Sunday, 31 May 2009

On "Opening" the Chakras

When I was beginning my paths in the spiritual and metaphysical studies 15 years ago, talk of "opening" the chakras, or energy systems in the body was much more common than it is today. Another symptom, quite possibly, of the shift in quality of information available. However, it is just as well that this particular body of information is not expounded anymore, for the way it was usually taught - supercharging the energies of each power center to open it up and grow it, was potentially dangerous.

So why am I bringing it up today? I believe the chakra system can be very useful. And, unlike many who went before me, I will focus on the lower three chakras, rather than the upper four. For those who need a basic run-down on the seven major chakras, Google and Wikipedia are always a good place to start. I will get straight to the point.

The lowest three chakras are important to start at because they are very root level causes of suffering. Their messages, at least in distorted form, mix together and form the Gordian knot of psychoses, which we then attempt to slice using thought (a function of the third, or solar plexus, chakra). Or, the Buddhist version is to develop compassion - relative by "training" in emptiness, using all four lower chakras, and absolute by using the higher three. I have no objection to absolute compassion or even relative compassion. I am presenting an alternative way of dealing with it.

The trick here is to realise the individual madness each chakra contains (when it's running mad).

The root chakra, the lowest, is the chakra governing survival. Unsurprisingly, it produces the spiritual equivalent (and perhaps even the physical one) of fight or flight. It says, "I want security/to survive."

The sacral chakra, the next one up, is about the energy developing a way of relating to people around it, and so it governs emotions and sex. It goes into action saying, "I want approval/acceptance."

In the solar plexus chakra, the energy mutates one more level, becoming intellectual. This is where the Renaissance idea of "I think, therefore I am." comes from. It becomes more cunning, and more intelligent. This is where schemes are elaborate and more manipulative. It says, "I want to control/be in charge."

Now, in any one single psychotic tendency (and if you think you don't have them, you are just defining psychosis differently from me), at least one of the three will be present. These are the chakras in their "closed" form. They are "closed" because they are focussed on the "I" and its preservation. To attempt to deal with all three energy centers at once is tricky, and so we use the method of dividing to conquer.

And to conquer, the most direct route, although perhaps not the easiest one, is through the sacral chakra. We have evolved too far in the solar plexus chakra to defeat our thinking easily, although Byron Katie's Work does it very effectively. However, sticking with the emotions of the sacral is another way to do it. It is very simple - remove all the labels and thoughts in a situation, and just sit with an emotion, no matter how yucky it is. It is the counter-intuitive move - to allow ourselves to feel precisely that which we do not want to feel. Yet, in doing this, the energy collapses, because we make the sacral "realise" that there is no emotional threat. It may happen immediately, or it may take awhile. It depends on the level of psychosis and the level of skill. However, in my experience, if you know what you are doing, it is a quick surgical cut and then it is done.

Once the second/sacral realises that, it "opens". It no longer feels the need to protect you from your emotions, and so it stops struggling. That immediately helps, because in the energy loop, it is in between the root (survival) and the solar plexus (mental). The buildup of energy is released. From there, if it is a minor issue, you may apply The Work to the thought processes, thus showing the loopholes in mistaken thinking generated in the mental chakra.

For major ones, I would go down to the first, the instinct for survival, and again sit with it. Sitting in the fear of fight or flight, it eventually disappears. Leave the thoughts out of it for awhile. Make the root the focus.

It is the same attitude a mother takes when disturbed from soothing her crying baby and the older child tugs at her. "Later!" is the snarl, the same one you give to thoughts that come a-knocking. Then you go back to sitting in fight or flight. When that is resolved, releasing the mistaken thinking is easy. Try to think clearly when the first two chakras are also in the mix is about as effective as whispering in a hailstorm.

This may seem like painwork, but it is the most direct path.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Ego and Identity

E says: What is the distinction between ego and identity?

Kaye says: Largely the same, but with a subtle difference. You can have a sense of identity, in that you think "I am this" or "I am that". The ego is a little more subtle. It is when you become habituated to that identity, when it takes root in your awareness; that is when you develop the notion of "mine".

E says: Ahh so it's clinging on to that identity

Kaye says: Well put. Yes, that's exactly what it is. That's when your survival can be threatened. Before, you had no sense of self, and so you couldn't be destroyed.

E says: So does having an impermanent identity and not clinging to it mean not having an identity?

Kaye says: Once you identity, and identify strongly, then it is an issue. [Note: Issue of sorts. It is an issue if you wish to experience enlightenment, but not if you don't.] You never have a permanent identity anyway. It is always subtly changing. Although for most people the core beliefs are deeply embedded. You have to identify with something. You can't live life otherwise. You'd have the intelligence of a rock.

Killing the ego is not the solution. The trick is to allow yourself to alight through identity, but not grow heavy. Enlightenment is very much related to being able to have fluidity, not to be weighed down. And so you have switches in identity.

It is a process of making even more identity available to yourself, not less.

E says: So it's a realisation that you are all and none?

Kaye says: Who are you anyway? Take away all the concepts, all the ideas, everything to identify yourself with. I am. You stop at that. You put anything after it and you have an identity
That's the pure state of conscious awareness. It swims in the sea of awareness.

E says: So it's the now

Kaye says: It is always the now. The past is a story, the future is yet to come.

E says: The actor separate from the chain of events where he is a part of yet not an active participant?

Kaye says: There is no actor. He is not acting or acted upon. If you meet a raging gorrilla, who is doing the running?

E says: The gorrilla?

Kaye says: Whilst he is headed for you. You are not the gorilla, but you are not you. The legs of the body run. The brain thinks. Those aren't you either. But you can allow yourself to be in the experience. And you can drop the story that you need to survive, and just let the body run. And enjoy that.

E says: Ahh

Kaye says: That is what it means to be enlightened.

Easier said than done, of course.

E says: I think I have some idea now. Thank you.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

"I need his love." Is that true?

Source: Wikimedia

"I need his love."

Is that true?

What is the reality of it? You only ever need exactly what is. You need his love. He doesn't love you. That means you cannot possibly need his love. It cannot be. It is a lie, an untruth. How do I know? You are still here. You haven't disintegrated into thin air for want of his love. You still sit, stand, lie and breathe, in the moment, right now.

To breathe - that is what you need. How do I know? You are breathing.
To sit - that is what you need. How do I know? You are sitting. And you will need to sit until you don't. And when you stop sitting, I will know you no longer need to sit, even if you don't.

It is hopeless, but a perfect kind of hopelessness. It is the joyful hopelessness of someone who is mature enough to face reality. And it is not the begrudged, bitter anger with reality. It is not the spiteful obedience of a child who knows he cannot gainsay his parents. It is the full acceptance, from the depths of the heart, that our outer experience is here to stay.

Practice hopelessness.

Read that again: Practice hopelessness.

If Life came with a secret motto, it would be this: "Lose ye all hope who choose happiness, and ye will find joy in every moment."

Why? Because you can hide in hope. You can somehow pretend and say, okay, this is reality, and I accept it. And you don't! You hide and nurse this secret hope that someday it will be different, that someday he will love you. He may or he may not. That is HIS business. Not yours. Nowhere, no how.

So practice saying this: "This is his business. It is not mine. My mind is my business. My peace is my business. Everything is just a story." You want peace? Do it. When you ride a bike, you ride. When you drive, you drive. Talking on the mobile phone while eating pizza and drinking coffee while on the road is not driving. You want to drive? Drive. Full on. You want to live? Live in your business. Getting into someone else's business is about as useful as trying to steer the bus coming at you from the opposite lane. Even if the bus comes into your lane headed for a head-on collision, whose business is the driving of the bus? The bus driver's. YOUR business is to get your car out of the way. If you can get something simple like that, then you can also get that it is the same with the mind. You drive YOUR mind. And keep it out of other business. If you don't, road accidents may occur. Road rage, too.

"I need his love." Can you absolutely know that is true?

No! You don't. Before you knew him, you didn't need him. After you met him, you still didn't need him. I see that. You may or may not see that, based on the story you tell. The tendency is to enter a relationship, and then feel obligated to give up some of your personal power. This is how the world conditions us - tit for tat. When we want something, we pay for it. Love is funny - it is the one area where people actually pay first! We "pay" the story of how we need a person, of how we would do anything for them. That ALONE is fine.

But check the underlying motive. You may find some of the following:

"I love you. I have convinced myself in my mind that I love you. Tag. You're it. Now, I have done something very special for you in my mind, and you must do the same. This is how we will transact our love. I will love you a bit, and you will love me a bit. I will do something for you, but I will remember it! It will go into our running account. And all hell will break loose if I find you aren't paying it back! Oh, and I get to put the values on what you do, of course. You have no say, and you have no clue. Not at first, anyway. But I'll be watching. I'll know when you don't send flowers. I'll know when you forget my birthday. I'll know when you don't take out the garbage. Oh, you won't have a clue, but it will all be going into this little black book, here in my head. In fact, I keep it so efficiently even I may not see it for a long time. But eventually I will. And boy, honey, you are going to get it when I do. Because YOU will not have played by the rules. Who wrote the rules? Oh, I don't know. I just know they're the rules. No, you are not allowed to have different rules. I've convinced myself they are the rules, so we will play by it. Don't you dare question my rules! I won't question them either. So I won't have to expose my thinking, or myself. I won't have to change. Oh no, honey, that's your job. YOU change. Just watch."

What a horrendous way to love! And tiresome. And tiring. You want to love someone? Have the guts to love them full on. That is true love. You love them without condition. You love them without needing them to act in a certain way. You love them without needing love in return. How do you even know they love you anyway? THEY don't even know themselves! That is reality. And it is here to stay. If you want to change anyone, in ANY way, I don't care why, how or who, you are playing in the dream world, the inner world. You are believing a story and acting it out. You want to change the person you love? You don't love him. You love your story of him. If you loved him, you wouldn't want to change him, because that would be him. Changing him is his business. None of yours.

"I need his love." How do you react when you think that thought?

Oh this is a merry one. We become miserable. We go into self-pity. And boy, are we good at this. All of us. We're trained to do it since childhood, actually. No one needs to go to school for this. We figure it all out on our own. And if someone challenges our right to be miserable, we hiss at them. We go out desperately looking for people to join our new religion. Your religion is "I need his love." Find someone else who agrees with you and you've got a cult. And we will expand this cult - we will add to it people who agree with us. And together we will ostracise those who don't. It's a wonderful cult. Until it crumbles. Because it does not bring happiness. Or it may not crumble. And you may be able to keep the story going awhile longer. Ignore the pain a bit more. Maybe even a lot more.

Did you know your thoughts can weigh you down? You think and think and think until they become so heavy that you cannot move. You just want to curl up and die. Until you finally figure it out - you are pushed back because you are arguing with reality somehow. HOW are you arguing with reality? Find it, and repent. And it will fall away. That is my religion - reality.

"I need his love." Who would you be without that thought?

You would be the person you were before you thought that thought, before you met him. You would be the one who went around, oblivious to the fact that he existed. You would be free to live your life, free from the pain. Is that why he is so perfect? Because he causes you pain? Recognise the price you are paying for this thing you call "love". You call it love. I call it manipulation.

So here's the question: You were brave enough to endure all that pain you built into your story. Are you brave enough to be free?

Any idiot can build story upon story filled with misery. We're all experts in it. Nothing special about it. You want to do something special? Drop all the stories. Walk around mentally naked. And you will see the world with new eyes. And you will fall in love with reality, with what is.

"I need his love." Turn it around and give 3 examples of where that might be true.

Byron Katie traditionally says there are 3 turnarounds (to the self, to the other, and to the opposite), and some may struggle to find even one. But, she also says, if you sit with it long enough, other turnarounds will appear. Some will work, some won't. But sit with them all, and you may find that they all work.

To the self: "I need MY love."

Give me 3 examples of where this is true. You need your love.
1. I am withholding my love from myself because in my mind, I am giving him all the power to love me. So when he does something, I allow myself to feel loved. But I could just allow myself to feel loved directly.

2. I need my love in dealing with him. I am so busy telling myself I need his love, that I don't recognise that I need my love. I beat myself up in my mind, and knock myself out. I could definitely use some of my love there.

3. I need my love because it is the only love I can get. I will never know that he loves me, or anyone loves me anyway. I can spin stories around how this or that means they love me. But really, I am building that love into those stories. It's really my love for myself that I am hiding in those stories for myself to discover. It is the only love I have really experienced in my life!

To the opposite: "I don't need his love."

Give me 3 examples of how you don't need his love.
1. I don't need his love to live. I can wake up, I can dress, I can walk, I can run, I can eat, I can drive, I can work, I can read, I can watch television. All without his help! Wow. I really don't need his love. I'm still here. I'm still alive. If I needed his love I would have died a long time ago, because there is no real way to communicate love.

2. I don't need his love in order to love him. Hey, I can still love him. But this is a grander love, an even better one. I can love him, and not need his love in return! I can love him if he is in another part of the world. I can love him when he is here, and when he is not. And it doesn't matter if he doesn't pay me one whit of attention. Because I don't need his love to love him.

3. I don't need his love to find love. Whoa! I don't need his love, because I can find love. There are so many people out there. He is but one. I don't need his love at all, because there are billions of human beings. He is free not to love me, and I am free to find love elsewhere. I can quit bugging him and irritating him and begging him to love me, and making HIS life a misery because I don't need to.

To the other: "He needs my love."

Give me 3 examples of where he needs your love.

1. He needs my love to be himself. Not to manipulate him, not to support him, but to be himself. He needs my love because he is exactly the way he is, and all the arguing, the manipulating I have done has done nothing to him. He doesn't need that. He needs me to love him enough to step away. He needs me to love him enough to let him go and grow up. That is the extent of my love. I love him enough to let go.

2. He needs my love to understand that he needs what he is going through, that he needs to be the way he is. I have to love him enough to let him do what he does, because that is what he does.

3. He needs my love to quit bothering him. He needs me to love him enough to let him have peace in his life, and to take myself out of it. That is the compassionate thing, for both of us. Because only in that is there happiness. How do I know that is true? Because things are the way they are.

NOTE: I do not represent Byron Katie's work. The questions are hers, and the explanations are mine. It is my way of relating to them. I have a deep respect and appreciation for The Work, but I am not affiliated with them.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

How can I stop negative thoughts?

Two problems with the question in the title:

1. No such thing as negative except in your mind. (And yes, there is no such thing as positive either. Novel concept, no?)
2. You can't stop thoughts of any kind. You might as well try to stop yourself breathing.

To expand:

Thoughts arise naturally out of the emptiness. You can't stop them. And if you try, you would be better off trying to stop the Niagara Falls. They will go on forever. Reality check: Thoughts are here to stay. We get to live with them.

And what's so bad about thoughts, anyway? They don't cause problems. We do. The thoughts bubble harmlessly through our awareness until we presume to relate to them. When we believe them, then something happens. We create a relationship to the thoughts. And that relationship is what creates our inner experience. (See the Primer on Reality.) For better or for worse, that thought then settles into our mind. Fun, isn't it?

What happens when you start getting into multiple relationships with multiple thoughts is that it sews into a tight inner experience. And the more thoughts you relate to, the more likely they will argue with reality. Yep, that usually means pain. So how do you get out of that relationship?

Hint: it has nothing to do with killing the thought.

You can NOT, if I haven't already made that absolutely clear, kill a thought. The act of aggression against it is yet another way of relating to it. You draw it even closer. You question your relationship to it. Again and again, until you see the truth of it. The way of it is reality. And you will be free of thought. They will bubble harmlessly away. And you can go your own way. Question and Question until they go. Or stay.

Is that true? If you really look at any thought, and honestly consider whether it might be true, you will find that it isn't. But look at your truth. What is it for you? Look at your reality. What is the way of it? "Yes" or "No" is fine. There are only TWO answers to this question. Yes. And No. If you feel compelled to say anything else, that is a story. If you feel you need to justify your answer, that is a story. If you feel that you need to say more to explain your position, that is a story.

Can you absolutely know that that is true? Sit with it and think about it. This work is about meditation. And again, yes or no is fine, but if you come up with a yes, I challenge you to ask yourself this question: "Can you find one example, one instance, where this thought might not be true?" And yes, you can fudge it all and blithely say no. But if you really sit and try, in spite of the fact that your mind is eagerly straining in the opposite direction, you will find it. In my experience, nothing is absolutely true.

How do you react when you think that thought? When we are not at peace, we are out of balance with reality. The only way that can happen is when our thoughts, our stories, the fables we believe in, are out of sync with reality. We are too focussed on the inner tale. When you believe the thought, you will react in all the ways that make you miserable, angry, irritated, frustrated. Yes, if you are completely strict and honest with yourself, every time you are emotionally out of kilter, if you sit with it long enough, and ask yourself, "Why am I feeling this way?" eventually the thought or belief will come out. It takes practice and experience, because many of these beliefs and thoughts have gone unquestioned, invisible for years, and with our sloppy thinking we believe them. This question asks you to see what thinking that thought is causing you to feel.

Who would you be without that thought? This work is about education. We don't shoo the thought out the door. We don't try and kill it. This is a simple question. We have seen what it is like to be with that thought, and now we see how we would be without that thought. This is the education of self. We see what damage we are doing to ourselves by holding on to thoughts. And if you were smart, you would let it go at this point.

If you didn't want to let it go, then let me explain one other point. IF you believe in peace, then there are only 2 kinds of thought: Stressful and stress-free. Can you find a single stress-free reason to keep your thought? If not, let it go. And if you are committed to it, you will never find a stress-free reason. At least no one has found one yet. There are those who have mistaken stressful reasons as stress-free, of course.

And you can go, "But, but..." all you like. In the paradigm of peace, it is that simple. The "buts" come from another paradigm - the paradigm of right and wrong. The paradigm of arguing with reality. That paradigm will give you loads of reasons to keep the thought. Cultural upbringing, childhood memories, parental beliefs, la di da. The whole load of it. If you are into being right or wrong, that is fine too. But recognise that peace is not guaranteed in that paradigm. If you want peace, then this is one paradigm which will show you a useful way to look at it. If you still want that paradigm, it shows you aren't committed to peace above everything else in your life. You find peace when you place it higher than everything else.

You want something else? You want wealth? You want relationships? You want health? You may or may not get those. Hopeless, really. Life will do exactly what life will do. Nothing more and nothing less. And you may or may not be happy. Reality will rule. That's why so many great ones go nearly to death before they figure this out. Life beats them again and again and again because they argue with it. Then, for the lucky ones, they change priorities. They give up hope, because reality is hopeless. They only want what is, and nothing more, because it is wayyy too painful to argue. That is surrender. That is the end of pain. Where is your priority?

NOTE: I do not represent Byron Katie's work. The questions are hers, and the explanations are mine. It is my way of relating to them. I have a deep respect and appreciation for The Work, but I am not affiliated with them.

"Your son should have died. Give me 3 examples of why that might be true."

Source: Wikimedia

So you guys think you have a tough life? The question in the title is (to my memory, which is my story) an actual question Katie asked of a participant in a workshop. The participant's child had committed suicide.

"Your son should have died. Give me 3 examples of why that might be true."

1. "He was in pain. It was a torture for him to live. Life had become hell, and dying was a relief."
2. "He wanted to die. If I really loved him, I would want for him exactly what he wanted. He wanted to die, and I am glad he managed to fulfil his desire."
3. "He was taking too much time and attention away from the other children. His death was an act of compassion, so that the others would be taken care of. And here I am wasting my time moaning his death when it was such a beautiful gift for the other children, and a chance for me to reconnect."

"If you can find one example, you can find two. If you can find two, you can find three. If you can find three, you can find four. Go on. Find some more."

4. "The financial resources of the family were being sorely taxed. He should have died because the family couldn't possibly have sustained him in any form of comfort that he would have needed to survive from his problem."

"If you can find four, you can find five."

5. "He should have died so that I wouldn't have had to worry about him anymore. I was worrying about him all day and night. Now he's gone, and I don't have to worry about him feeling any pain any more. He's free from pain. And here I am recreating the pain in my own mind and feeling it for him. He's free!"

And if you have issues with any of the reasons, it will very likely have to do with cultural programming that says something like "you shouldn't be happy about death" or "it's not proper to put money over life". You know what? If you can find a single stress-free reason to keep those ideas, let me know.

NOTE: I do not represent Byron Katie's work. The questions are hers, and the explanations are mine. It is my way of relating to them. I have a deep respect and appreciation for The Work, but I am not affiliated with them.

Are YOU In Pain? A Primer in Reality

Okay, I normally would give my readers some nice graphic to go on, but today a simple diagram will do the trick. The topic today is simple - reality. What is, and isn't. And why should you be interested? If you are in pain, and no longer want to be, then you need to know this. If you don't mind suffering, or if you are one of the precious few who are genuinely at peace with themselves, and mosey along, there is nothing to see.

What causes pain?

Let's keep this simple. We have 2 experiences - an outer experience and an inner experience. What is the outer experience? That is the air you breath. That is the chair you are sitting on. That is way of it. It is the way things are. No particular reason. It is the way your child looks at you. It is the way the stars twinkle at night. It is the way clouds are in the sky. That is reality, pure and simple. For some, that is God. Why? Because reality rules. You may or may not like it, but it makes no difference. It ain't going away.

The inner experience is your story. These are the thoughts you have that are related (or unrelated) to outer experience. Your inner experience is the story you tell yourself, and when you believe it, you may be letting yourself in for a world of pain. When you sit in a room, that is your outer experience. When you are "alone" in a room. That is a story. Alone is a story. It puts yourself mentally in a place where it feels bad (or good, depending on what you associate with being alone). When you tell yourself that affects the way you feel, whether it makes you feel bad or good, better or worse, you are telling yourself a story.

How do feelings enter this?

Feelings are your indicator of how good a fit your story is with reality. If your story is in harmony with outer experience, with how things are, you feel great. Remember when you fell in love, and your lover could do nothing wrong? You were in love with reality, because nothing could go wrong. Remember how that could also change? How something he or she would do would be less than perfect, not fitting with how it "should" be done (because YOU know better than him, so there!) and then feelings of irritation, anger and frustration would arise? Your feelings tell you nothing more or less than how good a fit your story is with reality.

Most of us cannot function without stories. If you did Byron Katie's Work long enough, you would eventually get to the point where most stories would disappear. However, at the minimum, if you don't want to feel pain, match your story to reality.

The recipe for pain

If you want to solve pain, let's first see how to create it. This is easy for most of us - we do it so expertly we don't even have to think about it. So let's make it conscious. If you want to feel pain, disagree with reality. It doesn't matter how big or small a thing it is. Pick something around you and disagree with it.

"I wish that colleague would stop yammering so loudly at me." (Wishing someone would be other than he is - hopeless. We can't control the weather, nor the politicians, nor the boss, nor the cat. We ain't controlling the colleague.)

Keyword: wish/want

"He should buy me flowers." (Reality: He isn't. Get over it. I once had a dramatic experience of this at a Byron Katie workshop. She said, "Do I want a drink of water?" There was a glass and bottled water on the table. "Not yet. How do I know? I'm not drinking yet." Walked over. "Not yet." Opened the bottle. "Not yet." Poured water into the glass. "Not yet." Brought the glass to her mouth. "Not yet." Drank. "Now."

You want to be in perfect peace? You want what is happening NOW. Not one second before, not one second after. Why should you do it? You should or you shouldn't. This is a painless way. If you're happy with your way, no problem.)

Keyword: should

"I am angry because she didn't bring the groceries home." (Is that true? Can you absolutely know that is true? She MAY have brought them home, but someone took them. You don't know. Even if she says she didn't, you don't absolutely know. But let's say you manage to convince yourself that she didn't, in fact, bring home the groceries. Let's look at this from a clean, practical standpoint. She didn't bring the groceries home. How do you react when you think that thought? You're upset and angry. Great place to be, huh? Who would you be if you didn't have that thought? Probably a lot happier. It's NOT the fact that the groceries didn't get brought home. It's the thought that you are thinking which is messing up your peace of mind.

The underlying corollary to that is "She SHOULD have brought the groceries home." You have a story about that, whether culturally embedded or just a random story. I'm not saying she should have or should not have. I am saying if you want to think that thought, don't be surprised when the pain hits home. Because she did NOT bring the groceries home. Deal with it.)

Keyword: some action that someone did or did not take (with a "should" hiding underneath)

To sum up

You want to be happy? Align your experience to reality. Even better, forget the story and just experience reality. The sensation of your breath. The feeling of sunlight. No labelling. End of story. That's how to end pain. But if you love your story more than your peace, keep your story. Just don't be surprised when the pain hits home.

NOTE: I do not represent Byron Katie's work. The questions are hers, and the explanations are mine. It is my way of relating to them. I have a deep respect and appreciation for The Work, but I am not affiliated with them.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Tips for Precise Mental Visualisation

There is a lot of hype about the merits of precise visualisation on the market. Whilst there are some benefits to having very precise visualisation, in most cases, excepting perhaps religious meditations, they are largely unnecessary, and may even hinder one, depending on its purpose.

That said, for those who are keen on improving the clarity of their visualisations, here are some tips:

1. Don't try too hard. When I took my first dynamic meditation training years ago, I used to come back with just about enough strength to crawl into bed. Yes, I once also coveted extremely precise visualisation. What I found was that there are two states (well, not discrete ones, but good enough for the purposes of this discussion) of mind when visualising: a rigid, forced one, and a relaxed, gentle one. The latter is much more useful for precision.

How do you know you are forcing too much? You are looking at an image in your mind and it is not staying still. Instead, the more you keep it still, the more it stubbornly morphs. That usually is an indicator that you are attempting to force and it is moving precisely because you fear it will move. That also happens when you (mentally) stare too fixedly and the image starts bringing up associations (Gee, that hat looks like an upside down glass - oh wait, what's that glass doing there?!). Actually, the associations are useful (see Tip 3).

2. When you notice a visualisation doing something it's not supposed to do, let it! Getting involved with it is exactly the way to spin it off course. Instead, ignore it and let it spin away whilst you simply relax, putting your awareness into an expanded state, rather than going into mental tunnel vision. When you feel the mind-jerk end, bring your awareness gently back to the visualisation and with the slightest touch possible (you'll get more expert over time), change it back to what it was supposed to be.

3. Use pre-wired associations. If you have trouble calling up a visualisation, or you are trying to learn a very precise visualisation, it helps to make associations. This is particularly true if you are going to be revisiting a visualisation multiple times. For example, to visualise a red ice cube (yes, yes - I know it just appeared automatically in your mind as you read that, but try KEEPING it there for a minute or two!), you may use a box-shape you know to bring up the shape, and then use an apple image to pick the colour adjustment.

4. Take breaks. In building very precise visualisations, do not try to create the whole image at once. Unless you have an exceptional mind, it will completely shift by the next time you try it. Build it slowly, and constantly deconstruct and reconstruct the visualisation from scratch. That way, you will become better and better at the earlier parts as you go, and you can builds the finer details on that foundation.

5. Make observations. Sometimes, making spatial observations may well aid your visualisation, especially when it comes to keeping it still. For example, in visualising a house, you may wish to note how wide the roof is relative to the building, how tall the door is relative to the windows, how the general arrangements of the door, windows and building make the house have a "face". Make micro and macro visualisations, and by doing this you will lock in the visualisation at a very precise level. Remember to take breaks!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Can you build a castle in the clouds?

2004: It was the final year of my Economics degree at Cambridge, and, like many of my colleagues, I was pondering my next move.

If you know me personally, you will also know that at any one time I will have my fingers in several mental experiments. At this particular point in time, it was a study of the connection between a mentally "visualised" (for want of a better word - you'll see why it wasn't the traditional visualisation in a moment) object and the probability of it being converted to reality.

And, as luck would have it, my whimsy at this time was to experience living in a castle. Not to own one, mind, but to live in one. That may rather have been inspired by an episode of Keeping Up Appearances, one suspects. So, gathering what I knew then of meditational techniques, I got on with it.

It was pointed out that "visualisation" is a very inadequate description of what I did - that would be because there was no visual at all - at least at the beginning. I simply injected the idea of living in a castle at deep brainwave levels whilst creating a sympathetic reaction with the preconscious processor. Then I left it to incubate.

After doing this for a couple of nights, ideas began to come in.

On another whimsical note, I labelled the mental association "Blandings Castle". Those who know PG Wodehouse will know that this is a fictional building in a work of fiction by the august writer. Here is another twist: At the time, I had only read Jeeves and Wooster, and not the series where this particular castle featured. In fact, I had only PhotoRead (flipped the pages of the book in front of my eyes for a grand total of maybe 2 minutes at the most) the Blandings Castle book (I forget which one it was) in the bookstore. And no, for the sceptics, there was no illustration of the castle, not even on the cover.

So, the image started to arise in my mind of a castle, over a few days. Instead of fashioning the image, I allowed it to take shape. Dimensions and outlines to the castle began to appear. I added a "porch" over the front door for cars to stop by, and most importantly a place to sit on the first floor above this porch, the better to sip lemonade from. I also went with the river behind the castle, the gym, the inside layout.

Then, I googled Blandings Castle. It seems that the chap Wodehouse has such a large following people have actually attempted to find the inspiration for Blandings. One would be Apley Hall, the building in the picture. Note the porch. Up till that point, I had never even seen a building with that design, not in Cambridge. In my self-serving arrogance, I had thought it was completely original! And I was proven seriously wrong.

About this time, fliers started appearing in my pigeonhole (that's Cambridge-speak for mailbox). One in particular was for a position as a Research Fellow at the Levy Institute of Economics. THAT flier went straight into the bin. About four times. But versions of it kept popping up at me. Finally I took a hint from the mind and went on to the meeting. It seems that I was uniquely qualified for the position due to the unusual dissertation I had produced that year. To cut a long story short, I found myself at the Institute in New York before the year was out.

Here's the Levy Institute:

Look familiar, anybody? If it doesn't, scroll up. The gym was located on the land exactly where I had imagined it to be. I always thought that it was odd it wasn't part of the building itself, but it was a College set-up, so naturally they didn't put a gym in that building. Oh, and the river would be the Hudson River, running right behind the college. The inside layout of the building checked out very nicely, too.

This was a very critical experience in the history of my development, and influenced my research for a long time to come. I think I can say that that experiment was the starting point of a completely new level of exploration of mind. Sometimes, you can build castles on clouds.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Faith, Hope and Love

Source: PatsyGC

The Bible talks about faith, hope and love. They are pathways of relating to pure awareness, the sea of awareness, of dissolving the bonds of habituated awareness, and hence the false sense of identity.

Hope is probably the least of the three. It is the inkling that there is something better, that there is something grander out there. It is daring to allow a closed mind a glimmer of an opening, so that daylight may peep through. However, it is also fraught with defensiveness, for it aspires for a better day, yet holds the sense of identity deep within itself, and when fear comes, it is easy to let hope go, to shut the door and retreat into dense ignorance.

Faith is a bigger version of hope. It is trust in the vision that hope holds out. It says, "Even though I see no evidence of anything, I still hold." The weakness of faith is that without wisdom it can be misapplied, and then it becomes stubbornness, or blind faith. And when faith goes, the separated awareness falls into despair.

Love is the greatest of them all, for it asks nothing in return. It is the adoration of pure awareness, asking for nothing, and thus gives all. There is no secret hidden price, and thus the sea of awareness is able to bestow its highest blessing, for by making themselves truly self-less, the loving meek inherit the earth.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

On Controlling v Being Present for Life

As long as we are trying to control life,

we cannot be present for life.

Whenever I notice myself trying to control my life,
I will remember that it is just the fear-based mind,
and I will stop and become curious about
what is present right here and right now.