In these pages you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions around the following topics: Personality, Inner Child, Awareness Intensives and Spirituality in general. These answers are by no means exhaustive nor are they to be taken for granted. They are simply pointers for those who are on the Way.
Practice, experiment and see for yourself whether your own experience matches the proposed answers.
For ease of readability, these questions & answers are grouped together by topic.
The Question: « I’ve read and heard that participating in workshops or taking individual sessions can be beneficial for some people but I don’t really understand the purpose and the final goal of personal development. How investing my time and my money in personal development can be useful for me? »
This is a significant question and it is important to clearly understand our motivations to choose to involve ourselves or not in personal development. Personnel development ranges from feeling good methods such as ‘positive thinking’ or ‘New Age therapy’ to more in-depth approaches such as psychoanalysis or self-enquiry methods and the entry door can be the body, the mind or the feelings or a combination of them. The purpose of these different methods can also vary from stimulating health in the body to solving specific issues that one may have or a more in-depth care of psychological issues that a person is facing. The main goal of all these different approaches is to regulate the personality for a better functioning in daily life.
The ‘Inner Work’ that I propose is quite different from these usual approaches in the sense that its main goal is not so much geared towards a better functioning in daily life but more to re-establish a reconnection with our True Nature, who we are at the core of our being human. The work on the personality is an important and needed step in order to clear the way for our true nature to reveal itself and thus access a true freedom. The ‘inner work’ acts as a bridge towards our True Nature and the by-product of the ‘inner work’ is not only a better functioning in daily life but also a more mature and responsible person. In short I could say that freedom, maturity and easiness in life are the outcome or the results of involving oneself in the ‘inner work’.
The second part of the question is: « How can investing my time and my money in personal development can be useful for me? »
What is essential at first is to be clear about your motivations to invest yourself in this work. The motivations that can lead a person to take part in a personal development system can range from a simple curiosity to being unhappy in life, yet what is important is not to believe that participating in workshops or taking individual sessions could be good for you because someone told you so or because you have read that it can be beneficial or that it will bring you all the happiness that you long for, but more because you sense a need to move out of some psychological discomfort that is keeping you unhappy or because you sense that the way that you are living your life does not have any meaning and you are looking for a true meaning for your life.
Being clear about one’s motivations is an essential step and you can start with this question: ‘Am I happy?’ Is my life fulfilling?’ If the answer is ‘yes’, then there is no need for you to invest yourself in this work. But if the answer is: ‘well, not really’ or ‘no’ then it may be useful for you to invest some of your time and money in this work.
How useful will it be for you will only depend on you; it will depend on what you want to achieve and on how much you are ready to invest yourself to achieve this goal. When I meet people my first question is often: ‘what do you want?’ To which most people often answer: ‘I don’t really know what I want’ and they feel stuck with this. So if it is the case for you that you are indecisive on what you want, it can be useful for you to invest some time to find out what you truly want. And if you already know what you want then the inner work can help you clear the way to achieve your goal. In both cases taking one to one session can help.
What I can say out of my own experience is that ‘inner work’ brought me to a peaceful and contented heart together with a sense of being free. And working with people allowed me to share and enriched my experience that love is the key that can move mountains. In the course of time I’ve seen many people change, many hearts becoming more peaceful and many minds becoming clearer which in turn impacted how the person relates with her environment.
Inner work is not only beneficial for the person who invests herself in it; although it is self-oriented, its benefit will also overflow onto others. Do understand that although we are unique individuals, we are not separate beings; we are part of a much vaster field of consciousness and our thoughts and actions do have an impact on the world around us. It is not unusual for people doing inner work to find out that their spouse, children or other family members have also changed.
You have the capacity to live a rich and contented life; it all depends on you, happiness is in your hands.
The personality as used in this context is a collection (an arrangement) of our beliefs systems, our emotional states and our behaviour patterns centered on the identification with the reference to ‘me’ or ‘I’.
A baby has no personality whatsoever. The personality arises when the child starts to recognize himself and it develops all along childhood according to the specific characteristics of the environment in which the child is immersed.
The personality is essentially built around the relationship with others and the way others perceive us as well as from pleasant or unpleasant experienced situations. The personality is an undefined and multiform paste up who imposes its control and domination upon the reality that we intrinsically are. The words ‘ego’ or ‘me’ or ‘I’ are simply the core labels of the personality.
They certainly can if we accept that it is not about swapping one coat for another one but to go through a transformation process.
Many workshops on the ‘spiritual growth market’ offer to change behaviour patterns by thinking differently, by applying ‘positive thinking’ or positive behaviourism. This is simply swapping coats. It has no effect whatsoever on the root cause of the behaviour pattern and moreover it requires a great deal of efforts.
Only a transformative process can and will change the personality effortlessly. Yet most of the time transformation is not taking place because we cling to a ‘me’ that we identify as being who we are. We feel secure with this ‘me’, whilst for transformation to take place questioning our beliefs and preconceived ideas is required. It is about opening a door to the unknown and this can be felt scary, overwhelming even. Insecurity, doubt, not knowing and vulnerability will be triggered, quite the opposite of the intellectual and controlling mind that always goes for security, for knowledge.
So yes we can transform our personalities in order to live a more harmonious life within our life environment.
One thing to remember though is that changing or transforming our personalities is not the end, it is only one aspect of inner growth because we are much more than our personality; our personality is indeed a fictitious reality, helpful to go about in life, yet fictitious nonetheless.
Inner growth is about going beyond the personality, beyond this ‘me’ that we identify with. But to go beyond something one has to be clear about what this something is, otherwise one is groping in darkness; so working on the personality is a useful and needed step on any ‘spiritual path’. As someone mentioned, working on the personality is the bridge to being-ness.
Imagine that you are feeling hungry; will reading a book about a succulent recipe satisfy your hunger? No of course not. To satisfy your hunger you will need to eat real food.
The same goes with changing our personality or behaviour patterns, you’ll need to practice what is being taught in the book, only reading it won’t do. Besides, books are usually made for general public, they do not necessarily apply to your case and this can mislead you in some undesirable direction.
Moreover, wanting to change personality or behaviour patterns can be tricky because it sounds like: “Well… I don’t like this pattern of mine, I want to get rid of it and get another one, a better one, one that I will feel good with, comfortable with.”
Of course you can do this and many people do take this approach and start behaving according to what they’ve read or heard but does something really change in them or will they simply have taken on another behaviour pattern which seems to fit better in their eyes?
Inner growth is not about changing a pattern for another one, it is about transformation, about bringing harmony into something that is recognized and felt as dis-harmonious.
Reading books or listening to talks can be a good incentive for change, yet you’ll have to walk the way.
This question seems to imply that you consider your personality as something dirty that needs cleaning. There is not such a thing as a dirty, unworthy or unlovable person, only judgements imposed on the person by others. Yet, as a child we intrinsically carry a need to be accepted, loved, so we buy into these judgments and make them ours which gives us a distorted image of ourselves with the consequence that most of the time, if not all the time, we are not living according to our potential but more according to what others have made us believe we are or should be.
We have forgotten the pure space that we are and all meditation techniques are geared to take us to this pure inner space beyond the conditioned mind. They are not geared to deal with the personality and behaviour patterns even if, to a certain extent, they do help becoming more conscious about them.
Understanding and gaining clarity on how we function in life, what our needs and desires are, what beliefs we took on is a needed step towards letting go of these unhealthy conditionings and in that sense ‘clean’ the personality and this can be done on the side of practicing a meditation technique. Both are needed for anyone who wishes to access his true nature.
There is none and there is one. It all depends from what perspective we are looking from.
From the perspective of True Nature there is no distinction because duality does not exist, everything is whole, everything is one, not two.
The distinction only comes from the perspective of the personality. The personality lives in the realm of duality. There is ‘me’ and ‘something other than me’.
• ‘me’ and ‘you’
• ‘me’ and ‘my body’
• ‘me’ and ‘my mind’
• ‘me’ and ‘my feelings/emotions’, etc.
From the personality perspective, which is centred on the thinking and objective mind there is a distinction. There is our incarnation, there is our body-mind system with all its ups and downs, there is life in its different forms and there is even something else that some people call: ‘True Nature’. From the personality perspective there is a multitude of ‘other than me’ mostly because our whole world revolves around the identification with the personality.
Identification means separation and the sole purpose of ‘spirituality’ or ‘meditation’ is to put an end to this identification.
Intellectual understanding is not transformative, that’s why reading books is of no real help. True understanding or heart understanding is by nature transformative.
When you only understand something intellectually, nothing really changes; this is also why some people report that: 'I’ve been to many workshops and read many books but nothing has changed for me, what went wrong?'
What went wrong is that they have only intellectually understood what was being said or offered in the workshop, their heart was not involved.
Nothing will change with only intellectual understanding. Intellectual understanding is a needed and necessary step and can be, yet not necessarily, the opening door to a more profound understanding, a heart understanding, the only one that truly counts.
True transformation happens when we open our heart and are willing to face what is real rather than what we would like, when we let go of our expectations and desires to be different than whom we are. There need to be a willingness to face, admit and embrace what is usually referred to as: ‘one’s negativity’ or’ one’s dark sides’. Acceptance is the key for a true transformation to take place.
Acceptance is simply a ‘Yes’ to what is. It is not relevant whether it is about a situation which is outside of us or whether it has to do with our own thoughts, feelings or sensations. Acceptance is the very simple fact of being in agreement with the reality that we meet, whatsoever this reality is.
If our inner reality is in a repressing mode, there is a need to be in accordance with that fact, with that reality. ‘Yes, I am repressing’ and I could add so what!
This is a crucial point because unless we accept the fact that we are repressing, nothing can fundamentally change. I call this ‘owning’. We need to own our resistance, our feelings, our thoughts, our qualities, whatever is happening within us.
Many people that I meet in one-to-one sessions or in workshops have some resistance to admit that they are angry for instance or hurt or that they need help. They can easily recognise that it is so, yet it becomes difficult for them to make the step to a full ‘yes’ to their feelings. Not wanting to admit seems to be so deeply anchored in them that they become stuck with their ‘no’, with their resistance; they hold on to their ‘no’ as if their life depends on it. And in a way it is true, at some point in their life, their life depended on saying ‘no’. It was crucial to say ‘no’ when facing a certain situation, but the problem is that this situation is long gone and not threatening anymore so there is a possibility of a letting go of this ‘no’, and for this letting go to happen, a ‘yes’ to this ‘no’ is first needed. ‘Yes, I am resisting, yes I have closed my heart, yes, I don’t want to talk to this person’ and most important, ‘yes I am hurt’.
Admitting our inner reality is essential before one can open to the ‘no’, to the resistance, to the closed heart, to the pain that this closed heart carries. It is the opening to the resistance, the acceptance of the resistance that will allow healing to take place. Resisting the resistance only reinforces isolation and misery.
There is no ‘yes’ button that one could switch on; for this ‘yes’ to be uttered, to manifests, the controlling mind needs to let go and this cannot be forced, it is an inner process of recognition and when this inner recognition happens, a deep relaxation follows immediately.
Relaxation is the other side of acceptance.
The Question: « I often live in my mind, thinking rather than feeling. How did I lose the connection with my body and my feelings and how can I reconnect with my body sensations, emotions and feelings? »
Most people have lost connection with their feelings and live in their mind; this is a common protection mechanism which is the outcome of having been deeply hurt. Living in the mind is like living in dreamland; we imagine and hope for a fantasised reality; a reality which would match our most secret desires; to be loved unconditionally and to kill all those who have done harm to us. We see everything through our intellect, through a thinking process. It is not that we don’t have feelings but more that we don’t recognize our feelings as feelings. Feelings, emotions and sensations are there but they remain in the background, almost unnoticed.
We are sensitive beings and in a previous talk I mentioned that our being consists of three different layers or bodies which follow the different stages of our development; the sensing body is the first to appear after birth and soon after the feeling or emotional body starts to be active. In our early childhood we are very sensitive to what we see, hear or sense and since our mental layer is not yet completely formed, we are not able to fully understand and integrate the various situations that we are facing. The understanding and the rationalisation will only come later when our brain will be more developed.
Yet our nervous system is geared to absorb and take care of anything that is threatening to our survival and this takes place within our ‘emotional brain’ which is located in our belly and more specifically in the wall texture of our guts. This is why it is also well-advised to fast and cleanse our intestine from time to time; it helps releasing unwanted toxins and stored emotions.
We lose connection with our feelings and our sensations and become insensitive when a feeling or a sensation is felt to be overwhelming. Our nervous system has the capacity to block the sensation of pain. You may have noticed this for yourself, when a pain is too intense the body becomes numb and the sensation of pain disappears. Fainting or falling into a coma is also part of this numbing system. This is true for both, physical and psychological pain.
The problem is that we have forgotten to trust that our body also has the capacity to come out of this numbness and we unconsciously let our mind takes the lead to control what we cannot absorb or what we fear.
Losing the connection with our sensation and feelings is a needed protection mechanism; however it has its limits because when we are living in our mind, we are not living at our full potential. We fail to notice the beauty that surrounds us, we fail to smell the fragrances of life; our hearts are closed and we fail to notice and be moved by that which is always present, Love.
I can assure you that it is possible to reconnect with your body sensations as well as with your feelings and regain your full living potential. In order to reconnect with our feelings and sensations we need to slow down and take the courage to face our fears and judgements.
As mentioned before your mind acts as a barrier to all sensations and feelings. For the mind a sensation or a feeling is something dangerous, threatening, so it obviously does not want to sense or feel which means that you will need to re-educate your mind or redirect it in the right direction. The easiest is to start with the body and sense the places of tensions or relaxation that are happening.
Take it as a new exploration; for instance: I sense a tension in my chest, how is this tension, mild, strong, bearable, unbearable, comfortable or uncomfortable? What sort of thoughts does this sensation bring? Acceptance or rejection and what feelings are manifesting with these thoughts: anger, sadness or fear?
Use this way of exploring to train your mind to allow sensation and feelings to manifest themselves. The fear of feeling is probably the main barrier because it has been registered in our psyche that feeling is painful; we need to take courage and overcome this fear. And we can do this by expressing whatever comes when we start to connect with a feeling. It can be a strong ‘no, I don’t want to feel’, it can be a fear of dying if I allow myself to feel this feeling, it can also be a deep sadness and powerlessness to be confronted with a specific feeling. Numbness, Anger, Fear, Helplessness and Uselessness are certainly the main emotions that will arise when we start to connect with our feelings. We will have to go through this phase in order to truly connect with a feeling and heal the pain that this feeling carry; there is no other way, it is not possible to bypass this phase.
Expressing is a needed step, yet expressing appropriately, without repressing and without exaggerating, without making a mountain out of a molehill.
The Question: « It’s very easy for me to complain about others’ flaws; I know that it is wrong to do this but I don’t know how to stop this behaviour; could you give me some guidance? »
It is not only you who have this tendency, everyone has this tendency to complain about other’s flaws or to be jealous about other’s achievements which is actually the same thing in the sense that it is about avoiding recognizing our own flaws and qualities.
The first thing that you need to understand is that it is not wrong of you to do this; there is a mechanism in you which push you to do this. So in a sense you are not responsible for doing this. Of course blaming others or complaining about their flaws generates some pain for these people and for you too. Nagging is certainly not a healthy habit but it is the same has the habit of praising others and rather than trying to change this pattern it is better to enquire and recognize where its roots are. When the root is seen, the pattern fades away and dissolves sooner or later.
Just now I was saying that you are not responsible for having this pattern, yet you have a responsibility which is to be more conscious of the pattern that is active in you and to take care of this pattern. By raising your question and seeking for guidance you are taking responsibility in the right direction.
The nature of blaming is always about some outside events or persons. We project onto others what we are not able to accept about ourselves, whether it is a quality or a so called ‘flaw’. Yes, we do also internalize blaming and judge ourselves for not being good enough, for being stupid or weak; when we do this, we split ourselves and act as if there are two persons inside of us; the ‘inner judge’ and me, the ‘bad guy’. This ‘Inner Judge’ is also sometimes called the ‘Controller’.
Although most of us would like to behead this ‘Inner Judge’ and be free from its grips, it is not possible to this and the more we make attempts to get rid of our inner judge, the stronger and fiercer he becomes.
What we have to do is to first accept that this is so; ‘yes, I am judging, blaming, complaining about other’s flaws’. Once we admit this fact, some space is created and relaxation sets in effortlessly and we can continue with this question: ‘what exactly am I complaining about this person?’
Since in your question you haven’t mentioned what are these flaws that you are complaining about; I will take some general examples which everyone can relate with. It may be that you complain that your child or your spouse is messy or that he does not take responsibility; that he or she is insensitive or selfish or that he complains too much.
Finding out what is your complaining triggering point is important because it will tell you in which direction you will have to look, for instance:
From these few examples you can understand that the purpose of being clear about our complaining triggering point is that it will reveal its other side; what we lack of or what we are in need of; security, support, attention or being understood in these examples.
I would encourage each of you to practice this type of inner questioning so that you can find out what it is that you are missing and longing for. The one-to-one communication exercises can be a starting point in clarifying your tendency to complain. Remember that it is always about you and never about the other. Most of the time the other is simply a projection screen on which you can see your own needs and desires.
Make use of this and you will know more about yourself.
The Question: ‘I have this habit of venting my emotions on my child and on my husband. I know that it creates pain in them and also in me, but I don’t know how to change this.’
Venting emotions on others, especially anger is a habit that many people fall prey to; it is a sign or immaturity and weakness in the sense that the person venting her emotion does not have the courage to look at her own issues and the reasons which are pushing her to behave in such a way.
We vent our emotions because it is easier to throw our responsibility onto another rather than taking responsibility for what is happening to us. It becomes the other’s fault and it sets us free from taking our responsibility.
Many parents throw their anger at their child because the child does not do what they want him to do or does not behave the way that they want him to behave. We can also see this happening on the road where some drivers throw their anger onto other drivers because they are too slow or too fast.
Venting emotions is not different from complaining about others or blaming, it is just a little bit more direct and certainly more painful for the other. Whether we are conscious of it or not when we vent our emotions, we are acting out a non-resolved deep pain.
The dynamic is quite simple; at some point in our life we have been hurt and for various reasons this hurt has not been taken care of; it remains as an open wound in some unconscious part of our psyche. The problem is that we are not conscious of the depth of this pain in us, all we are conscious of, and sometimes not even, is the resentment or the anger that is constantly with us. This resentment is so strong that at the slightest opportunity it lights up and explodes in uncontrollable ways. Venting becomes a subtle form of revenge.
Yet the same dynamic can take another form where people vent their emotions in an attempt to be seen or to be heard, in an attempt to be important in the eyes of someone. It usually takes the form of being a victim. They amplify their feeling, whether crying or being angry, in order to attract attention, in order to be taken care of. They force the expression of their feeling in a dramatic way, thinking that it will bring them a better attention, sympathy and more care from another.
Although this way of venting emotions is not intended to hurt another but more to get the attention from another, it is still the acting out of a non-resolved deep pain.
Understanding the dynamic of venting emotions opens the way for transformation to take place. In our last talk I mentioned that it is important to find out our triggering point when we are complaining in order to discover what we actually want or need. The same applies when we are venting our emotions, by a simple self-questioning we can discover the nature of the pain that our heart carries.
Here are a few examples:
→ My husband does not take responsibility in the family = I cannot bear this = I get angry and vent my anger on him = I am not supported => I miss having been supported
→ My child continuously delays doing his homework = I cannot bear this = I get angry and vent my anger on him = he is not obedient = I want to be respected => I have been deeply humiliated in the past and feel insecure
→ My wife does not want to have sex with me = I cannot bear this = I become unhappy and start to scream and beg = I feel insecure => I was not taken care of, loved, or appreciated as a child
→ My spouse raised the question of divorce = I become miserable = I make a drama and cry and scream don’t leave me, don’t abandoned me, I’m so poor without you = I cannot bear to be alone = I need company => I am in a deep loneliness
Behind every form of venting there is a deeply buried pain and the only way to stop venting our emotions is to first become aware that we are doing this, that we are venting our emotions and then to recognize and access the underlying cause of our venting which is none other than a heartrending pain and lastly do whatever is needed to take care of that pain.
Venting emotion does create pain in the other person yet it also creates pain for the one who vents his emotions therefore once you have become conscious that you have been venting your emotion on someone what you can do is to apologize to that person for the hurt that you have brought to her and… there is also the need to forgive yourself for behaving like this. You did not know better at the time.
Jealousy is an overriding fire that only wishes to destroy anyone and anything that stands in his way. It comes because of comparison. Jealousy arises because we consider ourselves lower than others, because we carry negative judgments on ourselves. It is the belief that we are not good enough, not beautiful enough, not worthy enough, not lovable that gives rise to jealousy. Letting go of the belief is the only way out of jealousy. Recognizing our own qualities, our own worthiness, our own potential will put an end to jealousy.
It is quite simple really; a healthy relationship is a relationship based on mutual respect. Respect for oneself and respect for the other are the fundamental basis of a healthy relationship. Alone we are somewhat limited, together we can expand. A healthy relationship combines Alone & Together.
Alone does not mean lonely, alone means integrity and self-respect. Aloneness is a strength on its own, it means living in self-confidence, in a total acceptance of who we are. Aloneness is the radiance of love. And when two aloneness meet to form a togetherness, a healthy relationship is born and this relationship can blossom because the two aloneness move in the same direction, they expand in love and generate beauty and creativity.
As you may have understood from what I have just said, the needed ingredient for a healthy relationship to materialize is, for each partner, to be rooted in their aloneness. In a previous talk on Intimacy and Relationships I mentioned that Intimacy is Aloneness and Aloneness is Intimacy, these two words have the same meaning. If your desire is to be in a healthy and fruitful relationship, read that talk again and do the needful to regain your aloneness, to regain your integrity, your true face.
All the talks and workshops that I propose are geared in this direction, they aim to guide you into regaining your aloneness so that you can choose how to live your life and what type of relationship you want to be involved in. I can only point the direction and support you on the way, yet I cannot walk the way for you.
When such a question as: ‘how to fix this problem?’ is raised, it tends to imply that the questioner has a difficulty to look at the issue directly and that he is trying to avoid facing what is truly going on for him. This becomes the main barrier to solving the issue because then the root cause of the issue will remain in some unconscious part of the psyche and keep being active and creating trouble for the person.
So the first thing is: never try to change, solve or fix any behaviour pattern but always look in term of transforming and for transformation to take place a few steps are needed.
The first step is to become more aware, more conscious of what is happening; generalizing only creates confusion. Saying: ‘I always adjourn any action’ is too general; one needs to start with one specific situation that occurs in one’s life.
Take one situation and go through it step by step. Doing so will bring clarity to what is exactly happening and with this clarity some understanding will take place. The understanding that: I am acting like this, in this case: postponing, because I fear to face something.
Which will bring the next question: what is it that I fear to face?
Maybe be this is not known at first and that’s Ok; what is important is to recognize that the drive for my postponing attitude is fear.
Then there is a possibility to work further by taking this fear into account, by accepting that: ‘yes I am afraid’ or ‘yes I fear something’. Admitting that ‘I fear something’ is a crucial step because it is a yes to the inner reality at play. Without this yes, no transformation is possible. To complete the process one more step will be needed and that is expressing. Expressing what needs to be express in relation with the situation.
Expressing will help create a discharge of the stuck energy and this expressing can take different forms, not only emotional release as many people think. Verbal sharing, writing, painting, dancing can be used as well as different bodywork techniques.
To summarize, rather than trying to fix the issue use the transformative trilogy below:
• Recognize (what is)
• Accept (that this is the case)
• Express (what needs to be expressed)
And see how things change for you.
The Question: 'In my marriage, I have a lot of ‘no’ towards my husband, but it’s very difficult for me to express these ‘no’; I don’t dare to express myself and I also feel that it is useless to express my ‘nos.’
Your question has 3 different elements: having lots of ‘no’, not daring to express these ‘no’ and the belief that it is useless to express these ‘no’. To be able to answer you in a more specific and fruitful way for you I would need to know what these ‘no’ are about.
Yet before going any further I would like to emphasize that there are two types of ‘no’; the healthy ‘no’ and the distorted ‘no’.
The healthy ‘no’ is a simple and straightforward ‘no’ to a situation that is felt inappropriate or unsuitable for us. This ‘no’ is usually firm and without any emotional charge attached to it. It is what I would call a ‘protective no’; we protect ourselves from something that we feel inappropriate or unsuitable for us to do. Our body is probably the best example of a protective ‘no’. When we are full after a meal, our stomach says ‘no’, enough, ‘gola’. When we catch a cold or have some illness, our body immediately starts saying ‘no’ by sending an army of white blood cells to push the intruder out. When we are not sure or doubt about something, we usually say: ‘I don’t know’.
I’m quite positive that you can find many situations in your life where you are expressing a healthy ‘no’.
The distorted ‘no’ always contain an emotional charge of rejecting or denying which is an indication that there is a pain at the source of this ‘no’. Your question about having lots of ‘no’ is quite similar to the question of complaining that was raised last week. Complaining, blaming, or venting emotions are all expressions of a ‘no’, of something that we dislike or don’t want and just as I was explaining earlier about venting emotions, behind these ‘no’ there is a deeply buried pain. All these ‘no’ that you have towards your husband can probably be reduced to 1 main ‘no’, and since you are not daring to express your ‘no’ it may have to do with having been humiliated or rejected at some point in your life, which actually may have nothing to do with your husband; he is just triggering this in you.
Not daring to express something is fear based; we refrain from saying something because we fear to be judge, mocked, blamed or humiliated in other words, rejected and on top of all, not understood.
When you say that it is useless to express my ‘no’ it implies that you have given up the idea of being understood and that you are probably carrying the belief: ‘I will never be understood’. Not being understood creates a very deep pain. I’m sure that many of you can relate with the pain of not being understood. Not being understood is such an excruciating pain that a child may even take the decision to not express his feelings anymore since no one understands him. In all the one-to-one sessions that I have with people, not being understood and not being seen for who we are, is a key element. A child is very rarely understood by his parents and not only understood but also not supported in the fact that his parents don’t make any attempt to understand him which leave the chid in a deep loneliness and desperate state.
Most issues that people have in their life have to do with not being understood and closing of their heart because of that. We close our hearts to protect ourselves from feeling the pain that not being understood created but also as a way to take revenge towards those who have hurt us. The down side of a closed heart is that love has no way to enter that heart and the person lives in a sort of indifference or cold-hearted space. Affection, empathy and human warmth belong to a distant planet, to another world.
What you can do if you want to overcome this difficulty to express your ‘no’ is to have the courage to go beyond your fear of expressing, beyond your fear of being rejected. And for this I would suggest taking one-to-one session where you will be helped and supported in expressing what your heart has not been able to express up to now.
Saying ‘no’ is about setting boundaries, yet not about building a new ‘China wall’ around one’s heart. It is about setting boundaries with, at the same time, allowing an open exchange. I will talk about this topic of boundaries in one of the next talks.
You cannot drop fear. Yes you can override fear by pretending to have courage, by pulling yourself together as the expression goes; but in reality fear will still be there, simply pushed away in some unknown corners of the psyche.
Facing fear is the only way out.
Facing fear is not an easy affair as fear covers such a vast range of origins and is often itself feared. Yet what is important is to realize that: ‘I am afraid or I have a fear’. And with this realization fear is not pushed away, it is being recognized and to some degree, accepted.
Sensing or putting one’s attention on how this fear manifests in the body will enable some confidence to arise and with this confidence it will be possible to allow the thoughts and the feelings that are associated with the fear to surface. These thoughts and feelings will of course be different for each person according to the root cause of the fear but it does not matter, what matters is to regain the ability to be with the fear, to live the fear and with it, express whatever sensation, feelings or emotion that call to be expressed.
It is not about dropping the fear but more a process of moving with the fear and what is associated with it so that fear melts or drops by itself.
The Question: « I feel quite confused with the fact that I don’t know what I really want; it seems that there is nothing that I truly want. »
Being confused and not knowing what we want go hand in hand. Not knowing what we want is the outcome of a confused mind so the first thing to do is to clear the confusion rather than trying hard to find out what we truly want. As mentioned earlier my observation is that most people don’t know what they truly want, yet they seem to be clearer on what they don’t want. This is why it is sometimes easier to start with the negative rather than look for the positive.
You don’t know what you truly want; this is a fact and the first thing is to say yes to this fact.
‘Yes, my reality is that I don’t know what I truly want.’ Once you have accepted and admitted this fact, already some confusion will have been dispelled.
Making a list of what you don’t want will probably be easier to start with because it will help you not only to be clearer about what you don’t want but also to realize what it is that is behind these not wanting.
Refusals and Wants go hand in hand; they are the two sides of a same coin. Usually we want the opposite of what we don’t want yet the not wanting is often more obvious.
A few examples:
This list is by no means exhaustive and it is something that each of you can do in your own time; making a list of what you don’t want and through this, discover what is the opposite that you actually want.
What may add to your confusion is that we often have judgements about not knowing what we want. These judgments can take the following forms: ‘I should know better what I want’ or ‘I’m not intelligent enough to know what I want’ or ‘I’m not worthy enough’.
The judgment in itself is not so important, what is important is to recognize that the judgment acts as a denial to oneself and becomes a barrier to access what I truly want because it sets the mind in a wrong direction. As mentioned previously, accepting the fact that I don’t know what I want and not falling prey of judgments will help you move in the direction of knowing what you truly want.
There is another aspect about our wants that is worth considering because it carries at its core an essential need; the need for security together with its counterpart the need to be in control. Most people are always trying to be in some sort of control in order to manage their life. The PPT shown will help you to recognize one or more of your own desires to be in control. Often, and especially in spiritual or self-development circles desires are regarded as shameful; one should not have such desires, yet the reality is that the majority of human beings have these desires.
Check for yourself which ones you are familiar with or that you’ve seen being acted out by some people around you.
People have these desires because these desires function as a cover up for a deep insecurity, for a lack of self-confidence and unless this is seen through, a person will continue to miss the point and pretend to be other than she is. Remember, it is not shameful to have these desires; they are the stepping stones for you to recognize your tendency to control your lack of self-confidence.
Becoming desire-less is possible, yet for this one has to first accept that a desire is present and active and by questioning its rightfulness one will understand its source and once the source is seen the desire subside.
Further on the questioner adds: “It seems that there is nothing that I truly want.”
When a person feels contented, she does not need or want anything and she is also not confused. When our needs have been met and when we have recognized our true self there is nothing that we truly want for ourselves, we simply feel contented and ways to share this contentment start to show themselves.
From the way you have raised your question I doubt that there is nothing that you truly want. Your question seems to be more of a call for support, for help; you seem to be in a sort of disheartenment or some sort of hopelessness or despair; something similar to a depress state.
This happens sometimes when we face a situation of losing something or someone dear to us. It can be the end of a relationship, a divorce or someone dying or a loss of a position in life. When we face such a situation our hearts are in such deep sadness that nothing really matters anymore, we have no interest, life becomes dull and we lose any desire and sometimes even the desire to live.
I’m sure that you’ve all experience this at some point in your life.
If this is the case for you the questioner, the only thing to do is to look into this grief, this heartache and take care of it by any means that fit suitable for you. And once you’ve done that you will be surprised to notice that you will know what you truly want and it may simply to be loved or appreciated.
A desire is actually an unfulfilled need and desire originate mainly from unfulfilled basic needs, such as the need to be seen or recognized, the need to be accepted, to be supported, in a broader sense, the need to be loved.
Our basic needs which are most crucial and vital for our growth are seldom fulfilled during our childhood years. We are not loved properly, so we grow up with ‘holes’ within us and then our life is spent trying to fill these holes, these needs.
Desires are simply the other side of needs, they go hand in hand, that’s also the reason why it is pointless to try to fulfil our desires or to try to eliminate desires and be desire less.
A better option is to look at the need. Recognizing the need at play within us and taking care of it. Yet not by trying to fulfil the need which would then become a desire, but by bringing love and understanding to this need. Facing and expressing the pain that this unfulfilled needs generates is a more mature option.
That’s where working on the personality comes handy; it helps recognizing the unfulfilled needs and becomes a support for fulfilment and contentment. A hungry person is not interested in meditation, in True Nature; her priority is finding food first and then once the hunger is satisfied she may want to sit and meditate or ponder on what True Nature is. Similarly, many people in search of enlightenment are in fact searching to fulfil a need for love that is the reason why on any spiritual path, whether eastern or western, this is addressed first.
The Question: « In our culture, sex is something covert, taboo and we are all shy to talk about it. Actually our hearts would be more open and free if we could break these restrictive concepts about sex, so, how can we do that? »
You are right; your hearts would be more open and free without these restrictive concepts. It is in the hands of each individual to free himself from any taboo, especially around sex and sexuality and to live a life of enjoyment and playfulness in all directions.
To break free from these restrictive concepts, you first need to turn your attention towards yourself and see how these concepts are impeding your life. Although these concepts are common to most people, the way they obstruct a person is specific to that individual and linked with his or her personal upbringing. In that sense there is no ‘general how to’.
One of the main reasons why this topic remains restrictive is simply because it is not talked about openly. The shyness or the shame needs to be overcome first, that’s why sharing with someone we can trust can be a good start and highly beneficial.
Going further, recognizing, exposing and expressing whatever is linked with this issue within a safe environment is of major importance for transformation to take place and this can be done within a group structure or with individual sessions.
Some paths, like Tantra are more specifically oriented towards uprooting restrictive concepts around sexuality. This sexual deconditioning can also be done within any structure that favours a sincere expression of oneself together with being received without judgment.
Sincere expression and being received without judgement are the two major components to undo these restrictive ideas around sexuality and, since we are not just a mind but a whole body-mind system, the verbal expression can be favourably sustained with bodywork to unblock the muscle tensions generated by these restrictive ideas. In the same way, activities like dancing, painting, sculpting or writing can also be used as a support to let the heart break free.
Although the answer to this question is obvious, most people overlook this obviousness as this ancient Sufi story shows.
Ten blind men pass through a stream. The current is very forceful, so they hold hands. Reaching the other side, one of them suggests: ‘We should count ourselves. The current was so forceful, and we cannot see, one of us may have gone with the current, gone with the stream.’ So they count. Strangely enough the counting always stops at nine. Everyone tries, but it is always nine. One man sitting on the bank of the river starts laughing, it is hilarious! Those ten blind men are sitting there crying, tears in their eyes because they think that they have lost one of their friends.
The man comes to them, and he says: ‘What is the matter?’
They explain the situation. He says, ‘You all stand up in a line. I will hit the first person once and he has to say ‘one’. I will hit the second person and he will have to say ‘two’, because I will hit twice. I will hit the third person three times and he will have to say ‘three’ and so on so forth.’
Strangely enough, he finds the tenth man who was lost. They all thank him; they touch his feet, and they say: ‘You are a god to us. We were thinking we had lost one of our friends. But please, can you tell us... we were also counting; all of us tried, and the tenth man was not there. How has he appeared suddenly?’
The man replied: ‘This is an ancient mystery which you will not understand. You just go on your way.’
What is this ancient mystery?
We tend to forget ourselves. In fact, we live our whole life without remembering ourselves. We see the world around us, we recognize that we have a body, that we have feelings and thoughts, but we simply forget that we are the one who is conscious.
Someone asked: « As a child we long for an ideal world where everyone would be caring and loving; where everything would be fair and safe and as adults we project these ideals on our spouse, our friends and even our work colleagues. Could you share something about the fantasy world of the inner child? »
The inner child fantasy world is not different than the child fantasy world since the inner child is only a concept making accessible for adults their childhood unexpressed feelings and emotions.
A child does not live in the real world; a child lives in a world of his own simply because he does not know anything about the world and how events are playing an interdependent role. Everything is new for a child and as he grows he discovers the world around him through his physical and emotional senses. A young child does not have psychological boundaries since his brain is not completely formed yet; he is completely open to the world around him and although he has no idea about the concept of trust, he trusts those who are around him. He sees those around him as his protectors and caretakers and relies on them for his safety and wellbeing.
This openness has a downside: vulnerability; a child is, in many ways, defenceless and I would say: innocently gullible; he believes everything that his caretakers are telling him since he has no experience of his own and no ways of separating the false from the truth. Although he does not understand the reasons behind his parent’s attitude he feels and can easily be hurt.
This means that any event which makes him feel unstable will trigger a strong feeling of insecurity and as a result a need for protection. This need for protection can take two different forms for the child; the immediate proximity of his caretakers who can reassure him, comfort him and make him feel secure and safe. When this option is not available the child will take refuge in his imagination in order to gain a sense of security. He will invent options or ideals and create beliefs which will match his needs and longings.
Hurt creates Despair and despair creates Hope; when a child is psychologically or physically hurt he enters in a shock state and as a result he dissociate from the reality. The hurt can be a feeling of abandonment, of being left alone or a feeling of not being understood, not included or rejected. Besides the heart-rending pain that these situations create comes a deep sense of insecurity for the child and he has no other option than to close his heart and disconnect from reality. The disconnection can take the outer form of Rebelling, Pleasing or being Numb; yet inside there is a strong rebellious ‘no’ together with a desire of taking revenge. A closed heart, resentment, hate and the desire to revenge are the natural outcome for a child who is hurt and feels insecure and since he has no real options to process the pain that he carries, the pain build-up and turn into behaviour patterns which will influences all his present and future relationships.
Certainly more can be said about the child’s fantasy world and I’m sure that you all have examples of the various fantasies that you created as a child. What is more essential is to understand the dynamic of these behaviour patterns that these fantasies created in order to set us free from them. And this is what the next topic is about.
You are saying: « As adults we project these ideals on our spouse, our friends and even our work colleagues », this is entirely true and this is what co-dependency and setting boundaries are about. We don’t see the other as another; we see them as a projection of our unmet needs and we ask them to be our providers, our saviours, our protectors, in other words our papa and mama and in doing this we remain identified with the child that we once were who did not have his needs met.
Gaining maturity means seeing through all this.
The Question: « My parents have been denying me since I was little, so now I easily deny myself in my life, and I really want to make a change. How can I achieve self-confidence? »
It hurts to be denied therefore you’ll have to go through the expression of that pain and all that is linked with it to be able to regain self-confidence. Confidence or trust is naturally inbuilt in human being, what destroy it is lopsided education, parental overpowering, imposed rules. Then we start putting the blame on ‘the other’, whether parents or existence, for our lack of confidence. Yes, most people have been crushed, denied and not seen for who they are in their upbringing; it is a fact. And this fact needs to be accepted before any transformation can take place. Usually we internally denied the fact and try to push it away because it is so uncomfortable to feel the pain of this denial. This is why recognition is important and once we are not denying something, once we face it directly, we can express all of what it carries. Transformation simply follows.
The remedy is quite simple really: Recognize, Accept, Express and leave the rest to existence.
The Question: « My pain has never been understood, and my way of living has always been misunderstood. My life is very different from my parents and also most people point of view. I am a person who loves creation, sharing, art and western style. I feel that I am a minority, lonely and different and it is difficult to find the suitable support. Can you give me your guidance and advice?»
It is not easy to truly understand the pain of someone, very often it is only the circumstances of the pain that are understood, not really the feeling of pain, the heart-breaking pain. Yes, you are different from your parents and others people and this is good; it is your uniqueness. Let this uniqueness manifest to your heart content.
From what you write it is clear that something about you has not been understood and it seems that you keep considering yourself as a victim, as someone which no one understands and cannot find support. Stepping out of that role and genuinely asking yourself: ‘what is it about me that had not been understood?’ can and will help you tremendously.
Practice this question until you find what it is about you that had not been understood.
The Question: « I have read some books and listened to some talks from some spiritual teachers who are teaching that there is no need to be concerned by the personality, we simply need to go beyond the mind, beyond emotions and feelings. You are telling us to integrate our personality before exploring the Self. Why is that? »
Yes, in a way there is no need to be concerned with the personality since our True Nature is the only reality that exists. But the problem is that the majority of people cannot simply go beyond the mind, beyond emotions and feelings for the simple reasons that they are not even aware of the thinking or emotional process that is happening constantly within them. And it is this thinking and emotional process that keeps people in delusion. People dream about going beyond the mind, beyond feelings and emotions without understanding what ‘going beyond’ exactly implies. They make ‘going beyond’ a goal to attain and put all a lot of efforts into trying to reach this goal but this is where they fail and set themselves in a wrong direction. Who is trying to go beyond the mind? Who else but a mind pursuing some goal? One needs to see through the falseness of this.
There is ‘no beyond’ to go to. All that is needed is to be in acceptance of what is; in accordance or in tune with what is. There is no beyond, there is only here now. And it is in this here-now that one can reconnect with Reality or True Nature.
I remember talking with someone who was following a spiritual teacher who was telling her that there is no need to bother about her emotions or her feelings; that she simply needed to be aware of them. The problem for this person was that even though she was aware of her feelings and emotions, she did not know what to do with them and she was bothered by this and was confused and angry. How to not bother about anger when I am angry? How to not bother about sadness when I am sad? And on top of that she was cursing herself for having these feelings; ‘my teacher said that I should not have feelings, I should only be aware’.
This is a complete misunderstanding of the teaching and this happens because the person is locked in her mind. Locked in the sense that it is her mind that is controlling everything, she, as a person, is absent. She is absent because she lives in her mind and does not have a healthy relationship with her feelings anymore. She tries hard to follow the teaching of being aware, but just being aware is not enough one needs to accept, to be in acceptance of what is.
I’ve also heard teachers talking about the illusion of the body and the illusion of the mind; but what about the physical or psychological pain that one can experience? Is pain illusory? Pain is quite real, the body is quite real, the feelings are quite real and so is the mind; this is all part of our incarnation, part of the reality of being living human beings. Denying this reality is to deny an aspect of Life.
As a human being we are a form of Life and to be conscious of this reality is the utmost realisation that Consciousness can take.
The problem with these ways of teaching is that they seem to not take into account the component of identification that is taking place within the mind. The problem is not the body or the mind, the problem comes from the identification that takes place within the mind about the body, the mind and the feelings.
It is this component of identification with the mind, with the body that is needed to be seen through. Yet before identification can be seen through one has to become aware of what one dwells in. Moreover and because of this compulsion to identify, most people are entangled in what seems to be inextricable thought forms and beliefs. And the first step is to support them to disentangle themselves from the thought forms and beliefs that they are caught in.
Remember the talk I gave on ‘Obstacles to Awakening’ in July 2020, it is all about this. And as I mentioned in a meeting in June-2020, the direction that I aim at in supporting you is to work on the personality level as a first step towards something much vaster and more fulfilling which can be called beyond the personality.
It is my experience and I see this repeatedly while working with people that before one can come to the truth of who he is, the false has to be taken into account and be dealt with. To be able to ‘explore the Self’ one has to be ready and by this I mean that if a person is entangled in some personality issues, there is no way that she can understand anything about the Self. It will be like walking with a stone in one shoe, you first have to remove the stone to be able to continue your walk. And for some it is not a stone that they have in one shoe but many stones in both shoes.
The Question: 'You have told us that enlightenment is nothing. If what you said is true, why are there so many people going after enlightenment? Can you share something about this?’
May be you have misheard what I said; what I might have said is that enlightenment is not a thing; it is no-thing which is different than saying that it is nothing. So I can say it again, enlightenment is not a thing that you can grab, such as a state of mind or whatever one could imagine. Enlightenment is only a word which points in a direction. In itself enlightenment does not mean anything. But people make it a thing, something to attain, somewhere to reach to and unknowingly create a problem where there is none.
There is no problem because what is label as being enlightened has already happened. The word enlightenment is simply pointing to what everyone is at his deepest core; pure awareness; immaculate awareness. Yet this immaculate awareness is veiled by what we call the personality and most of all, the thinking mind.
I was mentioning in a previous talk that the desire to be enlightened is common to all seekers who are ‘on the path’ but one has to see that this is nonsense. It is nonsense because this is a mind desire and enlightenment has nothing to do with desire and the thinking mind. Enlightenment is part of an idea that there is a certain ‘state’ that one could attain where everything would be flawless, smooth and mostly pain and emotion free; like we imagine saints to be. There is no such saintly state. Enlightenment is not a state that one could attain.
You ask: 'then why so many people seek enlightenment?'
They do so because of the age-old association of subject and object, because of the tendency of the mind to grab some idea or belief in order to know and thus feel safe. When the mind knows, it feels safe and relaxes; when the mind does not know it becomes frantic and agitated with a single pointed idea: resolving the tension by all possible means.
People are also going after enlightenment either because they feel miserable and want to end their misery or because they have the desire to be smarter than others, they want to enhance their ego. The pursuit of enlightenment then becomes an ego trip.
At the same time there is in each human being a desire for something different or better said, a longing, an aspiration towards something that we want to be in union with. This pull or longing for wholeness is there because we have been in wholeness at some point in our life or better say we were this wholeness, yet at the time we were not conscious about it simply because our brain was not yet at its full potential.
The longing is there and we unconsciously search to fulfil it through different means because it has become mixed with our unfulfilled childhood needs. Sexuality is probably the most ‘at hand’ and natural possibility to return to this wholeness simply because during sexual intercourse one can experience a moment of union which is quite similar to wholeness. Sexual orgasm is a doorway to wholeness and it has been used as such by different ‘spiritual’ schools in India and in China.
Religious or spiritual teachings are in their essence incentives and means to fulfil this longing for wholeness.
The question is not so much why so many people are going after enlightenment as you ask but what are your motivations to seek enlightenment?
‘What is raising my interest for enlightenment?’
Asking yourself this question would be more beneficial for you as it would take you in the direction of knowing yourself better and maybe give rise to a thirst for truth whilst being general and asking about others motivations keeps you in ideas and beliefs which only feed intellectual understanding. Reading books, listening to spiritual teachers or asking this type of questions will not bring enlightenment to you, it will not quench your thirst; at the most it can plant a desire in you to search for it and I hope that answering your question will have this outcome.
One could define self-enquiry as a doubting approach, a negative approach. It is about discarding all the beliefs, the concepts that we have upon ourselves and the world in order to reach the very source of what we are, our True Nature. It is about practicing what Hakuin, a famous Japanese Zen Master (1686-1769), called ‘the great doubt’. « At the bottom of great doubt lies great awakening. If you doubt fully, you will awaken fully. ».
In the Indian tradition it is referred to as: ‘Neti Neti’, not this, not this.
It is possible to practice self-enquiry alone by repeatedly questioning one’s own beliefs or feelings using a question format such as: ‘Is it true? For example: I think or I believe that I am weak/strong/intelligent/stupid/etc. ⇒ is this true? Questioning our beliefs and preconceived ideas can certainly bring more clarity and authenticity in our lives, yet one can go further by using the format suggested by Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) to most of his disciples when they were asking him a question: ‘who is asking this question?’ A questioning which can be extended to: who is thinking, who is breathing, who is feelings, who is doing whatever you are doing?
Yet in his teaching of self-enquiry, Ramana Maharshi’s emphasis is more geared towards enquiring into the nature of this ‘I’ that is always being referred to when one asks this question: Who Am I?
However, practicing self-enquiry alone is not an easy endeavour and requires a great deal of stamina. In the Japanese Rinzaï Zen monastery, where self-enquiry is commonly used, practicing monks have the logistic support of their monastery environment as well as the compassionate support of their master.
The same goes within the awareness intensive retreats, where everything is organized to support the participant’s enquiry into his true nature. The use of a structured communication format is of tremendous help for the enquirer. This format makes it easier for the enquirer to stay focus on his question as well as communicating to his partner whatever occurred for him as a result of his intention to directly experience what his true nature is.
Whatever self-enquiry format is used, it is always about reflecting on the true nature of whatever is being enquired.
To awaken is to have recognized in oneself one’s original nature, to experience oneself as awareness. We all have this potential to awaken to our true nature, even you who are reading these words, since we are all born out of this unique original nature (awareness).
Yet, as we grow up and enter the world of identification, the world of 'me', we lose the connection with our true nature and find ourselves entangled in the realms of the mind, in duality. However, a longing for oneness remains and this longing that can become a drive to end this state of separation, of duality.
Bringing an end to this separation, awakening, is often described in various traditions as a long and arduous path and over time, hundreds of techniques and disciplines have been developed to return to our true nature, yet none is as direct and fast as the one proposed with the awareness intensive.
There is really only one, identification; the identification with something that we usually refer to as ‘me’. This identification is like a diamond, it has many facets and each facet acts like a bright light for a moth. We are drawn towards it, hypnotized by it.
That’s why very often it does take time to understand that we are caught in an illusion.
In many traditions, it is referred to as ‘the pursuit of desires’, the desire to possess, to have something, the desire to attain somewhere, the desire to be someone special. It can take many forms, even the form of the search for this True Nature or the desire to be enlightened.
It is all a mind game really.
The full question: « In order to find the true me, the whole me, oneness relationship with the universe I have practiced and attended Zen meditation retreats, Vipassana retreats, enlightenment intensives and cooling the flame in Hangzhou. In one enlightenment intensive retreat, I felt that my wife and daughter don’t need to change for me, they are just perfect and I totally accept them. Then a strong emotion of love came out from my heart and I burst into tears. I felt that I’m Love.
When I came back home, I thought I could keep this feeling forever, but no, I was still angry towards some of their behaviours. I also had experienced the feeling of stillness, emptiness, yet with the same result; I cannot keep that in my daily life. Thoughts and emotions still come and go. How can I discover my true nature and stay in it? How can I truly be this peace and this love? »
By stopping wanting to be in these states forever and by taking care of what prevents you to be in contact more permanently with these states. You have to understand that these states are what you are made of, your nature, so they are always there at the deepest core of your being but covered by your unfulfilled needs and desires. Take care of these needs and desires and the veil will disappear.
The Question: « Some spiritual teachings are saying: “You are love”, “You are being”; but what you are teaching is to let people experience this directly. What’s the difference between these two teaching approaches? »
In some ways, this is a similar question to the previous one in the sense that how can someone understand and integrate that ‘they are love’ when they already believe that they are wrong or that they are useless or stupid?
Yes, it is true that ‘you are Love’ or that ‘you are the Self’ but this is giving people a false hope and it is keeping them in alienation to a belief. People will simply believe instead of experimenting for themselves and when one believes he or she becomes frozen, dead.
You have to first dismantle the beliefs, and this cannot be done by adding another belief. It is the same as the proposal to ‘think positive’; you are asked to set your mind in a different direction, maybe a better one but you are not resolving the person’s issues. It is like changing a coat for another coat, you are still wearing something while it is about recognizing and taking care of issues that one may have.
Besides, saying that ‘you are Love’ or ‘you are the Self’ is only partly true because there is still identification; the identification with ‘I’ or ‘me’. ‘I’ am Love. There is ‘me’ and ‘Love’; ‘I’ am the Self. There is ‘me’ and ‘the Self’. From a personality point of view it is soothing, comforting and reassuring; I am not stupid anymore, I am Love.
But from ‘beyond the mind’ this is nonsense. It is nonsense because beyond mind identification simply does not exist, so who is going to be ‘Love’? No one, yet Love will be.
You need love but Love does not need ‘you’, love can exist without ‘You’.
Here is a personal example of this subtle identification; I was participating in a retreat and at some point, I experienced that ‘I am Love’, at the same time there was a voice in me saying: ‘Love is me’. I felt confused and was struggling with this. It was possible for me to accept that ‘I am Love’ and I was quite happy with that, but I was having a difficulty with the voice in me saying: ‘Love is’. This confusion lasted for quite a long time and at the time I did not understand why I had this difficulty with ‘Love is’. Sometimes later I understood the reason for this confusion. It is quite simple really; in the discovery that ‘I am Love’, ‘I’ or ‘me’ is present and it brings a sort of relaxation and pride; ‘I’ am this. ‘I’ exists, my true identity is revealed. My ego immediately inflates with such a stunning discovery, and he is not at all threatened, on the contrary he is enhanced, so it is easy to accept that ‘I am Love’. But with the voice saying, ‘Love is’, it is Love which takes the lead, Love is overriding this ‘me’ that I am identified with, and this becomes difficult to accept because it implies that there is Love and that ‘me’ is not so important. Love become primary and this is a threat for ‘me’. This understanding was the beginning of stepping out of the identification with being the ‘one who is something’.
And this is exactly what I propose, to walk the way towards dis-identification from all our beliefs and preconceived ideas, from our identification to being something. This approach enables the person to gain confidence as she walks the walk towards True nature rather than simply believe.
Here is a little Sufi story to illustrate this point.
A Sufi mystic wanders to the highest court in the land and sit on the king’s throne; the chief minister walks up to him and says: ‘what are you doing sitting here, do you think that you are a minister of this court?’
The Sufi mystic replies: ‘no, I’m not just a minister of this court, I’m more than that.’
The chief minister: ‘well, you are certainly not the chief minister, I am the chief minister!’
The Sufi mystic says: ‘no, you are right, I’m not the chief minister, I’m more than that.’
The chief minister continues: ‘what! And do you think you are the king? You are sitting on the king’s throne!’
The Sufi mystic says: ‘no, not the King, I’m more than the King.’
- ‘More than the King, do you think that you are the Emperor?’
- ‘No, I don’t think that I’m the Emperor, I’m much more than the Emperor.’
- ‘More than the Emperor, do you think that you are God?’
The Sufi mystic declares: ‘No, I don’t think I’m God, I’m more than that.’
The chief minister was aghast; ‘more than God, there’s Nothing!’
And the Sufi mystic to reply: “Precisely, I am that No-thing!”
Awareness is the ability that we all have to turn our focus towards awareness itself and thus enter a state of being that includes everything and does not exclude anything, no judgment of any sort since no thinking process is involved. Advaïta or Zen call it ‘witnessing’.
Awareness is not something that we need to learn or obtain from outside, we are it already, it is our essence and we only need to tune in to it. Being this ‘witnessing’, is to be in awareness, in direct knowing,
Witnessing differs from being self-conscious, which is a subtle form of control.
« The ultimate experience is not an experience because the one who experiences has disappeared. And when the one who experiences has disappeared, what can you say? Who could talk about it? Who could describe this experience? When there is no subject the object disappears, the banks of the river withdraw and only remains the flow. »
Osho, excerpted from: The Heart Sutra, chapter 1
A direct experience or direct knowing refers to a conscious, direct experience of the truth, of what we are, of our true nature. When this fundamental truth (our true nature) is experienced directly, it is referred to as ‘awakening’, a no-mind experience, an enlightenment experience, a state of conscious presence. It is always an experience in the present moment, where all separation has disappeared, where no sense of ‘me’ can be found.
Strictly speaking it is not an ‘experience’ since there is no-one to experience anything but only experiencing occurring and ‘experiencing’ is de facto direct, so it seems to be closer to reality to use the wording: ‘experiencing directly’ or ‘directly knowing’.
Direct knowing is direct knowing; there are no degrees in it. Yet one can be in it for a few minutes, a few hours, a few days or for a lifetime. That is what makes the difference, its briefness versus a constant abiding.
It is the coming back of identification to this ‘me’ that we believe we are which by and by veils our capacity to be in this state of direct knowing. Even after being only temporarily lived, this state of direct knowing or conscious presence is always there since it is our true nature. What fades away is our ability to be in this state, yet this ability to tune in can be cultivated, can be enhanced. All that is needed is to continue the de-identification process until a full abiding is achieved.
Each awakening experience is unique and expresses itself in a unique way according to the one who lives it.
Ha... the past life question!
The idea of past lives or reincarnation is only a concept and past lives, or reincarnation do not exist outside of this concept. Like many concepts invented by man it has a certain utility and can help quieten the mind for a while around aspects of ourselves that we are not yet ready to face. It can support those on a path towards True Nature as a mean to better understand issues which are still not clearly conscious and help deal with unfulfilled needs.
Yet like all concepts, it keeps the person in a dual system; me and my past life or past lives. From the point of view of True Nature, since no individual me is to be found, there cannot be any past life; whose past life would it be?
Just like the rainbow that appears after a storm is only a play of light between the sun and the rain and has no intrinsic existence; this form that we identify with is as illusory. It appears and disappears when the time has come; only a continuum of awareness or witnessing is taking place beyond this appearing and disappearing. Our incarnation as human beings is nothing more than a dance of chemical reactions which lasts not even a flick of a second on the universe’ scale yet we cling to this life, the past and futures ones because we fear connecting with the void that this immensity of awareness or witnessing is.
Taking on this belief about reincarnation, past and future lives help avoid the reality of our precariousness. It gives us a sense of security with the idea that we live on throughout the ages.
Facing life, its precariousness and the challenges and opportunities that it brings us in order to grow, to mature, is a sane way of being directly in contact with what is alive.
The Question: I’ve participated in some courses about cleaning the earth environment; we will invite angels to help us to work together. If there is no angel, then does it mean that it is meaningless to clean the earth? What is the law of the Universe?
Cleaning the earth and our environment is certainly a worthy idea and seeing the degree of pollution it is certainly a needed thing to take on. But why would you need angels to help out? Just do it by yourself, for yourself, for the simple sake of not spoiling this planet that gives us life. Moreover, it is always best to start with ourselves first. Our hearts are often polluted, filled with negatives ideas, resentment, anger, hate… so taking care of these negative aspects of us will certainly go in the direction of making this earth a little cleaner. The law of the universe is that nothing is permanent, everything that comes to life will one day die and this earth too will die at some point. This does not mean that we should not do anything to keep it clean and in good order. It is more about connecting with a space of sacredness within us; then our relating with the earth will take a different turn.
An awareness intensive is a structured process similar to a Zen retreat and using a specific self-enquiry communication method to support participants experiencing their original face or True Nature.
Taking part in awareness intensives enables a clearer understanding of oneself and above all it enables the reconnection with our essence or true nature.
Most of those who come to participate in such retreats do so because they are on a personal development path and want to know who they are. Some aspire to open to life by moving out of their usual conditionings and become true living beings. Others come simply by sheer curiosity or because they want to challenge themselves with something intense.
Motives for taking part in awareness intensives are probably as many as they are individuals, yet it will always be a fruitful encounter with oneself as well as a meeting with what is beyond the person and its personality.
No. Awareness intensives do not belong to any organization or promote any particular spiritual path. Nor are they presided over by any authority figure, not even Charles Berner, the originator of this self-enquiry method.
Self-discovery is a personal affair, thus awareness intensives function independently of any philosophical, psychological or spiritual teacher or organization. Participants are never required or expected to adhere to any belief system or ideology.
Such a format helps moving out from our habitual everyday life patterns by minimizing the distractions we usually indulge in. Maintaining silence and isolation (no physical contact and no possibilities of distractions) over a stretch of time supports our contemplation towards direct knowing.
It is a form of self-enquiry with partner which is used to open to this direct knowing. It requires focusing on a unique question such as ‘who am I?’ throughout the retreat and to support this focusing a structured communication format is used. This format, unique to the awareness intensives, always starts with: ‘Tell me…’ to enable self-enquiry and a communication process to take place.
This format helps the participant to stay focus on his question as well as communicating to his partner whatever occurred for him as a result of his intention to directly experience himself in the present moment.
No. Statistically, on a typical three-day intensive, about 35-40% of participants will experience themselves directly. Sometimes there are more, sometimes there is none at all. There is no way of predicting and…. no way to force direct knowing to happen.
However, not doing the proposed technique is one way to guarantee that you will not experience yourself directly! It is more your determination and the firmness of your commitment to the task at hand that is the determining factor.
Added to the specific format of the intensive, the use of a single pointed instruction such as “who am I?” within a structured communication format with a partner is the key principle that accelerates the process of direct knowing and the live interaction between two human beings within the dyad helps keep each one at the task of being in the present moment.
Communicating fully to our partner what arose out of our intention to directly experience ourselves clears mental confusion and generates a favourable momentum for awakening.
Awareness grows when we honestly present ourselves to another, when we are open to what is rather than what we think should be; when we are open to the new, to the unknown. The more we are able to open to ideas and/or beliefs that we are identified with and honestly communicating them to another, the more true communication can take place.
If you are directly experiencing yourself during the intensive, then the facilitator will encourage you to communicate this state of conscious presence to your partners; not so much the story about what happened for you but more communicating from this state of conscious presence. By doing so, you will support grounding yourself in this state which will also be beneficent for your partners and will help integrating it in your daily life.
Expressing the truth of what we are is an essential part of the process of assimilating an awakening experience. However, there is definitely no prize-giving ceremony!
Well… this all depends on you and only on you! It depends greatly on how much you are able to open to the experience, open to let 'you' disappear.
In most cases, you will return to a so-called ‘normal’ state of being in life, as identification will creep in again. Yet your life will not be the same, you will not see things from the same standpoint as you used to before you had the awakening experience.
There is a before and after. It will not be possible to completely return to a state of unconsciousness. If it is your own estimation that this direct knowing is what being alive is all about, then you will find ways to keep a live contact with it and support its growth.
It is of importance that whatever has been experienced during the intensive does not remain as a pleasant memory but gets integrated with the participant’s daily life. That’s why at the end of the intensive, integration dyads are proposed. A specific instruction helps better integrate and anchor the experiences lived during the intensive into one’s daily life.
As awareness intensives are not part of any organization and are not embedded in any long-term system of personal or spiritual growth; it is part of the facilitator's responsibility to be available for post-retreat support to answer questions that may arise or simply take part in a more casual sharing. This can be done physically, by email or via whatever means that fits best the situation.
Steven, Ontario - Canada
“A total mind-blowing experience!”
Landy, Shenzhen - China
“I could connect with something in me that felt more real, truer. I got clearer around my problems and about the excuses that I give myself in life for not being who I am. The explanation given and the energetic contact with other participants really helped me into gaining more self-awareness, helped me coming back to myself and discovering my own feelings and my multiple identities.”
John, Reno - Usa
“In the beginning when I was asking myself: ‘who is in?’ so many things came up; parts of me that I knew and other parts of me that I didn’t know. I was surprised as I thought I knew myself well. I stayed with the question and by the end of the process I felt that in reality I was no one because each time I was someone else. I feel like I found the key to 'who I am'. I am no one but made up of so many faces.”
Read more in: Their Experience