Blogging and the spiritual path

MP900341542 Microsoft ClipartI’ve posted a couple of times on the Scribblings blog about my thoughts on keeping track of blog stats (here and here).  In a nutshell, although I see that lots of people are caught up in second-guessing every like, comment and follow/unfollow, I can’t get that caught up in it.  Over time I’ve realized that when it comes to blog stats I’ve taken in the lesson “don’t take anything personally” very well.

It’s a place where it’s clear to me that people have so many complex reasons for the choices they make that there’s no point in trying to figure out why.  As Huna teacher Serge King says, “people are who they are and they do what they do.”  So I shrug and figure they’re gonna do whatever and it has nothing to do with me.  Some might call that learning detachment.

Blogging for me has also been an adventure in stepping out into the world as myself.  My progress has been very slow.  I began by posting twice a week but doing nothing to get readers.  For the first six months pretty much no one read my posts.  In some ways I felt relieved because I always secretly feared that if I expressed my deepest self people would hate me.  The well-publicized adversarial nature of a lot of social media led me to believe that if I revealed my deep thoughts I’d probably have to face nasty comments from anyone who disagreed.

Eventually I decided to see what I needed to do to actually have readers and take my chances on the negative comments.  Over time I’ve stepped out more and more.  The miracle to me has been that in this supportive, amazing, lovely spiritual blogging community not one person has ever left a nasty comment.  Every time I’ve put out a post with the fear that lots of people would take exception to it I’ve found support and encouragement.  (Since I don’t follow stats too closely I don’t know if anyone quit following…)

This has been SO healing for me.  In the last few months I have realized that I’ve stepped out much more not only in the posts I’m writing but in my interactions with fellow bloggers.   A transformation through blogging.

At this point I’m following lots of spiritual bloggers and I like that I spend so much time every day immersed in thoughts about spiritual life.  It’s helping me to deepen my thinking and practice and keep my mind immersed in new world thinking.  I’ve learned a lot from all of you.

There’s a challenging piece with which I’m still working.  I do bump into posts that seem unnecessarily negative or that express opinions I find offensive.  Since I feel everyone has a right to their opinions, however different from mine, I don’t land a negative comment on them–nor do I hit the “like” button.

I know enough to realize that anything that offends me in someone else reflects something in me.  But instead of instantly doing ho’ o pono pono to heal  in me what bothers me about them, I usually just back out of the post.  Occasionally if there are too many posts that disturb me I quit following the blog.  In my pursuit of oneness I can see that I have some work to do.

For all of these lessons I am so very grateful.  Have you found any spiritual lessons in the blogging world?

Yonder–where I’m not looking

Where I’m not usually looking…

I finally managed to walk the whole loop that constitutes my favorite walk.  When I get into the park, most of the way I can see a view of the San Francisco sky line.  Somehow that always grabs my attention, off to my right, so I rarely even look to the left.  Today it occurred to me that I should check out the sight lines I normally ignore and suddenly to my left there loomed this gorgeous tree.  So much of life is like that.  At least for me.  I wander around with my focus in one direction and vast amounts of things that are outside my focus are never seen.

Years ago I realized how differently we all focus when in the space of several years I had experiences while walking with a woman (different one each time).  I’d be walking along noticing a sunset or a tree or the architecture of a particularly nice old building when the woman would ask if I’d seen the guy who just flashed us.  In each case, given our world views and especially our attitudes toward crime, I found it somehow not surprising that I was looking at something else and that the particular woman I was with had seen the flasher.  But I’ve always been fascinated about how two people on the same walk can have such different experiences of what’s along the way.

Since I’ve been on this visit I’ve found myself eyeing the bottom of the yard and examining a picture I took last year (the one on yesterday’s post) in the park next door.  I lived in an apartment that used to be a separate part of the house for almost seven years and I’ve done this house sit regularly for quite a few years and in all that time I never realized that when I’m stopping to take a breath in that cool valley near the end of my walk I’m standing feet away from the bottom edge of the yard.

Feet away from the back yard…

So today as I walked along with phone in hand and set on camera I turned in the gully to snap a photo.  The bramble is so thick down there I couldn’t actually get more than a sense of the edge of the yard but just beyond the view in the photo is where the park and the yard meet.  All that time here and that little fact eluded me.

It’s a reminder to me in the study of mindfulness and presence that as I get caught by the too-great flow of information and struggle among the many demands for my attention, there is so much unnoticed – right in my own backyard…

This post if for Jenny Matlock’s AlphabeThursday, which is Y today.

Early Memories of Mom and Dad

It’s “e” day on ABC Wednesday and “m” day on AlphabeThursday and that for me brings to mind my late teacher, Ellen Margron. I’ve been thinking lately about the part of her version of Fischer Hoffman that affected me hugely and has continued to be a useful tool.

We spent a long time using a sixteen page list of negative beliefs and admonitions to identify everything we could possibly come up with (including beliefs and admonitions not on the list) that our mothers believed and then that our fathers believed. And that’s on every subject you can imagine: sex, money, jobs, success, failure, body image, fatness, thinness, femininity, masculinity, spousal roles, health, wealth, siblings, family, inheritance, culture, society, politics, legacy, etc.

A crucial piece of the teaching was that we should not confront our parents with anything because these lists are perceptions of our parents and don’t necessarily have anything to do with our actual parents. The lists in their entirety give you a map of a huge percentage of your beliefs and admonitions. A few experiences of siblings making lists about their parents helped me realize how true the perception piece is because they’ll often have lists that are completely contradictory as to what each parent believed. They each filtered experience and things their parents said through their own personality and understood the same things differently.

I particularly liked this one because it was somehow easier to identify the beliefs when I thought of them as belonging to Mom or emanating from Dad. It was also startling to see what I really believed. Another part of the work helped to release a lot of those beliefs. But I came away knowing that any time one of my parents is driving me crazy with an attitude or belief that I need to take a look to see where it shows up in me. That list is generally jumbled up and a given belief may only show up in a certain circumstance and not in others or may appear in several contexts only if particular conditions are present.

I highly recommend that you work on your own lists of mother’s beliefs and father’s beliefs in order to discover great insights about what you believe. And then remember that it really is just what you believe and doesn’t necessarily have any reality for the parent to whom you attribute it. Thanks Ellen!

Journeying Back to Oneness–Where Peace Lives?

On Waking Spirals, Gary Rosenberg’s posts recently have been exploring questions about how to balance spirituality and compassionate action, positive thinking and knowing what’s wrong so that you can help. This is territory to which I return often in my journey. I keep coming back to the same answers for myself – I don’t claim to have the answers for anyone else.  I’ve appreciated that his posts are causing me to think it through again.

I was a hippie a long time ago—well really I still am in many ways—and became politicized and radicalized by the Viet Nam War. Over the next couple of decades I marched for solar power and against apartheid, spent my short-lived legal career as an anti-nuke lawyer, volunteered at environmental organizations; well, you get the picture. Activism and me, bff’s.

Before I even started exploring spirituality I started observing that often my activist friends seemed to be very good at working on behalf of the faceless masses but weren’t all that nice to the people in front of them. And then, as I listened to conversations in which they mapped out the best solutions for people in far away places I marveled that they felt they knew what these people needed without ever asking them. They seemed startled that I even questioned it and the attitude seemed to be “of course we know the right thing to do.”

Soon I was meditating and searching and I drifted away from the activist scene. But wars and violence and injustice kept on happening and I began to struggle with how to fit my new spiritual viewpoint with the liberal/left, let’s get in there and fix it attitude that automatically arose. For quite a while I convinced myself that the righteous sense of righting wrongs went hand in hand with being spiritual—of course you’d fight for the downtrodden, etc.

But as I wound my way into Buddhism and vipassana I became more uneasy about how that balance could work. In the lead-up to the Iraq War several things came together to really change my view. One was the degree of vitriol in the many e-mails I received from various groups to which I belonged that purportedly aspired to peace. Words of battle, fury at anyone who disagreed, they felt like they breathed hatred and bitterness into my being as I read them. I questioned how all that anger could help. I questioned how I could imagine that I know from my human vantage point exactly what is right and what is wrong. And, even assuming that I know how God would define what’s right, how can I presume to define solutions for others?

My intuition started nudging me to the lovingkindness chant*. I’ve written a longer post about this elsewhere but to make it short, several weeks of chanting for President Bush and Sadam Hussein, et al., shifted me into a different space. I could feel their hearts and sense our connection. Suddenly the idea of the web of all life meant much more to me.

Around the same time, I read David Hawkins’ Power vs. Force. His theories about the scale of energy that exists among humans and the power of those who have achieved high levels of energy being able to balance thousands or tens of thousands of others (depending on the level of energy) helped me to see the web, or oneness, in the light of what space each of us holds within it.

If you clear yourself of anger and bitterness and raise your vibrational level to 500 or more** you can hold a space of peace strong enough to be a counterbalance to as many as a million people (again depending on how high the level). So enough people who even get to 540 (his level of “joy”) could tip the balance of the whole world to a higher energy. And if there are too many people living in anger and recrimination and battles and struggles relative to those who counterbalance, then the world descends into more chaos and hatred.

I believe that everything is energy and that in spite of all our evidence that we exist as separate beings, the reality of us is that we are all one. We are all part of the same web of energy that is all life. Because of that I believe that the most important work anyone can do to create peace and justice is to do everything possible to raise their own vibration, to learn to be peace. So for me, that’s the journey. Find my way back to seeing that any thought that separates the world into a “me” and a “them” is an illusion because we are ONE.  I like action like Buddhist’s who sit and meditate in the midst of protest.  But I haven’t really figured out if there’s more that works for me.  I’m not peace yet, so I figure that’s my work for now.

*The version I use: “may I be filled with lovingkindness, may I be well, may I be peaceful and at ease, may I be happy”.  I often make it an affirmation “I am filled…”

** I accept that his theory is true, I’m more skeptical as to whether his precise scale will someday be proven correct. But I do believe there is a scale of energy.

This post is for Jenny Matlock’s AlphabeThursday, which is “J” and for ABC Wednesday, which is “B”.  Tenuously connected, I know.  But they are in the title…

Fear or Freedom?

My post yesterday on embracing pain left me thinking about how much fear a lot of us have about facing pain and the many ways in which fear can show up and cause problems on a spiritual journey.  As always, in keeping this short I am not being exhaustive here so there will be more at some point.

In 27 years on the journey I’ve assisted some of my teachers in classes, taught a lot of classes and participated with a lot of people as a student in classes and I’ve encountered a lot of ways in which fear can impede a journey. Sometimes it’s fear that life will change and the change will be painful. I’ve seen a lot of people who talked about the new life or new career they wanted while clinging so hard to their current job or relationship or circumstances that there wasn’t room for something new. I think that’s fear that letting go will wind up hurting and the fear winds up trumping the longing for being new.

Another fear relates to our (American) societal tendency to feel that we should be happy all the time* and it translates in spiritual seeking to an expectation that all spiritual pursuits will lead only to serenity and bliss and, hopefully, nirvana. The thing is most spiritual practices contain the possibility of touching into some issue or emotion. I’ve long felt that all those deeply hidden issues and beliefs and traumas are really the main point of “detachment”. They’re the strings that keep us stuck in the past and in feeling separate from our divine natures.

I used to be one of the ones who resisted emotional work – my ego was so determined not to do it that for a long time I didn’t even realize I was resistant. I finally had to acknowledge that the main thing blocking my path to a new life was me and I dragged my heels all the way to the Fischer Hoffman process as facilitated by the late Ellen Margron (she’d been doing it for many years and had developed her own version which was quite different than the process as it’s currently done at the Hoffman Institute). It was hard for me but eventually I started releasing big time and that was when transformation began on so many levels.

Sometimes the journey demands facing painful truths or shaking up what has been familiar or comfortable. Sometimes a practice opens some deep pocket of grief or anger. A lot of people will give up a practice that ever makes them feel that way. Others will do the practice with such control that the possibility of release and freedom is squashed. Either way a great chance for getting free and moving closer to your essence is lost. I’ve come to love facing the fear and the more I do the more I realize that it often only takes a moment to face a tough issue and the result changes the rest of my life.

This post is for Jenny Matlock’s AlphabeThursday, which is “F” today.

* I have a theory that the “pursuit of happiness” has somehow become a belief that Americans have a  right to be happy all the time, or think something is wrong if they’re not happy all the time. 

Beliefs: Unconscious and Conscious

When people talk about the law of attraction or say that you create your own reality, they’re really talking about an energy space—the vibrational level and pattern of energy—but most of the discussion among modern teachers is about thoughts or beliefs and how they impact your reality or what you attract. I think it’s more about the energy, which I’ve covered in another post, but I also think it’s important to know that what you believe unconsciously is often more in control than what you consciously believe.

A lot of people struggle with the idea of choosing a given reality when it’s something like a child with a terminal disease or a tornado destroying a house because they assume it’s conscious thought that creates reality. It can, if you become very adept at focusing on and holding a thought or vision, but a lot of reality is created either by higher consciousness at a level beyond our ordinary understanding or, more often, created by the beliefs and emotions from early childhood that ego holds outside ordinary awareness and uses to rule the show.

In the Hawaiian Huna system, we have three levels of consciousness which kahuna Serge King calls ku, lono, and kane (kah nay) [there are longer Hawaiian words—ku is unihipili—but I like his short, easy names]. Ku is the subconscious, which operates a lot like ego in the psychological structure but contains some other elements. Lono is the conscious mind and should control ku but often the unconscious has taken over running the show so lono needs to become mindful enough to reassert its role. Kane is the higher self or consciousness. Ideally practice leads to the three levels being restored to unity so they all operate together and lono is equally aware of ku and kane.

The hang up place for many on the journey is the unconscious. Exploration of what lies beneath generally involves looking at your dark, hidden places, buried memories you’d prefer to leave interred, etc. I came to the shadow dance reluctantly and slowly but after the Fischer Hoffman work led me to delve and even wallow in the deep dark places I came to embrace the work. I think it’s the dance of freedom.

This post if for ABC Wednesay, which is “U” and for AlphabeThursday, which is “C”.

Quiet moments in my favorite Yard

I’ve been told a number of times in the last few years that I need to spend more time outside. Since living in the great California climate I’m a big baby about what kind of weather I’ll go out in (and I’ve never been your camping, hiking, outdoor sports type). In Kentucky about 98% of the time it’s too hot, too cold, too rainy, too muggy, too snowy… Recently when a practitioner told me that I should just go out and lie in the grass the temperature was hovering in the 50’s and it was raining a lot, so I just thought, “Yeah, that’s gonna happen.” And it didn’t.

Here in beautiful Marin the weather has been warmer than normal almost every day. So I’ve grabbed a blanket and stretched out on the lawn several times. The first day I literally felt my body sucking in energy from the earth for about 20 solid minutes. Somehow, in spite of the advice, I hadn’t taken it in that I actually NEEDED to take in some earth energy as part of the outdoor Rx.

I haven’t been as aware of drawing energy in the succeeding times but dozing and reading and listening and looking have all felt better for doing them outside.

As you can see, the setting is lovely. You can’t hear the accompanying trilling birds nor feel the softness of the breeze, but you can see that it’s tranquil. I’ve had the good fortune to be out at times when cars down to the dead end here were rare and no one was mowing or hammering anything (not always easy to do around here). Just quiet. Communing with nature. In my favorite yard…

I discovered that outdoor time isn’t just a nice pastime but something I need on many levels.  Ask me if I”m gonna grab a blanket and loll in the grass in Kentucky when it’s 50 or 95 or muggy or the grass is wet…  I don’t think so!

Again on the lazy track, this piece is doubling for ABC Wednesday (Q) and AlphabeThursday (Y). 

AlphabeThursday is on my other blog…

Salty Being Peace

On a whim I posted my AlphabeThursday piece on Not Just Sassy on the Inside since it wasn’t really a spiritual journey post.  Then I realized every time I commented on other people’s posts for this one that it’s this blog that shows up to identify me.  Since I’m too lazy to write anything else tonight, I thought I’d just offer this little redirect to the other post (plus take the chance to provide another view of cutie pie up there)…

AlphabeThursday N: How do you narcotize?

Reading by Ryuuto-kawaii on Photobucket

This is my entry for Jenny Matlock’s AlphabeThursday.

How do you ‘narcotize’?” Fischer-Hoffman facilitator Ellen Margron asked my group that question a number of times. She felt that everyone has ways in which they hide out and/or numb out from facing their deepest pain and anger and sadness. We think of drugs and alcohol as the main ways people check out, but really there are myriad means of staying numb and removed. She wanted us to work on it deeply.

From TV to eating to over-scheduling to reading to obsessing over a hobby most of us has some tool(s) for hiding out. I think the current addiction to Facebook and Twitter, etc. is just the latest form of narcotizing. Very few people survive to adulthood without collecting some issues and/or unresolved pain and/or some repressed memories. And most of us in this society don’t really want to look at those unpleasant things and feel those feelings. In quiet, in silence, we open a space that allows those memories or wounds to rise into consciousness. So we fill the quiet spaces with something that narcotizes so that feelings stay down.

If you’re drunk or eating or watching TV or constantly on the run you fill your days with substances or activities that keep all the pain out of your awareness. For me TV and reading are the two main ways I fill in the empty spaces. That’s not to say it’s not fine to sometimes just zone out or do things you enjoy. The key is to be aware when the down time or the fun time expands to fill so much space and time that it keeps the feelings from arising.

Do you have habits or addictions or obsessions that you (often unconsciously) use to stay numb? How much of your time is spent numbed out? What do you not want to remember?