Inclusive and Fluid
One aspect of the world is that it continually offers to wake us up. It is existence offering itself opportunities to wake up to its own nature.
One example is views. Whenever we are stuck in any particular view, the world offers situations that shows that this view is too limited. And this brings suffering, which can be an incentive to wake up. To see through the delusion of believing in any one or any set of limited views.
This came up yesterday during the Breema intensive. The experiential aspect of Breema is very much inclusive and fluid (or rather beyond the polarities of inclusive/exclusive and rigid/fluid). And some expressions of Breema reflect this transdual experience.
Still, the way it sometimes is expressed and interpreted is somewhat exclusive and rigid. This is natural. When a transdual experience is interpreted, it will come out in different ways depending on the familiarity with the terrain and the language and vocabulary available.
In Breema, there seems to be some "taboo" topics among some of the students - areas that many are concerned with yet rarely speak about in groups. Yesterday, several of these topics were brought up by new and older students, and I could see how some of the other students were horrified, while others took it as a welcome and refreshing change and opportunity to meet the questions with honesty.
If Breema is about intimacy with existence, then nothing is foreign to it or left out. Whenever something appears as "taboo" - or a situation brings up non-physical discomfort for us - it shows us where we are stuck, nothing else.
Inclusive and Fluid
I lived in a beautiful house (white old wood construction) in a beautiful rural area (decidious trees, orchards, hedgerows, flowers), most likely in Norway. It was spring. There were a group of us living in the house, and our relationships were flowing and beautiful.
One day, some thugs living nearby came near the house, and verbally abused one of my housemates. I told them sternly, and with a good deal of self-righteousness, to apologize. Their response was to physically abuse the person. Even more righteous, I said I would go to the police. And their response was to threaten even worse abuse - of others and the house.
For everything I said or did, their response was something even worse than what they had done previoulsy. At the end of the dream, I and one of my housemates closed all the windows and doors in the house (there were many of them, and they were all open as it was spring).
There was a sense of relief in the dream. My self-righteous and arrogant approach had run into a dead end. Whenever I acted from this attutude, something came back to me that was even worse than before. And it was systematic and with no way out. There was a tremendous sense of relife - finally I had run into a situation where I had no choice but to drop it.
Of course, connected to this is the polarity of the pure and beautiful, and the dirty and ugly. I am identified with the former - here expressed as a beautiful house in beautiful surroundgs in which people with beautiful relationships lives. And obviously not with the latter - the dirty and violent thugs - who show me exactly who I am as well as the delusion I am operating from.
I need to see these thugs in myself in my everyday life, and also the attitudes that give them good reason to resent me and bring attention to themselves through their behavior.
I mentioned earlier how music seemed to disintegrate into its components if it is on during sitting practice. I saw clearly that I am the one creating a sense of flow, rhythm, melody.
Similar to this, I have moments in everyday life where everyone and everything seems to disintegrate, to fall into their components. And as with music, it becomes very clear that it is this mind that creates a sense of connections and coherence among the many parts of the inner/outer world. And that this coherence makes sense on a certain level (everyday functioning), but also is arbitrary.
Through the inquiry process, awareness comes to realize that (a) thoughts are not true (not an accurate reflection of existence), (b) believing in thoughts causes suffering, (c) there is an alternative (awareness not identified with its content is spacious, clear, responsive), (d) the thought/statement can be turned around in any and all ways (to ourselves, its opposite etc), and each of these new statements are as valid as the initial one. They help us recognize and integrate projections, and unstick from any particular view.
So when there is a contraction, something in me looks for the thought that something else in me believes in, recognizes that it is not true and causes contraction/suffering, recognizes the space, clarity and responsiveness that is always there, and (if it is on a word level) turns the statement around.
Recognizing the process and consequences of believing in thoughts in myself, I also recognize it in others. And realizing that the process far less substantial than it may appear in myself, I also see it as much less substantial in others. Instead of thinking "they are angry at me", I realize that they are just believing in a thought, which in turn causes them suffering. And this makes it much easier to deal with the situation as it is, simply, with less extra.
It seems that the Byron Katie inquiry process dissolves habitual patterns that work on all levels - physical, energetic, emotional, cognitive.
Believing in any thought gives a contraction on all these levels, so looking into it enough for awareness to no longer be able to believe the thought dissolves these patterns of contractions.
Although there are still many areas that can benefit from inquiry for me, I notice daily situations where I used to contract (for instance tense up, shallow breathing, judgment, righteousness, blame, circular thought patterns) and where there is now space, clarity, responsiveness. It is effortless, and I have noticed a part of me trying to recreate the old patterns, but there is nothing there - no hook.
It is striking to see to what extent I and others believe in thoughts, its consequences (all undesirable), how unnecessary it is, and how blind we all are to this. Although the inquiry process is a relatively quick way to awaken to this realization.
The inquiry process goes to the root of the matter - believing in thoughts - rather than reorganizing the believes themselves. And the process allows us to see and experience for ourselves who and what we are when we don't believe in thoughts. It allows awareness to awaken to itself as distinct from its content, with its inherent and everpresent qualities of spaciousness, clarity, responsiveness.
Western approaches, including psychology, tend to focus on reorganizing beliefs. They focus on the specific beliefs, rather than the process of believing in thoughts itself. Most likely, this is because they do not acknowledge - or are not aware - of what/how awareness functions when it is not identified with its content. The realization of awareness as inherently spacious, clear, responsive, is always infinitely close - but a shift needs to happen.
It is also interesting to note that the inquiry process gives an understanding on a deeper level. After doing it for a little while, I know recognize the general process - and it partly seems to apply itself in real life situations, and I can partly consciously initiate and engage in it.
I recognize the contractions when I believe a thought, I can recognize the thought behind it, I know it is not true, I recognize the effects of believing it (suffering), I recognize who/what I am without believing it (space, clarity, responsiveness), and I turn the statement around. This happens instantaneous and wordlessly, and takes care of much in the moment. And it also benefits from a further inquiry on paper to release it more fully, at least for now.
The main effects of believing in thoughts seem to be contraction and suffering. Thoughts always represent a limited and particular view, and existence is far beyond and more inclusive than any particular view. We set ourselves up for suffering when we believe in thoughts, because the world will always give us situations that do not correspond with the limited view of the thought.
A belief has an inherent expectation of how the world will work, the world behaves differently, and we suffer.
When we believe in limited views, when we act as if they are true, it creates a contraction - which in turn has many aspects and a cascade of effects. There is a sense of precariousness, since the world at any moment can give us something that does not correspond with the belief. There is a rigidity - an attachment to particular pattenrs of emotions/thoughts/behaviors/outcomes. There is a sense of being trapped and confined, in a limited view, in situations that do not correspond to the belief. There is a sense of being separate - from ourselves, desired outcomes, others, existence.
When awareness really sees through this, through the inquiry process, beliefs drop. Awareness reveals itself as it is distinct from its content - with its inherent and always present spaciousness, clarity, responsiveness, compassion, and quiet current of joyfulness.
The inquiry process has a parallel with Buddhist basic meditation practice. The space and clarity we find when awareness drops beliefs, corresponds with shamata - calm abiding. The insights we gain in how the process of believing in thoughts create suffering, is vipassana - insight meditation.
Wisdom of the Body
During the times where I use a more comprehensive set of practices, there is a deep transformation in how the world is experienced through me. I experience myself intimately and with a sense of fullness and richness, as one whole - beyond body/mind, and as intimately part of a larger whole.
In Norway, there was meditation, prayer, tai chi, chi gong, walking/biking/hiking, rewarding and deep social interactions, and balanced/fresh diet. In Salt Lake City, during my years at Kanzeon, I also in periods did a daily yoga practice, in addition to hiking, walking, diet, rewarding social interactions, etc. Here in Oregon, I use meditation, Breema bodywork and Self-Breema, walking/biking/hiking, balanced/fresh diet, rewarding social interactions and engagement, visualizations when it seems appropriate.
In each case, there is a rich, intimate and delicious sense of this self as one whole, beyond and embracing body/mind, of no separation with any inner/outer phenomena, and of awareness as distinct yet inseparate from any inner/outer phenomena.
There is a difference as well. In Norway, I experienced this body and the whole physical universe as transparent - as of light. In Salt Lake City, there was a gradual grounding through the sitting practice. And now, an even further melting into the physical body - of more fully and intimately being body, energies, emotions, thoughts, awareness - and with no separation to the larger whole.
Over the last year, there has also been a closer alignment of the different layers of this self. My body has given me very clear and accurate information about what food to eat, and my mind has paid attention to it although not always followed it. Now, there is a much closer alignment. What nurtures the body/mind, is also what I consciously want to eat - with no effort or trying. It also seems that the closer alignment of the different layers allows the emotional level to contribute a sense of fullness, richness and vibrancy in my daily life.
Awareness can function in a wide variety of ways.
- Identified with content
It can be identified with its content - with the body, sensations, emotions, thoughts - and function in a dualistic way. There is an inner and outer, me and you, body and mind, birth and death, right and wrong.
- Distinct from content
It can become aware of itself as distinct from its content, and function in a more transdualistic way. It sees all inner and outer phenomena as part of a fluid seamless whole.
Awareness can function in a way centered on the small self - in either of the previous situations. When it is identified with its content, there is little choice. And when it awakens as distinct from its content, it can still function centered on the small self (and usually does, so it can be effective in the world).
- No center
Awareness can also be aware of itself as distinct from content, and function without being centered anywhere. Everything and nothing is a center. For me, this has occured during sitting practice, and I am not familiar enough with it to say much more - although I suspect that it can still function through the small self - it is just that the small self perspective is not there anymore. In a way, this is God functioning in a self-aware way through a small self. And it is a little one-sided as well, excluding the view of the small self.
A more fluid and inclusive approach is to move freely between an emphasis on Big Mind view (which does not have any center) and small self view (which is a center). This way, we know that awareness (the "true me") is not any self or anything separate from anything else, and we also allow ourselves to be fully human. There is a fluidity, freedom and fullness in this - and there is also no endpoint - it is a continous process of fluidity, embodyment, exploration, intimacy with the many aspects of existence.
Poison & Medicine
Any inner/outer situation can be poison or medicine, and the higher the intensity in the experience, the stronger effect.
When awareness is identified with its content, situations can be poison. If the personality relates to the situation with aversion, it creates contractions in the form of repression, bitterness, cynicism, anger, sadness, hopelessness, and more. If the personality relates to the situation with attraction, it again leads to contraction, this time in the form of clinging, envy, jealousy, greed.
This can be seen as a poison, although there is nothing wrong from another perspective. It is just the natural functioning of awareness when it is identified with its content. It is one way awareness functions, one phase in the evolution of humanity and the development of individuals. One way God manifests and explores itself.
When awareness awakens to itself as distinct from its content, any situation can be medicine. The energy in whatever comes up - in the form of sensations, emotions, thoughts - allows awareness to clarify and deepen. There is a breaking open instead of breaking down. It opens for a deeper humanity, for deepening compassion, humility and gratitude.
This can be seen as a medicine, although from another perspective, this is just the natural functioning of awareness when aware of itself as distinct from its content. It is one way awareness functions, one phase in the evolution of humanity and the development of individuals. One way God manifests and explores itself.
I am noticing more of a fullness when I am whatever comes up. If I wake up at 4am with an undercurrent of stress and panic, I am the stress and panic and whatever else is there, and it has a fullness and a richness to it. It does require attention and a shift, but also comes easily these days. The richness of it draws me in.
When "I" am separate from whatever comes up, and what comes up is perceived as undesirable (pain, fear, sadness, stress etc), then there is resistance and a pushing away. This brings up suffering.
When I am whatever comes up, in all its fullness, richness and flow, it is OK. I am stress, rather than being stressed. I am fear, rather than fearful. I am anger, rather than angry. There is no separation, nothing "else" to push away or cling to. It is only what it, and it is OK.
There is also a fluidity in moving from one to the other - in not getting stuck in no separation or in separation. If I am stuck in one or the other, that too brings suffering.
Being stuck in separation directly brings suffering. We are one object in a world of a large number of other objects with unpredictable behavior. We have what we don't want. We don't have what we want. All this brings suffering.
Being stuck in no separation also brings suffering, from ignoring the view of the small self. We are the small self and its view, but we do not allow ourselves to fluidly move into and out of this limited view. Not allowing the view of separation to come up brings suffering. It brings suffering through a disconnect from others who do experience the world in terms of separation. It brings suffering through not being fully human.
Exploring the inquiry process outlined by Byron Katie, there are several aspects of thoughts that becomes quite clear.
Thoughts are impersonal. They arise, unfold, fade - come from nowhere and go to nowhere. Awareness can choose to engage with them or not.
Thoughts are universal. It is the same thoughts arising in each human being, in different variations.
When we believe in a thought, it causes contractions (on all levels) independent of what thought it is.
- World vs. Thoughts
Any thought is just an opinion, from a limited view. And the world is more than and different from any and all views. When we believe a thought, there will inevitably be times where the world and the thought does not align, and this causes a contraction and suffering.
We can take care of ourselves and function very effectively in the world without believing in thoughts. In fact, we function with more clarity and responsiveness in the absence of believing in thoughts.
- Arise w/out believing
Thoughts will always arise, and that is fine. It only becomes a problem for the self when awareness believes in the thought, operates as if it was true, and thus sets itself up for suffering when the world inevitably does not align with the thought.
Thoughts can be there and live their lives, and if we inquire into them, there is an absence of any impulse to believe in them. Something in us knows - effortlessly - that they do not match reality, what they do for the self (suffering), and that we can function very well without believing in them.
I notice a deep disgust with how I am deluding myself with what I perceive as my realizations.
I sit on my own (and weekly with a local group), read, write, live, and it is so clearly not enough. I need to work closely with a teacher and a group, to cleanse myself of realizations. And to place myself in a situation where mind/life can continue to clarify and deepen.
Any realization becomes delusion, it becomes a burden, stuckness, starts to rot. And to get rid of it, we need the help of a guide familiar with the terrain from her/his own experience. Someone we can trust (if there is not enough trust there, we will withdraw physically and/or mentally when it gets rough).
On our own, we are guided - at least partially - by the small self, and the preferences of the small self. This means that we are guided into deepening patterns of delusion, no matter how sophisticated it appears to ourselves and others. We need someone who can see through it, who are familiar with the terrain from their own experience - and can help us cut through the realizations/delusions.
As they emphasize so much in Zen, realizations and even enlightenment is only the beginning of a long process of maturation, continually dropping realizations/delusions, clarifying, deepening, wearing off the extra, becoming more and more human.
Big Mind & Small Self
Big Mind is everything, embracing all polarities, and it is nothing. It is existence and nonexistence, birth and death, mind and matter, psyche and body, anger and compassion, sadness and joy, delusion and enlightenment.
Big Mind and Small Self
It is also all and any small self, and all and any view that any small self can have. It is the general views of small selves (dualistic) and the specific view of any small self (flavored by the personality and unique experiences of that particular small self).
Small Self and Big Mind
Any (human, at least) small self can open up for a taste of Big Mind, and - with experience - life from a Big Mind view. As it becomes more comfortable and experienced with this, it can bring the Big Mind view more and more fully into its life, in more and more situations.
The small self is the organism and personality. Awareness, functioning through/as a small self, naturally perceive the world dualistically. There is inside and outside, me and you, us and them, heaven and earth, birth and death, mind and matter, friend and enemy, right and wrong, delusion and enlightenment. This discernment is essential for its survival. Without it, no species would survive.
When awareness is exclusively identified with small self, all it can see is duality. The world is fragmented. The small self is separate from everything else. This is a precarious situation, as the small self is dependent on the unpredictable behavior of external objects for its survival and happiness. It naturally brings up attachments, which in turn brings suffering.
Big Mind Only
When awareness awakens as Big Mind, there is no separation - and no suffering. Big Mind is suffering, but does not suffer. Big Mind is anger, but not angry. Big Mind is attachment, but not attached. There is a sense of equanimity, compassion, bliss, joy.
And it is tempting for awareness to stay here. Why suffer as small self when I can stay in Big Mind?
Big Mind - Inclusive and Not
Big Mind contains and is everything - beyond all dualities. It is any small self, and any view of small self. But when awareness is exclusively identified as Big Mind, something is left out: the limited view of the small self. Big Mind is the limited view, but not limited to it.
There is a stuckness there - an attachment to Big Mind and avoiding the limited view of small self. Why would awareness willingly be small self, with all its suffering? Because exclusively being Big Mind is stuckness, and also contains suffering.
There is another depth to the realization that Big Mind is really everything. Big Mind includes the limited view of the small self, and it is also this limited view, so awareness can allow itself to also and again live from this limited view. This is a descent that requires a good deal of familiarity with Big Mind and trust in the process.
Big Mind/Small Self Fluidity
It sees that the fluidity of freely moving between the views of Big Mind and small self is more inclusive. More free. Less attached. A richer and more full experience. And more connected with the other small selves - it can participate in human life in a more full and equal way. It willingly becomes more fully human.
An integral approach to health may look something like this...
This is the level that can offer a sense of health independent of the actual condition of the body/mind. When we open up for Big Mind - or other transpersonal aspects such as non-seeking mind - we fully and deeply experience that everything is OK as it is. As they say in Breema, true health is harmony with existence.
A sense of separation gives suffering. A sense of no separation alleviates and dissolves suffering. And we can open up for the experience of no separation - of being whatever comes up in the inner/outer world - in many ways. Breema, yoga, meditation, Big Mind process, etc. Anything that brings awareness into awareness of itself - as distinct from its content. In this, awareness discover its inherent qualities - often described as tranquility, equanimity, joy, bliss, compassion.
What small self strives for, with limited and always temporary success, is revealed as the inherent and always present nature of awareness/mind/consciousness.
We go behind the clouds (the content of awareness - sensations, emotions, thoughts), and find the clear sky and the sun - always there.
On this level, there is a shift in view from exclusive identification with small self (organism/personality) to including Big Mind (all inclusive, beyond dualities). There is a deepened familiarity with both, their relationship, and how we can move fluidly in expression of one or the other.
This is the more familiar level of "fixing" whatever is going on. We look at all levels:
- Physical level
Nutrition, structural, surgery if necessary.
Acupuncture, yoga, energy healing.
Social support, being with, empathy from inner and/or outer sources.
Cognitive therapy, Byron Katie's inquiry process.
Family interactions, social support, work situation, etc.
Physical environment - quality of (indoor/outdoor) air, water, food, etc.
Meaning, purpose, sense of connection. Religion, spirituality, deep ecology, new cosmology, ecospirituality, etc.
The practitioner is a part of the comprehensive approach. When the practitioner apply to her/himself what they suggest for others, it has several effects. (a) It serves as a model for the client, they see what it can look like. (b) The client tends to trust the advice more when they see that the one suggesting it applies it in their own life. (c) It helps the practitioner become clearer, which helps the decision process. (d) It gives the practitioner a more thorough familiarity with the terrain, another invaluable aid in helping the other towards conventional and deeper health.
There are two general processes that span these categories.
- Relationship to the disease (inner/outer situation)
At both the Big Mind and the small self levels, we can find a way of relating to the situation that gives a relief from suffering. This is inherent in the Big Mind view, and optional within the small self level (cognitive therapy etc).
- Fixing the disease
This occurs at the personal level, but can be informed by insights from the transpersonal level.
An integral approach to health may then include three main areas:
- Big Mind
Transpersonal. Shift in view from exclusive identification with small self to include Big Mind. A deepening familiarity with both helps us find more fluidity in expressing one or the other, depending on the situation. Here, we find true health in realizing that everything is OK as it is - the Big Mind view. And in not getting stuck in this view, which in itself would bring suffering.
- Small self
Body/psyche. This is the relative and small self aspect, which also must be included. We work on all levels and scales, and look for control variables that may shift the whole system towards health.
- The practitioner
Self-insight, own health on all levels.
I woke up at about 5:30 this morning, with a familiar sense of an undercurrent of stress (anxiety, fear, etc). It tends to come up when I am in a transition period (as I am now), and also when the discrepancy between not living at a practice center (Kanzeon, Vækstsenteret in Denmark) and my deep desire for it regularly resurfaces.
Of course, I know that I can be it - whatever it is that comes up. I can be fear, stress, anxiety. And the lack of separation between "me" and "it" allows the suffering inherent in it to dissolve. There is whatever is going on - as before - but without the suffering. Instead, there is a sense of fullness and intimacy.
From the stuckness that comes with separation (trying to push it away or "do" something with it), and the suffering associated with it, there is a sense of movement, fluidity and intimacy.
I know very well that I am aligning myself more with reality (there is no separation), and that gives a sense of relief (dissolving suffering). I have access to both a sense of separation (small self) and of no separation (Big Mind), and in the moment - I shift my attention to Big Mind.
Still, there is also a sense of a "trick" being applied. Small mind and Big Mind are both there, and I choose to move attention away from one and to the other. Isn't something left out? I guess it is all about fluidity - to be able to fluidly move between the two and not get stuck in one or the other. Not ignore or deny the experience of one or the other.
If I habitually shifted attention exclusively to Big Mind in these situations, at the cost of small self, it - everything ignored on the relative side - probably would come back to haunt me. I would use Big Mind as a "buffer" against the suffering inherent in being a human being.
Although Big Mind includes everything, and is beyond all polarities, it is paradoxically a partial view - it excludes the realities of the small self.
An inclusive awareness is in both small self and Big Mind, both are there at the same time, and there is a fluidity in which one is more clearly expressed in the situation. An exclusive awareness brings attention to one, at the cost of the other. And if the "other" is small self, including the sense of separation inherent in small self, it will come back and demand its due attention.
Both are there, and the easiest - the path of least resistance - is to allow awareness to be both fully, as they are and come up in the moment. There is small self with its sense of separation, and we can be with and be it. And there is Big Mind with its no separation, and we can be that as well. We can be both, because that is what is. And we can be the fluidity between the two, because that is what is as well. It is only what is.
No need to try to change it, to ignore one or the other, to try to hold onto any particular expression of either, because this is adding something extra to what is there. It creates another separation, with its inherent suffering. And it requires an extra effort, instead of just relaxing into being with and being what is.
During an 1 1/2 hour nap Friday morning (at Jen's office), there was an unbroked, continious stream of consciousness - through falling asleep, deep sleep phase, dreams and waking up. It witnessed it all, or "I" witnessed it all, and also was aware of what was happening throughout.
This is pretty typical when we are engaged in any form of practice where awareness becomes aware of itself as distinct from its content. It is the personality - the organism with its patterns of sensations, emotions, thoughts - that goes to sleep. When awareness is identified with its content - with this personality - that too goes asleep. When it awakens to itself as separate from its content, it can continue to stay in awareness even while the personality is sleeping.
I had this happening for several years after/during my opening experience in my teens/early 20s. At the time, it came with very strong energies and intensity - with a sense of tapping into infinite awareness (beyond dualities), learning and reorganization (of personality and more) during sleep. This time, it was very calm and ordinary.
Friday night and Saturday, I did a Big Mind workshop with Genpo Roshi in Portland.
We all have a comfort zone. Areas in ourselves, behaviors, and inner/outer situations that we are more comfortable with. These usually correspond with our conscious self-image. And it is limited, small, leaves something out, and is thus less fluid and inclusive than it can be.
Then there is everything outside of this zone, that which is available to us but not consciously acknowledged and lived. These are the qualities we see in others but are not comfortable with in ourselves, those we relate to with attraction or aversion when they come up in the outer world. And then there are qualities we are as yet oblivious to - those we see as neutral or do not recognize.
There is a good deal of juiciness and energy when we explore these qualities in ourselves, become more comfortable with them, explore how to live them in everyday situations, and find a new fluidity among a more inclusive set of qualities. The energy that used to take the form of attraction and aversion, when we saw the qualities mostly in the outer world, not enlives the inner world. It brings a stronger sense of life and vibrancy.
And there is the edge between the two. These are the qualities that are on the border of being related to more consciously. The qualities we may have a hunch of being in us, but are not yet comfortable acknowledging and/or bringing to life.
Some current edges for me...
- Deeper honesty/sincerity/authenticity, less embellishment or trying to project a certain image
- Work discipline
- Clear communication, in the moment
- More deeply comfortable with myself in more situations
- Deeper honesty about inner/outer situation (seeing it clearer, with less need for bias, more grounded, straight)
I notice that as I continue to experiment with the inquiry process suggested by Byron Katie, the deeper process gets learned and comes up more easily in everyday situations.
The current process:
1. Notice contraction
2. Recognize statement behind it
3. Recognize the consequences of believing in the statement - which boils down to suffering
4. Recognize what I am without believing in the thought - space, clarity, responsiveness
5. Turn the statement around (to myself, the opposite) and find how each new statement is as true as the original.
This process occurs in two ways. One is the general process taking place without accessing words and attention to the specifics. The other takes more conscious attention and time, and is more specific and may go deeper. Both seem useful right now.
I also notice a tendency to go on automatic pilot for each stage. I feel into it, get a general sense of what is going on, and hook it onto words used previously. When I notice this, I use it as a reminder to connect with sincerity - to honestly look and allow what comes up to be different from what has come up in the past. This is a part of trusting the process, trusting sincerity, and trusting (the freedom in sincerely acknowledging) existence.
Since I am exploring The Work right now, I am exploring thoughts more in details.
Thoughts seem to live their own life. They arise and dissapear from and into space. When I actively look for them - for where they come from and where they go - I cannot find anything, and they quiet down in the process as well.
Awareness can engage in thoughts - fuel them or push them away. When awareness fuel thoughts, they unfold and give rise to new thoughts - a chain of assosiations. This is partly directed and partly nondirected by consious mind. When awareness push them away, they are still there and impact the personality, often in the form of impulses that are not quite aligned with the conscious self-image and worldview.
Awareness (mind/consciousness) is distinct from its content. Awareness can awake to itself as distinct from its content, and it seem to have an inherently spacious and clear nature. When awareness is aware of itself as distinct from its content, it can allow the content to arise and fade, with freedom in whether to engage in it or not. There is more overview, and more of a sense of choice.
It seems that awareness, when awake to itself as distinct from its content, can initiate and guide thoughts, to a certain extent. This is more conscious thinking, with a sense of no extra. It tends to be clear, to the point, and leaves no trace.
When awareness is identified with its content - including the thoughts - everything seems personal and unique. When awareness awakens to itself as distinct from its content, thoughts and all other processes of the personality, appear as universal and impersonal. Both seem accurate - they represent universal processes with a unique flavor.
Existence is a fluid seamless whole, beyond and embracing all polarities. Thoughts point to a limited aspect of Existence, seen from a limited view. Any thought and any internally consistent set of thoughts represent a very limited and incomplete perspective. The view we cling to is an incomplete abstraction, and when the inner/outer situation does not conform to the view - which inevitably happens, we suffer for it.
One way of working with this is to turn the statement around any way possible, and see how each of the new statements are as true (and incomplete) as the original. This loosens it up and gives us a glimpse of the more comprehensive existence beyond thoughts.
- Loosen up
The Work helps us with a structure for examining thoughts. We start with a statement, then ask four questions and do the turnaround.
We examine (a) the truth of a statement (even the most sophisticated and inclusive statement is usually seen as incomplete), (b) what believing in the thought does for us (brings suffering in many shapes), (c) what we would be without the thought (awareness with its inherent qualities of space, clarity, responsiveness), and (d) then turn the statement around any way possible (to self/other/opposite) and explore how each of these new statements are as true as the original.
This dissolves the charge around the thought/belief. The clinging to it loosens up, we see through it and can rest in more clear, spacious, responsive awareness. Instead of limiting ourselves by believing a thought, and creating a drama around it when existence does not conform with the thought, we can stay in what is - with more responsiveness and clarity. There is a sense of coming home, and there is an inherent joyfulness and compassion in it.
Everything is ultimately lies, and we can see this through examining aspects, types and layers of lies.
These are the lies where we say or give an impression of something we know is not accurate, and others can know is not accurate if they have more information. This level is pretty clear to most of us, although we can sometimes get so wrapped up in stories we once knowingly created so we forget that they are just stories.
These are the stories we tell ourselves about life - stories we create but may not be aware that we create. We can often mistake them for existence itself.
All our maps, theories, models, philosophies, etc. are stories. Existence is always more than and different from any of these, including the most sophisticated, inclusive and subtle ones.
Our inner and outer circumstances are fluid, always in flux and change. And our maps and stories will also need to change, to reflect our current situation. Each map and story is only of temporary value.
And each story in turn is based on experience, which in itself is filtered and biased. It is influenced by the physical characteristics of this universe and this planet, of our current biology reflecting our evolutionary history, of culture and subcultures, and personal experiences. Our experiences are biased in several layers.
Each one of these are reasons why all our maps, stories, thoughts, ideas and ultimately experiences, are ultimately lies. They represent a filtered, biased, selected and illusionary image of existence. And that is OK, as long as we are clear on this - with ourselves and others. Then, these maps and stories can become helpful - in a limited and temporary way.
It can be very helpful to learn how to notice our own contractions. What are the typical symptoms? What happens on physical, emotional, mental and relationship levels?
When we notice contractions, we can make a conscious shift into more spaciousness.
And there are several techniques we can use for these shifts. One is to be whatever comes up - I am confusion, tension, contraction. This takes away the separation, and allows it to unstick and flow in whatever way it needs to. Another is to be with whatever comes up. This also allows it to unfold as it needs to. And there are also others which include coming to the breath and the weight of the body, and change of posture (more upright, relaxed).
Hooks & Rings
We can also examine what is prior to the contraction. There is a trigger in the inner/outer situation (a hook) which triggers a physical/emotional/mental pattern. This in itself is only a potential contraction. If awareness get caught up in this pattern, if it identifies with it and fuels or tries to push it away, we have a contraction. Awareness contracts from its inherent spaciousness, into being identified with something more limited.
Uninvestigated thoughts can be hooks. When we - or a part of us - believe a particular thought, and this gets triggered, there is a contraction. And this is independent on the specific content of the thought - whether it is related to attraction, aversion or seemingly neutral.
Any thought is always a limited perspective, and when we believe it, existence has a way of letting us know we are settling for something less than the fluidity and inclusiveness of existence. And this pointer is suffering.
All this is written from the perspective of wanting to avoid suffering, which is an understandable and valid orientation. But this too is limited. The other side of it is appreciating what is - whether it is contraction or spaciousness, delusion or clarity. It is all a part of existence.
And for each of us, there is a wonderful fluidity in shifting from one to the other. It is part of the richness of life.
Trying & Allowing
Its an interesting phenomenon: What we seek with limited success when awareness is identified with its content, is revealed to be the nature of awareness when it awakens to itself as distinct from its content. It is as if awareness has a knowing of what (it) is, and seeks it in the ways available to it depending on how it currently functions.
When awareness is identified with its content, it is caught up sensations, emotions, thoughts. It is caught up in the rollercoaster ride of the ups and downs of shifting emotions, it blinds itself through elaborate ideological frameworks. It believes in thoughts and beliefs.
Awareness has little choice but to engage in whatever sensations, emotions, thoughts come up, either by giving energy to them or pushing them away. It either fuels the current patterns, and see them as "me", or it struggles to push them aside and see them as "not me". Either way, it is a struggle.
It identifies with the organism and personality, and see a clear separation between self-other, we-them, inner-outer, which is continued in the perception of separation between the poles of any other polarity. It functions in a dualistic and fragmented way.
One of these split polarities is the one of good/bad and desirable/undesirable. When awareness is identified with its content and functions in a dualistic way, it naturally seeks desirable and avoid undesirable inner/outer situations. This is a precarious situation as the organism and personality does not have much control of what comes up in inner/outer situations. Again, it is a struggle.
All these is just the natural functioning of awareness when it identifies with its content. There is nothing wrong in this, it just is - beyond good/bad and right/wrong. It just is. It is just a phase in evolution, valuable in itself. It is just one way God manifests and explores itself.
When awareness awakens to itself as distinct from its content, it also awakens to its inherent qualities of spaciousness and clarity. It sees itself as what it sought to find when it was identified with its content, but which was always elusive and temporary.
Now, it can rest in its natural way of functioning when awakened to itself as distinct from its content. It can rest in clear spaciousness, in which joyfulness and compassion comes up effortlessly. It can allow any experiences of the inner/outer world arise, unfold and fade within clear spaciousness - with no need to fuel it or push it away. It functions naturally in a transdual way.
And all this is without effort or trying, it is just its natural way of functioning when awakened to itself as distinct from its content. It is just what is.
There are several interesting distinctions in how awareness functions in the two situations.
Duality & Transduality
When awareness is identified with its content, it naturally sees a distinction between inner and outer, me and you, and this way of operating generalizes to we and them, life and death, living and nonliving, mind and body, heaven and earth, right and wrong, good and evil. It tends to see distinctions but not the larger whole. It splits polarities into separate poles. Awareness functions in a dualistic way.
When awareness awakens to itself as distinct from its content, it naturally functions in a more transdual way. It sees the inner and outer as two aspects of one fluid whole. It allows the experiences of all inner/outer phenomena to arise, unfold, fade within clear space, beyond and independent of polarities.
Permanence & Impermanence
When awareness is identified with its content, all it can see is phenomena - which are inherently seamless and fluid. Still, it wants to see itself as existing and permanent and does this in two ways. It emphasizes the distinction between inner and outer, self and others, through seeing qualities in one and not the other. It strives for impermanence through believing in fame or the soul. It functions in a way that creates a perception of separation and permanence in what is inherently a fluid seamless whole. It tries to hold on to ideologies and believe in beliefs that are at odds with the nature of existence, and this is a precarious situation. It gives rise to suffering.
When awareness awakens to itself as distinct from its content, it naturally sees all inner/outer pheomena as a fluid seamless whole. There are no absolute boundaries, nothing to hold onto. And it can do this because it awakens to itself as distinct from phenomena. When it examines itself, it sees only spacious clarity - there is no birth and death, no beginning and end, no boundaries, no existence or nonexistence. It has a foothold in that which is independent of fluid phenomena, and thus can allow itself to perceive all phenomena as seamless and fluid. It can allow itself to see impermanence deeply, in every phenomena.
Self-Care & Compassion
Note: When I wrote this, I noticed discomfort with some or much of it. There is always a certain discomfort, because I by writing "solidify" something that is a limited reflection of an experience, and this experience is in turn limited and unclear. This time, the discomfort went even beyond that as I wrote partly based on experience (OK if let go of it) and partly based on ideas (OK when I am clear that it is lies).
Some of what I wrote it is from direct everyday experienece - the nature of awareness, thoughts etc.
Some of it is clearly just ideas - the idea of stages of unfolding etc.
Some is somewhere inbetween, a hunch based on experience - such as God unfolding and manifesting in myriad ways.
Of course, all of these thoughts and statements are just that - thoughts and statements. They have limited validity and value. And as with any thought, if we believe them to be true they will bring suffering. Existence is always more than and different from any thought or sets of thoughts, and we exclude parts of existence if we believe them - and this naturally brings suffering. Suffering is a gentle and sometimes not so gentle reminder to open up, to have a direct taste of existence - of what is right here/now independent of thoughts and ideas.
Awakenings can be many and varied. Here are some thoughts on awakenings in a more evolutionary perspective.
Mind is used interchangeably with God, Existence, Spirit - referring to all existence beyond and embracing dualities. Awareness is mind/consciousness when it is functions as aware.
Matter - Structure and Process
First, existence formed itself into matter. The absolute and the relative are present, but matter does not function in any conscious or aware way. There is only the God, Spirit - the One Mind - beyond all dualities.
Plants - Fluid and Organic Life
The One Mind functions as what we perceive as life, fluidly and organically, but not aware. God/Existence awakens as fluid organic life.
Animals - Sensations, Emotions and Early Thoughts/Beliefs
Here, awareness awakens as an organism with sensations, emotions, and the beginnings of thoughts/beliefs. There is an identification as something separate. Awareness is acutely aware of differentiations - of me vs. you, us vs. they, friend/mate vs. stranger/enemy, food vs. non-food, pain vs. pleasure, life vs. death. There is a strong attachment to anything that generally supports life, and a strong aversion to anything that tends to not support or threaten life. All this is as it should be - it all functions to preserve and continue the life of the organisms, the species, and the living planet as a whole.
Thoughts - The New Evolutionary Phenomenon
In some animals - and especially humans - thoughts and beliefs arise. Awareness attaches itself to thoughts when they come through, and sometimes identifies itself with these thoughts and beliefs. Again, this is as it should be.
The precursors to thoughts and beliefs were there in matter (structures) and plants (processes), and now manifests as what we recognize as thoughts and beliefs. They are the new evolutionary phenomenon, and awareness naturally attaches itself to it and gives it attention so it can be explored and evolved further.
Thoughts and beliefs do not accurately reflect existence. There is a gap between them and the rest of existence. Thoughts reflect only fragments of existence and a limited perspective. Existence is always more than and different from any thought/belief.
There is nothing wrong in this. Again, it is how it should be. The problem only arise when awareness believe the thoughts/beliefs - as this inevitably brings suffering. When we believe in something that is only approximately aligned with existence, the gap brings suffering.
We are existence - beyond and embracing all dualities - and when awareness believe limited/limiting thoughts, suffering automatically comes up. Suffering is a gentle - and sometimes not so gentle - reminder that existence is more than and different from any thought/belief.
It is a nudge to see more clearly the thoughts/beliefs for what they are - only approximations of temporary and limited value, and for awareness to awaken to itself as distinct from its content.
The suffering inherent in believing thoughts/beliefs nudges awareness to awaken to itself as distinct from its content. Here, awareness awakens to itself as spacious, clear, formless, able to function in any number of ways - including in dualistic and transdual ways. When it perceive itself as its content, it operates in a dualistic way. When it perceive itself as distinct from its content, it perceives in a transdual way.
It awakens to itself as the sun always there - over the clouds of its content. Clear, spacious, bliss, joy, vibrant, able to respond appropriately to inner/outer situations. Allowing all experiences to arise, unfold and fade within spacious awareness, with no trace.
And this is without any effort - it is just its nature - beyond effort and trying. It just is, when it awakens to itself as distinct from its content. It is what was always there.
What awareness, when identified with its content, struggled to achieve - through effort, "willpower", all sorts of tricks and mind games, and always with temporary and limited success - is now revealed as the inherent and always-present nature of awareness.
There is a sense of finally coming home - of returning to what was always there.
God Watching Itself
As awareness clarifies and deepens its awareness of itself, it comes to recognize itself as that which was always there - behind, in, and as phenomena. It is Existence itself. It is God differentiating into all phenomena - watching and exploring itself in myriad of ways. It awakens to itself as everything - beyond and embracing all dualities.
Awareness naturally applies a large number of tools to deepen and clarify its awareness of itself.
When Identified With Its Content
When it is identified with its content, it explores and applies tools to alleviate suffering.
One is to use thoughts/beliefs to buffer itself - believing in ideologies to alleviate suffering. This works to some extent, although the process also produce suffering since Existence always is beyond and embracing any thought/ideology. We see this in the world today - in a wide variety of ideologies from religions and politics to idiosyncratic and personal beliefs.
Another is to reorganize thoughts/beliefs, and we see this in many forms of western psychology. This also works to some extent. It alleviates some suffering through aligning beliefs a little closer to existence (more realistic self-image etc), shifting the focus to beliefs that other beliefs see as desirable (focusing on the "good" aspect of oneself or ones life), or reorganizing beliefs so they come closer to what other beliefs see as desirable. Ultimately, awareness is still believing in beliefs - which are inherently limited and untrue - and this still brings suffering.
When Awakening to Itself as Distinct From Content
There are also many tools to help awareness awaken to itself as distinct from its content.
Sitting practice is a good example. Here, the processes of the content - sensations, emotions, thoughts - quiet down, and it is easier for awareness to recognize itself as distinct from its content. Through bringing awareness to itself, this awareness clarifies and deepen.
Another example is the Big Mind process, where awareness awakens to the view it will have when recognizing itself as distinct from content. It is a glimpse.
The Work is yet another example, where awareness sees through the inherent limitations of thoughts and beliefs, and awakens to itself as distinct from these.
And there are many, including yoga, breema, tai chi, chi gong - which also can function to allow awareness to awaken to itself as distinct from its content.
I find it very useful (right now) to apply an evolutionary perspective. It allows me to deeply appreciate the varied manifestations of Existence/God, and the many ways awareness functions and operates. None of these are inherently good or bad, and they are all good in a deeper sense - just God manifesting and exploring itself in a myltitude of ways.
It is part of the richness and fullness of existence - unfolding and exploring itself.
Our Limited Perspective
From our limited perspective, it can seem as "lower" levels of evolution is primite and inferior, and "higher" levels superior. It can also seem that lower levels are less desireable and higher levels are more desireable. It can appear that awareness identified with its content and operating in a dualistic way is undesireable, and awareness awakening to itself as distinct from its content, is more desireable.
This is just another belief and an illusion, yet it is one that may be one aspect of how Existence evolves and explores itself in yet new ways.
There is a push (suffering) and a pull (freedom from suffering) used as a drive for further evolution and exploration. And we are caught up in it, and tend to believe it. It is similar to what Buddhism refers to as the golden chain. It is a delusion, but one that serves a function.
Here are some samples of recent inquiries into beliefs and underlying beliefs.
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know it is true? (a) What is the worst case scenario if you drop attachment to the thought/belief? (a2) Examine that statement using the four questions + turnaround.
3. What happens when you believe it? (physical, emotional, mental, behavior, relationships)
4. Who/what would you be without attachment to the thought?
5. Turnarounds (is there a way that each is as true as the original statement?)
Without attachment to content (thoughts/beliefs) it would be scary/boring.
1. No. 2. No
3. Fear, apprehension, confusion, lost, alone, isolated, frustration, contraction, wildness, restlessness, dispersed, wanting to be somewhere else.
4. Space, clarity, tranquility, resting here/now, fullness, richness, expansion.
5a. >>> Without attachment to content, it would not be scary/boring. (yes, would be fulfilling, rich, home).
5b. >> With attachment to content, it would be scary/boring. (yes, scary and boring is what it is - a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, waiting for the next exiting experience).
5c. With attachment to content, it would not be scary/boring. (yes, fully engaged in the drama of life, fully engaged in the rollercoaster - anything but boring).
5d. >> With non-attachment to content, it would not be scary/boring. (yes, tranquility, space, home).
5e. With non-attachment to content, it would be scary/boring. (yes, that too - inclusive, everything reflected).
5f. Without non-attachment to content, it would not be scary/boring. (yes, completely wrapped up in the drama of life).
5g. Without non-attachment to content, it would be scary/boring. (yes, being caught up in thoughts brings fear and boredom - wrapped up in hope/fear of an imaginary future).
He is disgusting (triggered by someone spitting in front of the library).
1. No. 2. No.
3. Repulsion, judgment, blame, frustration, self-righteous, separation, loss of connection.
3a. "I would be like him." i. No. ii. No. iii. Fear, apprehension, frustration, cornered. iv. Space, clarity, equanimity. v. "I wouldn't be like him" (yes, would be the same as now only more inclusive, more of a sense of connection).
4. Space, clarity, connection, intimacy, recognition, compassion, engagement, energy.
5a. >>> I am disgusting (yes, my thoughts are disgusting - have disgusting effects when I believe in them).
5b. He is not disgusting (yes, those are only my thoughts, not connected with reality).
He shouldn't try to be something different than what he is.
1. No. 2. No.
3. Judgment, hardness, contraction, tension, flattening, confusion, apprehension, separation.
3a. "I would try to be something different than what I am are". i. No. ii. No. iii. Confusion, fear. iv. Space, clarity. v. "I would not try to be something different than what I am" (yes, would be in equanimity, comfortable with what is - whatever is).
4. Space, clarity, connection, intimacy, recognition, equanimity, ease, comfort with what is.
5a. I shouldn't try to be something different than what I am (yes, I am what I am - and can be comfortable with it as it is).
5b. I should try to be something different than what I am (yes, always room for growing into something else).
5c. >> I shouldn't try to be something different than what he is (yes, what I see in him is also in me - there is no separation).
5d. I should try to be something different than what he is (yes, we all have unique flavors, unique expressions).
People should understand me.
Something terrible is going to happen
(a persistent feeling/subconscious belief since childhood).
1. No (depends on definition). 2. No.
3. Panic, can't sleep (wake up early in the morning), restlessness, butterflies in stomach, want to be somewhere else, discomfort, isolation, separation, terror.
3a. "If I drop the thought, I won't protect myself". i. No. ii. No. iii. Fear, terror, panic, restlessness, tension, unfocused, victim. iv. Clarity, no separation, comfort. v. "If I don't drop the thought, I won't protect myself" (yes, will be caught up in and blinded by terror and fear, less able to respond appropriately to situations). "If I drop the thought, I will protect myself" (yes, will rest in spacious awareness, more able to respond appropriately to situations).
4. Clarity, space, joy, engaged, juiciness, vibrancy, fullness, fluidity, responsiveness.
5a. Something terrible is not going to happen. (yes, when stay in spacious clear awareness, everything just is - as it is - beyond terrible and wonderful. Can meet it with clear spaciousness, respond to it appropriately. Be with it.)
5b. Something good is going to happen. (yes, everything is in flux - good/bad situations as judged by the small self come and go. And letting go of the thought allows me to stay in awareness, with its inherent bliss and clarity - isn't that pretty good?)
5c. Something good is not going to happen. (yes, when I stay in awareness it operates beyond dualities, beyond good/bad. Something good does not happen, nor something bad. Everything just is - beyond dualities).
I need to develop all my potentials to the fullest in this life.
(May 2, w. Robin)
1. No. 2. No.
3. Constriction in stomach and panic. Sense of enormous burden, which makes it almost impossible to make a choice. And when I choose, there is apprehension that is not right. I look for anything that does not seem right, which in turn triggers panic (if 99% seem "right", the last one percent that seems "off" triggers panic and confusion). The genuine passion gets mixed up with all the consequences of believing this thought, such as fear, panic, paralyzation, apprehension - and this in turn leads to confusion.
4. Relaxed, able to follow the voice of passion, whether it is strong or not. Allow myself to stay with what is, even if it does not seem 100% "right" at the moment - can see it as part of a larger/longer process. Process focus (rather than endpoint focus). Enjoyment, joy, passion. Confidence. Trust in existence and how this life unfolds, in the big picture and the everyday situations.
5a. I do not need to develop all my potentials to the fullest in this life. (Yes, what is is. Can allow myself to follow and trust the process rather than trying to achieve an "end point".)
5b. >> I need to develop all my potentials in all lives. (Yes, I can allow others to do pieces of it, to manifest it and bring it into the world. This takes some of the pressure from me and gives a sense of relief, because I know that someone else is already bringing it into the world. It is not all about me anymore.)
I have been exploring the inquiry process by Byron Katie some more, and it is surprising how well it seems to work.
Through examining beliefs that I - or a part of me - believe in, and act on as true, they loose their hooking ability. They arise, but with no charge around them, and nothing for the mind to hook into. They are disarmed.
The Inherent Qualities of the Mind
And what is left is awareness/mind/consciousness as it operates without being attached to/identified with its content - clear, spacious, responsive. Attached to its content, it brings contraction, confusion and suffering. Aware of itself as distinct from the content, it is clarity, spaciousness, responsiveness - free to engage in whatever way appropriate in the specific situation. It is joyfulness, compassion, engagement, intimacy, vibrancy. It reveals itself as the sun, always behind the clouds (its content) - and as spacious clarity, joyfulness, compassion, intimacy, vibrancy, engagement.
The content of the mind is always changing - joy, anger, fulfillment, dissatisfaction, pleasure, ecstasy, suffering, sadness, depression, stuckness, flow, engagement, withdrawal. And the inherent characteristics of the mind - clarity, spaciousness, responsiveness, joy, compassion - is always there. When awareness experiences itself as distinct from its content, these qualities are present and effortlessly expressed. When awareness is caught up in its content, they are hidden behind the clouds. One gives a sense of aliveness and bliss, the other of suffering, but the sun is always there.
Western Psychology & Eastern Philosophy
I am also reminded that western psychology typically focuses exclusively on the content of the mind - the sensations, emotions, thoughts. Eastern philosophy is more focused on awareness, mind, consciousness, as it is distinct from its content - its inherent qualities, how to awaken to a differentiation of the two, and of the relationship between them. Both approaches are useful and part of an inclusive and integral approach, although the second needs to be present for any real healing to occur.
When awareness awakens to itself as distinct from its content and to its inherent qualities, there is a realization that no healing is necessary. There is equanimity and perfection, even in the midst of illness, pain, wounds, imbalances and whatever else is happening on the level of the personality. No healing is really necessary because nothing was wounded. And through awareness shining its light on these, there is a healing even on the level of the personality.
As It Happens
The Work can also be applied in real-time.
I am invited to a potluck today, and started baking a cake a couple of hours before we had planned to leave. It turned out that the second carton of eggs in the fridge was old, and I realized I had to go to the store to get more, which meant we would be late (and this is one potluck I did not want to be late for).
I noticed contractions, and then: (a) The belief behind it: Life should always go my way. (b) I tapped into awareness behind and without the belief, spacious and clear - and noticed how much more enjoyable this is compared to the contraction and everything came with it. (c) I turned it around. Life should not go my way (yes, that is a great support in seeing myself more clearly, in seeing the consequences of my beliefs and the suffering they bring me). I should go life's way (yes, life is what is - reality, God, Spirit - and my best chance is to align myself consciously with what is. I am very small, existence is very large. It is much easier for me, as small self, to align myself with the rest of existence than it is for the rest of existence to align itself with me - the fluid and conditioned set of likes and dislikes of this personality).
This lifted the contractions (blame, tension, frustration) and opened up for spacious awareness and receptiveness. I took my bike to the store, and even enjoyed the pouring rain on the way back. Of course, I still need to investigate the original though more thoroughly, but this was a nice taste of how to use the technique as first aid.
Skills & Transdual
Anyone can open up to transpersonal views and Big Mind, first in glimpses and then in a more stable and deepening way. At the same time, we need to have a relatively mature and effective personality to more fully bring the view into our lives and the world.
When we develop a mature and strong ego, we learn skills neccesary to relate to inner/outer situations effectively. These skills are invaluable when we open for a more transpersonal view, and live more from this view. Without these skills, we may have a Big Mind view, but are ineffective in the world.
Hook & Ring
In Buddhism, they use the analogy of the hook and the ring. The inner or outer situation provides the hook, and our awareness/mind/consciousness the ring.
For instance, (a) something comes up in the outer situation, (b) triggering habitual emotional/cognitive patterns, which (c) awareness then identifies and engages with, either by fuelling or pushing away.
Without awareness identifying with its content - the emotional/cognitive pattern - there is no ring.
The Work seems to dissolve the rings, one by one. We examine a thought or underlying belief that we - or a part of us - believe in, see through it, and its charge is gone. The ring has dissolved. The hook has nothing to hook into. There is only clarity, spaciousness, responsiveness - and engagement from spacious clarity.
Before we can mature beyond ego, it seems that we need to have developed a relatively strong and healthy ego.
For instance, it seems that The Work requires a certain maturity.
First, it seems to require an openness to see what awareness is when it is not attached to its content. To see that it is spaciousness, clarity and responsiveness - and that there is fluidity enough there for engagement and effective action in the world.
And it seems to require having developed a healthy enough ego to know how to relate to inner/outer situations effectively, so that these skills come up even when there is no/little attachment to particular ideas/thoughts.
Before this level of maturity, it may be that we need attachments to ideas/thoughts to function in the world. It is a way of operating that typically works adequately - it helps us navigate so we stay alive and out of the worst trouble - although it also brings with it a good deal of suffering. It is a rule-based way of operating, and its effectiveness depends on the particular configuration of rules and how they fit with our inner/outer circumstances. Most western psychotherapy focuses on this level - on how to rearrange and reconfigure the particular rules (beliefs/ideas/ideologies) we operate from.
Of course, there is no need for preconceived ideas. With The Work, we can try it and see what happens. My current sense is the The Work works, at whatever level people are at and in a way appropriate to the level. Apparently, it works even with children so there may be a way it exists in parallel with an healthy development of the personality. Maybe even supporting a healthy development.
Ego in this context refers to a way of operating where awareness is attached to its content - the sensations, emotions, thoughts. Where "me" is seen as exclusively this body, emotions, thougths/ideas, and where awareness is not aware of itself as the space in which these unfold. This brings about a perception of strong separation between inner and outer, as well as between the poles of other polarities. There is awareness of only small self, not also Big Mind.
Many approaches leads to awareness (mind, consciousness) becoming aware of itself as distinct from its content. When this stabilizes, clarifies and deepens, this is how awareness functions in more and more situations. Instead of being identified with the specific content (sensations, emotions, thoughts), instead of being caught up in the habitual processes of the personality, it now has space, overview, clarity and more of a choice of how to respond to inner/outer situations. There is an nonattachment to particular ideas, emotions, sensations - they all just arise, unfold and dissolve back into clear, spacious awareness.
Of course, the concern is that letting go of attachments to ideas means nothingness, paralyzation, no direction, no guidelines for behavior. That it leads to distancing, to lack of concern, lack of engagement in the world.
But for anyone who has experienced this shift, and clarified and deepened it, the effect is quite different - and often surprising. Instead of being attached to a particular idea, and wrapped up in emotions created by reality not conforming to the idea, we can experience the situation more as it is - with fewer filters. And we are freer to make a conscious choice of how to relate to the inner/outer situation. We respond with more fluidity, and out of a realization that there is no separation. As the left hand comes to the aid of the right when needed, we come to the aid of other beings when needed. Compassion comes up, not as an idea but an experience, guiding our actions.
I have explored The Work by Byron Katie lately, and discovered that it is made up of components I have explored in the past - although here put together in a way that seems particularly effective.
It starts with a statement. One that has a charge for us, that we may be attached to in some way, and that involves a judgment of ourselves/others. It is a thought/idea/belief that we on some level believe in - otherwise, it wouldn't have a charge. And it can be helpful to phrase it as a "should" or "shouldn't", to get to the emotional component of it.
Then, we examine the statement for truthfulness. Can I absolutely know it is true? At this point, it may already loose some of its solidity for us. We see that it is an idea, not reality itself. It starts to dissolve and loose some of its reality. Through this process, we get to the difference between the terrain and the map - existence is more than and different from any idea/model/thought. Although here, we go beyond an intellectual understanding. We sincerely examine this particular statement - we look into it openmindendly and with interest. What is really true here?
Then we look at the effects of the statement. When I think - and believe - the statement, what does it do to me? What happens physically? Emotionally? Cognitive? In my relationship to myself and others? How do I behave?
If I did not have the thought, how/what would I be? I visualize myself in a situation that in the past have triggered the thought, and see myself as what I could/would be without it. Here, we look at awareness as it is when it is not attached to its content - spacious, clear, responsive. We get a glimpse of how/what we would be if awareness is not attached to its content, in a situation that in the past has triggered just that attachment.
How many ways can the statement be turned around? I can turn it around in many ways - to whom it points and what it expresses. For each of these new statements, how are they as true as the original statement? Here, we see that reality is far more than any one statement can cover. The original statement becomes one of a larger set of statements, each one having validity in its own way. This opens a glimpse of a more transdual way of experiencing the world.
In this process, we also get a good gage of where we have been stuck. Whenever we have trouble seeing or accepting the validity of one of the new statements, it tells us where we were stuck. What we have not been seeing.
A summary of the phases.
A single-perspective view, dualistic.
Dissolving the apparent substantiality of the statement. We cannot for certain know it is true - that it accurately reflects existence.
We see that the effects of believing the thought/idea/belief are exactly those we are trying to avoid. It brings constriction, separation, isolation, suffering.
- No Statement
Here, we follow the Dzogchen pointing-out instructions. What/who is awareness without attachment to the thought? What is awareness when it is not identified with its content? What comes up may be variations of space, clarity, bliss, fluidity, responsiveness.
Turning the original statement around in all ways possible, we explore how each one is as true as the original statement. We see that they all have validity - and together gives a more comprehensive picture than the original single statement. This opens up for a more transdual view, and it allows awareness to be less attached to any single limited/limiting idea/belief.
The beauty of this process is that it works with awareness. There is no trying, only allowing a shift to happen (or not) through bringing the details of the situation into awareness. The clearer we see what is going on, the easier it is for the shift to happen. As Byron Katie says, I do not let go of the thought, it lets go of me.
This is a similar process as used in other tools, such as the Money or Your Life program. Through bringing the details of it into awareness, a shift happens that is not dependent on conscious effort or trying.
I have moments where familiar phenomena disintegrate - fall into their components.
I was reminded of this when I did a sitting period with music, referred to in a previous post. The music was no longer music - there was no rhythm, no melody, no continuity - only the separate components arising and dissolving here/now. The music disintegrated into components existing by themselves. I realized that my whole experience of music, all my enjoyment of it, the sense of rhythm, continuity, melody, fluidity between harmony and disharmony, the expected and unexpected - is made by this mind. It is an illusion in a certain sense. It is not there. It is quite sobering.
And this morning, I experienced the same with the wood stove. There was no wood stove, only the component - wood, fire, enclosed, in a wider enclosure, supporting the life of this particular organism, and all of these in turn has no individual existence but is made of up components, as an endless set of Russian dolls.
This is another aspect of emptiness.
When we look at the evolution of the universe and the earth, the path ahead appears endless (at least until the physical conditions for this particular form of life is not there anymore). Today, we see the Earth becoming aware of itself through some of its part, in the form of numerous local awareness centers - each experiencing the Earth in fragments. Some awareness organs are beginning to experience the Earth as one whole, and from here can tap into the Big Mind view - beyond dualities altogether.
If more local awareness organs (humans, in this phase of the evolution of the earth) awaken to an experience of the Earth as one whole, it will have profound effects for how we live our lives as individuals and organize ourselves socially. If more of us go beyond this to awaken to an experience of all inner/outer phenomena as a fluid whole, that will only deepen the effect.
If this happens, we can expect to see forms of social organization quite different from anything we have seen so far, and it will always develop and change - depending on the inner (views of the individuals) and outer (socioecological factors) situation.
The earth becomes aware of itself as a whole, through more of its local awareness organs, which profoundly impacts how these behave. There will be no lack of challenges, but they will be related and responded to in a different way.
Some of the early manifestations of these new ways of organizing ourselves comes out those taking a second-tier, integral and/or systems approach. Some examples are the work of Ken Wilber and the Integral Institute, Fritjof Capra, Elisabeth Satouris, and generally in systems theories and processes/formats that facilitates collective/collaborative intelligence.
The Big Mind view appears universally available and the same independent of particular circumstances. Any awareness organ in the universe can be expected to be able to access the same Big Mind, to experience the absolute and the relative and the interactions between the two.
Awareness is inherently independent of duality/transduality, but can function in either of those ways. When awareness is identified with its content, if tends to function in a dualistic way (and attached to whatever sensations, emotions, thoughts come up). When it awakens to itself as distinct from its content, it tends to function in a more transdual way (more of a sense of overview, perspective - and space to relate to the inner/outer situation with more clarity, choice.
At the same time, how this is manifested and lived changes profoundly dependent on the particular physical, biological, personal, social, ecological circumstances. And there is no end to this process. It can always deepen, it will always change depending on changing circumstances. It is a continious process, as long as there is a universe and awareness organs around.
There are many ways awareness can be hooked into identifying with its content. One component of sitting practice is studying this, and practice coming back to awareness being aware of itself as distinct from its content.
Breema bodywork functions as meditation in action. It is the same process as sitting practice, only with the body moving, and with another body as support in being present (awareness being aware of itself as distinct from its content).
Both mirror everyday life - it is the same mind and the same processes in all situations. We see how the mind works, how it gets hooked, how we can bring it back into awareness.
In everyday life, there are also many supports. An important one is identifying our typical pattern of contraction (physical, emotional, cognitive), catch it when it happens, and use it as a reminder to come to the present.
Contraction is always a sign that awareness is hooked, and we only need to recognize the symptoms. Deeper analysis is not needed in the moment, although when we do look at the situation, we will probably find that what hooked awareness either triggered strong energies (in sensation, emotions, cognitive), and/or triggered a wounded area that has not been fully seen and released by awareness.
Our practice is (a) for awareness to recognize itself as distinct from its content (easier in a form of formal meditation practice, such as sitting practice or Breema), and (b) bring this into everyday life in more and more situations. With sincere practice, there will be fewer and fewer situations that consistently hooks awareness, and when it happens, the recognition of it and the switch back comes with less delay.
For me, I notice that I can come to the present in most everyday (or otherwise regularly occuring) situations, even those with higher energies and triggering wounds. The question is sometimes wanting to do it, although that is shifting as well. There are of course many situations where it is still difficult for me, especially in dealing with anger directed towards me.
Current integral practice...
Awareness becoming aware of itself as distinct from its content - allowing all phenomena to arise, unfold, fade. Awareness - beyond any polarities, and being whatever arise at the moment.
Self-Breema and Breema bodywork.
Walk, bike, hike on average of 30 minutes a day.
Whole food, some fermented, local/organic when possible. Balance between fresh and cooked (also depending on weather, more cooked when cold, more fresh when warm).
Can I be with/be what I am experiencing right now? Rejoycing. Turning statements around (beliefs, comments).
Big Mind process.
Not currently, except Big Mind process.
Organize NWEI discussion courses in the Eugene area. Give free Breema session to people. Organize Integral Practice group. Appreciation of nature, including body/breath etc. Daily international news/analysis. Work with graphic/web design.
Simple, Not Easy
Something can be simple, but not easy. It is simple to see from the Big Mind perspective, but not easy to fully live from it - to be fluid in allowing Big Mind to be expressed more clearly, then the small self, and back.
Keeping it Honest
In sitting practice, there are many ways for awareness to play tricks with itself. We may imagine that the seeing is with more depth and clarity than it is. We can play tricks with ourselves in staying caught up in the content of awareness in many subtle and less subtle ways. And there is often not so clear and immediate feedback, unless we are working closely with an experienced teacher.
In Breema bodywork, there seems to be less room for these tricks. It keeps us honest. If I am not present - if awareness is caught up in its content, in sensations, fantasies, memories, hopes/fears, thoughts, ideas - there is clear and immediate feedback. It is humbling, and keeps the cup empty if we allow it to work on us. If we relate to it with sincerity.
As Ken Wilber so elegantly shows in his AQAL model, there are many lines of development - and each of us is higher on some and not so high on others.
It is possible to have wisdom, to see relatively clearly the human condition with heart and compassion, and yet not be effective in the world. It is possible to be highly developed in the cognitive area, and not in the interpersonal area or in empathy. It is possible to be highly skilled in movements (sports, dance), yet not have the cognitive and/or ethical areas well developed. It is possible to be highly developed spiritually (have deep and clear insights in the nature of mind/Existence) and yet not have other areas well developed.
Of course, when we are integrally informed - when we are aware of which lines are more and less developed - we are already on the right track. We can see which areas need more work, and take that into account in how we live our lives. It only becomes a problem when we are oblivious to it - or in denial about it.
For me, it seems that I can see much relatively clearly, but have problems fully living it in the world. Or even finding an arena and a format to bring it more fully into the world. It is a lifelong process - and we all have our particular area(s) to work on.
Any inner/outer situation can be a support for us, on different levels.
When something seems unfortunate - does not fit with the plans of the small self - we can ask ourselves, how can this be/is this a support?
It can be a support for us to do something we have wanted to do. It can be a support for us to see ourselves more clearly. It can be a support in being with - or being - whatever comes up. It can be a support for us to see in ourselves what we see in others, and to deepen empathy. It can be a support in deepening humility and gratitude. It can be a support in going beyond our current comfort zone - maybe in relating honestly with ourselves and other people. It can be a support in more deeply see all phenomena as fluidity. It can be a support in awareness experiencing itself as distinct from its content.
Last night, there was more noise in the house than I was comfortable with, and I used it as an opportunity to go for a walk, and then read a book in bed listening to music with headphones. The noise, which seemed undesirable, turned out to be a support for doing what I want to do (go for a walk, and focused time to read a book and listen to music).
Jen sprained her knee, and it turned out to be a support for her to take care of herself, and learn new diagnostic techniques.
Stress and worries during the night is a support in being with whatever comes up, without needing to act on it or pushing it away in the moment.
A sensation of cold during sitting practice was a support in being with - and being - whatever comes up and of experiencing awareness as distinct from its content.
When It Doesn't Work
I have a few times heard someone say that they have tried several practices over considerable time, but with no effect.
There may be several explanations for this.
- Didn't notice.
Something did change, but they did not notice.
- Exaggerated expectations
They had unrealistic expectations which were not met, so they discounted the real change.
Sincerity is neccesary for any significant change - we must be willing for anything and everything to change. There is nothing to hold onto.
There was a mismatch between the approach and the inner/outer situation of the person.
The technique itself was not aligned with Existence. Most often, the approach may not be integral enough - excluding important aspects of Existence. Of course, most approaches work to some extent even if they do exclude parts of Existence. (Examples of what is excluded may include obvious empirical data/insights from the conventional views, or one or both ends of the absolute/relative polarity).