Thursday, 23 December 2010

Lives of Quiet Desperation

Source/Copyright: Forest & Kim Starr/Wikimedia

We lead lives of quiet desperation. Even in the self-help and metaphysical industry, in which I have been participating for the last 16 years (yes, I can't believe it's been that long either), there is generally a remarkably insensible approach to peace that defies common sense. Of course that's my opinion.

So how do we find peace? There have been many, many tools that have arisen in the last half century which have helped. Many swear by one or the other. I have my favourites, as readers of this blog no doubt have realised. However, there is a very subtle difference in the many approaches which can make a huge difference in the long run. It is simply this - are you finding "peace" in lieu of freedom?

I don't know what others may think, but it seems to me that if I want peace, I really don't want to lose any freedom with it. Otherwise, I might find being locked up in a padded cell with a straitjacket pretty peaceful. No bills to pay, no one to look after. More commonly, though, that is what happens in the mind with some of the techniques out there. If you are truly at peace, you should find the range of your behaviour widening, being more able to find more joy and adventure in life, being able to participate in it more without feeling threatened all the time (whilst being smart about the risks, of course).

Doesn't every technique do this? Well, actually, no. I am an advocate of a peaceful method of finding peace. If we go out with a technique or method designed to hammer whatever's bugging us in that moment back into place, I'm not really convinced that's really peace. We still have to be a manager, an overseer. And if it gives us peace, then we have to constantly guard and monitor that peace. In short, it's a full time job!

So the only way out is to make peace a way of life, a state of living. And also to incorporate our method of working out the kinks to peace into that way of life. We don't make it a huge effort to "fix" ourselves. The "problem" fixes itself in response to our approach, and life lives itself. Now that's true peace. Fire the manager, thank you very much. I didn't sign up to this lifetime to play manager to peace. Talk about a stressful job!

So whatever the method, live peace, and reflect truth, and if your zone of possibilities expands effortlessly, you're probably on the right path. If you're having to put more and more effort into living some kind of "life" in the hope of finding peace, take the padded cell. You might find it less stressful.

Does the Byron Katie stuff only work if your turnaround is totally believable to you?

Source/copyright: Joe Mabel/Wikimedia

I got this question in the mail, and in writing the answer decided it would be worth posting it up here as well. Clearly, I am not Byron Katie and I don't own The Work. Her material is available at and I have referenced it a few times now on this blog.

Think of Katie's stuff as an exploration of truth - your truth. It won't work for someone who is not going to go with it with an open mind, because they have already made up their minds. It similarly will be very much less effective if you try to approach it like some kind of tool to "fix" something. So, to answer your question, yes, it works when your turnaround is believable to you, but that is when you can find examples. It doesn't ONLY work via the turnaround. The questions are enough, sometimes.

Is it true? As Katie says, there are only two answers - yes or no. There is no "but if..." or "yes but..." or "in this situation..." You already have the "yes" in you. We are giving equal opportunity to the no, to see if it is true for us. It is not coercing the mind, and if you do that you'll find it won't work.

Can you absolutely know it is true? Look in again and check. This is where Katie can get some flak from people just coming to the work, because it looks like we are trying to make you say "no". It's not. It's just saying, check your reality map. If it's true for you then by all means stick with it. Go with what you feel. Close your eyes and see if it is true. All that is being asked is that you stay in your integrity.

How do you react when you think that thought? This is an education into how you react when you believe something to be true. Is it worth the pain and misery?

Can you find a single stress-free reason to keep that thought? This is a question she throws in sometimes. I heard a really nice variation of it once - give me one single peaceful reason to keep that thought. And if that reason makes you feel pain, it is NOT stress-free.

Who would you be without that thought? This is research. It is research into what you are outside that thought. Or, as I put it, thought on - pain, thought off - no pain. We're not trying to submerge it or anything. We are simply recognising that reality that the thought creates pain, and without it the confusion lifts, and so does the suffering.

The turnaround can be broken into three parts - to the self, to the other and to the opposite.

"He is a selfish jerk."

1.) To the self - "I am a selfish jerk (especially when thinking about him)."
2.) To the other - doesn't apply here.
3.) To the opposite - "He is not a selfish jerk."

The turnaround is again an exploration of your truth. You don't kick a turnaround under the rug if it just doesn't ring true at first. You write it down and think about it. Give it equal airing time to see if it is as true or truer than your original statement. Then you start finding examples.

- "I am a selfish jerk around him." Look at your answers to the question about how you react when you think that thought. How do you act around him? Do you pout, become quiet, react? If you took away that thought, you would meet the person for the very first time, not the person you are constructing in your mind. Which is why Katie likes to say that "no two people have ever met". We're all reacting in our minds. And when you act that way, do you think it provokes him to act that way?
- "He is not a selfish jerk." Take your mind away from just the one or two instances it is replaying. Now look at examples of when he is not selfish. You will find them. We are never completely one way or another. The thought provokes us to look at it with a biased mind.

The trick is to approach this with an open mind, a passion in finding the truth, even if it turns out to be what you didn't think it was. If you approach this just wanting to "fix" something, or if you try to force an answer that doesn't work for you, the work is unlikely to succeed.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Enlightenment Isn't Always Pretty

Source/Copyright: Phineastoad/Wikimedia

Enlightenment isn't always pretty. There is a definite ruthlessness about it. There is honesty that is required. Enlightenment is, as Adhyashanti would put it, the end of your world. There are a few common mistakes that followers of the path can fall to, and the main one amongst the New Age/spiritual crowd is the trap of trancendence.

With techniques of energy control and power often available to them (and they are increasingly easily available these days), the average seeker can now "attune" himself to high level vibrations indeed. Nothing wrong with this. In fact, it can be a definite plus. The downside is when this ability to skip above the regular frequencies of existence is abused. It is to be used as a privilege, not as a shield.

If one harbours resistance or attachment somewhere, the responsibility is to enter into it and release it through whatever process one can use - thoughtful inquiry, wrathful visualisation, determined emotional openness. If one instead chooses to continually play with higher energies and pretend it does not exist, this creates a problem. The attachment of the energy festers. The very fact that one has to use a technique to remain in the realm of higher frequencies indicates that that is not the resting state, the default option.

So, one comes back and destroys the chains of attachment with whatever method. One could even use the higher energies to attune it, whilst sitting in those frequencies. However, the key is that the garden must be weeded. When this is done, the higher states become far easier to dance the dance of enlightenment.

Compassion is the Mark

Source/copyright: Petr Bro┼ż/Wikimedia

The Master views the parts with compassion because she understands the whole. Her constant practice is humility. - A Thousand Names for Joy by Byron Katie with Stephen Mitchell

Compassion is the mark of enlightenment. Or is it? This is one I have worked with in many ways, and still would not claim to understand much of it at all. Yet I have recently had some insights regarding compassion. We can engage with compassion in two main ways. One is, having some degree of awakening, we are able to perceive the dance of luminosity and emptiness, and thus are able to view each individually component with generosity and openness, with compassion because you see them for what they are, not what they threaten your ego-identity with.

The more practical application of compassion for most people is the high watermark. Compassion is very useful, because we can use it as the eternal compass, the measure of how open and receptive to emptiness we really are. Even in traditional psychology, we find it easier to be kind when we perceive our basic needs are met. I defer back to the perceived needs/wants of the ego - approval, survival and control.

So, in our daily practice, we can ask ourselves, "How compassionate am I feeling?" and "Can I allow this degree of compassion to increase?" In increasing it, we are feelingmore open, and this allows a greater sense of awakening to the dream-like nature of reality because we are no longer grasping it. We do this with a sense of humility, not with a sense to conquer it, for conquering is in itself an ego trip. This work takes a tremendous amount of personal integrity and honesty. If we find ourselves stuck, then we can explore the stuckness, identifying the reluctance. The reluctance is always this - the ego will have to give up some part of itself. That part will inevitably be a recipe of survival, control and approval tied up with a thought.

We increase our willingness, faith, trust and surrender into compassion. We allow it to support us, just so. It is like the sea rushing into the dry desert. And we die into it, into a state of emptiness and luminosity, resonating and recognising ourselves as this state.

If there is further stuckness, we then apply a more dualistic solution, going lower down the energetic scale to activate the triple liberators. We sit in duality, educating ourselves with the wisdom insights and exposing ego to the reality of pain which its thoughts create. Then we use the determination to create more openness. This is the more wrathful version of surrender.

Either way, compassion is the mark we can aspire to. When we go into it, we disappear and integrate completely into it, like a drop of milk in a glass of water.

The Triple Liberators

After months of silence, it is appropriate to discuss the three liberators, as I call them, or the three liberating emotions. These are not anything like the usual suspects like love or compassion or faith. Rather, these three liberators have to do with the baser suffering instinct.

They are outlined here as an idea, but it is highly encouraged that any work with these be done with supervision of appropriate professionals. I do not bear any responsibility for anything arising from their use or misue.

They are:

1.) Hopelessness/weariness - The weariness of experiencing the pain of daily life. This also includes the weariness of holding onto thoughts that create suffering and pain in our minds through unfulfilled wants and desires. This creates tension and desire and ultimately suffering.

2.) Anger/retaliation - Sometimes the ego reacts to suffering not with weariness but with anger and a sense of having being done an injustice. This energy, although apparently opposite (and in some ways it is) to the energy of hopelessness, can also be applied when channelled to good use.

3.) Jadedness/cynicism/pessimism - This happens when the ego goes neither into victim mode in hopelessness or revenge mode in anger, but instead steels and covers itself with an air of indifference, or protects itself with lower expectations. This lowers sensitivity, and is trickier to deal with in some ways than the other two, but it is still workable.

The trick with these three emotions is to temper them with the appropriate insight. When mixed with wisdom, they can create the motivation to surrender to God, or to release a belief or thought that is creating pain. The key wisdom insight is to realise that there is really nothing to fight against, or to hold onto. That reality just is. Byron Katie's work is a good starting point for this. Whereas my favoured path is to work the emotions, she works the wisdom directly. This approach is a mix of both.

When Katie asks someone to write a painful thought down in her Judge Thy Neighbour worksheet, it is accessing a thought of pain. Then she asks, "Is that true?" and "Can you absolutely know that that is true?" These are questions pointing to the flimsiness of thoughts and belief. They create the wisdom insight that everything is really depending on which side you take, which point of view you are persuaded by.

Then she asks, "How do you feel when you think that thought?" and "Who would you be without that thought?" These questions point to another wisdom insight - that really it is the thought which is creating the pain, not reality itself. It is like green glass held before a light. Put it in front of it - pain. Take the glass away - no pain. It has nothing to do with the light of reality itself. It is the glass filter of thought that does it.

This bears an extreme connection with the triple liberators, for the answer to "How do you feel when you that thought?" is precisely the suffering which leads to the ego reactions. If one were awakened, just becoming aware of that thought would prompt one to release it. However, more often, then is a determination to cling on. The Work of Byron Katie then goes on to change the perspective using a turnaround. There is another way.

We can take the wisdom insight derived from the Inquiry Process, or indeed any other insight-based process or even spiritual principles such as Buddha's Four Noble Truths (1. Life sucks. 2. Life sucks because you want things. 3. So stop wanting things. 4. Deal with it.) and apply it to the emotions, transforming them into liberation. We turn them into a burning determination to be free of the pain, to release the limiting and painful thought, come what may.

So, weariness and hopelessness becomes a determination to find peace. To reside in peace, even if it means giving up all perception of how the ego thinks the world is battering it. The energy of anger is even more useful - it is already looking to strike. We simply guide it to the right target - the offending thought, not the world. In cynicism, expectations are low. The way to deal with it is to recognise that since one doesn't really expect much, there really isn't much to lose anyway, and to play along just in case something spectacular happens.

By confronting and sitting in the emotions this way, and constantly applying the wisdom insight that the pain is arising because of a thought, one gains the determination to be courageous, to open one's mind to the acceptance of what is, of reality. The alternative is suffering. Why is there determination? Because initially fear and uncertainty buffers us as we enter the unfamiliar territory of being open minded. As we do, we hold onto the forged determination to enter into the flame, and our dual minds die into peace.