Why we feel lighter

Why do we sometimes feel lighter? For instance, if something desirable happens, or we have a release through inquiry, Vortex Healing, TRE, or something else?

Stressful beliefs (identifications, trauma) come with muscle contractions. In order to believe a thought, the thought has to be associated with sensations, and these sensations give the thought a sense of substance and reality. The thought feels true. The easiest way to have these sensations readily available is through muscle contractions. So when the mind needs to believe a thought, it contracts associated muscles to provide sensations, and these in turn give the thoughts a sense of solidity and reality. These muscle contractions feel dense and heavy. We – almost literally – feel the weight of our stressful beliefs or identifications.

So when we are either distracted from these stressful beliefs, or they are released, there is a sense of lightness. The muscle contractions lighten up or go away, so we feel lighter.

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Hangups take a lot of energy

Hangups take a lot of energy.

What is a hangup in this context?

A hangup is the same as an identification which means identifying with the viewpoint of a thought or story so we perceive the world through that lens. We “become” that viewpoint and live our life as if we are that viewpoint. We perceive and act as if we are it.

It’s the same as taking a thought as true, real, and substantial.

It’s the same as velcro. Thoughts and sensations that seem “stuck” together so the sensations give the thoughts a sense of substance and reality and the thoughts give meaning to the sensations.

A hangup comes from trauma when trauma is broadly defined. A hangup is something the mind seeks refuge and safety in, and it does so out of care or love, and out of unexamined and unloved fear. And that comes from and is trauma.

Why do hangups take energy?

Hangup takes mental energy since the mind tends to be drawn to looping thoughts relating to the topic of the hangup.

They take emotional energy due to the underlying fear which is either dormant, chronically low grade, or triggered.

And hangups take physical energy since they require muscle contractions to exist. The only way we can have a hangup (or identity, belief, trauma) is for sensations to lend substance to the related thoughts, and the only way the mind can have easy access to these sensations is through muscle contraction. If the hangup is chronic, the related muscle contraction will be chronic. If it is triggered more sporadically, the obvious muscle contractions will be more sporadic as well, although there will tend to be a low-grade chronic muscle contraction.

What happens when a hangup is released?

When a hangup is released, there is often a sense of lightness, relief, and more available energy. For instance, we may have an impulse to start or engage with a project that’s meaningful to us but we didn’t have the energy or motivation to spend much time on before.

In some cases, the release of a hangup may feel a bit confusing or even a let-down, but even here the longer term result is a sense of lightness (from reduced muscle contractions) and access to more energy.

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Is trauma behind most or all distress?

To me, trauma seems to be behind any distress or suffering. And it’s a simple formula:

Trauma -> beliefs, identifications, velcro (as protection, to find a sense of safety) -> distress.

Trauma can come from small or big events, and from ongoing or one-time events. In any case, the mind responds to the event by creating trauma, and it does so through forming beliefs, identifications, and velcro. It does so to protect the (imagined) self and to find a sense of safety. These beliefs, identifications, and velcro then produce suffering and distress. When life rubs up against beliefs, as it inevitably does, suffering is typically the result.

I am using a very broad definition of trauma here. For instance, someone tells us we are chubby when we are little and this  creates a deficiency story of being chubby, which in turn can lead to a lot of distress later in life. An apparently innocent comment can be experienced as traumatic, the mind responds by creating deficiency stories, beliefs, and identifications, and this creates distress.

And the reason it was experienced as traumatic in the first place is that some beliefs, velcro, and identifications were already in place. Perhaps initially just from copying adults and others around us.

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Unconsciously identified with vs noticing as content of experience

When something charged is triggered in me and I don’t notice it very consciously, I tend to be unconsciously identified with it. I take on the viewpoint of the stories within the charge. I perceive the world through that filter.

Say hopelessness is triggered and I am unaware of the sensations and imaginations creating it. I take on the viewpoint of that hopelessness and I feel that the current situation or my life, in general, is hopeless.

I am a client in an inquiry session. Anger gets triggered. I don’t notice the components making it up, so I feel angry and get annoyed at the facilitator, the inquiry, or anything else my mind chooses to put it on.

A deficiency story of not being good enough is activated. I feel I am not good enough in relation to anything in my current situation, whether it’s work, a relationship, a task, or even being facilitated in an inquiry session. This story will color my experience and influence how I behave.

I may instead notice that something charged is triggered, and I may also notice the most obvious elements making it up (sensations, images, words) as it happens. I notice it as content of experience, and that softens or releases identification with it. I can relate to it more intentionally.

Hopelessness is triggered by a current situation. I notice the sensations and some images of me looking hopeless. I may notice words saying “it’s hopeless”, “nothing will help”. I relate to these more intentionally and recognize it as a combination of sensations and imaginations. I may recognize it’s not anything more than that. I may recognize that it’s coloring my experience, and at the same time is not any ultimate or final truth nor is it my destiny. There is some distance to it. I can explore it further as an experience that’s here now.

And the same goes for anger or not feeling good enough, or anything else with a charge that’s activated. I can explore the sensations combined with imaginations, and relate to it more intentionally.

In short:

When something is charged, it’s charged because sensations become “glued” to imaginations or stories.

The charge functions as glue or a magnet for identification.

When it’s activated by a current situation and it’s not recognized as what it is, there is almost automatically identification with it. There is identification with the viewpoint of the stories making up the charge.

If I instead notice it as an object within experience and notice the sensations and imagination components, there is a softening of that identification. That happens even if I just notice the most obvious sensation and one or two associated mental images or set of words. And it happens more thoroughly if I take time to inquire further into it.

It can sound a bit abstract but it’s also something I can repeatedly notice just about every day.

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Going to thought to avoid feeling sensations given meaning by thought

Most of us go to thought to avoid feeling sensations given meaning by thought. It’s an interesting circularity that begins and ends with thought.

Here is the simple version of what’s happening.

(a) Thought gives a scary meaning to sensations.

(b) Since it seems scary, we want to avoid it.

(c) And the easiest way to avoid it is often to go to thought.

And a more elaborate description:

(a) Thoughts give a scary meaning to sensations. And the same sensations give a sense of substance and reality to those thoughts. These sensations often take the form of a body contraction, and this can be activated in the moment, or it can be more chronic.

(b) Since it seems scary, we want to avoid it. The thought-sensation combination seems scary, so we typically want to avoid looking at it closely. We may be caught in the drama of it, and even that’s a way to avoid looking more closely at the thought component and feeling the sensation component.

(c) The easiest way to avoid it is often to go to thought. These thoughts can be about nearly anything. They can be distracting thoughts. Analyzing thoughts trying to understand the problem. Strategizing thoughts trying to find a solution to the apparent problem. And they can even be the initially troublesome thoughts themselves when we get caught in their content instead of recognizing them as mental images and words.

There is a circularity here. The whole cycle starts and ends with thoughts. It starts with a scary thought held to be true. And ends with thoughts aimed at avoiding taking a closer look at these thoughts, and avoiding feeling the associated sensations and body contraction.

The solution to this and the way out is described in several other posts on this blog.

Why does attention go to painful memories/stories?

A client asked why she can’t stop thinking about a painful situation that happened several months back.

More broadly, why does attention sometimes repeatedly go to painful memories or stories?

There are several answers, each with some truth to it.

Symptom of trauma. It’s a common symptom of trauma. Its common with obsessive thinking about the initial traumatic situation or similar (real or potential) situations. Trauma can come from ongoing or acute situations and the obsessive thinking tends to reflect the traumatic situation in either case.

Velcro. When attention goes to certain stories in an obsessive way, it’s because these stories have a charge to them. (Or the mind tries to avoid stories with a charge to them by going into daydreams.) Sensations combine with imagination, lending them a charge and sense of reality while the imagination gives the sensations as sense of meaning. That’s how trauma – and any other velcro – is created.

Resolution. The mind goes to these stories because it tries to find resolution. And the only real resolution comes from the mind meeting itself with presence, kindnessn, love, and some insight into the original situation as well as how the mind creates its own painful memory.

Evolution. From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense for the mind to return to painful memories to try to learn as much as possible from it and prevent it from happening in the future.

To me, these are all valid. It is a common symptom of trauma. It’s what happens when there is velcro. It’s mind seeking resolution. And it’s built into us through evolution since it makes sense to return to painful situations to try to learn as much as we can from it and prevent similar things from happening in the future.

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Notice push/pull of distractions

During any form of meditation, it can be interesting to see where attention goes when it wanders.

This may happen during a training of more stable attention (keeping attention on something, for instance the sensations of the breath at the nostrils), natural rest (noticing and allowing), a heart centered practice (ho’o, tonglen), a body centered practice (noticing sensations, yoga, tai chi, breema etc.), or something else.

When attention gets distracted, it gets distracted by stories that has a charge to them. And these stories have a charge because they are associated with certain sensations. (Sensations lends a sense of reality, solidity and charge to the imagination. And imagination lends meaning to the sensations.) Instead of charge, we can say identification (identification with the viewpoint of the stories), beliefs (at least a part of us taking stories as real and true), or velcro (sensations and imagination associated with each other).

And when I say “distracted by” that can happen in at least two different ways, and there is often a combination of the two.

One is the stories that attention goes to. These may have a charge to them, as described above. And this charge makes them seem important. The charge may be interpreted as a like or dislike. We like or dislike the stories and/or what they are about.

Another is what attention seeks to avoid, which is also a story with a charge to it. When we look, we may first notice the sensation aspect of it (uncomfortable sensations) or the imagination aspect of it (uncomfortable stories). And it appears uncomfortable because a certain story is associated with sensations that makes it appear real, true, and solid.

Explaining it in this way, it may seem complicated, but it can be quite simple in practice.

(a) Keep attention somewhere, for instance in one of the ways mentioned above.

(b) Notice when attention wanders. (This noticing may happen during or after the fact.)

(c) Notice where attention goes. Notice the story or stories it goes to.

(d) Does that story have a charge? Where do you feel it in the body? What are the associated images and words?

(e) What among the sensations in my body did (or do) I not want to feel right now? What did attention want to escape? Find it in the body. Take some time to feel the physical sensations. Notice associated images and words.

This is a simple way to explore it. We can also use inquiry to take it further and explore it more in depth. In most cases, there is a lot of different sensations and imaginations (images and words) connected to what attention went to and tried to avoid.

In the beginning, can be easier to explore it in this setting. It provides a supportive container for the exploration. And really, it can be done in any situation in daily life. Whenever attention gets drawn into a story, I can explore the charge in the story it goes to and also what attention was trying to avoid.

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Velcro = manipulation

Whenever I hold a story as true, there is manipulation of myself or others.

Sensations anywhere in the body are sometimes associated with imagination, and this lends the imagination a sense of substance, solidity and reality. It makes the imagination seem true to us. Our mind makes it seem true to itself. This is called velcro in the Living Inquiry terminology. (Velcro = Sensations + imagination.)

This velcro lends a sense of reality and charge to imagination. And this imagination may take the form of a perceived threat, a deficient or inflated self, a compulsion, or anything else. And this tends to leads to manipulation of myself or others.

I manipulate to avoid a perceived threat. To compensate for a deficient self. To uphold an inflated self. To act on a compulsion to fill a perceived hole. To avoid feeling certain sensations associated with a threat, deficient or inflated self, or compulsion.

More generally, my mind manipulates it’s own perception to fit it’s beliefs, and it manipulates it’s own actions to act as if these beliefs are real.

There is nothing inherently wrong here. It’s just the way the mind works. It’s innocent. And it creates suffering, which is why we are motivated to change it to the extent we see and realize what’s going on, and that there is an alternative.

The alternative is to (a) notice what’s going on, (b) be honest about it with ourselves and perhaps others, and (c) examine what’s going on – for instance through inquiry.

Note: Velcro here refers to the same as a belief, holding a story as real and true. And identification, identifying with the viewpoint of a story. And even “ego” as that words is sometimes used in spiritual circles.

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Beliefs ≈ allergic reaction

I have often thought that beliefs are similar to an allergic reaction.

There is a stimulus which normally or in itself is harmless. We react to it as if it’s a real threat. And we do so because our mind has a belief about it.

To take an example from my own life: There is a leaf blower outside my window. My mind makes itself stressed and agitated and tries to find an escape – any escape. This is very similar to an allergic reaction. The stimulus (sound from leaf blower) is in itself harmless. My mind over-reacts to it. And it does so based on beliefs (identifications, hangups, velcro).

The same happens in all areas of life. In some cases, as the one above, it’s pretty easy to see. Many don’t respond that way, so it’s clearly nothing about the stimulus itself. In other cases, it may be more difficult to see since a majority responds in a allergic type way.

In all cases, it’s really the mind reacting to itself. The mind produces imagination (images, words) about past, future, or present. Sensations combine with this imagination to give it a sense of solidity, reality, and a charge. The mind takes the initial imagination as real, solid, and true. And reacts to it as if it’s real, solid, and true. The initial imagination is in itself harmless, as are the sensations. So again, this is an allergic type reaction. Since it’s the mind reacting to itself, I guess we could even call it an autoimmune type reaction.

I know what many will think here: Sometimes it’s appropriate to react to things, that’s not an allergic reaction.

Yes, it’s often helpful and kind to take action. What I am talking about here is the additional layer of stress the mind creates for itself through beliefs (identification, velcro). That’s where the allergic type reaction comes in and the over-reaction. That layer is something we can explore, see more for what it is, and find genuine peace with as is. We get to see its innocence, and that it really is OK as is.

As a side-effect of this exploration, this extra layer of stress may even soften and fall away. We see how the mind creates it for itself. We get to see its innocence. We befriend it. We find peace with it. So there is no longer any need for it to hang around.

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The depth of painful experiences

It can seem that painful experiences are powerful, deep, and pervasive.

These painful experiences are created by painful beliefs. Or identification. Or velcro. And velcro here means the way sensations appear stuck to images and words giving them a sense of substance, solidity, and reality, and also giving them a charge (dislike, like, or neutral). This is really the same as beliefs or identifications. It’s also how hangups, wounds, trauma, compulsions, and chronic patterns of anxiety, depression, and anger are created.

In a way, it’s true. If the velcro is unexamined, if the parts of it are unloved, if the sensations making it up are unfelt, then it can certainly appear powerful, deep, and pervasive. We become a slave to a master that can seem powerful. It can seem that there is no end to it. It can color our whole experience and life.

At the same time, it’s not completely true. Velcro is created by the mind associating certain sensations with certain images and words. It’s created by the mind, and it can be undone by the mind. It can be undone by (a) separating out sensations, images, and words from each other, (b) recognize each for what they are (sensations, images, words), (c) ask simple questions about each to see what’s really there, and see what’s more may be there, and (d) feeling the sensations.

There are also other aspects, such as finding kindness towards these sensations, images, and words (which is not so difficult when we see that that’s what they are), noticing the boundless space they are happening within (if there is an image of a boundary, that too happens within space), and perhaps using bodywork to help release the chronic tension that typically hold chronic velcro in place (TRE, massage).

It can seem that noticing sensations, images, and words would be insignificant. After all, they are pretty ephemeral. At the same time, they are what make up our whole experience, without exception. (If we take “sensations” to mean sensory input, and images and words as any imagination). It is, literally, our whole world. We can undo any painful aspect of our whole world this way.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t feel anything. We will still experience physical pain. There will, most likely, still be sadness, fear, anger. And yet the overlay created by our struggle with it, and the overlay holding it in place over long periods of time, may have fallen away. My experience is that the sense of connection and empathy deepens and more and more experiences become quite beautiful.

Another angle on this is our own experience in doing natural rest and inquiry. Through this, we may see – sometimes within minutes – that what appeared solid, unquestionable, painful, all pervasive, unhealable, is anything but that. We may see it vaporize as we are watching.

Sometimes, it may take quite a few sessions on any one trauma. That’s quite normal. And yet, with sincerity and actually doing it, it may well undo itself. There is no end to it, and at the same time more and more falls away as we keep exploring.

Fear and identification

When I was in training to become a Living Inquiry facilitator, I would ask the is a threat question whenever I sensed there could be a threat or fear connected to a particular image, word or sensation. Whenever I checked in with myself, I could usually find a threat or fear connected to any velcro (any belief, identification). I learned to dial this back a bit since I seemed to perceive threats where others didn’t. That may partly be because of my PTSD which tends to bring the whole system on high alert so threats are perceived just about anywhere.

And yet, I still wonder if fear is not behind or connected with just about any velcro, belief or identification. Why would the glue be there if not for fear? At the very least, there is fear about how it is to live without any particular velcro or identification.

It also seems that the velcro is often initially created through fear, and then recreated through fear in the moment. It may not be obvious, but when I look I find it for myself.

CG Jung: To the extent that I managed to translate the emotions into images I was inwardly calmed and reassured

To the extent that I managed to translate the emotions into images– that is to say, to find the images which were concealed in the emotions– I was inwardly calmed and reassured.

Had I left those images hidden in the emotions, I might have been torn to pieces by them.

There is a chance that I might have succeeded in splitting them off; but in that case I would inexorably have fallen into a neurosis and so been ultimately destroyed by them.

As a result of my experiment I learned how helpful it can be, from the therapeutic point of view, to find the particular images which lie behind the emotions.

– CG Jung, p. 177, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

This is an essential part of Buddhist inquiry, the Living Inquiries, and several body-oriented therapy forms in the west. Feel the sensations. Notice images and words associated with them. Look at these. Notice images as images. Notice words as words. Notice sensations as sensations. Feel sensations as sensations. That’s how these separate out and the charge goes out of the initial bundle of images, words, and sensations.

These bundles are how our minds create drama, stress, tension, trauma, wounds, discomfort, suffering, a sense of separation, deficient and inflated selves, and more. And when the charge goes out of these bundles – and images are recognized as images, words as words, and sensations as sensations – there is typically a huge relief. A sense of coming home. A sense of simplicity.

We are more free to live from our “true nature” – that which we are with fewer of these drama bundles drawing our attention – which is a very simple and ordinary kindness and wisdom.

These bundles of words, images, and sensations are also called velcro (Living Inquiries). I used to call them conglomerates. The bundles are created from identification with the images and words in the bundle, and the stories associated these with certain sensations. And all of this can be called “ego”, although I prefer to not use that word since it has too many misleading associations and makes it all seem more solid and more like an object while in reality it’s all quite ephemeral.

And what about the term “true nature”? I don’t really like to use that term either. It can sound too fanciful and esoteric while it’s really something very ordinary and simple. In this context, it’s just the ordinary kindness that’s here when attention is not drawn into (too much) velcro.

Compulsively avoiding velcro

I know this sounds simplistic, and it also seems quite accurate.

Compulsively avoiding velcro is what creates discomfort and suffering, and what keeps it in place. When I avoid velcro, I avoid feeling certain sensations and looking at images and words associated with it.

Velcro here refers to the sticky conglomerate of sensations and associated images and words. When sensations stick onto images and words, it makes these images and words seem real and solid. It’s another word for belief, or identification, or even “ego” as its sometimes used in spiritual circles.

When I compulsively avoid velcro, I compulsively seek something else. That helps me avoid the velcro. It gives me something else to do, and it may even appear to promise deliverance. They are two sides of the same coin.

I go into compulsive avoidance, overthinking/intellectualizing, rumination, hopes or fears about the future, regrets about the past, eating, entertainment, spiritual practice, work, wanting to be a good person, being liked, being admired, and more. For some, the compulsion may even involve drugs and alcohol.

The remedy is to do the opposite. To feel the sensation component of the velcro. To rest with it. To examine the associated images and words. To look at what’s really there, and already there.

This approach supports us in noticing what we are, and in the healing of who we are. As velcro (identifications) soften or fall away, it’s easier for what we are (presence, what experience happens within and as) to notice itself. It’s easier for the natural rest that’s already here to notice itself as what’s already here, and more consciously rest in itself. And it supports the healing and maturing of who we are, as an ordinary human being.

In this way, what a thought calls spirituality and psychology are both included, and the thought-created division between the two becomes less or not important.

Note: This experience, as it is, independent of how peaceful or turbulent it seems from a conventional view, is already natural rest. Sometimes, that’s noticed. Other times, it’s not. It’s still natural rest. And when that’s noticed, independent of the content of experience, something shifts. There is a sense of coming home. Of release. Of relief.

In what sense is it already natural rest? It’s already happening within and as presence. It’s already happening within and as what we are. It’s already sensations, images, words, each of which happen within presence and natural rest.

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It’s not easy to believe a thought

It’s not easy to believe a thought.

It takes a lot of effort.

It’s stressful.

It needs to be maintained here and now.

And more than that….

 It needs to be elaborated upon. If it’s true, other stories follow from it, and these needs to be taken as true as well, and maintained as true.

It’s underlying assumptions must be reaffirmed and supported.

We need to filter our experience of the world through it.

We need to defend the truth of the story, since it is or will be out of alignment with aspects of reality. We need to defend it against other stories which may invalidate it.

We need to contract muscles to create persistent sensations which can support taking the thought as true, through lending the thought charge, and a sense of solidity and reality.

That’s why there is often a deep sense of relief when any particular belief is seen through and – even in temporarily – falls away. And it’s why there is even more of a deep relief when beliefs in general fall away, even if temporarily and in a glimpse or for a period of time.

From this perspective, the primary question isn’t why is it so difficult to awaken? (Although that’s a valid question.) It’s more, how come we go through all this effort to stay in our own dream world, specially considering it’s often painful? 

I don’t really have the answers to that. Although I suspect part of the answer is a combination of two quite simple things.

We do it because that’s what those around us do. As babies, we look to the adults in our life for cues about how to live here, so we follow them. In Rome, do as Romans do. It’s very innocent and understandable.

Also, intentional thought is a relatively new tool in our evolution. We are still grappling with how to use it effectively. We still stumble in how we use it. We take our own thoughts as real and true, even if they are simply thoughts and are better used as practical tools for navigating the world. This too is innocent and understandable.

Velcro is velcro

Velcro is velcro.

It doesn’t matter what the story is seemingly about: something people agree happened (consensus reality), a dream, a vision, a fantasy, an apparent memory of a past life, a delusion. In any case, it can be helpful to explore it and unvelcro whatever may be stuck to it.

I was reminded of this with a client who said he has received visions and messages from God. Some may say it’s delusional. Others may see it as relatively normal. It just depends on how well it fits into our existing world view, and what we see as possible.

And it doesn’t matter. If there is stress around it, it can still be helpful to look at the images, words, and sensations making up the experience, and help loosen or release the velcro (sensations stuck on images and words).
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Here and now, and from the past

Velcro, identifications, and trauma are here and now, and from the past.

They are here and now, and cannot be found in the past or future. We cannot even find past, future or present outside of what’s created by images, words and sensations.

At the same time, velcro, identifications, and trauma were initially created and formed at some point in the past, often in early childhood. And it can be very helpful to look at that, question the painful stories, and find love for what was unloved. One way to find these early events is to ask when did you first have that thought?, or when do you remember first having that feeling?

It’s frequently said, and it seems to be true enough, that childhood trauma is behind a great deal of what we struggle with as adults.

So which one is it? Are these things here and now? Or found in the past? It’s both, as so often. It’s all happening here and now, and within that we can find painful stories of events from early in our life. And it’s important to look at these, and find some resolution and healing.

It’s also neither. At some point, it can be helpful to look for velcro, identifications, and trauma themselves. Can I find these outside of my images, words, and sensations that create an experience of these?

And unfindable doesn’t mean doesn’t exist or that they are not helpful stories or pointers in some situations. They can be, for instance, in finding healing.

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How do the living inquiries work?

How do the Living Inquiries work?

Put simply:

Through looking at associated images, words, and sensations, feeling the sensations, and asking simple questions to see what’s actually there, there is a reprogramming of the mind. And this allows us to see the images as images, words as words, and sensations as sensations, and also more easily stay with and feel the sensations.

When sensations, images and words seem “stuck together”, the sensations lends a charge and sense of reality and solidity to the stories created by the images and words.

Through resting, looking, and feeling the sensations, this stickiness softens or release.

I also wonder if not feeling the sensations, and especially noticing and feeling them as sensations, allows something to discharge and release. The tension and “stuckness” that the initial stickiness created may be allowed to release, at least over time.

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Shame as a pointer

Shame is an excellent pointer to something in me that’s still unloved and unquestioned.

The only reason, it seems, that something feels shameful, is that it’s still unloved and unquestioned. The stories creating the beliefs around it are unquestioned, and perhaps as yet unseen.

Shame is just one of many pointers: stress, discomfort, unease, guilt, depression, reactivity, compulsions, trauma, “sticky” sadness, anger, and fear, and body contractions.

Identification = belief = velcro = ego

Identification = belief = velcro = ego.

At least roughly.

Identification is when mind takes on the viewpoint of a story, and holds it as true and real. Mind identifies with the view of the story, filters experience through it, and even acts as if it’s true.

A belief is when mind holds a story as true, and perceives and acts as if it’s true, at least to some extent. (Often, it’s not a 100%.)

Velcro is when sensations seem “stuck” on associated images and words, giving them a charge, and lending them a sense of reality, solidity, and truth. The images and words feel true, because of the associated sensations.

Ego can be used in a psychological and “spiritual” sense. In a psychological sense, it’s just the operating system that allows this human being to function in the world, and we want it to be healthy and keep maturing. In a “spiritual” sense, the “ego” refers to identification and what comes out of identification. (Or a belief or velcro, and what comes out of these.)

These are all words describing roughly the same. It’s all referring to the mind identifying with a story, and what that brings with it.

What does it bring with it? Here are some possible consequences: Filtering perception through that story, acting as if it’s true, perhaps wanting to defend the story, dismissing what doesn’t fit, perhaps discomfort or suffering when life goes against the story, finding people who agree and support our story, and more.

Resting with velcro 

It’s quite possible to rest with velcro.

Rest with a jumble of words, images, and sensations. Notice the jumble. Allow.

It’s better than not resting with it.

And what’s even better is to take a look at what’s there. Slow it down.

Look at each word, each image, feel the sensations, and ask simple questions to see what’s really there.

That’s where a more real relief can happen.

Just resting with it can be a relief. Although the velcro may still be there, and the beliefs behind it held as real and true – and stressful. Taking a closer look can help loosen and release the velcro, and offer a more real relief.

Velcro here means sensations that appear “stuck” on images and words, giving them a charge, and often a sense of reality and solidity. It’s what makes images and words feel true. (And sometimes uncomfortable and stressful.)

Note: Thanks to senior Living Inquiry facilitators to point this out, as they have pointed out other things I am exploring here.

Free to go into and out of trauma, and velcro

In a TRE workshop with David Berceli, he mentioned that he was less fearful of being traumatized because he knows he can come out of it (using TRE). He is more free to go into and out of trauma, just like mammals in the wild. (They seem to be quite free to go into and out of trauma.)

He is probably also less likely to be severely traumatized since his baseline tension level is low due to doing TRE for several years or even decades. That may also be part of the reduced fear of being traumatized.

I see something similar with identifications (or velcro, hangups, wounds). As I am more familiar with resting with them, and asking simple questions about what comes up, they feel less threatening when they do come up. I know they are not as true, real, or solid as they may first appear.

I have also looked at some (not all) of my fears about them coming up, and what I fear it means when they do. (There is still more for me to look at here.)

In any case, as we become more familiar with releasing tension and trauma through neurogenic tremors (TRE), and resting with and looking at velcro, something shifts. The trauma and velcro seems less threatening. There is something we can do when it’s here.

We know it’s not as solid, or permanent, as it may initially seem.

Feels true and know it isn’t

At some point, we may see quite clearly that stories are not true. Images don’t inherently mean anything. Words don’t inherently mean anything. Sensations don’t inherently mean anything.

When sensations seem “stuck on” images and words (velcro, conglomerates), they may appear to mean something but they don’t inherently mean anything.

Following this, we may have beliefs come up (velcro, identifications), and while they feel true we may also know that they are not true.

This is a relief. It’s a shift. We know that it’s not true, and also (if we know inquiry) that there is a way to work with it.

We can examine and see more clearly what’s already there. We can befriend it.

We can help it to find it’s own liberation. We can help it find liberation from being held as solid and true.

Through examination, we may arrive at seeing that the images, words, and sensations that came up don’t inherently mean anything. We may arrive at recognizing images as images, words as images, and sensations as sensations.

We can arrive at a place where what’s here is OK. It doesn’t need to go away.

First, the identifications may feel very real and solid. We don’t question it, and we don’t know any way to even work with it.

Then, we may learn ways to work with it. (Natural rest, loving kindness, inquiry.) We may also arrive at a place where we see more clearly that images, words, and sensations in themselves don’t mean anything, and that meaning comes from how they combine into conglomerates (velcro).

That brings us to a place where identifications (velcro, beliefs, hangups, wounds) still come up, while we know that they are created by the mind and are not inherently true. We also know ways to work with it, and we do. I assume this is ongoing. (And if there is a wish for it to end, I can look at that too. I can rest with that too, and examine it through inquiry.)

Experience is already resting

It can seem that experience is anything but resting. There is movement. Seeking. Tension. Contraction. Suffering. Identification.

And yet, when I look, I see that what’s really here is different. I find that images, words and sensations already are resting. It’s only the velcro that makes it appear differently.

It’s only when sensations seem “stuck” on images and words that it appears that what’s here is not resting.

When the velcro softens or falls away, what’s here – these images, words, and sensations – are revealed as resting, and already resting.

With velcro, they may appear as anything but, and it’s easy to get caught in the tension, struggle, seeking, or pushing and pulling. (The appearance of which is created by the velcro.) Without, it’s all revealed as already resting. Even the words, images, and sensations making up the apparent struggle, tension, pushing and pulling, and suffering are already resting.

That makes it much easier to rest with it.

As with similar things, it’s about noticing what’s already here, which makes it easier to align with it more consciously.

For instance, I notice a sense of pushing or seeking in the throat and forehead. I rest with the sensation. Is that sensation pushing? Is it seeking? I notice an image of the throat and forehead. Is that image pushing? Is it seeking? I look at the word “pushing”. Is that word pushing? I look at the word “seeking”. Is that word seeking? And so on, examining whatever makes up the experience of pushing or seeking, one simple thing at a time.

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More personal thoughts

It’s warm today. I have to call my parents. I will take a shower before going outside. I need a new pair of summer shorts.

Some thoughts seem less personal, like these. (At least to me, now.)

And some thoughts seem more personal.

I am not getting enough sleep. Why did they paint the house with high-VOC paint? Don’t they realize how toxic it is, and that there are good alternatives? Why is the air conditioning on at night, when it only makes the air stuffy and humid, while the outdoor air is fresh and cool? Where am I going to stay the next few days or weeks? Life is unfair. I don’t belong among Americans.

I should be over this. I am embarrassed I still have a charge around it. I am not looking at the situation as clearly as I can. I am afraid I’ll mess it up. That I’ll get caught in reactivity, and regret it later.

The difference is that the latter thoughts have a charge around them. There is (some) identification with their viewpoint. They feel more true. They feel more real. There is more “velcro” there. (Words and images seem stuck on sensations, and these sensations gives the words and images charge, and a sense of reality, and that that’s “my viewpoint”.)

That’s why they seem more personal. That’s why they seem more true.

That’s why it’s easier to get caught up in identifying with their viewpoint and stories, and not even notice what they are – words, images, sensations.

These are the ones that can go “under the radar”, at least for a time. Often, it’s easier to recognize what they are later. And sometimes even as there is identification and charge around it

Some call these “secondary thoughts” or “commenting thoughts” but that doesn’t seem accurate to me. All thoughts are commenting on something, and they are all – really – commenting other thoughts. Thoughts comment on each other. That’s why they are all also secondary thoughts. They come after and depend on prior thoughts.

The difference, to me, is that some thoughts have more identification and velcro and seem more true, and other thoughts have less or (apparently) none of this. The latter are easier to recognize as what they are. The former can be a little more difficult to recognize.

That’s why it’s good to slow it all down, through resting with it, and perhaps asking some simple questions to clarify what’s there.

Making myself more stupid than I am 

Whenever I believe a story, I make myself more stupid than I am.

I go into the victim role. I see the world – myself, others, the situation – in black and white. I polarize. I feel hopeless. I am blinded by frustration.

I perceive and live as if my belief is true. If that’s how it is, and that’s it.

Reality is different. Reality is that any number of ways of looking at the situation have validity. Reality is that it’s happening within and as what I am.

As Buddhists say, I am the sky and this experience is a passing cloud.

Earlier today, I went into some hurt and had a mental conversation with someone where I said “you are making yourself more stupid than you are”. That may be true, and it’s not for me to know. What’s for me is to find how I am doing it, also in that situation.


Here is a selection of possible pitfalls in an unfolding awakening.

The “bad news” is that some of these happen for many. It can trigger identifications and wounds, which can be uncomfortable, stressful or painful. And we can put ourselves in difficult or uncomfortable situations in life.

The “good news” is that whatever happens is part of the process. It shows us our identifications, hangups and wounds. It’s an invitation for us to be a good steward for our life, live with more authenticity, and meet what’s coming up in us with love and curiosity. It’s the play of life, Spirit, or the Divine (lila). It’s life expressing, exploring and experiencing itself in always new ways. Whatever happens – including what appears as a separate self, choices, actions, reactivity and more – is a temporary play of life. In these ways, they are not really pitfalls. And the idea of pitfall is an idea, not inherent in reality (outside of the reality we create for ourselves).

In general, these pitfalls comes from identification with images and words. Believing stories – about others, ourselves, the world, life. Velcro – sensations apparently “stuck on” words and images. It’s all variations on this theme.

In an unfolding awakening, there may be different pitfalls during different phases, or relating to different facets of the process.

I’ll describe some possible beliefs that can be triggered during different phases (or by certain facets) of the process. Each of these are an attempt for the mind to “land” somewhere, and find a sense of safety and security. Each of these are, at one point or another, stressful. They are stressful because they are out of alignment with reality. And they out of alignment with reality for (at least) two reasons: (i) Although there is often a grain of truth in any story, it’s also out of alignment with reality, and painfully so if we hold it too tightly. Reality is always different from, and more than, any story. (ii) Also, we don’t know. We don’t know anything for certain.

Initial interest.

(a) The more weird, the more spiritual. Spirituality is about what’s weird and unusual. (Spirituality is becoming familiar with what’s here in immediate experience, and as who and what we are. It’s very ordinary, and the label “spirituality” falls away after a while.)

(b) I need to dismiss my human side, or ordinary life. (Our human side is part of who and what we are. That too is part of life and Spirit. Our human side and ordinary life is no more or less “spiritual” than anything else. It’s all about discovery of what’s already here.)

(c) Spirituality is about getting somewhere that’s not here. (It’s about discovering and becoming more familiar with what’s already here, and often obviously so.)

Initial awakening.

(a) This is it. This is as far as it goes. (Ignoring that insights are infinite. Life is an ongoing unfolding. And discoveries about who and what we are also seems to be continuing and ongoing.)

(b) I have made it. I am better than others. I did it. (Taking credit for what is given, a gift. Attaching it to an imagined me. Ignoring that everything and everyone already is this awakeness. Overlooking that any story I have about someone else also applies to me, and the other way around.)

(c) They don’t get it. I need to show them how it is. (Again, overlooking that any story about someone else also applies to me, and the other way around. And that it doesn’t work to preach. The most we can do is offer our own experience, if asked.)

(d) I need to move forward. I need to stabilize it. I need to clarify my insights and mature further. (Pushing it, trying to stabilize it. Not trusting that it’s a natural process of unfolding and maturing, with it’s own tempo. It’s also not aligned with our wishes or dreams, so trying to make the process conform to these is stressful.) *

Honeymoon. Same as above. Also….

(a) I can do whatever, since there is no-one here (or there) to be hurt. Nothing is really happening anyway. (Ignoring the human side of our lives, where people – including ourselves – get the consequences.)

(b) I can deal with anything. It’s OK for me to ignore my guidance, because I can deal with any situation. (Over-confidence. Ignoring the importance of learning to follow my guidance, and find love for and question any fears – beliefs – that stops me from doing so. Not realizing how eroding not following my guidance can be, at all human levels.) **

Dark night of the soul.

(a) I have done something wrong. I made a mistake. (Ideas of wrong and mistake are created in our own mind. We can also find the truth in the reversals, with concrete examples.) **

(b) This will never end. It will always be like this. (Again, these are ideas created by the mind, and held as real and true. It’s easy to project our idea of what’s here into our idea of the future. Nothing lasts forever, even if it seems that way.) **

(c) This is too much. I can’t take it. (Is it true? What’s the reality here and now?)  **

And in general.

(a) I should trust this teacher or guide more than my own guidance. I need to set aside my own guidance. (A good teacher or guide will encourage you to follow your own guidance.) *

(b) I don’t need a teacher or guide. I can do it all myself. (Someone who is experienced with the terrain may offer valuable pointers and guidance. He or she may also see something about our situation that we miss, or see and don’t trust.)

(c) All is Spirit. All is God’s will. There is no-one here. So I don’t have to take into account the human consequences. (Ignoring our human side, and being ordinarily kind to the human side of ourselves and others.)

None of these types of beliefs are unique to what’s happening in an awakening process. They are, often in different flavors and expressions, universally human.

Also, each of the beliefs mentioned above have a grain of truth in them. Holding them as true, for a while, can certainly give valuable experiences and insights. And they can also be quite stressful and uncomfortable, since they are out of alignment with, or go against, reality.

I have marked the ones that played a clear role in my own path with one or two asterisks (*).

To be updated if something more comes to me, and I think of adding it here.

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Rational in its own way

When we act, perceive or feel in ways that seem irrational – either to others or ourselves – it may still be rational in its own way.

Believing a certain thought leads to perceiving, feeling and acting in certain ways, and it may not look rational to someone who believe another set of thoughts. Even to ourselves, it may not make sense if we consciously  believe on set of thoughts, and at a deeper level believe another. (Which is sometimes the case.)

Here are some other ways of saying the same:

When words and images seem “welded” to certain sensations (velcro), these appear real and solid and we act, feel and perceive as if they are real and solid. Again, if we have a conscious view that’s different, this may appear irrational even to ourselves.

When there is identification with a certain identity, we’ll act to protect and support this identity. This too may appear irrational, although it’s quite rational in the context of wishing to protect and enhance the identity. After all, it will feel like who we are, so protecting this identity may well feel like a life and death situation.

When there is trauma, we may act from anger, desperately seek company, isolate and so on. Again, it may seem irrational and yet be understandable and seem rational in the context of the particular trauma. (It’s possible to see beliefs, velcro and identifications as forms of trauma – sometimes very mild and sometimes stronger. They are all ways to try to protect the imagined self. And it tends to feel like a life and death matter, either mildly or strongly.)

So it may be understandable and rational within its own world. It may be kind, and come from a wish to protect the (imagined) self, and come from love for this imagined self.

And it’s often also slightly misguided, from a larger perspective. It’s not what makes the most sense, if we are more clear and healed.

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