I remember a Zen teacher of mine talking about his mind as a self-guided missile, always targeting something to be anxious about. That has certainly been my experience over the last couple of days, although I can be with, and be, whatever comes up, and that makes it easier. It is also helpful to recognize the underlying pattern, which helps me to see it in a broader context and not just as relating to the particular triggers or focal points for the anxiousness.
Here is a brief description in Norwegian of Byron Katie's inquiry process, from an email to someone in Norway.
Her er en annen teknikk som kan være ganske virkningsfull. Den er beskrevet i "Loving what is" av Byron Katie (på lydbok og/eller oversatt til norsk).
Identifiser en setning
1. Først, ta fatt i noe som en oppfatter som et problem.
2. Deretter formuler en setning som reflekterer hvordan en opplever situasjonen. Denne setninger bør være enkel, ikke for raffinert, og helst legge skylden på en ytre situasjon (gjerne en annen person). Den bør komme fra femåringen i en selv. De mest virkningsfulle setningene er i denne formen: Han/hun/de skal/skal ikke...
3. Skriv ned setningen, og undersøk den gjennom de neste fire spørsmålene...
1a. Er det sannt?
1b. Er det virkelig sannt? (setningen kan reflektere ens egne holdninger og verdier, men er det sannt i en absolutt forstand?)
2. Hva skjer når jeg tror på denne setningen? Hva skjer med følelser, tanker, handlinger osv.?
3. Hva/hvem/hvordan ville jeg være uten denne tanken, om jeg ikke trodde på denne tanken?
4. Snu setningen rundt, til en selv, ens egne tanker, og/eller til det motsatte. På hvilken måte er hver av disse nye setningene like sanne/gyldige som den opprinnelige setningen?
Det er viktig å skrive ned ens responser til hvert spørsmål. Virkningen er ikke alltid åpenbar med en gang, men kommer ofte i løpet av en stund. Iblandt kan det være nyttig å ta for seg flere setninger som dreier seg rundt det samme temaet.
Virkningen er en frigjøring fra tanken, og fra alle konsekvensene som kommer fra å tro på tanken. En kan ikke lengre tro på den selv om man prøver, og dette gir en frigjøring og en åpning for klarhet og perspektiv.
Han skal ikke bråke så mye.
1. Ja (jeg opplever det som sannt).
2. Nei (det er ingen absolutt sannhet, kun min egen preferanse).
3. Jeg blir frustrert, legger skylden på ham, blir selvrettferdig, opplever et skille mellom oss, isolasjon, pusten blir grunnere, musklene i beina strammes, jeg blir avholdende i måten jeg omgås ham på.
4. Klarhet, åpenhet. Jeg kan tillate meg å finne glede i lydene. Jeg kan snakke med ham om det på en klarere og mer vennlig måte, om det er nødvendig. Jeg opplever en dypere kontakt mellom oss.
5a. Jeg skal ikke bråke så mye. (ja, jeg bråker en god del i mine egne tanker når jeg tror på tanken om at han ikke skal bråke).
5b. Han skal bråke mer. (ja, på den måten kan jeg se min egen opphengthet klarere, og det gir meg en mulighet til å gi slipp på det).
Needs & Strategies
We tend to confuse needs and strategies for meeting those needs. Our basic human needs are pretty much the same for all of us, and there is usually not an inherent conflict among them (other than maybe in the most extreme situations). But there is often a conflict among our favorite strategies to meet those needs.
We are often strongly attached to particular strategies. We are sometimes attached to a strategy even if we have forgotten the need behind it. And in many situations, we do not explore other strategies which could meet our needs equally well or better.
Life and society is abundant with examples of this confusion of needs and strategies.
I recently listened to the Language program of To the Best of Our Knowledge, where one - relatively innocent but common - example came up. Some of us are attached to a particular grammar and syntax, frozen in time, and are not willing to accept that language is always in flux - always changing to adopt to and reflect new situations. In this case, we are attached to a particular strategy (one very particular form of a particular language) rather than the underlying need of any language - communication and connection between human beings. As soon as we remind ourselves of this underlying need, we can allow language to flow and change as it naturally does, and enjoy it rather than resisting it.
There is no lack of other examples, in our own everyday life as well as in society and globally, and no lack of more serious examples either. In each case, a possible solution is to take time to explore which need(s) we are trying to meet through a particular strategy, clarify this need, and allow ourselves to openly explore other strategies.
In a group situation, which we almost always find ourselves in, it is also useful or necessary to take time to help others explore the underlying needs behind their strategies, and together explore new strategies that can allow all of our needs to be met. And this includes the needs of ecosystems (which we are dependent upon) and of future generations as well.
When all the needs of all involved are out in the open, it is often possible to find new - and maybe surprising - strategies that meets the needs of all.
When we become familiar with the patterns of the personality, they appear more and more as variations of what is universally human.
There are several approaches that allows this to occur...
Through using Byron Katie's inquiry process, we see that many (all?) of our contractions and suffering is related to believing in thoughts, we experience the nature of mind as revealed when it does not believe in thoughts, and we find a new "ground" in this spaciousness and clarity. Through this process, thoughs are revealed as universal rather than personal. It is the same process of suffering through believing in thoughts, and the same types of thoughts, that take place in (presumably) all human beings.
Through sitting practice, a similar insight occur. We see the habitual patterns of this personality play themselves out over and over, recognize the nature of mind when it is not identified with its content, and recognize similar patterns playing themselves out in others, and that the nature of mind is the same nomatter which small self it happens to be identified with.
A similar process also takes place in Breema. There is an experinece of life giving to life. Of life walking down the street. Of life talking and interacting with life. And in each case, with different flavors and characteristics, which adds to the fullness and richness in how life is expressed.
The key seems to be (a) staying with and seeing the habitual patterns of this personality playing themselves out, and (b) recognizing the nature of mind (its inherent qualities which emerge when it is not exclusively identified with its content) - spaciousness and clarity.
Through this, we see that the same patterns play themselves out in all small selves, with different flavors. And what is left is just recognition and empathy. We are all in the same boat. We are all caught up in the same habitual patterns, and in all of us is the potential for awareness to recognize its own inherent nature.
And when this view comes from our own experience and process, it comes naturally - as what is.
There are many ways for a spiritual guide to come across. One is if they try to live up to some image, which either is due to a lack of clarity or (possibly sometimes) a skillful means. The other is when they use their own life, with all its messiness and shortcomings, as examples for universal challenges and ways to relate to and work with it. And of course, there is the tendency for students to somehow create an image of how a guide should be, and an overlay of how a particular guide is.
All this messiness seems to be another reason for a teacher to be as transparent as possible. To lay it all out there, all the messiness and hangups and everything else. It (hopefully) helps puncture some of the ideas students have. It helps offer examples for how to work with the universal issues that comes up. It helps students see that they too can do it.
Especially in our times and culture, which does not take to old fashioned systems of authority very well (for good reasons), an approach of full transparency seems useful and appropriate. It may also help democratice and demystify the process in an appropriate way.
I have put together a brief overview of possible ways awareness (mind) functions for our small Integral Group. It is based on own experiences, and frameworks from Ken Wilber and Zen/Big Mind process. This outline is obviously very incomplete, and probably full of misunderstandings and idiosyncrasies.
Nonliving matter, plants, animal/human fetus(?).
Awareness is dormant, only as a potential.
Participates unconsciously in Existence in a transdual way (as everything does).
Most animals and humans.
Awareness is identified with the body/personality - the fluid patterns of sensations, emotions, thoughts. And it functions in a dualistic way (seeing fragments and separations rather than the larger whole).
Awareness here explores how to function effectively in the world. It helps the personality to learn skills in all areas of life, which supports its own life and future human existence.
Being exclusively identified with one particular body/personality, there is also inherent suffering - from a sense of separation and everything that brings with it.
Some human beings.
Awareness/mind awakens to its own inherent nature. It experiences itself as spacious clarity, and with an inherent wisdom/intelligence. The exclusive identification with the body/personality is dropped. Awareness functions in a nondual way.
There is a natural fascination that comes up in this phase. Awareness is immensely fascinated by its own inherent and unconditioned nature. The "ground" independent of any form or characteristic. It discovers that the inherent nature of any experience and phenomena is space and clarity.
It is easy to stay here for a while, to be "stuck in the Absolute" as they say in Buddhism. But there is a suffering here as well, from ignoring one half of existence - the Relative, the fluid phenomena and the human existence. There is another separation here, which brings a form of suffering, and following compassion is the way out of it.
- Transdual I
Here, awareness embraces its absolute and relative aspects. It experiences itself as spacious clarity, within which all experiences unfold. This is Big Mind - embracing the inherent nature of all phenomena (the Absolute) and all fluid phenomena (the Relative). This is the "bright sun of enlightenment" phase, as it is often expressed by the person, and perceived by other small selves, as unusual and brilliant.
Awareness experiences itself as including all phenomena, including all small selves and all the views of the small selves. But the stuckness here may be in the Big Mind view. To allow for the next phase, there has to be a drop of the exclusiveness of the Big Mind view.
- Transdual II
We allow ourselves to be more fully human, to be fluid between the Big Mind view and the small self views. Here, we can again connect with others on a deeper level, because we are just as the others - although aware of the bigger picture as well. This is the "hazy moon of enlightenment", as the small self again becomes ordinary - although with some additional dimensions.
- Transdual III
Here, awareness engages actively and consciously in evolution. There is an active exploration of how the Big Mind view is expressed in our current social and ecological situations, and an evolving of new (social) systems to accommodate this new view. This is a continuous exploration and development process, as our situation is always changing and evolving.
- Each new phase is more inclusive than the previous one.
- There is a deidentification with the human in the nondual phase, and a rehumanization in each of the following phases. Awareness embraces the human more fully for each of these phases.
- When awareness/mind awakens to its own nature, it is obviously not the small self that experiences - awareness/mind goes far beyond this one small self. The small self is just a vehicle. But when/if this view is expressed through a small self, then other small selves tends to perceive that particular small self (which they may label a mystic or teacher) as somehow special, because all they can see is the small self - through which apparently deep insights and secrets are expressed.
Of course, what is expressed is just a pointer to and reminder of the nature of awareness/mind, which is the same expressed through all and any small self. It is a reminder for awareness to become aware of its own nature, independent of which small self it originally is identified with.
- There is a deepening of genuine gratitude, humility and compassion, arising naturally from the view and insights.
- It is a sense of peeling away, more and more - until our view is more and more aligned with existence as it is, beyond any concepts. It is very simple and also very rich and complex, in both cases beyond what any concepts can reach.
- The process itself can take many variations and shapes. Often, there is a glimpse of the non (or trans) dual, then an oscillation between the dual and non/transdual - with a deepening of the alignment with the body/personality of this new view and a deepening and clarification of the view itself. And if the inclination and/or external support is there, there may not be much emphasis on the nondual but rather the transdual. And there may also be a good understanding of the second and third transdual phase right away.
In any case, the process is one of oscillation between views, and a gradual deepening and clarification, and exploration of how these new views are lived in this body, through this personality, in this culture and in these social and ecological systems.
In the previous posting, I mentioned how the turnaround allows for a certain for of liberation - from stuckness in and blindness around projections. The Byron Katie process allows for liberations in several ways...
- We are liberated from taking our concepts as true. We see clearly that they are just what they are - human concepts. They are certainly useful when we take them for what they are. And they become a trap - and a path to suffering - when we take them as "true" in any way.
- We are liberated from the suffering inherent in believing in thoughts.
- We are liberated into the nature of mind - the inherent spaciousness, clarity and wisdom/intelligence of mind. That which is obscured when we believe in thoughts.
- We are liberated from projections by turning the statements around, to ourselves and/or its opposite, and seeing how each of these new statements are as true as the original.
There is a liberation from being exclusively identified with the always changing content of awareness, and the rollercoaster-ride that comes with it. And there is a new "ground" in the spaciousness and clarity.
As part of the universal human drama, we all have unresolved issues. Areas that draws our attention, and require us to explore them a little further than we otherwise may have liked.
For me, and unresolved issue is around being accused of something I have not done. This goes back to several instances in early childhood where this happened, and which caused a good deal of contraction at the time.
I also notice how electricity and electronics often can serve as a numbing tool for myself (and I am sure for many others in this culture). Instead of really being with what comes up for me, I use electricity and electronics - in the form of lights after dark, radio, internet, music and more - to distract myself from it. Sitting practice is a good antidote, where we allow anything to come up and unfold on its own accord, and voluntary simplicity can be another way to allow unresolved issues to surface and brought into awareness.
This weekend, Jen and I went on a backpacking trip into the Old Cascades area, and it was clear how the silence and absence of distractions allowed issues to come up during the night. I had a long dream in the morning where someone planted "evidence" in my bag and pockets, upon which I was falsely accused of having done some crime (it was not clear what it was).
I woke up, and stayed with it for a while. And then used Byron Katie's inquiry process.
They should not falsely accuse me.
1a. Is it true?
Yes, it is true according to my own ideology.
1b. Is it really true?
No, I cannot know if it is true in any absolute sense (true and false are just human constructs, not neccesarily reflecting anything beyond that).
3. What are the effects of believing the thought?
It brings up fear, panic, contractions in many forms, numbness, suspicion of others, I have recurrent dreams of being wrongly accused.
4. What/who am I without believing in the thought?
Spaciousness, clarity, curiosity. I am able to deal with situations from many different angles, using many different strategies - not just stuck in one or a few.
Turnaround (to self, its opposite)
1. I should not wrongly accuse others (Yes, I do it all the time, especially in my thoughts. I especially assign motives without knowing if they are accurate or not.)
2. Others should wrongly accuse me (yes, it allows me to see my own hangups/beliefs around this more clearly, and to explore how to respond in a fluid and effective way to the situation).
Again, I see... (a) How believing in a thought is relying on something as true when I cannot know if it is true. I take the map as true (beliefs and human constructs) rather than the terrain (open for the many ways existence manifests). (b) It causes contraction and suffering, as well as limited, stereotypical and habitual behaviors and responses. (c) When the belief is dropped, it allows for the natural spaciousness, clarity and wisdom/intelligence of the mind to come to the surface. I can relate to situations with more overview and fluid responsiveness, not limited to arbitrary belifs. (d) When I turn it around, I see something in myself that I normally don't, which is a form of liberation (from that particular stuckness and blindness).
Since the opening in my teens, I have seen and experienced the energetic levels relatively clearly. And there has also been a knowing of how to work on this level, to open up for clarity and healing.
In some ways, when I "see" the energies, it is similar to when Neo saw the code at the end of the Matrix. This seems to be the best depiction of it (many other depictions, such as those of Alex Gray, seem quite distorted - in his case because it is "willed", it comes from mental willing - not a direct and easy seeing and experiencing) .
And to allow the healing to take place, there is a combination of visualization of the energetic levels of the other body and of space, clarity and self-healing processes unfolding, and of allowing the physical/energetic/emotional/mental levels to connect with the absolute or a very subtle level close to the absolute. Although there is a gentle focus on the energetics of the other body, there is of course no separation anywhere - just a gentle focus. The release and opening that occurs for that body also occurs in this body.
I don't do this very much with people, mostly because I only do it when asked and I almost never talk about it so very few know about it. A few times, I have experienced something that seems like a very strong and immoveable block - one that does not respond well to the spaciousness and which prevents the energy levels to unfold within spaciousness and unfold the self-healing processes. In all of these cases, it turned out that the person had taken some sort of pharmaseutical drug.
In one case, where there was a thin but immoveable shield around the body, it was an anti-depression (or similar) drug. In another case - this morning - where there was a strong block in the nerve paths in the spine, it was Alvil. The common characteristics seems to be that the block is very precise and clearly defined, and has a synthetic quality.
It seems that these drugs, although they may remove or diminish the symptoms, actually prevents a deeper healing to take place while they are active. Of course, they may still be very useful as a first-aid, and when their effects wear off - then a deeper healing can still occur.
One of the reasons I don't talk about this very much, is that people think "I" (this body/person) is doing it. Of course, it is not. This personality steps aside, and that which is not connected to any one person or phenomena allows the energetic and other levels to be within space and unfold the self-healing processes. It is difficult to talk about this in any precise way, and - ironically - the more precise the wording, the more oddly it seems to be phrased. There is also just a gentle shift, no "doing" is involved.
I went backwards and forwards in time, in my own life and that of my parents, and a wide range of human situations and experiences. I followed my father back in time, to when he and my mother lived in Oslo and they have had their first child, my older brother. I followed him further back, to his long trips in the mountains in Norway, not far from where he grew up. I went back in my own life, to experiences with friends and school/university. I went into the future in my own life, to many of the universal experiences people have throughout and towards the end of their life.
Throughout it all, there was a sense of seeing, of softness and deep compassion, of taking a journey throughout the wide range of human experineces - of seeing and participating in the deeply and universally human.
Absolute & Relative
The absolute and relative are two aspects of Big Mind, or Buddha Mind, Spirit, God, Existence. The absolute refers to that which is not changing, the groundless ground, the spacious, clear and aware quality inherent in mind and existence. The relative refers to that which is changing, all the fluid seamless phenomena. And Big Mind is the seamless whole of the two - the spacious awareness in which all phenomena unfold.
And as one of the sutras say: To encounter the absolute is not yet enlightenment. It is natural to be "stuck" in the absolute for a while, until we are familiar enough with it and also see that it is incomplete. The next phase is to also include the relative, which means to voluntarily become more fully human as well. To embrace not only the phenomena, but all the views part of Big Mind - including that of the small selves. Here, we find a new fluidity and inclusiveness, a new freedom and fullness, where we can allow ourselves to be fully human, and connect with others in a more life-giving way.
In Voluntary Simplicity groups, many different views and aspects of simplicity come up.
There is outer simplicity, in terms of uncluttered living/working space, fewer things to caretake, reduced working hours, more time for family, friends and community engagement. And there is inner simplicity, in terms of a more uncluttered and clear mind. This is the obvious and more conventional way of looking at simplicity, and both valuable and needed in our culture.
At some point - often early in the process, someone typically mentions the following: It seems that living a meaningful life is what it is about, and the term simplicity does not quite cover it. It is OK with complexity as long as it is chosen and in a meaningful context. This reflects a more thorough exploration of what is behind voluntary simplicity.
If we explore the second insight a little further, we come full circle and the term simplicity again seems appropriate.
Here, I realize that through aligning my life with my values, there is a new simplicity arising.
One aspect is aligning my outer world with my view. I make changes in the outer life of living and work situation so they are more aligned with my values, and this gives an inner sense of clarity and meaning. This is similar to the first two approaches to simplicity.
The other aspect is aligning my view with the inner and outer world. I explore how I can relate to any inner/outer situation in a way that is meaningful and helps me come in harmony with existence. This approach allows for a sense of simplicity - or harmony - independent of inner/outer complexity or simplicity.
When our life is not aligned with our values, or we are in conflict with Existence as it manifests, there is a sense of struggle and complexity. When our life is aligned with our values, or we are in harmony with Existence as it manifests, there is a sense of ease, clarity and simplicity.
The ultimate simplicity is Big Mind. When awareness awakens as Big Mind, there is no struggle because there is nothing to struggle against. There is only Existence as it fluidly manifests here/now.
The Swedish royal family vacationed in Denmark, disguised as computer nerds to avoid recognition.
There was a large scale shift on Earth, which included relocation of all dogs. They agreed, provided there was access to higher education at their new location.
These two small dreams came up as a series of images and spoken words just before I woke up fully this morning. Both seem to have to do with the higher and lower coming together and merging. The royals disguise themselves as nerds. The dogs seek higher education. In any case, the dreams were quite playful and entertaining.
In Breema and other practices, there is an emphasis on being present through bringing attention to the breath, the weight of the body, the posture, facial expression, sounds, etc. This is one aspect of being present - to bring the awareness and attention to that which is occuring in the outer world right here/now.
The other side of the coin is that Existence is always present right here/now. This awareness - in whatever it is doing - is always in the present. This awareness, whether it is focused on anything outer or on memories, visions of the future, etc., is always in the now. There is nothing to try, nothing to achieve. Just this little shift of noticing is enough.
The two views are obviously quite similar, although there is a subtle difference.
One has the quality of effort, of trying to be present. The other is just noticing what already is. One tries to create something. The other peels something away and reveals what is.
Being vs. Trying
When awareness is identified exclusively with the small self, there is often a lot of trying involved. It tries to find satisfaction and happiness. If it is on a spiritual path, it may try to "do meditation" (e.g. Shikantaza), or try to find Big Mind.
The Big Mind process shows us that there is only a shift that is needed. Instead of trying to find something, we allow awareness to become Big Mind, Shikantaza/nonseeking mind, etc. We call up the voice, and it is there.
Whenever there is a big change, it often seems impossible until it actually happens.
This seems to be true for changes on all levels - personal, social, ecological and cosmic.
If there was an observer, how could they predict that the universe went from nothingness to energy, from energy to particles, from particles to galaxy clouds, from galaxy clouds to solar systems, suns and planets, from non-living planets to living planets, and from living planets to consciousness - bringing all this into awareness. Each of these transitions would seem completely unrealistic (or unthinkable) in advance.
This is also true for many social transitions. There are innumerable examples of norms and systems taken for granted over a long period of time. Then, then there is a sudden shift into something often diametrically different, soon to be taken for granted in the same way. Slavery was accepted and largely unquestioned for thousands of years, then suddenly abolished and outlawed (there is still slavery in various forms, such as sweatshops, but it is difficult to justify in our culture). Voting rights for women is another example. For a long time, it seemed that the work was futile, and many did not live to see the transition, but it did take place.
Today, it seems almost impossible to imagine a culture that is life-centered - one that is ecologically sustainable in the way it sets up economic systems and uses technology. It seems even more impossible to imagine a culture that has an Earth-centered view, where "we" includes all living being and future generations. But history teaches us that this can happen, and it can happen quickly.
A system stays in an attractor state for a while, then - when there is the right combination of changes in control variables and possibly other perturbations - there is a sudden shift and reorganization. And all our work in creating a more life-centered culture creates the circumstances which makes just such a transition into a life-centered culture a little more likely.
To take this a little further, it seems even more unlikely that a Big Mind awareness unfolds so that a significant number of humans become vehicles for a cosmic consciousness - so Existence becomes aware of itself through these awareness organs. But this is also possible, at least if we survive the ecological bottleneck in sufficient numbers.
Tong Len is one of the most powerful and simple practices, one of the many from the Tibetan tradition.
1. Breathe in the suffering of others in the form of black smoke.
2. Allow it to transform in yourself, from darkness (suffering) to golden light (clarity and wisdom).
3. Breathe out clarity and wisdom in the form of golden light, and see how it transforms those receiving it.
It is often recommended to start with oneself and those close to oneself, and then expand out to the whole Earth and universe. It is profoundly transformative.
I sometimes find that if I stay with the focus on the inbreath for several breaths, and then the outbreath for several breaths, it helps me deepen the experience. I can then shift to the exchange following every breath.
There is often some resistance when people first encounter this practice. And this resistance comes from awareness being exclusively identified with the small self. From this view, there is this one small self wanting to resist the suffering of others and hold onto the little clarity and wisdom it seems to have. When it awakens to Big Mind, we see that nothing really happens. You - as Big Mind - already is all the suffering and all the clarity and wisdom.
Big Mind & Process Work
It is interesting to explore how the different approaches to unveiling the nature of Existence relate to each other.
Big Mind grew out of a combination of a Buddhist view and Voice Dialogue, and Voice Dialogue in turn grew out of gestalt therapy and Jungian analysis. It is a "yang" approach in some ways, focusing on clarity of understanding and view. It brings awareness of the different ways the mind functions and manifests, on the personal and transpersonal levels.
Process work grew out of combination of a Taoist view and insights and techniques from Jungian analysis and gestal therapy. It is more of a "yin" approach, emphasizing a full bodied exploration of the mysterious unfolding of the process. It also brings awareness of the different ways the mind functions and manifests, on the personal and transpersonal levels.
It is interesting how both Big Mind and Process work use respectively a Buddhist and Taoist view and framework. Within this, they both use techniques informed by gestalt and Jungian therapies.
Within this, they take complementary approaches. Big Mind emphasizing clarity and understanding. Process Work emphasizing the mysterious unfolding of the process, engaged in with whole body/mind.
There are also other approaches in this general family, such as tantric practices, Taoist yoga and Breema.
Absolute & Relative
The Absolute and Relative are two sides of the same coin.
The Absolute is the inherent space, clarity and cognition of the mind. It is the space in which all phenomena arise, unfold and fade. It is the groundless ground. It is that which all polarities unfold from. And it is right here/now, in our most intimate experience. It is the clear space aware of all experiences - in which all sensations, emotions and thoughts unfold, without leaving any trace. It is that which can manifest in the myriad forms. It can only become aware of itself, intimately, and cannot be touched by any words or concepts.
The Relative is all the myriad manifestations. The formless (Absolute) manifesting in an endless variety of forms. It always emerges from, unfold within, and fade back into the Absolute.
A slice of my (weekend) life these days...
1. I woke up around 7am, and listened to an episode of This American Life over the internet while still in bed.
2. Got up, had an apple and did some Self-Breemas. Jen went to our community garden.
3. Cleaned the kitchen and bathroom and swept the floor, made lunch from local bread, Bandon sharp sheddar cheese and organic tomatoes, and heated water for yogi tea, while listening to Car Talk and Prairie Home Companion on the radio.
4. Had lunch while answering some emails, and read some of my usual newssources online (NRK, Aftenposten, Dagbladet, Klassekampen, The Guardian, BBC, New York Times, Google News).
5. Showered and went with Jen to somebody's house to watch the Big Mind DVDs with a local Zen teacher and a Zen student. It was very powerful - as being in the room. My hara became warm, fluid and active as it usually does when I do Breema, Big Mind, sitting practice etc.
6. Jen and I went to Fisherman's Warf, got fish'n chips, and ate it in a park nearby.
7. We went to her office, she went through her appointments for the coming week, and then gave me a focused massage - specifically for my lower spine and pelvis area. I used to have scoliosis, and what is left is a few vertebrae not quite aligned in the anterior/posterior direction. I am doing visualizations to allow them to align, in addition to Self-Breemas and receiving massage.
8. Went back home. It is a beautiful evening - the sky in many shades of blue, flowing clouds and the bright moon disk partially hidden behind the clouds.
9. Luna greeted us as we walked down the stairs to the house. It is always a relief to come home to a clean house - the outer simplicity supports inner clarity.
For any deeper transformation to take place, there has to be an alignment of all levels, along with some energy. One way to allow this, is to engage in a form of integral or comprehensive practice.
- Takes into account bodily needs, such as nutrition and sleep
- Includes a bodyoriented practice, allowing awareness into the bodily aspect of the self, such as yoga, tai chi, chi gong, Breema.
- Allows awareness to rest in itself and bring itself into awareness, such as meditation (nondual).
- Brings awareness into the shadow, the qualities seen as "not me", through working with projections - seeing any quality in the inner and outer world - or specific approaches such as Jungian analysis. This allows us to live more fully and more freely from the different characteristics in us, to relate to them in the inner and outer world with more awareness, and open for deep empathy, humility and joy.
- Works with human relationships, maybe through practices such as nonviolent communication or couples counseling.
- Brings awareness into one's relationship with the larger social and ecological whole.
(a) If I work with something that is not aligned with my values, it drains my energy.
(b) If I am blindly identified with mainstream culture and not able to explore on my own, or if I see myself as opposed and separated from mainstream culture, there is a level of unconsciousness. I am both an inseparable part of this culture, and explore on my own.
(c) If I deny what is happening in the world today, and what it brings up in me, it numbs me and cuts me off from the energy in it. If I open up for it - through for instance the practices developed by Joanna Macy - I also open up for all the energy and beauty tied up in this denial. And if I open up for the beauty in this small self being part of this immensely larger whole - through deep ecology, new cosmology etc. - I find a deep source of inspiration and grace.
All our varied and complex relationships to the inner and outer world can be boiled down to one: our relationship with Existence.
If we have an uneasy relationship with Existence, it shows up in our relationship with aspects of our mind, our body, our partner, our parents and children, our community, the Earth, future generations. If we have and operate from a fragmented view, we relate to all aspects of the inner/outer world from a fragmented view. If we split and separate without seeing the larger whole, we split and separate in all our relationships. If we are deeply comfortable and intimate with Existence, we are comfortable and intimate in all these relationships.
I helped start up a Choices for Sustainable Living discussion group at the local Unitarian society here in Eugene, just down the road from us. It is always amazing to see the magic that occurs in the interactions among the participants. The flow from one perspective to another, from one level to another (from inner/outer, and small to large scales). It is a beautiful and rich tapestry that comes out of the combined experiences of all the participants. And it is deeply inspiring to see the passion for creating a more life-centered culture among so many people, repeated in group after group... In spite of all the horrors of the macrosystem these days, there is hope in the human desire for supporting life.
There are so many layers of support... And so many we are not aware of in our everyday life.
Breath is support. I am being breathed - by the wisdom of this wonderful and mysterious body. The Earth, with all its green plants, are breathing me and with me. There is a constant exchange and mutual support between me and all the green organisms.
The ground is support. It holds me up, gives me traction, orients me, reminds me that I am alive.
The food is support. The Earth is producing so I can stay alive. The nurtrients go through me, keeps me alive, and pass through as support for other life.
The whole universe is supporting my existence, through its history and existence right now, and I am supporting the whole universe in return by my existence.
The whole of humanity in the past and current is supporting my existence. They produce everything that supports me in my everyday - food, clothes, shelter, transportation, books, communication. Those in the past have given us today the opportunity to produce all this, through their explorations and work. Everything I learn, is the result of the explorations of all past generations. My whole existence right now is dependent on all past generations and all current human beings (directly or indirectly).
Other human beings support me in providing me with a mirror for myself. Through what I see in them, I can explore the same in myself and get to know the inner world more intimately.
I could spend the rest of my life just writing down all the ways the universe supports my existence, through its history and current manifestation... It is literally endless.
Even future generations support me. My existence now creates the situation for them, and when I work for deep cultural transformation into a more life-sustaining/centered culture, they are there - right here/now - supporting me in a deep and profound way.
All live in the past, current and future, is supporting me in creating a more life-supporting culture. Those in the past and future cannot be active now, but they can support me silently, intimately, right here/now.
I woke up on my own as I usually do, did some Self-Breemas, had an apple and some tea, and then did some graphic design and other computer work.
The office space is connected with the living-room, with a screen in between, so I can walk over to the padded carpet and do more Self-Breemas whenever the need comes up. I am partially facing a large window two floors off the ground, with a view to lush greenery - ground cover, tall trees and vines. There is a path going down right by the house, where I can see deer and sometimes raccoons, cats and other animals walk. I can see squirrels running along branches and up and down the trunks, and occasionally chase each other in a mad race. I sometimes see hawks sitting in the taller branches, eating a small animal. I can see the light change throughout the day, and the rain and effects of the breeze. I had the window open today, and heard the occasional rain and smelled the earthy and sweet spring scents. I walked over to the kitchen for some spice (yogi) tea and to fill up my water pitcher, and make breakfast and lunch. I listened to Yasmin Levy and Palestrina.
In the late afternoon, I walked down to the bus stop which is two minutes from here. The air was fresh and fragnant after the rain, and the sun came through. Downtown, I dropped off books at the library, exchanged a CD at a local classical music store across from the library (got Rachmaninov's All Night Vigil performed by Paul Hillier), and walked over to a restaurant where Jen and I were meeting Dick and Sara from the Northwest Earth Institute. The dinner was just right in taste and amount, and we talked about how the course starts were going here in Eugene (13 groups started since January, at the local power company, city, some architecture/engineering firms, a research institution, several neighborhood groups, a church group) and our lives in general. Later, we had a meeting with local initiators and planned the fall phase, and we also got people for a steering committee and other volunteer roles. Now, we are back for a quiet evening.
After coming back, I was struck again tonight of how my life takes on a quite different character depending on where I live.
In Oslo, I lived an intensely passionate life with deep and daily meditation and prayer, art, studies at the university (psychology and history of art), deep conversations, profuse reading (Jung, philosophy, Buddhism, systems theories, psychology, Jes Bertelsen) and many walks in the woods and in the parks.
In Salt Lake City, I lived at the Zen center and did a daily meditation practice of 3+ hours, in addition to passionate and deeply rewarding studies at the University of Utah, along with hikes in the mountains and the desert, and photography.
In Wisconsin, much of my support structure was pulled away for engaging actively in a spiritual practice and art. Instead, I found a deep connection with the land and the community, and found a deeply meaningful work in coordinating a local nonprofit organization focusing on a solution- and partnership-oriented approach to local sustainability.
Here in Oregon, I found Breema - which has the combination of spiritual practice and profoundly transformative bodywork that I have been looking for over many years, an active permaculture group, and I am helping start up NWEI discussion courses as I did in Wisconsin.
The first phase was about very focused exploration in meditation, art and intimate relationships. The second, about stabilizing my spiritual practice and intellectual pursuits. The third, about dropping the (obvious) spiritual practice and focus on my engagement with the land and community. The fourth, about a new integration.
Since a fragmented view is the most typical one in our current culture, we see examples of it everywhere, from global policy decision to everyday personal decisions.
A striking example is the renewed interest in nuclear energy. The upside is that it reflects a realization that fossil fuel is dead. Still, this is a strategy of meeting energy needs that only makes sense from a fragmented view. One that focuses on only short-term and local benefits, and not the longer term and far-reaching effects. The consequences last for hundreds of thousands of human generations. And as we know - it is the nature of this universe to disperse and mix substances. We set ourselves up for a situation where we will have to work against natural processes for more generations than we can imagine. We externalize the costs of this energy in space (toxic waste stored somewhere else) and time (future generations).
We also set ourselves up for a centralized energy system, in a time when it becomes more and more clear how vulnerable centralized supplies are.
And - most importantly - it is not needed. By cutting energy waste, and investing in research and implementation of harvesting of renewable energy, we can meet all our needs...
Denial vs. Opening
There is an impression I sometimes run across: Zen (or more generally meditation) somehow is about repression or denial. It is curious, as there seems to be little in Zen that could give rise to that idea. At the same time, it is understandable, as most people have an impression that Zen is about equanimity (which is partly accurate), and only know how to achieve a semblance of equanimity through repression and denial...
Degrees of Resistance
We relate to our experiences in varying degrees of resistance, and the two ends of the polarity both give a sort of equanimity.
At one extreme, we resist to the point of numbness. The resulting deadening can be seen as a form of equanimity, although one that hides a volcano.
Inbetween the two ends, we variously fuel and push away our experiences. Both of which are forms of resistance - resistance to letting it go, and resistance to having it stay. This brings a sense of struggle and uneasiness.
At the other end of the polarity, there is no resistance to experiences. We allow them to arise, unfold and fade, without fuelling or pushing away. This allows us to fully experience, and allows the experiences to surge through without trace (no resentment etc). This gives a more genuine equanimity - there is no resistance to any experience.
One way to come to this is to consciously drop resistance - through tools such as sitting practice, Byron Katie's process, asking ourselves Can I be with what I am experiencing right now?, working with projections (see all qualities in the inner and outer world), and meditation in action such as yoga, tai chi, chi gong and Breema.
Of course, the only way to really drop resistance is for awareness to realize itself as inherently space and clarity, in which all experiences arise, unfold and fade - without trace. We find a "ground" in the formless nature of mind, and this allows us to not hold onto its content.
I just re-saw the Matrix trilogy, and what comes to mind here is Neo's final realization. From continually struggling with and resisting Agent Smith, he realized that the next step is to not resist. To allow the two to be one, with intimacy and no separation. And this allowed them both to transform into light and space.
Experience vs. Ideology
Heaven is my father and Earth is my mother and
even such a small creature as I finds an intimate place in its midst.
That which extends throughout the universe, I regard as my body
and that which directs the universe, I regard as my nature.
All people are my brothers and sisters and
all things are my companions.
The Western Inscription,
Chang Tsai, 11th century, China.
I use this quote at the end of my emails, and whenever I see it there is a mixture of joy and cringing.
Joy - from connecting with this in my own immediate experience. Cringing - from realizing that this too - as everything else - can be made into an ideology, and thus bring suffering in different ways.
It is a reminder that all statements can be used in at least three ways...
Reflections & Reminders
They can be used to reflect our own intimate experience, and a reminder to connect with this aspect of our experience. In this way, it is beautiful and brings intimacy and joy.
Any statement can also be made into an ideology and a dogma. Here, it is dead and brings suffering in various ways. Believing in any thought or statement makes it into an ideology, which inevitably brings suffering...
It enhances the experience of separation between myself and others. I get it - they don't. Or they get it and I don't. This sense of separation brings suffering.
It brings suffering when existence does not align with the dogma - in this case when I or others don't seem to experience it or live from it. It can also bring suffering if we try to pretend to have the experience, when it is not really there.
Any of these discrepancies can bring up arrogance, righteousness, guilt, shame, a sense of inferiority or superiority, anger, fear. Arrogance and righteousness when I get it and they don't. Guilt and shame when they get it and I don't. Anger when any of us should get it and don't. Fear when I get it and know I can/will loose it. Depression or cynicism when I habitually suppress any of these.
Within this context of believing in a thought, we tend to fuel them (through circular and habitual mental patterns) or try to push them away. In either case, we also tend to blindly act on them in subtle or obvious ways.
In all these ways, it brings suffering for myself and others.
An statement can also be taken as a guideline. An invitation to explore it with curiosity and nonattachment to any particular outcome. Is there a way that this is true for me - in my experience? How is it true for me? If I engage in a particular form of practice that can make this come alive in my direct and intimate experience (and while continually letting go of attachment to any particular outcome)?
An integral approach also means to explore and apply tools from western and easter cultures, with their complementary yang (external focus) and yin (internal focus) approaches to existence.
Western culture has evolved a wide variety of tools that helps us predict (science) and manipulate (engineering etc) the physical aspect of existence. Eastern culture has evolved an equally impressive range of tools for exploring, understanding and working with the inner/experiential aspects of existence. And they all work, if chosen and applied with some skill.
Eastern traditions have evolved tools that help us explore the nature of mind and existence, to work with the energetic aspect of our being, to relate to inner and outer situations in a way that fuels compassion, wisdom, humility and gratitude.
If western culture takes their scientific approach seriously, there may be only a question of time before some of these tools are taught as a basic part of the education of all of us. Of course, there has to be some understanding of (a) the imporance of intention, (b) when and how to learn and apply each tool, and (c) the context within which to apply them. As with any tools, they can be used to open us up or for contraction.
One particular feedback loops is especially obvious these days. From our current views and behaviors, we are creating a situation for ourselves that (a) will lead to large numbers of us dying off and/or (b) a change in our views and behaviors.
We are operating from views and patterns that served us well in the past, but are now out of synch with our current situation. What is left out of these views has eventually caught up with us, and we are in a situation where we face tremendous suffering or a change in view.
We are operating from a largely dualistic and atomistic view, and one of the consequences is that we don't clearly see and account for our interdependence with a finite ecosystem. This in turn has lead to a dramatic unraveling of global ecosystems as well as other ecological changes not conducive to a healthy human life.
The changes need to occur on two levels: Our views and our behavior. In terms of views, we need to move from a fragmented, atomistic, dualistic view to a systems and integral view. In terms of behaviors, we need to explore and implement choices that support life in the short and long run, and close by as well as far away.
And the good news is that these views and choices already exist.
A simple example is supporting local farms, which shows the intersection of areas such as sustainability, health, simple living, bioregionalism, and food production. Supporting local organic farms has multiple benefits:
- It strengthens the local economy. It allows money to stay and circulate in the local community. It allows local people to be in charge of their own work, or to work for smaller and locally owned operations.
- It supports food production practices that maintains and enhances the quality of the soil, and is good for local ecosystems.
- It provides fresh and unprocessed produce, which enhances human health.
- It creates stronger connections within the local community, which leads to various forms of social support and enhances quality of life.
- It allows local farmers a good price for their products, as well as reduced price for the eaters (less cost for processing, transportation etc).
- It reduces the need for fossil fuel due to reduced transportation distance etc.
- It encourages eating with the seasons, which in turn reduces the load on the body and enhances health.
Believing in Thoughts
Another aspect of the Matrix that I find very perceptive is the consequences of believing in thoughts.
Morpheus believes that Neo is the One. Others believe equally strongly that there is no such thing as the One. In both cases, it limits their behavior. It creates rigidiy, inflexibility, and habitual patterns of behavior. It creates stuckness, and suffering.
Neo is one who does not believe in an ideology, which allows for questioning, exploration, flexibility, responsiveness to the situation, change of approach. And he evolves where others do not.
Beliefs & Suffering
When we believe in thoughts, we set ourselves up for suffering.
When we believe in a thought, we exclude parts of existence. Existence has a way of coming up with exactly that which is excluded, and the discrepancy between our belief and existence brings up suffering. We believe the world is or "should" be a certain way, it shows us that it is not, and there is suffering.
Believing in thoughts creates contractions. It brings up apprehension, because we know existence can come up with something that shows us the fallacy of the thoughts. It brings up righteousness and arrogance. It brings up fear. It brings up anger and lethargy. It brings rigidity and inflexibility. It creates a whole rollercoaster ride of experiences.
When we are attached to beliefs, we resist whatever comes up from the discrepancy between our thoughts and existence. And this resistance, combined with the crazy (and predictable) rollercoaster ride, brings profound exhaustion. Which in turn can be a motivation to find a different way or relating to all this.
Looking at it from a purely intellectual way, we also find that believing in thoughts is a fallacy. No matter how comprehensive a system of thoughts is, it is exclusive. Existence is always more than and different from our experience of it, and our experience in turn is always more than and different from the way we translate it into thoughts.
Not Believing in Thoughts
When we don't believe in thoughts (through Byron Katie's process, sitting practice, or something else), we discover that awareness is distinct from its content. It is clear and spacious, and allows anything to unfold within it. There is no resistance (and no need for resistance), and there is no holding onto anything (and no need to hold onto anything). We discover a wisdom and cognition that is far more responsive, flexible, inclusive and clear than anything we can get from thoughts alone.
Thoughts as Tools
When we awaken to awareness as distinct from its content, we can more fully make use of thoughts as tools. We are not exclusively identified with them, and are more free in using them. They become conscious tools for the spacious and clear wisdom inherent in the mind. And we know they are not true, they are just tools of temporary function and value.
I watched the last segment of Matrix again last night, and - among many other things - was impressed with the dynamics between Neo and Agent Smith, and how accurate the depiction seems to be.
When we consciously identify with something, something else is excluded. What is excluded will come up and demand our attention, and it does so in a way that closely mirror the conscious attitude. In this case, Neo was identified with the humans and liberation for humans, and he excluded the machine (and light) world. Agent Smith came up and mirrored this attitude, and did so without knowing why he behaved the way he did - he was just automatically mirroring and showing Neo what Neo could not see in himself. As long as Neo resisted this, there was a battle. And when he let go of resistance, there was a fusion and resolution - a resolution into a more inclusive level.
In my case, although I have directly experienced how everything is God, Spirit, Buddha Mind, I have also been invested in change. In moving towards embodying this more, in healing, in refinement. I escluded somewhat just resting in what is, and see what is - without being anything different - as God, Spirit, Buddha Mind. Now, this seems to be my next phase. To just rest in what is - exactly as it is - and see how this is Big Mind manifesting.
When I visited Boulder last week, I spent a day at the Shambala Center, and this came up for me as my practice. Whatever came up, I reminded myself that this too is Buddha Mind manifesting. As sleepiness, dullness, alertness, someone walking up the stairs, the sound of the cars, the ache in my back.
After my opening experience in my teens in Norway, I experienced my body as light. Every cell was luminous golden light. And I enhanced this through resting in the experience. For some years, I also used this as a visualization for healing.
In Wisconsin, I mostly visualized on a more physical level. I would visualize my spine straightening out and being supple and healthy (I had scoleosis), and the organs functioning in an healthy way.
Over the last few years, there has been a sense of something else coming up, and last night I looked into what is next. What came up was a weaving motion/pattern in my middle (hara) region. And with that, I sense of everything as it is - my body just as it is here/now - being Big Mind. This is nothing new, but I have not focused on this as an approach to (physical) healing.
So this seems to be the new phase for me, in my healing visualizations. To see what is - with no change - as Big Mind, as Spirit, as Buddha Mind manifesting. This ache, these imbalances energies, the heaviness of my body, the woolliness in my head, all this is also Big Mind manifesting. There is a different healing in this, that does not require anything to change or be different. And it gives room for whatever needs to unfold to unfold.
Knowing Who We Are
There seems to be a natural impulse for us to want to know who we are.
We are born into this world, this body, these patterns that form our personality, and have no idea what happened. We can only try to make best out of it, to learn more how this body/personality and how it functions, and how this larger world functions and operates.
And there seems to be several layers of knowing who we are...
- Cultural identity
These are the labels we learn to put on ourselves by culture. They include gender, ethnic affiliation, sexual orientation, profession, etc. We need to learn the conventions of these labels to function effectively in society, although we don't need to limit ourselves to/by them.
- Small Self
Here, we get to know ourselves as small self - as a body/psyche whole. We explore how this body works and functions, and how this psyche works and functions. A part of this is to learn to take care of ourselves so we can operate from relative health, and learn different coping strategies so we can deal with the inner/outer situations life comes up with for us.
- Larger Whole
We live within a larger social and ecological whole, and we also need to get to know how these operates and who we are in relationship to this larger whole. As with all of these explorations, it is personal and also occur through collective efforts. Science, myths, rituals, religion, all help us form a view of how/who we are in relationship to this larger whole.
Awareness can awaken to its content, as described in the three previous layers. And it can also awaken to itself - its own nature. When awareness is focused on a body/personality, it tends to at first identify itself exclusively with this body/personality and to function in a more dualistic way. This may be neccesary for it to explore the first three layers sufficiently to function effectively in the world. Then, it can awaken to itself as distinct from its content - as luminous clear space in which all experiences unfold. At this point, we see ourselves as luminous clear space as well as body/personality. Further than this, awareness can awaken to itself as Big Mind, as that in which all phenomena arise, unfold and dissolve. It awakens to itself as God, Spirit, Buddha Mind, and can be focused on a body/personality or have no center. Here, all exclusive identification drops away, although we can still function as/through a small self with all its conventional identifications needed to funciton in society. When awareness awakens to itself as Big Mind, there is a deepening of fluidity in expression - it can express itself as Big Mind and/or small self, and any aspect of these, more freely.
From the transdual (Big Mind) perspective, there is no meaning. Everything just is as it is (and is wonderful and terrible as it is). From the view of the small self, there is meaning and purpose, and a striving to find meaning and achieve purpose. Both of these are necessary in a full and conscious human life - both the equanimity of the Big Mind view, and the direction of the small self view. One gives spaciousness and fluidity, the other movement and evolution.
I had a small, interesting shift in view some days ago, when I overheard a conversation on reincarnation vs. rebirth.
From a Buddhist view, there is no reincarnation - of any separate/permanent entity, but there is rebirth - of patterns or karma. There are no separate entities, because all phenomena are aspects of a seamless whole. There are no permanent entities because all phenomena are in constant change. This is a view reflected in systems theories as well.
Still, something may be reborn. If there is, then it is the patterns or karma that is reborn. It is the habitual patterns of sensation, emotions, cognition, that are continued and expressed in a different being.
It is difficult to put words on what is beyond any concepts. One attempt may be to say that there is One Mind (God, Spirit, Buddha Mind), expressed in all phenomena. It is the same One Mind that expresses itself as awareness in any living being, although it often identifies itself exclusively with that one body/personality and perceives itself as separate from everything else.
Sometimes, it awakens to its own nature, as being beyond that one being. It can awaken to itself as clear and luminous space, in which all experiences unfold. As beyond dualistic and transdualistic perception, but functioning as either. It can awaken to itself as clear, luminous space, manifesting as any and all experiences, and any and all pheonomena.
In the last few weeks, I had explored how it is this One Mind manifesting, even in the deluded operations of this personality. I see dualistic perceptions, reactiveness, dullness, etc. - and at the same time directly experience how this is also Big Mind manifesting. From this view, there is no need to change anything. Everything just is.
On the other hand, it is the natural functioning of the small self to want something else. Ultimately, to find relief from suffering - to find happiness and equanimity. The desiring and seeking of the small self view naturally and effortlessly complements the tranquility and equanimity of Big Mind view. They are inseparate, both are God/Big Mind manifesting.
As with most shifts, this one can be expressed in the same words as I would have used before, but my experinece of it is a little different.
In a way, it is karma - the habitual patterns of sensations, emotions, cognition - that is liberated. Through practice and openings, they transform into patterns that allow the Big Mind view to be more clearly expressed through the small self. They are liberated from the suffering of cuntioning in a small self context only. And this is what is passed on. This is what may be reborn.
In the beginning of practice, we tend to identify exclusively with small self, and practice to liberate this small self from suffering. Then, we realize that there is no separate/permanent small self to liberate. There is only the fluidity between Big Mind and small self. At this point, we may practice just because that is the natural expression of this view and realization, and to better assist other small selves to be relieved from suffering and open to Big Mind.
And we may also practice to allow the next body/personality in which these habitual patterns are reborn, to more easily open for Big Mind. The more I have done the job here, the easier it will be for the next poor schmuck born with these patterns to open up for Big Mind.
Here in the US, I sometimes encounter an interesting discrepancy between (a) a high level of criticism and skeptisism towards authorities and (b) a low or non-existent level of critisism and skeptisism towards ones own thought process...
It leads to patterns where people are consistently skeptical towards government, science, etc., and consistently do not question the sources of their information/opinions or the validity of their own thought process. In a way, it is another form of projection: skepticism applied mostly to the outer world, and not the inner.
Of course, it is healthy with a certain level of criticism towards authorities, and it may be especially justified here i the US. The government, media and scientists are sometimes influenced by outside sources, such as big corporations. And if we also apply this healthy skeptisism towards our sources and our own thought process, then we have a more balanced and grounded situation. We can allow ourselves to stay open to different possibilities and not jump to conclusions.
When awareness realizes that it can be whatever comes us - sensations, emotions, thoughts - there is full engagement and no attachment. There is no separation, and nothing to hold onto. There is fullness, richness, spaciousness, fluidity, engagement, freshness.
Big Mind & Small Self
Big Mind is beyond and includes all phenomena. It is the space in which everything unfolds, and everything that unfolds. Big Mind contains every small self, and any and every view expressed through a small self.
The small self is this organism, with its body and psyche, its habitual patterns of emotions, cognition and behavior. When awareness is identified with small self, it tends to function in a dualistic way - it operates from a fragmented view of the world.
When awareness awakens to Big Mind, there is a tendency for it to first identify exclusively with the Big Mind view. The boundless emptiness in which all phenomena arise, unfold and fade, and its inherent bliss and clarity.
But this is also stuckness. It excludes the views of the small self and it brings its own suffering, when Existence eventually manifests in a way to remind awareness of this. The next step is a deepening comfort with both Big Mind and small self views, and a fluidity between the two. Which in turn leads to a deepening humanity - we become more and more human. More and more able to relate to ourselves and others fluidly and in whatever way seem appropriate in the situation.
Existence is always different from and more than any view - and all views. When we believe a thought or a view, when we hold onto it, we set ourselves up for suffering. And we can respond to this suffering by trying to strengthen the view, or allow it to break open. Of course, this is a continuous process - until there is a resting in spacious and clear awareness - beyond and embracing all and any views.
Among the more historic and cultural examples are how we relate to other species. In the Western - and now global - culture, we have continually included larger segments of humans into who we see as "us". We are at a point where we subscribe to universal human rights, and at least think it is a good ideal although we don't always act accordingly. Along with this, we have science that provides an evolutionary perspective on all life, and tells us that we are very similar to other species on a wide range of criteria. We are very closely related to other mammals, as well as closely related to all life on this planet. There is an inherent contradiction here, in how we use the perceived difference between humans and other species as justification for using different guidelines for behavior, and what our scientific worldview tells us. We have guidelines for treating humans with respect and dignity, yet we allow arbitrary imprisonment and killings of other species. It may be that the next step is to include all species, all earthly life, into the circle of "us". From justifying a different set of guidelines of behavior because we see other species as "them", we will apply a similar set of guidelines because we see them as "us".
Of course, this is still within the realm of dualistic thinking. Beyond this is the realm of transdual views, where we directly experience that any and all views are inherently incomplete, confining, and brings suffering.
It has been clear to me since high school, although I have tried to pretend otherwise and created a false confusion that way. The single most important aspect of my life is spiritual practice, in a community such as Kanzeon in Salt Lake City or Vækstsenteret in Denmark (Jes Bertelsen). A place where there is a great deal of clarity about the nature of mind/Existence, where there is comfort and fluidity in how to express it, and that is comfortable in the western culture. This is the main piece in the puzzle of my life, and when it is in place - all the other puzzles both seem less important and can fall into place more easily. When I try to fix the smaller pieces first, it brings a sense of hollowness, dissatisfaction and often frustration.
Excistence is beyond and embracing all dualities.
When awareness identifies with its content and functions in a more dualistic way, there are splits. And these splits take the form of projections which appear in different ways.
In terms of thoughts, we tend to believe in one set of thoughts (mutually consistent or not) and ignore or dismiss their opposites. We are stuck in a particular and limited view of Existence, and this brings suffering whenever Existence behaves in a way that does not correspond to the view.
One way of working with this is to take any thought (statement), turn it around in any way possible (to ourselves, others, its opposite), and find how each of these new statements are as true as the original. In this way, we loosen up attachment to one limited view and open up for a more comprehensive, inclusive and fluid relationship to the different views.
It may also allow us to let go of beliefs (attachments to thoughts) altogether, and allow awareness to become aware of itself as distinct from its content.
Related to this, we tend to see certain characteristics in the inner world (in ourselves), and their opposites in the outer world (in others). This split allows us to experience a strong difference between the outer and inner world. It defines our self-image, which in turn defines what we allow ourselves to experience in the inner world and to express in our behavior. This self-image is formed through culture, subcultures and personal experiences, and is always in flux as everything else.
One of the consequences of this split, is that we relate to characteristics in ourselves and others with attraction and aversion. These function as a glue that binds our attention to whatever we are not yet completely familiar and comfortable with in ourselves, so we have the opportunity to become more familiar and comfortable with it.
When desired characteristics are seen in ourselves, we experience satisfaction, joy, gratitude, self-confidence, arrogance. When undesired characteristics are seen in ourselves, we experience sadness, guilt, depression, blame, anger, frustration. When desired characteristics are seen in others, we experience attraction, love, envy, greed. When undesired characteristics are seen in others, we experience criticism, righteousness, anger, hatred.
Also here, a way to work with this is to turn it around. Whenever I see a characteristic in the outer world (a person, landscape, dream, story, fairy tale), independent on whether I relate to it with attraction, aversion or indifference, I can explore how this characteristic is also there in the inner world, in myself. Is it there as only a potential, or more alive and unfolded? How does it express itself in my everyday life? How do I relate to it? From where did I learn this way of relating to it? What consequences does this way of relating to it have in my everyday life? How would my everyday life be different if I was more familiar with this characteristic in myself? How would my self-image change?
As we see in ourselves what we see in others, we become more familiar and comfortable with these characteristics, and form a more inclusive and fluid self-image. We open up for more awareness in how to relate to these characteristics in ourselves and others, and for genuine empathy with ourselves and others. We know from ourselves what we see in them. We see ourselves and others as universally human, as life manifesting.
When I look at the passion in my life, I see that it relates to assisting with a deep transformation - on larger and smaller scales.
On a large scale, I wish to support a deep cultural/social transformation into a more life-centered/sustaining culture. Mainly using a solution-focused, partnership oriented and integral approach, working with the natural processes in people and nature. I did this through the work with Sustain Dane, and now - on a more limited scale - with the NWEI discussion courses.
On a smaller scale, I wish to assist a deep transformation on an individual level that includes the personal and transpersonal aspects. Breema and the Big Mind process are tools I find useful in this area.
In both cases, I am attracted to using an integral (inner/outer and small/large scales) and inclusive approach. One where we take serious situations/challenges, look at workable solutions, and work with what is already there and the natural processes in the systems.
And, of course, at the core of this is a personal transformation - in my own relationship to the inner and outer world. This is what fuels and informs my other/outer involvements.
For any deeper healing to take place, the resistance must be brought into awareness. There is always resistance to change - even when the change is in the desired direction for the self - and we need to acknowledge the resistance and allow it to tell its story. What can we learn from it? What does it tell us? What is the gold that it offers? What is the valuable information in it? How does it genuinely serve the self? Process Work and the Big Mind process both offers valuable tools for allowing us to listen to and become students of resistance. When it has told its story, when it has been listened to sincerely and its gift accepted, it has done its job and the process can unfold further. The resistance and block is allowed to dissolve.
Example of the voice of resistance: I protect Per from going too far - from getting into situations he is not ready for. I protect him from going out on thin ice and getting injured in any way. I protect him from sticking his head out and having it chopped off. If he was completely healthy, he may behaving in ways that are embarasing to him since he is not used to acting from that space. And when we see this we can consciously take the lesson it offers, and the resistance looses some or all of its charge (depending on how seriously we take its advice).
It seems that healing can occur in two disctint ways.
One is to focus on the illness itself. The other in shifting our relationship to the illness.
This is the most typical approach to illness, in both western and eastern healing traditions. We work on the physical, energetic, emotional and/or cognitive levels, and may include the wider social and ecological whole as well. In systems language, we look for control variables which can allow the system to shift into a new attractor state (one that is perceived as more "healthy" by practitioner and client). In this approach, the client can be a passive recipient or an active collaborator.
Here, we foucs on the person's relationship to the inner and outer world, to Existence. This is a less common approach, but can also be found in both eastern and western traditions. The illness may be there or not, but our relationship to it changes. We can be more at ease with it, relax into it, allow ourselves to be whatever comes up (pain, discomfort), and experience it all in a wider context. The pain may continue to be there, but the suffering we add to it may be relieved. In the west, religion has traditionally served this function (finding a sense of meaning and resolution in the midst of pain), and now also psychology. In the East, spiritual traditions have offered profound tools in this area. In the relationship approach, the client is always an active and the main participant in the process, supported and guided by the practitioner.
A more integral apporoach to health will include both. There is an illness focus, which may include approaches from western and alternative medicine, such as nutrition, medication, surgery, energy balancing - whatever seems appropriate in the situation. And there will be an focus on how the person relates to the inner and outer world. Which views brings about suffering, and how can we allow these to shift? In this approach, the client may be a passive recipient in some areas, and an active participant in other. And there may be a shift in focus over time. Initially, it may be important to do what can be done in terms of the illness itself. Later, the person's relationship to the illness and life in general may receive more attention.
Breema is among the approaches that include both areas. And it also includes another important aspect of integral medicine - the practitioner. How the practitioner is.
Breema brings a fluidity and flow into all levels of the small self - physical, energetic, emotional and cognitive. There is a decrystallization of rigidity on any and all levels (rigidity is often a part of the illness picture). It also allows the practitioner and the recipient to get out of the way, so the healing process can unfold more fully and with less resistance.
At the same time, it allows us to experience ourselves and existence in a new way. It opens up for a transpersonal realm and brings it fully into the body here and now, which can profoundly change how we relate to existence. And it does so in a very sweet, full, blissfull way - which is attractive to the small self as well.
Beliefs are limiting in many ways.
On the most basic level, they represent a particular view - while existence is far more and different from any view. When we believe a thought (or set of thoughts such as an ideology), we set ourselves up for rigidity and suffering.
On a personality level, a belief in a certain self-image/self-identity, limits how we experience ourselves and the world, and how we relate to the inner and outer world. Some characteristics are "me" and experienced and expressed more freely, other characteristics are "not me" (although also available) and not experienced or expressed freely.
Believing in thoughts also tends to be self-fulfilling. We act as if the world correspond to the thought, and often make whatever we believe in happen through our attitude and actions.
Benefit of Beliefs
There are of course benefits to beliefs as well. There is a reason they exist, and it may be easier to see this in an evolutionary context. When the small self develops, either in human evolution or in an individual, awareness is identified with its content. This seems a necessary phase of evolution - being limited to the view of the small self. And in this situation, believing in thoughts is necessary for guidance. It is obviously imperfect, but still works well enough in most situations. Of course, it also brings much suffering, which is an incentive to find another solution.
The alternative to believing in thoughts is for awareness to become aware of itself as distinct from its content. In this, it experiences its own true nature - spacious, clear and responsive. Where it used to be bound by beliefs, it is now more free to relate to each situation as appropriate.
Some of the tools for aiding this shift are different forms of meditation (sitting as in Buddhism, or in movement as in yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Gong, Breema), as well as Byron Katie's inquiry process.
Someone I know has strong beliefs related to work, and it is very obvious how these beliefs create the reality he finds himself in and also influences those around him.
This weekend, this came up again. In one instance, someone asked what it takes to practice Breema in Oregon, and he replied - as he typically does - LMT (massage) license. This is a partial truth at best, as there are many licenses that will allow people to practice Breema, and the LMT license is just one of them. And I have seen how this creates mental blocks for other people who would like to practice Breema. If they do not have an inclination to study massage, they block themselves from pursuing other options. Even people who could practice with their current (non-LMT) license, don't...
The other instance was around work in general here in Eugene. Someone else mentioned to him that he is considering moving to Eugene. And he discouraged him from doing so, for the reason that it would be very difficult for him to find work here. Another limiting belief. When Jen and I moved here, we were told the same by many people, knew that it was just a belief and not at all necessarily true for us, and found wonderful work right away.
So his belief in these limiting ideas limits those around him, as well as himself. His own work situation clearly reflect these beliefs.
I notice that there is a charge around this for me, which comes from believing in a thought that says "people should not limit themselves and others by believing in (clearly false) thoughts and ideas". I'll work on that next.
When all we are aware of is the small self, it seems that we take everything personally - in a double sense.
Everything that comes at us - from others or the world in general - is taken personally, as something we are entitled to or an insult. It either validate how deserving we are (though being a good person, lovable, karma, etc), or how cruel the world is to us.
And we take everything arising in us as intensely personal - every sensation, emotions, thought. We define ourselves by these processes. We define ourselves as a small self, a unique and separate individual, through these universally human processes that happens to unfold within this self.
When we open up to the transpersonal realm - to Big Mind or aspects of Big Mind - it all shifts.
We used to be trapped in the view of the small self, seeing everything as me or not me - and a strong separation between the two. Now, we have more of a sense of overview - we see the universal patterns that play themselves out in this as well as all other personalities.
The human drama is the same in all cases, with different minor variations and different flavors. Still, the underlying processes are the same. And they can be boiled down to identification with small self.
Even when we are in the midst of our lives, something in us knows that these are universal patterns and processes playing themselves out. Something in us watches this, as a play unfolding. There is more space and overview. We have room to not get caught in it, to relate to it with more awareness and sense of choice.
For me, it is my aim to continually become more fully and deeply human. This includes becoming intimate with everything unfolding within myself, be continually more honest about it, and recognize it all as universally human. In this way, everything I see in others becomes a guidepost for finding and becoming intimate with the same in myself. And in this process, I open up for deepening empathy and sense of connection with others.
The voice of the critic has come up repeatedly today, in spite of outer circumstances that are not conducive for it. Everything seems to be a target, even that which this personality sees as 99% desirable. The last one percent is sufficient as a trigger.
It has been good to see this and stay with it. I see clearly how small part of me this voice is, compared to everything else. This takes the charge out of it and allows me to not engage in or fuel it. I can appreciate it for the ways it helps me, with sharp discernment, take the lessons and let to go.
The Big Mind workshop last weekend, and the Breema intensive this weekend, set (some of) the circumstances for this realization to deepen and clarify.
In the Big Mind process, I become familiar and intimate with a variety of voices and how they support and are in relationship with the self. For the voices on the level of the small self, I learn to recognize them, how they help me, and that they each are just one small aspect of the whole. I gain a perspective on each, and are there is less of a hook for me to get caught up in any one of them. There is more of a fluidity in how they come up, and whether and how awareness chooses to engage in them. And the transpersonal voices helps me connect with and relate to everything from a larger and more inclusive view.
Breema gives me a deep and delicious experience of myself as a whole - body, energies, emotions, cognitions, and transpersonal awareness. All with fluidity, fullness, richness, deliciousness, clarity and presence.
When I tap into this through the Nine Principles, Self-Breemas or Breema Bodywork, I experience directly how all the patterns of the personality are just ripples on the ocean. The whole is infinitely larger than any of these, and this makes it easy to choose to not engage in them in an habitual way. I can see them and let them go. Or I can choose to engage from insights they offer me, with more clarity and spaciousness.
Each of the voices bears a gift, and it may be appropriate to act on this gift of insight in the situation. Joy and a sense of connection may led to speaking from appreciation. Anger may lead to speaking from honesty with another person.
Yin & Yang
I am continually stuck by how well Breema and Big Mind seems to go together.
Breema is the yin aspect. Through Breema, I open up for Big Mind in a full, rich, deliscious and intimate way. It becomes a thick atmosphere in and around me. And I can tap into and deepen it any time through the Nine Principles, Self-Breema and Breema bodywork.
The Big Mind process is the yang aspect. It provides clarity, differentiation, insights and overview. It is the clear space, in which it all unfolds.
Together, they provide a more integral approach. Big Mind provide the clear view. Breema the full and rich embodied taste.