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Just a thought…

By Luke Hey.  

Do you know what I love? Finding new ways to inquire!

And being a facilitator of the Living Inquiries has afforded me the opportunity to find many different and interesting ways to unhook the velcro of thoughts.  I want to share with you some of these ideas to use as techniques during your own inquiry. Think of this as a tips and tricks guide to keep the mind on its toes.

I hope to write this within the context that inquiry can be used in other ways, and at other times, rather than just when we are suffering. It seems more often than not that inquiry is something to pull out when we are in the throes of suffering, rather than as an interesting perspective to see daily life.  Using inquiry in this way has some unexpected benefits, but I will let you find this out for yourself.

I am not claiming ownership for any of this, nor do I imagine that all of this is new to you. Most of the insights about this have come through self-inquiry and inquiry with clients. I am also happy if you want to comment or email and tell me what you think and what your experiences are. So without further ado, here’s the first inquiry.

Where is the ‘my’ of my hand?

When I was younger I used to stay at my aunty and uncle’s house. They have a son the same age as me and we got along very well and went to the same university and work.  Their house was much closer to both places, than my parents’ house, so I stayed there most of the week.

Now this family is a very Christian family, with very strong values and ideas about Christianity.  This was evident in the way they lived and their reference to the bible and Jesus through daily life. On Sunday evenings around the dinner table they would bring out the bible and discuss passages together as a family. It was very interesting to me, although not, I guess, for the reasons they would have hoped.  I would stop them at times, asking various (and probably very annoying) questions. Some of the ideas put forth didn’t make a lot of sense to me (and still don’t) and at the time we would have some interesting discussions.

This came to a head one evening when I asked my uncle how it is he knew there was a God. He looked at me a little exasperated, then looked around for an answer. Finally some recognition came to his face and he beamed at me. Just look around, he said. Look at your hand. And we did. He continued on about how God gave us the use of this wonderful appendix, but I had stopped listening. I had taken what he had said literally. Of course! Why couldn’t God be found in my hand! If she is somewhere here at all why not there. Needless to say, I spent lots of time from then on just staring at my hand, looking for God.

So…sitting here now, I look at my hand. It seems to be my hand but what is it that tells me that? It seems familiar, small like a hobbit’s with stubby little fingers. I recognise the lines on the palm, the fingernails. But all of these are just thoughts that come through the mind. When those thoughts fade away, what do I see? Where is the ‘my’ of my hand?

Maybe they aren’t my hands, but God’s hands.  Maybe not.  But it’s probably worth a look at least.

Just a thought…

To read more about Luke Hey, click here.

Discovering Your Re-set Button

By Lisa Meuser.  I was lying in bed the other morning- thinking thinking thinking.

Thinking about a guy. Thinking about my daughter. Thinking about my calendar and my clients and my mom and my to-do list and and and and…  Before I knew it I was thinking about thinking, and I was well on my way to being caught up in “it.”

You know “it,” don’t you? I think of “it” as a hamster wheel that moves around and around, containing within it “the shit stack” of life stuff that needs to be solved, figured out, and evaluated.  Oh, this hamster wheel! It has the potential to pull one in when they least expect it.

We all have multiple internal hamster wheels. Some are massive and seem to be made up of the entirety of life itself. Others are small, or less noticeable, and are in and out of our attention. Regardless of size, though, once we are aware that our focus is racing away inside a hamster wheel, we’re no longer utterly consumed by it but, instead, are in relationship with it.  This is an amazing first step – an empowering first step – because from that place of awareness we can then direct our attention towards something other than the hamster wheel…

Said another way, sometimes all it takes to throw a wrench in the works of that hamster wheel is the recognition that our attention is being consumed by it in the first place. Experiencing massive mental activity is the first sign for me – I can literally feel the tension in my head. And then having that awareness of “Oh!!  I am really ‘mentaling’ right now!” allows me to give pause, and change behavior.

With one fully engaged breath, I can change my path.

That’s what happened on the morning I mentioned, as I was lying in bed thinking myself into a flurry. One deep breath, and all of a sudden my system was reset. Did my “problems” go away? Did the calendar empty out? No. Nothing really changed…except my attention. But that changed everything. My body relaxed. My senses awakened. I was present.

We can be so busy in our lives, taking in more and more data as we go.

Think about it- Every cell in our body has a sense receptor, so our bodies are constantly taking in sensory information. We’re quite literally “sense receptor mechanisms,” so it’s no wonder we are overwhelmed by the end of the day! But we don’t have to be, if we can just pay attention.

Due to habit, most of us continuously “tune out” or become dissociative in the face of overwhelm. This is an innocent strategy but is not sustainable, and bit by bit it actually adds to our experience of overwhelm. Luckily there is another way! We can choose to curiously and gently work with ourselves in such a way as to not feel overwhelmed by the end of the day, by simply resetting our systems.

At any moment we can push the reset button.

Pushing the reset button allows us to release old data so that we can take on fresh data.
Pushing the reset button allows us to experience the present moment, instead of living from the hamster wheel of the chaotic mind.
Pushing the reset button allows us to feel, instead of engaging in unhealthy behaviors which keep us from feeling.

How can we push the reset button?

There’s obviously no actual button to push, but we can experience a reset through conscious and mindful attention. Here are a few simple suggestions:

Stop. This is the first step to a reset. Take moments throughout the day to literally stop moving, and/or take moments throughout the day to stop ‘mentallizing’  (e.g. figuring out, analyzing, problem-solving, evaluating, judging, or thinking about thoughts). Stop any engagement in action and do-ing, and bring yourself into a state of “non-productivity.”  While stopped, consciously bring attention to your breath. The breath can reset your system in a variety of ways: it can reset your nervous system; it can put a wrench in that hamster wheel; and it can bring your awareness into the present moment.

Slow down. As just mentioned, slowly bring your awareness to the present moment, through breath (or sensation). It’s impossible to breathe in the past, or to breathe in the future. It follows that, when you bring attention to the breath that is happening right now, you’ll automatically be bringing attention to the present moment. Follow the cycle of breath – all the way from your nostrils, down through your body to your lungs and belly, and then back up. Feel your body being engaged with the breathing that is happening in this moment. Some people find bringing attention to their breath triggering. If this is the case for you, go ahead and bring your attention to physical sensations: feeling into your toes, fingers, or sit bones, for example.

Simplify. Bring attention to the simplest of happenings, right now. Have you ever noticed that the mind loves to complicate everything? When you notice that everything seems extremely complicated, you’re likely caught smack dab in the centrifugal force of the hamster wheel.  Find something – anything – simple in your present situation. Maybe it’s your feet on the floor, or your butt in the chair. Maybe it’s air moving in and out of nostrils. Maybe it’s the sounds or scents being perceived. Or the wind on your face.  Maybe it’s the blinking of your eye lids.

Feel. Feel into the simplicity you’re connecting with. Don’t focus on thinking about your feet on the floor, but feeling your feet on the floor.  Feel the air coming in and out of your nostrils. Feel your ribs move with your breath cycle. Feel the wind/air on your face.

Curiosity. Engage your curious inner child.  Be curious about… well, about anything! Be curious about the leaves blowing in the wind. Or the sound of the birds. Or how you can feel your heartbeat move through your body. Being curious opens the neural network in the brain’s right hemisphere which helps to facilitate awareness and spaciousness. Being curious is not about finding answers or figuring anything out – it’s precisely the opposite. It’s similar to wondering, just for the sake of wondering.

 

Once you’ve stopped yourself in your (mental or literal) tracks, continue to curiously and slowly stay present, allowing your nervous system – and maybe even your day – to reset.  It always amazes me to rediscover how much less stressful life becomes when I engage in reset practices. I no longer feel the pressure to “figure out,” and the tendency to get caught up in “it” loosens its hold.

Please try these suggested techniques next time you find yourself thinking, thinking, thinking away on that hamster wheel. I suspect that with a little practice you’ll find that, as a result, life becomes more fluid, restful, and enjoyable!

 

 

 

Living Life with an Asterisk

By Paul Galewitz.   So there I was, lying on a gurney, my nose and mouth covered by an oxygen mask, unable to speak, while being subjected to an EKG. While I was in this position, I had a clear view of the treatment room in this small interior of British Columbia hospital. To my left, the nurses and doctor would come into the room occasionally to check on the EKG machine and to see if I was OK. To my right, my wife was sitting with a friend and having a conversation.

What I saw during that interval changed my life.

It was so clear to me as I was lying there, that the nurses and the doctor were acting. It was like a soap opera – their acting was that bad. Nothing they did or said was in any way authentic. It all seemed scripted, and they were doing an unconvincing job of reading their lines.

I was totally amazed and astonished by what I was seeing. I so desperately wanted to ask my wife, “Hey! Are you seeing this the way I am?” But with the oxygen mask over my mouth, I couldn’t speak. I just kept looking at this in wonder.

Meanwhile, to the right of me, my wife and friend were also acting, but they appeared much more genuine, much more convincing in their roles than the actors to the left of me. I could still see through the acting, but I believed them as they played their roles. The contrast was unmistakeable.

This happened almost ten years ago. The vividness of that awareness stayed with me for some weeks, and has shaped how I have looked at life from that point onward. It has allowed me to come to certain conclusions, as I have observed myself and others over the previous ten years.

We are all acting. We are literally giving the performances of our lives.

We are playing a character that has a name, a story, a life along a timeline, but that is not who we truly are. It is a role we are playing.

But this play we are engaged in is so convincing! It seems so real – the thoughts seem real, the feelings, emotions, sensations seem so real, all these other actors seem very real. Our stories are very persuasive in assuring us that the character we are playing is indeed real, has a history, a present, and a future.

Regardless of the degree of authenticity in our acting, and no matter how persuasive our storyline, one thing is certain. We are not the characters we are acting out. We are something far grander, and no words are up to the task of describing it.

That’s where the asterisk comes in.

What do I mean by living life with an asterisk? Whenever we come across an asterisk in whatever work we may be reading, we know that there is more to the story of what that particular sentence or paragraph is expressing. So we find the asterisk at the bottom of the page, and read the additional information that wasn’t expressed in the sentence in question.

In living our lives with an asterisk, the additional information always has the same theme. It reads something like this: *Remember who you really are, which is the Absolute, the I AM, the Oneness, what is beyond description. What your character is going through right now does not touch this Truth. You simply ARE, and the separate self doesn’t even exist here. This field of Oneness is never separate from you, no matter how much turmoil, emotional or physical pain, or seemingly unsolvable dilemmas your character is experiencing. Take a breath, take two or three seconds to rest in that Truth, and then be with whatever you are experiencing. Continue playing your role as best you can, knowing that it is a role, and not the ultimate Truth of who you are.”

Those are my words, but you can ascribe whatever words you want to the asterisk’s appearance. The asterisk doesn’t even need words – it can  be a reminder to simply stop for two or three seconds to remember the I AM, and to feel the total lack of attributes of pure consciousness.

The asterisk can be a reminder of this for you in whatever way works. I carry this asterisk around with me wherever I go and whatever I am doing, and at the very least it reminds me not to take my character too seriously. This isn’t always easy, especially when physical or emotional pain is seemingly present.

At the same time, it is also a reminder to play my role to the best of my ability. My character has been given certain attributes that I can use as I will. I can check in with my body as I go about my day, and see how it is reacting to how I am playing my role. My body will often react with certain sensations which can alert me to the fact that my character needs to pay attention to what is going on, and whether I am playing my role as authentically as possible.

The thoughts and feelings that come up are there to be noticed, and provide ample fodder for inquiry. This inquiring helps to expose the programming and patterns that have ruled our character’s behavior, and reminds us that there is no greater “technique” than simply noticing.

Just last week, I had a session with a fantastic facilitator, and as I watched the video recording of the session, I was taken with how authentic we were both being within the play of the facilitation. But there was a moment when I looked at myself and saw a thoroughly inauthentic reaction to something we were discussing. It was very humbling, and in fact, I even turned my head away from the screen. What terrible acting! My body felt acute embarrassment, and it gave me something to sit with, allow and inquire into.

Our thoughts can be so convincing. We have given them so much weight over the years, that it takes our focus and intent to remember not to buy into them. Where is it written that all our thoughts are to be believed? Where does it say that we are our thoughts? Are the thoughts even our own, or a combination of elements of our programming, or something else entirely? Do you notice how certain thoughts seem to always bring up certain feelings? Does that make those thoughts any more true simply because they produce a feeling? Where is your mind anyway? Can you even find it? (I lost mine about ten years ago.)

These thoughts are simply more variations in the play we find ourselves in. Nothing, not even our thoughts, are true in this play. It is simply a part of the play.

When we are going through a period where thoughts are nagging at us, or are particularly bothersome, remember the *. Let that remind you to take a few moments to stop and be with the I AM, the infinite oneness. (Really, words don’t do it, do they?)

Each time you do, the * can become more and more second nature, and even as you are in the busiest and most turbulent of times, you can just remember the * and know that nothing, nothing, nothing can effect what that points to. All else is part of the play in which you are engaged. Does this make your particular dilemma go away, or make it easier? Maybe, maybe not. But maybe you will be less identified with your circumstances.

Pretty soon it simply becomes automatic that nothing you are going through will be taken at face value, and the I AM will permeate your awareness as you play your part more and more authentically. For me, I don’t live in fear that some uncomfortable emotion will come up that will make my character unhappy or afraid. If and when I do feel that fear, or any other “negative” emotion, I just refer to the asterisk again, and I am reminded of my true home. This doesn’t mean the feelings immediately go away, it just means you can be noticing them from a different place than we are used to.

It is within our power as characters to remember that we are playing a role, and to find our inspiration, our refuge and the Truth of who we are in the field of I AM. Just look over your shoulder and notice the * just sitting there, reminding you of your true nature.

I’ve Come to Love Doing Mindless Routine Chores!

By Hanneke Geraeds.

Before I learned about Natural Rest I kept postponing mindless routine chores, like plucking weeds, vacuum cleaning, mopping the floors, cleaning the bathroom, ironing or painting walls or window-frames.

Now I don’t mind doing them anymore. I play this game: trying to catch the moment when I fall from doing them in a Mindful way into doing them mindlessly. I didn’t succeed yet…

Today I started off ironing Mindfully, in Natural Rest. Seeing wrinkled fabric change into smoothed fabric, hearing the steamy breath of my iron, the whisper of fabric against fabric, smelling the sweet odour of detergent, feeling warmth underneath my fingers and a damp warmth touching my cheeks, hearing words saying: “I like this dress.” and then pictures of our daughter and me buying it in an unfamiliar shop in another town. Seeing her happy smile because she bumped into what would become her favourite dress later.

Typing this, I can see now, this was the moment I should have caught to win my little game. But I didn’t. And somehow I did notice the story the words created, I realize now. I did because I’m able to at least reconstruct the thought train, which went from my smiling daughter to reasons why we were there in that town, how things have evolved from that point onward. Telling myself it turned out well. Followed by worrying about the future. And at that moment I noticed I stopped being Mindful, I stopped Resting Naturally. The worrying words were velcroed to a tightening sensation in my stomach. Feeling this physical sensation from within. Then hearing the voice of my thoughts again. And the moment I started hearing them, they stopped in the middle of the sentence as it happens often like this for me.

It reminds me of a time when I was chatting with a class mate and suddenly noticed the whole class being silent, then noticing the strict look on the teacher’s face, looking at me…

Though I didn’t win my game, I can Rest Naturally again, enjoying colours, sounds, structures, physical sensations and new words when my voice in the head has grown confident again to go on. And in the meantime, chores get done.

Neither Nor

By Greg Ascue.

Many people do inquiry around the “bad” things in their lives in the hopes that they will “disappear”. Negative identities, threats, addictions etc. This is entirely natural. Who wants to suffer? But in the end, this is only part of the equation. “Good” things can constrain your experience of life too.

Recently, after an inquiry session with a woman I work with, I mentioned that it is useful to look for (in inquiry) opposites. Both possible sides of a subject. Good and bad, presence and lack, existence and non-existence and so on.  In mentioning this I pointed out that many people naturally (perhaps subtly) set up beliefs in the findability of the opposite of what they could not find in inquiry. But the un-findability of one end of a pair of opposites does not imply the findability of the other end of the pair. By looking at both sides you can address such subtle tendencies. No matter how pleasant (or unpleasant) a belief may be, inevitably there is some form of constraint. All things are unfindable.

Neither a “self” nor a “not self” can be found

Neither “something” nor “nothing” can be found

Neither “existence” nor “non-existence” can be found

Neither “duality nor “non-duality” be found

Neither “volitional” nor “non-volitional” can be found

This form of inquiry works equally with any belief or thing (including beliefs and things associated with the inquiries themselves). Taken to their ultimate, these inquiries leave you with no views or concepts to promote or adhere to. Again, all things are unfindable. Simple, spacious, and clear.

The woman’s reaction was one of surprise and she asked what about things like love and intimacy? Without thinking about it I replied “It’s pretty hard to love or be intimate with a story” (to love or be intimate with something unfindable). Understandably, perhaps, she displayed even more surprise. But what underlies this statement is my experience that beliefs surrounding such concepts often tend to create suffering too. Love is “this or that”. And when this “this or that” is not here there is “the lack of love”.

Neither “love” nor “the lack of love” can be found

Neither “intimacy” nor “the lack of intimacy” can be found

What is important here is that in saying “love cannot be found” I am, also, saying “the lack of love cannot be found”. This is why it is useful to look at opposites. There is no promotion of any opposite. Neither a limited, constrained, conditional love nor a cold, unfeeling, nihilism. There are no assertions being made here, no limited beliefs. Whatever this is, it is beyond any such assertions. Such assertions have never been known here. This allows experiencing to be done nakedly without limits or constraint. Oddly, love and intimacy are liberated by their unfindability.

What are the implications of this in how we should live our lives? None whatsoever. Any such implications would be unfindable as well. True freedom. I have been married for over 25 years.  In not finding love nor the lack of love I am not constrained in loving my wife, it gets better with each passing year. I savor these passing years. For someone else this may mean leaving behind some dead relationship. Stepping away from the tyranny of unfulfilled dreams. For someone else none of this may be relevant in any way. The freedom to do what is best is here.

Life is liberated by its unfindability. Unfindability is liberated by its unfindability. This moment is born anew. You are born anew. This world is born anew.

 “All knowledge is bondage” – Shiva Sutras

“All that is heard is non-existent” – Adi Shankara