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Projections Friday, March 31, 2006 |

I picked up the (now) ancient Spectrum of Consciousness by Ken Wilber at the library, and read through the chapter on projections. It had several good reminders there, especially as his examples are a little different that what comes most readily to mind for me in regards to projections.

For instance...

I have interest in and curiosity about the world, forget about and stop noticing this curiosity, and experience it now as the world's interest in me. So when I feel self-conscious, or experience other's attention on me as comfortable, I can take that as a reminder to reconnect with my own interest and curiosity of the world.

A desire to do or engage in something comes up in me, I disconnect from this desire, and experience it as pressure from the outside world. Again, this experience of pressure is a reminder to find my own desire to engage and act.

I have anger about the world, disown it, and experience it as the world's hostility towards myself, which in turn can lead to a range of responses including hopelessness, depression, fatigue and so on. When I connect with this energy in myself, I can find that it may not take the form of anger but of a directed and engaged energy - allowing me to engage in the world in a more active and engaged way.

I disown my own (limited although real) ability to control the world, and experience all control in the world - and myself as a leaf in the storm, helpless, weak, out of control. When I reconnect with my own ability to control, there is more of a balance - more of an active and dynamic engagement.

And so on... All useful reminders.

It may look as if we are turning the tables in the I-World relationship, but all that is needed is to reconnect with what is already there in us - the curiosity, interest, desire, engagement, anger, control and so on.

And this is of course all at the level of our human self, where there is indeed an inner and an outer. Here, a more active engagement with the process of integrating and living the projected quality seems needed. At the level of the Witness, we can just notice the same quality in the inner and outer world. And as Big Mind, the qualities are just happening - there is no inside or outside.

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Contact |

I recently watched Contact again, and it brings up several things for me...

Mostly, the incredible beauty and awe that comes up from realizing that we are this universe bringing itself into awareness. And the deep sense of humility and belonging that comes from realizing that we, as human beings, are infinitely small parts of this infinitely large and rich universe.

Also, the continuing de-provinsialization in our culture, as it shows up in so many areas - going towards deepening worldcentric views and experiences of the world. From anthropocentrism to biocentrism and possibly beyond. From ethnocentrism to ethnodiversity. From rights for a few to universal human rights. From seeing this planet as the center of the universe, to seeing the sun as the center, to seeing this galaxy as the center (or rather all there is), to realizing the infinite number of galaxies out there - everywhere a center to itself. And how even the thought of life other places in the universe brings us even further out of our provincial outlook, to acknowledging that this planet may be one of a large number of living planets out there.

And also, slightly disappointing maybe, the orange (in Spiral Dynamics) view on science and religion which the story is filtered through - making it appear to be a choice between the scientific methodology and faith, or maybe both although for separate realms.

In any case, when I saw the movie the first time it brought me straight into Big Mind, and it still does. It reminds me of the big picture - that we, as humans, are stardust. That we are the universe temporarily reorganizing itself into humans, human culture, human technology, cities, thoughts, emotions, feelings, sensations, animals, plants, mountains, stars, oceans, clouds, rain, rocks, beaches, trees, the living Earth, this solar system, this galaxy, and all there is. That we, along with everything else that is, are the leading edge of the evolving universe. That all this is, with a center everywhere and nowhere, one seamless unfolding process - where there are no separate individuals, no separate doers, thinkers, seers, experiencers. Everything belongs, everything is the local movements of the whole - beyond and including all polarities.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006 |

God As Groups

In our age, probably influenced by the western explorations of democracy and group dynamics, there is an emerging emphasis on the group level of God. How God, Spirit, Buddha Mind, Brahman, Dao manifests as a group of individuals - in their interactions, collective explorations and views, in the group field, and so on.

Among spiritual groups and approaches, this is emphasized in Waking Down in Mutuality, in Andrew Cohen's community, and also by the deeksha folks. How does God show up at a group level?

In Christianity and Buddhism, people increasingly talk about the second coming of Christ as a collective phenomenon, and the future Buddha - Maitreya - manifesting as a sangha.

In evolutionary spirituality, we realize that we - in the broadest sense of the word, including all human beings, all species, this Earth, this galaxy, this Universe, all of what is - is the leading edge of evolution. The leading edge of the evolution and unfolding of God, Spirit, the divine mind, and so on.

In the secular realm, there is a vast area of exploration of group processes and dynamics, for any type and size of human groups. There are explorations of co-intelligence. Of group fields in Process Work. Of systems dynamics in any area, including non-living matter, living systems, and social groups.

And in any of these areas, we are just scratching the surface. We are just starting to explore these dynamics in more depth. We are only now beginning to take the group, collective and systems levels seriously - realizing that they are as real and important as any other level, including that of individuals.

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Three Instances & Soul

I facilitated a Big Mind session today, and it is always so beautiful to explore segments of this vast terrain with someone else. We both go through the process together, so we both benefit from it - just as with Breema and other practices.

Some of the voices we explored: controller > judgment (fear with discernment and the critic) > discernment > wisdom > soul

Three Instances

When we explored wisdom, what came up was that the self (of the person I worked with) does not trust wisdom when it comes up. She seeks wisdom outside, and uses that as a way to give voice to the inner wisdom, but even then only or mostly gives credit to the outer wisdom.

As we went along, I thought of the Byron Katie inquiries where we sometimes look at three instances, from our own life, where a particular turnaround is true. So I used this at the end of exploring wisdom, asking for three instances - in the last few days, where wisdom has come out. And she had no problem finding them, which was a great relief to her. It showed how wisdom is there, even when she does not recognize it or assign it to an outer source.

Soul

Over the last couple of weeks, the topic of the soul has come up over and over. The soul, that part of us that continues between physical lives. That part of us which is the middle ground between our human self and Big Mind. That part of us that give a sense of deep fullness, meaning, purpose, direction, guidance, and - yes, soulfulness, to our lives.

That part of us that is so emphasized in Christianity and other traditions, yet often left out by Zen and other Buddhist traditions - including by the standard Big Mind process. Luckily, the Big Mind instructors (the small number of them) encourage us to explore other voices, including those appropriate to other traditions and worldviews.

So we went to the soul at the end of the Big Mind process. Even as the name had been spoken, we both sensed how the atmosphere in the room changed immediately. There was a very strong presence of the soul, and it is very different from any other voice I have experienced.

What was very clear was the fullness of it and continuity. The sense of no separation from anything, yet of distinctness. The sense of it being impersonal, yet intimately personal. The sense of essence. And for me, the deep sense of nurturing and of coming home.

The reason it is left out of Zen is probably because it can distract us from full awakening, to realize selflessness and the ground awakening - Big Mind. But leaving it out also leaves out an essential source of deep nourishment and guidance.

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Compassion & Five Elements

After my acupuncturist woes, I went to another five element practitioner today - and it was very helpful. We have a nice connection and the treatment definitely works, this time as a deep, gentle current moving in me.

Deepening compassion

We talked about my overall pattern of several years of awakening, passion, and energy, and then some years of the opposite - going high up and then far down. And how, especially for us fire types, that is one way we can deepen and mature into our compassion.

I did have compassion at that time as well, even more than now in some ways, but it was a form of universal love. Big Heart was very much alive in me, as a steady current. At my human level, I could not get a good grasp on why people just could "get it", awaken, find the same passion and clarity as I had, and so on. It was so easy for me, so why not for them? I could clearly see the discrepancy here, and that something needed to happen for this compassion to mature and become more ordinarily human.

And the following "fall" was exactly what invited me into this deepening compassion, now including more my human level. I know from own experience now how impossible is seems to "get over it", or pull myself out of it, or just connect with the passion, and so on - when it is not there. I know how completely miserable it is, from lived experience, so can now also connect with others at that level more easily. The compassion has become more humanized to some extent, and can continue to humanize, deepen and mature - as time goes by.

Practitioners

Having tried these three Five Element acupuncture practitioners over this last year, I also see the different styles and approaches to acupuncture, and how it impacts me as a client.

The initial one was clearly brilliant, and the treatments made me feel better than I have for many years. I became connected with myself at a deep level. But she also had some quirks, such as not connecting very well in an authentic and sincere way and so on. Her diagnosis and technique was obviously first rate, so it was still more than worth it and a great blessing in my life.

The second one, who I tried for only four times, used a very mechanical and impersonal approach, which did not work very well for me. I did not experience much or any effect from the treatments. Maybe partly from the technique, and partly from his disengagement in the whole process. It seems that it helps if the practitioner is able to connect at a deep level with the client as well as the changes of the chi during the session.

The third one, who I went to today, was again different from these two. She is about my age and has a very similar view and background as myself. This means that she is relatively inexperienced in terms of years, but also is very sensitive to the energies and also places the responsibility back on my side - which is what I am looking for. And the treatment certainly worked, moving the energy in a smooth, gentle deep way - still very noticeable.

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Gentle Inquiry

Over the last few days, I have noticed a slight shift in how projections show up. Something - arising outside or inside of my human self, is perceived as slightly Other, I notice its Otherness, and through that noticing that boundary of I/Other dissolve and what arises just is - equally I and Other and none of those.

I sat on the bus yesterday, someone near me was quite agitated, I noticed a slight disturbance in me and then the subtle Otherness of the agitation, and through that noticing the boundary dissolved - the agitation was revealed as Here as well as There, and none and both of those. The quality of the agitation itself did not change at all, but instead appearing as There/Other and somewhat separated from Here/I, that layer of additional abstractions and stories went away.

Instead of arising as a disturbance, it now arises as part of the landscape, adding to the richness of what arises in the present.

I half-way woke up early this morning, and the same process unfolded although in a more fluid way. I saw something arising which had a subtle Otherness to it, noticed the subtle boundary there, the boundary and Otherness dissolved, and it just arouse in space. And then something else came up, and the same process unfolded. And then something else, in a parade of content which had a subtle Otherness to it. It was a quite interesting experience, and something to bring more into daily life.

The main lesson may be how there is a subtle Otherness to many things arising, and just noticing that - and allowing an inquiry into it in the form of gentle curiosity, may allow the boundary and Otherness to dissolve.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 |

All OK & Perfect Symmetry

We went to the most recent incarnation of our local Byron Katie inquiry group(s) last night, and was struck again by the perfect symmetry of awakening to selflessness and the discomfort of the belief in a separate I.

As Byron Katie says sometimes, everything is perfect as it is. And realizing selflessness is the only way for that to come fully alive. (She skilfully leaves the second part out, leaving it to people to discover that for themselves through inquiry).

As long as there is a belief in a separate I - placed on our human self, aspects of our human self, the seeing and so on, then there is discomfort and suffering. There is a sense of separation, of something to protect. We naturally seek relief from this discomfort and suffering, first through rearranging the content of our inner and outer situation, and eventually through realizing selflessness.

So there is a perfect symmetry here. An unexamined belief in a separate I gives rise to discomfort, this discomfort leads us to seek relief from it, and the only real relief comes through examining the belief and realize that there is no separate I inherent in any aspect of what is.

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Dream

I visited an exotic country and hiked down through a cave for two and a half days. Several others hiked through the cave as well, although it was quite risky. I traveled with my father initially. We all had companion animals, mostly dogs. Finally, I arrived at the other end of the cavern into an isolated valley populated by natives. The few westerners who had made it this far were not able to get back, although there was no sense of panic. Several planned to stay for a long time. The natives were very friendly, although they also did put on a brief scary show and then sent us into a previously hidden store with western products. They wanted us to leave some of our money there. A little later, I visited a western woman who had a larger western style house and lived very comfortably in the midst of the native village.

This is yet another embarrassingly archetypal dreams (!). When I worked consistently with dreams in Norway, I would have dreams that were text-book Jungian dreams . I read Jung profusely during that time, and the dreams seemed to take on whatever form I would most likely understand. As Jung said, dreams want to communicate and use the language available to them. And in my experience, this language is also modified to fit our conscious worldview as much as possible, so we can pick up on their gifts.

Going down the long and deep cave may be a decent into the body and/or other subconscious material, areas of F1-F2 in Ken Wilber's framework. And the natives may represent the more native, primal aspects of myself, maybe F2-F4. I was surprised to see the large number of people waiting to go into the cave, especially considering the risks I knew were involved. They even admitted people in limited sized groups to prevent local overcrowding, as they do at Mt. Everest.

The area I arrived in had a similar quality as New Guinea has for me - lush, abundant with plant and animal life, exotic, with natives who are partly friendly and partly brings up some fear in me (if I find myself at their mercy, as a stranger in their area).

These particular natives lived their own traditional lives, but were also very much familiar with the western world through the few westerners who came there and ended up staying. It did also seem that they had a trading operaiton going with the modern western world, considering all the western products they were selling.

In any case, there was connection, communication and an interest among the natives to take part in the benefits of western civilization. The intermingling of natives and westerns in the village was very easy and comfortable, although some of the westerns wanted to go home as well. The westerners here may represent the more civilized and domesticated aspects of myself. Overall, the dream may indicate a need to descend into subconscious material - bodily and otherwise, make a connection, and explore the relationships there.

The dream may also point to a need for more conscious and mature aspects of me to descend into these areas and set up home there. Bringing awareness and maturity to body, energies and emotions. Allowing these to be who and where they are, and also awaken into awareness and maturity.

Active imagination

On going into the cavern: I am asking someone where we are going, he responds "we are going into the flesh, deeper than you have ever been, into an area unfamiliar to any of us - even those of us who have been doing this for a long time. It will be uncomfortable and disorienting, but worth it."

On being in the native village: Again, I am asking someone - a native this time - where I am and why. He says "see the lush abundance? Enjoy it. Stay for a while. Soak in it. It is wonderful, isn't it? So different from your modern mechanical world up there. You will find it far more nourishing, grounding, even helpful in your daily life - beyond what you can imagine."

Day residue

During the intensive last week, I became acutely aware of how superficially I am in my body and how much further there is to go. I have a wish to become more deeply comfortable with and as a body, to embody it more deeply. To find the natural and effortless power there, where there is no need for force.

Surprise?

Dreams seem to help us see just beyond our conscious view, so there is always an element of surprise in there. So far, it does seem to point to a need for deepening connection with body, energies and emotions. This is aligned with my conscious view, and the dream may just support and amplify that. But there may also be more there - which may emerge if I stay with the dream for a while, and possibly explore it further through active imagination.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006 |

Filters

In terms of teachers saying things that trigger me (!), there are two instances over the last few weeks that stand out.

One is from the Center for Sacred Sciences, where a teacher indirectly talked about the Big Mind process as a way that could only reinforce a sense of separate self. Another is from the intensive last week, where the senior instructor talked about Atma Vichara - the "who am I" inquiry, as being a dead end and waste of time.

When it comes to the Big Mind process, one of its beauties for me is its inquiry into all the many aspects of the divine mind, from how it shows up specifically in our human lifes to its transcendent aspects - and how we through this process realize that there are all these aspects, and none of them has an inherent I. There are all of these, and there is no separate I anywhere. It is all just happening. They are all just the temporary play of the divine mind. The I is the whole of it, or we could say nowhere.

And when it comes to Atma Vichara, it is indeed a dead end. We cannot find any separate I, not any I as a segment of what is. And that is the whole point! We look and look, using the idea of a separate I as a filter, and cannot find anything. Something may look promising for a while, for instance our human self, aspects of our human self, or the seeing itself, but none of these pan out. So we are left with nothing, and a realization of selflessness. Again, all of these are the play of the divine mind.

How is this a lesson for me?

One is that any teacher or teacher views the world in a limited way. At the very least, they do not have personal experience with all approaches out there and may still talk about them as if they had authority in that area.

Another is that this tends to trigger something in me, and that is fuel for inquiry. I obviously have a position here, something to defend. I want to make this position right and any other wrong. And that itself comes from unexamined beliefs. It prevents receptivity and from seeing the truth in what is said - even if that truth, as it appears for me through sincere inquiry and exploration, may be different from how it was initially expressed by them.

In terms of Big Mind, it helps me explore its weaknesses in its current incarnation, although it changes so quickly so even these insights are just temporary. In terms of Atma Vichara, it may help me refine how I do it for myself.

If I do turnarounds on the statement he should not put down Big Mind/Atma Vichara, they become...

  • I should not put down BM/AV (I should apply it myself - they are useful tools for me right now)
  • I should not put down them (for those statements)
  • I should put down BM/AV (yes, see their strenghts and weaknesses in a more balanced way)

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Exploration & Goals

On my visit to the Bay area last week, I was introduced to the work of A. Hameed Ali aka A. H. Almaas (a Kuwaitian with a Scandinavian pen name!). I was told his writings are very clear, and that definitely seems true.

I have enjoyed reading the first few chapters of Spacecruiser Inquiry so far, and am looking forward to exploring the specific inquiries suggested later on, and also to read other books by Ali.

He is using a beautiful, simple accurate language, and speaks very closely to my own experiences and explorations, so I naturally find a great affinity with his approach and outlines.

Explorations and goals

One of the themes is that of exploration and goals.

We can look at what is as an exploration process, as God exploring itself, as lila - the play of God. In this framework, the exploration process itself is the primary goal, and any goals found at particular points in time are secondary - just parts of this overall exploration process.

Goals as primary

In our own lives, this shows up in how we approach any spiritual practice.

I notice that if I see a particular goal as primary, it throws a wrench into the machinery. For instance, if my goal is selflessness - and I see that as the purpose for life and as an end point, I will always hold the idea of selflessness up for myself. I compare where I am now with that idea, I do any practice with that goal in mind, I get caught up in abstractions and comparing what is with these abstractions. The idea of selflessness may even be more important than my direct and immediate experiences in the present. And all of these create obstacles. They only reinforce a belief in ideas in general, including the belief in the idea of a separate I.

I may be able to let go of this idea to some extent, and I may be able to follow and be with what is - what is alive right now, but it is still going against the stream if my overall goal is selflessness or any other goal occurring at some point in time. My overall framework is not helpful in allowing me to explore and be with what is in the present.

Exploration as primary

But if the overall context is that of exploration, it becomes different - even if I for a while use the idea of exploration as a guideline. Now, what is alive in the present becomes important, for its own sake - not to get me anywhere.

And as goals arise in the present, they are included - although not taken as seriously as before. They are secondary at best, just markers in time allowing for added richness to the overall exploration process.

Now, selflessness is just a shift, and the exploration goes on before and after this shift. It is actually not that important in itself. It is just God exploring itself, first through a sense of separate self and then in the context of realized selflessness. It doesn't really matter. Although for our human self, it does matter a great deal, as one brings a great deal of struggle and suffering and the other a sense of ease and release for suffering.

Absolute and relative

Ultimately, it doesn't really matter one way or another. A sense of self and realization of selflessness just adds to the richness of the exploration process. But locally, it does matter - as one brings suffering and the other a release from suffering.

This is just another way of easing into holding both the Absolute and the Relative. From the Absolute, all is OK as it is (or here, an exploration process). And from the Relative, there is room for improvement (further awakenings, release from suffering and so on).

Drive

Our human self's desire for release from suffering is one of the many drives in this overall exploration process. It helps it to move, to dislodge, to have a direction.

First, we seek release from suffering through rearranging the content - either in the outer or inner world. We rearrange our circumstance, and our habitual patterns, as well as we can. And this gives some relief although not nearly a complete or more lasting one.

Then, we may find that realization of selflessness is a more complete release from suffering, and here the drive comes through seeking realization of selflessness.

And after selflessness is realized, the dynamism comes through enjoying the exploration process itself.

Aligned with what is

Whenever we are more aligned with what is, things go easier.

If what is is more similar to an exploration process than a situation where goals are primary, I may find that temporarily applying exploration as a general metaphor is helpful. And if what is does not have any I inherent in any of its segments, then realizing selflessness - even to some degree, gives a sense of relief and release from suffering.

The proof is in the pudding. And the pudding is our own life and immediate experiences, in this eternal present.

Explorations and goals together

Exploration and goals go together, beautifully.

The primary goal may be the exploration process itself, as it shows up in the present. Really, it just is as it is and we can put the label "exploration process" onto it.

And within this exploration process are secondary goals which we may temporarily adopt as human beings. These include goals such as education. Starting and caring for a family. Developing and maturing as a human being. Awakening further to the nature of what is. Realizing selflessness. Exploring my human life in the context of selflessness. And so on.

There are no lack of goals, in any area of life, and they all add to the richness of the overall exploration process. They are one of the ways God explores itself, in its infinite potential.

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Soul

I came across an unpublished paper on integral psychology, and it dealt significantly with what is variously called the soul, psychic center, magnetic center (Gurdjieff), authentic self (Andrew Cohen) etc. This refers to that part of us that goes on before, during and after the life of our human (physical) self. In other words, it is the middle ground between our human self and Big Mind. And when we connect with more, it brings a great sense of fullness, meaning and richness to our life. It brings a soulful life.

This is something that was very alive for me when I lived in Norway - in my experience and discernment of what was happening, along with the divine mind (Big Mind) and my human self. And it did bring a tremendous sense of fullness, meaning and richness to my life.

As I got into more serious Zen practice, this level faded in the background. It is not much addressed in Zen, and so got left out of my own view and attention as well. And while this did help me explore Big Mind and the relationship between Big Mind and my human self, it also did leave out an important level and source of fulfillment and soulfulness.

It is a reminder of how any tradition and practice tends to emphasize some aspects of the terrain, and de-emphasize or leave out other aspects. And for me, it is a reminder of taking my own experience most seriously - even those parts not addressed by whatever framework or practice I am currently exploring.

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Realizing Selflessness Continuum

There seems to be a "realizing selflessness" continuum, with no obvious start or end.

Self-organization as early sense of self

At one end of the spectrum, there is the early awareness alive in simple organisms, maybe down to single-celled organisms. Here, there is a vague sense of self expressed through self-organization on a physical level.

Growing awareness of self

In more complex organisms, there is a more awake sense of self, as seen in for instance reptiles and mammals.

In even more complex organisms, such as some mammals, there is a self-aware sense of self. We know that we are a separate individual, and know that we know.

In our individual development as human beings, there is a similar process going on. We start as an organism where the biological self-organizing processes reflects a sense of self, although it is not self-aware. Then, during the first weeks and months after birth, we learn to more consciously distinguish ourselves, as an individual, from the surroundings. And as we grow up, we learn to develop as this particular individual, we individualize and mature into this individualization.

Glimpse of selflessness

Up to this point, the task is to develop and mature into a sense of self. To learn how to function as an individual in the world of form. To learn how to use this vehicle and instrument in the world.

Then, there may be a glimpse of selflessness. This could come out of the blue or it could be preceded by some spiritual practice.

Here, we realize that "I" am not this human self.

We may find ourselves as pure witness, as the seer of it all.

Or we may realize that there is no "I" anywhere in all of this, not as this human self, not as seeing, not anywhere. The content may be the same as before, but now with no "I" anywhere. No segment of all this has an inherent I in it. This is the divine mind waking up to its own nature, or God's Mind, Buddha Mind, Big Mind, Brahman, Tao etc.

This human self is just the whole temporarily acting through and as a human self. There is only the doing, and no individual doer. Everything is just happening.

If this is a glimpse, which it seems to be in most cases, then it will be clouded over again by our habitual sense of separate I. And this seems to just be part of the process.

We need time to allow our human self to realign from a sense of separate I to a realization of selflessness. In some ways, it functions the same in both contexts, but in other ways it functions quite differently (less reactive). And our human self needs time to realign, which one or more glimpses allows it to do. It allows for a more gentle and organic process.

Clear if look

As we become more familiar with selflessness, thorough glimpses and/or inquiry, it gradually becomes more clear when we look. There may still be a habitual sense of separate I there, and it may at times take over. But selflessness is readily noticeable when we look for it. This gives a sense of transparency to our lives, and is a middle ground between unquestioned belief in a separate I and a popped realization of selflessness.

Popped realization of selflessness

At some point, there may be a shift where the realization of selflessness pops. It becomes completely clear, obvious, with no need to look for it.

Where the realization of selflessness was absent or in the background, it is now completely in the foreground. And this is at the same time an awakening to the ground which the whole world of phenomena arises from and as. It is the divine mind awakening to its own nature.

This popped realization of selflessness may also come first as a glimpse, or stay around for just some weeks or months. Then it may fade and the habitual sense of a separate self comes back. And this too seems to be part of the organic process of realization. Our human self still needs to realign more, and this allows for a more gradual process.

Eventually, this popped realization of selflessness may become stable and even continue to deepen.

Reorientation

Throughout all of these phases, there is a continuing reorientation of our human self. First, to consciousness of itself as separate from the rest of the world. Then, to the realization of selflessness.

And this realignment to selflessness may continue from the first glimpses of selflessness to long after it has popped. Residue from our previous sense of being a separate I continues to be worked on and realigned with this new context of selflessness.

There is a continuing maturing into it, and a continuing maturing of our human self within the realization of selflessness. The continuing exploration of how to live from this new context. The continuing development of skills in many areas of life.

It is an infinite process of exploration and unfoldment. Of God exploring itself.

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Ground: Foreground & Background

From talking with people and my own (limited) experience, it seems that the ground can show up in a few different ways.

This is the groundless ground, that which everything happens from and as. It is the divine mind, God's mind, Buddha Mind, Big Mind - itself distinct from any characteristics yet always manifesting in new and fresh ways as the innumerable forms of the present. It is emptiness dancing.

Foreground

When the ground is in the foreground, it is obvious. Everything is obviously ground manifesting, the divine mind, emptiness dancing. There is no need to look for it. It is obviously there, in the foreground. This is where the realization of selflessness pops into the foreground as well. It is completely effortless. Just the divine mind effortlessly realizing its own nature.

This brings a release from suffering. There is an intimacy with all phenomena from the absence of I and Other. There is doing, yet no separate doer. The activities of our human self are clearly and obviously revealed as the spontaneous activities of the divine mind.

Background

The ground can be in the background in at least two ways.

:: Realized but not popped ::

For me right now, it is there when I look. It is clear when there is a noticing of it, as selflessness is clear when it is noticed. But it is still more in the background most of the time. It even allows for temporary exclusive identifications with my human self and its contractions, although these tend to be more short lived and transparent.

This is a middle ground. Our habitual sense of an I is still there, and sometimes clouds over the realization of selflessness. The realization is also there, although not yet complete. It has not yet popped. We are at the other shore, but go back and forth between stepping on the shore and staying in the familiar boat. The sense of importance is sometimes placed on content, and sometimes on ground and content equally.

:: Not realized and unimportant ::

If there has been no discovery or realization of selflessness, then the ground shows up as background in a different way. It is still there, but is seen as completely other, as an irrelevant background. The (back)ground has little or no importance, and the content has all the importance.

I and Other

So one way of looking at it is through the lens of I and Other.

When the ground (and selflessness) has not been realized, it is completely Other and irrelevant. When it is realized to some extent, it shifts between being I and Other. And when it pops, it goes beyond I and Other - it just is, as all there is.

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Inner and Outer Integrations

With our abundance of traditions, approaches, techniques etc. for exploring ourselves (as individuals and Big Mind), there is a natural integration that takes place as well. Maybe not in terms of changing each approach, but at least in terms of the cross-training they talk about in integral life (transformative) practice. We engage in several different practices, since they each have their area of focus and leave something else out. And this takes place both in terms of integral practice, and also over time - something is helpful at one period of our life, and other approaches at other times.

And this exploration takes place on both individual and collective levels.

Streams meeting

For instance, I got into Ken Wilber's framework in my teens, a few years before living at Kanzeon Zen Center, and then learning the Big Mind process developed some year later. Since then, I discovered Waking Down in Mutuality and (apparently? possibly?) went through the second birth some weeks later.

A little later, Genpo Roshi got involved with the Integral Institute and Ken Wilber, and Big Mind met the integral approach. Today, I found an email in my inbox from Genpo Roshi recommending Saniel Bonder's latest audio publication, and indirectly the Waking Down approach.

So what I had explored on an individual level later became connected on an outer and more collective level. I am still waiting for the Universe Story, Process Work, Byron Katie's inquiries, and Breema to be included! :)

Ways of meeting

I can think of three ways this type of cross-fertilization take place.

One is in our own integral practice. I do some sitting practice, some Big Mind, some shadow work, some inquiry, some Breema, and so on, and although each approach retain their integrity they cross fertilize in my being. Each one remains as they are, yet cross fertilize through our integral practice.

Another is how each of these approaches may organically change through this cross fertilization. A Big Mind instructor may also have experience with Process Work, find something valuable in process work to integrate in the Big Mind process, and this may gradually transform how the Big Mind process is done. Or a Process Work trainer may learn the Big Mind process, pick up useful aspects of that approach, and integrate that in how she or he does and teaches Process Work.

And yet another form of cross-fertilization may be the most risky and least organic. This is to have an idea of creating a hybrid out of two or more distinct practices. In doing this, the unique contributions of each may get watered down or lost.

Saturday, March 25, 2006 |

Contractions There, But Not Able to Believe in Them

I talked with Jen again about her experience of the Witness arising regularly throughout the day. The belief in the story of "I" is gone, and everything is just experienced as they are - without this overlay, and without any need to create stories to fit experiences and situations in with the story of "I". It is very simple. And when it is present, there is often a surprise of not having seen this so clearly before.

And even when this context of selflessness is not there so clearly and we go into our habitual stories and contractions, we cannot really believe in them any more. The stories and contractions are there, and we may even get caught up in them again, but cannot take them very seriously any more. They loose their reality. And even in this situation, we can shift into - or at least shift into a taste - of selflessness more easily.

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Advice for Myself

An impulse arises in me in the form of a should...

It may initially appear to be for someone else. It may be triggered by what someone else is doing. It may look like something they should change.

I notice that when I take it as being for someone else, it typically creates frustration, irritation, anger, hopelessness, and sense of separation. I try to place the gift of the impusle on someone else, and that does not work.

But when instead I apply the advice to my own life, I typically find a sense of relief - and an opening into a new clarity, depth, fullness, completeness, satisfaction and nourishment.

Intensive

This came up during the intensive this last week. Several times, I had various impulses coming up in me while listening to the instructors. Usually in the form of he should speak more accurately, he shouldn't use such broad strokes without including some differentiation, he shouldn't talk down to the students, and so on.

If I see the advice as being for him, it only brings frustration and dissatisfaction. But if I apply the advice to myself, it brings a tremendous sense of relief - and of clarity, interest and insights. It allows me to explore how it could be said with more accuracy, more differentiation, more trust in the students.

Advice for myself

The impulse seems to come from life inviting me to find a deepening maturity as a human being. If I apply the gift to someone else, it does not work. But if I apply it to myself, it brings tremendous nourishment.

I find that the Byron Katie inquiry is a tremendous help in exploring this and turning it around.

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Heart Prayer

The Heart Prayer was very alive for me some years back, and is now coming back more.

The basic form is simple: Come to the breath and/or the heartbeat, and say a simple prayer in the rythm of the breath and/or the heart.

The words can be...

Thank you, thank you, thank you - to open for gratitude for life, allowing an atmosphere of gratitude to permeate our life, where all of life's experiences are included.

Or more traditionally, Lord Jesus Christ (on the inbreath), have mercy on me (on the outbreath) - to open for a connection with the divine in the form of Christ and allow it to to work on our human self. The inbreath is the ascending, the inviting in. The outbreath is the decending, the surrender and letting go.

In any case, this invites an atmosphere...

of prayerfullness which awakens and enlivens the heart.

of receptivity to life, as it is.

of surrender to the divine and to life as it shows up in the present.

which - after just a few days - tends to continue throughout the day and even through sleep.

that works on our human life. Our human life soaks in it - realigns, knots unravel, we find a deepening peace with what is, and so on.

Thursday, March 23, 2006 |

Individuation

Our human life is a process of deepening into our human self. Of exploring it, familiarize with it, allow it to mature, of getting to know it as a vehicle in the world of phenomena.

This is a proces of individuation. Of exploring the repertoire of this particular human self, its flavors, its quirks, its strenghts and weaknesses, and so on.

At the same time, we explore the universally human through this one vehicle. We can grow in realization of how all of these processes are universally human, expressed in unique ways through this particular human self.

And through this, we can also see that there is no "I" anywhere in all of this. It is all just happening. It is the whole of Existence temporarily acting through and as this particular human self. It is all unfolding within space and awareness, as a patch of the infinitely larger tapestry of the world of phenomena.

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Personal & Universal

When I identify exclusively with a part of my human self, I make it appear very personal and private. I am these parts of my human self and it is personal and private, and those belong to the rest of the world of phenomena, and they are not.

As this identification falls away or becomes more inclusive, the same part now appears less private and maybe even universal. What seemed very private and very much about me is now revealed as universally human, now temporarily expressed and coming alive in this particular human self.

Inquiry

I notice this pattern from the Byron Katie inquiry process. First, thoughts and issues may appear intensely personal and private, to the point of not wanting to reveal it to others or even admit their existence to myself. As I explore and inquire into these beliefs, I see that not only are the thoughts universally human, but what comes out of a belief in them is also universally human. It is not about "me" at all, although it comes alive in this life right now.

Big Mind process

The same seems to happen through the Big Mind process. First, there may be a strong attachment or repulsion to certain voices, and the whole situations seem very personal, private and vulnerable. Then, as I get to explore these and other voices and see how the dynamics play themselves out in myself and others, I see that it is all universally human. It may play itself out in this human life in a particular way right now, but it is also universally human. It is an integral part of human life.

Release

Seeing it as universal helps me find some distance to it. I don't have to identify so closely with it anymore. I don't have to struggle with it, through pushing it away and holding onto it. I can allow it to come and go as guests, living its own life. There is room for that too, in the rich tapestry of human life. It is just part of the landscape.

Expanded or no identification

Through expanded and more inclusive identification, it becomes part of a much wider landscape of "I". This is F6 through F8 in Ken Wilber's framework. Or it is simply part of a landscape with no "I" anywhere, when selflessness is realized. Nondual awakening.

Personal and universal

So whatever is happening is revealed as very personal, happening and unfolding in this human life right now. And at the same time, it is revealed as universal, as a shared dynamic in human lives at the current phase in our evolution. They are universally human patterns coming to life in this life right now, with their own unique flavors.

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The Last Shall Be The First

Big Mind awakening to itself

No human being has ever awakened. Human beings are just temporary vortexes of matter and energy in the world of phenomena, pulled by a million strings. They are just the local expressions of the movement of the whole.

Any awakening is only Big Mind (God, Buddha Mind, Brahman) awakening to itself, to its own nature of being beyond and including all polarities, and temporarily functioning through a human self.

To others who are still identified with their human self, it appears as if a human being awakening. But it is really just Big Mind awakening to itself, through a human self.

The last shall be the first

These human selves mature, develop, evolve, along with the rest of the Earth and the Universe. They share many patterns and characteristics, although each one has unique patterns and flavors as well.

I have often thought that the New Testament saying of the last shall be the first (Matt 10:31, Matt 19:30, Matt 20:16, Luke 13:30) can be seen in this light.

For those human selves who experience much before an awakening, there is more material to include and bake into the life following awakening. And for those awakening earlier, there is less material to include. So the last shall be the first.

This is of course only partly valid, at best. The maturing, development and deepening of the human self goes on before and after an awakening to selflessness, so it may not make such a difference.

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Nostalgia for Samsara

The dream this morning reminded me again of nostalgia for samsara.

It seems that this nostalgia is healthy in a way, it may help with exploring the fullness of the realization of no "I".

Sense of I

First, there is a belief in "I". There is a very real sense of I as my human self and/or awareness, and there is a sense of intimacy and fullness in it. There is also, of course, the I-Other dynamic and all that brings with it, such as sense of drama, anxiety, blind likes and dislikes, anger, depression, alienation, separation, and much more.

Early glimpses or realization of selflessness

Then, there is a glimpse or realization of no "I". In the beginning, or from the glimpse, it may appear cold. It does have a completely impersonal aspect to it, and since this what is most unusual to us at first, it may overshadow the other end of the polarity. We see the impersonal and detached aspect of it, and there may be a sense of loss of the intimacy and personal we were familiar with previously. And this may very well bring up some hesitation and fear (I know it does for me).

So we may go back to our familiar sense of I for a while, and then maybe back to realizing or glimpsing selflessness, and so on. We wash up on the shore of selflessness, and then the tide and waves brings us back into familiar waters again. Or - as I experience it, I am in the boat near the other shore, and sometimes step onto the beach and sometimes step back into the boat.

Acclimatization

Gradually, through this process of familiarization and acclimatization, we may come to see that the detachment and impersonal is just one aspect of selflessness. It is the transcend part of the transcend and include. But there is also very much the include.

There is still this human self there, still the rest of the universe, in all its fullness. And it is no less intimate than before. In fact, it is even more intimate in a certain way. There is no sense of I, so no resistance to any other. Everything is fully experienced, with no holding onto or pushing it away. Everything now is intimate. The universe is intimate. And everything is in a sense deeply personal as well.

The content of experiences did not change much - there is still this human self with all its qualities and characteristics, and there is still this universe. But the context changed, from a sense of "I" somewhere in all of this, to a realization of no "I" inherent in any of it. That is really the only shift. So the intimacy is still there, the personal is still there - although where it used to include only our human self, now nothing is left out.

Liberation and fullness

There is a liberation from the belief in I and exclusive identification with segments of what is. And there is the fullness and intimacy of life, as it arises when there is no resistance.

Our human self is now free to mature, grow, realign and deepen within this new context.

Nostaliga for samsara

So nostaliga for samsara may be a helpful impulse in this process, a guide for exporing the terrain of selflessness in more of its depth and richness. It allows us to include the sense of fullness, intimacy and the personal that was there before, although now in a new context - of selflessness.

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Dream

I died, but am still around.

Others can see, hear and touch me, and I can see, hear and touch them, so the interactions are much as before. The main difference is that we all appreciate the preciousness of life and our connections much more, and are closer and more loving.

Still, we are all a little puzzled by what happened. I have the appearance of my usual body, and function similar to before, but am also obviously dead. Others want to know what advice I have for them, and all I can find is to live life too the fullest while the opportunity is here, without too many worries. To experience the fullness of life, while it is here.

There is also a sense of a process. The death had happened, yet is also in process. A process of bringing it to completion.

This is a very interesting dream to me, and two things comes up.

This reflects the realization of selflessness. I died to any sense of separate I, but was still around and functioning as before. The dream seems to show that this has already happened. There has been a clear enough seeing of the absence of "I", for instance during the weeks last fall when it "popped", and there is also a process of allowing everything to soak in it allowing it to take effect.

A minor aspect is the sense of deadening which came through the dark night phase. This seems to be at its tail end, fluctuating more with a familiar sense of fullness and excitement. From being in this dryness and flatness, there is a desire for a fuller and deeper sense of aliveness and an appreciation for life and sense of preciousness of life.

Active imagination following the dream brought up a process of becoming nothing, so that what is (life, Existence, God, Buddha Mind, Brahman) can become everything. This is very similar to the meet the symptom maker experiment mentioned in a previous post.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006 |

Judgment & Contractions

Over the last few days, I have had an opportunity to explore judgment and contractions.

When there is a judgment, there is an identification with a particular thought, idea, view and position.

From the wide field of what is - all phenomena arising in the present and unfolding within awareness, there is an identification with only a small part of all this, a particular idea, and this is naturally experienced as a contraction and as rigid and exclusive. It sets up an I-Other dynamic within this field, with all that brings with it.

Now, there is a position, view and story to defend - with corresponding fear, frustration, anxiety and so on. And there is also a sense of alienation and seperation. All this brings the potential for a great deal of suffering.

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Freedom & Direction

Among the many topics that has come up for me over the last days, during our intensive, is that of freedom and direction.

These topics usually come up when the words of the teacher appears less inclusive than my own experience - when they are used to paint very broadly (and there is an impulse for more differentiation coming up here), or when they are used for effect - srtrongly emphasizing one side and leaving out other. So even that is helpful to me, as it encourages me to go to my own experience to see what is alive there.

So one topic then is that of awareness and seeking awareness. This has been a thread throughout the intensive, and what then comes up for me is the other side.

Awareness and sleep, awakening and delusion, are both expressions of life. They are ways God is exploring itself, lila. Both are OK. Both are good. Both are God. This is the absolute take on it, and gives a sense of liberation and freedom. At this level, there is no preference for one over the other. When I find myself as headless, as Big Mind, as Witness, etc. this taste of the completion of the present comes alive.

At the same time, our human self certainly has a preference (at least this one does). Delusion leads to suffering, and awakening to liberation from suffering, so my human self naturally seeks one and not the other.

Together, there is the freedom of the taste of completion of the present, and the movements and directions of the preferences of my human self.

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Meet the Symptom Maker

At the Portland airport on the way to the Bay area, I read a book on relationships from a Process Work perspective, and did a "meet the symptom maker" experiment there and then.

The symptom which is most alive for me is fatigue so I decided to explore that.

I can see the energy being sucked out of my human self, drawn out and down. I see how it is all drawn out, every little bit of what is there, until nothing is left. There is just emptiness.

Exploring that nothingness, I see how there is clarity in that nothingness. Clarity, and capacity for the whole world. There is no "I" to resist anything. No "I" to set anything apart from anything else. No "I" to make anything into something fixed or separate. It is just the play of God, the fluid play and manifestations of whole field of what is.

I become nothing. God is all. Or rather, the idea (and sense) of I drops away, and the seamless field of what is - arising outside and inside of my human self - appears as it is.

I see how this symptom maker appears as a demon to my human self, but is really a very skillful bodhisattva. This face of a demon is one of the infinite and temporary faces of Buddha Mind.

This process was very powerful to me. I have had a sense of this going on previously, but it was still a surprise when it happened. And it did definitely help me find another relationship to the fatigue. Now, it may be a little easier to welcome it when it is there. To be with it. To befriend it. To see it as not separate, as just another manifestation of life, the universe, God, Spirit. And a helpful one even. It is all just a part of the infinitely larger process of life, of the universe, of the body of God.

I also see how resisting it is to resist this process of becoming nothing. And then the current phase of the process predictably persists, or comes back in other forms.

In every way, it makes sense to surrender to it. To put myself under its influence. To allow resistance to fall away. To be with it, and to be it. To throw myself into the experience of the fatigue when it is there. To allow it to unfold within awareness on its own.

And of course, this particular meeting the symptom maker process just scratched the surface. There is a lot more there that can be explored as needed.

Of course, all of this relates to the meaning dimension of the symptom. That still leaves room for exploring it from any other angle as well, including diet, exercise, bodyoriented practices, kundalini yoga (which I have found helpful recently), relationships, and just noticing it as one of the many fluid phenomena arising in the present.

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This Blog

I talked with a friend of mine last week about blogging.

For me, it is a way to get the various stories and apparent insights out. To help me see them, explore them, and then let them go. Without driving people crazy with having to listen to obsessive ramblings, innumerable repetitions, half-baked insights, reformulations of what has been said thousands of times before by others - and in much clearer ways, and so on.

At the same time, knowing that some innocent internet explorers may happen on this blog adds something to it. It helps me stay more sincere, and it also adds the element of surprise to it. Who knows what responses others may have to it, and if they respond through comments or via email, something interesting may come out of it as well. Or not, and that is also OK.

I can't help to also imagine that this may have some historical interest. This blog is one ininitesmally tiny strand in the tapestry of a more integral spirituality emerging in the global culture today. It is one story of an average guy exploring the existence in a mediocre way, and that in itself may be of interest.

I know I am as or more interested in the experiences and interests of average and ordinary folks, rather than the obviously exceptional ones. It gives a richness and fullness to the picture. It allows for recognition, for seeing our shared humanity.

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Witness

I just talked with Jen on the phone as I am in Berkeley/Oakland for 10 days.

She mentioned that over the last two or three days, the Witness state arises regularly throughout the day. There is just pure seeing and witnessing, and that is all. No traces, no story.

There is no story of Jennifer, so no need to create stories about how different events fit into the story of Jennifer. No need to create stories to make Jennifer look good, and so on.

There is just all the phenomena arising - inside and outside of the human self. They come and go as guests, leaving no trace (apart from maybe a neutral memory which can be accessed later if need be).

We also talked about how we both saw the same patter arise in us: first the the thought this is the effect of the deekshsa! (she went to a deeksha even this Sunday) and then the release of who knows and it doesn't really matter.

She also mentioned how it is completely effortless, and no attachment to the state nor any of the content.

Saturday, March 18, 2006 |

Grow In The Shadow

An analogy I heard today: We can face the sun (awakening) or the shadow (delusion), but some things need to grow in the shadow.

I am not sure if the analogy itself does much for me, as even the facing one way or another seems too much of a separation between the two. Awakening is maybe more an awakening to the whole field of sun, person, shadow and ground any anything else.

But the statement "something has to grow in the shadow" resonated with me. It points to the exploration process involved in both delusion and awakening - where only the flavor that is different. God is exploring itself in one case through the belief in an I and in the other case through realizing no I (allowing the belief in the idea of I, and any other ideas, to fall away).

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Unravelling

So I did end up going to the training (mentioned in previous posts) after all, after some phone conversations and with some trepidation. And it has definetely helped it to clear up.

I see how attached my personality is to have it a certain way, and how blinded I can become if I believe in it.

For instance, earlier today one of the teachers talked about thoughts and ideas in a relatively one-sided way, as if thoughts and ideas themselves were a problem and exlusively a problem.

For me, they are completely neutral in themselves (apart from adding to the richness of human life) and the belief in them makes all the difference. If there is a belief in a thought, any thought, then we are setting it up for suffering. Any idea, thought, insight and so on is limited, and life will always - at some point- show up differently. So if there is a belief in - attachment to - this idea, thought, insight, then there will be suffering. If there is no belief in the thought, idea, insight, then it just becomes a useful and practical tool for navigating in the world, for communication, for exploration into discernment.

In this case, having a belief or expectation that the teacher should always talk about these things in an inclusive and balanced way, it triggered something in me. My personality was not happy with it. But in the supportive atmoshpere, I also saw more clearly how completely silly it is to have this belief, attachment and expectation. When I believe this, or any other thought or idea, I am in effect telling Existence how to show up. And it is unaffected and manifests on its own anyway.

So just seeing this more clearly, in a supportive atmosphere, allowed this to (begin to) unravel - and just leave the clear & aware space which is always there, although sometimes hidden behind the drama of believing in thoughts.

Thursday, March 16, 2006 |

Fluidity & Timing

The whole world of phenomena is process and flow, and so also the content of our experiences.

This week, they have gone the range from fatigue to energy, despair to hope, distress to equanimity, dryness to excitement, grief to joy, and more. And it is of course completely fluid. Nothing sticks. There is one experience, then another.

Another issue is their timing and the preferences of our human self. Sometimes, we wish some experiences would pass faster. Other times, we wish they would stick around a little longer.

And that too is part of the flow of the content.

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Courage

I facilitated another Big Mind process today, and this time made a point out of following the process closely - to not have a particular and fixed plan in advance, but follow what came up in each voice and where the process went on its own. There was a great sense of fluidity, and the processee seemed to really enjoy it and find some clarity from it as well.

As usual, there are parallel processes. One is the facilitation. Another is connection with what is going on for her, where she is at. And yet another, what is going on for me.

Courage

When we talked with the voice of courage, I noticed how that has been a relatively dormant voice for me over the "dark night" phase, and how many other voices has been enlisted to take the place of courage - to make courage apparently not needed.

I also see how courage is a big part of the five element acupuncture treatments I have received. They work on mind, body and spirit levels, and the spirit level - as far as I understand - has to do with courage to go forth. And that is what has often been missing for me recently.

During the process, it also became clear how courage has to do with the heart.

The root of courage is the latin cor, which means of the heart. The Chinese characters for courage apparently means strength. So one way of looking at courage is strength of heart or strength of spirit.

We went from the voice of fear (clarifying how it could have a more limited and well defined role and leave some of the protection to other voices), to the voice of courage, to Big Heart, and it was a very natural process. Big Heart is one of the ways to connect with courage, one of the ways to bring it into our lives.

Deeksha

Lately, the only thing that really brings up a spark in me is the thought of going to India for the 21 day deeksha process, and I can do it - I have the physical opportunity to do it now. The only thing that is lacking is courage. Courage to embark on the journey, to spend the money for it, to throw myself into the completely unknown - not having any certainty of what will happen, and courage to actually go out there and give deekshas afterwards. Courage, courage, courage.

My Zen dharma name is great courage, so I guess that is appropriate. I was told in advance that the dharma name may reflect our greatest potential and our greatest weakness (which is often one and the same), and that seems right on in this case.

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Exchanging Stories

When something does not make sense, we can exchange one story for another.

I see that tendency for myself, related to the situations mentioned in the previous postings.

There is a group I am involved in, and some of their strategies does not make sense to me. They seem out of place in our culture.

Unacceptable story

One story is that it all comes out of culture clash, of accepting strategies appropriate to another culture but not so helpful in this.

The big problem here is that this story makes the main teacher appear not so receptive and skillful, and the senior folks servile.

Since I want to maintain my high regard of them all (which is sincere and genuine), I choose to disregard this story, or at least put it on the back burner.

Acceptable story

An acceptable story, although it is a little bit of a stretch, is to see it all as aimed to trigger things in the students. They do things which appear unreasonable and less appropriate in this culture, so that their students have an opportunity to explore and eventually find some peace with their buttons and hangups.

Gurdijeff apparently was a proponent of this approach. Once, a student who regularly pissed everyone else off decided to leave his center. And Gurdijeff ran after him and begged him to stay, exactly because he pissed people off.

It is a perfectly valid strategy. It is important, essential, to see these hangups - these really arbitrary preferences of the personality, and find peace with them. Allow them to resolve. Allow them into awareness.

The one flaw in this story is that life itself provides us with ample opportunities to see our buttons and hangups. Every day, there is typically something that pushes our buttons, and gives us an opportunity to bring the button and the process into awareness. There is really no need to add to it. There is plenty of material as it is.

Inadequacy of stories

Then, of course, the inadequacies of stories in general becomes apparent.

They are all just stories. Just maps. Limited, of only temporary helpfulness. Always less than and different from the world.

And trying to exchange stress producing stories with peace inducing ones is stressful in itself. It doesn't really work. It requires constant upkeep, and even then the original stress inducing stories continue to lie in the background and slip out as soon as we don't pay attention.

No belief in stories

The only solution is to allow the belief in the stories to fall away. The stories themselves won't, at least not on command. But beliefs can erode, through inquiry.

And they do.

The stories are still there, as a transparent overlay - some of which helps us in a very practical way to navigating in the world. But they are seen as just that, an overlay of stories. Nothing to take too seriously, nothing to believe in.

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Small Issues & Big Problems

A post - as many of the recent ones, to help me identify my stories.

These stories reflect the temporary preferences and attachments of this personality. By writing them down I can see them and move beyond, by coming to that part of me that is free from any stories. And inquiry is just one of many ways to invite that shift.

I see that for any set of data, there is an infinite number of stories which fit, and these are just a few possible ones.

I also see that these stories are just the ramblings of an attached mind.

As always, the advice may appear to be for someone else - taking the form of blame, but is always really for myself - a signpost for where my own process is taking me, what something in me wants me to see in myself and learn for myself.

The impulse may appear as "they should be more precise in their wording", while the real advice is "I should be more precise in my wording, including in my inner talk". It may appear as "they should be more transparent", while the real advice is "I should be more transparent, more sincere, especially towards myself".

In the last few posts, there are several examples of small issues - really insignificant ones, which turn into big problems. And they do so mainly due to various strategies which may not be appropriate to the culture or the situation they are applied in.

Emphasizing differences

One example is the strong emphasis on how very different this particular approach is from any other.

Before I was told this, this whole theme was very far from my mind. I just enjoyed exploring the process, following the guidelines and see what happened. And what happened for me was apparently very similar to what happened for others. And it was good.

But after this had been emphasized so strongly, and it was made especially clear that it was very different from what I had explored in the past, it created a big problem for me. I could see how my experiences with it was obviously very similar to what I have experienced with other practices in the past, so according to what I was told, I was suddenly on a wrong track. Even if others reported experiences very similar with -and for all practical purposed identical to - what happened for me.

So an example of a strategy that made a previous non-issue into a big problem.

Deception

Another example is that of the origin story of this particular approach.

Initially, there was a very brief and simple origin story. It mainly just told its geographical origin and not much more. And this story was used in their own publications and spread throughout the internet, found on a significant number of sites.

Then, they decided to deny even the existence of this story. The intention behind it was good and appropriate - to reduce the material people can mythologize with, but the strategy backfired. It created an atmosphere of deception which people naturally react against, with bewilderment, confusion, frustration, anger and sometimes rejection.

Again, an example of a strategy which makes a minor (and apparently easily resolved) issue into a major problem.

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Cultural Differences

Another rambling to help me identify my stories and attachments, my temporary stuckness. And as always, the advice may appear as for someone else - they, but is really for myself. When that is more resolved, and there still appears to be something to do about it in the outer world, I am able to do that in a more effective and less reactive way.

With what happened over the last couple of days, I can't help creating stories about cultural differences as well.

The practice is brought to the west by a non-westerner, and the origins of both are non-western as well. So there is most likely a good deal of cultural baggage there, maybe not so much in the practices as in the structure of the organization.

The early eastern teachers and gurus coming to the US comes to mind. They grew up and were trained in a particular culture, and knew very well how to navigate and function in that setting. But coming to the west, there was a clash in many different areas which had different forms of fallout, from minor annoyances to complete crash & burn.

Many of these problems were created through expectation from the teacher. Expectations reasonable in their own culture, but a time-bomb in the west: Unquestioned allegiance to authority. His (because they were mostly men) authority to make decisions in many areas of the life of their students. Taboos, secrecy and in-groups. No questioning of the decisions or behavior of the teacher and (sometimes) other senior folks. And so on.

All of these seem apparent in this situation as well. There is clearly a main teacher, a guru, although they often create a public appearance of an egalitarian and democratic structure. This teacher has full authority and his decisions does not appear to be questioned. He gives advice to his students about decisions in their lives not related specifically to the spiritual practice (work, relationships, studies and so on), and sometimes tell people to leave if they don't follow the advice. There is a strong in-group. There is a great deal of secrecy. There are several taboo areas which students are not supposed to bring up or question.

Maybe it can be summarized in a few words: Authoritarian (patriarchal) and opaque. And this naturally means trouble in a culture that is used to, comfortable with and strongly support democracy, a more egalitarian approach, and transparency.

Limited authority

In our western culture, people generally will not accept secrecy, nor unquestioned authority. We know far too well what that can bring about.

Of course, there is a natural authority in terms of the spiritual experiences of a long-term practitioner and teacher. And this needs to be honored. But that does not mean that this authority extends to other areas, such as how the organization is run, how the students are to live their lives when not at the center, and so on.

There is a natural hierarchy in terms of the spiritual maturity, but an equally natural - in the west at least - democracy and system of checks and balances in the organization.

Example

And then an example of how silly this can appear in real life. The internet and early books about this particular form of bodywork are abundant with a (brief) story about its origins. It is out there, including in their own publications. Still, the official policy is for anyone involved to not acknowledge this story at all, even if directly asked about it.

The reasoning is apparently that this very brief origin story would make people get caught up in the mythology around it. I can completely see the validity in that concern, and the need to take that into account in how they talk about it. Some discernment is clearly in place.

But if the solution is to suddenly deny even the existence of the previous story, then that is a solution that creates far more problems than it is meant to solve. It may work well in authoritarian cultures where you are not expected to question authority, but in the west, it is bound to backfire. And it does, as I have seen again and again in this particular case. In our culture, we tend to get very suspicious of secrecies and deception, we want to know the truth, we want transparency, and in case of apparent deception people typically react with frustration and sometimes with anger and rejection.

Another solution, which seems much more reasonable to me, is to acknowledge the (very brief) original story - just mention where it comes from, and leave it at that. For the vast majority of people, that would be completely satisfactory. It would allow people peace of mind, and not give reason for trying to mythologize around it. If that is all that is said, and nobody knows anything more, then there is really no material to mythologize with. It would be simple, easy, transparent, and appropriate to the western mentality.

But if there is a taboo around bringing this issue up, which there seems to be, then this can never be discussed openly. People cannot voice their concerns or bewilderment over it, and there is little or no opportunity for this policy to be adjusted to be a little more aligned with the culture and expectations of the people meeting it.

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Creating a (fixed) World(view)

Yesterday, the rug was pulled out from under my feet and my usual orientations went away.

Then later in the day, and this morning, I can see the tendency of wanting to create order out of it again. To reorganize it all into a particular, coherent and relatively fixed story and view.

This is of course needed for purely practical purposes, to navigate the world. Without it, we are aimless and nonfunctional.

On the other hand, if we actually believe in the story, then it becomes just another way to find "truth" in a particular view and abstraction. It creates an identity as a segment of what is. It is a contraction, a limitation, a narrowing, which is not aligned with the inclusiveness and fluidity of what is, and thus brings up suffering.

So having the rug pulled out is a great blessing in a certain way. It allows us to see our attachments, or narrowness, where we are less inclusive than life, existence, the universe, God, what is.

The story

I see my attempts to create a coherent story out of it, one that (a) makes me right and the others wrong, while (b) makes me appear humble, insightful and receptive. One that is aligned with the data, making me appear right, and making me appear humble and receptive.

So one story is:

  1. My experiences with this particular practice appears very similar to what others report, I would say just about identical.

  2. At the same time, these experiences are very similar - again I would say just about identical, to what I have experienced in the past with a variety of other approaches.

  3. And I am told, in no uncertain ways, that this is completely different from anything else.

  4. So what to do? If can trust my experiences and report them as they are. In this case, they they are indeed very similar to what I have experienced with other practices in the past, which would appear to make them (the people telling me it is different) wrong. If I don't trust my experiences, I am not sincere with what is alive in the present.
Of course, this story seems very convincing. I can actually not find any part of it that appears incorrect. At the same time, I know it is just a story. It is one of an infinite number of possible stories which each would fit the data about equally well, although I may not currently be aware of many - or maybe any one - of them.

And then there are of course supporting stories, such as lack of communication, that I am unfairly treated for being booted out of the training because of this, and so on. Each of these also appear convincing, but are just a small selection of the many possible views which also fit the data. And distinct from these stories is what is, which is just what it is independent of any story.

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Knot

Just some rambling to help me see my own patterns and where I am stuck. For sure, it says something about own stuckness. And there may also be other things to learn from it as well.

For the last few months, I have had weekly phone conversations related to an early westernized form of some eastern practices. I did it partly because I am always interested in exploring new approaches, and partly because it is tied to another practice I am engaged in which I have found deeply rewarding.

Early on in the phone conversations with my designated contact person, it became apparent that the interactions between us left something to desire - but I decided to keep going although the knot only became more complex as we went on.

Some rambling notes about my experiences with it...

  • Sometimes, I brought up specific oncerns with the aim of finding a resolution for myself. And a typical response was "what happens if you come to your breath?". My sense was that it was taboo to address the content of certain concerns.

  • I was told that it was completely different from anything else, and particularly different from zen since I happened to mentioned that I had done some of that in the past. I was looking for something different, since that offers something else to explore and discover, so that itself was fine with me.

    The problem came when my experiences with the bodywork and this practice, from the beginning, were very much similar to my experiences with zen and other practices. On the one hand, I had my immediate and quite clear experiences, which appeared very similar to what others reported (I would say just about the same). On the other hand, I was told it was supposed to be very different. So what to do? It was a double-bind situation, especially since there was no apparent answer to my questions of how it was different - so I could have an idea of where to look.

  • I heard reflections back (whenever they happened, sometimes some weeks later) where the words were quite different from what I had used - and would probably ever use, and where the intention reflected was often completely different from what was alive for me, then and now. I experienced it as a great deal of distortion.

  • Apparently, these conversations were reported to the "headquarters", which I initially found somewhat amusing since I could only imagine how different these reports were from what I had tried to express.

  • They use a very specific and quite unusual terminology, which I naturally am unfamiliar with. This too created problems right away since I had every intention to learn the terminology, but had to begin somewhere in describing my experiences and my own comfortable terminology was not kosher or acceptable. So again, a double bind since I was not allowed to speak from my naive vocabulary, and did not understand how to use theirs.

  • I wanted to talk with somebody else to see if I could find a resolution, but the others I know who are doing the same said it all had to go through this one designated person. Again, a double-bind since that is exactly where I am experiencing the difficulties.

  • I also experienced that when I talked about hangups I noticed in my human self, it was often misinterpreted. My intention was to be completely sincere about what comes up for me, and communicate that I am very aware of these hangups and that they are from the particular preferences of this human self and not anything "absolute" or anything to blindly believe in. My impression was that it was often taken differently (although I couldn't quite make out how), rather than just a noticing and a desire to move beyond and find a resolution.

  • I also partly used the conversations as a way to explore and identify hangups, which I later did inquiry on, and my experience was that this too was misinterpreted. (It may be naive to assume that others experience the same freedom in playing with these beliefs as those who are familiar with the BK inquiries).

  • As this went on, I began to distrust my own experiences in this area, including with the bodywork. Quite predictably, my former and consistent passion for the bodywork also took a nosedive - to the point of not even remembering why I initially was so passionate about becoming an instructor.

  • This all culminated yesterday when somebody from the headquarters called and told me I could not do the instructors training which starts in two days (and I had organized my life around in the short and longer term). Apparently, their decision was based on the reports they had received. They also apparently see the problems as having to do with my relationship with the practice and not, as it has appeared to me from the beginning, the chemistry between me and the person I talked with on the phone.
So, there is obviously a great deal of material for inquiry here. Right now, there is still too much reorganization and realignment happening to see clearly the particular statements and inquiries. The energy goes into adjusting to the new situation of not going to the intensive and of most likely scaling back my involvement.

Some preliminary statements to work with...
  • They shouldn't judge based on second-hand information.
  • I should have had someone else to talk with.
  • I should trust my experiences.
  • They should have told me earlier (so I could have gone to their general training a few weeks back instead).

Wednesday, March 15, 2006 |

Bliss & Appreciation

As everything here, this is just an exploration - a possible map.

As with any map... It is temporary. It is a map of what is more than and different from any map. It is more or less aligned with data from any source, such as experiences and more formal research. It has certain implications if we use it as a guideline.

Of all these, maybe the most important is its temporariness. It will change as any of the others change. It changes with changes in the terrain. It changes with changing data. It changes with the changes in what is currently needed from a guideline, on individual and collective levels.

Bliss

Bliss seems to be one of the carrots for awakening. There is a glimpse of awakening, a following bliss, and an attraction to this bliss and to explore this further.

Another way of looking at this form of bliss is in terms of release and expansion.

We start out with a relatively limited and rigid identity, for instance as a human being or more accurately a limited subset of our rich human qualities - those that confirm with a particular self-image formed by culture and personal experiences.

When there is a release from or expansion of this limited identity, there is often also a sense of bliss. There was such a confinement and suffering, and now there is space and freedom.

No wonder bliss comes up. And as every phenomena, every experience, every content, it is temporary. It is there for a while, then goes away, and continues to come and go, living its own life.

Appreciation

If there is an awakening to selflessness, there may be bliss for a while or not. In either case, the bliss will go away and become more fluid as any other content of experiences.

What remains is not really bliss, but maybe more of a receptivity and appreciation, in a very ordinary way. Appreciation for everything being just as it is. Appreciation for our temporary human life, and the way the rest of the Universe shows up right now.