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Supplements vs. real food Wednesday, February 28, 2007 |

A recent meta-study (a study of a number of existing studies) finds that certain vitamin supplements appear to shorten the lifespan of those taking them (specifically beta-carotene and vitamins E and A.)

Assuming the findings are accurate, and assuming that we are in a fortunate enough situation to have access to sufficient food (which large portions of us are not), then this is another reminder eat a balanced and varied diet of fresh food rather than relying on supplements.

It is usually not a good idea to provide the body with substances it did not evolve to handle, and dietary supplements mostly fall into this category. A balanced diet does provide whatever nutrients the body needs, and a modern balanced diet is nutritionally far beyond what our ancestors - in most cases, had access to, and their bodies still did quite well - as we are living evidence for.

As with health related issues in general, the answers are often quite simple - and found when we look at the lives of our ancestors. They ate a varied (omnivorous) diet when possible, ate in moderate amounts... often by necessity, the food was organic and local, and they engaged in a variety of physical activities throughout the day. The closer we are to this, the more physically healthy we are likely to be.

It is very simple. Yet, if there is something about it we don't like we look for shortcuts, such as dietary supplements, which may not work or have unforeseen effects.

More about the study on BBC: Vitamins 'could shorten lifespan'

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New look! Monday, February 26, 2007 |

After sticking with the not-so-attractive blogger templates for a while, I decided to go for a more earthy and simplified look. This template was developed by Derek Punsalan at 5thrityone.

(I hope the text is not too small? Will take a look at the source to see if I can make the default size a little larger.)

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Blogisattva awards Sunday, February 25, 2007 |

The Blogisattva awards for 2006 have been announced. The winner of the blog of the year award is Integral Options Café, which is well deserved for its quality, consistency and comprehensiveness (it is one of the few blogs I regularly read.) The rest of the list is also worth taking a look at.

The premier award, Blog of the Year, Svaha!, goes to Bill Harryman’s Integral Options Café [link] the fulsome and intellectually hefty -- yet fun, smooth, easy and delightful -- carnival of information and insight. Bill has a broad and sophisticated palate of what is worthwhile and interesting and has an ability to sweep his readers in to his world of treasures and responsible living. We learn to stay fit; eat right; take care of body and mind, but we are not being lectured to by a finger-wagging nag. Bill gives us things to do, fun to find and insights that come from his challenging, interesting life and then adds thoughtful essays that are finely crafted, masterfully done, about Buddhism informed by Integral theory.

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An afternoon in front of the fireplace... Saturday, February 24, 2007 |




Some of the many things I am grateful for in my life right now...

A quiet afternoon in front of the fireplace... A place to practice Breema. Shelter from the cold rain outside. Listening to good music. A soft, friendly cat. Good tea. Someone coming home soon.

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Differentiating allowing |

The process of deepening into who we are, and awakening to what we are, involves an ongoing process of differentiation.

One of the most basic (and common-sense) differentiations is between ways of allowing.

Allowing as a practice

The basic way of allowing, as a practice, is to allow the content of our experiences, as they are. To allow everything, including any resistance to content and to allowing certain content.

Not allowing certain content is suffering, and creates a great deal of struggle and drama. It comes from an identification with a region of content, creating the appearance of other regions of content as other. It comes from an identification with beliefs, thoughts, ideas and identities.

Allowing it releases our identification with content, and allows the ground of this content to come more into the foreground - this ground of awake emptiness that already allows it all, that has no inherent boundaries and no inherent separate self anywhere.

This is the practice we do for ourselves, to reduce suffering, burn through habitual patterns of identification, find clarity, and find ourselves as what we already are.

We allow a full experience of what is, independent of its particulars.

Allowing (or not) in the world

The other form of allowing (or not) relates to our live as an individual in the world. Here, it is just common sense. If someone inflicts suffering on someone else, and I am in a position to change it, I will. I am not going to allow it, if I can prevent it.

Allowing experiences, but not allowing whatever to happen to myself or others

So there is a full allowing of any content of awareness, of any experiences. This brings a reduction of a sense of struggle and drama, and of the confusion that goes along with the struggle and drama. Instead, there is a sense of the stillness, quietness and clarity inherent in the ground.

At the same time, I am not going to allow certain things to happen to myself or others if I can prevent it. And independent of what unfolds, I can fully be with my experiences of it - as it is.

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Filtering out awakeness, and leaving emptiness far in background |

I have written several posts on this topic, as with so many other recurrent topics, but it still comes up for me...

Awake emptiness when identified with content: in the background

When I identify with the content of awareness, this sense of a separate self is usually placed on this human individual, and its thoughts, sensations, views of itself, tastes, and behaviors.

The ground of awake emptiness typically goes far in the background, if it is noticed at all. And its two aspects of awakeness and emptiness seems to be filtered in two different ways.

Awakeness, in its direct experience of it, is filtered to only belong to this individual. But even here, it is partly within and outside of the regions of the separate self, coming and going on its own. (I am this individual, this human being, and awareness comes and goes, sometimes stronger and sometimes less strong, sometimes here - when I am awake, and sometimes not - when I am asleep.)

And the emptiness aspect is usually not noticed at all. It is at most intuited, and then often associated with fear and discomfort. (If I am an object in the world, then emptiness - nonexistence - is not something I want to be connected with.)

Awake emptiness when absence of identification with content: in foreground

When the identification goes out of the content of awareness, and back into the ground of awake emptiness, the content of awareness - including this individual - arises as the awake emptiness itself.

The awake emptiness goes into the foreground, and form arises as nothing other than the awake emptiness itself. There is a field of awake emptiness arising as form, as this individual and the wider world, and there is no center and no separate self inherent anywhere.

The awakeness is no more or less associated with this individual than with the wider world. It belongs to the field of awake emptiness that everything - the thin surface of form - arises within, to and as.

And the emptiness is the void all forms arises from, as, and goes back into. Within the timeless present, all forms arises as the void. Within time, all forms comes out of and goes back into the void. It is a continuous stream of form emerging from and going into void, a stream with a hidden source and destination.

A lot of work

A lot of work goes into filtering all this through a sense of a separate self. The emptiness has to be ignored. The awakeness has to be placed on this individual human being. The world of form has to be split into I here and Other there, and from this split comes a great deal of struggle and friction (which is essential for exploring the world of form, but also takes a lot of work.)

No wonder it is experienced as such a relief when identification goes out of the content of awareness, and there is just the resting as the ground of awake emptiness - within, to and as all content and form arises. It is much easier.

It is what already and always is, even if it sometimes filters itself through a sense of a separate self and appears - to itself - differently.

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Identity goes out of content, and a sense of doer goes out with it |

When we are identified with the content of awareness, there is also inevitably a sense of a doer. And when the identification goes of of the content (and back into the ground of awake void) there is still doing, but any sense of a doer goes out along with it.

A region of content filtered as a separate self, and appearing as a doer

When there is identification with content of awareness, I take myself to be a region of the content of awareness, and other regions as other. I am these thoughts, sensations, sights of this body, sounds of this voice, and an idea of a separate self placed on all of these. I think. I feel. I choose. I decide. I act. I do.

There is not only the doing, but also a doer.

Not filtered through a sense of a separate self, so no doer

When identification goes out of the content of awareness, and back into the awake void (and all content arising as the awake void itself), the sense of a separate self goes out as well. And when a sense of a separate self goes out, any sense of a doer goes out with it.

There is just the doing, with no doer. It is all just happening. A dance of form on the surface of awake emptiness. A mystery, happening within, to and as the awake void.

Cause and effect

Filtered slightly through thoughts, we see that any change in the world of form has infinite causes and infinite effects.

When there is a sense of a separate self, and an identification with a region of the content of awareness, there tends to be an identification with the very local causes and effects, those happening within this individual, the region of content taken as I. I think, choose, react, and then I do.

When identification goes out of content, and the sense of a separate self goes out with it, it is easier to see how any change, including any of the local ones, have infinite causes and infinite effects. Any shifts within this individual have infinite causes and effects, they are the local expressions of the movements of the whole of the world of form. There is thinking, choosing, reacting, and doing, and even causalities within this, but no doer, no separate self doing any of it.

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Shift from half-hearted to whole-hearted being with Friday, February 23, 2007 |

I woke up in the middle of the night with a sense of panic around a particular issue. At first, there is a half-hearted being with it, and it is very uncomfortable. Then, a conscious shift into more fully being with it, and a sudden peace.

It was a clear reminder that being with an experience is incompatible with being caught up in the content of an experience. As long as there is an identification with beliefs (ideas, stories, identities), as long as we hold onto them as true, there is resistance, and it is impossible to fully be with an experience. This means that there is still struggle, drama and discomfort there.

To fully be with an experience, to allow it all, there has to be a surrender of identification with the content of the experience, a surrender of beliefs, of holding onto identities as absolutely true. There has to be a surrender of identifying with one realm of the content pitted against other realms, and - maybe most importantly - of wanting anything in the realm of content to be different.

A half-hearted being with resolves nothing, and there is as much discomfort there as before. Only a whole-hearted being with allows for a surrender and release of identifications with the content of experience, and for resting in and as peace - noticing, and finding ourselves as, the ground that already allows it all.

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Fully allowing a sense of a separate self Thursday, February 22, 2007 |

Any sense of a separate self comes from resistance to experience.

Through resistance to experience, we identify with an aspect of the content of awareness, and we split the content into I and Other, which in turns creates a sense of struggle, drama, and wanting something else than what is.

When we realize this, it is easy to start resist the sense of a separate self, of wanting that one to go away, of hoping for something better just on the other side of this. And this is just another way to identify with an aspect of content of awareness and pitting it against other aspects of the content. There is an identification with wanting the content to be different from what it is.

(In this case, an identification with wanting of this sense of a separate self to go away, an identification with the corresponding belief that it would be better if it wasn't there, and an identification as someone who wants it to go away - all of which places our identification firmly within one part of the content of awareness, pitted against other parts of the content.)

The trick here is to allow it all: the sense of a separate self, any resistance to it, any wanting of it to be different, any strategies to change it, and anything else. To allow it, embrace, see it, feel it, and then to love it, as it is. This shifts the identification out of content and into its ground of awake emptiness.

In this, there is indeed a release from being caught up in any sense of a separate self - even when it is there.

We find ourselves as the ground allowing it all, as it already does.

As long as there is identification with particular content of awareness, there is a split and we don't notice this ground, or ourselves as this ground. We find ourselves as a region of the content, pitted against other regions of the content, and in the ensuing drama the ground is not noticed. As soon as there is a being with what arises, a full allowing of it, identification goes out of content and we find this ground of awake emptiness allowing it all.

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Exploring a sense of a separate I in three general ways |

When I explore this sense of a separate I, I notice that I tend to do it in three general ways.

The main one is to be with the experience of a separate I, to fully allow it - including any resistance to this sense of a separate I, any hopes for it to change, any struggles around it. Fully be with it, allow it, embrace it, as it is. To see it and feel it as it is, here and now (which allows loving it, as it is, to come in as well.)

The second one is to amplify the experience of a separate self. How can I make the sense of a separate self stronger? I find that I do it by tensing up muscles, by strengthening an image of a split between me here and the rest of the world out there, and also by emotions such as anger, fear, desire, and so on. This helps me see how the sense of a separate self is created, and how I do it in my daily life.

The third is to inquire into what is already more true in immediate experience, such as exploring if I am content of awareness, if I am awareness itself, and if the content is anything else than awareness. (Am I any of this content? These sounds? Sights? Sensations? Thoughts? They all come and go, but something does not come and go. What is it that does not come and go? It is awareness itself. Am I this awareness? If I find myself as awareness, I notice that its content arises as a seamless field. What appeared as inside and outside, when I took myself to be a part of the content, is now all a seamless field of no real inside or outside. Where is the boundary between awareness and its content? Does the content appear as anything else than this awareness? The content of this awake emptiness arises as nothing other than awake emptiness itself.)

Together, there is the full allowing of a sense of a separate self, including any associated resistance. There is an active exploration of how the sense of a separate I is created. And there is an exploration of what is already more true in immediate awareness.

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What I take myself as, is how I experience Existence in general |

It seems that whatever I take myself to be, is how I experience Existence as a whole as well.

If I take myself as a thing, everything else also appears as things. Specifically, if I take myself as this solid object called my human self, then all other form also appears as solid, real, substantial.

Similarly, if I find myself as awake void full of the world, then this world appears as nothing other than this awake void. Forms appear as less solid, less substantial, as emptiness itself, or maybe even (for me now) as a thin insubstantial surface of form on the vast awake emptiness.

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Differentiating 3rd and 1st person identities |

I went to a headless workshop in Portland a couple of weeks ago. It was led by Richard Lang, who did an excellent job - making it simple, accessible, very clear, and doing it all in a very personable and heart-centered way.

One of the things that became clearer to me is how the headless experiments help us differentiate between our 3rd and 1st person identities.

Our 3rd person identity is how other see us. It is our appearance at different distances, our name, our age, occupation, and so on. It is our identity in the world, as a human being. It is ourselves, as a he, she or it.

Our 1st person identity is our immediate experience of ourselves, which is as no thing allowing all things, no form allowing all forms, emptiness allowing fullness, no color allowing all colors, no identity allowing all identities... or in other words as headless, as capacity for the world, as awake emptiness and its content (which is no other than this awake emptiness). It is ourselves as awake void and all forms as this same awake void.

When our 3rd and 1st person identities are confused, it leads to suffering. When they are seen as distinct from each other, there is clarity and a sense of ease.

When they are mixed up with each other, my first person identity tends to go in the background, and is sometimes not noticed at all. I take on the third person identity and become a thing in the world, up against innumerable other things. I am completely caught up in a world of desire, fear, longing, anger, sadness, loss, and much more.

When they are differentiated, I am awake void full of the world... I am free from anything happening, allowing it all, and everything happening is revealed as this awake void. And there is full freedom for the little one, this human self, to use the 3rd person identity to function in the world as well. Nothing is left out.

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Beliefs anchored in sensations |

Yesterday morning, I woke up and saw how a range of beliefs are anchored in specific sensations.

I have seen for a while how the sense of a separate self, or rather the belief in a separate self, is anchored in particular sensations in the head area (lower center of the head.)

And it is also becoming clearer to me how any belief in similarly anchored in particular sensations.

The most noticeable example for me are the many beliefs that strongly says that an immediate external situation should be different, which - when triggered - are anchored on tension in my calves.

The belief arises, are placed on particular sensations in a particular location of space, that is then used as a base for a sense of a separate self, and the trigger - arising in another location of space - is seen as Other.

It even seems that if the usual sensations are not already present, they are made present through contractions, so there usual place of anchoring the particular beliefs becomes available.

Releasing the charge

It seems almost comical, and that is one of the reason there is a release from this whole process when this is noticed. The process may still occur - with ideas arising, a physical tension, and a placing of the ideas on the location of the sensation of this tension - but there is a release of identification with it.

With the release of identification, it is all revealed as just arising in space, and the sense of I - placed on particular sensations, and Other - placed in another location in space, is also released.

This takes the charge out of what is happening, independent of the strength of the process. And it also takes the charge out of the process itself, weakens it in the moment and weakening the habitual pattern over time.

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Purgatory Tuesday, February 20, 2007 |



Purgatory is a fiery purification, and have elements of both heaven and hell.

And that is an accurate description, at least in my experience, of the practice of being with experiences, as we do in Shikantaza (sitting practice) or by asking ourselves in daily life can I be with what I am experiencing right now?

It is especially accurate when the content of our experiences are intense, such as strong pain or emotions. The content of our experiences, including any resistance to experiences, are allowed to arise as they are, without or with less identification, and this allows a habitual pattern of identification with them to burn through.

The fiery hellish elements is the fire of the intensity of the content, and the blissful heavenly elements is the bliss of fully allowing any experience, independent of its content. Together, there is the purification of purgatory.

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The Buddha growing up |

Filtered through a relatively mature human being, an awakening to what we are (as Spirit, Big Mind, Brahman, headless, awake emptiness and form absent of separate I) can show up in some broad ways.

What we are as not awakened to itself, hidden by strong and narrow identifications

First, a noticing of what we are can be nonexistent. When there is a relatively complete and exclusive identification with our human self, there is not much room for noticing ourselves as Spirit. Spirit may break through occasionally, through drugs, sex, ritual, nature and so on, but these are interpreted as anomalities and usually as completely "other" (which is good, otherwise there would be inflation.)

What we are as other or "no separation", within the context of a sense of separate self

Then, it can show up as other yet more present, and gradually as with "no separation." Awareness is more present, but still slightly as other. Or I may find myself in periods as awareness, or awake space, or awake emptiness, with what arises as form as distant, or as arising within and to awareness, or as no other than awareness itself. There is still a sense of a separate I here, at least most of the time, although it may appear subtle, vague and transparent.

Awakening to what we are, and sense of I clearly seen as just an idea

Then, in a more full awakening to what we are, we find ourselves as awake emptiness, and whatever forms arising as no other than this awake emptiness. Any sense of a separate I is clearly seen as coming only from a belief in the idea of a separate I, often placed on the perceptual center (head area) of this human individual. Now, this idea of a separate I, along with the perceptual center and this human being, all arises within the field of awake emptiness and form, and as no other than awake emptiness itself. There is just a field inherently free from center and any separate I or self.

Expressed in the world as the Brilliant Sun of awakening

At first, although it can be a very clear awakening, it is also expressed in relatively immature ways through our human self. It is a baby Buddha which needs time to develop and mature in its expression. In Zen, this clear but also relatively immature expression of an awakening to what we are is called the Brilliant Sun of enlightenment. It is the child and youth stage of the Buddha and often shows up in the world in flashy ways.

Deepening into the Hazy Moon of awakening

As this awakening matures, as the Buddha grows up, this awakening to what we are also includes a more full awakening as who we are. It includes a deepening into who we are as an individual human being and soul (alive presence), expressed in the world as a maturing into the fullness and evolving wholeness of our human life. It is a deepening into who we are, into becoming more and more fully and deeply human, within the context of the awakening to what we are. This is the Hazy Moon of awakening, the awakening which comes through a deeply ordinary, mature and seasoned human being, a human being which appears in the world as (at first) nothing special, apart from being thoroughly and deeply human. Of course, over time, there is the realization in the wider world that this ordinariness, depth and maturity is indeed remarkable, maybe the most remarkable of any of the many ways an awakening can be expressed.

Deepening into who we are, before and after an awakening into what we are

In real life, the sequence is of course not always clearly laid out like this.

For instance, the deepening and maturing into who we are happens before and after an awakening into what we are. And to the extent it happens prior to a more full and clear awakening it allows for a more rapid shift into the hazy moon of awakening.

A gradual awakening to and exploring of who we are as human and soul helps with this maturing and seasoning. The more we know ourselves in the fullness of our evolving human self, and the more we allow our human self to be reorganized within the alive presence, the more it heals, develops, deepens and matures.

A deepening into who we are aiding the expression of an awakening as what we are

When an awakening into what we are is filtered through a relatively immature individual, it will appear in the world as immature. And when it is filtered through a more seasoned, mature and deeply human individual, it is expressed in a more seasoned, mature and deeply human way.

And this can only aid its expression in the world.

It allows for a more differentiated and fluid use of tools and approaches, and for a deeper and more real connection with others, and this is more potent in alleviating the suffering for others, and also help them awaken to what they are (or rather, for what is to awaken to itself through them.)

The impulse to help

After, and often long before, an awakening into what we are, there is a natural impulse to help others, a natural compassion expressed in various activities in the world.

It all arises as an inherently selfless field of wakeful emptiness and form, as inherently absent of any separate self. And since what arises are individuals where what is has not yet awakened to itself, there is a natural impulse to help alleviate the suffering experienced (the suffering is really nothing than awake emptiness but is taken and experienced as real so worth alleviating) and to aid in what is to awaken to itself through those individuals (as long as these individuals seek it out and are interested.)

So if there is any concern with helping others, there is also a concern with allowing our only tool for this - our individual human self - to deepen, heal, develop, differentiate, mature and season. And this happens through a deepening into who we are, as an individual human being and soul.

The more honed our tool is, the more effective it can be in the world.

Embracing both, before and after an awakening into what we are

For many reasons, it makes sense to emphasize both an awakening into who we are, as individual human and soul, and what we are, as Spirit.

A deepening into who we are is enjoyable in itself and it reduces suffering. It allows knots to untie, releasing identification, which reveals more of what we are. And it allows for a more mature and seasoned tool for a more full awakening of what we are. There are benefits all around.

An awakening into what we are is not only the final release from suffering, but also allows for a deepening into who we are. When there is less identifications and drama, who we are can unfold in a more free way, and deepen more easily into its evolving fullness as a human being and as a soul.

Mutual influence

Deepening into who we are reduces suffering, aids in an awakening to what we are, and allows an awakening to what we are to be expressed in a more mature and seasoned way. And awakening into what we are removes (identification with) suffering, and allows for a deepening into who we are.

Again, there is a beautiful symmetry here, of one aiding the other.

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Alchemy: the metals of the world in the process of becoming gold |

In an alchemical text (don't remember which one), it apparently says that all metals in the world are in the process of becoming gold. Translated, it means that everything in us is already in a process of awakening, although it is a very slow process which can be speeded up by various alchemical processes - mainly by bringing the prima materia, the stuff of our lives, into awareness, and then explore, differentiate, and bring it into a more conscious wholeness.

The big picture: awakening to who and what we are

This journey which each part goes through is an aspect of the overall process from unconscious and undifferentiated wholeness, through a split and partial consciousness, through active work and exploration of each aspect and their relationships, to a conscious and differentiated whole.

There is always and already the whole of what we are, and this is eventually noticed in awakening to ourselves as Big Mind. And then there is a conscious and differentiated whole of who we are, as individual human beings and soul, which only comes about through active exploration, by digging into it, living it, working through it, engaging actively in it - gradually healing, developing and maturing as individuals.

Awakening as what we are can happen at any point, and is independent of content, including of how or who we are. But awakening as who we are is a long, gradual process.

At our human level, it is one of individualization, of differentiating and exploring each pole in each polarity, and then the polarity as a whole, of developing and maturing as a human being. At our soul level, it is a process of becoming familiar with ourselves as soul, as alive presence, in all its many facets, and how this influences and transforms who we are as human beings.

Impulses for awakening to who and what we are

It seems that for those who actively explore this process, there is an experience - or realization? - of everything inside and outside of us being an invitation, or an impulse, to awaken more to who and what we are.

Some simple examples of this is active imagination, where any dream or fantasy is a path to bringing aspects of us into awareness, and becoming more familiar with and embracing a polarity in ourselves and our life and not only its separate poles. The same is the case with Process Work, although in a more comprehensive and extended way, where we find that anything in our life, no matter how apparently insignificant, is an impulse towards awakening more to who and what we are. And the same is the case with The Work, where any stress in our life is an invitation to awaken to who (whole process) and what (question #4) we are.

I also notice this when I am just curious about what arises in me, and explore it - allowing it to unfold a little bit.

Example: impulse to death and rebirth

For instance, if this personality has a great deal of resistance to being with a particular experience, I notice an impulse towards death (sounds more dramatic than it necessarily is.) And this impulse can of course be interpreted in different ways by the personality, for instance of wanting the situation (the trigger) to change or go away, or of me to change or go away, or of how I relate to it to change or go away. I want to remove the trigger (by doing something in the world), myself (for instance by distracting myself or going unconscious), or how I relate to it (through working on myself.)

The basic impulse is an impulse towards death, and it can be interpreted in all of these forms, some of which works better than other, and some effects which are more superficial and temporary than others. In this context of anything being an invitation to awakening more to who and what we are, the essence of the impulse is an invitation to allow our limited, and limiting, beliefs and identifications to die.

The stress comes from a discrepancy between our stories of what is and how it should be (all coming from beliefs and identities), so the stress is an invitation to notice this, actively explore our beliefs and identities - through the many ways available - until they soften or fall away on their own.

Of course, this impulse can equally well be seen as an impulse towards life. Any fixed belief and identity limits a sense of aliveness, and when it falls away, there is a sense of liberation and more life.

For me, if there is a great deal of resistance and I get caught up in it, it seems - initially, before working on it, as an impulse to death. And as there is more space and clarity around it, or if there is this space and clarity around it from the beginning, it seems more an impulse to life. They are two aspects of the same process of death (of beliefs and identities) and rebirth (more free from these beliefs and identities.)

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Dream: a blind mulatto who can see clearer than seeing folks |

A middle aged mulatto walks down by a river, and goes into the remains of a large wooden ship there. He is blind, but is somehow able to see perfectly well, and even better and more clearly than many seeing people.

He meets someone in the ship, they ask him a question, and he tells them about experiments that can reveal their connection with God. They are curious, and also surprised that experiments can lead in that way. They are also curious about this mulatto man, and invites him along with their buddies.

As the story unfolds, they give him several tests to see if he really can see as, or more, clearly than many seeing people. At one point, they give him a cigar and he has to mirror the sequence of one or two puffs of a man several feet away. He is somehow so intimately familiar with the terrain that seeing people are familiar with, and beyond, that the tests are no problem for him at all.

They gradually grow to trust him, and invite him to join their judo club. He learns the rules, and is about to do a match, which also is part of the landscape he is intimately familiar with.

There is a sense of clarity, solidity & emptiness, and a simple confidence and ease about him and throughout the dream. A sense of intimate familiarity with a vast terrain, including and beyond what most seeing people are familiar with.

The dream seems to be set in the early 1900s, in a simple working class neighborhood. The group of people the mulatto man befriends is a group of neighbors, but also almost like a gang (although friendly when they accept someone into their group.) The dream was very much like a movie: very coherent, clear, seen from the outside as in a movie, and going from one scene to the next moving the story line along. The temporary climax was going to be the judo match, although I woke up as they prepared.

The sense of being intimately familiar with a vast terrain, including and beyond what most people are familiar with, is one that has come up in waking life for me more recently, as a taste, a sense of how it can be. The seeing people in the dream represent familiarity with the human life only, and the blind man sees that and far beyond.

The mulatto in the dream was very similar to someone I met on the bus yesterday, a friend of the "green" friend on mine I mentioned in a previous post. He struck me as open, clear and grounded, with a sense of ease and confidence.

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The path of untying knots: guided by daily life |

One thing I forgot to mention about the path of untying knots is that it is guided by daily life.

Something comes up that is stressful, revealing the knot that life invites us to become more familiar with, here and now, by being with the experience (feelings) and by inquiring into it (view.)

Daily life is our guru, in a very real way, showing us the next knot to explore, to befriend, to become so intimately familiar with that it on its own is untied.

This is especially clear in The Work, where we after a while start looking forward to stressful situations, because we know they reveal more knots - and what has been obscured by these knots (the sense of freedom, clarity, connection, intimacy and so on that surfaces when the knots are intimately explored, and untie on their own.)

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Implications of rising sea levels |



We know that the sea levels will rise, possibly 10 meters (30 feet) or more, and possibly within this century. (Greenland ice sheet=6.5 meters rise, west Antarctica ice sheet=8 meters, interglacial periods=20 meters rise - source: usgs), Even the early phase of this rise will have a major impact on many of the most populated cities and areas of the world.

At the same time, it seems that the implications of this is not taken seriously yet, including by investors (it will soon make much less sense to own property close to current sea levels), urban planners, insurance companies (who insures property that is more and more likely to be flooded), home owners (that great ocean front property may not be so attractive), and also politicians (having to deal with economical impacts of rising sea levels, including building dikes and rebuilding areas of cities on higher ground) and international organizations (having to deal with migrations and relocation of large number of people displaced by the rising sea levels.) And as with so many other things, it will impact those with less resources more. Wealthy countries and cities can stave off much of the impact through technology and engineering, but poorer areas do not have that option.

The top photo shows ice covering of the north pole in September 2005, which is the smallest ice cap recorded.



Manhattan if (when?) the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica melts.

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The final leap Monday, February 19, 2007 |

The final leap into realizing - or discovering, noticing - what we are is a momentous one. It is a shift more radical than anything that has gone before, or that is at least often the experience of it. Up until then, there has always been a sense of a separate I, however (apparently) subtle. And now, that one is gone. There is just the field of awareness and its content, where the content is revealed as nothing other than awareness itself, and with no sense of a center or a separate I anywhere.

The perceptual center, located in this human individual, is still there, but it is no longer a center for a sense of a separate I. The perceptual center just arises within the field of content, along with anything else coming and going.

So it is no wonder that most haven't gone there yet, including most Jungians, or Process Workers, or even mystics. They may go to the threshold of it, where the sense of a separate I appears very transparent, subtle, vague, minuscule in the ocean of everything as God, Spirit, or awakeness and form.

But to take the final leap would mean to question our final and core identity, as an ultimately separate self, a separate I that may be "one with" everything and God, but is still a separate I. It means to question, and to thoroughly examine - leaving no stone unturned - the belief in the idea of a separate I.

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The path of untying knots |

Broadly speaking, there seems to be two paths of awakening to who (individual) and what (Spirit) we are. One is of focusing on - and noticing or invoking - what we are seeking, the other is of focusing - and working - on what is blocking what we are seeking. And most paths of course include both, in different ways, and with different emphasis.

Only noticing or invoking who and what we are

If we only do the first - going for noticing or invoking what we are seeking - the pitfalls seems to include missing out of, or ignoring, some knots that needs to be untied and some healing that needs to occur. It can for instance lead to a (partial or more full) awakening to what we are (awake emptiness and form absent of a separate I), functioning through an individual that still has a lot to work through, and who may not be aware of everything that needs to be worked through.

Some forms of self-inquiry fall into this category, such as noticing that we are not the content of awareness but awareness itself (and that the content is no other than awareness), and also the headless experiments.

Only untying knots

If we only do the second - untying knots - we may miss out of noticing who we are at a soul level, and what we are at a Spirit level. We may pass right through it, because we don't know what we are looking for.

Together

Using both together, we reap the benefits of working through knots and stuck places, which naturally reveal who and what we are, and also noticing who and what we are when it is revealed, and then deepening into it.

The Work is a great example of an approach that includes both the untying of knots (the whole process), and noticing who and what we are behind the clouds created by the knots (question #4 and turnarounds.) And the same is the case with the Big Mind process, allowing knots to unravel at our human level, revealing what we are as Spirit (Big Mind.)

Untying knots works at all levels

One of the great benefits of the second approach, of working with knots, is that it helps us at all levels. It unties knots at our individual human level, allowing for a healing and maturing there, and for less stress and discomfort. And it reveals (more of) who we are, in our evolving wholeness as a human individual, who we are as soul (alive presence), and what we are as Spirit (this field of awake emptiness and form absent of center.)

We don't have to choose among developing as individuals or awakening as Spirit, and we don't need to deny the importance or validity of either. Both are an integral part of the process, and the path benefits and works on both areas equally.

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Green and beliefs |

I ran into a "green" friend of mine on the bus today, and was reminded of how the different value stages - or turns of the spiral of development - can, in a very simplistic way, be seen as a collection of beliefs.

At the green level, there is a belief in values such as diversity, pluralism and care for all life, and these are included at the wider turns of the spiral. Other beliefs, such as egalitarianism, may be modified at later turns of the spiral.

My friend is very concerned about the welfare of ordinary people (and animals and ecosystems), which is beautiful. But there is also a belief in "the system" and "government" as inherently opposed to the welfare of ordinary people, at least whenever they can get away with it. And this belief clearly colors her interpretation of society and even minor (and innocent) situations, such as a bus driver accidentally driving off with a father on the bus and his kids on the sidewalk. For her, it is a confirmation that "the system" does not care about the welfare of other people. Without that belief, it is just an innocent and unfortunate accident, and we can do whatever is needed to reduce the possibility of it happening in the future without vilifying anyone.

I guess this mix of beliefs determine whether an expression of a particular level is considered "healthy" or not.

If there is some space and flexibility around it, and the beliefs are held lightly, then it is more likely to appear as healthy. If certain beliefs are rigid and tightly held onto, and in particular if they vilify certain people and blind us to other interpretations, the expression is maybe less healthy.

As we become aware of and integrate more projections, we move along the spiral, including more and more in our circle of care, compassion and concern. And our view tends to embrace more as well, being more fluid among a multitude of perspectives. We are less stuck in just one interpretation or way of seeing a situation.

From the outside, this takes the form of moving along the phases of two of the main lines of development, values/moral (heart) and cognitive (head.)

The heart is more consistently open, in more and more situations, and towards more and more beings and phenomena. And the view is more inclusive, comprehensive, differentiated, and fluid among different perspectives.

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Dream: snow on fire Friday, February 16, 2007 |

I see a snow covered mountain landscape with the snow on fire. A voice also says "snow on fire."

I woke up from this dream image, and when I fell asleep again, it came up again, with the same voice saying "snow on fire."

The snow covers the whole landscape, apart from some peaks, and is fresh and white. The flames are clear, calm, tall and stable.

This reflects what comes up in daily life these days: passion with a depth of clear calm peace.

This depth of peace is partly the void, ground, emptiness, which is the depth of anything arising, and it is partly the luminous blackness (two aspects of the same.) It is the nurturing peace of Spirit filtered through the belly center, balancing out the fire of the head center.

More about this:

After a long period of dryness and lack of passion during the dark night, there are now more moments of passion surfacing, a passion with a deep calm depth, beautifully reflected in the dream image of snow on fire. The passion is the fire, rising out of the depth of peace, void and stillness. (I am amazed of the creativity of what they in Process Work call the "dream maker", the source of the dreams. This is an image I would not have come up with consciously.)

Exploring it more consciously, I see that the peace has two distinct (although closely related) aspects. One is the void, ground, emptiness, which is the depth of anything arising. The other is the fertile darkness (composting) and the luminous blackness, with the same void, ground and stillness, but also nurturing. Both allows passion to arise, with a depth of peace.

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Perceptual center as anchor for a sense of a separate self Thursday, February 15, 2007 |

I keep noticing how this perceptual center - this physical body and especially this head with its eyes, ears, nose and mouth - is made into a center for a sense of a separate I.

There is a sense of a separate I, as a belief in an idea of a separate self, almost as a weird cardboard cutout in the mind. Then there is a looking for a good place to put this sense of a separate I, a good anchor for it. And then the - very understandable - decision to place it on this body, especially this head, and in particular on sensations in the head area, and even more specifically on sensations of tension, contraction and density in the head area.

It is really quite funny... although it sometimes has quite tragic consequences.

And this process of making a perceptual center into a center for a separate-self sense is of course why the headless experiments can be so effective. They bring our attention directly to the physical center of a sense of I, and reveal that there is nothing there. No thing, allowing all the things of the world, including those sensations previously used as an anchor for a sense of a separate I.

Brilliantly awake emptiness, a spaceless, timeless, crystal clear void, allowing all the forms of the world (as perceived by this body) to arise within and to it, and as nothing other than awake emptiness itself.

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Spirit and soul allowing a shift from tragedy to comedy |

In periods, and especially so over the last year or so, my experience of myself shift... Partly, it because space & awareness goes into the foreground, partly because the soul (alive presence) goes into the foreground, and partly because this human self is shifting and reorganizing.

Sometimes, there is also a discrepancy of the experience of myself and how this human self presents itself in the world. I see old patterns acted upon (often in quite innocent ways) and then surprise comes up. Wow - I haven't seen that one for a while, and it is certainly not how I experience myself...!

These are typically patterns formed early on in life, coming from more contraction than what seems necessary now. Coming up, there is an opportunity to see them, and holding them in awareness while feeling into it (the witness/feeling into combination that gives an engaged teflon mind.)

When I taught a Breema class last night, this came up quite strongly: seeing the personality behaving in ways other parts of it is not so happy with, with less fluidity, warmth and engaged presence than it would like (I have been physically off for a few days, and it invites some of the older patterns of awkwardness to come up.) It is quite clear that there is no doer in this. It just happens. Materializes out of thin air. Sometimes to the embarrassment of the personality itself. And that too just happens.

Since it was a Breema class, the Spirit (awake emptiness and form) and soul (alive full presence) were in the foreground, which allowed more space around it. The personality happens as ripples of the surface of the vastness of Spirit and soul. And this makes for more of an amusing show than anything else.

What my personality takes as a tragedy, the presence of Spirit and soul reveals as comedy. When the personality is in the foreground, and the Spirit/soul levels are distant, it takes itself very seriously. When Spirit and/or soul is in the foreground, the habitual patterns of the personality not only softens but is also taken, in a friendly way, as comedy.

This seems to happen whether Spirit or soul, or both, are in the foreground. But it happens in slightly different ways.

Spirit allows for a cool detachment. It is impersonal. The personality arises as no other than the awake emptiness itself, so cannot be taken as very solid, substantial or absolutely real.

Soul is an alive presence, and - depending on which aspects of it surfaces - gives a sense of fullness, warmth, nurturing, being held, soft bliss, intimacy. And this warmth and fullness offsets any hardness and habitual patterns of the personality. The patterns of the personality softens, including the way it judges itself. The edges are rounded. It soften, relaxes, releases. And this not only makes it more comfortable right here now, but also allows these patterns to reorganize over time.

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Identities, cycles and alchemy Monday, February 12, 2007 |

Over my life so far, this is by far the phase where I am most exclusively focused on the inner process. In the past, there has been times where the attention has embraced the inner and outer equally, and the outer more than the inner (my time in very active sustainability work), and now there is a focus mostly on the inner process. It goes against the grain since I have never wanted to see myself as someone emphasizing the inner more than the outer (activities in the world), so I guess it is good for me. Another identity that has to bite the dust.

Within this, there are also cycles, and one is the cycle of active exploration and investigation, and of rest (at least in that area). In alchemical terms, I guess the active exploration is a combination of differentiation (separatio), clarification (sublimatio), and developing new patterns (coagulatio), and the passive phases is the letting go of patterns (solutio), a minor death that allows for something else to emerge.

It is similar to clutching, taking the gears out of action so it can shift into something else (although the gears here are innumerable). Or the fall and winter allowing for a period of rest and rejuvenation before the new activities of the spring and summer.

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Integral blogs and Blogisattva nominees |


The new issue of Holons has a selection of integral blogs, and the annual Blogisattva award nominees (including this blog...!) for Buddhist blogs has been announced. Lots of good blogs on both lists, and worthwhile checking out.

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Milarepa: The Film |



Since the dream had some associations to Milarepa, I looked him up online, and found that there is a recent biographical movie on him - Milarepa: Magician, Murderer, Saint. It is made by an associate of Khyentse Norbu who made The Cup and Travelers and Magicians.

From the movie website:

Neten Chokling Rinpoche, born in Wandipodzong, central Bhutan in 1973, was recognized and enthroned by both the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa and Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, from whom he received many teachings and transmissions. Renowned as an accomplished practitioner, he is the spiritual head of the Pema Ewam Choegar Gyurmeling Monastery in India and Tibet

Neten Chokling Rinpoche’s lineage is that of the great terton (treasure finder) Chokgyur Lingpa, and traces itself back to the Tibetan king, Trisong Detsen, who invited Guru Rinpoche to Tibet.

In previous incarnations Neten Chokling Rinpoche accomplished many great activities in association with Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892), a renowned Buddhist saint who played a pivotal role in the revitalization and preservation of Buddhism in Tibet in the 19th century. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s present incarnation is Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, aka ‘Khyentse Norbu’ - the critically acclaimed film director.

Likewise, Neten Chokling Rinpoche is fascinated with the power of cinematic art and the emotional influence of storytelling through sound and moving pictures. He greatly admires the directors Yasujiro Ozu, Akira Kurosawa, Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou.

Neten Chokling was a principal actor in Khyentse Norbu’s ‘The Cup’ and assisted in his latest production ‘Travellers and Magicians’ as a stuntman, assistant to the director and 2nd unit director. The tradition of accomplishing remarkable activities with Khyentse Norbu, which dates back many centuries, is apparently very much alive and well in this century.

Neten Chokling’s rigorous training in Buddhist meditation and philosophy, combined with a deep interest in the film medium, make him well-suited to bring the teachings alive in a way that is accessible to a modern audience.

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Dream: Gathering of yogis Sunday, February 11, 2007 |

I am in a gathering of yogis, and a voice introduces a couple of people to the group, and then me as yogi rajma. The yogis are all mature and seasoned, and very familiar with the vast terrain of the divine human.

As I woke up from this dream, the name was opaque to me and didn't ring any bells. I only thought it sounded vaguely like a (Sanskrit) yogi name.

What struck me the most from the dream was the depth of maturity of everyone there, and also that I - somehow - was not out of place at all. Nobody questioned by presence there, including myself, as it was obvious to all that we were all intimate and familiar with the same terrain. This is quite a contrast to my conscious view of myself which is (a) not at all a yogi (don't practice any conventional forms of yoga), and (b) as not very seasoned or mature in it either. The dream may be telling me that this is yet another identity I use to box myself in with, and it is time to allow it to soften, to open for some other possibilities - at least in the future.

Although all of the yogis are deeply familiar with the same terrain, and are deeply intimate in that way, there is also a wide diversity in appearances, flavors and approaches. I am a wild Milarepa type yogi, or that was at least my background. I didn't know what my flavor would be now or in the future.

I went to our monthly diksha group meeting (we are doing other things right now) and asked a Kundalini Yoga instructor there for help with the name, Rajma. She didn't know either at first. I mentioned that I thought it may be a composite, Raj-ma. She then noted that raj means royal. And ma of course means mother. The Royal Mother. Or the divine feminine.

And this, of course, makes perfect sense. The divine feminine. The fertile darkness. The luminous blackness. Spirit filtered through the belly center. Yin. Feminine. Nurturing. Deep silence. The coolness to balance out the fire of the yang awakening, Spirit filtered through the head center. The nurturing and immanence to balance out the impersonal and transcendent.

Since this shift, there has been a sense of deepening or maturing in a different way - a beginning, with some glimpses of the depth it may lead to.

Right now - I am one led and guided by the divine feminine, the fertile darkness - allowing hangups and knots of this human self to be composted, and the luminous blackness shining from within everything.

Dreams often correct - or balance out, or expand the embrace of - our conscious view. And this dream certainly does so. It is very difficult to think of myself as a yogi, and even to think of myself as one guided, right now, by the divine feminine, is quite a stretch (in spite of everything I have written about here.) So the dream invites me to soften those old identities, and make my conscious embrace a little wider.

It is funny that I was a wild Milarepa type yogi in the dream. That part at least fits how I see it, as an unintentionally slightly wild guy not following any particular traditional path strictly. Although again, that is not what I consciously would have chosen for myself. I would be very happy and comfortable with a particular traditional path, if I only had found one inclusive enough, where I am located, and where the cultural gulf was not too wide... (I was happy at the Zen center, until a sequence of events was set in motion so I ended up - against my deeper wish - moving to another state.) But it is at least open for something else now, and in the future.

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Headless and fullness of being Friday, February 09, 2007 |

I paid attention to the slight shifts between headlessness and being with experiences today. They are very similar, although in being with the form is slightly more in the foreground, and in headlessness the awake emptiness is slightly more in the foreground. And of course, within each, there are also shifts in which of the two are more in the foreground.

I also noticed a curiosity about how it is when both are more fully present, and had that answered a few minutes later when I walked into the public library and listened to a surprisingly good live performance of baroque chamber music (Bach, Corelli etc.). The sound, which was full, rich and clear as water, evoked a similar sense of fullness of being at human and soul levels, and also brought into the foreground the awake emptiness.

So at once, there was a deep and rich sense of fullness of being, as an individual, and also the awake emptiness within which and as all form arises. A fullness of being as individual, and also the field arising absent of a separate self.

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The field filtered through the head and belly centers |

I have written about this before, but it is still alive in my immediate awareness, and wants to be explored further...

There is a perfect (slightly asymmetrical) symmetry in how Existence is filtered through the head and belly centers.

Head center

Through the head center, it is awake emptiness and form. Crystal clear. Empty luminosity. Awake emptiness in the foreground, and form as nothing other than awake emptiness. It is transcendent. Detached. Free. Absent of any separate self. Full of the whole world. Masculine. Yang. Solar. The Ground of all form, and all form as no other than this Ground. Impersonal. It is the traditional enlightenment.

Belly center

Through the belly center, it is luminous blackness. Velvety. Smooth. Fullness. A full void. Nurturing. Giving birth to and holding all form. That which all form arises within, as, and that which is in all form. Immanent. Absent of any separate self. Nurturing this individual, allowing it to deeply heal, mature, soften, be more rounded, become more deeply human. It is feminine. Yin. Lunar. The ground of all form and that which is the context for, is, and is within all form. Deeply personal. It is the endarkenment.

Difference in emphasis

The head center gives an emphasis on awakening as awake emptiness, and as form which is no other than this awake emptiness. It gives freedom. Transcendence from identification with any segment of Big Mind, including this human self. But alone, it is detached, aloof, impersonal.

The belly center gives an emphasis on the deep transformation of this individual. A deep healing, untying of knots, maturing, softening and rounding of the personality, deepening into the human.

The coolness and nurturing of the belly center balancing out the fire and the impersonal of the head center

Having been familiar with the head center awakening (spontaneously in my teens, and deepening over several years), I now deeply appreciate the belly awakening as well. It gives a new depth, richness, sense of peace, of being deeply nurtured, of a coolness to balance the heat of the head center awakening. In addition to what I have described in other posts on this topics, I have, over the last few weeks, also had glimpses of an amazing (to me) new depth and richness of being, far beyond anything I have experienced before.

New realms of being opening up through the belly center awakening

Through the head center, this whole universe is nothing other than God, an alive presence behind and as everything, and without any separate self anywhere. And through the belly center, there another facet of the void and selflessness, but also new realms of being - of this individual - revealing themselves and deepening. Even the few glimpses I have had so far, over maybe just minutes or hours, are far beyond anything I had ever imagined.

Heart center

I should also mention a few words about the heart center. Existence filtered through the heart center seems to have two aspects: Big Heart and the indwelling God.

Big Heart is a love and compassion that is independent of any particulars of form. As Big Mind, it has no beginning, no end, no form, yet can take any form. It is both impersonal and personal, when expressed thorough an individual, but the impersonal tends to be in the foreground. It is the love and compassion that comes up spontaneously and naturally when Big Mind awakens to itself while still connected, and functioning through, a human being.

The indwelling God is an alive presence, located in the physical heart area. Infinitely loving, intelligent, receptive, and responsive. A most intimate guide. It is an aspect of God, placed in and for this particular individual.

While Big Heart is connected with Big Mind, universal and slightly impersonal (although can be made personal when expressed), the indwelling God is experienced as intimately personal, an alive presence in the heart area of this individual.

In both cases, it is universal, and this is in the foreground with Big Heart, and in the background - or as a context - for the indwelling God. And in both cases, it is personal, and this is in the foreground for the indwelling God, and a possibility - when made personal through a human self - for Big Heart.

Again, when the indwelling God became more alive in awareness around Christmas, it was something new opening up (yet also very familiar somehow.) An infinitely loving, intelligent, receptive and responsive alive presence, in the heart area. An aspect of God, for this individual. A most intimate guide.

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King Lindorm and the split Thursday, February 08, 2007 |



The fairy tale of King Lindorm is a good illustration of the unconscious to conscious wholeness sequence: unconscious wholeness > split > exploring and making conscious the polarity > embracing the polarity/conscious whole.

The most clear example is midway through the story where the two kings leave the castle (the familiar, ruling patterns and identities) for war, leaving the women to rise the child. The masculine explores and gets to know itself through war, active engagement with the wider world, and the feminine explores and gets to know itself through motherhood, through nurturing at home. The split, the separation of the two (separatio) is necessary for both sides to find space to explore themselves, and then their relationship.

So there is a (mostly) unconscious wholeness/unity, a split, an exploration of each pole of the polarity separate from the other, an exploration of the relationship between the two, and then a conscious wholeness.

This is a pattern that seems to run through this existence, at all levels, from Existence as a whole (differentiated into awake emptiness and form) to our lives as who (individuals) and what (Spirit) we are, and in every aspect of our lives - all of the many polarities of our lives.

It is also interesting to note that the conscious wholeness happens at two levels: first, by noticing the whole of the polarity which is always and already there, and then in the conscious way the poles of the polarity functions on their own and in relationship with each other. The first is always there, the second comes through the work of differentiation, exploration and clarification.

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The birds of Barchusen |














At Friday's talk on alchemy, the image series that made the most impression on me was the one by Barchusen, and specifically the many images of the bird going down into the vessel, bringing material up, then going down again, bringing material up, over and over.

It is an image that can be described in several different ways. In general, it reflects a process of bringing awareness into our prima materia - our life, our individual self, our habitual patterns, our beliefs and identities. We go into an aspect of our life, bring it up into awareness, and in the process allow for differentiation (separatio) and clarification (sublimatio), and then dissolving of the old patterns (solutio), new patterns emerging (coagulatio) and a more conscious union (conjunctio.)

We explore and bring awareness into who we are, as an individual, and what we are, as Spirit.














This happens over and over again. The same issue comes up, much as before or maybe in a slightly different way. Something is off (nigredo), we work on it (albedo) and there is a sense of resolution and a harvesting of the fruits of the work (rubedo.) And then it happens again. And again. Seeing it from slightly different angles, in slightly different contexts. Becoming more and more familiar with it, knowing the terrain in more and more detail. Eventually, the charge may go out of it more completely and there is just clarity.

If anything, the Barchusen series is a reminder of the cyclical nature of the work, and of engaged persistence.

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Aspects of identity |

It is interesting to notice, in myself and others, the core identities we hold onto. The ones that seem so real, so obviously true, that we don't even think of questioning them. And if the thought comes up to question them, or someone else questions them for us, our first reaction is to laugh and want to dismiss it. It seems too outrageous to even suggest that who we take ourselves to be, at a core level, is not who we are.

Beliefs and identities

Any identity is a belief or set of beliefs. We take an image, an idea, a thought, a story, as defining who or what I am, and more importantly what I am not, and then take it as real, as an absolute Truth, and living as if it is the Truth.

And any belief creates an identity. At the very least, it creates an identity as someone who beliefs that particular idea or story.

Any belief creates a split, and so tension and stress

Any belief also creates a sense of a split, it defines a particular area as true and anything outside of itself as false or not real (it boxes Existence in, and since all beliefs also are identities, we box ourselves as individuals in as well.) And a split creates a sense of tension, and of stress.

Even such an apparently innocent belief as "God is good" can be a source of stress. If God is good, why is that not my living experience at all times? What is wrong with me? How can I change it? Am I a lost cause?

Identities and shadow

An aspect of this split is the shadow. If a particular story or idea is true, then anything that falls outside of it threatens my belief in it.

I believe people should be considerate of others, so my own lack of consideration falls into the shadow. I am this and not that, so "that" goes into the shadow.

Identities and allowing some things as only second person

In other areas, the "that" may be perceived as good and desirable, so it doesn't exactly go into the shadow, but is rather experiences exclusively as second or third person (we can say that the first person experience of it goes into the shadow.)

I believe I am (exclusively) a human being, so the experience of space is kept as third person.

I believe I am physical, so alive luminosity is second or third person.

I believe I am finite in time and space, so timelessness and spacelessness goes into third person.

I believe I am this personality, so awareness is seen as second or third person.

I believe I am form, so the void and formlessness is third person.

First person experience in the shadow, as a safeguard

For all of these, the first person experience of it goes into the shadow. And maybe for good reasons. It serves as a safeguard against inflation, adding the transcendent onto a personal identity.

If I take myself primarily as this personality (or this human self), and then add some of these qualities, such as luminosity, alive presence, of even infinite love, wisdom and compassion, then it may not look pretty. It is a bad case of inflation, of seeing myself as special, better than others, a chosen one, and all the rest that we may know from ourselves and also out there in the world.

As long as there is a strong (and unquestioned) identification with our human self, then it is healthy to keep a first person experience of these transcendent things in the shadow. We can still become familiar with it, even dip into a first person experience of it (or at least of no separation), and then return to a more safe second or third person relationship with it.

As the identification with our human self, or form in general, relaxes, softens, become more transparent, weakens, becomes more porous, then the first person experiences of it naturally comes more into the foreground.

Until eventually, usually after much work, the beliefs in any identity falls away, and whatever arises, independent of content, is just an aspect of the field of what is, absent of I and Other.

Selfless or Self

This is also why it may be safer to use a terminology of selflessness, rather than the Self, to describe Big Mind (Brahman, Tao, Spirit) awakening to itself.

As long as there is a sense of a separate I, we'll take whatever can be seen as an "accomplishment" and add it to the identity of this separate self. We'll do this whether we use the world selfless or Self.

But with "selflessness" there is at least a reminder built in.

Humility

Theistic traditions in particular emphasize humility to guard against this inflation. It is beautiful, especially in reading the writings of Christian mystics such as St. Theresa of Avila. There is a real sense of the differentiation between the personal identity and God, and then finally the falling away of any sense of separate self so there is only God.

A drawback here is that the apparent reality of the separate self may be emphasized in the process, and also that there is a strong identification with an identity as "humble". In this path, those two are among the last identifications to be burnt through.

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Source of tension and how we deal with it |

I went to our local The Work group Monday evening, for the first time for several weeks, and was reminded of the tension that arises when we hold onto stories of how it should be, how it is, and how they two should align. (Of course, without the third it would be fine, but the third is there as long as the first is there, and even as long as the second is there.)

It is the basic tension in our life, showing up as physical and psychological tension, and also as tension between ourselves and others and the wider world.

Ways of dealing with the tension of what is and what should be

In general, there seems to be four broad ways we deal with the tension.

The first is by trying to not notice, by ignoring it, denying it, distracting ourselves.

The second is by changing our stories, or adding stories that modify the initial ones. We can change our stories about what is, about how it should be, and about the meaning of what is.

The third is to change the situation. (This is also another strategy for changing our story of what is, by changing the situation, we then can tell ourselves a story about it that conforms more with the story of how it should be.)

And the fourth is to inquire into the stories themselves. Are they true? Can I know for sure they are true? What are the consequences of holding onto these stories? Who or what would I be, in the same situation, without them? What are the grain of truth in the reversals of the stories?

When we act in the world, and are still caught up in our stories about how it is and should be and the tension between the two, we often act from reactivity and lack of clarity. When we bring the stories into awareness and inquire into them, finding what is already more true for us, there is naturally access to more clarity, receptivity and responsiveness, which comes out in our actions.

The tension between what already is more true and the beliefs

This reminds of another level of tension, besides the one between stories of how it is and should be: the tension between what is already more true for us, and what we tell ourselves through the stories.

The simplest aspect of what is already more true for us, is the grain of truth in all the reverse stories. (To believe the initial stories we deny the truth in the reverse stories, so the reversal truths naturally tends to be obscured. There is a sense of rigidity, of a fixed view and identity, and of tension between "my" position and the other positions, and between what is already more true for me and the story I hold onto as the one truth. When these other truths are brought into awareness, there is a sense of more fluidity and release of tension.)

Another aspect of what is already more true for me, is the difference between the contracted state of believing in stories (or working hard at believing them), and of who/what I am without those beliefs.

When this is clear, and without the stories, I find myself as Big Mind awakened to itself. And when it is somewhat clear, I find in myself, or myself as, some of the qualities of Big Mind awakened to itself, such as peace, ease, clarity, receptiveness, being home, sense of less or no separation. It is a foretaste of a more clear awakening, a whisper of something still slightly over the horizon. Just enough of a carrot to keep me going.

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The nigredo, albedo and rubedo of no defense Monday, February 05, 2007 |

Any framework (model, theory, map, perspective) is a filter for exploring the world, and each one brings certain aspects out (and is blind to other aspects.)

So here is a basic alchemical take on defense and no defense, of that feeling of having to defend (or not) a particular identity.

Nigredo: the misery

Whenever there is this sense of having to defend a particular identity, role, belief, view, perspective, there is also a certain amount of misery. Will do they attack me? What types of attacks can I expect in this situation? What if they are right? How can I fight back most effectively? How can I shoot down their perspective? It is endless.

Even when there is a certain enjoyment in the battle, of maybe feeling more alive, of the possibility of winning or the appearance of winning, of strengthening and supporting a habitual or desired identity, even then, there is a certain amount of misery there.

A lot of energy goes into preparing for battle, strategizing, fighting the battle, and licking the wounds afterwards. There is reactivity, which a part of us is not comfortable with. We may feel stuck in old and sometimes unwanted patterns. And there is a basic sense of a split here between myself and others, which is only reinforced by the battle, and this too gives a sense of misery.

In alchemical terms, this is the nigredo, the misery that nudges us to look for a resolution, and this time not (only) by changing the rest of the world, but changing something in ourselves.

Albedo: the work

The albedo, the whitening, the clarification, is the work we do on ourselves.

In terms of having an identity to defend, we can work on it in many different ways. The Work is one, allowing us to release our grip on a particular belief, view and identity. The 3-2-1 Shadow Process is another, where we also find in ourselves what we initially only saw in the other. We can simply be with our experiences, which similarly tends to loosen any grip we have on anything arising, including our beliefs, fixed views, and identities. We can use active imagination, other forms of self-inquiry, or anything else. And we can use any combinations of whatever is available to us.

This is a process of bringing attention to our habitual patterns (calcinatio), of differentiation (separatio), of dissolution of rigid and habitual patterns and views (solutio), and of shifting into and becoming familiar with new patterns (coagulatio), which together and over time brings a clarification (sublimatio.)

Rubedo: the resolution

Eventually, after some work, there may be a release of defensiveness in certain areas, and then other areas, and ultimately, if we keep going, in all areas and situations in our life. Instead of feeling that we need to defend certain identities, we welcome whatever comes our way as a reminder that yes, I am that too, and that, and that.

Somebody tells me, one way or another, that I am stupid, and yes, I can find that in myself. That is part of my identity. Or that I am wrong, and yes, that too is there. Or that I am arrogant, yes, that too. Or insensitive, yes. Or boring, yes, absolutely. Or fun, yes, that too. Or a bad friend, yes. Or a good friend, yes... Or smart, yes. Or right, yes. Or sincere, yes.

It is all there. I am familiar with all of this, and it is all right here. And if someone says something that I haven't explored yet, then I can find that too.

There is nothing to defend. Just ease, clarity, simplicity.

Woven together and in cycles

Over time, we may be able to see this general pattern, from nigredo (that was the time I didn't see this at all, and also all the times I fall into defense in general), to albedo (that was when I started becoming conscious of all of this and started working on it), and rubedo (that is the general sense of ease that came out of all the work, and also all the glimpses of release and peace throughout the process.)

But they are all also woven together, especially clearly so in the middle of the overall process. There is defensiveness and misery, then some work on it, then some release, then back to defensiveness, work, release, over and over, within the same issue, and across different issues.

Nothing to defend, yet also taking care of myself and others

Eventually there is a general sense of nothing to defend, of ease, peace, even in the midst of daily life and interactions with others. There is no particular identity, or viewpoint, or belief to defend. Only a fluidity among numerous views, perspectives, identities, theories, maps. Whatever works in the situation is what comes up and is used, without any need to hold onto it.

At the same time, there is the ordinary taking care of myself and others. If a cougar attacks me, I'll try to defend myself. And I'll take care of my own health and well being. And I'll defend others if they are in need of it, including defending their identity if it is attacked and they feel hurt.

There is no fixed identity to defend, and also the ordinary taking care of myself and others. And the fluidity of identities, views and perspectives is what allows me to take care of myself and others with more ease, and in more effective and effortless ways.

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Dream: retreated ocean |

I am visiting a man who lives his life to the fullest, in abundance in every area of life.

His house is on the Northern California coast, facing the ocean, and there is only a thin strip of black sand between the french windows in the living room and the water. He is late middle age, in very good shape, youthful, an avid surfer and outdoors man, in addition to being engaged and sophisticated in society as well (possibly business and sustainability.) The house is beautiful and rugged, relatively small, cubic in shape, with a very tasteful and functional interior, and only the most basic neccesities. I notice how this simplicity allows him to bring energy to what is more important to him.

He takes me out the door, down the beach, and then out to where the ocean was just as few minutes ago. It seems that the ocean has receded, maybe several miles out. Our path takes us among some tall craggy rocks, and fear comes up. Will I be able to return to the beach and the house if the ocean returns? Somehow, I know that he is safe even if the ocean returns. He is so comfortable and familiar with it, so at one with it, that it cannot harm him. They are not two, so no harm is possible.

This dream is similar to the swelling ocean dream from May last year, although in this dream, the ocean has retreated (before possibly returning.) The man reminds me of Paul Hawken who I see as someone who lives a life of abundance in many areas, including being engaged in creating a more life-centered society, focusing on business practices that are life-centered at many levels (profitable, good for earth and society.) His life - and house - is simple, yet beautiful, reflecting his personality and interests. He takes me out on the ocean floor, where the ocean was only minutes earlier. And it is clear that the ocean will not harm him. He is so at one with the ocean that there is no Other there to harm him. But there is still the question about what will happen with me if the ocean returns.

This theme is the same as from the May dream. This is what I wrote then:

... what stays with me from this dream is how I already know how to deal with the swelling and dramatic ocean - I know how it functions from the inside, there is no separation between us yet there is also room for distinction, I know how to flow and roll with it, yet also taking care of myself and others. I am fluid enough with it to even save others within it...

The dream also seems to be about death (and rebirth). In alchemical terms, this particular phase is the solutio, a dissolving, a temporary return to a fluid state, which can be experienced as a death, as being swallowed up, even drowning. This brings up fear as (parts of) what I know myself as will die. Yet, the man in the dream is a guide out into it, and also shows me that it is possible to be so fluid and familiar with the process that there is no fear.

In practical terms, it means to notice beliefs and identities (two sides of the same coin), their consequences, and then allowing the identification with them to relax. The stronger the initial identification, the more it will be experienced as a death. (It is a death of the identification, but since we are, yes, identified with it, it is what I take myself to be that dies. The experience is of "I" dying.)

The black sand may have to do with the endarkenment. Vast luminous blackness, a fullness, nurturing, deep silence. That which all form arises within and as, and which is inside of all forms. It holds all experiences in its soft embrace, including fear, and death, and even rebirth.

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