Friday, August 23, 2013

Process Mapping

Way back in 2006 I was asked about “Process Mapping” and agreed to write up some directions for the process. That being a long time ago and the requests for a “how to” continuing, it seems a good time to go over the directions again.

Here goes:
1.    Get the largest piece of paper you can manage and/or commit one wall in your domicile to the project.
2.    Get supplies based on your desire to be creative. At a minimum you will need some post-its, a pen, and probably some tape for when the post-it glue gives out. Beyond these basics you may choose to have colored pens, different color or size post-its, highlighters—all is possible.
3.    You can begin anywhere, with a big issue like changing jobs or leaving a relationship, or something as seemingly minor as resistance to dishwashing.
4.    Tune in to where you are with the issue. (Let’s go with dishwashing.) Perhaps you walk into the kitchen, see the pile of dishes, and feel your stomach clench, your heart fall, and your energy collapse. Map that. Take each of those reactions (walk into kitchen, see the dishes, stomach clenches, heart falls, energy collapses) and put each on a post-it. Just a brief jotting to remind you of the reaction. You might decide to do behaviors in one color, thoughts in another, and feelings in yet another, or you might just go with basic yellow post-its and a blue ink pen!
5.    Since the reactions described above are a sequence, you will want to place them sequentially on your piece of paper or wall. The next time you have the encounter with the sink full of dirty dishes, you might watch the previously described sequence, and then notice the voices that come in to tell you what all this means and who/what you are for having this issue. You jot those down, each on its own post-it, and put them on your map.
6.    As you’re getting clearer with your dish issue, you will begin to notice things like a fleeting inspiration to go clean up the kitchen. Very likely you will soon notice the voice that talks you out of acting on that inspiration. Put those on post-its and get them on the map.
7.    The next thing you might see is the part of you who really wants a clean kitchen. Put that person on the map and begin to look for the sensations, emotions, and thoughts associated with that part of you.
8.    Keep going in this way until every nuance of your relationship with kitchens, dishes, and cleaning is somewhere on your map. There will be lots of voices, all kinds of emotions, beliefs, memories, resolutions, and beatings.

In the beginning, each life issue seems to require its own map. Soon, because this is process mapping, you will begin to see patterns. As the book title suggests, How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything. Yes, in fact, the same voices, beliefs, assumptions, and projections show up in my housekeeping, relationships with people, money, work, and in how I drive! Yep, I’m “me” all over the place. 

The benefits of process mapping are many and big. Writing down what is going on gets it out of the head and gives a much-needed distance from what lives in the darkness of a conditioned mind, never seeing the light of day. To know what’s going on, we have to pay attention. We have to watch the thoughts and emotions and behaviors to see what they are. This can greatly increase our present moment awareness and help us to step back and disidentify from our conditioned orientation to life. Instead of going through life in intimate relationship with the voices of conditioning, looking to them for guidance, believing their assessment of us, others, and life in general, we now are able to watch them from a place of conscious, compassionate awareness as they do what they do. As we watch, as we see through the process, the power conditioning has over us begins to fall away.

In gassho,

Monday, May 27, 2013

The World of Opposites: A New Take

I’m exploring a new take on a familiar theme and am putting it out in this format in order to engage those of you interested in exploring it with me.

We’ve often referred to this, our shared delusion of reality (this world), as the “world of opposites.” Everything in this plane of existence is opposite to what we’re taught to believe. “Conventional wisdom” runs along the lines of “worry is preparation, fear keeps a person safe, it’s possible to control outcomes,” and so forth. (You might take a moment here to jot down some of those you’re told you don’t believe but live by nonetheless.)

But what if the “world of opposites” is much more pervasive and more deeply “personal” than we’ve realized? What if that notion can assist us to see, on a moment-by-moment basis, exactly what egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate is doing to keep us in its thrall? Seems worth looking into, doesn’t it?

Now, of course, as with most of awareness practice, coming at this straight on isn’t all that effective. That’s why spiritual folks use metaphor, parables, analogies, etc., to assist in sneaking up on what we can see out of the corner of the eye but often miss if we look directly. When we look directly, we’re usually using conditioned mind to look, and “from the corner of the eye” viewing enables insight and intuition to slip through.

With that approach I will endeavor to point us in the direction of exploration.

Let’s use as our first test case a person who is insecure, responsible, and hard-working, who seeks external approval and tries hard always to get everything right. The internal conversation is along the lines of, “I need to…, I have to remember to…, I wonder if ‘they’ will like…, I can’t believe I messed that up again…, why do I always say the wrong thing….” There are plenty of openings for self-hate, and the conversation in the head is focused on what went wrong in the past, what’s probably wrong now, and what’s likely to go wrong in the future. The person is tense, tight, unsure, anxious, and often miserable. He’s working overtime to be the perfect person and living in a world of failure and criticism. If asked, the “self-aware” person would acknowledge, “Yeah, that’s pretty much how I am.”

Here’s the “what if” for that person. What if that person arrived in this world bright, intelligent, eager, and enthusiastic, with great instincts and a well-developed ability to assess circumstances and communicate clearly what’s being seen? What if that person encountered an egocentric, karmically-conditioned, self-hating environment that needed to squash any authentic expression of Life in order to maintain its own false reality? What if that person eventually acquiesced in order to survive, got with the program, took up as internal conversation a version of what was coming from the outside, and, over time, came to accept the false reality of egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate as the “true reality” of Life, treating himself as he’d been treated, striving to please the “outside authorities” (which now only exist inside!), unable to access his authenticity and certainly NOT living as the authentic expression of Life he most likely came to this plane of existence to be. 

In other (and perhaps fewer) words, authenticity arrives into a conditioned circumstance, the human being adapts, takes up the conditioned reality in order to survive in it, forgets the original authenticity, accepts the conditioned reality as “true,” and looks to the assessment of the conditioned reality to know “who/how I am,” then spends a lifetime believing, feeling bad about, hiding, and compensating for an identity that has nothing to do with who s/he is! Except it is the opposite of who/how s/he is authentically.

Let’s try another: Person is born intelligent, curious, eager to learn. External environment is threatened by all that present, here, unencumbered “seeing.” Person gets a lot of rejection for seeing and saying. As above, the person gradually gives in in order to survive the circumstances. The internal conversation becomes one of “I know what’s right/best, but I can’t say because I’ll be rejected and punished.” This can turn into anger and resentment that “they” (a “they” only existing inside conditioned mind at this point), are controlling me. The conclusion: I’ll hide out, lay low, not let anyone know what’s going on with me, and I’ll be safe.

Sadly, in all such cases, we are emphatically NOT safe. Instead, we are in the gravest danger a human can experience: we are trapped alone with a force that is surviving at our expense. In addition, we are unable to access our authenticity (which resides on the other side of the incessant internal survival conversation), and thus can neither express our authentic being nor learn all that would be available to us if we were able to show up in each moment ready for the receiving and transmitting of the Intelligence that Animates that is possible for us as human incarnations.

So, as we explore this:
~~ An “I know” conversation in the head is meant to conceal the fact that “I don’t know” and prevent me from being open to information that would allow me to be lit-up and eager to see and learn in each moment. In other words, “I know” robs us of innocent authenticity.
~~ An “I don’t care” internal conversation camouflages a deep caring rooted in awareness of the interconnectedness of all Life. “I don’t care” robs us of our ability to give and receive Love.
~~ An “I’ve got to be perfect” conversation keeps us from recognizing the perfection of all Life and robs us of our ability to relax into the unique part each expression of Life plays.
~~ A “There’s something wrong with (me or them)” prevents us from experiencing that there’s nothing wrong anywhere in Life—never has been, never will be—and cuts us off from an open-hearted appreciation of everything exactly as it is. This orientation also closes us off from gratitude and compassion.

Now, the main thing I want for us to explore together is how focusing the attention on an internal conversation reinforces the illusion of an ego-I and creates a barrier to authenticity. It’s not that authenticity isn’t “here” and available. In fact, it’s ALL that is here and available. It’s that when we are engaged in the conversation, we can’t experience authenticity. It’s exactly like sitting on a beautiful beach in front of a perfect sunset and missing the whole thing because our attention is on an annoying conversation we had last week.

A perspective: Life is improv. Until we are with the moment, we are attempting to follow (and insist that others follow) a very old script (that others don’t even know exists) that has nothing to do with anything happening now or in the past. 

The whole point: If you want to know who/how/what you are authentically, listen to what the conversation in your head is telling you, look to see what is opposite to that, and get a sense that that opposite definition is who/how/what you are authentically. The same formula works with others! A person who “presents” as one way is probably very close to the exact opposite when identified with the conversation in egocentric karmic conditioning/self. To see what one is authentically, look at the internal conversation with conditioning and know authenticity is the opposite of that! The one exception: When someone is “coming from center” they will be congruent inside and out. Fun to play with, yes?

The steps:
1) Authenticity
2) Encounters an egocentric, karmically conditioned/self-hating world
3) Identification with the ego-I system created to survive in the world
4) Attending constantly to the conversation in the ego-I survival system
5) Presenting the opposite of that ego-I conversation to the outer world

A rather simplistic example: You are born open, curious, and loving. The world you must navigate is fear-based, suspicious, and reserved. You become frightened, anxious, and protective of self. As the internal conversation focuses on how “they are/it is,” you are told how to behave in order to avoid what will befall you if you run afoul of “them/it.”
Inside you’re terrified and closed, outside you appear to be self-effacing and affable.
Who/how are you authentically? Open, curious, and loving. Along with a lot of other Life-affirming qualities you’re not allowed to experience and own.

My hope is two-fold. 1) That you will look to see what is the conversation that occupies your attention (it may seem too varied at first glance, but if you continue to attend, you will see the over-arching talk that contains the many sub-texts), and 2) that you will call in to Open Air so we can talk about what you see. I am hoping to engage the whole Sangha in this conversation, and Open Air is our best avenue for achieving the broadest exchange. An upcoming practice opportunity that might assist in clarifying the conversation is the email class beginning July 16—lots of clues there!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

That’s Just How It Is

It has come to my attention that our Sangha focus for the year, “The Cooperative of Practice: Being Lit Up Together” may be causing some confusion and potential suffering.

As we well know, egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate will use anything and everything to maintain its control over a person’s attention. So, we can’t be too surprised that conditioned mind has come up with a way to attempt to snag our current practice focus and turn it for its benefit.

I suppose there are lots of ways “Cooperative of Practice” and “Lit Up Together” could be turned into “maintaining the illusion of a separate self,” but here’s the one I’ve been hearing about.

People are getting talked into believing that “having the fun of being in the present” and “being lit up with what you’re doing” means to go out and buy and do all the things you’ve always wanted to have and do. The result is that people are too “spent,” in every sense of the word, to be able to participate in practice. “I’m cancelling the retreat I signed up for because I’m going to a writing workshop.” “I can’t make it to sitting group for a while because I have a belly-dancing class that night.” “I need to stop my monthly financial support of practice because I’m going on an expensive trip.”

That’s really NOT what we’re going for in “Being Lit Up Together.” That’s not even what we’re going for in being lit up!

The lit up we’re talking about—and the only authentic lit up there is—comes from being in Life in the moment. It doesn’t come from the ego getting something it claims to want. Yes, there can be excitement and great fun in “getting something new and shiny for me,” and we all know how quickly that passes into remorse or disappointment or a focus on the next new and shiny ego wants to consume and turn into dissatisfaction.

Now, let us be perfectly clear: I am not saying a person shouldn’t go to writing workshops or learn to belly-dance or go on grand trips. Not at all. What I am saying is that if we do ANYTHING instead of practice it will end in disappointment and dissatisfaction. Why? Because everything that comes from and is done for ego-I must inevitably end in disappointment and dissatisfaction. That’s just how it is.

So please don’t be confused about this and don’t get bamboozled. First and foremost, you must devote yourself to what satisfies your heart/mind. You must be with Life. When that’s the case, with Life guiding your choices and decisions, you will never be disappointed or dissatisfied. That’s just how it is.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Voices Don’t Care about Content

Incalculable suffering happens because people believe what the voices in their heads are saying. Person is going along and hears that was wrong or you shouldn’t have or people think you’re… or people don’t like you or you’re never going to have what you want or you’re just not good enough or you can’t or you should or it’s your fault…. On and on it goes with the person feeling worse and worse with each statement. Short film clips of past mistakes and failures are interspersed with predictions of future disasters.

When asked about depression I often respond that I’ve never known a depressed person who is not living with self-hate. I’ve concluded it’s not possible to “be depressed” without the “depressing” conversation of “what’s wrong.” We are all “depressed” when listening to and believing the haranguing voices of self-hate.

Without the voices’ comparison, judgment, negative assessments, criticism and a litany of loss, lack, deprivation and fear, a person is simply in the moment they’re in and there’s nothing wrong. A true story.

But here’s the reason I’m writing to you today. (If you’re a recording and listening person, please record what’s coming and listen to it many times a day until it sinks into the depths of your being, never to be excised by any voice, no matter how pernicious.)

Those voices do not care one whit about the content of the conversation.

The voice in your head talks to you about what you believe, not what it believes. The voice will talk to you about anything you will believe and feel bad about.

If money is an issue for you, it talks about money fears and woes and mistakes and a future of deprivation—and that it’s all your fault. If you have body image issues, it will talk about how you look, compare you to others, let you know that everything wrong in your life is wrong because of the way you look—and that it’s all your fault. If you have relationship issues, it will point out what wonderful relationships everyone else has, how lacking or inferior your relationships are, how it’s always been that way and always will be—and that it’s all your fault.

If none of the above is your issue, I’m sure by now you can fill in your version of the torture system!

We have so much trouble catching on to this because the torture is perfectly tailored to each of us individually. Because it’s all done in secret, we don’t realize everyone is suffering within the same process just with different content. Plus, it all started so long ago that by now it’s just the reality we live in. There’s nothing about it to flag us as something we should question. “I am overweight.” “I don’t have enough money.” I don’t have the relationship I want.” What’s not to believe??

Here’s something to consider. A very good argument can be made that our lives consist of what we give our attention to. That voice in the head wants our attention. It lives on our attention. Without our attention it does not, cannot exist. We are trained to give our attention to “what’s wrong.” In this way, our lives consist of “what’s wrong,” and the voice feeding us information about what’s wrong has full control of our attention and our lives.

If you decide NOT to believe that story you’re being told, if you really get it that it’s not true, it’s just something you’ve been trained to believe, then you’re truly free to put your attention where you want it to be, on the life you choose to have.

Here’s the next thing to consider: What might happen to the “issue” the voices incessantly yammer on about if you stopped listening to their yammer? Would those stories be “true” if no one experienced them as true? What would be “true” about your life if you weren’t living in reaction to what’s wrong, loss, lack, deprivation, fear, criticism, and comparison? Might be worth finding out, don’t you think?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Habitual Karmic Sensations

If we say, “I had the thought that…” or “It occurred to me that…” there’s a strong, implied, usually unexamined assumption that there’s a “someone” who is doing that. If we stopped and considered, the language could give us a hint that what we think is happening is not what’s happening. “It just came to me…” could be an even bigger clue as to what’s actually happening, especially if it’s phrased, “It suddenly came to me that…” But we fail to get the clues.

We often hear in practice “What came up for me…” in response to what another person offered. This is always a bit troubling for me; I am unable to hear it without a vague since of having ingested something that didn’t agree with the system, as in “losing one’s lunch.”

Lately we’ve moved to “It just dropped in…” to describe the experience of insight arriving from beyond the realm of “my doing.” We use this expression to acknowledge the fact that “this information simply appeared in my conscious awareness, and my only role was to be present as it arrived.” I didn’t think of it. I wasn’t the creator of this insight. I didn’t generate it out of my own, personal brilliance.

This is a very good thing to notice all the time, since that’s what’s happening all the time. What “I” can contribute is an endless repetition of previous repetitions. The new stuff, the awarenesses, the insights, the “ah ha’s” and “oh, I see’s” come from the intelligence that animates and do not belong in any degree to ego-identity. Standing near an artist creating a masterpiece doesn’t give me claim to the creation!

In an exchange with someone recently, I heard myself refer to “anxiety” as “habitual karmic sensations.” (You can see now why the previous exploration of how information comes to us.) It occurred to me that (a la the description above) that way of labeling the experience previously called “anxiety” could be helpful.

Once we get enough associations around a label, such as anxiety or depression or panic attack, the label itself can produce the dreaded effects and, worse still, we stop paying attention to what’s actually happening.

Years ago, I met a former carpenter who was a former carpenter because he’d cut off three fingers with a circular saw. He told me that every time he heard a power tool his remaining fingers began to crawl toward his armpits. That seems to me a perfect description of “habitual karmic sensations.”

Something happens. A person is upset, traumatized even. The body registers those sensations. At some point those sensations cease to be associated with a memory of a trauma and become the harbinger of a trauma. Soon the sensations themselves are the producer of the trauma and a person is living in fear of sensations that produce a fear of sensations.

Now, the above insight just dropped in. I have no proof there’s any validity to it, but it certainly has a ring of truth, doesn’t it? And, definitely worth putting to the test of scrutiny through the attentive, curious attention we call “the spirit of inquiry.”

According to a recent survey, one in five people in the U.S. is taking a drug for conditions such as depression, attention “deficit,” and anxiety. Perhaps those numbers wouldn’t be so high if we were encouraged to drop labels and have a present moment relationship with the sensations in the body rather than being thrown off into terrifying stories of what those sensations mean.

In gassho,