, I discover I am as rich as the world.

This is an ongoing process and we can explore it through working with projections in any way we find interesting and helpful.

For me, inquiry like The Work of Byron Katie is an effective and direct way to explore this, and find in myself – in a genuine and visceral way – what I see in the world.

WHAT WE ARE

And none of this is what I more fundamentally am. When I look, I find I am capacity for it all – this human self, the roles, the wider world. I am what it all happens within and as.

THE LAYERS OF WHO AND WHAT WE ARE

Who and what we are has layers, from passing roles (relationships, work, age) to more lasting ones (gender, nationality, species), to the more universal ones where we find the world as a mirror and our nature as what the world to us happens within and as.

A small synchronicity: Kings of Convenience singing “don’t let them tell you what you are”.

Differentiating noticing our nature, and noticing our ideas about our nature

When it comes to physical things, we all know the difference between a description of something and the thing itself. We know that a map is different from the terrain. Actually eating an apple is different from having it described. And so on.

And when what a map refers to is not physical, we may get a bit confused. We have a story about how a person is, and we confuse our story with reality and take our story as true. We have a story about the future and feel and perceive it as if it’s true.

We mistake our mental representations of something with what these refer to. We are not always so good at differentiating the two.

This is where structured inquiry can be very helpful. It can help us recognize our mental representations and how they look and what they tell us. And that helps us differentiate these and what they refer to.

MIXING UP DIRECT NOTICING AND NOTICING IMAGES

This also applies when we explore our more fundamental nature.

Since our nature is not a thing and not even an object within experience, it’s easy to mix up our mental representations and what we directly notice.

From my experience, it seems to often be a mix. I have some mental representations, notice these, and can use them to find what they refer to. And sometimes, if I don’t pay so much attention, I may – without noticing – mistake these mental representations for my nature.

For instance, I can find my nature as capacity for my experiences here and now, and I also notice an image (short movie clip) of the same. I similarly have images of oneness, stillness & silence, and so on.

EXPLORING THE IMAGES

This is where it’s helpful to take a closer look, sometimes guided by more structured forms of inquiry.

The simplest is to notice what mental representations I have, and how they look. What images do I have about my nature? About capacity? Oneness? Love? Stillness & silence? Consciousness? And so on. How do they look? Form? Color? Texture? Size? This, in itself, can make a big difference since it helps me recognize these images more easily.

I can also take a closer look. I can explore how these representations show up in my sense fields. Do my mental representations combine with certain sensations? (So the sensations lend a sense of substance and reality to the representations, and the representations give a sense of meaning to the sensations). Is there fear connected to it? Identities? Hope? (The other side of the coin of fear.) Other associations? Memories? A sense of lack? (Living Inquiries.)

I can identify my stories connected with this, and examine these. (The Work of Byron Katie.)

And so on. These more in-depth explorations also help me more easily recognize these images and stories and differentiate them from more immediate and direct noticing of what they refer to.

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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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Hvordan vi forholder oss til tankene våre

Hvordan forholder vi oss til tankene våre?

Nærmere bestemt, hvordan forholder vi oss til urovekkende tanker?

SJEKKE OM VI MÅ GJØRE NOE

Dette er ganske innlysende, men verdt å ta med for å fylle ut bildet. Om vi har en tanke, urovekkende eller ikke, så bør vi først sjekke om den forteller oss noe vi bør gjøre noe med.

Om en tanke forteller oss at vi har en ubetalt regning, og den faktisk er ubetalt, så kan vi betale den. Om en tanke sier vi er tørst, og vi faktisk er det, så drikk noe.

Det følgende dreier seg mer om mindre praktiske og innimellom mer plagsomme tanker.

TRE MÅTER Å FORHOLDE SEG TIL UROVEKKENDE TANKER

Går vi inn i de, som om tankene er betydningsfulle og sier noe sant?

Ser vi de som tanker, uten å gå noe særlig inn i det de sier?

Undersøker vi det de sier for å se hvor sant eller nyttig det er, og hva som er mer sant for oss?

Ser vi på effekten av hver av disse?

HVORDAN VI KAN FORHOLDE OSS TIL TANKER PÅ EN MER BEVISST MÅTE

Når vi har urovekkende tanker, er det fordi vi – ihvertfall delvis – ser tankene som sanne og vi identifiserer oss med synspunkter til tankene.

Dette gjør at det kan være vanskelig å se hva som skjer. Vi er delvis hypnotisert av det tankene forteller oss.

Heldigvis kan vi trene oss i å forholde oss til tankene på en mer bevisst måte. Og for å gjøre det, hjelper det med en slags struktur som kan lede oss, og også en veileder som kjenner terrenget og har lynne for og erfaring med å veilede andre.

HVA SKJER NÅR VI FORHOLDER OSS MER BEVISST TIL TANKENE?

Istedet for å ukritisk ta til oss det de sier, eller kjempe med de, så gjenkjenner vi de som tanker. Vi vet hva de er.

De er spørsmål om verden. De kan ha noe gyldighet, men det har også en mengde andre tanker om det samme temaet, og noen av disse kan genuint være mer sanne for oss.

Ideer er vesensforskjellige fra det de dreier seg om. De er kun her for å hjelpe oss til å orientere og fungerte i verden. De forteller ikke en endelig eller absolutt sannhet.

Vi kan bruke tanker til det de er gode på, som er å sikre spørsmål om verden og hjelpe oss til å navigere. Og vi kan gi tankene ferie fra å prøve å gjøre noe de ikke kan, som er å gi oss en endelig eller fullstendig sannhet.

OPPDAGE VÅR MER GRUNNLEGGENDE NATUR

Når vi forholder oss mer bevisst til tanker, og det de som tanker uten å automatisk gå inn i innholdet, kan vi også lettere oppdage vår mer grunnleggende natur.

Vi kan oppdage at vi er kapasitet for alle våre opplevelser – av oss selv som dette mennesket og resten av verden. Vi er det som alle disse opplevelsene skjer innen, og som former seg til alle disse opplevelsene.

Det er ikke galt at vi er dette mennesket. Det er sånn andre ser oss, og det er en antagelse som fungerer bra i hverdagen.

Men i vår egen opplevelse, når vi tar en nøyere titt, så er vi ikke, først og fremst, dette mennesket. Og vi er heller ikke en som gjør eller observerer. Vi er kapasitet for alt dette. Dette mennesket og resten av verden lever sitt eget liv.

Her oppdaget vi også at, for oss, så er alle våre opplevelser – av dette mennesket og resten av verden – ett. Enhver opplevelse av adskillelse kommer fra våre mentale bilder og ord.

ENKELTE FREMGANGSMÅTER

Det finnes en del støtter og fremgangsmåter for å utforske dette.

Kognitiv terapi er en god start, selv om den stort sett ikke går så langt at vi oppdager hva vi mer fundamentalt er. (Det er helt opp til terapeuten og klienten.)

Vi kan utforske tankene gjennom The Work av Byron Katie.

Vi kan utforske hvordan tankene kobles til kroppsfornemmelser for å gi oss en opplevelse av sannhet i tankene, og så vi identifiserer oss med synspunktene til tankene.

Vi kan bruke grunnleggende meditasjon for å lære å gjenkjenne tanker som tanker, uten å automatisk gå inn i innholdet så mye.

Vi kan oppdage hva vi er gjennom Big Mind prosessen og eksperimentene fra The Headless Way. Dette kan skje relativt fort.

Jeg har skrevet en del om dette i andre artikler, mest på engelsk.

What is consciousness?

In a social media group for mainstream science, someone asked “what is consciousness” and there were a wide variety of answers.

This is partly because people define it differently. Some see it as attention or self awareness, and some a byproduct of evolution”.

Some also see it as something we have, as we have a leg or lungs. It’s attached to us, somehow. This may be the most common view.

TWO GENERAL APPROACHES TO STUDYING CONSCIOUSNESS

Few topics are as central to us as consciousness, so why not study it and see what we find?

Around the world, academics study consciousness. They study different aspects of consciousness and what different definitions refer to, they study it as an object, and they do so through numbers and qualitative data. This is all valuable and important research.

We can also explore how consciousness looks from the “inside”. What do I find when I explore my first-person experience of consciousness? What is consciousness to me?

THE ESSENTIAL QUESTION

There is an even more essential question: What am I in my first-person experience? What do I find, if I set aside what thoughts, memories, and my culture tells me?

(As I wrote that sentence, Kings of Convenience sang “don’t let them tell you who you are” in the song Rumors from the album Peace Or Love.)

A LOGICAL EXAMINATION OF WHAT WE ARE TO OURSELVES

What do I find when I look at it logically?

If we see ourselves from a third-person view, as an object, and as primarily this human self and this body, then – yes – we can have consciousness as we have a leg or lungs. It can be seen as a component of what we are.

If we look at what we are to ourselves, we may find something else.

Our experiences happen within consciousness. To us, they happen within and *as* consciousness. Our experience of anything, including this human self and the wider world, happens within and as consciousness. Even any sense or thoughts about what we are happen within and as consciousness. To ourselves, we are consciousness and our field of experience happens within and as what we are.

We can also find this when we look at our memories of our experiences. During waking life, this human self is in my experience. But during dreams, it’s not always here. Sometimes I am what’s observing a scene, and sometimes I am another person. If I took psychoactive drugs, I imagine there could be even more variations on this. In my own experience, I must be what all of this happens within and as.

This is all a logical or conceptual exploration of what we are, or must be, to ourselves. It can be interesting, although it is still an exploration of what we are as an object and as “other”. In itself, it’s not very transforming. There is another way to explore this that can be profoundly transforming.

WHAT DO WE FIND IN OUR FIRST-PERSON EXPERIENCE?

What do I find I am in my own first-person experience?

In a sense, I am this human being in the world, but I know that can’t be what I most fundamentally am to myself.

So what am I, more fundamentally, to myself?

I find that I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what my field of experience happens within and as.

I notice that any sense of boundaries comes from an overlay of mental representations. My field of experience is one, and what I am is this oneness.

And this noticing and oneness can be the context for how I live my life in the world.

WHAT ARE SOME WAYS TO EXPLORE THIS?

Since this exploration can go against our habitual ways of exploring things, and also against how we are used to seeing and perceiving ourselves, we may need some support and guidance in this exploration.

Basic mediation – notice & allow what’s here – can help us find what our always changing experiences happen within and as.

Headless experiments can help us find what we are and explore how to live from it, and it can do so relatively easily and quickly.

The Big Mind process is another form of inquiry that helps us find ourselves as Big Mind / Big Heart, as what we already are, and it can also happen relatively quickly and without any particular preparation.

Traditional Buddhist inquiry can help us examine how our sense fields combine to create our experience, and we can also use Living Inquiries which is a modern version of this type of inquiry.

The Work of Byron Katie helps us identify and examine thoughts we identify with and hold as true, and this brings clarity and, over time, can help us notice what we are.

Heart-centered practices help us shift how we relate to our experiences. It shifts us from struggle to befriending, and it’s easier to notice what we are in more situations in life without getting caught in the struggle. (This can also make our life more enjoyable, and we may be less of nuisance to others.)

These are training wheels, and it’s helpful to be guided by someone familiar with the terrain and how to guide others.

WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS?

To some, this can seem as vaguely interesting information and something to mentally store away as one of many curiosities. It can also seem as philosophizing without any real practical usefulness or application.

If we take an outside view on it, it can certainly seem that way.

And if we go into it, we find something very different.

If we explore this sincerely for ourselves, and take what we find seriously, it can be profoundly transforming to our perception and life in the world. It can be profoundly transforming for our human self.

Most of us are used to function from separation consciousness, our habits are formed within separation consciousness, and many parts of us – and perhaps especially our wounds, hangups, emotional issues, and traumas – were created and operate from separation consciousness.

What happens when all of this transforms and aligns with oneness? What happens when our life in the world, and our human self, transforms within oneness and love?

This is possibly the most profound transformation imaginable.

IT’S ALREADY WHAT WE ARE – TO OURSELVES

The good news here is that we are just exploring what we already are to ourselves.

We don’t need to look for anything outside of us or anything that’s “other” to us.

What we need is some interest, sincerity, intimacy with our experience, and perhaps a few pointers and some guidance.

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Addressing the polarities inherent in any emotional issue

If we want to be thorough in exploring an emotional issue, we need to address both ends of the polarity it belongs to.

THE POLARITY

For instance, if we explore the victim part of us, we also need to explore the victimizer in us. They are both parts of the same dynamic and create and reinforce each other. If we only address one, we leave an important part of the dynamic out, and this holds some of the issue in place.

Both ends of the polarity are already in us, so if we want to explore an issue more thoroughly, we need to address both ends of the polarity and the dynamic between them.

SOME OF THE WAYS WE HAVE BOTH IN US

In what way do we have both in us?

I’ll take the victim-victimizer dynamic as an example.

We have victim thoughts like “poor me”, “life is unfair”, and these are also the victimizer thoughts. These thoughts, when held as true, create a sense of being victim.

I can find how I victimize myself when I engage in and fuel those kinds of thoughts. When I tell myself stories making me into a victim, I am the victimizer in that moment.

I can dialog with the victim and victimizer parts of me and get to know them. I can find both in me.

I can find several specific examples of how I have acted in ways that triggered a sense of victim in others.

I can take any story I have about victimizers in the world, turn it back to myself, and find specific examples of how it’s true.

The story of victim and victimizer is a story. It’s not inherent in the world. Both stories are in me. They are part of the mental representations I put on top of the world. (Which doesn’t condone victimization!)

I can find that I am what my field of experience happens within and as, and that includes any and all victims and victimizers I have ever know about. It’s all within what I am.

HOW CAN WE EXPLORE BOTH ENDS OF THE POLARITY?

In general, we can do it using whatever approach we are familiar with and works for us.

For me, I tend to do it through….

Dialog with each of these parts of me and getting to know them, how they see the world, how they see me and how I relate to them, how they see each other, what advice they have for me, and so on.

Inquiry into both ends of the polarity, whether I use The Work of Byron Katie or Living Inquiries.

Energy work for both ends of the polarity, in my case using Vortex Healing.

Connecting with the energy of one and then the other. Notice and allow. Notice they have the same true nature as myself. Allowing them to unfold and unravel, and align more with reality.

A FEW MORE WORDS ABOUT THE DYNAMIC

I’ll say a few more things about the dynamic.

We often identify with one end of these polarities and don’t recognize the other in us, and this is part of what creates and holds the issue in place. We may see one end in us and the other end out in the world, so we overlook the importance of addressing how both operate in us.

Our culture sometimes reinforce issues for that reason. Other people and stories in the culture often reinforce the idea that one end of the polarity is out there and the other is in here, so we don’t get the chance to explore both in ourselves – which is where the solution is.

Both ends of the polarity are needed within us to maintain the issue. Without an inner victimizer, we couldn’t feel like a victim. They depend on each other.

If we only address one, the other end will still be here in us, and that will tend to recreate the issue.

Often, we are aware of the other end of the polarity in us without recognizing it for what it is. For instance, we be aware of the thought “life is unfair” and believe it and feel like a victim. What we may not initially recognize is that this thought, when it’s believed, is what creates the sense of victimhood. It’s not only the thought of a victim, it’s also the victimizer thought. It’s the thought creating a sense of victim in me. When I engage in it, I make myself a victim. It’s innocent and normal, and good to notice.

Projection work, inquiry, and inner dialog are often good ways to find both ends of the polarity in us, especially if we are willing to look at anything – any situation and story – that has a charge for us.

These polarities in us are here to protect us. They were the best way our mind knew how to protect us in a situation in the past, and often early in life. They may be confused and misguided, from our adult perspective, and at the same time come from desire to protect us and kindness and love. In a very real sense, they are confused love.

Byron Katie: Believing my thoughts is exhausting

Believing my thoughts is exhausting.

– Byron Katie

It takes a surprising amount of energy to maintain stressful beliefs, and any belief is stressful whether we initially notice or not.

Most of us have a significant number of stressful beliefs, many in the form of unnoticed and unquestioned underlying assumptions, so there is no wonder we sometimes feel exhausted from the weight of these beliefs, and we may also see the accumulated effects of this over time.

Why does it take so much energy to believe a thought?

One reason is that it has to be maintained. Since it’s out of alignment with reality, reality won’t do it for us. We have to actively believe the thought. We have to tell ourselves stories maintaining it.

Also, we have to defend the belief and the identity it creates from anything that threatens to poke holes in it. We have to defend the belief from the views of others not aligned with it, and also any thoughts and views that come up in ourselves not aligned with it.

We have to contort our system into perceiving, feeling, and thinking as if it’s true.

When we believe a thought we pretend to believe it. Somewhere in us, we know it’s not true. We know we cannot know for certain, and we know that apparently competing views have validity.

We have to deal with others disagreeing with our perception and how we live our life.

This means that believing a thought creates near-constant stress and struggle. We may not always notice since we are used to it and it’s more in the background. And we may have some relief from it when we are distracted from these processes. But most of the time, these stressful processes happen within us.

When we inquire into a stressful belief, we may see more clearly how exhausting it is to believe it, and we may also experience the release when we find what’s more true for us.

A common side-effect of either transcending or noticing what we are, especially when it happens more suddenly and undeniably, is that the tension and stress of believing all these thoughts fall away and there is a sense of remarkable and somehow familiar ease.

The way I wrote about this can make it sound as if we do this intentionally, and that’s obviously not the case. Our system has adopted these beliefs in order to protect us, and it’s perfectly natural and innocent. At the same time, it’s stressful and exhausting, and there is another way. Adopting that other way requires us to invite our system to reorganize at a visceral level, and there are several ways to do this including inquiry, heart-centered practices, energy work, and body-centered approaches.

Byron Katie: If you say one single thing that I have the urge to defend, that thing is the very pearl waiting inside me to be discovered

If you see me as unkind, that is an opportunity for me to go inside and look at what appears in my life. Have I ever been unkind? I can find it. Have I ever been unkind? I can find it. Have I ever acted unfairly? That doesn’t take me long to acknowledge. If I’m a bit cloudy about it, my children can fill me in. What could anyone call me that I couldn’t find at some time in my life? If you say one single thing that I have the urge to defend, that thing is the very pearl waiting inside me to be discovered.

– Byron Katie

This quote goes straight to the heart of inquiry. Whatever we want to defend points us to where we are stuck. It points us to a cherished and unquestioned belief about ourselves and the world, and on the other side of that is what we really want, even if we don’t know it. On the other side is freedom from that particular belief and identity.

And… it can help us sober up around whatever we initially wanted to defend, find a greater wholeness by seeing in ourselves what we see in others, find more options for how to perceive and live our life, and learn something about the beliefs dynamics and what’s on the other side.

Lao Tzu: kindhearted as a grandmother

When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.

– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

How can we become kindhearted as a grandmother?

How can we become kindhearted as a grandmother to ourselves?

Many of us have internalized an unkind way of relating to ourselves. At least to certain parts of us, and in some situations. So how can we invite this to shift into a more kindhearted way of being with ourselves?

NOTICING WHAT WE ARE

As Lao Tzu suggests, one way is to notice what we are. We can find ourselves as capacity for the world, and what our field of experience happens within and as. That’s a start.

Here, we may notice that the true nature of all our experiences is the same as our own true nature. It’s all stillness. It’s all what we can call consciousness. It’s all a flavor of the divine.

WAYS TO REPATTERN HOW WE RELATE TO OURSELVES

There are also other ways to repattern how we relate to ourselves and our experiences, and we can do this whether we notice what we are or not.

We can engage in an intentional dialog with these parts of us. We already do, and this dialog is not always so kind. So why not engage in a more conscious and kind dialog? A part of us surfaces – as fear, anger, sadness, discomfort, reactivity, or something else. We can ask it how it experiences the world. How it sees us and how we often relate to it. What advice it has for us. We may get to see that it comes from a desire to protect us, and that it comes from care and love. (Even if how it goes about it is a bit misguided, although also understandable and innocent.) When we see this, we can thank it for being here and for it’s love and care. We can find ways of dialoguing with these parts of us as a kind and wise parents would with a child. And this is a learning process, it’s ongoing.

We can use heart-centered practices as a kind of training wheel. We can use ho’oponopono towards ourselves or these parts of us, and also whatever in the world triggered these parts of us. We can also use tonglen, or Metta, or any other similar approach.

We can explore the painful beliefs in how we typically react to certain parts of us. What are these beliefs? What happens when our system holds them as true? How would it be if they had no charge? What is the validity in the reversals of these thoughts? (The Work of Byron Katie.)

We can explore our fears, identities, and compulsions around this, and how they show up in our sense fields. What sensations are connected with it? How is it to notice and allow these, and notice the space they happen within and as? What do I find when I explore the mental images and words connected with this? What is my first memory of feeling this, or having those images and words? What happens when I notice how these sensations and mental representations combine to create my experience? And so on. (Living Inquiries, a modern form of traditional Buddhist inquiry.)

We can allow our body to release tension around this, for instance through therapeutic tremoring. (Tension and Trauma Release Exercises, neurogenic yoga.)

We can find a gentler way of being with ourselves through body-centered activities like yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema, and so on.

We can learn to say YES to the NO in us. We can learn to welcome the parts of us that sometimes desperately don’t want to us to have a certain experience. These parts of us want to protect us and come from care and love.

We can learn to be with the energy of what comes up in a more gentle, kind, and loving way. With patience. Respect. Gentle curiosity. Allowing it to be as it is and unfold and change as it wishes.

We can spend time in nature. Nature shows us a gentler way. An allowing.

TRAINING WHEELS

These approaches are all training wheels.

They can help us shift from an unkind way of being with ourselves, to a more kind way.

They help us find something that’s simple and natural.

They mimic how our mind naturally functions when it’s more healed and clear.

And they do so whether we notice what we are or not.

Believing a thought makes me more stupid than I am, and finding curiosity for it makes me as smart as I am

Believing any thought makes me more stupid than I am. I put on blinders. And when I find curiosity about the thought, it can bring out my natural wisdom and kindness. It can make me as smart as I really am.

This is quite simple, and something we all probably notice now and then. At the same time, it’s not always so easy to put into practice. And that’s why we have training wheels, more structured approaches that can take us by the hand and lead us through it.

THE ESSENCE

We can believe any thought, and when we do, we put on blinders. We pretend it’s true even if no thought is absolutely or finally true. By believing a thought, we limit how we perceive, think, feel, and live our lives. We make ourselves more rigid in our views, thinking, and life. We limit our options. We blind ourselves to other views that may have as much or more validity for us. In a very real sense, we make ourselves more stupid than we are.

If we instead hold the thought more lightly, meet it with a more open mind and heart, and examine it to find what’s more true for us, we can access the kindness and wisdom that’s already here. We open ourselves to other options. We are more able to make good choices. We can make ourselves as smart as we already are.

It sounds simple, and the essence of it is simple. It’s something we all notice now and then. At the same time, it’s not always so easy to do on command. When we get stuck in rigid views, it’s often from a combination of fear and habits. We hold onto the view for safety, as a reaction to an unexamined and unloved fear in us. We are in often the habit of doing just that. And we may not know how to shift out of it.

That’s why we have more structured approaches that take us through this step by step to show us our own wisdom. And that’s why we have guides who can lead us through the steps, help us notice what we may not have noticed on our own, and hold space for us for our own explorations. This support is especially helpful in the beginning, and it also helps us any time we are especially identified with a thought and have trouble thoroughly exploring it on our own.

Eventually, this becomes a new habit and something we find ourselves doing more naturally and spontaneously in daily life, and we may still return to the structure when we want to explore something more thoroughly.

This is a lifelong adventure and process. There is always more to learn and discover about the process itself and from the thoughts we examine.

NOTE

I initially intended to go more into details around this (see below!), but landed on this much simpler version. It’s partly because other articles go more in-depth on different aspects of this topic, and partly – or perhaps mainly – because of an extra bad period of brain fog (CFS). It makes it difficult for me to write and wrangle with longer texts.

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Own inquiry: Attacking a Green Party politician with straw man arguments, sexism, and racism

I regularly do inquiry, often more spontaneously in daily life. And I sometimes do more structured and in-depth inquiry on paper, although it’s been a while since I published any here. So here is one from today.

THE BACKGROUND

I notice a part of me gets upset when I see people engaging in personal attacks on Green Party members in Norway. It’s of course more than OK to disagree about policies and priorities, that’s how it’s supposed to be in a democracy. But it’s not OK to systematically use straw man arguments (pretending they have views and policies often diametrically opposed to reality) and personal attacks (often mixed in with sexism and racism). I see these straw man arguments and personal attacks from some reporters, media outlets, and individuals in Norway. It seems that the Green Party politicians are considered “fair game” for these types of attacks.

Most recently, this came up for me when I read an interview with someone who had posted hateful, sexist, and racists comments on social media about a prominent Green Party politician in Oslo, and justified it by saying that this politician wants to ruin the lives of people like him. (I am not sure what he referred to, but he seemed to be misinformed about the actual policies.)

The person he attacked is a young woman originally from an Asian country, so I assume he sees her as an easy target and it allows him to mix his straw man arguments with ageism, sexism, and racism.

JUDGE YOUR NEIGHBOR WORKSHEET

Think of a stressful situation with someone—for example, an argument. As you meditate on that specific
time and place and begin to feel what that felt like, fill in the blanks below. Use short, simple sentences.

  1. In this situation, who angers, confuses, hurts, saddens, or disappoints you, and why?
    I am angry with this guy because he uses straw man arguments and personal attacks to express himself.
  2. In this situation, how do you want him/her to change? What do you want him/her to do?
    I want him to see that he is wrong. I want him to get informed and address the policies and not the person.
  3. In this situation, what advice would you offer him/her? “He/she should/shouldn’t…”
    This guy shouldn’t be so aggressive and caught up in his emotions. He should step back, take a breath, see what he is doing, and admit what’s really going on for him.
  4. In order for you to be happy in this situation, what do you need him/her to think, say, feel, or do?
    I need him to apologize, say what’s really going on for him, and be more reasonable in the future.
  5. What do you think of him/her in this situation? Make a list. (It’s okay to be petty and judgmental.)
    He is aggressive. Immature. Unreasonable. Someone who destroys democracy.
  6. What is it about this person and situation you don’t ever want to experience again?
    I don’t ever want to see him be unreasonable again.

INQUIRY: HE IS AGRESSIVE, IMMATURE, UNREASONABLE

Statement: He is aggressive, immature, unreasonable, and destroys democracy.

Is it true? Yes.

Can you know for certain it’s true? No. I cannot know for certain.

What happens, how do you react, when you have that belief?

I feel angry and upset. I notice I want him to shut up. I feel I don’t belong to this society and world. I tell myself the world is full of stupid people. I think of all the other stupid people who use straw man arguments, personal attacks. I think of stupid people driving their car when they could use other modes of transportation, that use noisy machines to maintain an idiotic lawn when they could plant wildflowers. I think of idiots who don’t think about future generations and have a narrow and small mindset. I think of people who have little or no empathy with non-human beings. I get scared because these people act in ways that harm all of us. I notice a knot in my stomach. I get restless. My muscles tense up. I move in a more tense and jerky way. I want to eat comfort food. I want to distract myself. I want to get out of my own skin. I feel sad for the world. I feel scared about what will happen to the world. I feel sad for nonhuman animals impacted by what humans do. I want to call him all the types of things he calls other people. I want him to taste his own medicine.

Who would you be if you were completely at peace with this thought?

I would read the interview. Register that some people see the world in this way. Feel love for him and for his pain. I see someone who is in pain. Someone unable to be honest about what’s going on with him. Someone unable to examine where this is coming from in him and do something about it. Someone unable to respond with what he disagrees with in a reasonable way. I recognize myself in him. We both have this in us. I find love for it in both of us, and all humans. This is the human condition. The only solution is love, taking care of it in ourselves, and live from the love and clarity that then comes. I sit with my own pain, notice the different ways different parts of me responds to it, and can find love for it.

Turnaround 1: He is NOT aggressive, immature, unreasonable, and destroys democracy.

What’s more true for me is that he is in pain, and this is the only way he knows to deal with it.

He doesn’t destroy democracy. It takes more than his comments on social media to destroy democracy.

TA 2: He is loving, mature, reasonable, and builds democracy.

Yes, I am sure he is loving with some people and in some situations. I am sure he is mature in some areas of life. I am sure he is reasonable in some situations and areas of life.

By allowing himself to be interviewed in this way, he is brave, owns up to what he has done, and he builds democracy.

TA 3: I am aggressive, immature, unreasonable, and destroys democracy.

Yes, when I believe those thoughts about him I get aggressive, immature, unreasonable. That’s clear from my answer to the third question above. In a sense, I destroy democracy. At the moment I believe those thoughts about him, I destroy democracy in my own life.

INQUIRY: HE SHOULD ADMIT WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON FOR HIM

Statement: He should admit what’s really going on for him.

Is it true? Yes.

Can you know for certain it’s true? No. I cannot know for certain.

What happens, how do you react, when you have that belief?

I pretend I know that he doesn’t admit it to himself and possibly those around him. I pretend I know more about him than I do. I feel a strong urge for him to admit it. It becomes a mental obsession for me for a moment or a few minutes and whenever I again have this thought. I want him to do something he apparently isn’t so I feel frustrated, angry, sad, hopeless. I feel powerless since I can’t do anything about it. I want to distract myself. I want to eat comfort food. I want to read or watch something else, or talk with a friend, or go for a walk to distract myself from the discomfort. I want to leave my experience and what’s going on in this body. I feel a victim of him not doing what I think he should do.

I imagine what’s really going on for him: He is in pain, and deals with it by taking it out on this young woman from an Asian country who is now a politician with policies he feels harms him. He may have been going through difficult things in his life, possibly abusive parents, bullied at school, felt inferior, and so on. I imagine that if he admitted to this, he could address his pain more directly and he wouldn’t have to take it out in this way.

Who would you be if you were completely at peace with this thought?

I read the interview. See that he doesn’t seem to address what’s really going on with him. And I know that he may do just that but didn’t want to say anything in the interview, or that he did say something about it and the reporter or editor didn’t include it. It’s equally or more likely that he isn’t ready or able to go there right now. And that’s OK. This happens in its own time, when we are ready for it. Often, we need to suffer with it for a while before we are ready, and we may need to find a safe place to do so. That’s how it is for me, so it may well be that way for him too.

Turnaround 1: He SHOULDN’T admit what’s really going on for him.

Not if he is not ready. He may not even know what’s going on, and he can’t admit to something he is not aware of. Also, something completely different may be going on than what I imagine.

TA 2: He should DENY what’s really going on for him.

Yes. Again, he may not be ready. It may be too much for him to admit and go into right now. He may be dealing with a lot of other things. He may not have the tools or support to do it.

TA 3: I should admit what’s really going on for ME.

Yes. That’s what I really want. That’s what will give me peace.

I am the one who is reacting to my own fear and pain in the way described under question three above. Instead of admitting I am scared by what he says, I go into stories about him, anger, frustrations, shoulds, and more. I focus on him so I don’t have to feel my own fear, the fear triggered by what he says. I am scared for society and the world and myself when I see people saying what he says.

I am scared by what he says. That’s more honest for me.

I also see that this connects with my own childhood experiences where I felt bullied, so when I see the kind of bullying he and others engage in, it connects me with my own pain. Instead of meeting this pain and finding love for it, I react to my pain by focusing on him as described above. I distract myself from my own pain.

I am doing just what I imagine he is doing.

WHAT I NOTICE FOLLOWING THESE TWO INQUIRIES

I started with the two statements that had the most charge or resonance for me. It’s good to go through most or all of them, so I plan on returning and do more.

After doing these two quick inquiries, I notice something shift in me. I feel a release of the reactivity, and I can honestly see myself in him and find compassion for both of us. I also see that some of my initial descriptions now don’t resonate so much with me. For instance, I only assumed that he engaged in ageism, sexism, and racism. He didn’t say it explicitly, and the article didn’t describe exactly what he had written on social media.

I also see more clearly how this is connected with my own pain from experiencing bullying in childhood. It’s possible that these inquiries will help heal that pain further, we’ll see. And that’s not the main reason I am doing these inquiries. My main reason is to see more clearly what’s going on.

This is the shift I notice now. The reactivity can obviously come back, and if it does, it shows me there is more for me to look at and find here. If the reactivity comes back, it’s a genuine gift.

THE WORK OF BYRON KATIE

The format of this inquiry is from The Work of Byron Katie. If you want to try it, you can find a facilitator on Do The Work Helpline that will guide you through the steps for free.

Thoughts as an evolutionary experiment

We can see our human ability for elaborate abstract thought as an evolutionary experiment.

Thoughts as tools

Thoughts are tools. They help us orient and navigate in the world.

They provide us with mental maps of the world. They give us images of the past, present, and possible futures. They provide us with the opportunity to mentally test out actions before we make them.

All of this makes it possible for us to function in the world.

Thoughts mimic senses & language

Thoughts seem to mimic our physical senses and, in our case, language.

In our case, we have thoughts mimicking sight, sounds, sensations, movement, and words (mental images and sounds).

Other species may have thoughts mimicking their own senses, whatever these are.

A helpful way of using this tool

What’s the optimal way to use this tool of thought?

It seems that the best way to use this particular tool is to recognize thoughts as thoughts. They are questions about the world. They help us orient and navigate. They provide maps about the world. They have a very important practical function. They are provisional. They are not what they appear to refer to. And none of them hold any final or absolute truth.

When we recognize this, we can hold them more lightly. We can find the validity in them, question them, find the validity in their reversals and other views, and use them more consciously as a tool. We recognize their value and their inherent limitations.

Misuse of the tool of thoughts

How can this tool be misused?

The easiest is to hold a thought as true. When we do, we identify with the viewpoint with the thought. We take ourselves as the viewpoint of the thought, make it into an identity for ourselves, create a sense of I and other, and feel a need to prop it up, elaborate on it, and defend it if it’s threatened.

When we hold a thought as true – either consciously or a part of us holds it as true – we perceive and live as if it’s true. We get out of alignment with reality since no thought can hold any final or absolute truth, and a thought and its reversals all hold some validity.

This is how a huge amount of human suffering is created, and it’s also how we create a good deal of problems for ourselves and others.

Thoughts as an evolutionary experiment

I assume many types of animals have some form of thought.

Specifically, they may have thoughts mimicking their senses. They may have mental maps of their surroundings. Mental representations of friends and foes. Mental representations of however they communicate. And so on. In most cases, these may not be conscious thoughts.

Human thought has gone a couple of steps further into abstraction. We have developed complex language and mental representations of this language, and that allows us to imagine and explore a wide range of things in our minds. Our minds are immensely creative.

This form of more abstract and elaborate thought is, in a sense, an evolutionary experiment. It’s as if nature said to itself: let’s see what happens with this species if they have this ability. Let’s see how they use it, and whether it aids their survival or becomes their undoing.

We can see how it has indeed aided our survival and made us into a powerful species. And we can also see how it has brought about conflicts, war, and immense suffering, and brought the ecosystems we are dependent on for our own survival to the brink of ecological collapse.

Abstract and complex thought as a new evolutionary experiment

This more elaborate form of abstract thought is a relatively new evolutionary experiment. It may have evolved over just a few hundred thousand years.

In an evolutionary sense, this is a very new tool for us. We are still learning how to use it.

We are systematically misusing it by assuming thoughts can do more for us than they can. They are powerful, and they have helped us create this civilization, technology, culture and so on. At the same time, they have their limits. They can’t hold any final or absolute truth, and we often perceive and live as if they can.

I assume that if we survive long enough, we may also learn to relate to thoughts more consciously. We may learn to recognize what they can and cannot do for us, and their inherent limitations. If this ever happens on a collective scale, it will mean a revolution in human evolution and history.

How we can explore this for ourselves

We can explore many aspects of this for ourselves.

We can explore our sense fields – sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, and mental representations – and see how mental representations combine with the other sense fields to create our experience of the world.

We may recognize how our mind associates certain thoughts with certain sensations, so the sensations lend a sense of substance and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations. (Traditional Buddhist inquiry, Living Inquiries.)

We can examine any thought we hold as true and find what’s more true for us. (The Work of Byron Katie.)

We can use basic meditation to notice and allow our experience as it is. This helps us notice and allow thoughts, recognize that they live their own life, and perhaps soften identification with them and hold them a bit more lightly.

In a sense, through examining our thoughts and our relationship with thoughts, and learning to relate to them more consciously, we take the next evolutionary step in our own life. We find a more sane and healthy relationship with thoughts, and that is one of the things that can most help humanity today.

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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.

Byron Katie: An imagined self is all that exists

An imagined self is all that exists. You can question it away if you really want to take the trip. Questioning is safe, I assure you. When you question what you think you are, it leaves no self. It leaves you as something more valuable: the unchanging nature of what the dream flows out of, what the dream mirrors. As long as life is a dream, let’s deal with the nightmare. Question what you believe, and notice what’s left. Until you genuinely realize that you’re not the “you” you believe yourself to be, you aren’t free to be more. That’s why the limited mind is so painful. Mind is always attempting to burst out of its own prison, the identity as a body. When you realize the nature of mind, you realize that it’s everything, it’s the nature of everything, and that any apparent lack is just a figment of your imagination.

— Byron Katie, “A Mind at Home with Itself”

There is a lot here, and I thought I would explore some of it.

An imagined self is all that exists. Yes, in a sense. If we take ourselves to fundamentally and ultimately be this human self, that’s not quite it. It’s imagined. Any fundamental separation between “I” and the rest of the world is imagined. Ultimately being this human self is imagined.

You can question it away if you really want to take the trip. Yes. What she talks about is The Work, and we can use that to see – and deeply change our perception and see – that taking ourselves to fundamentally be this human self, and any ideas of real separation, are imagined. They are not inherent in what we are and the world as it appears to us. We can also use other forms of inquiry, and other approaches in general.

Questioning is safe, I assure you. Yes, especially if it’s under guidance of someone experienced, skilled in guiding others, attuned to where we are stuck and what the remedy is, and generally attuned to what we need and are looking for. Questioning leads us to find what’s already more true for us, and that is safe. It can be sobering but its safe.

It leaves you as something more valuable: the unchanging nature of what the dream flows out of, what the dream mirrors. We find what we are, or – more accurately – what we are finds itself. We find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, as that which our experiences happen within and as. That’s what this world “flows out of” (happens within).

Until you genuinely realize that you’re not the “you” you believe yourself to be, you aren’t free to be more. Any belief is limiting. We pretend that the viewpoint of the story is how the world is, and we are unable to move outside of it. (Although we always do anyway.) If I think I fundamentally am this human self, I cannot so easily notice or take seriously what I am. Any identity or role I believe I am confines me and doesn’t allow me to explore life outside of it.

Mind is always attempting to burst out of its own prison, the identity as a body. It’s painful to live within our self-created limitations, so we naturally want to be free of it. We are drawn to it. If we don’t really understand what’s going on, we may try to find this freedom through hobbies, travel, extreme sports, drugs, rebelling against something, and so on. If we do, we can find this freedom through inquiry and similar approaches.

When you realize the nature of mind, you realize that it’s everything, it’s the nature of everything. To me, my own true nature is the true nature of everything. Since I am capacity for my world, and I experience everything within and as what I am, then it will naturally appear to me to have the same true nature as myself. To myself, it does. (That doesn’t mean it actually applies to the rest of existence. Some part of my true nature – capacity and being a no-thing that can be filled with apparent things – is likely the true nature of all of existence. The rest – the awakeness – may not exactly be the true nature of all of existence. But that’s a topic for other articles.)

and that any apparent lack is just a figment of your imagination. When we notice what we are, there is no inherent lack. The world happens within and as what I am, so how can there be lack – or absence of lack. The word doesn’t apply. At the same time, as a human being in the world, I have needs in a more ordinary sense, and that’s still here. I need food, shelter, friends, and so on.

It’s easy to misunderstand these topics if we don’t have a taste of it for ourselves. In a way, it’s inevitable. That’s why reading or hearing about it is a first step, or food for further inquiry. And looking for ourselves, perhaps guided by structured inquires like The Work of Byron Katie, is what it’s about. That’s how we get to see this for ourselves and deeply transform our perception and life.

Own inquiry: I think

I am revisiting this classic topic.

Thoughts appear out of nowhere. They come and go and live their own life. And we are trained to take ownership over them and say to ourselves “I am thinking” and “I thought that”.

One way to explore this is to notice it as it happens. A thought comes out of nowhere. I cannot find any origin. And then there is a thought saying “I thought that” even if it’s not based in reality or my own experience. Basic meditation – allow & notice – is one way to notice this.

We can also explore this in the context of noticing what we are, and through more structured inquiries like the Living Inquiries and The Work.

In the context of what we are

When I find myself as capacity for my world, I also find myself as capacity for the thoughts that are here.

I notice thoughts come and go within what I am, and come and go out of nothing.

This, in itself, releases some or most or all of the identification with the thoughts, at least while I notice what I am.

And this also happens generally over time the more I get used to and familiar with finding myself as capacity for thoughts and my world in general.

The Work on the thought “I think”

Statement: I think.

Q1: Is it true? Yes, sometimes it seems true.

Q2: Can you know for certain it’s true? No, I cannot know for certain.

Q3: What happens when you believe “I think”?

I take my thoughts personally. I feel responsible for them. I tell myself I create them and they reflect who and what I am. I am more cautious about my thoughts. I try to control them and shepherd them in a direction I prefer and think is better. I sometimes get slightly paranoid about my thoughts. I relate to them with some tension. They feel close. I feel I need to protect them if someone threatens them and what they tell me. I more easily get absorbed into them. I tend to take myself as the thoughts. I become the viewpoint of the thoughts. It becomes an identity for me, and one I feel I need to uphold and protect.

Q4: Who would you be without the belief “I think”?

I see thoughts come and go. They live their own life. There is space around them. They happen within and as space. I am more curious about them. I observe them. I take them more as innocent questions. I am less or not identified with them. If someone or something doesn’t agree with them, I observe the two viewpoints and can explore the dynamic between them more openly. I am open to what’s valid in thoughts and how they are not valid. I am open to how they may be useful and when and how they are not.

Turnaround 1: I don’t think.

Well, they come and go on their own. “I” don’t create them or determine what they say.

The idea “I think” is a thought. I don’t know for certain if or how it’s true. Thoughts may not be what I think they are. (They probably are not.)

TA 2: Thoughts “I”.

This is a weird turnaround. If I think, then perhaps it’s also true that thoughts create the “I”? Can I find “I” outside of thoughts? Not really. It seems that a sense of “I” is created by thoughts – saying “I” did this and that, “I” exist, “I” am this human self, and so on. Without it, there is just what’s here without that particular overlay of thought. There is still what thoughts may label this human being doing things in the world and with the experiences that are here.

TA 3: You think.

If I think I think, then I think you think as well. I see you as I see me. I see your thoughts as personal to you. I see your thoughts as reflecting who and what you are. I take your thoughts about me, or your thoughts either agreeing or disagreeing with mine, personally. I create a tense relationship between your thoughts and mine, and am ready to agree or defend according to what you say or write. My world revolves around my and your thoughts and their relationship and what I feel I have to do about it.

The primary here, in this and most types of inquiry, is the noticing and resting with the noticing, and the secondary is putting it into words.

Living Inquiries

I will also explore this using Living Inquiries, and may write some notes here when I do.

Byron Katie: Every concept that has ever existed is inside you

Every concept that has ever existed is inside of you.

– Byron Katie

I assume she doesn’t talk about concepts like E=MC2.

She is talking about universal and potentially stressful thoughts. I am not good enough. I am unlovable. She doesn’t like me. Something terrible will happen. And so on.

As thoughts, they are neutral and more a question. When we take them on as beliefs, they become stressful for us.

These thoughts and beliefs have been passed on through generations. We learned them from parents, friends, teachers, media, art, entertainment, religion, and mythology.

And we can examine them, find what’s more true for us, and find freedom from them. We can turn a stressful and limiting belief back into a more neutral thought and an innocent question.

There is a gift in the universality of these thoughts and beliefs. It means others remind us of our own, so we can take them to inquiry. And it means that when we turn beliefs into neutral thoughts, we become an example to others that it’s possible. It may be the start of them questioning their own beliefs and recognizing them as innocent questions.

The same remedies for everything?

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

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

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

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

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

Some of my favorite tools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remedies for certain conditions

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

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

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

How I *relate* to what’s here vs what’s here

If we exclusively focus on healing our own emotional issues, it’s an endless process. There is always more.

That’s why I like to give equal, and sometimes more, attention to how I relate to my issues and the sensations, thoughts, or whatever is here.

How I relate to what’s here is, in a sense, one. And what I relate to is innumerable. So it makes sense to focus more on the former without ignoring the latter.

What type of shift am I referring to?

For me, the shift is from seeing what’s here as a problem or an enemy to befriending it. And befriending it has many sides, including the ones I mention below.

How can we invite in this shift?

I have found heart-centered practices very helpful. For instance, doing tonglen for whatever I subtly or not-so-subtly see as a problem – whether it’s a person, situation, myself, a part of me, or an experience. I can also use ho’oponopono or metta here.

It also helps to identify beliefs behind any slight enemy-image and explore these, for instance through The Work or Living Inquiries.

I can dialog with what’s coming up. Ask it questions. Listen to what it has to say to me. Get to know it. Perhaps understand it a little better. Find a new partnership with it. If it’s an emotional issue, I can see how it’s here to protect me and it’s coming from (slightly misguided) love and is an expression of love.

I can identify any emotional issues in me behind and fueling enemy-images, and explore and invite in healing for these issues. For instance, through inquiry, heart-centered practices, dialog, energy healing, or more.

I can find myself as capacity for the world as it appears to me, and whatever I see as a (subtle) problem, and see it’s all happening within and as what I am. It’s not inherently “other” and cannot be.

A version of this is that what’s here is a flavor of the divine. It’s the divine having this experience for itself.

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