Emotion and identity

july-122

In recent weeks it becomes clearer and clearer how strong emotion and identity link together to form a sense of the separate self.

Let’s say a wave of annoyance or anger arises against Trump, immigrants, your spouse, your own actions.

That emotion somehow seems to cement identity.  You seem to know who you are.  You are the one, you think, riding that white-hot feeling of rage.  Or that mild buzz of disagreement.

This link seems to convince us who we are.  We are the one who wants to right wrongs.  We are independent beings deserving a say, a voice, an opinion.  The emotion bubbling alongside the thought somehow convinces us that it’s true.

I recently experienced a disagreement with my husband.  He thought one thing; I thought another.  A wave of annoyance arose.  Thoughts clamored to the surface:  he’s wrong, I’m right, the answer is of course my answer.  Simultaneously a logical part arose attempting to find a solution to our dilemma.

What was interesting is that the wave of annoyance and sense of “I” arose simultaneously attempting to convince the separate self of its existence and truth.

If you’ve done inquiry for a while, it’s sometimes possible to surf that wave of emotion and simply be with it.  To see very clearly that the emotion does NOT mean it’s coming from a separate self.  In fact, surprise!, it’s possible for the view to shift to a perspective which sees that the emotion is simply a reactive arising–and definitively not who one ultimately is.

It’s possible to look around the living room and see–once again–that what one truly is is aware, free, all-encompassing.

Identification shifts from the focused to the expansive.  It shifts to reveal the emotion as not-self.  Simply another arising in an infinite field.

The argument with the husband or Trump or your own actions?  With the shift comes an opening for something else to appear.  A space for unknown possibilities now arising out of peace.

Consciousness after slipping out of the womb

This.  Here.  Now.

This. Here. Now.

Pretend you just slipped out of the womb.  You peer around at the glaring hospital lights, feeling a cool breeze on your naked belly.  Faces appear before your interested gaze. (Unless, of course, you’re annoyed to be here, frustrated and uncomfortable, wondering what the heck just happened.)

You look around.  You have no words for anything.  It’s all shape, movement, texture, energy.  A world sparkles around you, an entire dream filled with the five senses and consciousness.

Consciousness is!  It looks out your eyes and envelopes the entire room.  It doesn’t create a separate self yet.  Everything dances together and apart.  It’s all simply presence, or now.  It isn’t really aware of itself AS awareness.  It’s undefined, non-conceptualized, simply what is, without boundaries, without limits.  It’s free.

Now imagine yourself fifteen months later when Mama has called, “Annie!” or “Susan!” or “John!” sixteen thousand times.  Every time you’ve focused on Mama’s face and lips she’s pointing at you and calling you a name.

That’s when a kind of pretending starts.  Something dawns:  “Ahhh, when she calls Annie she means ME!  She means this body, these thoughts.”

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Diamond of who we are

Who we are

Who we are

It’s possible for Life to lead a mining expedition into the heart of ourselves.  We travel deep, deep, deep into the caverns of our interiors to discover what we truly are.  At the base, at the very apex of ourselves, we may realize our essence.  Then we climb back out of the cave into the light of day to walk as what’s been revealed.

What exists at our apex, that which is both the deepest and the highest?  (And, some might smile and add: it’s completely available at our shallowest and lowest, as well.)  Peace.  Well-being.  Love.  Joy.  Completeness.  Fullness.  Enough-ness. Diversity and Oneness co-existing in a single dance.

Everything for which we’ve been searching our entire life (and that includes the happiness which seems to result from a chocolate chip cookie) shines within us.  Always.  It’s never left. Never dearly departed.  Always the light which shines in any seeming darkness of any shadowed moment.  It’s with us in tears.  With us in death.  With us eternally, endlessly, ever-present.

But is the journey over when one discovers the peace, the light?  For some rare birds, perhaps it is.  Life illuminates itself, and the person Knows.  The force of the dynamite explosion destroys the ego-self and reveals the diamond within.  (Think of Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie and their deep dark repressed energy which apparently provided enough fuel to blow their former worlds to smithereens.)

Those of us without dynamite still might discover the diamond of ourselves, but parts of the personality might remain intact. (By personality, I mean the both the image of self and the ego-apparatus of desire and aversion which fuels us humans and keeps us securely in our character roles.)

Both the quest into the mountain and the walk back into one’s life often involves the same clearing and polishing motion. The diamond is obscured by dirt and rough surfaces.  The One has also been hidden by ego-self.  So the polishing involves bringing trapped or unconscious energy to the air and releasing it.  Don Juan, in Carlos Castaneda books calls this “recapitulation”.  He utilized a breathing/remembering technique to release the energy which binds the small self.  Hundreds of other techniques abound, as spiritual adepts describe what has worked best for them.

What is the separate self except energy compressed by beliefs?  We humans are bundles of tight beliefs, spinning ourselves into existence with every breath.  If the beliefs are penetrated, they might reveal themselves to be untrue, empty, not in alignment with the diamond at the depth.

So our journey both into and out of the mountain involves utilizing awareness to see through the imaginary character Life has so painstakingly created and cultivated. It’s also revealed that Life itself is the one seeing through its own patterns, the divine polisher of its own diamond!

So does it all “end” when one discovers what one truly is?  So many miners say no.  It’s just a beginning.  So many patterns and beliefs and desires and fears still beg to be seen, to be penetrated, to be revealed as shams, as charlatans, as something other than peace and joy.  Every day brings a new opportunity to see through.

This “seeing through” can be revealed instantly, but often takes multiple seeings.  The self/ego wants to remain unseen.  It utilizes cunning means and tricks to keep itself intact.  It uses the fuel of desires and fears to further cement itself. Any time we react to cravings and contractions without awareness we continue the belief that there is an “I” who desires or fears.

“Seeing through” often involves a combination of body, mind and spirit. It is an effortless noticing, not an egoistic effort-full doing creating more karma. (In fact, when the doing comes from ego/self, it’s usually simply another desire/belief which reveals itself to be simply more suffering.)  It includes sitting with raw physical/emotional sensations without our ego story, as well as allowing insight to penetrate the pattern.  One truly must eventually see that the belief or pattern is NOT who one is.  When that is deeply known, the pattern releases itself.

The dirt around the diamond falls away.

What exists–always, evermore–shines brighter than one could ever imagine.

The peril of absolutes

Dolphin fin

Dolphin fin

Do you notice how often the mind operates in absolutes?

It so often insists that one part of life is ultimately correct, while the other is not.

Seekers everywhere entrench in one aspect of Life, insisting this is “the way”.

We might find ourselves thinking, “We don’t have to do anything on the spiritual path.”

This may be correct–at times.  But Life itself does many things. It pays attention, notices, thinks, feels, inquires and acts.  It’s a regular multi-ring circus of doing.

We then might find ourselves deciding, “We must do something to become enlightened.”

This, too, may become a trap if we strategically take this as a belief and attempt to implement. Because Life is also a non-doing game. Any attempt often strengths the ego, that capacity to want and not-want.

Spiritual folks can argue for lifetimes about the value of doing or not-doing. It can be helpful to look deeply at WHO is doing or not-doing any activity. Who is that mysterious chooser?  Is it really the individual, that peacock of personality?

When we look from the perspective of ourselves as individuals, it looks very much like we have choice. We think, we act, we choose. It seems utterly obvious.

However, if we’ve widened our perspectives to glimpse or realize oneself as reality, the game changes. We see choice arising effortlessly, with no central doer implementing action. Life arises, Life flows. It acts. It does. It doesn’t do. It’s a seamless sea of itself and we can’t really say anything about it. But we do and can experience it every single moment.

This sea of Life contains everything. Therefore, absolutes do not translate. Duality refuses to divide itself into sharp opposing categories.

When we hear a thought expressing, “This is the way it is”–take notice. It may be the way it is in THIS moment. However, in the next moment it’s likely another way. And in the next moment, it may revert to the first way. Then it’s another new path altogether, wandering a new stretch of the forest.  Life is ultimately creative, patterns flowing together and apart, constantly moving, constantly still.

This is why it’s difficult to utter anything which is ultimately true.  How can language do justice to such aliveness?  It can not capture the beauty of such a moving changing arising. It can only carve out slices of it, tidbits, and attempt to describe the finite in a way that doesn’t include the constant changing.

I watch thoughts labeling, discerning, judging, issuing absolutes. How slyly these absolutes attempt to maintain dominance! How cunningly they dissect the world into something manageable, clean, understandable.

Ultimately–how impossible. The flow arises again, falls away, creates something new in the next dolphin-fin of a sparkling moment.

One moment I find myself doing something.  The next moment…no doing required.

Not awake, not asleep.

Not awake, not asleep

Not awake, not asleep

I sometimes get confused with the term “waking up”.

In spiritual circles the word “awake” often seems to describe a state of realizing Oneness, enlightenment or unity consciousness.

It points to a place where primary identification as the separate self no longer exists.

In non-dual groups people will chat about “when I woke up…” as if one day the light switched on, never to turn off.

My experience has not been like that.

Yes, I have had awakening experiences.  But “awake” still does not describe it.  It’s not as if we’re asleep and then we’re awake.  (Maybe it is for some beings.)

Something may definitively shift, eventually, and then we abide without identification.  Adyashanti speaks of how an initial awakening often occurs as ego dissolves.  We may then still operate from a sense of self, albeit a larger more unified self. Later, awareness wakes up from the self, into the realm of no-self.  Bits & pieces of both awakenings are often experienced as coming and going in many of our lives.

Our minds sometimes hear “awakening” and think it’s something superior, something to which we must aspire.  My experience reveals that awakening usually reveals something very humble, connected, compassionate.  Without division, what is there to do but love?  Without a sense of self, what can possibly feel superior?  All our nemesis’ are clearly seen as ourselves.

In 2008 the first awakening experience happened for me.  Driving to a nearby city on my birthday, the “little me”, that essence usually at the forefront, receded.  OK, she seemed to disappear.  What existed?  Spacious awareness fascinated with Life. Peace, delight, openness.

It lasted on-and-off for about three weeks before the “little me” reasserted herself as the primary character in this play. Then the seeking-enlightenment game accelerated tenfold, further cementing “little me” in place.  (She who seeks is definitely an ego.  That’s what an ego does.  Seeks the next cup of coffee, the next tantalizing experience, $100 for the next arbitrary purchase of goods to soothe itself, enlightenment.)

In the next seven years awakening experiences occurred.  The little Kathy would be eclipsed by the sun of awareness. That sun shone bright in the forefront.  And then, two days or three weeks later, it didn’t.  The Kathy then thought she was an independent character, separate from the shining sun.  Separate from the person who didn’t like her, didn’t understand her, didn’t behave appropriately.

In May this year, one fine evening listening to Adyashanti, suddenly understanding of what he spoke down to the tippy toes, awakening happened yet again.  Gone was the Kathy from her throne of identification.  I asked my husband, “Can you tell a difference?”  Nah, he shrugged, giving a familiar resigned look (oh, here she goes again) and said, “Well, maybe you’re a little nicer.”

Awake?  It wasn’t noticeable on the outside.  From the inside it felt incredibly different.  It was as if consciousness shifted. Awareness became forefront.  Kathy appeared as background, almost an insubstantial piece of music playing.  Kathy certainly wasn’t “awake”.  Perhaps awareness was awake to itself.  But even that’s misleading, as awareness has ALWAYS been awake.

This awakening lasted about ten weeks.  Last weekend, filled to the brim with mental activity, confusion, some emotional pain, stories, the sense of Oneness seemingly disappeared again. (Although not in the old drama of “I’ve got it/I lost it.  It’s still possible to physically see Oneness.  To know that it’s immediate.  It’s just that the Universe is investing itself in the personality once again, bringing it forefront.)

Here’s where it gets challenging.  I can’t say anything about where I am today.  Awake?  Asleep?  Those words suddenly have no inherent meaning.

There is only what is arising next.  It can be identification.  It can be compulsively checking email.  It can be deep peace.  It can be bliss.  It can be mental activity.  It can be gardening.  It can be a negative thought.  It can be a positive thought.  It can be a sense of Oneness.  It can be a searing pain.  It can be total delight.

There’s no word for this that makes sense.  Just:  life arising.  Not awake, not asleep.

P.S.  A half hour ago lost this essay.  One minute, here it is.  Next moment, gone.  Not in drafts, nowhere to be found.  I looked around for an internal reaction.  Mild disappointment.  Oh well.  Life wants to move in some other direction.  OK. Then, ten minutes ago, the blog reappears.  Mild satisfaction.  Oh, Life does want to publish this blog. One never really knows…

No spiritual inquiry required

Eye in the sky

Eye in the sky

Yesterday I wrote about the value of spiritual inquiry.  How it’s possible to realize layers of truth.  What was true for us yesterday may not be true today.  When our body contracts it’s often signalling that we’re perhaps following an old truth. The fresh truth waits for us to greet it.

Inquiry helps us explore our conditioning.  It can assist us in seeing more clearly.  It can be helpful at different junctures, assisting us in removing our blinders of limited perception.

On the other hand, inquiry can be conceptualized into a technique which keeps us more identified as a separate self.  I have seen this in my own inquiry.  It can create an effect that the questioning person is actually separate from the whole of flowing life.  It can attempt to cement a belief that “this is my life” or “I am trying to fix my life” or “I need to get rid of my conditioning” or “I need to understand” or “If I just get rid of what I don’t like about myself or others, I will be Okey-Dokey.”

What seems clear–in this moment–is that sometimes Life wants to inquire and sometimes Life has no desire to inquire. Sometimes the Universe wants to explore our conditioning as a separate self, and other times it’s just gobbledygook. Sometimes no intellectual understanding is required.  Sometimes it’s not even helpful.

In another instance, there may be resistance to inquiry.  Sometimes that resistance signals the need for inquiry–what is being resisted and why?  In another instant, no resistance surfaces.  This can be a very subtle art, listening to the winds of the Universe, can’t it?

Sometimes a negative expression comes out from another person.  It’s no big deal.  Ahhh, Life is expressing this negativity through this apparently separate individual.  No contraction from a sense of self that doesn’t want to contract.  The practice of inquiry, as a religion or inclination, does not arise.  It’s simply what it is.  No need to make it into a six-hour search to discover the roots of truth and honesty.  Next moment, please.

It is fascinating to watch this.  If we’re attached to either inquiry or not-inquiry, we may suffer.  If we allow Life to inquire or not-inquire, it’s just endless flow.  One minute we’re exploring depths of what’s true–in this moment.  The next moment we can’t even find the energy to even try.  It doesn’t even make sense.

The Universe doesn’t have anything against the separate self, against conditioning.  It IS expressing itself infinitely in a trillion forms.  It embraces itself unconditionally.

(You can inquire about that or drop it like a hot potato.  Life will do what it wants anyway.  It will say, “This is wrong!” or “This is right!” and wink at itself as it passes by.  A new truth presents itself, or it doesn’t.)

Beyond and not beyond thought

Spiritual teachers point to the ever-changing Now and declare:  This is it!  Embrace it.  Be it.  Realize it.

Seekers all over this blue and green spinning planet hear these words and attempt to reach present moment awareness.  We meditate.  We adjust our chakras.  We chant.  We walk in the woods.  We dance ecstatically.  We write poems.  We dream.  We achieve an insight and think we’ve attained something. We try so very very hard to be aware 24/7.

The doer within so often hears words and attempts to claim this awareness.  It comes up with plan after dazzling plan.  And, if your doer is anything like mine, it fails with plan after dazzling plan.  It’s always back to Square One.  After one or six or ten years or a lifetime of this doing/planning/attempting/seeking it can get darn right discouraging.

What else is Mind to do except come up with a plan of action?  It’s what our thoughts do.  They’re so good and diligent at attempting to fulfill our wishes.  Don’t you just want to hug them for trying again and again and yet again?

Yet the poor dears seem destined for failure.  No matter how hard we try, no matter how much we insist, thoughts can not create the Ultimate Plan.  They can not lead us to the Promised Land of Ourselves.

Why?  Because present moment awareness pulses in an all-encompassing dance that surrounds and encompasses thought.  Because present moment awareness sings as freedom, whilst thought prunes into categories and explanations.

Our Mind may read those sentences and determine that thought is an enemy to be conquered.  (Just get rid of thought, Thought advises, and you’ll get there.)  But thought isn’t the enemy.  Thought is a good friend, a great tool, standing ready in love to assist your bidding.  Thought need not be annihilated, even though it may be ready to try to serve your greatest desire.

So many plans of Mind leave us standing at a dead-end, weeping.  We’re not there yet, we cry.  We think up an explanation which attempts to explain our tears.  We’ll say sentences like:  I know I’m not there yet because I still think there’s a self.  I know I’m not there yet because I’m not 100% awake and aware and in the present moment.

Thought sobs at our tears and starts another Big Plan…simply to fail the next day or six months later.

Around and around and around the karmic bicycle we pedal.  (If this is our proclivity.)

Suddenly or very slowly we begin to realize that thought will never get us to ourselves.  Because we’ve never left ourselves.  Because this–this present moment awareness–is what we’ve been seeking all along.  We’re like a baby in womb trying to find her mother.  Her mother completely surrounds.

Thought isn’t the proper tool for realizing this pulsing dancing singing zing of present moment awareness.  Thought is like a calculator.  You wouldn’t expect a calculator to appreciate the beauty of a sunset, would you?  And yet that’s what some of us do sixteen times an hour as we seek the home which calls us.

So what do we do about this thought tool?  Is there any way for it to serve present moment awareness?  (My thought delights that it’s being asked!)

“Remind me gently to simply notice what’s already here,” I say to thought.  “Remind me to relax into this present moment awareness which always exist.”

Thought rushes off to comply.

Relax, it says periodically throughout the day.  Feel what IS before this thought.  Look.  Oh my goodness! (And then, perhaps, it stops, flabbergasted, for nothing it might say could add or take away from what appears, so complete onto its ordinary and miraculous Self.)